Sutton left Columbia in the fall of 1903 and returned to Kansas to work in the oil fields. He must have arrived in Chautauqua County, Kansas just when the oil boom started in this county. This county on the Oklahoma border in the southeast area of Kansas was named from a bill introduced in the Kansas Legislature in 1875 by Edward Jaquins who was originally from Chautauqua County, NY. According to Henry Helvie (Family memorial), whom Sutton hired December 1, 1903, "he was looking after the interests of The Chautauqua Oil and Gas Company. I went to work for the company under his orders. Although the oil business was all new to him he handled his work in a way that would have done credit to a man who had had years of oil field experience." Helvie relates that Sutton's first radical change to oil field practice was in the perfection of a device to start large gas engines with high-pressure gas. This method was soon in general use in the Mid-continent field wherever high gas pressure was available.
HOISTING APPARATUS FOR DEEP WELLS. This is the patent drawing of Sutton's hoisting apparatus that was applied for in August of 1905 and approved April 16, 1907. (Courtesy of the Clendening History of Medicine Library, Univ. of Kansas Med. Ctr.)
The second change was a patented invention for pulling the bottom cylinder or barrel from the well in order to replace worn cups on the valves. The same power that pumped the well was used to pull the cylinder from the well, saving many hours when compared to the previous method using horses. Basically, the up and down action of the oil pump was made to rotate a wheel on which a cable was wrapped. The cable raised the well cylinder and after new cups were placed in the valves, the cylinder was dropped back down the well.
The Sutton hoisting apparatus in the field. The device was used to remove the bottom cylinder from the well so that new cups could be placed in the valves. The normal pumping action of the well was used to rotate the wheel (clockwise in the figure), wrapping the cable seen coming off the upper right part of the wheel and raising the well cylinder. The cable extends up and over a pulley at the top of the "A" frame, descends and attaches to the cylinder within the well. (Courtesy of the Clendening History of Medicine Library, Univ. of Kansas Med. Ctr.)
He was working on methods for using electricity to drill oil wells when he decided to return to medical school. After two years in the oil fields, Sutton phoned Henry Helvie from Peru, Kansas and said, "Well, Henry, I guess I will have to tell you good bye for a while as I am leaving this afternoon for home, and from there I will go to New York to take up my medical studies. I have just received a letter from father telling me to go back and complete my work in school, and as I have always minded father I will not change now." (Helvie, Family memorial). Later, several of Sutton's brothers also worked for oil companies for variable lengths of time.