The Tom and Frances Leach Foundation, Inc.


1720 Burnt Boat Drive

Suite 206

Bismarck, ND 58502-1136


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                  Thomas W. Leach
                      Oil Pioneer

Thomas Witt Leach was a very successful surface geologist, born to Frederick and Melissa Leach in La Crosse, Wisconsin.  After serving in World War I, he graduated in 1920 from Missouri School of Mines-Rolla.  During his years as a field—and later as a management geologist, he met and married Frances V. Land in 1925.  She was his life-long partner in oil and business ventures, travel, ranching, hobbies, and philanthropic interests until her death in 1981. 

It was in 1928 that Tom Leach first visited western North Dakota and was convinced that oil was trapped somewhere below the surface.  This major oil structure in North Dakota would subsequently be known as the “Williston Basin”.   In 1936, after several years of frustrations and rejections during the depression, he returned to North Dakota to prove his vision, and opened his own office in Bismarck to continue his work of becoming an independent oil investor and operator.

World War II began and Tom again served his country in the United States Army.   After his discharge, he diligently began leasing land in North Dakota for the purpose of drilling oil.   In 1950, Mr. Leach convinced Amerada Petroleum Corporation -- that the Nesson Anticline was the place to drill for oil.  Following Mr. Leach’s theory, Amerada Petroleum discovered oil at the Clarence Iverson #1 Well on April 4, 1951 -- which was proclaimed as the ‘first major producing oil well’ in the state of North Dakota. 

Tom Leach, seeing his vision materialized, worked to build his own company in 1952, as  North American Royalties, Inc. of Bismarck  to consolidate his lease holdings, which went public in 1953, and it was the first North Dakota company listed on the American Stock Exchange, in 1957. Leach and his partners held 4 million of the 30 million acres under lease, making him the largest operator in the state. Through his intuition, persistence, and his hard work, he made a very important contribution to the economy of North Dakota with the development of oil in the Williston Basin.   Upon his death in 1966, at age of 69, many leaders of North Dakota’s oil industry, newspaper editors and journalists, proclaimed Thomas Witt Leach to be the “Father of North Dakota Oil”.


Frances Land Leach 

Born Frances Van Valkenburgh Land on June 28, 1902, she was the daughter of Dr. and Mrs. Levin K. Land. She received her early education in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, where her father practiced dentistry. After graduation from Millersburg College in Kentucky and the Emerson School of Drama in Boston, she taught for one year in her home town. It was here that her friendship with Thomas W. Leach blossomed into romance. They were married October 28, 1925, while Frances was a reporter for the St. Louis Times.

 From then on, her life was entwined with that of her husband's. Tom considered Frances his partner in all his business ventures and named her as a director in four of them. Mr. Leach's geological interest in the Williston Basin and his persistent search for oil, eventually brought them to North Dakota, where he opened an office in Bismarck in 1941. Mrs. Leach shared in his pride and joy when following his theory; Amerado Petroleum Corporation discovered oil at the Clarence Iverson #1 Well on April 4, 1951, which was proclaimed the first major producing oil well in North Dakota.

Husband and wife were continually interested in helping others less fortunate. To perpetuate that interest, they established a private, non-profit foundation in 1955 to provide charitable grants in support of worthwhile endeavors and to follow its mission of promoting public welfare with private means. When Tom died in 1966, Frances filled the void of his absence by continuing in the couple's tradition of generous giving through her work and philanthropy with educational scholarships, the arts, health and human services. Frances was an active participant in many of the programs she sponsored, "There is so much joy and satisfaction to be gained by seeing what your help does for others." She served as president of the Tom and Frances Leach Foundation, Inc. for 15 years, from 1966 until her death October 2, 1981