Summer brings Community Oil History Celebrations
Many petroleum museums participate in popular festivals, parades and oil shows hosted annually in the 33 producing states. Among the biggest oil-patch festivals is “Crude Fest,” a popular gathering of musicians outside of Midland, Texas. Another summer oil-related event, this one just south of Dallas, is the Corsicana “annual ode to Texas’ first oil boom” with street dances, parades – and a charity fundraising event, the “Derrick Days Chili Cook-Off.”
It’s a good time to start planning to include an oil and gas festival as part of your vacation this summer. Join the fun in Midland and Corsicana – and the many other Community Oil & Gas Festivals.
Also mark you calendar for a Fall oil centennial – One hundred years ago this October, a Texas oilfield was discovered halfway between Abilene and Dallas. The October 17 “Roaring Ranger” well revealed a giant oilfield that helped win World War I. The town of Ranger is planning centennial events, according to Jeane Pruett: “Attention folks!! Make plans now, to join us in Ranger, Eastland County, Texas, as we celebrate not only our county, local and state history, but also national and international history! Beginning 2 p.m., Saturday, October 14, 2017, the big parade on Ranger’s loop 254 west will kick off an entire week of centennial celebration ending on Saturday, October 21, 2017.”
Petroleum History Institute 2017 Symposium set for July 13-15 in Findlay, Ohio
The 2017 Oil History Symposium of the Petroleum History Institute will take place July 13-15 in Findlay, Ohio, according to Jeff Spencer, PHI president and 2017 symposium co-chair. A field trip is planned for Saturday, July 15.
Spencer, author of Postcards from the Texas Oil Patch, also has issued a call for papers for the institute’s annual journal, Oil-Field History. Deadline for submitting to the latest journal, now publishing volume 17, is March 31, 2017.
The annual publication is “the only peer-reviewed professional journal devoted exclusively to the history of the international oil and natural gas industry – upstream, midstream and downstream topics are included.”
Journal articles often come from PHI symposiums, which include oral and poster presentations of about 30 minutes each. “Although we try to focus on the area where the meeting is being held, we do welcome papers on any related topic regardless of its geography,” Spencer explains. More information and details about submitting an abstract can be found on the PHI website.
“Please pass this announcement on to others who may have an interest in petroleum history and if you are associated with a technical or historical society, please see if you can get this Call included in upcoming bulletins or newsletters,” Spencer requests.
PHI each year recognizes “individuals who have contributed to the development and heritage of the international oil and natural gas industry.” The Colonel Edwin L. Drake Legendary Oilman Award “is directed to those persons who during there worthy careers have materially contributed to the process of finding, producing, transporting, and refining crude oil and natural gas.”
Further, the PHI Samuel T. Pees Keeper of the Flame Award “honors and recognizes individuals who have provided great service in preserving and bringing before the public the heritage and history of the oil and gas industry.”
North Texas Museum’s New Oil Patch Exhibit includes Rare Spudders
The Hutchinson County Historical Museum in Borger, Texas, is building a new outdoor petroleum exhibit that includes rare cable-tool “spudder” rigs from as early as the 1890s.
“The Oil Patch Place is coming together,” the museum website notes, adding that construction has been funded by Phillips 66 Company, Chevron Phillips Chemical (a producer of ethylene and polyethylene) and Rice Construction.
The museum, which opened in 1977 about 40 miles northeast of Amarillo, preserves the heritage of Hutchinson County, with emphasis on the oilfield and boom town stories of the 1920-1930 era. Every March it hosts an “Oil Boom Heritage” festival.
Thousands rushed to the Texas Panhandle after a January 1926 oil discovery. A.P. “Ace” Borger of Tulsa, Oklahoma, who had purchased about 220 acres, and the Dixon Creek Oil and Refining Company’s Smith No. 1 well flowed at 10,000 barrels of oil a day. By September the Borger oilfield had more than 800 producing wells, yielding 165,000 barrels of oil a day.
Borger himself would lay out streets for the town, which grew to a city of 15,000 in just 90 days. The museum adds: “Think about how remote this place was when Thomas Bugbee established the first ranch in the county north of the Canadian River in 1873. How did John and Maggie Weatherly feel when they realized that Ace Borger had made himself a millionaire from his purchase of 220 acres of their ranch?”
Shale Gas Resources will soon make United States an Energy Exporter
Once heavily dependent on oil imports, the United States will become a net energy exporter in most cases projected by the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s Annual Energy Outlook 2017. The report, released January 5, 2017, in Washington, D.C., updates projections for energy markets. It predicts U.S. petroleum liquid imports will fall and natural gas exports rise.
Growing U.S. shale gas resources produced with horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing technologies have dramatically changed America’s energy future, explained EIA Administrator Adam Sieminski, who revealed the report at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. He noted that the petroleum industry’s technological developments have resulted in the production of oil and natural gas at lower costs.
Sieminski presented projections of U.S. energy supply, demand and prices. He also considered cases that addressed alternative assumptions regarding U.S. economic growth rates, domestic resources and technology, and world oil prices. He has led EIA since June 2012 after a 40-year career in the private sector, including serving as the chief energy economist for Deutsche Bank. He also was a past president of the U.S. Association for Energy Economics.
Penn-Brad Oil Museum hosts Fall 2016 Open House
The Penn-Brad Oil Museum (and Historical Oil Well Park) hosted its annual fall open house on October 23, 2016, in the historic oil regions of northwestern Pennsylvania in the Allegheny Forest.
Long-time petroleum museum Director Sherri Schulze described for visiting Girl Scouts the nation’s “first billion dollar oilfield,” discovered near Bradford in 1871. Her open house featured hand-pressed cider and movies in the “Dog House Theater,” noted the Bradford Era.
In November 1899, the New York World featured the famous Bradford oilfield – and the nitroglycerine company run by a woman more than two decades before women won the right to vote. Mrs. Byron Alford, the “Only Woman in the World who Owns and Operates a Dynamite Factory,” was an astute businesswoman, as revealed in Mrs. Alford’s Nitro Factory.
Bradford also is home to the oldest operating refinery in the United States. Founded in 1881, the American Refining Group (ARC) facility originally refined just 10 barrels of oil a day. In 2013, its capacity was 11,000 barrels of oil a day. ARC reports that it introduced the first quart can nationally for motor oils in 1933; in 1960, its refinery was the first to introduce motorcycle racing oil. Bradford also home to the Zippo Manufacturing Company, established there in 1932.
In addition to Bradford’s oil museum (actually located in nearby Custer City), more petroleum history exhibits are on display at the Drake Well Museum in Titusville, about 70 miles west. The two museums are separated by the spectacular Allegheny National Forest. Near the state border, the Pioneer Oil Museum of New York at Bolivar is equally helpful for learning about America’s earliest oilfield exploration heritage.
New Video tells Oil Story of Bartlesville, Oklahoma
Oklahoma’s petroleum industry began in Bartlesville in 1892 with the Nellie Johnstone No. 1 gusher, explains “This is the City that Oil Built,” a June 2016 video at the Bartlesville Area History Museum.
Based on the heritage of Bartlesville and Washington County, the short video looks at the legacies of local industry giants, including Henry V. Foster, Frank and L.E. Phillips, Armais Arutunoff and Harry Sinclair. It features Harold C. Price, who developed an electric welding technique for pipelines.
The Bartlesville legacy of these petroleum titans also includes the Phillips Petrolem Company Museum, which opened in 2007, and Price Tower, the only skyscraper designed by architect Frank Lloyd Wright. South of Bartlesville is the 3,700-acre Woolaroc Museum & Wildlife Preserve, established in 1925 as the ranch retreat of Frank Phillips.
“We’ve reaped the benefits of what these guys left,” concludes Woolaroc CEO Bob Fraser in the 12-minute video, which was produced by local production company PioneerDream Inc. and can be viewed on YouTube. Among the exhibits at the Bartlesville Area History Museum is the original casing head of the historic Nellie Johnstone No. 1 discovery well.
2016 American Geosciences Institute Earth Science Week
Since 1998 the American Geosciences Institute (AGI) has annually organized student events to promote a better understanding of the earth sciences. This year’s Earth Science Week will be held from October 9-15, 2016. It will celebrate the theme “Our Shared Geoheritage.”
“Earth Science Week 2016 learning resources and activities engage young people and others in exploring geoheritage throughout the earth systems, including the geosphere, hydrosphere, atmosphere, and biosphere,” explains the Earth Science Week website.
“This theme promotes public understanding and stewardship in many areas, including earth science, energy, paleontology, water quality, conservation, and climate science,” adds AGI, which is based in Alexandria, Virginia.
An Earth Science Week partner, the Society of Petroleum Engineers’ Energy4me program, offers educators tools for teaching about oil and natural gas, including classroom activities, experiments and expert presentations, as well as teacher workshops and energy education classroom materials.
Humble Museum Anniversary
The Humble Museum in Humble, Texas, celebrated it’s 40th anniversary with an open house on July 30, 2016. The museum on Main Street preserves the history of the area, including the key roles of oil in the everyday life in small town. It was organized as a Bicentennial Project in 1976.
In the museum’s early days, local residents donated so many artifacts that the museum outgrew the original building. In 1985 community support made it possible move the museum to downtown Humble at 1219 Main Street. Remodeling, restoring and furnishing the building was completed and the new home of the Humble Museum was dedicated September 25, 1988.
“There is no charge to enter the museum and enjoy learning about our city’s history. Funds for operation of the museum are provided by the City of Humble, members of the Humble Museum Society, donations from visitors, and the sale of museum gift shop items,” notes the website.
A Treasure of Oklahoma Oil History in Bartlesville
Summer visitors may underestimate Shirley Patterson’s petroleum history knowledge when she welcomes them to the Phillips Petroleum Company Museum in Bartlesville, Oklahoma. This quickly changes when the diminutive museum associate offers her first-person accounts of the people and events she witnessed after joining the company in 1952. Patterson, who began at Phillips as a secretary and later worked in accounting, knew every company president except the first, Frank Phillips.
New Book examines Dallas Petroleum Club History
To mark its 80th anniversary, the Dallas Petroleum Club has announced publication of a book documenting its history: The Lions Among Us: Celebrating 80 Years of The Dallas Petroleum Club. Written by Dallas author Nina P. Flournoy, the book describes how the club grew out of 1930s East Texas discoveries that ignited the Texas oil and natural gas industry. Read more in Dallas Petroleum Club History.
Celebrating Petroleum Heritage
Every five years a giant oil patch party returns to Taft, California.
The “Taft Oildorado Days” includes the Petroleum Club’s oilfield skills competition as part of a 10-day celebration that pays homage to the community’s heritage.
For the October 2015 events, the West Kern Oil Museum served as the official location for the “oldtimers registration,” according to the Taft Midway Driller.
“Anyone who has resided on the Westside for many years, previously or currently, is encouraged to register as an oldtimer during the Oildorado celebration,” noted the newspaper.
Oildorado Days events include a “Boomtown Days” celebration at museum. With plenty of BBQ on hand, tours of equipment exhibits help educate visitors.
Events around Taft include a car show, concert, melodrama, carnival, queen pageant, the oilfield skills competition, dances, contests – competing costumes, beards (called the wiskerino), and ponytails).
According to Taft Oildorado Inc., “The city’s birthday bash pays homage to the hardy men and women who migrated to this dusty southwestern corner of the San Joaquin Valley when oil seeps were detected shortly after the turn of the century.” A grand parade concludes the oil patch celebration.
Earth Science Lesson Plans
An earth science information resource for classroom lessons is available from an American Geosciences Institute program that provides easy to understand information about the geosciences, including energy, climate, water, natural hazards and mineral resources.
“Our Critical Issues Website is an information hub and an excellent resource for the classroom,” notes Charlotte Wood, an AGI/Schlumberger Fellow in Geoscience Communication.
The website offers links to detailed information in many formats, from frequently asked questions, interactive maps and visualizations, webinars, and case studies, to a database of more in-depth research publications.
Founder of American Oil & Gas Reporter
Oil & Gas Festivals offer Summer Fun and Education
While on vacation this summer, why not include a visit to America’s historic oil patch? Join others in celebrating the industry’s heritage at festivals.
Many communities in the 33 producing states are proud of their petroleum heritage. See if there are special petroleum-related events or a festival near you this summer (or suggest one) in Community Oil & Gas Festivals.
Since 2003, the American Oil & Gas Historical Society has been dedicated to promoting museums and oilfield communities – and their annual festivals celebrating the industry that helped make them (and the United States) prosper since August 1859.
Energy Education Calendar
The historical society prints a unique calendar – Today in American Petroleum History – which includes dates with descriptions of petroleum history milestones, technologies, inventions, oilfield discoveries, pioneers, etc.
Please call (202) 387-6996 – or simply mail, fax or email this easy order form.
These special energy education calendars, printed in partnership with the Texas Alliance of Energy Producers,are part of annual projects useful for energy workshop programs, association members, teachers, students and employees. Each month offers historical facts along with one of 12 Library of Congress oil patch photographs.
Beginning in 2016, the industry’s milestone dates will be available in editions customized for companies, museums and other industry organizations.
The history calendars are an inexpensive energy education resource. Depending on the number ordered, the price per 11 inch by 17 inch calendar is as low as $5 each. Please contact Bruce Wells at email@example.com or call (202) 387-6996 – or fill out and mail (or email) this order form.
Editor’s Note – Help AOGHS promote the Today in American Petroleum History calendar using this 2015 news release.
Range Resources Chief is Chief Roughneck
Jeff Ventura, president and CEO of Range Resources, received the 2014 Chief Roughneck award on November 23.
The Fort Worth-based independent oil and gas company executive accepted the prestigious award at the 85th annual meeting of the Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA) in Palm Beach, Florida.
U.S. Steel Senior Vice President of Tubular Business David Rintoul presented Ventura with the traditional Chief Roughneck bronze bust and hard hat.
Range Resources has pioneered drilling in the Marcellus Shale, the largest natural gas field in the United States, said Rintoul.
Since 1955, the Chief Roughneck award has recognized one individual whose accomplishments and character represent the highest ideals of the oil and natural gas industry. Read more in Chief Roughneck Award Winners.
Petroleum Museum prepares for Exhibit Upgrades
The Permian Basin Petroleum Museum in Midland, Texas, is undertaking its first multimillion dollar update since opening in 1975, according to Executive Director Kathy Shannon.
The largest oil museum in the nation continues to educate visitors about the industry’s past and present, offering a resource for science-based education, Shannon explains.
A transportation wing added a decade ago allowed the museum to broaden its science education, she adds. The popular Chaparral Gallery, home to Jim Hall Chaparral race cars, showcases the engineering, physics and science of energy.
Shannon now is refocusing much of the museum’s core content. She is working with Ohio-based Jack Rouse Associates (JRA), which is providing project management and art direction for renovations. The museum already has raised $16.3 million. During the renovation process, the north and east wings will be closed to the public.
According to JRA, completion of the $18 million update is scheduled for September 2015 – the Petroleum Museum’s fortieth birthday. It will include 15,000 square feet of renovated gallery space, a series of high-tech presentations and upgraded core content.
“New features include an introductory film unveiling the facts and fiction behind petroleum and energy science, multimedia interactives revealing the extreme science behind global energy production, and a refreshed Hall of Fame,” JRA reports.
“This renovation will take visitors on a half-billion-year quest for the ultimate energy solution ranging from the depths of an ancient seabed to the bridge of a futuristic geo-craft,” says Shannon.
The Petroleum Museum archives contain 4,000 square feet of petroleum and local Permian Basin history, including records, logs, maps, journals, diaries and films of the industry from 1926 to today.
“The public needs a resource where they can trust, with real certainty, that they will find accurate, unvarnished information about oil, gas and energy – along with some informed insights into the abiding issues confronting modern society,” Shannon concludes.
Oil Museum celebrates “Boomtown Days”
In the 1920s more than 7,000 wooden derricks covered 21 miles in southwestern Kern County, California.
Today in Taft, West Kern Oil Museum volunteers collect and preserve artifacts. Oil patch equipment exhibits educate visitors about the petroleum industry. As in every fall, on October 25, 2014, a special event kept the volunteers even more busy.
The museum’s annual “Boomtown Days” again featured antique gas engines, blacksmith demonstrations, quilting and a popular BBQ. Taft also celebrates the town’s birthday every five years with “Oildorado Days,” which began in 1946.
The museum tells the story of the industries, communities and people that have benefitted from petroleum exploration and production. Volunteers educate visitors about the Midway Sunset field, which by 1915 produced half of the oil in California. At the time, California led the nation in oil production.
Industry Journal features Historical Society Research
The Oil & Gas Journal, a publication that traces its roots to the early Pennsylvania oil patch, recently cited American Oil & Gas Historical Society research and articles.
The September 2014 issue of the Journal included Staff Writer Matt Zborowski’s reference to what some historians consider the first raid on petroleum facilities in warfare. It took place during the Civil War. His article about an 1863 Confederate cavalry raid is part of a larger column describing “how oil has not only become a reason for war, but a strategic target as well. And it’s not a tactic exclusive to the Middle East.”
Zborowski, noting that America’s Civil War, “occurred at the dawn of the industrial age just after the first commercial oil wells were drilled in North America,” summarizes the little-known story:
In spring of 1863, Confederates moved in on the Union-controlled north-central portion of the region in an effort to cripple the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad. When a unit of 1,300 soldiers led by Gen. William “Grumble” Jones marched into Burning Springs-a town named literally for the naturally rising gas from the Little Kanawha, Kanawha, and Big Sandy rivers-it happened upon one of America’s first commercial oil works, which included a spring-pole oil well that reached 303 ft, according to records from the American Oil & Gas Historical Society.
The Journal feature includes more details from the historical society article, Confederates attack Oilfield.
Coolspring Power Museum set for Fall Expo, Oct. 16 – Oct. 18, 2014
A unique Pennsylvania museum dedicated to preserving early internal combustion engines hosts many events during the spring and summer, including the popular “History Day and Car, Truck & Tractor Show” every June.
The last event before the Coolspring Power Museum closes its 2014 season is slated for Oct. 16 to 18 – the annual “Fall Expo and Swap Meet.”
The museum, established in 1985, maintains 20 buildings for exhibiting 250 stationary engines, including many used to power multiple wells in America’s first oilfields. It is midway between Punxsutawney and Brookville in western Pennsylvania. Read Cool Coolspring Power Museum.
Joe White retiring from East Texas Oil Museum
“One of Kilgore College’s treasures, the East Texas Oil Museum, will bid farewell this month to a man who has been with the museum since its inception 37 years ago and who has devoted half of his life to the preservation and public education of the East Texas oil field,” notes the press release from Kilgore College.
Joe White, the only director the museum has ever had, was recently named Director Emeritus by the college’s Board of Trustees,” notes the August 27, 2014 in the Kilgore News Herald.
“White plans to retire, but he won’t be a stranger to the museum. He said he’ll return to the museum next week to work half-time to write a history of the museum” and to continue work on oil history events and fundraising.
Revealed on October 3, 1930, the East Texas oil field remains among largest and most prolific oil reservoirs ever found in the lower-48 states. White’s East Texas Oil Museum, which includes an indoor recreated boom town, tells the story of Haroldson Lafayette “H.L.” Hunt, “Dad” Joiner and “Doc” Lloyd – and one of the U.S. petroleum industry’s greatest discoveries.
Marcellus Shale sets Record, boosts Pioneer Oil Museum of New York
Natural gas production in the Marcellus region exceeded 15 billion cubic feet per day (Bcf/d) through July – the first time ever recorded, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
The Marcellus Region, mostly found in New York, West Virginia and Pennsylvania, is the largest producing shale natural gas basin in the United States.
Marcellus region production has increased dramatically over the past four years, reports EIA. It now accounts for almost 40 percent of all U.S. shale gas production.
According to the Pioneer Oil Museum of New York, public interest in petroleum history has grown as a result of this geological formation first revealed near the village of Marcellus, near Syracuse.
The Bolivar-based museum in the western part of the state is in the midst of a five-phase renovation and oil history events that include adding oilfield artifacts from throughout Allegany and Cattaraugus counties. In 1865, the Job Moses No. 1 well, about 30 miles west of Bolivar in Limestone, became the state’s first successful oil well. It produced seven barrels a day.
Most historians agree that the earliest U.S. commercial use of natural gas in a community took place about 50 miles farther west, in Fredonia, in 1825. Natural gas was piped to several stores, shops and a mill from a downtown natural gas well drilled by William Hart, today considered as the father of the natural gas industry.
Drake Well Administrator is a Keeper of the Flame
Petroleum historians have recognized the work of Melissa Mann of the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission. Mann, site administrator of the Drake Well Museum in Titusville, Pennsylvania, is a 2014 recipient of the Samuel T. Pees Keeper of the Flame Award.
A second Keeper of the Flame Award was presented to Harvey L. Golubock, president of American Refining Group, which owns and operates the refinery in Bradford.Mann received the award during the June 19-21, 2014, Oil History Symposium of the Petroleum History Institute (PHI) in Bradford, Pennsylvania. PHI presented seven awards to PHI members and other petroleum industry leaders at its annual awards banquet held at the Pennhills Club, according to Marilyn Black, vice president of Heritage Development for the Oil Region Alliance, who nominated Mann.
Former PHI president Daniel J. Leech received the 2014 Distinguished Service Award. Leech a founding member of the PHI in 2003, served as president from 2005 to 2013. Long-time PHI member Larry D. Woodfork of Morgantown, West Virginia, also received the award.
Black noted in the Oil Region Alliance’s July newsletter, “The News Gusher,” other PHI award recipients included the Gerald M. Friedman Award for Excellence in Oil History Presentation/Publication presented to Mary Barrett of Shreveport, Louisiana; and the Colonel Edwin L. Drake Legendary Oilman Award presented to both Paul R. Plants of Shinglehouse and Willard M. “Bill” Cline of Bradford.
North Dakota produces One Million Barrels of Oil a Day
On June 17, 2014, North Dakota oil production surpassed one million barrels per day thanks to development of the Bakken shale in the western part of the state.
State officials reported that North Dakota produced 1,001,149 barrels of oil a day in April from a record 10,658 wells. Some industry journalists, proclaiming the milestone a sign that the United States is freeing itself from the grip of foreign oil, referred to the state as “Saudi Dakota.”
Early in the morning on April 4, 1951, after four months of drilling and with snow piled high from blizzards, the Clarence Iverson No. 1 well produced oil. Read more in First North Dakota Oil Well.
2014 Earth Science Week includes Contests
The American Geological Institute is sponsoring three national contests for Earth Science Week 2014. The photography, visual arts, and essay contests, all focused on the event theme of “Earth’s Connected Systems,” allow students to participate learn about the earth sciences – and compete for prizes.
The photography contest, open to all ages, focuses on “Connections in My Community.” The the visual arts contest, open to students in grades K-5, is titled “Earth’s Connected Systems and Me.”
Students in grades six to nine are eligible to enter the essay contest: “Earth System Science in Today’s World.” Essays of up to 300 words should describe how the study of earth’s connected systems is helping to improve the world today.
Entries may be submitted any time up to the Friday of Earth Science Week, October 17, 2014. The first-place prize for each contest is $300 and a copy of AGI’s “The Geoscience Handbook.” To learn more, including how to enter, visit Earth Science Week.
Petroleum History Institute to Meet in Bradford, Pennsylvania
The Petroleum History Institute (PHI), based in Oil City, Pennsylvania, plans to host its 2014 Oil History Symposium in Bradford, June 19 to 21. PHI has issued a call for abstracts for the PHI annual professional journal, Oil-Industry History. Planned field trips include visits to the American Refinery – the oldest operating refinery in America, the Penn-Brad Museum (which includes a 72-foot cable-tool drilling rig replica), and a tour of the Pioneer Oil Museum in Bolivar, New York.
Visit your Local Oil and Gas Museum this Summer
More than 100 community museums and petroleum-related exhibits are linked to the American Oil & Gas Historical Society’s website.
Almost all the museums host summer events and K-12 education programs – featured alongside stories of America’s exploration and production heritage.
As a recent historical society article notes, summer brings millions of Americans trekking across the U.S. oil patch while on vacation. Among the more unusual stops, perhaps less well known, are museums with exhibits chronicling the nation’s oil and natural gas discoveries.
There are several historic attractions in state where it all started, Pennsylvania. Read more in Pennsylvania Petroleum Vacation.
Historical Society partners with Oklahoma’s Exploring Energy Network
A weekday morning radio show – available online – now features the American Oil & Gas Historical Society’s “This Week in Petroleum History” every Wednesday.
AOGHS Executive Director Bruce Wells will join some of the discussion on “Remember When Wednesday” on the Oklahoma radio program Exploring Energy. He also will contribute articles to the show’s monthly news publication, which is distributed to more than 20,000 readers. Read more in Radio Show features Oil History.
Ohio Celebrates 200th Anniversary of “First Oil Well in North America”
Long before Edwin Drake drilled his well in Pennsylvania seeking oil that would be refined and used for Kerosene, two entrepeneurs in Noble County, Ohio, recognized the potential of petroleum – as a medicine.
In 1814, frontier settlers Silas Thorla and Robert McKee used a spring pole to drill a well near a place where deer came to lick salt, according to the Ohio Exploration Society. They sought valuable brine, because salt was an important commodity for settlers. It was used to preserve meat, flavor food and raise livestock.
The Thorla and McKee well, cased with a hollow sycamore log, produced brine, notes the Ohio Exploration Society. Oil and some natural gas also flowed from the well, which today is preserved north of Marietta at state routes 78 and 546 near Caldwell. “Thorla and McKee used wool blankets to absorb the oil from the top of the salt water,” the Society adds. “The water was then boiled down until all that remained was salt.”
Although McKee suggested burning the oil in homes, the thick smoke made it impractical. Instead, after neighbors tasted the oil, they suggested it be sold as medicine. “So Thorla and McKee wrung the oil from the blankets into bottle and sold it as a cure-all called Seneca Oil,” the Society explains. “Their operation came to an end in 1831 when fire destroyed the works built on the site.”
Not until after Drake’s well in 1859, when refining for kerosene was perfected, did oil bring light and heat to America’s growing frontier. Established in 1998, the Ohio Oil and Gas Energy Education Program educates the public about the state’s energy industry – past and present.
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