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Charlie Mills

(We spoke to Gerry Mills, son of the late Charlie Mills.) (additional material from press reports)

Charlie Mills was born in Marshalltown, Iowa and came to Canada as a youngster with his family, in 1905. As a boy he had "roughnecked" on cable tool drilling rigs, during the early days of the mid-continent United States oil boom. As a diamond driller, he worked on oil rigs in Texas, California, and Montana, and for Consolidated Mining and Smelting Company in British Columbia. In Canada, he became involved with the Turner Valley oil field.

Charlie arrived in Lloydminster in the early 1930's, already an experienced driller.  In 1929, he had brought in the first producer in the Viking-Kinsella field, before that he had worked in Turner Valley, and before that he had rough-necked on rigs from Texas to California. Here, he was the driller who brought in the famous Lloydminster # 1, the first commercial natural gas well in Saskatchewan.  He was also field supervisor of the Dina field which operated 60 kilometers south of here from 1937 to 1942 and provided the first commercial oil wells in the region.

 Charlie Mills - historic driller in Lloydminster areaCharlie earned a reputation as a successful, and well respected drilling contractor. His record of discovery wells and important innovations is truly remarkable. In 1937 Charlie was the Field Superintendent for the Dina Oil and Refining Co. Limited. A few years later, he was also employed by the Lloydminster Gas Company.

Charlie started the Northern Development Company Ltd., an oil and gas drilling contractor, around 1943 -1944. Its been said that in those days you could drill an oil well for $4.00 -$5.00 per foot. Charlie brought the first rotary rig into the area and drilled a number of producers west of town.  In the late 1940's, he was attracted to the excitement around Leduc and established a branch of his company there.  Not unexpectedly, he brought in the first independent producing well in the Leduc field.  Later, he was active in the emerging Devon field. His company had a pipe yard in Edmonton on 108th Avenue and 42nd Street for a time.

Charlie was involved with three other men in planning the construction of the world's smallest operating rotary drilling rig. The rig, which was "spudded in" at the Palliser hotel in Calgary, was built to acquaint laymen with drilling operations. The rig was dedicated to the memory of Mr. Mills, who had passed away six weeks earlier.

Charlie Mills had interests other than oil. He was an avid player and supporter of tennis. He won the Alberta Men's Tennis Championship at least twice, and in 1941, teamed with Bill Mitchell to win the Alberta Men's Doubles Championship.

In short, when it came to firsts, Charlie Mills was first.

Rig owned by Charlie Mill's
Northern Development Drilling Company
Photograph taken around 1950
rigofthe50s.jpg (30774 bytes)