Dee brothers establish Illinois Mid-Continent Company in 1939

Dee Drilling Company was founded by brothers J. Roy Dee, Sr. and John G. Dee in 1939 in Mattoon, Illinois. At that time, it was known as the Illinois Mid-Continent Company. Over the next few years, in an effort to stay at the center of the drilling activity, the organization moved first to Fairfield, Illinois and then to Mount Carmel, Illinois. It was in Mount Carmel that their first office was opened in 1942 at the then Wabash Hotel.  In 1948, an oil yard was established at 530 West Third Street in Mount Carmel. At this time, the Dee brothers were engaged in the discovery and production of crude petroleum, primarily in the Illinois Basin.

Dee-Watson Drilling Company was organized in 1949

In 1949, Dee-Watson Drilling Company was organized to drill wells for Illinois Mid-Continent Company. They drilled many sites; a memorable one being the Burkett well in Gibson County, Indiana. They hit a gas pocket and a fire started. The rig was completely destroyed, but fortunately, there were no serious injuries. Red Adair, an infamous, international oil well fire fighter, was called to extinguish the blaze, but it was put out shortly before he arrived. The rig was replaced and drilling operations continued until J.T. Watson was bought out in 1957. The organization then became known as Dee Drilling Company.

Dee Drilling Company established in 1957

In 1951, Illinois Mid-Continent Company moved into the upper floor of the new Brubeck Building on outer West Ninth Street in Mt. Carmel. The upper floor was shared with Mr. Brubeck, while the downstairs was occupied by Schlumberger and the Pappas Brothers. At this time, the company had a number of notable oil men working for them, including Jack McIntosh, Bernie Podolsky, James T. Watson, Jr., Frank Goodman, Lester Moore, and Bob Kelly. 

The company also had a long-term relationship with Stephen H. King, former Illinois Oil and Gas Association (IOGA) president and winner of the 1993 IOGA’s “Petroleum Professional of the Year” award. Steve began working on a consulting basis and later became a full-time employee for Dee Drilling Company. In 1957, J.T. Watson was acquired and the business became officially known as the Dee Drilling Company. In 1964, Dee Drilling moved to its current location at 431 North Market Street in Mount Carmel, site of the former American National Bank built in 1919.

“J. Roy” Dee, Sr. creates legacy of community involvement

“J. Roy” Dee, Sr., one of the original founders of Dee Drilling Company, was also very active in politics and community affairs. He served two terms as Mayor of Mount Carmel as was instrumental in preserving Beall Woods as a state forest. He founded the Wabash Valley Association, which at one time had more than 8,000 members. The Association raised the political support necessary to construct the reservoirs and levees which control flooding along the Wabash River. An annual scholarship is funded by the Association in J. Roy Dee’s name to honor a prospective water management student.

J. Roy Dee, Sr. also brought Fibber McGee and Molly, notable radio personalities and company investors, to Fairfield for a Tri-State oilfield celebration at the Harry-Short lease. In 1965, he was able to obtain six steer, courtesy of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s ranch, for Mount Carmel’s Sesquicentennial celebration and barbeque.  J. Roy Dee, Sr. was married to Page Massie Dee and had one son, J. Roy Dee, Jr. J. Roy, Sr. died of cancer in St. Petersburg, Florida on April 10, 1966.

J. Roy Dee, Jr. applies advanced drilling technologies

Upon J. Roy Dee, Sr.’s death, his son, J. Roy, Jr., became President of Dee Drilling Company. “Roy” began working on a rotary rig at the tender age of 12. He attended college at the University of Alabama where he met and married his wife, Mary Ann Fanning. After several years in the banking industry, Roy returned to Mount Carmel with his growing family. The oil boom was on and Roy took a rotary rig to Ohio to operate. 

Despite using an older rig, he out drilled more modern rigs by using advanced techniques in hydraulics. He was later written up for this accomplishment in “Hughes Rigway”, a quarterly national magazine. As the boom ended, Roy sold the rig in New York and returned to Mount Carmel to look for oil, drill wells, and operate the company’s production. He bought out the remaining investors in Illinois Mid-Continent Company and folded its assets into Dee Drilling Company. Roy served on the St. Mary’s School Board and became a farmer, ultimately owning a 10,000-acre ranch in Alabama. He and his wife raised 12 children: Coleen, Teresa, Katie, J., Susie, Annie, John, Sara, Ellen, Patty, Jean, and Mike. In 2002, Roy and Mary Ann retired to their Alabama farm. Mary Ann passed away in 2013 and Roy in 2016.

J. Roy Dee III continues the Dee family legacy

In 1978, Roy’s oldest son, J. Roy Dee III, graduated with a degree in Finance from the University of Florida, married his wife Debbie, and returned to Mount Carmel to work for the Dee Drilling Company. In his early years at Dee Drilling Company, “J.” worked as a tank truck driver, roustabout, pumper, and was the first operator of a double drum when Dee Drilling Company again became active doing service work in 1983. It was this same year that a second yard on West Seventh Street in Mount Carmel was added and J. became President of the company. 

DeeCane is established in 1992

In 1992, DeeCane, Inc. was started to serve the needs of the industry in the Illinois Basin specifically in renting oilfield equipment such as fishing tools. DeeCane exhibits at the annual IOGA meetings and won “Most Original Exhibit” in 1994 and “Best Display of Product” in 1995. DeeCane originally operated out of the West Seventh Street Yard.  In 2011, Dee Drilling Company purchased the abandoned Dowell yard at 2511 West Ninth Street in Mount Carmel and restored it to working condition. The large property serves as the main yard for Dee Drilling Company, is the site for three State of Illinois offices, and is the current location for DeeCane.  A new building was erected to house the oilfield equipment and supplies business and cannot be missed with its bright lime green logo and giant pumping unit in front. 

Currently, J. serves as President of Dee Drilling Company which is now owned by him and nine of his siblings. He continues the tradition of community involvement by serving as past President of the Mount Carmel Chamber of Commerce, past President and board member for several terms on the Area Industrial Development Committee, two terms as Parish Council President at St. Mary’s Church, a member of the Belleville Diocese Financial Council and as a Director for the Mount Carmel Branch of Old National Bank where he continues as a Director when the branch was sold to First Mid Bank & Trust.

Within the oil industry, J. has served as President of the IOGA Board, President of the Independent Oil Producers Association (IOPA) and represents Illinois on the Independent Producer’s Association of America (IPAA).  J. was a founding board member of the Illinois Petroleum Resource Board (IPRB) and served for 20 years. Dee Drilling Company won “Wildcatter of the Year” in 2008 and 2010 and J. received the “Lifetime Achievement” award in 2018 from the IOGA Association. He and his wife Debbie, have three children, “Joseph” Roy Dee IV, Erin Dee Denniston, and Patrick Dee.

Patrick Dee represents the fourth generation of the Dee legacy

In 2010, Patrick Dee graduated from Southern Illinois University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Agriculture Business and began working at the company as full-time employee. He represents the fourth generation at Dee Drilling Company. He currently serves as Field Superintendent and Vice President of the company. He is an avid hunter and resides in Mount Carmel with partner of many years, Sara Steckler and daughter Austin Steckler-Dee. 

Many changes have occurred in the oil industry in the last 82 years. We are proud of the Dee Drilling Company’s heritage and hope to continue serving the oil industry in the coming years with the same hard work and foresight displayed by our founders.