Lawrence F. Schroepfer probably didn’t realize back in 1953 when he was establishing a well drilling business with his then-17-year-old son, Orville, that someday his great-grandson would be working for the company. At the time, he was simply following his own heart.
Sixty years later, much of the family has followed suit.
Orville and his children (Lawrence’s grandchildren) say this business fits them like a glove. None could imagine having any other career.
“We all grew up in it, and we just like to do it,” said Linda Schroepfer-Busch, who is the sales manager/customer service manager for Schroepfer Well Drilling Inc.
She’s the one family member who went her own way for a time, working for another company, but she soon came home.
All of the family members have learned all aspects of the job, but each has his and her own area of expertise.
Diane Schroepfer-Kline heads up drilling — the family believes she was the first woman driller in the state of Missouri;
Darrell Schroepfer oversees the company’s geothermal systems, both commercial and residential pumps;
Darren, who was killed in 2004 while servicing a pressure tank, worked in drilling and geothermal; and
Anita Schroepfer-Hoener manages accounts payable/receivable and payroll, along with some customer service.
Orville serves as president, and his wife, Marilyn, is the office manager.
Although they are all rarely ever in the office together, the family agrees that they love having everyone in the business.
“A Schroepfer is always on the job,” more than one family member noted, almost in unison.
Today Schroepfer Well Drilling Inc. drills wells for residential and light commercial customers. They have installed irrigation systems for wineries and farms. Other customers have included Purina Farms, Shaw Nature Reserve and Longmeadow Rescue Ranch, to name a few.
Schroepfer also installs and repairs pump systems and complete geothermal systems.
The company’s service area covers 16 counties from St. Louis to Jefferson City to Troy.
Farmer Turns Well Driller
Lawrence Schroepfer had been a farmer his whole life when he got into the business of drilling wells.
“He worked for another well driller for a year, but when that man passed away of a heart attack, Dad asked me if it was something we should do.” Orville Schroepfer recalled.
“Dad was the type of guy who if he decided to do something, he stuck with it. He had some hard knocks learning the industry . . . the big thing then was to sharpen your bits.”
L. Schroepfer and Son Well Drilling was established April 1, 1953, in Beaufort. They drilled wells using a 1947 Model 71 Speed Star cable tool and also installed and repaired pumps.
In those early years, the company had more competition than it does today, said Orville. The cost of doing business — buying equipment and adhering to all of the training regulations — drove them away.
Business was going well in 1959 when Lawrence and Orville decided to “swap places,” with Orville taking over the day-to-day business and Lawrence staying on in a business development role.
“Dad didn’t like the bookwork,” Orville commented. “I wasn’t any better at it, but my wife was.”
The company changed its name to Schroepfer Well Drilling.
In 1962, the company purchased a rotary drill. It was one of the first in the state to do so, Orville noted, and definitely the first in Franklin County.
By 1969, the company had purchased a second rotary drill and ran them both until 1973, when it sold one and traded the other to purchase a new rig that would drill faster.
The Schroepfers got into the geothermal business in 1972. At the time, Orville recalled, the systems weren’t wildly popular because fuel was still relatively cheap.
“But as fuel started going up,” so did demand for geothermal systems, Orville noted.
Geothermal systems are popular today for several reasons, including that it’s both budget friendly and eco-friendly.
“There’s no carbon footprint at all,” said Darrell, although he noted that the system does use electric to operate. “But you don’t create heat . . . you just move it around.”
The systems heat and cool a structure using the constant temperature of below-ground water.
“Geothermal systems are green technology and are recognized by the EPA as the most energy efficient heating and cooling system available,” Schroepfer’s website notes.
Installing a system in a home is “equal to removing two cars, and their pollution, from our roads” and “equal to planting a full acre of new trees.”
There also are rebate programs available with many electric co-ops, said Darrell Schroepfer, and the federal government offers a 30 percent tax credit on the installation of a geothermal system and additional requirements of the system, for example the ductwork, through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.
Schroepfer added a geothermal division in 1990.
Around that same time, the company also began using a video camera for repairing water wells. In the early days, it was a black and white version, but today it operates in full color.
“Grandpa would have loved that,” said Linda. “He had always said, ‘If only we could put an eyeball down there.’ ”
Lawrence Schroepfer passed away in 1980.
A few years later in 1983, the company bought out another drilling company and acquired its equipment.
Today Schroepfer Well Drilling has a GEFCO 30K machine which has a compressor that is able to produce 1050 cfm (cubic feet per minute) at 350 psi (pounds per square inch).
The drilling rig is massive, with a derrick extending 35 feet in the air, capable of drilling holes 1,000-plus feet.
The company also runs two SMEAL pump trucks which is what they use to pull pumps.
“We run two of them so that no on has to wait for service,” said Linda.
Third, Fourth Generations
Orville’s children were introduced to the business early on, often tagging along with him to help with jobs.
“If I had to pull a pump or had something I had to do on a Saturday, Linda would go with me,” said Orville. “And as the other kids got older, they all came along too.”
It was as much their interest in the work that drew them in as it was just fun to be with their father, the kids said.
“We just wanted to go with Dad,” Diane remarked, “especially in the summertime.”
As they got older, they each opted to stay working for the family business. They loved the work as much as their grandfather and father who had started the company.
Recently the fourth generation of Schroepfers joined the company. Darrell’s son Dillon, who is 22, is in the apprenticeship program to be a driller.
“In the summer we work longer hours,” said Marilyn Schroepfer. “It’s not an eight-hour day.”
Along with having the third and fourth generation of Schroepfers working at the company, their customers also are third and fourth generation too.
“A lot of it is the reputation that Grandpa and Dad built up,” Diane remarked.
For more information on Schroepfer Well Drilling Inc., visit the company’s website at www.schroepfers.com.