On November 10, 1910 in Willard, Missouri (8 miles north of Springfield) a baby boy, John 0. II, was born to Grace and John Farmer. His mother was ill with tuberculosis and died before his second birthday. Within a year he had a stepmother, Winifred, to look after him. It was becoming apparent that John O. had a development problem; the left side of his body didn't seem to want to grow. His stepmother had observed that he loved to work the water pump, and she made a deal with him. He could pump all the water he wanted if he would use his "little" arm. She didn't know about physical therapy; she just reasoned it would help John 0. Perhaps she also instilled a sense of "I can do it" in her oldest son - it never occurred to him he couldn't keep up with the big guys. He was the shortest on the basketball team, but he played with gusto.
John 0.'s father was a storekeeper, selling everything from farm equipment to Sunday dresses. He lost his store during the depression. He and Winifred had four children together - 2 boys and 2 girls. The baby, Sam, was born while John 0. was a college student. So many people commented down through the years about the difference in John 0. and Sam's stature. Obviously John 0. got his "shortness" from his mother, Grace; and Sam got his height from his mother, Winifred. Both of them, however, got their father's nose!
In the fall of 1929, John O. Farmer - with $50.00 in his pocket - hitchhiked to Rolla, Missouri. It was his intention to enroll in the Missouri School of Mines and study Petroleum Engineering. John O. took room and board at a local hotel and worked the night shift to pay his way through school. He also provided taxi and laundry services for the guests to help supplement his income. When he graduated in 1933, jobs were not at all plentiful, and John O. found himself hitchhiking and jumping freight trains all over the country searching for employment. He worked for a brief time as Junior engineer for Carter Oil Company in Oklahoma City. Before the end of 1936, he was hired by Herb Otis as the first engineer for Otis Pressure Control Company of Dallas (now a division of Halliburton). For nearly a decade he wrestled with cantankerous high-pressure wells in the gulf coast area and South America. During that time he hired the now famous fire fighter Red Adair as a field engineer for Otis. John O. invented the Storm Choke which is still used today in high pressure gas wells. He married Rosemary Giltz on May 22, 1937, while working in Hobbs, New Mexico.
On October 26, 1940, John O. Farmer, III was born in Dallas. During this time, John O. became the Manager of Marketing and Sales for Otis. Otis sent him to South America to research developing an office in Caracus, Venezuela.
In January 1946, the family moved to Great Bend, Kansas, and John entered the oil business. The following September 4, 1946, Mary Kathryn was born and on December 26, 1946, Jones, Shelburne, and Farmer, a wildcat drilling company, was officially formed. Their assets totaled two drilling rigs and a large bank note. John O. was in charge of filed operations in Kansas, Nebraska, and the Rocky Mountains. After 13 dry holes, his first break came in September 1947 with the discovery of the Madden Lease in Ellis County, Kansas.
The late 40's and 50's brought a string of discoveries and Jones, Shelburne, and Farmer became a leading independent producer in Kansas.
On May 20, 1952 William "Bill" Harry Farmer was born. Sam Shelburne died in 1956 and Farmer purchased his partners' shares and the name was changed to John O. Farmer, Inc. In 1957, Sam Farmer, John O.'s youngest brother, with a degree in geology, joined the company. In 1969, John III, entered the partnership as a petroleum engineer, and later served as President. In 1991, John IV came on board as a geologist, and is currently the company President.
On May 22, 1987, John O. and Rosemary celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. In 1989, John O. died of malignant melanoma, however, his legacy lives on.