Inventor, author, and entrepreneur August Henry Krueger was born on May 6, 1886, on a farm near Beattie in Marshall County, Kansas, to his immigrant parents, August and Augusta (Wolf) Krueger. In 1894 the family moved to Laton, Kansas, in Rooks County where August attended school.
On October 7, 1908, August married Sarah Norris in Mount Ayr Township, Osborne County, Kansas. That same year he purchased the Laton General Store from Rudolph Krueger. In 1912 this young, business oriented couple sold the Laton store and moved to Natoma, where they built and operated a new store. After selling in Natoma for two years, August moved to Luray where he purchased and managed the Krueger Grocery and General Merchandise Store. He did not, however, limit his endeavors to selling general merchandise. Along with this store he operated the Krueger Ford Motor Company and the Krueger Manufacturing.
August had an inventive nature. In his spare time, he created and built several items including the following: a header hitch, a power take-off and belt pulley, and luggage carriers to fit on the running boards of contemporary makes of cars. A favorite family anecdote concerns the workable fluid drive for cars that he developed. He was one to advertise his products in unique ways and he demonstrated the workable fluid drive by driving his car up the steps of the state capitol building in Topeka. Later during World War II he invented and manufactured the Krueger Grain Blowers from a factory in Natoma. He also manufactured the Krueger lawn mower.
August’s primary interest centered around one of the nation’s newest industries – oil. The Kruegers, along with J. A. Vickers of Wichita who provided them with “bottom hole money” in exchange for one half interest, spudded a well in Rooks County, Kansas, on July 4, 1926. The well was eventually completed as a producer a full year after it was begun. This wildcat was the first producer in Rooks County and is still often called the Rooks County Number #1, and sparked an oil boom that eventually spread to other counties in central and northwest Kansas. To date, about thirteen million barrels of oil have been pumped from the Laton field.
With the advent of the Great Depression and the subsequent tumbling prices of virtually every commodity including oil, the Kruegers toured and studied several “topping plants” before designing and building their own near their well. This was the first independent oil refinery built in the state of Kansas. For several years, until a pipeline was laid in 1940 from Krueger’s wells to a new refinery at Phillipsburg, Kansas, the Natoma oilman sold tractor fuel and gasoline from his makeshift operation in the tiny community of Laton, on the eastern side of Rooks County near the Osborne County line. Farmers called the fuel “Krueger’s juice.”
The Laton refinery is part of the history of a family oil company that started seventy years ago and involved three generations of Krueger—August, his son Harold, and Harold’s six children. The business, the oldest independent oil company in the area, was dissolved on January 1, 1997 after the company lost leases on or plugged all but 19 wells. At its peak, Krueger Oil had 100 wells pumping in Russell, Ellis and Rooks counties.
August’s life was full and complete in many ways; he passed on his love of the oilfield to three sons – Harold, Lester, and August Henry, Jr. He thrived on new gambles and ventures, and knew the satisfaction of conceiving dreams and seeing them through. He was the genesis for a new industry in the area, for many, many descendants, and for a company that long bore their name and attested to their adventures – and that faithful first well continues pumping to this day. August H. Krueger died on June 15, 1948, and is buried in the Natoma Cemetery.