North of Winnett
Cat Creek, Montana
Looking East from Cat Creek
War Horse NWR
The next time you are twenty-two miles west of Winnett, Montana keep an eye peeled for this sign. The sign marks the location of Montana’s First True Oil Boom. Sure, there had been commercial drilling of oil in Montana as early as 1889 but the Cat Creek Oil Boom of 1920 was huge in comparison.
Cat Creek, Montana is a little sleepy looking today. But in the early 1920’s it was the scene of Montana’s first true Oil Boom. To transport the oil to market, twenty-two miles of pipe was laid from Cat Creek, to Winnett, Montana storage facilities. Once in Winnett, the oil was moved by train to refineries in Casper and Greybull, Wyoming. In 1920 there were six companies drilling in the Cat Creek field. By the end of 1921, there were sixty companies drilling in the area.
The first Winnett, Montana school was built in 1922 and the entire town was rebuilt in the 1930’s. At that time, the original tar paper shacks were replaced with three-room frame houses. Fluctuating oil prices quickly ended the boom in 1922. The Cat Creek field is still producing but just barely. 24,000 barrels was pumped in 2012, compared to over 2 million barrels in 1922.