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Title: Sketches in Crude-oil - Some accidents and incidents of the petroleum development - in all parts of the globe
Author: McLaurin, John J.
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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                          Transcriber’s Note:

This version of the text cannot represent certain typographical effects.
Italics are delimited with the ‘_’ character as _italic_.

The columns employed in the list of Portraits and Illustrations have
been reduced to a single column.

The positions of most illustrations have been adjusted slightly to fall
on paragraph breaks. In most cases, any text included in the
illustrations has been presented as a caption.

Minor errors, attributable to the printer, have been corrected. Please
see the transcriber’s note at the end of this text for details regarding
the handling of any textual issues encountered during its preparation.

[Illustration: John J. McLaurin.]

                              SKETCHES IN

                      DEVELOPMENT IN ALL PARTS OF
                               THE GLOBE_



                          BY JOHN J. MCLAURIN,

        _Author of “A Brief History of Petroleum,” “The Story of
                           Johnstown,” Etc._

[Illustration: decoration]

 “Write the vision * * * that he may run that readeth it.”—_Habakkuk
 “I heard a song, a mighty song.”—_Ibsen_
 “Was it all a dream, some jugglery that daylight might expose?”—_N. A.
 “I will a round unvarnish’d tale deliver.”—_Shakespeare_

[Illustration: decoration]



                            HARRISBURG, PA.
                        PUBLISHED BY THE AUTHOR

                           COPYRIGHTED, 1896
                           COPYRIGHTED, 1898
                          BY JOHN J. MCLAURIN

[Illustration: Dedication]


my neighbor and friend for many years, a man of large heart and earnest


                                                          FRANKLIN. PA.,

whose sterling qualities have achieved the highest success in life and
won the confidence and esteem of his fellows, this Volume is

——Respectfully Dedicated.

“_He cometh unto you with a tale which holdeth children from play and
    old men from the chimney-corner._”—_SIR PHILIP SIDNEY._

“_What is writ is written, would it were better._”—_SHAKESPEARE._


Life is too short to compile a book that would cover the subject fully,
hence this work is _not_ a detailed history of the great petroleum
development. Nor is it a mere collection of dry facts and figures, set
forth to show that the oil business is a pretty big enterprise. But it
_is_ a sincere endeavor to print something regarding petroleum, based
largely upon personal observation, which may be worth saving from
oblivion. The purpose is to give the busy outside world, by anecdote and
incident and brief narration, a glimpse of the grandest industry of the
ages and of the men chiefly responsible for its origin and growth. Many
of the portraits and illustrations, nearly all of them now presented for
the first time, will be valuable mementoes of individuals and localities
that have passed from mortal sight forever. If the reader shall find
that “within is more of relish than of cost” the writer of these
“Sketches” will be amply satisfied.

                             SECOND EDITION

The first edition of five-thousand copies having been exhausted, the
second is now issued. The oil-development is progressive, hence numerous
illustrations and much new matter are added. Hearty thanks are returned
hosts of friends and the public generally for kindly appreciation of the
work. Perhaps something not thanks may be due the lonely few who “care
for none of these things.” This will likely end the pleasant task of
reviewing petroleum’s wide field and “living the old days over again,”
so it is fitting to pray, with Tiny Tim, “God bless us every one.”

“_No man likes mustard by itself._”—_BEN JONSON._

“_He has carried every point who has mixed the useful with the



 CHAPTER I. THE STAR IN THE EAST                                    1-14
      Petroleum in Ancient Times—Known from an Early Period
        in the World’s History—Mentioned in the Scriptures
        and by Primitive Writers—Solomon Sustained—Stumbling
        Upon the Greasy Staple in Various Lands—Incidents and
        Anecdotes of Different Sorts and Sizes—Over Asia,
        Africa and Europe.

 CHAPTER II. A GLIMMER IN THE WEST                                 15-24
      Numerous Indications of Oil on this Continent—Lake of
        Asphaltum—Petroleum Springs in New York and
        Pennsylvania—How History is Manufactured—Pioneers
        Dipping and Utilizing the Precious Fluid—Tombstone
        Literature—Pathetic Episode-Singular Strike—Geology
        Tries to Explain a Knotty Point.

 CHAPTER III. NEARING THE DAWN                                     27-40
      Salt-Water Helping Solve the Problem—Kier’s Important
        Experiments—Remarkable Shaft at Tarentum—West
        Virginia and Ohio to the Front—The Lantern Fiend—What
        an Old Map Showed—Kentucky Plays Trumps—The Father of
        Flowing Wells—Sundry Experiences and Observations at
        Various Points.

 CHAPTER IV. WHERE THE BLUE-GRASS GROWS                            43-58
      Interesting Petroleum Developments in Kentucky and
        Tennessee—The Famous American Well—A Boston Company
        Takes Hold—Providential Escape—Regular Mountain
        Vendetta—A Sunday Lynching Party—Peculiar Phases of
        Piety—An Old Woman’s Welcome—Warm Reception—Stories
        of Rustic Simplicity.

 CHAPTER V. A HOLE IN THE GROUND                                   61-80

      The First Well Drilled for Petroleum—The Men Who
        Started Oil on Its Triumphant March—Colonel Drake’s
        Operations—Setting History Right—How Titusville was
        Boomed and a Giant Industry Originated—Modest
        Beginning of the Greatest Enterprise on Earth—Side
        Droppings that Throw Light on an Important Subject.

 CHAPTER VI. THE WORLD’S LUBRICANT                                83-114
      A Glance at a Pretty Settlement—Evans and His Wonderful
        Well—Heavy Oil at Franklin to Grease all the Wheels
        in Creation—Origin of a Popular Phrase—Operations on
        French Creek—Excitement at Fever Heat—Galena and
        Signal Oil-Works—Rise and Progress of a Great
        Industry—Crumbs Swept Up.

 CHAPTER VII. THE VALLEY OF PETROLEUM                            117-154
      Wonderful Scenes on Oil Creek—Mud and Grease
        Galore—Rise and Fall of Phenomenal Towns—Shaffer,
        Pioneer and Petroleum Centre—Fortune’s Queer
        Vagaries—Wells Flowing Thousands of Barrels—Sherman,
        Delamater and “Coal-Oil Johnnie”—From Penury to
        Riches and Back—Recitals that Discount Fairy-Tales.

 CHAPTER VIII. PICKING RIPE CHERRIES                             157-170
      Juicy Streaks Bordering Oil Creek—Famous Benninghoff
        Robbery—Close Call for a Fortune—City Set Upon a
        Hill—Allemagooselum to the Front—Cherry Run’s
        Whirligig—Romance of the Reed Well—Smith and McFate
        Farms—Pleasantville, Shamburg and Red Hot—Experiences
        Not Unworthy of the Arabian Nights.

 CHAPTER IX. A GOURD IN THE NIGHT                                173-188
      The Meteoric City that Dazzled Mankind—From Nothing to
        Sixteen-Thousand Population in Three Months—First
        Wells and Fabulous Prices—Noted Organizations at
        Pithole—A Foretaste of Hades—Excitement and
        Collapse—Speculation Run Wild—Duplicity and
        Disappointment—The Wild Scramble for the Almighty

 CHAPTER X. UP THE WINDING RIVER                                 191-210
      Along the Allegheny from Oil Creek—The First Petroleum
        Company’s Big Strike—Ruler of President—Fagundas,
        Tidioute and Triumph Hill—The Economites—Warren and
        Forest—Cherry Grove’s Bombshell—Scouts and Mystery
        Wells—Exciting Experiences in the Middle
        Field—Draining a Juicy Section of Oildom.

 CHAPTER XI. A BEE-LINE FOR THE NORTH                            213-230
      The Great Bradford Region Looms Up—Miles of First-Class
        Territory—Leading Operators—John McKeown’s
        Millions—Many Lively Towns—Over the New-York
        Border—All Aboard for Richburg—Crossing into
        Canada—Shaw’s Strike—The Polar Region Plays a Strong
        Hand in the Game of Tapping Nature’s Laboratory.

 CHAPTER XII. DOWN THE ZIG-ZAGGED STREAM                         233-256
      Where the Allegheny Flows—Reno Contributes a Generous
        Mite—Scrubgrass Has a Short Inning—Bullion Looms Up
        with Dusters and Gushers—A Peep Around
        Emlenton—Foxburg Falls into Line—Through the Clarion
        District—St. Petersburg, Antwerp, Turkey City and
        Dogtown—Edenburg Has a Hot Time—Parker on Deck.

 CHAPTER XIII. ON THE SOUTHERN TRAIL                             259-290
      Butler’s Rich Pastures Unfold Their Oleaginous
        Treasures—The Cross-Belt Deals Trumps—Petrolia, Karns
        City and Millerstown—Thorn Creek Knocks the
        Persimmons for a Time—McDonald Mammoths Break All
        Records—Invasion of Washington—Green County Has Some
        Surprises—Gleanings of More or Less Interest.

 CHAPTER XIV. MORE OYSTERS IN THE STEW                           293-308
      Ohio Calls the Turn at Mecca—Macksburg, Marietta, Lima
        and Findlay Heard From—West Virginia Not Left
        Out—Volcano’s Early Risers—Sistersville and
        Parkersburg Drop In—Hoosiers Come Out of Their
        Shell—Colorado, Kansas, Wyoming, Texas and California
        Help Flavor the Petroleum Tureen.

 CHAPTER XV. FROM THE WELL TO THE LAMP                           311-342
      Transporting Crude-Oil by Wagons and Boats—Unfathomable
        Mud and Swearing Teamsters—Pond
        Freshets—Establishment of Pipe-Lines—National-Transit
        Company and Some of Its Officers—Speculation in
        Certificates—Exchanges at Prominent Points—The
        Product That Illumines the World at Various Stages of

 CHAPTER XVI. THE LITERARY GUILD                                 345-380
      Clever Journalists Who Have Catered to People of the
        Oil-Regions—Newspapers and the Men Who Made
        Them—Cultured Writers, Poets and Authors—Notable
        Characters Portrayed Briefly—Short Extracts from Many
        Sources—A Bright Galaxy of Talented Thinkers—Words
        and Phrases that Will Enrich the Language for all

 CHAPTER XVII. NITRO-GLYCERINE IN THIS                           383-406
      Explosives as Aids to the Production of Oil—The Roberts
        Torpedo Monopoly and Its Leaders—Unprecedented
        Litigation—Moonlighters at Work—Fatalities from the
        Deadly Compound—Portraits and Sketches of Victims—Men
        Blown to Fragments—Strange Escapes—The Loaded
        Porker—Stories to Accept or Reject.

 CHAPTER XVIII. THE STANDARD OIL-COMPANY                         409-426
      Growth of a Great Corporation—Misunderstood and
        Misrepresented—Improvements in Treating and
        Transporting Petroleum—Why Many Refineries
        Collapsed—Real Meaning of the Trust—What a
        Combination of Brains and Capital has
        Accomplished—Men Who Built Up a Vast Enterprise that
        has no Equal in the World.

 CHAPTER XIX. JUST ODDS AND ENDS                                 429-452
      How Natural Gas Played Its Part—Fire and Water Much in
        Evidence—Changes in Methods and Appliances—Deserted
        Towns—Peculiar Coincidences and Fatalities—Railroad
        Episodes—Reminiscences of Bygone Scenes—Practical
        Jokers—Sad Tragedies—Lights and Shadows Intermingle
        and the Curtain Falls Forever.


                     _Name_                   _Page_
                     Abbott, William H.        320
                     Adams, Rev. Clarence A.   112
                     Albee, J. P.              187
                     Allen, Col. M. N.         344
                     Ames, Gov. Oliver          46
                     Anderson, George K.       116
                     Andrews, Charles J.       388
                     Andrews, Frank W.         116
                     Andrews, William H.       389
                     Angell, Cyrus D.          111
                     Archbold, John D.         420
                     Armor, William C.         374

                     Babcock, John             442
                     Barber, F. H.             373
                     Barnsdall, Theodore       217
                     Barnsdall, William         60
                     Bates, Joseph              32
                     Baum, William T.           82
                     Bayne, S. G.                9
                     Beatty, David             191
                     Beers, Henry I.           165
                     Bell, Edwin C.            368
                     Benninghoff, John         157
                     Bishop, Coleman E.        344
                     Bissell, George H.         60
                     Bleakley, Col. James       87
                     Bloss, Henry C.           344
                     Bloss, William W.         344
                     Boden, Frederick          218
                     Booth, J. Wilkes          104
                     Borland, James B.         349
                     Bowen, Frank W.           359
                     Bowman, J. H.             344
                     Boyle, Patrick C.         357
                     Brewer, Dr. F. B.          60
                     Brigham, Samuel P.        350
                     Brown, Samuel Q.          149
                     Brownson, Marcus          258
                     Buchanan, George           22

                     Cady, Daniel               70
                     Cain, Col. John H.         90
                     Campbell, John R.         323
                     Carnegie, Andrew          443
                     Carroll, Reuben           229
                     Carroll, R. W.            229
                     Carter, Col. John J.      222
                     Chambers, Wesley          150
                     Clapp, Edwin E.           194
                     Cochran, Alexander        102
                     Cochran, Robert L.        346
                     Colman, Moses J.          104
                     Cone, Andrew              354
                     Cone, Mrs. Andrew         354
                     Conver, Peter O.          351
                     Cornen, Peter P.          165
                     Crane, Rev. Ezra G.       112
                     Crawford, Dr. A. W.       240
                     Crawford, John P.         107

                     _Name_                   _Page_
                     Crawford, William R.       82
                     Criswell, Robert W.       366
                     Crocker, Frederick        214
                     Crossley, David            60
                     Cummings, Capt. H. H.     266

                     Delamater, George W.      123
                     Delamater, George B.       42
                     Dennison, David D.        371
                     Densmore, Emmett          446
                     Densmore, James           446
                     Densmore, Joel D.         446
                     Densmore, William         446
                     Dewoody, J. Lowry          88
                     Dimick, George            261
                     Dodd, Levi                 87
                     Dodd, Samuel C. T.        423
                     Dougall, David            259
                     Drake, Col. Edwin L.       60

                     Eaton, John               448
                     Eaton, Rev. S. J. M.      376
                     Egbert, Dr. A. G.          60
                     Egbert, Dr. M. C.         133
                     Emery, David               60
                     Emery, Lewis              217
                     Evans, James               82

                     Fassett, Col. L. H.       449
                     Fertig, John              127
                     Fertig, Samuel S.         121
                     Fisher, Frederick         317
                     Fisher, Henry             317
                     Fisher, John J.           317
                     Forman, George V.         326
                     Forst, Barney             285
                     Frew, William              32
                     Fox, William L.           243
                     Funk, Capt. A. B.         127

                     Galey, John H.            254
                     Galloway, John            180
                     Goe, Bateman              218
                     Grandin, Elijah B.        202
                     Grandin, John L.          202
                     Gray, Samuel H.           377
                     Greenlee, C. D.           285
                     Griffith, W. E.           283
                     Grimm, Daniel              82
                     Guffey, James M.          250
                     Guffey, Wesley S.         250

                     Haffey, Col. J. K.        371
                     Hanna, J. Lindsay          87
                     Harley, Henry             320
                     Harley, Stephen W.        368
                     Hasson, Capt. William     116
                     Henry, Col. James T.      344
                     Hess, Michael Edic        295
                     Heydrick, Jesse           191

                     _Name_                   _Page_
                     Hoover, Col. James P.      82
                     Hopkins, Edward           323
                     Hughes, S. B.             196
                     Hulings, Marcus           246
                     Hunter, Jahu              266
                     Hunter, Dr. W. G.          36
                     Hyde, Charles              60

                     Irvin, Samuel P.          370

                     James, Henry F.            82
                     Janes, Heman              142
                     Jennings, Edward H.       293
                     Jennings, Richard         261
                     Johns, Walter R.          344
                     Johnston, Dr. Frank H.    377
                     Jones, Edward C.          373
                     Jones, Capt. J. T.        217

                     Kantner, H. Beecher       349
                     Karns, Stephen D.         261
                     Kern, Thomas A.           371
                     Kerr, J. Melville         379
                     Kier, Samuel M.            30
                     Kirk, David               217
                     Koch, George              448

                     Lambing, James M.         254
                     Leckey, Robert            218
                     Lee, John H.              246
                     Leonard, Charles C.       362
                     Lock, Jonathan             77
                     Lockhart, Charles          32
                     Longwell, W. H.           344

                     Mapes, George E.          366
                     Martin, Z.                 79
                     Martindale, Thomas        440
                     Mather, John A.           175
                     Metcalfe, L. H.           344
                     Miller, Charles            96
                     Miller, T. Preston        447
                     Mitchell, Foster W.       149
                     Mitchell, John L.         149
                     Mitchell, J. Plumer       399
                     Moorhead, Joseph          373
                     Morton, Col. L. M.        344
                     Munson, William           391
                     Murray, F. F.             366
                     Muse, James B.            349
                     Myers, J. J.              239
                     McCalmont, S. P.          348
                     McCargo, David            443
                     McClintock, Homer         357
                     McCray, James S.          137
                     McCullagh, W. J.          357
                     McDonough, Col. Thos.     113
                     McDowell, Col. Alex.       20
                     McKeown, John             221
                     McKinney, J. Curtis       273

                     McKinney, John L.         273
                     McLaurin, John J.        Front
                     McMullan, W. S.            90
                     McMullen, Justus C.       374

                     Needle, George A.         368
                     Negley, John H.           369
                     Nesbitt, George H.        261
                     Neyhart, Adnah            202
                     Nicklin, James P.          84
                     Noble, Orange              42

                     O’Day, Daniel             323
                     Oesterlin, Dr. Charles    432
                     Osmer, James H.           236

                     Painter, William           88
                     Persons, Charles E.       371
                     Phillips, Isaac N.        135
                     Phillips, John T.         135
                     Phillips, Thomas M.       135
                     Phillips, Charles M.      135
                     Phillips, William         116
                     Phillips, Fulton          375
                     Phipps, Porter            166
                     Place, James M.           366
                     Post, A. G.               443
                     Plumer, Frederick         246
                     Plumer, Warren C.         344
                     Ponton, John              362
                     Pratt, Charles            421
                     Prentice, Frederic        109

                     Rattigan, P. A.           369
                     Raymond, Aaron W.          87
                     Reed, William             162
                     Reineman, Isaac           447
                     Reisinger, Col. J. W. H.  350

                     Reno, Gen. Jesse L.       234
                     Rial, Edward               88
                     Roberts, Col. E. A. L.    382
                     Roberts, Dr. Walter B.    382
                     Rockefeller, John D.      409
                     Rouse, Henry R.           116
                     Rowland, James W.         300
                     Rumsey, George            239

                     Satterfield, John         258
                     Seep, Joseph              335
                     Shamburg, Dr. G.          167
                     Shannon, Philip M.        198
                     Shaw, John                226
                     Sheakley, Gov. James      182
                     Sheasley, Jacob            82
                     Showalter, J. B.          445
                     Sibley, Edwin H.          377
                     Sibley, Joseph C.          96
                     Simonds, Joseph W.        104
                     Simpson, Robert           359
                     Siviter, William H.       357
                     Smiley, Alfred W.         181
                     Smiley, Edwin W.          347
                     Smiley, J. Howard         347
                     Smith, George P.           90
                     Smith, J. Harrison        347
                     Smith, William A.          61
                     Smithman, John B.         447
                     Snell, Alfred L.          374
                     Snowden, Rev. N. R.        20
                     Speechly, Samuel          432
                     Staley, W. H.             210
                     Stevens, William H.       442
                     Stewart, Samuel           169
                     Stone, Charles W.         206
                     Stuck, Col. Edward H.     357
                     Swan, B. E.               101

                     Tarbell, Franklin S.      116
                     Tarr, James S.            292
                     Taylor, Frank H.          357
                     Taylor, Hascal L.         258
                     Taylor, O. P.             223
                     Thompson. William A.      392
                     Thomson, Frank            442
                     Thropp, Miss Amelia       354
                     Titus, Jonathan            65
                     Truesdell, Frank W.       366
                     Tyson, James              362

                     Vanausdall, John          116
                     Vandergrift, Capt. J. J.  326
                     Vandergrift, T. J.        209

                     Watson, D. T.             446
                     Watson, Jonathan           60
                     Watson, Lewis F.          206
                     Welch, Philip C.          359
                     Wenk, Jacob               350
                     Wetter, Henry             252
                     Whitaker, Albert P.       346
                     Whitaker, William S.      346
                     White, Charles E.         357
                     Wicker, Charles C.        360
                     Williams, Samuel L.       364

                     Yewens, Rev. Harry L.     345
                     Young, Samuel             370
                     Young, W. J.              269
                     Youngson, A. B.           443
                     Youngson, J. J.           443

                     Zane, John P.             116
                     Zeigler, H. C.            300
                     Zeigler, Col. Jacob       370




                 Oil-Wells in India                  6

                 View in Oil City, Pa., after       26
                   the flood, March 17, 1867

                 Baku, Russia and Bakany Views      14

                 Notable Wells on Oil Creek in      42

                 Map of Venango County              59

                 Early Operators on Oil Creek       60

                 Group Picture—Maj. W. T. Baum,     82
                   Jacob Sheasley, Henry F.
                   James, James Evans, W. R.
                   Crawford, Daniel Grimm, Col.
                   Jas. P. Hoover

                 Miller & Sibley’s Prospect        115
                   Hill Stock Farm, Franklin,

                 Group Picture—John Vanausdall,    116
                   G. K. Anderson, Wm.
                   Phillips, F. S. Tarbell, F.
                   W. Andrews, Capt. Wm.
                   Hasson, Henry R. Rouse, John
                   P. Zane. D. W. Kenney’s
                   Allemagoozelum City Well No.

                 Petroleum Centre, 1894            131

                 Wells on Benninghoff Run,         156
                   Venango Co., Pa., in 1866

                 General View of Pithole in        172
                   August, 1895


                 Parker Oil Exchange in 1874       190

                 Up the Allegheny River            212

                 Views at St. Petersburg,          232
                   Edenburg and Other Places

                 Karns City, Greece City,          258
                   Petrolia, 1873; Group of
                   Hascal L. Taylor, Marcus
                   Brownson and John

                 Group Picture—Richard             261
                   Jennings, S. D. Karns,
                   George Nesbit and George

                 Armstrong Well                    281

                 Views on the Tarr Farm, Oil       292
                   Creek, in 1863-6. Refinery
                   and Oil-Wells at Russia and

                 Pond Freshet at Oil City,         310
                   March, ’63

                 A Cluster of Pioneer Editors      344

                 Group Picture—F. F. Murray,       366
                   Frank W. Truesdell, R. W.
                   Criswell, James M. Place and
                   George E. Mapes

                 Group Picture—Col. J. K.          371
                   Haffey, D. A. Dennison,
                   Thomas A. Kern and Charles
                   F. Persons

                 Well Flowing Oil After            382

                 Standard Building, 26             408
                   Broadway, N.Y.

                         THE STAR IN THE EAST.



“The morning star in all its splendor was rising in the East.”—_Felix

“Alone in the increasing darkness * * * it is a beacon

“It were all one that I should love a bright particular

“The years that are gone roll before me with their deeds.”—_Ossian._

“Oil out of the flinty rock.”—_Deuteronomy xxxii: 13._

“And the rock poured me out rivers of oil.”—_Job xxix: 6._

“Will the Lord be pleased with * * * ten-thousands of rivers of
    oil?”—_Micah vi: 7._

“I have myself seen pitch drawn out of the lake and from water in

“The people of Agrigentum save oil in pits and burn it in

“Can ye not discern the signs of the times?”—_St. Matthew xvi: 3._


Petroleum, a name to conjure with and weave romances around, helps out
Solomon’s oft-misapplied declaration of “No new thing under the sun.”
Possibly it filled no place in domestic economy when the race, if the
Darwinian theory passes muster, sported as ring-tailed simians, yet the
Scriptures and primitive writers mention the article repeatedly. Many
intelligent persons, recalling the tallow-dip and lard-oil lamp of their
youth, consider the entire petroleum-business of very recent date,
whereas its history goes back to remotest antiquity. Naturally they are
disappointed to find it, in various aspects, “the same thing over
again.” Men and women in the prime of life have forgotten the flickering
pine-knot, the sputtering candle or the smoky sconce hardly long enough
to associate rock-oil with “the brave days of old.” This idea of newness
the host of fresh industries created by oil-operations has tended to
deepen in the popular mind. Enjoying the brilliant glow of a modern
argand-burner, double-wicked, silk-shaded, onyx-mounted and altogether a
genuine luxury, it seems hard to realize that the actual basis of this
up-to-date elegance has existed from time immemorial. Of derricks,
drilling-tools, tank-cars, refineries and pipe-lines our ancestors were
blissfully ignorant; but petroleum itself, the foundation of the
countless paraphernalia of the oil-trade of to-day, flourished “ere
Noah’s flood had space to dry.” Although used to a limited extent in
crude-form for thousands of years, it was reserved for the present age
to introduce the grand illuminant to the world generally. After sixty
centuries the game of “hide-and-seek” between Mother Earth and her
children has terminated in favor of the latter. They have pierced
nature’s internal laboratories, tapping the huge oil-tanks wherein the
products of her quiet chemistry had accumulated “in bond,” and up came
the unctuous fluid in volumes ample to fill all the lamps the universe
could manufacture and to grease every axle on this revolving planet! The
demon of darkness has been exorcised from the gloomy caverns of old to
make room for the modern angel of light. Science, the rare alchemist
which converts the tear of unpaid labor into a steam-giant that turns
with tireless arm the countless wheels of toil, lays bare the deepest
recesses of the past to bring forth treasures for the present.

The capital invested in petroleum in this country has increased from
one-thousand dollars, raised in 1859 to drill the first well in
Pennsylvania, to six-hundred-millions. It is just as easy to say
six-hundred-million dollars as six-hundred-million grains of sand, but
the possibilities of such a sum of money afford material for endless
flights of the imagination. Thirty-thousand miles of pipe-lines handle
the output most expeditiously, conveying it to the seaboard at less than
teamsters used to receive for hauling it a half-mile. Ten-thousand
tank-cars have been engaged in its transportation. Seventy-five
bulk-steamers and fleets of sailing-vessels carry refined from
Philadelphia and New York to the most distant ports in Europe, Africa
and Asia. “Astral Oil” and “Standard White” have penetrated “wherever a
wheel can roll or a camel’s foot be planted.” In Pennsylvania,
South-eastern Ohio and West Virginia thirty-five-million barrels have
been produced and eight-thousand wells drilled in a single year. Add to
this the results of operations in North-eastern Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky,
Tennessee, Kansas, Colorado, Wyoming and California, and it must be
acknowledged that petroleum is entitled to the chief seat in the
synagogue. Edward Bellamy may, perhaps, be imitated profitably and
pleasantly in this connection by “Looking-Backward.”

                 Looking forward is the proper kink,
                 Smooth as skating in an icy rink,
                 In one’s planning how to fill a chink
                     At manifold times and places;
                 But for winning in a thoughtful think,
                 Past and present joining with a link
                 Guaranteed to wash and never shrink,
                     Looking backward holds four aces.


Precisely how, why, when, where and by whom petroleum was first
discovered and utilized nobody living can, and nobody dead will, tell
anxious inquirers. The information has “gone where the woodbine
twineth,” to join the dodo, the megatherium, the ichthyosaurus and the
“lost arts” Wendell Phillips embalmed in fadeless prose. An erratic
Joe-Millerite has traced the stuff to the Garden of Eden in a fashion
akin to the chopping logic of the Deacon’s “Wonderful One-Horse Shay.”
Hear him:

“Adam had a fall?”

“Sure as death and taxes.”

“Why did he fall with such neatness and dispatch?”

“Maybe he took a spring to fall.”

“Naw! Because everything was greased for the occasion! Unquestionably
the only lubricant on this footstool just then was the petroleum brewed
in God’s own subterranean stills. Therefore, petroleum figured in Eden,
which was to be demonstrated according to Hoyle. See?”

There is no “irrepressible conflict” between this reasoning, the version
of the Pentateuch and the idea of Peck’s Bad Boy that “Adam clumb a
appul-tree to put coal-oil onto it to kill the insecks, an’ he sawed a
snaik, an’ the oil made the tree slippy, an’ he fell bumpety-bump!” What
a heap of trouble would have been avoided if that pippin had been soaked
in crude-oil, that Eve might turn up her nose at it and give the serpent
the marble heart! As Miss Haney expresses it:

        “O Eve, little Eve, if you only had guess’d
          Who it was that tempted you so,
        You’d have kept out of mischief, nor lost your nice home
          For the sake of an apple, I know.”

Other wags attribute the longevity of antediluvian veterans to their
unstinted use of petroleum for internal and external ailments! Had
medical almanacs, patent nostrums and circus-bill testimonials been
evolved at that interesting period, the oleum-vender would have hit the
bull’s-eye plump in the center. Guess at the value of recommendations
like these, with the latest accompaniment of “before-and-after” pictures
in the newspapers:

LAND OF NOD, _April 1, B. C. 5678.—This is to certify that I keep my
strength up to blacksmith pitch by frequent applications of Petroleum
Prophylactic and six big drinks of Benzine Bitters daily. Lifting an
elephant, with one hand tied behind me, is my favorite trick.

                                                      SANDOW TUBAL-CAIN.

MT. ARARAT, _July 4, B. C. 4004.—Your medicine is out of sight in our
family. It relieved papa of an overdose of fire-water, imbibed in honor
of his boat distancing Dunraven’s barge on this glorious anniversary,
and cured Ham of trichina yesterday. Mamma’s pug slid off the upper deck
into the swim and was fished out in a comatose condition. A solitary
whiff of your Pungent Petroleum Pastils revived him instantly, and he
was able to howl all night.

                                                         SHEM & JAPHETH.

SOMEWHERE IN ASIA, _Dec. 21, B. C. 4019.—Your incomparable Petroleum
Prophylactic, which I first learned about from a college chum, is a
daisy-cutter. Thanks to its superlative virtues, I have lived to be a
trifle older than the youngest ballet-girl in the “Black Crook.” I
celebrated my nine-hundred-and-sixty-ninth birth-day by walking umsteen
miles before luncheon, playing left-tackle with the Y. M. C. A.
Foot-ball Team in the afternoon and witnessing “Uncle Tom’s Cabin”—two
Topsys, two Markses, two Evas, two donkeys and four Siberian
Bloodhounds—in the evening. Next morning’s paper flung this ticket to
the breeze:

                       “For Mayor of Jeroosalum
                       We nominate Methoosalum.”

By sticking faithfully and fearlessly to your unrivaled elixir I expect
to round out my full thousand years and run for a second term. Refer
silver-skeptics and gold-bug office-seekers to me for particulars as to
the proper treatment.

                                        GROVER LINGER LONGER METHUSELAH.

PLEASANT VALLEY, _Oct. 30, B. C. 5555.—I just want to shout “Eureka,”
“Excelsior,” “Hail Columbia,” “E Pluribus Unum,” and give three cheers
for your Kill-em-off Kerosene! Both my mothers in-law, who had bossed me
seventy decades, tried a can of it on a sick fire this morning. Their
funeral is billed for four o’clock p. m. to-morrow. Send me ten gallons
more at once.

                                                   BRIGHAM YOUNG LAMECH.

ISLES OF GREECE.—I defy the Jersey Lighting to knock me out while your
Benzine Bitters are in the ring. “A good thing; push it along.”

                                                          SULLIVAN AJAX.

Leaving the realm of conjecture, it is quite certain that the “pitch”
which coated the ark and the “slime” of the builders of Babel were
products of petroleum. Genesis affirms that “the vale of Siddim was full
of slime-pits”—language too direct to be dismissed by hinting vaguely at
“the mistakes of Moses.” Deuteronomy speaks of “oil out of the flinty
rock” and Micah puts the pointed query: “Will the Lord be pleased with *
* * ten thousands of rivers of oil?” To the three friends who condoled
with him in his grievous visitation of boils the patriarch of Uz
asserted: “And the rock poured me out rivers of oil.” Whatever his
hearers might think of this apparent stretch of fancy, Job’s forecast of
the oleaginous output was singularly felicitous. Evidently the
Old-Testament writers, whose wise heads geology had not muddled, knew a
good deal about the petroleum situation in their day.

[Illustration: Well, this beats the deuce!]

A follower of Voltaire was accustomed to wind up his assaults on
inspiration by criticising these oily quotations unmercifully. “Could
anything be more absurd,” he would ask, “than to talk of ‘oil from a
flinty rock’ and ‘rocks pouring forth rivers of oil?’ If anything were
needed to prove the Bible a fool-book from start to finish, such
utterances would settle the matter beyond dispute. Rocks yielding rivers
of oil cap the climax of ridiculous nonsense! Next they’ll want folks to
believe that Jonah swallowed the whale, hair and hide and breeches.

Months and years passed away swiftly, as they have a habit of doing, and
the sturdy agnostic continued arguing pluckily. At length tidings of
oil-wells flowing thousands of barrels of crude reached him from William
Penn’s broad heritage. He came, he saw and, unlike Julius Cæsar, he
surrendered unconditionally. Remarking, “This beats the deuce!” the
doubter doubted no more. He revised his opinions, humbly accepted the
gospel and professed religion, openly and above-board. Hence the
petroleum-development is entitled to the credit of one notable
conversion, at least, and the balance is on the right side of the
ledger, assuming that a human soul outweighs the terrestrial globe in
the unerring scales of the Infinite.

              Can they be wrong, who think the stingy soul
              That grudges honest toil its scanty dole
              Not worth its weight in slaty, sulphur coal?

Whether petroleum, which literally signifies “rock-oil,” be of mineral,
vegetable or animal origin matters little to the producer or consumer,
who views it from a commercial standpoint. In its natural state it is a
variable mixture of numerous liquid hydro-carbons, holding in solution
paraffine and solid bitumen, or asphaltum. The fountains of Is, on the
Euphrates, were familiar to the founders of Babylon, who secured
indestructible mortar for the walls of the city by pouring melted
asphaltum between the blocks of stone. These famous springs attracted
the attention of Alexander, Trajan and Julian. Even now asphaltum
procured from them is sold in the adjacent villages. The commodity is
skimmed off the saline and sulphurous waters and solidified by
evaporation. The ancient Egyptians used another form of the same
substance in preparing mummies, probably obtaining their supplies from a
spring on the Island of Zante, described by Herodotus. It was flowing in
his day, it is flowing to-day, and a citizen of Boston owns the
property. Wells drilled near the Suez canal in 1885 found petroleum. So
the gay world jogs on. Mummified Pharaohs are burned as fuel to drive
locomotives over the Sahara, while the Zantean fount whose oil besmeared
“the swathed and bandaged carcasses” is purchased by a Massachusetts
bean-eater! Yet victims of “that tired feeling” turn to namby-pamby
novels of the Laura-Jean-Libby brand for real romance!

             “For truth is strange, stranger than fiction.”

Asphaltum is found in the Dead Sea, the supposed site of Sodom and
Gomorrah, and on the surface of a chain of springs along its banks, far
below the level of the ocean. Strabo referred to this remarkable feature
two thousand years ago. The destruction of the two ill-fated cities may
have been connected with, if not caused by, vast natural stores of this
inflammable petroleum. The immense accumulations of hardened rock-oil in
the center and on the banks of the sea were oxidized into rosin-like
asphalt. Pieces picked up from the waters are frequently carved, in the
convents of Jerusalem, into ornaments, which retain an oily flavor.
Aristotle, Josephus and Pliny mention similar deposits at Albania, on
the shores of the Adriatic. Dioscorides Pedanius, the Greek historian,
tells how the citizens of Agrigentum, in Sicily, burned petroleum in
rude lamps prior to the birth of Christ. For two centuries it lighted
the streets of Genoa and Parma, in northern Italy. Plutarch describes a
lake of blazing petroleum near Ecbatana. Persian wells have produced oil
liberally for ages, under the name of “naphtha,” the descendants of
Cyrus, Darius and Xerxes consuming the fluid for its light. The earliest
records of China refer to petroleum and small quantities have been found
in Thibet. An oil-fountain on one of the Ionian Islands has gushed
steadily for over twenty centuries, without once going on a strike or
taking a vacation. Austria and France likewise possess oil-springs of
considerable importance. Thomas Shirley, in 1667, tested the contents of
a shallow pit in Lancashire, England, which burned readily. Rev. John
Clayton visited it and wrote in 1691:

“I saw a ditch where the water burned like brandy. Country-folk boil
eggs and meat in it.”

Near Bitche, a small fort perched on the top of a peak, at the entrance
of one of the defiles of Lorraine, opening into the Vosges Mountains-a
fort which was of great embarrassment to the Prussians in their last
French campaign—and in the valley guarded by this fortress stand the
chateau and village of Walsbroun, so named from a strange spring in the
forest behind it. In the middle ages this fountain was famous.
Inscriptions, ancient coins and the relics of a Roman road attest that
it had been celebrated even in earlier times. In the sixteenth century a
basin and bath for sick people existed. No record of its abandonment has
been preserved. In the last century it was rediscovered by a medical
antiquarian, who found the naphtha, or white petroleum, almost

Nine years ago Adolph Schreiner died in a Vienna hospital, destitute and
alone. Yet he was the only son of a man known in Galicia as “the
Petroleum King” and founder of the great industry of oil-refining. The
father shared the lot of many inventors and benefactors, increasing the
world’s wealth untold millions and poverty-stricken himself in his last
days. Schreiner owned a piece of ground near Baryslaw from which he took
a black, tarry muck the peasants used to heal wounds and grease
cart-axles. He kneaded a ball from the slime, stuck a wick into it and a
red flame burned until the substance exhausted. This was _the first
petroleum-lamp_! Later Schreiner heard of distillation, filled a kettle
with the black earth and placed it on the fire. The ooze boiled over and
exploded, shivering the kettle and covering the zealous experimenter
with deep scars. He improved his apparatus, produced the petroleum of
commerce and sold bottles of the fluid to druggists in 1853. He drilled
the first Galician oil-well in 1856 and built a real refinery, which
fire destroyed in 1866. He rebuilt the works on a larger scale and fire
blotted them out, ruining the owner. Gray hairs and feebleness had come,
he ceased the struggle, drank to excess and died in misery. His son,
from whom much was expected, failed as a merchant and peddled matches in
Vienna from house to house, just as the aged brother of Signor Blitz,
the world-famed conjuror, is doing in Harrisburg to-day. Dying at last
in a public hospital, kindred nor friends followed the poor outcast to a
pauper’s grave. “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity and vexation of

                Life’s page holds each man’s autograph—
                Each has his time to cry or laugh,
                Each reaps his share of grain or chaff,
                But all at last the dregs must quaff—
                The tombstone holds their epitaph.

[Illustration: OIL IN SUMATRA.]

Around the volcanic isles of Cape Verde oil floats on the water and to
the south of Vesuvius rises through the Mediterranean, exactly as when
“the morning stars sang together.” Hanover, in Germany, boasts the most
northerly of European “earth-oils.” The islands of the Ottoman
Archipelago and Syria are richly endowed with the same product. Roumania
is literally flowing with petroleum, which oozes from the Carpathians
and pollutes the water-springs. Turkish domination has hindered the
development of the Roumanian region. Southern Australia is blessed with
bituminous shales, resembling those in Scotland, good for sixty gallons
of petroleum to the ton. The New-Zealanders obtained a meager supply
from the hill-sides, collecting carefully the droppings from the
interior rocks, and several test-wells have resulted satisfactorily. The
unsophisticated Sumatrans, whose straw-huts and squeaky music rendered
the Javanese village at the Columbian Exposition a tip-top novelty,
stick pipes in rocks and hills that trickle petroleum and let the liquid
drop upon their heads until their bodies are sleek and slippery as an
eel. Chauncey F. Lufkin, of Lima, Ohio, inventor of the “Disk Powers”
that make oil-wells almost pump themselves, says it is funnier than a
three-ringed circus to watch a group of half-clad girls and women,
two-thirds of them carrying babies, taking turns at this operation. He
has traveled through the oil-fields of Sumatra, India and Russia and his
kodak has reproduced many odd scenes for the delectation of his friends.
Two companies drilling in Java propose to find out all about its
oil-resources as quickly as the tools can reach the decisive spot.
Ultimately Java coffee may be tinged with an oily flavor that will
tickle the palates of consumers and set them wondering how the new aroma
escaped their notice so persistently. Verily, “no pent-up Utica
confines” petroleum within the narrow compass of a nation or a
continent. With John Wesley it may exultingly exclaim: “The whole earth
is my parish,” or echo the Shakespearean refrain: “The world’s mine

J. W. Stewart, of Clarion, has been in Africa drilling for oil. An
English syndicate is behind the enterprise and test-wells are to be
bored in the goldfields on the southern coast. Stewart, who returned
lately, says it is amusing to see the monkeys climb up a derrick and
watch the drillers at work. Just how amused they will be, if the
Englishmen strike a spouter that drenches the monkeys and the derrick,
each must diagram for himself until the result of carrying the
petroleum-war into Africa is decided. C. E. Seavill, since 1874
mining-and-land agent at Kimberley, in the diamond-fields of South
Africa, has organized a company with seventy-five-thousand dollars
capital to operate at Ceres, eighty miles north of Cape Town. He has
leased enormous tracts of land, which American experts pronounce likely
to prove rich oil-territory, and the first well will be drilled at a
spot selected by W. W. Van Ness, of New York, an authority on petroleum.
Mr. Seavill spent years endeavoring to educate the people up to the
notion that South Africa might be good for something besides gold and
precious stones. A series of gushers in the Ceres district, big enough
to discount yellow nuggets and sparkling gems, should be the fitting
reward of his enterprise. Perhaps Heber’s missionary-hymn may yet start
like this, when the Hottentots pose as oil-operators:

                     From Java’s spicy mountains,
                       From Afric’s golden strand,
                     Come tales of oily fountains
                       Roll’d up by the third sand.

[Illustration: OIL-WELLS IN INDIA.]

The Rangoon district of India long yielded four-hundred-thousand
hogsheads annually, the Hindoos using the oil to heal diseases, to
preserve timber and to cremate corpses. Birma has been supplied from
this source for an unknown period. The liquid, which is of a
greenish-brown color and resembles lubricating-oil in density, gathers
in pits sunk twenty to ninety feet in beds of sandy clays, overlying
slates and sandstones. Clumsy pots or buckets, operated by quaint
windlasses, hoist the oil slowly to the mouth of the pits, whence it is
often carried across the country in leathern bags, borne on men’s
shoulders, or in earthern jars, packed into carts drawn by oxen. Major
Michael Symes, ambassador to the Court of Ava in 1765, published a
narrative of his sojourn, in which is this passage:

“We rode until two o’clock, at which hour we reached Yaynangheomn, or
Petroleum Creek. * * * The smell of the oil is extremely offensive. It
was nearly dark when we approached the pits. There seemed to be a great
many pits within a small compass. Walking to the nearest, we found the
aperture about four feet square and the sides lined, as far as we could
see down, with timber. The oil is drawn up in an iron-pot, fastened to a
rope passed over a wooden cylinder, which revolves on an axis supported
by two upright posts. When the pot is filled, two men take hold of the
rope by the end and run down a declivity, which is cut in the ground, to
a distance equal to the depth of the well. When they reach the end of
the track the pot is raised to its proper elevation; the contents, water
and oil together, are discharged into a cistern, and the water is
afterward drawn through a hole in the bottom. * * * When a pit yielded
as much as came up to the waist of a man, it was deemed tolerably
productive; if it reached his neck it was abundant, and that which
reached no higher than his knee was accounted indifferent.”

Labor-saving machinery has not forged to the front to any great degree
in the oil-fields of the East Indies. For the Burmese trade flat-boats
ascend the Irrawaddy to Rainanghong, a town inhabited almost exclusively
by the potters who make the earthen jars in which the oil is kept for
this peculiar traffic. The methods of saving and handling the greasy
staple have not changed one iota since John the Baptist wore his suit of
camel’s-hair and curry-combed the Sadducees in the Judean wilderness.
Progress cuts no ice beneath the shadows of the Himalayas,
notwithstanding the missionary efforts of Xavier, Judson, Carey,
Morrison and Duff.


Petroleum in India occurs in middle or lower tertiary rock. In the
Rawalpindi district of the Panjab it is found at sixteen localities. At
Gunda a well yielded eleven gallons a day for six months, from a boring
eighty feet deep, and one two-hundred feet deep, at Makum, produced a
hundred gallons an hour. The coast of Arakan and the adjacent islands
have long been famed for mud-volcanoes caused by the eruption of
hydrocarbon gases. Forty-thousand gallons a year of petroleum have been
exported by the natives from Kyoukpyu. The oil is light and pure. In
1877 European enterprise was attracted to this industry and in 1879 work
was undertaken by the Borongo Oil-Co. The company started on a large
scale and in 1883 had twenty-four wells in operation, ranging from
five-hundred to twelve-hundred feet in depth, one yielding for a few
weeks one-thousand gallons daily. The total pumped from ten wells during
the year was a quarter-million gallons; and in 1884 the company had to
suspend payment. Large supplies of high-class petroleum might be
obtained from this region, if suitable methods of working were employed.


Japan also takes a position in the oleiferous procession allied to that
of the yellow dog under the band-wagon. At the base of Fuji-Yama, a
mountain of respectable altitude, the thrifty subjects of the Mikado
manage a cluster of oil-pits in the style practiced by their
forefathers. The mirv holes, the creaking apparatus and the general
surroundings are second editions of the Rangoon exhibits. Yum-Yum’s
countrymen are clever students and they have much to learn concerning
petroleum. Twenty-one years ago a Japanese nobleman inspected the
Pennsylvania oil-fields, sent thither to report to the government all
about the American system of operating the territory. His observations,
embodied in an official statement, failed to amend the moss-grown
processes of the Fuji-Yamans, who preferred to “fight it out on the old
line if it took all summer.” Two others followed on a similar mission in
1897. Fifty wells, from one thousand to eighteen hundred feet deep, are
producing in the Echigo province of Japan. The largest flowed
five-hundred barrels the first day, declining to eight or ten, the
customary average. The sand is white and the oil is of two grades, one
amber of 38° gravity, the other much darker and of 310 gravity. The
methods of refining and transporting are of the rudest, women carrying
the crude from the wells on their backs as squaws in North America tote
their papooses.

[Illustration: S. G. BAYNE.]

In 1874 S. G. Bayne, now president of the Seaboard Bank of New-York
City, visited these oriental regions. The hard fate of the benighted
heathen moved him to briny tears. They had never heard or read of “the
annealed steel coupling,” “the Palm link,” the tubing, casing, engines
and boilers the distinguished tourist had planted in every nook and
corner of Oildom. With the spirit of a true philanthropist, Bayne
determined to “set them on a higher plane.” His choicest Hindostanee
persiflage was aired in detailing the advantages of the Pennsylvania
plan of running the petroleum-machine. Tales of fortunes won on Oil
Creek and the Allegheny River were garnished with scintillations of
Irish wit that ought to have convulsed the listeners. Alas! the supine
Asiatics were not built that way and the good seed fell upon barren
soil. The story and, despite the finest lacquer and veneer
embellishments, the experience were repeated in Japan. What better could
be expected of pagans who wore skirts for full-dress, practiced
hari-kari and knew not a syllable about Brian Boru? Their conduct was
another convincing evidence of “the stern Calvinistic doctrine” of total
depravity. The Japs voted to stay in their venerable rut and not monkey
with the Yankee buzz-saw. “And the band played on.”

Years afterwards two cars of drilling-tools and well-machinery were
shipped to Calcutta and a couple of complete rigs to Yeddo—“only this
and nothing more.” The genial Bayne attempted to square the account by
printing his eastern adventures and sending marked copies of
translations to the Indo-Japanese press. Doubtless the waste-basket
received what the office-cat spared of this unusual consignment. Mr.
Bayne began his prosperous career as an oilman by striking a snug well
in 1869, on Pine Creek, near Titusville. He has written a book on
Astronomy which twinkles with gobs of astral science Copernicus,
Herschell, Leverrier, Proctor or Maria Mitchell never dreamed of. His
unique advertisements have spread his fame from the Atlantic to the
Pacific. Digest these random samples of originality worthy of John J.

“We never make kite-track records; our speed takes in the full circle.”

“The graveyards of the enemy are the monuments of our success.”

“We never speak of our goods without glancing at the bust of George
Washington which squats on the top of our annealed steel safe; a
twenty-five cent plaster cast of George lends an atmosphere of veracity
to a trade which in these days it sometimes needs.”

“Abdul Azis, the late Sultan of Morocco, bought a cheap boiler to drill
a water-well. It bu’st and he is now Abdul Azwas.”

“We will never be buried with the ‘unknown dead’—we advertise.”

“Our patent coupling is the precipitated vapor of fermented progress.”

“The intellectual and æsthetic are provided for in consanguinity to
their taste.”

“Our conversational soloists never descend to orthochromatic photography
in their orphean flights; they hug the shore of plain Anglo-Saxon and
scoop the doubting Thomas.”

“It will never do to shake a man because the lambrequins begin to appear
on the bottom of his pants and he wears a ‘dickey’ with a sinker.”

“The Forget-me-nots of to-day are frequently found the Has-beens of

“Credit is the flower that blooms in life’s buttonhole.”

“Many a man who now gives dinner-parties in a Queen-Anne front would be
nibbling his Frankfurter in a Mary-Ann back had we not given him a
helping hand at the right moment.”


The classic ground of Petroleum is the little peninsula of Okestra,
jutting into the Caspian Sea. Extraordinary indications of oil and gas
extend over a strip of country twenty-five miles long by a half-mile
wide, in porous sandstone. Springs of heavier petroleum flow from hills
of volcanic rocks in the vicinity. Open wells, in which the oil settles
as it oozes from the rocks, are dug sixteen to twenty feet deep. For
countless generations the simple natives dipped up the sticky fluid and
carried it great distances on their backs, to burn in its crude state,
besides sending a large amount yearly to the Shah’s dominions. It is a
forbidding spot-rocky, desolate, without a stream or a sign of
vegetation. The unfruitful soil is saturated with oil, which exudes from
the neighboring hills and sometimes filters into receptacles hewn in the
rock at a prehistoric epoch. On gala days it was part of the program to
pour the oil into the Caspian and set it ablaze, until the sea and land
and sky appeared one unbroken mass of vivid, lurid, roaring flame. The
“pillar of fire” which guided the wandering Israelites by night could
scarcely have presented a grander spectacle. The sight might well convey
to awe-stricken beholders intensely realistic notions of the place of
punishment Col. Ingersoll and Henry Ward Beecher have sought by tongue
and pen to abolish. “Old Nick,” however, at last advices was still doing
a wholesale business at the old stand!

Near Belegan, six miles from the chief village of the Baku district, the
grandest of these superb exhibitions was given in 1817. A column of
flame, six-hundred yards in diameter, broke out naturally, hurling rocks
for days together and raising a mound nine-hundred feet high. The roar
of steaming brine was terrific. Oil and gas rise wherever a hole is
bored. The sides of the mountain are black with dark exudations, while a
spring of white oil issues from the foot. A clay-pipe or hollow reed,
steeped in lime water and set upright in the floor of a dwelling, serves
as a sufficient gas-pipe. No wonder such a land as Baku, where in the
fissures of the earth and rock the naphtha-vapors flicker into flame,
where a boiling lake is covered with flame devoid of sensible heat,
where after the autumn showers the surrounding country seems wrapped in
fire, where the October moon lights up with an azure tint the entire
west and Mount Paradise dons a robe of fiery red, where innumerable jets
envelope the plains on moonless nights, where all the phenomena of
distillation and combustion can be studied, should have aroused the
religious sentiment of oriental mystics. The adoring Parsee and the
cold-blooded chemist might worship cheek-by-jowl. Amidst this devouring
element men live and love, are born and die, plant onions and raise
sheep, as in more prosaic regions.

At the southern extremity of the peninsula oil and gas shot upward in a
huge pyramid of light. Here was “the eternal fire of Aaku,” burning
two-thousand-years as when Zoroaster reverently beheld it and flame
became the symbol of Deity to the entranced Parsees. Here the poor
Gheber gathered the fuel to feed the sacred fire which burned
perpetually upon his altar. Hither devout pilgrims journeyed even from
far-off Cathay, to do homage and bear away a few drops of the precious
oil, before the wolf had suckled Romulus or Nebuchadnezzar had been
turned out to pasture. The “Eternal Fire,” unquenched for twenty-five
centuries, the digging of wells that tapped its supply of fuel put out a
generation ago. Modern greed, respecting neither ancient association nor
religious sentiment, drew too lavishly upon the bountiful stock that fed
throughout the ages the grandest flame in history. At Lourakhanel, not
far from Baku, is a temple built by the fire-worshipers. The sea in
places has such quantities of gas that it can be lighted and burned on
the surface of the water until extinguished by a strong wind. Strange
destiny of petroleum, first and last, to be the panderer of
idolatry—fire-worship in the olden time, mammon-worship in this era of
the “Almighty Dollar!”

Developments from Baku to the region north of the Black Sea,
seven-hundred miles westward, have revealed vast deposits of petroleum.
Hundreds of wells have been drilled, some flowing one-hundred-thousand
barrels a day! Nobel Brothers’ No. 50, which commenced to spout in 1886,
kept a stream rising four-hundred feet into the air for seventeen
months, yielding three million barrels. This would fill a ditch five
feet wide, six feet deep, and a hundred miles long. These monsters eject
tons of sand daily, which piles up in high mounds. Stones weighing forty
pounds have been thrown out. The common way of obtaining the oil is to
raise it by means of long metal-cylinders with trap-bottoms. Pumps are
impossible on account of the fine sand coming up with the oil. These
cylinders, which will hold from one to four barrels, on being raised to
the surface are discharged into pipes or ditches. Each trip of the
bucket or cylinder takes a minute-and-a-half and the well is worked day
and night. The average daily yield of a Russian well is about
two-hundred barrels.

Pipe-lines, refineries and railroads have been provided and the three
big companies operating the whole field consolidated in 1893. The
Rothschilds combined with the Nobels and a prohibitory tariff prevents
the importation of foreign oils. Tank-steamers ply the Caspian Sea and
the Volga, many of the railways use the crude-oil for fuel and the
supply is practically unlimited. The petroleum-products are carried in
these steamers to a point at the mouth of the Volga River called Davit
Foot, about four-hundred miles north of Baku and ninety miles from
Astrakhan, and transferred into barges. These are towed by small
tug-boats to the various distributing points on the Volga, where tanks
have been constructed for railway-shipments. The chief distributing
point upon the Volga is Tsaritzin, but there is also tankage at Saratof,
Kazan, and Nijni-Novgorod. From these points it is distributed all over
Russia in tank-cars. Some is exported to Germany and to Austria. Russian
refined may not be as good an illuminant as the American, but it is made
to burn well enough for all purposes and emits no disagreeable odor.
After taking from crude thirty per-cent. illuminating distillate, about
fifteen per-cent. is taken from the residuum. It is called “solar oil”
and the lubricating-oil distillate is next taken off. From this
distillate a very good lubricant is obtained, affected neither by
intense heat nor cold. The lubricating oil is made in Baku, but great
quantities of the distillate are shipped to England, France, Belgium and
Germany and there purified.

Russian competition was for years the chief danger that confronted
American producers. Three partial cargoes of petroleum were sent to the
United States as an experiment, netting a snug profit. Heaven favors the
hustler from Hustlerville, who hoes his own row and doesn’t squat on a
stump expecting the cow will walk up to be milked, and American oilmen
are not easily downed. They have perfected such improvements in
handling, transporting, refining and marketing their product that the
major portion of Europe and Asia, outside of the czar’s dominions, is
their customer. Nailing their colors to the mast and keeping their
powder dry, the oil-interests of this glorious climate don’t propose to
quit barking until the last dog is dead!

The early Persians and Tartars burned crude-oil for light in stoneware
jugs, with a spout on one side to hold the flax-wick, that answered the
purpose of lamps. In 1851 a chemist of Polish Austria exhibited a small
quantity of distilled petroleum at the World’s Fair in London. The
Austrian Emperor rewarded this step towards refining crude-oil by making
the chemist a prince.

All these things prove conclusively that petroleum is a veritable
antique, always known and prized by millions of people in Asia, Africa
and Europe, and not a mushroom upstart. Indeed, its pedigree sizes up to
the most exacting Philadelphia requirement. Mineralogists think it was
quietly distilling “underneath the ground” when the majestic fiat went
forth: “Let there be light!” Happily “age does not wither nor custom
stale the infinite variety” of its admirable qualities. Neither is it a
hot-house exotic, adapted merely to a single clime or limited to one
favored section of any country. It is scattered widely throughout the
two hemispheres, its range of usefulness is extending constantly and it
is not put up in retail packages, that exhaust speedily. Alike in the
tropics and the zones, beneath cloudless Italian skies and the bleak
Russian firmament, amid the flowery vales of Cashmere and the
snow-crowned heights of the Caucasus, by the banks of the turbid Ganges
and the shores of the limpid Danube, this priceless boon has ever
contributed to the comfort and convenience of mankind.

The Star in the East was crowding into line as the full orb of day.

                           A PETROLEUM IDYL.

A ragged street-Arab, taken to Sunday-school by a kind teacher, heard
for the first time the story of Christ’s boundless love and sufferings.
Big tears coursed down his grimy cheeks, until he could no longer
restrain his feelings. Springing upon the seat, the excited urchin threw
his tattered cap to the ceiling and screamed “Hurrah for Jesus!” It was
an honest, sincere, reverent tribute, which the Recording Angel must
have been delighted to note. In like manner, considering its wondrous
past, its glowing present and its prospective future, men, women and
children everywhere, while profoundly grateful to the Divine Benefactor
for the transcendent gift, may fittingly join in a universal “Hurrah for



               Don’t make the mistake that Petroleum,
               Like the kodak, the bike, or linoleum,
                   Is something decidedly new;
               Whereas it was known in the Garden
               When Eve, in fig-leaf Dolly Varden
                   Gave Adam an apple to chew.
               Nor deem it a human invention,
               By reason of newspaper-mention
               Just lately commanding attention,
                   Because it is Nature’s own brew.

               Repeatedly named in the Bible,
               Let none its antiquity libel
                   Or seek to explain it away.
               It garnish’d Methuselah’s table,
               Was used by the builders of Babel
                   And pilgrims from distant Cathay;
               When Pharaoh and Moses were chummy
               It help’d preserve many a mummy,
               Still dreadfully life-like and gummy,
                   In Egypt’s stone-tombs from decay!

               At Baku Jove’s thunderbolts fir’d it,
               Devout Zoroaster admir’d it
                   As Deity symbol’d in flame;
               Parsees from the realms of Darius,
               Unweariedly earnest and pious,
                   Adoring and worshipping came.
               It cur’d Noah’s Ham of trichina,
               Greas’d babies and pig-tails in China,
               Heal’d Arabs from far-off Medina—
                   The blind and the halt and the lame!

               Herodotus saw it at Zante,
               It blazed in the visions of Dante
                   And pyres of supine Hindostan;
               The tropics and zones have rich fountains,
               It bubbles ’mid snow cover’d mountains
                   And flows in the pits of Japan.
               Confin’d to no country or nation,
               A blessing to God’s whole creation
               For light, heat and prime lubrication,
                   All hail to this grand gift to man!




                         A GLIMMER IN THE WEST.



“Thou who wouldst see where dawned the light at last must westward
    go.”—_Edwin Arnold._

“America is the Lord’s darling.”—_Dr. Talmage._

“Thee, hid the bowering vales amidst, I call.”—_Euripides._

“A Mercury is not to be carved out of every wood.”—_Latin Proverb._

“Never no duck wasn’t hatched by a drake.”—_Hall Caine._

“Near the Niagara is an oil-spring known to the Indians.”—_De la Roche
    D’Allion, A. D. 1629._

“There is a fountain at the head of the Ohio, the water of which is like
    oil, has a taste of iron and seems to appease pain.”—_Captain de
    Joncaire, A. D. 1721._

“It is light bottled up for tens-of-thousands of years—light absorbed by
    plants and vegetables. * * * And now, after being buried long ages,
    that latent light is again brought forth and made to work for human

“It is not a farthing glim in a bedroom.”—_Charles Reade._

“The west glimmers with some streaks of day.”—_Shakespeare._

“Even the night shall be light about me.”—_Psalms cxxxix: 11._


The Land Columbus ran against, by anticipating Horace Greeley’s advice
to “Go West,” was not neglected in the unstinted distribution of
petroleum. It abounds in South America, in the West Indies, the United
States and Canada. The most extensive and phenomenal natural fountain of
petroleum ever known is on the Island of Trinidad. Hot bitumen has
filled a basin four miles in circumference, three-quarters of a mile
from the sea, estimated to contain the equivalent of ten-millions of
barrels of crude-oil. The liquid boils up continually, observing no
holidays or Sundays, seething and foaming at the center of the lake,
cooling and thickening as it recedes, and finally becoming solid
asphaltum. The bubbling, hissing, steaming caldron emits a sulphurous
odor, perceptible for ten or twelve miles and decidedly suggestive of
the orthodox Hades. Humboldt in 1799 reported his impressions of this
spontaneous marvel, in producing which the puny hand of man had no
share. From it is derived the dark, tough, semi-elastic material, first
utilized in Switzerland for this purpose, which paves the streets of
scores of cities. Few stop to reflect, as they glide over the noiseless
surface on whirling bicycles or behind prancing steeds, that the smooth
asphaltum pavements and the clear “water-white” in the piano-lamp have a
common parentage. Yet bloomers and pantaloons, twin-creations of the
tailor, or diamonds and coal, twin-links of carbon, are not related more

                   “Even men and monkeys may be kin.”

The earliest printed reference to petroleum in America is by Joseph de
la Roche D’Allion, a Franciscan missionary who crossed the Niagara river
from Canada in 1629 and wrote of oil, in what is now New York, known to
the Indians and by them given a name signifying “plenty there.” Likely
this was the petroleum occupying cavities in fossils at Black Rock,
below Buffalo, in sufficient abundance to be an object of commerce.
Concerning the celebrated oil-spring of the Seneca Indians near Cuba, N.
Y., which D’Allion may also have seen, Prof. Benjamin Silliman in 1833

“This is situated in the western part of the county of Alleghany, in the
state of New York. This county is the third from Lake Erie on the south
line of the state, the counties of Cattaraugus and Chautauqua lying west
and forming the southwestern termination of the state of New York. The
spring is very near the line which divides Alleghany and Cattaraugus. *
* * The country is rather mountainous, but the road running between the
ridges is very good and leads through a cultivated region rich in soil
and picturesque in scenery. Its geographical formation is the same as
that which is known to prevail in the western region; a silicious
sandstone with shale, and in some places limestone, is the immediate
basis of the country. * * * The oil-spring or fountain rises in the
midst of a marshy ground. It is a muddy, dirty pool of about eighteen
feet in diameter and is nearly circular in form. There is no outlet
above ground, no stream flowing from it, and it is, of course, a
stagnant water, with no other circulation than than which springs from
the changes in temperature and from the gas and petroleum that are
constantly rising through the pool.

“We are told that the odor of petroleum is perceived at a distance in
approaching the spring. This may be true in particular states of the
wind, but we did not distinguish any peculiar smell until we arrived on
the edge of the fountain. Here its peculiar character became very
obvious. The water is covered with a thin layer of petroleum or mineral
oil, as if coated with dirty molasses, having a yellowish-brown color.

“They collect the petroleum by skimming it like cream from a milk-pan.
For this purpose they use a broad, flat board, made thin at one edge
like a knife; it is moved flat upon and just under the surface of the
water and is soon covered by a coating of petroleum, which is so thick
and adhesive that it does not fall off, but is removed by scraping the
instrument upon the lip of a cup. It has then a very foul appearance,
but it is purified by heating and straining it while hot through
flannel. It is used by the people of the vicinity for sprains and
rheumatism and for sores on their horses.”

The “muddy, dirty pool” was included in an Indian reservation, one mile
square, leased in 1860 by Allen, Bradley & Co., who drove a pipe into
the bog. At thirty feet oil began to spout to the tune of
a-barrel-an-hour, a rhythm not unpleasing to the owners of the venture.
The flow continued several weeks and then “stopped short, never to go
again.” Other wells followed to a greater depth, none of them proving
sufficiently large to give the field an orchestra-chair in the

It is told of a jolly Cuban, wearing a skull innocent of garbage as
Uncle Ned’s, who “had no wool on the top of his head in the place where
the wool ought to grow,” that he applied oil from the “dirty pool” to an
ugly swelling on the apex of his bare cranium. The treatment lasted a
month, by which time a crop of brand-new hair had begun to sprout. The
welcome growth meant business and eventually thatched the roof of the
happy subject with a luxuriant vegetation that would have turned
Paderewski, Absalom, or the most ambitious foot-ball kicker green with
envy! Tittlebat Titmouse, over whose excruciating experiences with the
“Cyanochaitanthropopoion” that dyed his locks a bright emerald readers
of “Ten-Thousand a Year” have laughed consumedly, was “not in it”
compared with the transformed denizen of the pretty village nestling
amid the hills of the Empire State. Those inclined to pronounce this a
bald-headed fabrication may see for themselves the precise spot the
mud-hole furnishing the oil occupied prior to the advent of the prosaic,
unsentimental driving-pipe.

Captain de Joncaire, a French officer in colonial days, who had charge
of military operations on the Upper Ohio and its tributaries in 1721,
reported “a fountain at the head of a branch of the Ohio, the water of
which is like oil.” Undoubtedly this was the same “fountain” referred to
in the _Massachusetts Magazine_ for July, 1791, as follows:

“In the northern part of Pennsylvania is a creek called Oil Creek, which
empties into the Allegheny river. It issues from a spring on which
floats an oil similar to that called Barbadoes tar, and from which one
may gather several gallons a day. The troops sent to guard the western
posts halted at this spring, collected some of the oil and bathed their
joints with it. This gave them great relief from the rheumatism, with
which they were afflicted.”

[Illustration: OIL-SPRING ON OIL CREEK.]

The history of petroleum in America commences with the use the pioneer
settlers found the red-men made of it for medicine and for painting
their dusky bodies. The settlers adopted its medicinal use and retained
for various affluents of the Allegheny the Indian name of Oil Creek.
Both natives and whites collected the oil by spreading blankets on the
marshy pools along the edges of the bottom-lands at the foot of steep
hill-sides or of mountain-walls that hem in the valleys supporting
coal-measures above. The remains of ancient pits on Oil Creek-the Oil
Creek ordained to become a household word—lined with timbers and
provided with notched logs for ladders, show how for generations the
aborigines had valued and stored the product. Some of these queer
reservoirs, choked with leaves and dirt accumulated during hundreds of
years, bore trees two centuries old. Many of them, circular, square,
oblong and oval, sunk in the earth fifteen to twenty feet and strongly
cribbed, have been excavated. Their number and systematic arrangement
attest that petroleum was saved in liberal quantities by a race
possessing in some degree the elements of civilization. The oil has
preserved the timbers from the ravages of decay, “to point a moral or
adorn a tale,” and they are as sound to-day as when cut down by hands
that crumbled into dust ages ago.

Scientists worry and perspire over “the mound-builders” and talk glibly
about “a superior race anterior to the Indians,” while ignoring the
relics of a tribe smart enough to construct enduring storehouses for
petroleum. People who did such work and filled such receptacles with oil
were not slouches who would sell their souls for whiskey and their
forest-heritage for a string of glass-beads. Did they penetrate the rock
for their supply of oil, or skim it drop by drop from the waters of the
stream? Who were they, whence came they and whither have they vanished?
Surely these are conundrums to tax the ingenuity of imaginative solvers
of perplexing riddles. Shall Macaulay’s New-Zealand voyager, after
viewing the ruins of London and flying across the Atlantic, gaze upon
the deserted oil-wells of Venango county a thousand years hence and
wonder what strange creatures, in the dim and musty past, could have
bored post-holes so deep and so promiscuously? Rip Van Winkle was right
in his plaintive wail: “How soon are we forgotten!”


The renowned “spring” which may have supplied these remarkable vats was
located in the middle of Oil Creek, on the McClintock farm, three miles
above Oil City and a short distance below Rouseville. Oil would escape
from the rocks and gravel beneath the creek, appearing like air-bubbles
until it reached the surface and spread a thin film reflecting all the
colors of the rainbow. From shallow holes, dug and walled sometimes in
the bed of the stream, the oil was skimmed and husbanded jealously. The
demand was limited and the enterprise to meet it was correspondingly
modest. Nathanael Cary, the first tailor in Franklin and owner of the
tract adjoining the McClintock, peddled it about the townships early in
the century, when the population was sparse and every good housewife
laid by a bottle of “Seneca Oil” in case of accident or sickness. Cary
would sling two jars or kegs across a faithful horse, belonging to the
class of Don Quixote’s “Rosinante” and too sedate to scare at anything
short of a knickerbockered feminine astride a rubber-tired wheel.
Mounting this willing steed, which transported him steadily as “Jess”
carried the self-denying physician of “Beside the Bonnie Brier-Bush.”
the tailor-peddler went his rounds at irregular intervals. Occasionally
he took a ten-gallon cargo to Pittsburg, riding with it eighty miles on
horseback and trading the oil for cloth and groceries. His memory should
be cherished as the first “shipper” of petroleum to “the Smoky City,”
then a mere cluster of log and frame buildings in a patch of cleared
ground surrounding Fort Pitt. “Things are different now.”

The Augusts, a family living in Cherrytree township and remembered only
by a handful of old residents, followed Cary’s example. Their stock was
procured from springs farther up Oil Creek, especially one near
Titusville, which achieved immortality as the real source of the
petroleum-development that has astounded the civilized world. They sold
the oil for “a quarter-dollar a gill” to the inhabitants of neighboring
townships. The consumption was extremely moderate, a pint usually
sufficing a household for a twelvemonth. Nature’s own remedy, it was
absolutely pure and unadulterated, a panacea for “the thousand natural
shocks that flesh is heir to,” and positively refused to mix with water.
If milk and water were equally unsocial, would not many a dispenser of
the lacteal fluid train with Othello and “find his occupation gone?”
Don’t “read the answer in the stars;” let the overworked pumps in
thousands of barnyards reply!

No latter-day work on petroleum, no book, pamphlet, sketch or magazine
article of any pretensions has failed to reproduce part of a letter
purporting to have been sent in 1750 to General Montcalm, the French
commander who perished at Quebec nine years later, by the commander of
Fort Du Quesne, now Pittsburg. A sherry-cobbler minus the sherry would
have been pronounced less insipid than any oil-publication omitting the
favorite extract. It has been quoted as throwing light upon the
religious character of the Indians and offered as evidence of their
affinity with the fire-worshippers of the orient! Official reports
printed and endorsed it, ministers embodied it in missionary sermons and
it posed as infallible history. This is the paragraph:

“I would desire to assure you that this is a most delightful land. Some
of the most astonishing natural wonders have been discovered by our
people. While descending the Allegheny, fifteen leagues below the mouth
of the Conewango and three above the Venango, we were invited by the
chief of the Senecas to attend a religious ceremony of his tribe. We
landed and drew up our canoes on a point where a small stream entered
the river. The tribe appeared unusually solemn. We marched up the stream
about half-a-league, where the company, a band, it appeared, had arrived
some days before us. Gigantic hills begirt us on every side. The scene
was really sublime. The great chief then recited the conquests and
heroism of their ancestors. The surface of the stream was covered with a
thick scum, which, upon applying a torch at a given signal, burst into a
complete conflagration. At the sight of the flames the Indians gave
forth the triumphant shout that made the hills and valleys re-echo
again. Here, then, is revived the ancient fire-worship of the East;
here, then, are the Children of the Sun.”

The style of this popular composition, in its adaptation to the occasion
and circumstances, rivals Chatterton’s unsurpassed imitations of the
antique. Montcalm was a gallant soldier who lost his life fighting the
English under General Wolfe, the hero whose noble eulogy of the poet
Gray—“I would rather be the author of the ‘Elegy Written in a Country
Churchyard’ than the captor of Quebec”—should alone crown him with
unfading laurels. The commander of Fort Du Quesne also “lived and moved
and had a being.” The Allegheny River meanders as of yore, the Conewango
empties into it at Warren, the “Venango” is the French Creek which joins
the Allegheny at Franklin. The “small stream” up which they marched
“about half-a-league” was Oil Creek and the destination was the
oil-spring of Joncaire and “Nat” Cary. The “gigantic hills” have not
departed, although the “thick scum” is stored in iron tanks. But neither
of the French commanders ever wrote or read or heard of the much-quoted
correspondence, for the excellent reason that it had not been evolved
during their sojourn on this mundane sphere!

Franklin, justly dubbed “The Nursery of Great Men,” gave birth to the
pretty story. Sixty-six years ago a bright young man was admitted to the
bar and opened a law-office in the attractive hamlet at the junction of
the Allegheny River and French Creek. He soon ranked high in his
profession and in 1839 was appointed judge of a special district-court,
created to dispose of accumulated business in Venango, Crawford, Erie
and Mercer counties. The same year a talented divinity-student was
called to the pastorate of the Presbyterian church in Franklin. The
youthful minister and the new judge became warm friends and cultivated
their rare literary tastes by writing for the village-paper, a
six-column weekly. Among others they prepared a series of fictitious
articles, based upon the early settlement of Northwestern Pennsylvania,
designed to whet the public appetite for historic and legendary lore. In
one of these sketches the alleged letter to Montcalm was included.
Average readers supposed the minute descriptions and bold narratives
were rock-ribbed facts, an opinion the authors did not care to
controvert, and at length the “French commander’s letter” began to be
reprinted as actual, bona-fide, name-blown-in-the-bottle history!

[Illustration: REV. NATHANIEL R. SNOWDEN.]

One of the two writers who coined this interesting “fake” was Hon. James
Thompson, the eminent jurist, who learned printing in Butler, practiced
law in Venango county, served three terms—the last as speaker—in the
Legislature and one in Congress, was district-judge six years and sat on
the Supreme bench fifteen years, five of them as chief-justice of this
state. Judge Thompson removed to Erie in 1842 and finally to
Philadelphia. He married a daughter of Rev. Nathaniel R. Snowden, first
pastor of the First Presbyterian church in Harrisburg, in 1794-1803, and
afterwards master of a noted academy at Franklin. Mr. Snowden’s wife was
the daughter of Dr. Gustine, a survivor of the frightful Wyoming
massacre. Their son, an eminent Franklin physician of early times, was
the father of the late Dr. S. Gustine Snowden and of Major-General
George R. Snowden, of Philadelphia, commander of the National-Guard of
Pennsylvania. The good minister died in Armstrong county, descending to
the grave as a shock of wheat fully ripe for the harvest.


                      ——“What is death
              To him that meets it with an upright heart?
              A quiet haven, where his shatter’d bark
              Harbors secure till the rough storm is past,
              After a passage overhung with clouds.”

Judge Thompson’s literary co-worker was the Rev. Cyrus Dickson, D. D.,
who resigned his first charge in 1848, settled in the east and gained
distinction in the pulpit and as a forcible writer. How thoroughly these
kindred spirits, now happily reunited “beyond the smiling and the
weeping,” must have enjoyed the overwhelming success of their ingenious
plot and laughed at the easy credulity which accepted every line of
their contributions as gospel-truth! They could not fail to relish the
efforts, prompted mainly by their fanciful scene on Oil Creek, to
identify as Children of the Sun the savage braves in buckskin and
moccasins whose noblest conception of heaven was an eternal surfeit of

               The Indian may be superstitious,
               His tastes may be wholly pernicious;
               But he bitterly spurns—can we blame him?—
               The cranks who are ready to claim him
               And with a white pedigree shame him.

Signs of petroleum in the Keystone State were not confined to Oil-Creek.
Ten miles westward, in water-wells and in the bed and near the mouth of
French Creek, the indications were numerous and unmistakable. The first
white man to turn them to account was Marcus Hulings, of Franklin, the
original Charon of Venango county. Each summer he would skim a quart or
two of “earth-oil” from a tiny pond, formed by damming a bit of the
creek, the fluid serving as a liniment and medicine. This was the small
beginning of one whose relative and namesake, two generations later, was
to rank as a leading oil-millionaire. Hulings “ferried” passengers
across the unbridged stream in a bark-canoe and plied a keel-boat to
Pittsburg, the round-trip frequently requiring four weeks. Passengers
were “few and far between,” consequently a book-keeper and a treasurer
were not engaged to take care of the receipts. The proprietor of the
canoe-ferry cleared a number of acres, raised corn and potatoes and
lived in a log-cabin, not far from the site of the brush-factory, which
stood for fifty years after his death. Probably he was buried in the
north-west corner of the old graveyard, beside his wife and son, of whom
two sunken headstones record:

                               memory of
                          Michael Hulings who
                      departed this life: the 9th
                         of August, 1797. Aged
                          27 years, 1 month &
                                14 days.


                                wife of
                             Marcus Hulings
                             Feb. 9. 1813.
                              Aged 67 yrs,
                            2 ms and 22 ds.

The once hallowed resting-place of many worthy pioneers sadly needs the
kindly ministrations of some “Old Mortality” to replace broken slabs,
restore illegible inscriptions and brush away the obnoxious weeds.
Quaint spelling and lettering and curious epitaphs are not uncommon.
Observe these examples:

                            memory of James
                            and Catherine Ha
                            nne Ho departed
                         this life July 3 1830
                             JAMES AGED TWO
                           years one months,
                           ten days CETHERIN
                           E AGED two months
                              and 14 days.

                            JANE consort of
                               DAVID KING
                           who departed this
                          life. April 14 1829
                             aged 31 years
                     O may I see thy tribes rejoic
                         and aid their triumphs
                       with my voice this all. my
                       Glory Lord to be joined to
                      thy saints and near to. thee

                              In memory of
                          Samuel Riddle, Esq.
                           Born Aug. 4, 1821
                             At Scrubgrass.
                           Died May 28, 1853,
                              At Franklin,
                          Venango County, Pa.
                      Here lies an honest lawyer,
                     Honored and respected living,
                       Lamented and mourned dead.

Trains on the Lake-Shore Railroad thunder past the lower end of the
quiet “God’s Acre,” close to the mounds of the McDowells, the
Broadfoots, the Bowmans, the Hales and other early settlers, but the
peaceful repose of the dead can be disturbed only by the blast of
Gabriel’s trumpet on the resurrection morning.

The venerable William Whitman, familiarly called “Doctor,” over whose
grave the snows of twenty-five long years have drifted, often told me
how, when a youngster, he carried water to the masons building Colonel
Alexander McDowell’s stone house, on Elk street. He hemmed in a pool on
the edge of French Creek, soaked up the greasy scum with a piece of
flannel, wrung out the cloth and filled several bottles with
dark-looking oil. The masons would swallow doses of it, rub it on their
bruised hands and declare it a sovereign internal and external remedy.
In early manhood Mr. Whitman settled in Canal township, eleven miles
northwest of Franklin, cultivated a farm and reared a large family. It
was the dream of his old age to see oil taken from his own land. In 1866
two wells were drilled on the Williams tract, across the road from
Whitman’s, with encouraging prospects. Depressed prices retarded
operations and these wells remained idle. Four years later my uncle,
George Buchanan, and myself drilled on the Whitman farm. The patriarch
watched the progress of the work with feverish interest, spending hours
daily about the rig. A string of driving-pipe, up to that time said to
be the longest—153 feet—ever needed in an oil-well, had to be forced
down. Three feet farther a vein of sparkling water, tinged with sulphur,
spouted above the pipe and it has flowed uninterruptedly since. The
heavy tools pierced the rock rapidly and the delight of the “Doctor” was
unbounded. He felt confident a paying well would result and waited
impatiently for the decisive test. A boy longing for Christmas or his
first pair of boots could not be more keenly expectant. His fondest wish
was not to be gratified. He took sick and died, after a very short
illness, in 1870, four days before the well was through the sand and
pumping at the rate of fifty barrels per diem!

[Illustration: GEORGE BUCHANAN.]

This singular well merits a brief notice. From the first sand, not a
trace of which was met in the two wells on the other side of the road,
oil and gas arose through the water so freely that drilling was stopped
and tubing inserted. In twenty-four hours the well yielded fifty-eight
barrels of the blackest lubricant in America, 28° gravity, the hue of a
stack of ebony cats and with plenty of gas to illuminate the
neighborhood. Subsiding quickly, the tubing was drawn and the hole
drilled in quest of the third sand, the rock which furnished the lighter
petroleum on Oil Creek. Eight feet were found seven-hundred feet towards
the antipodes, a torpedo was exploded, the tubing was put back and the
well produced two barrels a day for a year, divided between the sands
about equally, the green and black oils coming out of the pipe
side-by-side and positively declining to merge into one. Other wells
were drilled years afterwards close by, without finding the jugular. Mr.
Whitman sleeps in the Baptist churchyard near Hannaville, the sleep that
shall have no awakening until the Judgment Day. Mr. Buchanan, who
operated at Rouseville, Scrubgrass, Franklin and Bradford, left the
oil-regions nine years ago for the Black Hills and died in South Dakota
on March twenty-eighth, 1897. He was a man of sterling attributes, nobly
considerate and unselfish. No truer, braver heart e’er beat in human

            “Yes, we must follow soon, will glad obey
            When a few suns have rolled their cares away;
            Tired with vain life, will close the weary eye—
            ’Tis the great birthright of mankind to die.”

Excavating for the Franklin canal in 1832, on the north bank of French
Creek, opposite “the infant industry” of Hulings forty years previously,
the workmen were annoyed by a persistent seepage of petroleum,
execrating it as a nuisance. A well dug on the flats ten years later,
for water, encountered such a glut of oil that the disgusted wielder of
the spade threw up his job and threw his besmeared clothes into the
creek! When the oil-excitement invaded the county-seat the greasy well
was drilled to the customary depth and proved hopelessly dry! At
Slippery Rock, in Beaver county, oil exuded abundantly from the sandy
banks and bed of the creek, failing to pan out when wells were put down.
Something of the same sort occurred in portions of Lawrence county and
on the banks of many streams in different sections of the country. A
geological expert endeavors to make it as clear as mud in this manner:

“‘Surface shows’ have been the fascination of many. The places of most
copious escape to the surface were regarded as the favored spots where
‘the drainage from the coal measures, in defiance of the laws of gravity
and hydro-dynamics, had obligingly deposited itself. Such shows’ were
always illusory. A great ‘surface show’ is a great waste; where nature
plays the spendthrift she retains little treasure in her coffers. The
production of petroleum in quantities of economical importance has
always been from reservoirs in which nature has been hoarding it up,
instead of making a superficial and deceptive display of her wealth.”

Applying this method, the place to find petroleum is where not a symptom
of it is visible! An honest Hibernian, asked his opinion of a notorious
falsifier, answered that “he must be chock-full ov truth, fur bedad he
niver lets any ov it git out!” The above explanation is of this stripe.
“Flee to the mountains of Hepsidam” rather than attempt to bore for oil
in localities having “shows” of the very thing you are after! These
dreadfully deceptive “shows” show that the oil has got out and emptied
the “reservoirs in which nature had been hoarding it up!” This is a
pretty rough joke on poor deluded nature! How could these “surface
shows” have strayed off anyhow, unless connected with reservoirs of
genuine petroleum at the outset? The first wells on Oil Creek and at
Franklin were drilled beside “surface shows” which revealed the
existence of petroleum and supplied Cary, August, McClintock and Hulings
with the coveted oil. These wells produced petroleum “in quantities of
economical importance,” demonstrating that “such shows were _not_ always
illusory.” Is nature buncoing petroleum-seekers by hanging out a
Will-o’-the-Wisp signal where there is “little treasure in her coffers?”
The failures at Slippery Rock and divers other places resulted from the
fact that the seepages had traveled considerable distances to find
breaks in the rocks that would permit of the “most copious escape.”

Central and South America are fairly stocked with petroleum-indications.
In the early days of the Panama Railroad and during the construction of
the ill-fated canal numerous efforts were made to explore the
coal-regions of the Atlantic, in proximity to the ports of Colon and
Panama. These researches led to the discovery of bituminous shales and
lignite near the port of Boca del Toro, on the Caribbean Sea. The map of
Colombia shows a great indenture on the Atlantic Coast of the department
of Cauca, formed by the Gulfo de Uraba, or Darian del Nord. Into this
gulf flow the Atrato, Arboletes, Punta de Piedra and many small streams.
Explorations on the Gulf of Uraba and its tributaries disclosed
extensive strata of “oil-rock” and “oil-springs” near the Rio Arboletes.
The largest of forty of these springs has a twelve-inch crater, which
gushes oil sufficient to fill a six-inch pipe. Near this Brobdignagian
spring is a petroleum-pond sixty feet in diameter and from three to ten
feet deep. The flow of these oil-springs deserves the attention of
geologists and investors. They lie at a distance of one to three miles
from the shores of the gulf. The oil is remarkably pure, passing through
a bed of coral, which seems to act as a filter and refiner. A proper
survey of the oil-region of the Uraba would be interesting from a
scientific and an industrial standpoint. The proper development of its
possibilities might result in the control of the petroleum-market of
South America. The climate is too sultry for the display of seal sacques
and fur-overcoats, a palm-hat constituting the ordinary garb of the
average citizen. This providential dispensation eliminates dudes and
tailor-made girls, stand-up collars and bifurcated skirts from the
domestic economy of the happy Isthmians.

In the canton of Santa Elena, Ecuador, embracing the entire area of
country between the hot springs of San Vicinte and the Pacific coast,
petroleum is found in abundance. It is of a black color, its density
varies, it is considered superior to the Pennsylvania product and is
entirely free from offensive odor. Little has been done towards working
these wells. The people are unacquainted with the proper method of
sinking them and no well has exceeded a few feet in depth. Geologists
think, when the strata of alumina and rock are pierced, reservoirs will
be found in the huge cavities formed by volcanic convulsions of the
Andes. Venezuela is in the same boat.

From the Chira to the Fumbes river, a desert waste
one-hundred-and-eighty miles in length and fifteen miles in width,
lying along the coast between the Pacific ocean and the Andes, the
oil-field of Peru is believed to extend. For two centuries oil has
been gathered in shallow pits and stored in vats, precisely as in
Pennsylvania. The burning sun evaporated the lighter parts, leaving a
glutinous substance, which was purified and thickened to the
consistency of sealing-wax by boiling. It was shipped to southern
ports in boxes and used as glazing for the inside of Aguardiente jars.
The Spanish government monopolized the trade until 1830, when M. Lama
purchased the land. In 1869 Blanchard C. Dean and Rollin Thorne,
Americans, “denounced” the mine, won a lawsuit brought by Lama and
drilled four wells two-hundred-and-thirty feet deep, a short distance
from the beach. Each well yielded six to ten barrels a day, which
deeper drilling in 1871-2 augmented largely. Frederic Prentice, the
enterprising Pennsylvania operator, secured an enormous grant in 1870,
bored several wells—one a thousand-barreler—erected a refinery,
supplied the city of Lima with kerosene and exported considerable
quantities to England and Australia. The war with Chili compelled a
cessation of operations for some years. Dr. Tweddle, who had
established a refinery at Franklin, tried to revive the Peruvian
fields in 1887-8. He drilled a number of wells, refined the output,
enlisted New-York capital and shipped cargoes of the product to San
Francisco. Hon. Wallace L. Hardison, who represented Clarion in the
Legislature and operated at Bradford and in California, is now
exploring the Peruvian field for flowing oil-wells and gold-nuggets.
Qualified judges have no doubt that, “in the sweet-bye-and-bye,” the
oleaginous goose may hang altitudinum in Peru.

A larger percentage of the oil-product of the United States is sent
abroad than of any other except cotton, while nearly every home in the
land is blessed with petroleum’s beneficent light. America has toed the
mark so grandly that the petroleum-industry is the one circus bigger
inside the canvas than on the posters. Beginning with 1866, the exports
of illuminating oils were doubled in 1868, again in 1871, again in 1877
and again in 1891. The average exports per week in 1894 were as much as
for the entire year 1864. Not less impressive is the marvelous reduction
in the price of refined, so that it has found a welcome everywhere.
Export-oil averaged, in 1861, 61½ cents per gallon; in 1871, 23⅝ cents
per gallon; in 1881, 8 cents per gallon; in 1891, 6⅞ cents per gallon;
in 1892, 6 cents per gallon; in 1894, 5⅙ cents per gallon, or
one-twentieth that in 1861. But this decrease, great as it is, does not
represent the real reduction in the price of oil, as the cost of the
barrel is included in these prices. A gallon of bulk-oil cost in 1861
not less than 58 cents; in 1894, not more than 3½ cents, or hardly
one-seventeenth. In January, 1871, the price was 75 cents; in January,
1894, one-twenty-fifth that of thirty-three years before. Consumers have
received the benefit of constant improvements and reductions in prices,
while thirteen-hundred-million dollars have come from abroad to this
country for petroleum.

The glimmer has broadened and deepened into noon-day brightness.

                          THE BABY HAS GROWN.

                    1ST, 1859, TO DECEMBER 31ST, 1896.


            If needs be, petroleum may well be defiant;
            The baby has grown to be earth’s greatest giant.

 1859          1,873 $20 00  $20 00  $20 00        4
 1860        547,439   2 75   19 25    9 60      175          1,300           $850
 1861      2,119,045     10    1 00      49      340         12,700          5,800    $0 61½
 1862      3,153,183     10    2 25    1 05      425        400,000        146,000       36⅜
 1863      2,667,543   2 25    3 37½   3 15      514      1,000,000        450,000       44¾
 1864      2,215,150   4 00   12 12½   9 87½     937     22,210,369     10,782,689       65
 1865      2,560,200   4 62½   8 25    6 59      890     25,496,849     16,563,413       58¾
 1866      3,385,105   2 12½   4 50    3 74      830     50,987,341     24,830,887       42½
 1867      3,458,113   1 75    3 55      41      876     70,255,581     24,407,642       28⅜
 1868      3,540,670   1 95    5 12½   3 62½   1,055     79,456,888     21,810,676       29½
 1869      4,186,475   4 95    6 95    5 63¾   1,149    100,636,684     31,127,433       32¾
 1870      5,308,046   3 15    4 52½   3 89    1,653    113,735,294     32,668,960       26⅜
 1871      5,278,072   3 82½   4 82½   4 34    1,392    149,892,691     36,894,810       24¼
 1872      6,505,774   3 15    4 92½   3 64    1,183    145,171,583     34,058,390       23⅝
 1873      9,849,508   1 00    2 60    1 83    1,263    187,815,187     42,050,756       17⅞
 1874     11,102,114     55    1 90    1 17    1,317    247,806,483     41,245,815       13
 1875      8,948,749   1 03    1 75    1 35    2,398    221,955,308     30,078,568       13
 1876      9,142,940   1 80    3 81    2 56¼   2,920    243,650,152     32,915,786       19⅛
 1877     13,230,330   1 80    3 53¼   2 42    3,939    309,198,914     61,789,438       15½
 1878     15,272,491     82½   1 65¼   1 19    3,064    338,841,303     46,574,974       10¾
 1879     19,835,903     67⅛   1 18⅛     85⅞   3,048    378,310,010     40,305,249       08⅛
 1880     26,027,631     80    1 10¼     94½   4,217    423,964,699     36,208,625       09
 1881     27,376,509     81¼     95½     85¼   3,880    397,660,262     40,315,609       08
 1882     30,053,500     54½   1 27⅛     78⅝   3,304    559,954,590     51,232,706       07⅜
 1883     23,128,389     92½   1 16⅞   1 06¾   2,847    505,931,622     44,913,079       08
 1884     23,772,209     63¾   1 11¼     83¾   2,265    513,660,092     47,103,248       08⅛
 1885     20,776,041     70⅞   1 05½     88½   2,761    574,628,180     50,257,747       08
 1886     25,798,000     62⅛     88¾     71¼   3,478    577,781,752     50,199,844       07⅛
 1887     21,478,883     59¼     80      66⅝   1,660    592,803,267     46,824,933       06¾
 1888     16,488,668     76      93¾     87    1,515    578,351,638     47,042,409       07½
 1889     21,487,435     83¼   1 08⅛     94    5,434    616,195,459     49,913,677       07⅛
 1890     30,065,867     68⅞   1 05      86½   6,435    664,491,498     51,403,089       07⅜
 1891     35,742,152     59      77¾     66¾   3,390    710,124,077     52,026,734       06⅞
 1892     33,332,306     52      64⅛     55⅛   1,954    715,471,979     44,805,992       06
 1893     31,362,890     53½     78⅜     64    1,980    804,337,168     42,142,058       05¼
 1894     29,597,614     80      91⅜     84    3,756    908,281,968     41,499,806       05⅙
 1895     31,147,235     95⅝   1 79⅝   1 35¼   7,138    853,126,180     56,223,425       07⅓
 1896     33,298,437   1 40    1 50    1 19    7,811    927,431,959     62,132,432       06⅞
          ——————————                                    —————-—————     —————————— —————————
 Totals  593,232,488                          93,197 13,110,140,927 $6,332,963,049
                                                              WELLS        BARRELS    STOCKS
                     OPERATIONS IN 1896.                   DRILLED.      PRODUCED.  DEC. 31.
 Pennsylvania, West Virginia, South-eastern Ohio              7,811     33,298,437 9,550,582
 North-eastern Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee,
         Colorado, Wyoming, California                        5,895     22,491,500 23,985,000
                                                               ————          —————     —————
                              TOTALS                         13,706     55,789,937 33,535,582


               Breadstuffs and cotton, iron and coal
               All have been distanc’d; oil has the pole.

[Illustration: VIEW IN OIL CITY, PA., AFTER THE FLOOD, MARCH 17, 1865.]

                           NEARING THE DAWN.



“Just now the golden-sandaled dawn.”—_Sappho._

“The first dawnings open slowly, by little and little, into the full,
    clear light.”—_Newton._

“Let there be light.”—_Genesis i: 3._

“Come into the bright light beyond.”—_Wilson Barrett._

“Watchman, what of the night? The morning cometh.”—_Isaiah xxi: 11-12._

“The for’ard light’s shining bright and all’s well.”—_Richard Harding

“A salt-well dug in 1814, to the depth of four-hundred feet, near
    Marietta, discharged oil periodically at intervals of two to four
    days.”—_Dr. Hildreth, A. D. 1819._

“Nearly all the Kanawha salt-wells contained more or less
    petroleum.”—_Dr. Hale, A. D. 1825._

“There are numerous springs of this mineral-oil in various regions of
    the West and South.”—_Prof. B. Silliman, A. D. 1833._

“The morning star was turning golden-white, like cream in a violet
    sky.”—_S. R. Crockett._

“Dawn on our darkness and lend us thine aid.”—_Bishop Heber._

“As dawn and twilight meet in northern clime.”—_Lowell._

“I waited underneath the dawning hills.”—_Tennyson._

“She saw herself * * * cleaning the Kerosene-lamp.”—_Tasma._

“Even the night shall be light about me.”—_Psalms cxxxi: 11._


While cannel-coal in the western end of Pennsylvania and other sections
of the country, bitumen and shales from the Gulf of Mexico to Lake
Huron, chapapote or mineral pitch in Cuba and San Domingo, oozings in
Peru and Ecuador, asphaltum in Canada and oil-springs in Columbia and a
half-dozen states of the Union from California to New York denoted the
presence of petroleum over the greater part of this hemisphere, wells
bored for salt were leading factors in bringing about its full
development. Scores of these wells pumped more or less oil long before
it “entered into the mind of man” to utilize the unwelcome intruder.
Indeed, so often were brine and petroleum found in the same geological
formation that scientists ascribed to them a kindred origin. The first
borings to establish this peculiarity were on the Kanawha River, in West
Virginia, a state destined to play an important part in oleaginous
affairs. Dr. J. P. Hale, a reputable authority, claims oil caused much
annoyance in Ruffner Brothers’ salt-well, begun in 1806, bored sixty
feet with an iron-rod and two-inch chisel-bit attached by a rope to a
spring-pole, completed in 1808 and memorable as the _first
artesian-well_ on this continent. The fluid came from the territory once
famous as the “Kanawha Salines,” reputed to produce an unsurpassed
table-salt. Before the advent of the white man the Indians made salt
from the saline springs a short distance above the site of Charleston.
There Daniel Boone had a log-cabin and George Washington, as long ago as
1775, for military services was awarded lands containing a “burning
spring.” Fired by the tidings of the saline springs, Joseph Ruffner sold
his possessions in the Shenandoah Valley and journeyed beyond the
mountains in 1794 to establish salt-works on the Kanawha. He leased the
salt-interest to Elisha Brooks, who took brine from the shallow
quicksands. Joseph Ruffner dying, his sons, Joseph and David, acquired
his lands and salt-springs and resolved to try some better plan of
procuring the brine. A section of a hollow sycamore-tree, sunk into the
quicksands, suggested the idea of wooden casing and the wisdom of boring
a little way from the spring. A piece of oak, bored from end to end as
log-pumps used to be, was set in the hole. The ingenious brothers
devised a chisel-like drill to pierce the rock, fastened it to a rope
fixed to a spring-pole and bounced the tools briskly. To shut out the
weak brine above from the strong brine beneath they put in _tin-tubing_,
around which they tied a _leather-bag_ filled with flax-seed. Thus,
three generations ago, Joseph and David Ruffner, aided later by William
Morris and his invention of “jars” in drilling-tools, stumbled upon the
basis of casing, seed-bagging and boring oil-wells. All honor to the
memory of these worthy pioneers, groping in the dark to clear the road
for the great petroleum-boom! Dr. Hale continues:

“Nearly all the Kanawha salt-wells have contained more or less
petroleum, and some of the deeper wells a considerable flow. Many
persons now think, trusting to their recollections, that some of the
wells afforded as much as twenty-five to fifty barrels per day. This was
allowed to flow over from the top of the salt-cisterns to the river,
where, from its specific gravity, it spread over a large surface, and by
its beautiful iridescent hues and not very savory odor could be traced
for many miles down the stream. It was from this that the river received
the nickname of ‘Old Greasy,’ by which it was long known by Kanawha
boatmen and others.”

At the mouth of Hawkinberry Run, three miles north of Fairmount, in
Marion county, a well for salt was put down in 1829 to the depth of
six-hundred feet. “A stinking substance gave great trouble,” an owner
reported, “forming three or four inches on the salt-water tank, which
was four feet wide and sixteen feet long.” They discovered the stuff
would burn, dipped it off with buckets and consumed it for fuel under
the salt-pan. J. J. Burns in 1865 leased the farm, drilled the abandoned
well deeper, stuck the tools in the hole and had to quit after
penetrating sixty feet of “a fine grit oil-rock.” Mr. Burns wrote in

“The second well put down in this county was about the year 1835, on the
West Fork River, just below what is now known as the Gaston mines. The
well was sunk by a Mr. Hill, of Armstrong county, Pa., who found
salt-water of the purest quality and in a great quantity, same as in the
first well. He died just after the well was finished, so nothing was
done with it. About the time this well was completed one was drilled in
the Morgan settlement, just below Rivesville. Salt-water was found with
great quantities of gas. Twenty-five years since the farmers on Little
Bingamon Creek formed a company and drilled a well—I think to a depth of
eight-hundred feet—in which they claimed to have found oil in paying
quantities. You can go to it to-day and get oil out of it. The president
told me he saw oil spout out of the tubing forty or fifty feet, just as
they started the pump to test it. The company got to quarreling among
themselves, some of the stockholders died and part of the stock got into
the hands of minor heirs, so nothing more was done.”

Similar results attended other salt-wells in West Virginia. The first
oil-speculators were Bosworth, Wells & Co., of Marietta, Ohio, who as
early as 1843 bought shipments of two to five barrels of crude from
Virginians who secured it on the Hughes River, a tributary of the Little
Kanawha. This was sold for medical purposes in Pittsburg, Baltimore, New
York and Philadelphia.

Notable instances of this kind occurred on the Allegheny River, opposite
Tarentum, twenty miles above Pittsburg, as early as 1800. Wells sunk for
brine to supply the salt-works were troubled with what the owners called
“odd, mysterious grease.” Samuel M. Kier, a Pittsburg druggist, whose
father worked some of these wells, conceived the idea of saving the
“grease,” which for years had run waste, and in 1846 he bottled it as a
medicine. He knew it had commercial and medicinal value and spared no
exertions to introduce it widely. He believed implicitly in the greenish
fluid taken from his salt-wells, at first as a healing agent and farther
on as an illuminant. A bottle of the oil, corked and labeled by Kier’s
own hands, lies on my desk at this moment, in a wrapper dingy with age
and redolent of crude. A four-page circular inside recites the good
qualities of the specific in gorgeous language P. T. Barnum himself
would not have scorned to father. For example:

“Kier’s Petroleum, or Rock Oil, Celebrated for its Wonderful Curative
Powers. A Natural Remedy! Procured from a Well in Allegheny Co., Pa.,
Four-Hundred Feet below the Earth’s Surface. Put up and Sold by Samuel
M. Kier, 363 Liberty Street, Pittsburgh, Pa.

           “The healthful balm, from Nature’s secret spring,
           The bloom of health and life to man will bring;
           As from her depths this magic liquid flows
           To calm our sufferings and assuage our woes.

“The Petroleum has been fully tested! It was placed before the public as
A REMEDY OF WONDERFUL EFFICACY. Every one not acquainted with its
virtues doubted its healing qualities. The cry of humbug was raised
against it. It had some friends—those who were cured through its
wonderful agency. Those spoke in its favor. The lame through its
instrumentality were made to walk—the blind to see. Those who had
suffered for years under the torturing pains of RHEUMATISM, GOUT AND
NEURALGIA were restored to health and usefulness. Several who were blind
were made to see. If you still have doubts, go and ask those who have
been cured! * * * We have the witnesses, crowds of them, who will
testify in terms stronger than we can write them to the efficacy of this
remedy; cases abandoned by physicians of unquestionable celebrity have
DISCOVERED!” * * * Its transcendent power to heal MUST and WILL become
known and appreciated. * * * The Petroleum is a Natural Remedy; it is
put up as it flows from the bosom of the earth, without anything being
added to or taken from it. It gets its ingredients from the beds of
substances which it passes over in its secret channel. They are blended
together in such a way as to defy all human competition. * * * Petroleum
will continue to be used and applied as a Remedy as long as man
continues to be afflicted with disease. Its discovery is a new era in

A host of certificates of astonishing cases of curable and incurable
ailments, from blindness to colic, followed this preliminary
announcement. The “remedy” was trundled about by agents in vehicles
elaborately gilt and painted with representations of the Good Samaritan
ministering to a wounded Hebrew writhing in agony under a palm-tree. Two
barrels of oil a day were sold at fifty cents a half-pint. The expense
of bottling and peddling it consumed the bulk of the profits. Kier
experimented with it for light, about 1848, burning it at his wells and
racking his fertile brain for some means to get rid of the offensive
smoke and odor. To be entirely successful the oil must have some other
than this crude form. The tireless experimenter went to Philadelphia to
consult a chemist, who advised distillation, without a hint as to the
necessary apparatus. Fitting a kettle with a cover and a worm, the first
outcome of the embryo refiner’s one-barrel still was a dark substance
little superior to the crude. Learning to manage the fires so as not to
send the oil over too rapidly, by twice distilling he produced an
article the color of cider, which had a horrible smell, as he knew
nothing of the treatment with acids that has revolutionized the light of
the world and brought petroleum to the front.

Slight changes in the camphene-lamp enabled him to burn the distillate
without smoke. Improvements in the lamp, especially the addition of the
“Virna burner,” and in the quality of the fluid brought the
“carbon-oil,” as it was usually termed, to a goodly measure of
perfection. One lot of oil used in these experiments was a purchase of
three barrels in April, 1853, from Charles Lockhart, now an officer of
the Standard Oil-Company in Pittsburg. It came from the Huff well, a
mile down the river from Tarentum. “Carbon-oil” sold readily for a
dollar-fifty per gallon and provided a market for all the petroleum the
salt-wells in the vicinity could produce. The day was dawning and the
great light of the nineteenth century had been foreshadowed in the broad
commonwealth that was to send it forth on its shining mission to all

[Illustration: SAMUEL M. KIER.]

Samuel M. Kier slumbers in Allegheny cemetery, resting in peace “after
life’s fitful fever.” He was the first to appreciate the value of
petroleum and to purify it by ordinary refining. His product was in
brisk demand for illuminating purposes. He invented a lamp with a
four-pronged burner, arranged to admit air and give a steady light. If
he failed to reap the highest advantage from his researches, to patent
his process and to sink wells for petroleum alone, he paved the way for
others, enlarged the field of the product’s usefulness and by his labors
suggested its extensive development. Has not he earned a monument more
enduring than brass or marble?

                    “As in a building
            Stone rests on stone, and wanting the foundation
            All would be wanting, so in human life
            Each action rests on the foregoing event
            That made it possible, but is forgotten
            And buried in the earth.”

These operations at Tarentum and Pittsburg led to an extraordinary
attempt to fathom the petroleum-basin by _digging_ to the oil-bearing
rock! Through Kier’s experiments the crude had become worth from fifty
cents to one dollar a gallon. Among the owners of Tarentum’s salt-wells
was Thomas Donnelly, who sold his well on the Humes farm to Peterson &
Irwin. The senior partner, ex-Mayor Louis Peterson, of Allegheny, lived
until recently to recount his interesting experiences with the coming
light. He thought the Donnelly well, which produced salt-water only, if
enlarged and pumped vigorously, would produce oil. Humes received
twenty-thousand dollars for his farm. The hole was reamed out and
yielded five barrels of petroleum a day. This was in 1856. A specimen
sent to Baltimore was used successfully in oiling wool at the
carding-mills and the total production was shipped to that city for
eight years. Eastern capitalists bought the farm and well in 1864,
organized “The Tarentum Salt-and-Oil-Company” and determined to dig a
shaft down to the source of supply! The wells were four-hundred to
five-hundred feet deep. The officers of the company argued that it was
feasible to reach that far into the bowels of the earth with pick and
shovel and discover a monstrous cave of brine and oil! They picked a
spot twenty rods from the Donnelly well, sent to England for skilled
miners and started a shaft about eight feet square. Over two years were
employed and forty-thousand dollars spent in sinking this shaft. Heavy
timbers walled the upper portion, the hard rock below needing none. The
water was pumped through iron-pipes, nine men formed each shift and the
work progressed merrily to the depth of four-hundred feet. Then the
salt-water in the Donnelly well was affected by the fresh-water in the
shaft, losing half its strength whenever the latter was let stand a few
hours, showing their intimate connection by veins or crevices. Mr.
Peterson said of it:

“The digging of the shaft was finally abandoned in the darkest period of
the war, from the necessities of the time. A New Yorker named Ferris,
and Wm. McKeown, of Pittsburg, bought the property, shaft and all. The
daring piece of engineering was neglected and finally commenced to fill
up with cinders and dirt, until at last it was level again with the
surface of the ground. You may walk over it to-day and I could point it
out to you if I was up there. Dig it out and you will find those iron
pipes and timbers still there, just as they were originally put in.”

Dyed-in-the-wool Tarentumites insist that natural gas caused the
suspension of work, flowing into the shaft at such a gait that the
miners refused to risk the chances of a speedy trip to Kingdom Come by
suffocation or the ignition of the subtile vapor. This was the case
with two shafts at Tidioute and Petroleum Centre, neither of them
nearly the depth of “the daring piece of engineering” which “set the
pace” for enterprises of this novel brand. The New-York
Enterprise-and-Mining-Company projected the former, intending to sink
a shaft eight feet by twelve to the third sand and tunnel the rock for
petroleum by wholesale. The shaft reached oil-producing sand at
one-hundred-and-sixty feet. The miners worked in squads, eight-hour
turns. Holes had been drilled into the rock at various angles and a
lot of conglomerate brought to the surface. Once a short delay
occurred in changing squads, during which the air-pump, employed to
exhaust the gases from the pit and supply pure ozone from above, was
let stand idle. Mr. Hart was seated on a timber across the shaft when
the men were ready to go down. As was the custom, a man dropped a
taper into the opening to test the air. Natural gas had filled the
shaft and it ignited from the burning torch, causing a terrific
explosion. The workmen were thrown in all directions and lay stunned
and burned. When they regained consciousness Hart was nowhere to be
seen and flames rose from the mouth of the pit to the tree-tops.
Hart’s body was eventually recovered from the bottom of the shaft,
horribly mangled and charred. Work was abandoned and the hole was
partly filled up and covered, none caring to pry farther into the
petroleum-secrets of nature. Were meddlers who seek to poke their
noses into the secrets of other people dealt with thus summarily, what
a thinning out of the population there would be!

Peterson & Irwin’s treatment of the Donnelly well brings out clearly
that the sole object was to procure oil. This is important, in view of
the claim that the first well drilled exclusively for petroleum was put
down in 1859. Practically the two Pittsburgers anticipated this by three
years, a circumstance to remember when considering the varied events
which led up to the petroleum development.

“We do homage to the claims of the ancients and neglect those of later

Charles Lockhart, still an honored resident of Pittsburg, may fairly
claim to be the oldest oil-operator in the United States. His first
transaction in petroleum was the purchase, in April of 1853, of three
barrels of crude from Isaac Huff, who brought the stuff in a skiff from
a salt-well at Tarentum. Huff sold the lot at thirty-two cents a gallon
to his friend Lockhart, then connected with a leading mercantile house,
and agreed to furnish him all the well produced during the year at the
same price. The contract might seem like an elephant on his hands, but
Lockhart’s faith in the new industry was not a plant too delicate to
stand alone. Shrewd and far-seeing, the young dealer did not need a Lick
telescope with a Peate lens to discern that this “mysterious grease”
must soon be utilized for the general benefit. Believing a grand future
was about to dawn upon petroleum, he disposed of the Huff oil and
contract at a handsome profit to Samuel M. Kier, who had a small
refinery on Seventh Avenue and the old Canal, and at once secured
control of the Tarentum salt-works. From that date to the present—1853
to 1897—a period of forty-four years, Charles Lockhart has been an
oil-producer, active in furthering the best interests of the business, a
leader in improvements to foster its growth and never lacking the pluck
and enterprise essential to the highest success.

[Illustration: CHARLES LOCKHART.]

[Illustration: JOSEPH BATES.]

[Illustration: WILLIAM FREW.]

In the fall of 1859 he formed a partnership with William Frew, William
Phillips, John Vanausdall and A. V. Kipp to lease lands and put down
oil-wells in Venango County. The five partners drilled on the Tarr Farm
and the east bank of the Allegheny River. The Crystal Palace, an old
keel-boat that cost them twenty-five dollars, horses towed to Oil City
with their machinery and provisions. Accommodations were decidedly
scarce in the settlement, just sprouting at the mouth of Oil Creek, and
the boat served the workmen as a lodging and boarding-place. They cooked
their own meals, of which pork and beans, coffee and molasses were prime
constituents, washed their own clothes and not seldom carried flour
three miles into the country to have a farmer’s wife bake it into
digestible bread. The hardy fellows could navigate the Ohio or the
Allegheny, brave the terrors of a Chilkoot Pass, punch a hole hundreds
of feet into the rock, fry bacon to a turn and dish up a savory meal,
but baking real loaves stumped them every time. The first well—the
Albion, across the river—yielded forty barrels a day. From it, in March
of 1860, the owners shipped sixty barrels of crude, per the steamboat
Venango, Captain Reynolds commanding, _the first oil boated to
Pittsburg_ from the Pennsylvania oil-fields. It was hauled to the store
of J. McCully & Co., on Wood street, near Liberty—Lockhart and Frew were
junior members of the firm—and rolled upon the pavement. Much excitement
followed the landing of the barrels, to which thick layers of Venago’s
mud stuck wickedly. Hundreds of curious Pittsburgers viewed the
importation with extreme interest, curling their noses upwards as the
petroleum-aroma assailed them with an odor resembling liquid Limburger
rather than brut wine. Bungs were taken out to let visitors inspect the
fluid, inhale the unmixed odor and wonder what “in the name of Sam Hill”
people wanted with “the nasty stuff.” A small refinery on the
Fifth-Avenue extension of the city paid thirty-four cents a gallon for
the oil. Such was the humble beginning of a traffic fated to outstrip
coal, iron and cotton and give even breadstuffs a stiff run for first

    “Perfection is made up of trifles, but perfection is no trifle.”

The quintette drilled numerous wells, one of them the largest on Oil
Creek, and prospered greatly. Phillips, Vanausdall and Kipp sold out to
their partners, who organized as Lockhart & Frew. It was an ideal union
of capacity and capital, not a mismating of cut-glass aspiration with
tin-cup attainment, and its wheel of fortune did not travel with a
punctured tire. The new firm shipped extensively, built the Brilliant
Refinery in 1861 and speedily stepped to the front in handling the
greasy staple. In May of 1860 Mr. Lockhart went to Europe with samples
of crude and refined-distillate to establish a market in England. These
were _the first samples_ of crude-petroleum and its products ever
carried across the Atlantic. The mission was most successful, a large
foreign demand springing up quickly. Lockhart & Frew exerted vast
influence in the petroleum-trade, opened branch-agencies throughout the
oil-regions and eventually combined with the Standard Oil-Company. Major
Frew, a man of rare sagacity and broad ideas, died in March of 1880. He
disliked ostentation, was quiet in his tastes and habits, managed the
accounts and office-work of the firm with scrupulous exactness, was
always kindly and genial, helped the needy, served as treasurer of the
Christian Commission and left a fine estate. Time has dealt gently with
Mr. Lockhart, who is young in heart and sympathy and good-fellowship.
His compliments have the juiciness of the peach, his pleasant jokes are
spiced with originality, his years sit upon him lightly and his old
friends are not forgotten. He is happy in his social and business
relations, in recalling the past and awaiting the future, in wealth
gained worthily and enjoyed wisely and in a life crowded with usefulness
and blessing.

               “A bough from an oak, not from a willow.”

The late Joseph Bates was closely associated with the early shippers of
petroleum on the Allegheny River. He held the confidence of Lockhart &
Frew and was esteemed everywhere for probity and enterprise. Coming to
the oil-regions in the sixties, he resided at Oil City many years and
operated in different sections of the field. With his friends he was
ever jaunty, jolly and perfectly at home. Judging by the French
standard, that a man is only as old as he feels, he had to the very end
of his sixty years few juniors at Oil City, Parker, Petrolia or
Pittsburg. He was never ill-natured nor uncompanionable, whether his
wells proved unexpectedly large or disappointingly small. His sunny
composition bore no “thrilling region of thick-ribbed ice” to repel and
chill those with whom he came in contact. His steadfast friend, Samuel
B. Harper, who has had charge of the books from about the commencement
of Lockhart & Frew’s partnership, is in Mr. Lockhart’s office to-day. A
record so honorable to all concerned, with its long performance of duty
and unwavering appreciation, is deserving of special remark in these
days of lightning-changes, impaired confidence and devil-may-care
recklessness generally.

[Illustration: AN OLD OIL-SPRING IN OHIO.]

On an old map of the United States, printed in England in 1787, the
word “petroleum” is marked twice, indicating that the “surface-shows”
of oil had attracted the notice of the earliest explorers of Southern
Ohio and Northwestern Pennsylvania a century ago. In one instance it
is placed at the mouth of the stream since famed the world over as Oil
Creek, where Oil City is situated; in the other on a stream
represented as emptying into the Ohio River, close to the site of what
is now the village of Macksburg. When that section of Ohio was first
settled, various symptoms of greasiness were detected, thin films of
oil floating on the waters of Duck Creek and its tributaries, globules
rising in different springs and seepings occurring frequently in the
same manner as in Pennsylvania and West Virginia. Thirty miles north
of Marietta, on Duck Creek, a salt-well sunk by Mr. McKee, in 1814, to
the depth of four-hundred-and-seventy-five feet, discharged
“periodically, at intervals of from two to four days and from three to
six hours’ duration, thirty to sixty gallons of petroleum at each
inception.” Eighteen years afterwards the discharges were less
frequent and the yield of oil diminished to one barrel a week, finally
ceasing altogether. Once thirty or forty barrels stored in a cistern
took fire from the gas at the well having been ignited by a workman
carrying a light. The burning oil ran into the creek, blazed to the
tops of the trees and exhibited for hours to the amazed settlers the
novelty of a rivulet on fire. Ten miles above McConnellsville, on the
Muskingum River, results almost identical attended the boring of
salt-wells in 1819. Dr. S. P. Hildreth, of Marietta, in an account of
the region, written that year, says of the borings for salt-water:

“They have sunk two wells more than four-hundred feet; one of them
affords a strong and pure water, but not in great quantity; the other
discharges such vast quantities of petroleum, or as it is vulgarly
called “Seneca Oil,” and besides is subject to such tremendous
explosions of gas * * * that they make little or no salt. Nevertheless,
the petroleum affords considerable profit and is beginning to be in
demand for workshops and manufactories. It affords a clear, brisk light,
when burned in this way, and will be a valuable article for lighting the
street-lamps in the future cities of Ohio.”

The last sentence bears the force of a prophecy. Writing about the year
1832 the same observant author directs attention to another peculiar

“Since the first settlement of the regions west of the Appalachian range
the hunters and pioneers have been acquainted with this oil. Rising in a
hidden and mysterious manner from the bowels of the earth, it soon
arrested their attention and acquired great value in the eyes of the
simple sons of the forest. * * * From its success in rheumatism, burns,
coughs, sprains etc., it was justly entitled to its celebrity. * * * It
is also well adapted to _prevent friction in machinery_, for, being free
of gluten, so common to animal and vegetable oils, it preserves the
parts to which it is applied for a long time in free motion; where a
heavy vertical shaft runs in a socket it is preferable to all or any
other articles. This oil rises in greater or less abundance in most of
the salt-wells and, collecting where it rises, is removed from time to
time with a ladle.”

Is it not strange that, with the sources of supply thus pointed out in
different counties and states and the useful applications of petroleum
fairly understood, its real value should have remained unappreciated and
unrecognized for more than thirty years and be at last determined
through experiments upon the distillation of bituminous shales and
coals? Wells sunk hundreds of feet for salt water produced oil in
abundance, yet it occurred to no one that, if bored expressly for
petroleum, it could be found in paying quantity! Hamilton McClintock,
owner of the “oil-spring” famed in history and romance, when somebody
ventured to suggest that he should _dig_ into the rock a short distance,
instead of skimming the petroleum with a flannel-cloth, retorted hotly:
“I’m no blanked fool to dig a hole for the oil to get away through the


If West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Ohio played trumps in the exciting
game of Brine vs. Oil, Kentucky held the bowers. The home of James
Harrod and Daniel Boone, Henry Clay and George D. Prentice was noted
for other things besides backwoods fighters, statesmanship, sparkling
journalism, thoroughbred horses, superb women and moonshine-whiskey.
Off in the southeast corner of Wayne county, near the northeast corner
of a six-thousand-acre tract of wild land, David Beatty bored a well
for salt about the year 1818. The land extended four miles westward
from the Big South Fork of the Cumberland River, its eastern boundary,
and three miles down the Fork from Tennessee, its southern line. The
well was located on a strip of flat ground between the stream and a
rocky bluff, streaked with veins of coal and limestone. Five yards
from the water a hole nine feet square was dug ten feet to the rock
and timbered. The well, barely three inches in diameter, was punched
one-hundred-and-seventy feet by manual labor, steam-engines not having
penetrated the trackless forests of Wayne at that period. To the
intense disgust of the workmen a black, sticky, viscid liquid
persisted in coming up with the salt-water and a new location was
chosen two miles farther down the creek. Extra care not to drill too
deep averted an influx of the disagreeable fluid which spoiled the
first venture. Salt-works were established and flourished for years, a
simon-pure oasis in the interminable wilderness.

Beatty was elected to Congress, serving his constituents faithfully and
illustrating the Mulberry-Sellers policy of “the old flag and an
appropriation.” He secured a liberal grant for a road to his property on
the South Fork and constructed a passable thoroughfare. Traces of deep
cuttings, log-culverts and blasted rocks, still discernible amid the
underbrush that well-nigh hides them from view, are convincing evidences
of the magnitude and difficulty of the task. “The rocky road to Dublin”
was a mere bagatelle in comparison with this long-deserted pathway.
“Jordan is a hard road to travel,” says an old song, and the sentiment
would fit equally well in this case. At one rugged point holes were cut
in a rock as steep as the roof of a house, to afford footing for the
mules engaged in drawing salt from the works! Considering the roughness
of the country, the height of the hills, the depth of the chasms and the
scanty facilities available, Beatty’s road was quite as remarkable a
feat as Bonaparte’s passage across the Alps or Ben Butler’s “Dutch-Gap
Canal.” Its spirited projector lived and died at Monticello, the
county-seat, where his descendants resided until recently.

The abandoned well did not propose to be snuffed out unceremoniously or
to enact the role of “Leah the Forsaken.” In its bright lexicon the word
fail was not to be inserted merely because it was too fresh to
participate in the salt-trade. Far from retiring permanently, it spouted
petroleum at a Nancy-Hanks quickstep, filling the pit, running into the
Fork and covering mile after mile of the water with a top-dressing of
oil. Somehow the floating mass caught fire and mammoth pyrotechnics
ensued. The stream blazed and boiled and sizzled from the well to the
Cumberland River, thirty-five miles northward, calcining rocks and
licking up babbling brooks on its fiery march! Trees on its banks burned
and blistered and charred to their deepest roots. Iron-pans at the
salt-wells got red-hot, shriveled, warped, twisted and joined the
junk-pile! Was not that a sweet revenge for plucky No. 1, the well its
owner “had no use for” and devoutly wished at the bottom of the sea?

The Chicago fire “couldn’t hold a candle” to this rural conflagration,
which originated the expressive phrase of “hell with the lid off,”
applied sixty years afterwards by James Parton to the flaming furnaces
at Pittsburg. Unluckily, the region was populated so sparsely that few
spectators had front seats at “the greatest show on earth.” The deluge
of oil ceased eventually, the fire following suit. Anon the salt
industry began to languish and the works were dismantled. No more the
forest-road echoed the sharp crack of the teamster’s whip or heard his
lusty oaths. The district along the South Fork was left as silent as
“the harp that once through Tara’s halls the soul of music shed,” ready
to be labeled “Ichabod,” and tradition alone preserved the name and
record of the “Beatty Well,” THE FIRST OIL-SPOUTER IN AMERICA!

                To future generations tell
                The story of the Beatty Well,
                  The father of oil-spouters!
                In spite of quips and jibes and sneers
                  Of arrant cranks and doubters,
                Whose forte is flinging wretched jeers,
                It richly merits hearty cheers
                  From true petroleum-shouters.

[Illustration: DR. W. GODFREY HUNTER.]

Accompanied by Dr. W. G. Hunter, and a native as guide, it was my good
fortune to visit this memorable locality in 1877. The start was from
Burksville, Cumberland county, the doctor’s home and my headquarters for
a twelvemonth. At Albany, Clinton county, sure-footed mules, the only
animals that could be ridden safely through the rough country, took the
place of our horses. Soon the last signs of civilization disappeared and
we plunged into the thick woods, a crooked, tortuous trail pointing the
way. Hills, rocks, ravines, fallen trees and mountain-streams by turns
impeded our progress, as we rode in Indian file for thirty miles. Birds
twittered and snakes hissed at the invasion of their solitudes. Several
times the path touched the line of Beatty’s forgotten road and once a
ruined cabin, with three grave-like mounds in a corner of the small
clearing, met our gaze. The guide explained how, twenty years before,
the poor family tenanting the wretched hovel had been poisoned by eating
some kind of berries, the parents and their only child dying alone and
unattended. No human eye beheld their struggles, no soft hand cooled the
fevered brows of the sufferers whose lives went out in that desolate

                 “Oh God! How hard it is to die alone!”

Provisions in our saddle-bags, a clear brook and evergreen boughs
supplied us with food, drink and an open-air bed. Next morning we
traversed a broad plateau, ending abruptly at the top of a precipitous
bluff a hundred feet high. Beneath us lay a stretch of bottom-land, with
the Big South Fork on its east side and the Cumberland Mountains rearing
their bold crests five miles away. In the center of a patch of cleared
ground stood a shanty, built of poles and roofed with split slabs of
oak. From an open space in one end smoke escaped freely, showing that
the place was inhabited. Tethering the mules and throwing the saddles
upon the grass, we crawled down a slope formed by the collapse of a
portion of the bluff. A shot from my revolver—everybody carried a
pistol—shattered the atmosphere and brought the inmates to the side of
the dwelling. The father, mother, a child in arms and two boys entering
their teens watched our approach. As we drew nigh they scampered into
the shanty and took refuge under a queer structure of rails, straw and
blankets that did duty as a bed for the household! A blanket hung over
the space cut for a door. Drawing this aside, the frightened family
could be seen crouching on the bare soil, for the abode had neither
door, window, floor nor chinking between the logs. It was quite unfit to
shelter a decent porker. Not a chair, table, stove, looking-glass,
bureau or any of the articles of furniture deemed necessary for modern
comfort was in sight! A bench hewn out of timber with an axe, two
metal-pots, some tin-dishes and knives and forks composed the domestic
outfit! Yet it was “home” to the squalid beings huddled in the dark,
damp, musty angle farthest from the intruders who had dropped in upon
them as unexpectedly as a Peary meteor.

[Illustration: AT THE BEATTY WELL IN 1877.]

Calling them to come out and speak with us a moment, the woman appeared,
bearing the inevitable baby. She was truly a revelation, with unkempt
brindle-hair and sallow skin to match. Her raiment consisted of a single
jean-garment, dirty and tattered beyond description, too narrow to
encircle her waist and too short to reach within a dozen inches of her
naked feet. Compared with the flimsy toilet of “a living picture,” this
costume was simplicity itself. The poor creature smoked a cob-pipe
viciously. A request to see her husband evoked the command: “Old man, I
reckon you best git out hyer!” The “old man” heeded this summons and
emerged from his hiding-place, trembling violently. His attire was in
harmony with his wife’s, threadbare jean-pants and shirt comprising it.
Head and feet were bare. His trembling ceased the instant he saw our
guide, whom he knew and greeted cordially. Introductions followed and we
asked if he could show us the way to the Beatty Well. He answered in
perfect English, with the grace of a Chesterfield: “It will be the
greatest pleasure I have known for many a day.”

A brisk walk brought us to the well. Dirt and leaves had filled the pit
nearly level, forming a depression which one might pass without special
notice. Scraping away the rubbish, blackened fragments of the timbered
walls appeared. But not a drop of oil had issued from the veteran-well
for scores of years. One man alone survived of those who had gazed upon
the flow of petroleum previous to the fire which checked the greasian
tide forever. He lived ten miles northwest and his short story was
learned on the return-trip by another route. The scattered rustics were
accustomed to go to the well once or twice a year and dip enough oil to
medicate and lubricate whoever or whatever needed it. The fluid was dark
and heavy and for years rose to within a few feet of the surface. At
length the well clogged up and was almost obliterated. The dim eyes of
the aged narrator sparkled as he recalled the big blaze, concluding with
the emphatic words: “It jes’ looked ez if the devil had hitched up the
hull bottomless pit fur a torch-light percession!”

Except the squatter on the tract of land, which Dr. Hunter and myself
had secured the winter of our visit, the nearest settler lived five
miles distant! The Cincinnati-Southern Railroad, now the Queen &
Crescent route, had not crossed the meandering Kentucky River and the
country was practically inaccessible. Men and women grew up without ever
hearing of a church, a school, a book, a newspaper, a preacher, a
doctor, a wheeled vehicle or a lucifer-match! The heathen of
Bariaboola-Gha were as well informed concerning God and a future state.
They herded in miserable cabins, lived on “corn-dodgers and sow-belly,”
drank home-made whiskey and never wandered ten miles from their own
fireside. Of the great outside world, of moral obligations, of religious
conviction and of current events they were profoundly ignorant. Think of
people fifty, sixty, seventy years old, born and reared in the United
States, who never saw a loaf of wheat-bread, a wagon, a cart or a
baby-carriage, to say nothing of a plum-pudding, railway-coach, a
trolley-car or a tandem-bicycle! It seems incredible, in this advanced
age and bang-up nation, that such conditions should be possible, yet
they existed in Southeastern Kentucky. And the American eagle flaps his
wings, while Americans boast of their culture and send barrels of cold
cash to buy flannel-shirts for perspiring Hottentots and goody-goody
tracts for jolly cannibals!

                        “Consistency’s a jewel.”

Small need of barbed-wire fences to shut out the cattle and chickens of
neighbors five miles apart! Their children did not quarrel and sulk and
yell “You can’t play in our yard!” Our host, who took us over the
property and told us all he knew about it, had not seen a strange face
for twenty-nine weary months! Then the neighbor five miles off had come
in the vain search of a cruse of oil from the old well to rub on an
afflicted hog! Three years had rolled by since his last expedition to
the cross-roads, fourteen miles away, to trade “coon-skins” for jeans
and groceries. Could isolation be more complete? Was Alexander Selkirk
less blessed with companionship on his secluded island? Had Coleridge’s
Ancient Mariner, “on a wide, wide sea,” greater cause for an attack of
the blues?

The steel-track and the iron-horse are prime civilizers and eighteen
years have wrought a wondrous change in the section bordering upon the
Cumberland Mountains. The schoolmaster has come in with the railroad and
improvement is the prevailing order. Farmers have turned their forests
into cultivated fields and bought the latest implements. Their boys read
the papers, yearn for the city, smoke cigarettes, dabble in politics and
dream of unbounded wealth. The girls, no longer content with homespun
frocks and sunbonnets, dress in silk and velvet, wear stylish hats,
devour French novels, sport high-heeled shoes and balloon-sleeves, play
Beethoven and Chopin, waltz divinely and are altogether lovable!

An apparition muttering “I am thy father’s ghost” would not have
surprised us so much as the politeness of our half-clad, barefooted,
bareheaded pilot to the neglected well. His manners and his language
were faultless. Not a coarse word or grammatical error marred his fluent
speech. At noon he invited us to share his humble dinner, apologizing
with royal dignity for the poverty of his surroundings. “Gentlemen,” he
said, “I regret that parched corn and fat bacon are all I can offer, but
I beg you to honor me with your presence at my table!” Remembering the
cabin and its presiding divinity, we felt obliged to decline and
requested him to lunch with us. It was a positive pleasure to see with
what relish he ate the baked chicken, biscuit and good things Mrs.
Hunter had packed in our saddle-bags. After the meal we prepared to
depart. The end of a Louisville paper under the flap of my saddle
attracted the old man’s attention.

“Is that a newspaper?” he inquired.

“Yes, do you want it?”

“Oh, thank you a thousand times! It is fifteen years since I have seen a
paper and this will be such a treat!”

He seized the sheet eagerly, dropped upon the grass and glanced over the
printed page. In an instant he jumped to his feet and tears coursed down
his wrinkled cheeks.

“I did not mean to be rude,” he said earnestly, “but you cannot imagine
how my feelings mastered me, after so many years of separation from the
world, at sight of a paper from the city of my birth!”

The next moment the good-byes were uttered and we had left the hermit of
South Fork, to meet no more this side of eternity. He stood peering
after us until the woods shut us from his wistful gaze. Six years later
death, the grim detective no vigilance can elude, claimed the guardian
of the Beatty Well. His family removed to parts unknown. He rests in an
unmarked grave, beneath a spreading oak, near the murmuring stream. The
lonely exile has reached home at last!

Who on earth was this educated, courteous, gentlemanly personage, and
how did he drift into such a place? This perplexing problem beat the
fifteen-puzzle, “Pigs in Clover,” or the confusing dogma of Freewill and
Predestination. Our guide enlightened us. The old man was reared in
Louisville, graduated from college and entered an office to study law.
In a bar-room row one night a young man, with whom he had some trouble,
was stabbed fatally. Fearing he would be accused of the deed, the
student fled to the woods. For years he shunned mankind, subsisting on
game and fruit and sleeping in a cave. Every rustling leaf or snapping
twig terrified him with the idea that officers were at his heels.
Ultimately he gained courage and sought the acquaintance of the few
settlers in his vicinity. Striving to forget the past, he cohabited with
the woman he called his wife, erected a shanty and brought up three
children. Fire destroyed his hut and its contents, leaving him
destitute, and he located where we met him. The fear of arrest could not
be shaken off and he supposed we had come to take him a prisoner, after
twenty-five years of hiding, for a crime of which he was innocent. This
explained his retreat under the bed and violent trembling. He carried
his secret in his own bosom until 1873, when he was believed to be dying
and disclosed it to a friend, our guide, with a sealed letter giving his
true name. He recovered, the letter was handed back unopened and the
fugitive’s identity was never revealed. What an existence for a man of
refinement and collegiate training! What volumes of unwritten,
unsuspected tragedies environ us, could we but pierce the outward mask
and read the tablets of the heart!

Eight or ten years ago J. O. Marshall, a Pennsylvania oil-operator,
cleaned out the Beatty Well and drilled another a half-mile north.
Neither yielded any oil, although the second was put down nine-hundred
feet. Mr. Marshall leased a great deal of land in Wayne and adjacent
counties, expecting to operate extensively, but he died without seeing
his purposes accomplished. He was a genial, enterprising, whole-souled
fellow, whose faith in Kentucky as an oil-field never faltered.

Dr. Hunter, my esteemed associate on many a delightful trip, was
practicing at Newcastle, Pa., when the civil war broke out. He sold his
drug-store, offered his services to the Government and was placed in
charge of a medical department, where he made a first-class record. He
amputated the leg of General James A. Beaver, subsequently Governor of
Pennsylvania. At the close of the war he settled in Cumberland county,
married a prominent young lady, built up an immense practice and
acquired a competence. He served with signal ability and credit in the
Legislature and in Congress, elected time and again in a district
overwhelmingly against his party. He was chairman of the Republican
State-Committee, and ought to be the successor of Blackburn in the
United-States Senate.

Seventy years ago William Morris, a practical driller, whose name oilmen
should perpetuate, invented the contrivance that culminated in “jars”
for drilling-tools. This contrivance, which enabled the Ruffners and
other salt-borers to go a thousand feet or more for brine, renders it
possible to drill a mile for oil, if ambitious operators desire to get
so far towards the antipodes. The manner in which the oil-resources of
West Virginia, Ohio and Kentucky were thrown away by the early pioneers
is a surprising feature in the history of human affairs. Fifty years
before Pennsylvania oil-wells had been heard of the Kanawha salt-seekers
were drilling what to-day would be paying oil-wells. Instead of saving
the oil, which is enriching West Virginia operators now, they wasted it
and saved the salt-water. They wasted the natural gas, the best fuel of
the century, and boiled their salt-water with wood, the most expensive
and least satisfactory fuel of the valley. That is often the way
humanity gropes in the dark. The men who rushed to California drove
their ox-wagons past the big bonanzas of the Comstock lode, while the
men who later went to the Comstock went past the rich carbonates of
Leadville, just as later prospectors ran over the Cripple-Creek silver
and gold-leads in the search for things farther distant and the crowds
hurrying to Alaska ignored the teeming ledges of the Black Hills. The
Kanawha salt-men scorned the oil, yet drilled the first oil-wells, and
in doing it invented the methods which have come into use throughout the
entire oil-territory. If Joseph and David Ruffner and William Morris had
displayed half the wisdom in utilizing the oil they manifested in
inventing tools to find salt-water, theirs would be the familiar names
in Oildom down to the end of time.

“Fellow-citizens,” shouted a free-silver orator to a host of starving
coal-miners three months after the last Presidential inauguration, “they
tell us Major McKinley is the advance-agent of prosperity, but, if so,
he seems to be a deuce of a way ahead of the show!” In like fashion the
Ruffners were a long way ahead of the petroleum-development, but the
show got there at last, heralded by salt-wells that pointed unerringly
towards the dawn.

                            THEY NOTICED IT.

Writing of several Jesuits who, about 1642, penetrated the territory of
the Eries, probably near what is now Cuba, N. Y., Charlevoix says:

“They found a thick, oily, stagnant matter which would burn like

The map of the Missionaries Dollier and Galinèe, printed in 1670, has a
hint of the presence of petroleum in the north-western part of New York.
Near the spot which was to become the site of Cuba these words are

“Fonteaine de Bitume.”

In 1700 the Earl of Bellmont, Governor of New York, thus instructed
Engineer Wolfgang W. Romer to visit the Five Nations:

“You are to go and view a well or spring which is eight miles beyond the
Seneks’ farthest castle, which they told me blazes up in a flame when a
lighted coal or firebrand is put into it. You will do well to taste the
said water and * * * bring with you some of it.”

Sir William Johnson, who visited Niagara in 1767, in his journal says
with reference to the spring at Cuba:

“Arcushan came in with a quantity of curious oyl, taken at the top of
the water of some very small lake near the village he belongs to.”

David Leisberger, the Moravian Missionary, went up the Allegheny River
in 1767, established a mission near the mouth of Tionesta Creek and in
1770 removed to Butler county. His manuscript records:

“I have seen three kinds of oil-springs—such as have an outlet, such as
have none and such as rise from the bottom of the creeks. From the first
water and oil flow out together, the oil impregnating the grass and
soil; in the second it gathers on the surface of the water to the depth
of the thickness of a finger; from the third it rises to the surface and
flows with the current of the creek. The Indians prefer wells without an
outlet. From such they first dip the oil that has accumulated, then stir
the well and, when the water has settled, fill their kettles with fresh
oil, which they purify by boiling. It is used medicinally, as an
ointment for toothache, headache, swellings, rheumatism and sprains.
Sometimes it is taken internally. It is of a brown color and can also be
used in lamps. It burns well.”

Dr. John David Schopf, a surgeon in the British service, visited
Pittsburg in 1783 and in an account of his journey remarked:

“Petroleum was found at several places up the Allegheny, particularly at
a spring and a creek, which were covered with this floating substance.”

General William Irvine, in a letter to John Dickinson, dated “Carlisle,
August 17, 1785,” tells of exploring the western part of Pennsylvania.
He says:

“Oil Creek takes its name from an oily or bituminous matter being found
floating on its surface. Many cures are attributed to this oil. * * * It
rises in the bed of the creek at very low water. In a dry season I am
told it is found without any mixture of water and is pure oil. It rises
when the creek is high from the bottom in small globules.”

George Henry Loskiel, in his “Geschichte der Mission der Evangelischen
Bruder unter der Indianen in Nordamerika,” published in 1789, noted:

“One of the most favorite medicines used by the Indians is Fossil-oil
exuding from the earth, commonly with water * * * This oil is of a brown
color and smells like tar. * * * They use it chiefly in external
complaints. Some take it inwardly and it has not been found to do harm.
It will burn in a lamp. The Indians sometimes sell it to the white
people at four guineas a quart.”

An officer of the United States Army, who descended the Ohio River in
1811, wrote a book of travels in which he remarks:

“Not far from the mouth of the Little Beaver a spring has been found,
said to rise from the bottom of the river, from which issues an oil
which is highly inflammable and is called Seneca oil. It resembles
Barbadoes tar and is used as a remedy for rheumatic pains.”

[Illustration: NOTABLE WELLS ON OIL CREEK IN 1861-2-3.]

                      WHERE THE BLUE-GRASS GROWS.



“He who would search for pearls must dive below.”—_Dryden_.

“Often do the spirits of great events stride on before the

“Coming events cast their shadows before.”—_Thomas Campbell._

“In Cumberland county, Kentucky, a run of pure oil was struck.”—_Niles’
    Register, A. D. 1829._

“Indications of oil are plentiful at Chattanooga, Tennessee.”—_Robert B.
    Roosevelt, A. D. 1863._

“Ever since the first settlement of the country oil has been gathered
    and used for medicinal purposes.”—_Cattlesburg, Ky., Letter, A. D.

“Everythink has changed, everythink except human natur’.”—_Eugene

“To all appearance it was chiefly by Accident and the grace of


Interesting and unexpected results from borings for salt-water in
Kentucky were not exhausted by the initial experiment on South Fork.
Special peculiarities invest that venture with a romantic halo
essentially its own, but “there are others.” Wayne county was not to
monopolize the petroleum-feature of salt-wells by a large majority.
“Westward the star of empire takes its way” affirmed Bishop Berkeley
two-hundred years ago, with the instinct of a born prophet, and it was
so with the petroleum-star of Kentucky, however it might be with
brilliant Henri Watterson’s “star-eyed goddess of Reform.”

The storm-center next shifted to Cumberland county, the second west of
Wayne, Clinton separating them. Hardy breadwinners, braving the
hardships and privations of pioneer-life in the backwoods, early in this
century settled much of the country along the Cumberland River. Upon one
section of irregular shape, its southern end bordered by Tennessee, the
state of Davy Crockett and Andrew Jackson, the name of the winding river
intersecting it was appropriately bestowed. A central location, between
the west bank of the Cumberland and the foot of a lordly hill, was
selected for the county-seat and christened Burksville, in honor of a
respected citizen who owned the site of the embryo hamlet. From a
cross-roads tavern and blacksmith-shop the place expanded gradually into
an inviting village of one-thousand population. It has fine stores, good
churches and schools, a brick court-house, and for years it boasted the
only college in Kentucky for the education of girls.

Burksville pursued “the even tenor of its way” slowly and surely. Forty
miles from a railroad or a telegraph-wire, its principal outlet is the
river during the season of navigation. The Cumberland retains the
fashion of rising sixty to eighty feet above its summer-level when the
winter rains set in and dwindling to a mere brooklet in the dry, hot
months. Old-timers speak of “the flood of 1826” as the greatest in the
history of the community. The rampant waters overflowed fields and
streets, invaded the ground-floors of houses and did a lot of unpleasant
things, the memory of which tradition has kept green. In January of 1877
the moist experience was repeated almost to high-water mark. Saw-logs
floated into kitchens and parlors and improvised skiffs navigated
back-yards and gardens. Seldom has the town cut a wide swath in the
metropolitan press, because it avoided gross scandals and attended
strictly to home-affairs. The chief dissipation is a trip by boat to
Nashville or Point-Burnside, or a drive overland to Glasgow, the
terminus of a branch of the Louisville & Nashville Railroad.

The first great event to stir the hearts of the good people of
Cumberland county occurred in 1829. A half-mile from the mouth of Rennix
Creek, a minor stream that empties into the Cumberland two miles north
of the county-town, a well was sunk one-hundred-and-eighty feet for
salt-water. Niles’ _Register_, published the same year, told the tale

“Some months since, in the act of boring for salt-water on the land of
Mr. Lemuel Stockton, situated in the county of Cumberland, Kentucky, a
run of pure oil was struck, from which it is almost incredible what
quantities of the substance issued. The discharges were by floods, at
intervals of from two to five minutes, at each flow vomiting forth many
barrels of pure oil. I witnessed myself, on a shaft that stood upright
by the aperture in the rock from which it issued, marks of oil 25 or 30
feet perpendicularly above the rock. These floods continued for three or
four weeks, when they subsided to a constant stream, affording many
thousand gallons per day. This well is between a quarter and a half-mile
from the bank of the Cumberland River, on a small rill (creek) down
which it runs to the Cumberland. It was traced as far down the
Cumberland as Gallatin, in Sumner county, Tennessee, nearly a hundred
miles. For many miles it covered the whole surface of the river and its
marks are now found on the rocks on each bank.

[Illustration: FAMOUS “AMERICAN WELL.”]

“About two miles below the point on which it touched the river, it was
set on fire by a boy, and the effect was grand beyond description. An
old gentleman who witnessed it says he has seen several cities on fire,
but that he never beheld anything like the flames which rose from the
bosom of the Cumberland to touch the very clouds.”

This was the beginning of what was afterwards known from the equator to
the poles as the “American Well.” The flow of oil spoiled the well for
salt and the owners quitted it in disgust, sinking another with better
success in an adjacent field. For years it remained forsaken, an object
of more or less curiosity to travelers who passed close by on their way
to or from Burksville. It was very near the edge of the creek, on flat
ground most of which has been washed away. Neighboring farmers dipped
oil occasionally for medicine, for axle-grease and—“tell it not in Gath,
publish it not in Askelon”—to kill vermin on swine!

Job Moses, a resident of Buffalo, N. Y., visited the locality about the
year 1848. He had read of the oil-springs in New York, Pennsylvania,
West Virginia and Ohio and he decided that the hole on Rennix Creek
ought to be a prize-package. His moderate offer for the well was
accepted by the Bakers, into whose hands the Stockton tract had come. He
drilled the well to four-hundred feet and erected a pumping-rig. The
five or six barrels a day of greenish-amber fluid, 42° gravity, he put
up in half-pint bottles, labeled “American Rock Oil” and sold at fifty
cents, commending it as a specific for numberless complaints. He reaped
a harvest for several years, until trade languished and the well was

With the proceeds of his enterprise Moses bought a large block of land
at Limestone, N. Y., adjoining the northern boundary of McKean county,
Pa., and built a mansion big enough for a castle. He farmed
extensively, raised herds of cattle, employed legions of laborers and
dispensed a bountiful hospitality. In 1862-3 he drilled three wells
near his dwelling, finding a trifling amount of gas and oil. Had he
drilled deeper he would inevitably have opened up the phenomenal
Bradford field a dozen years in advance of its actual development.
Wells twelve-hundred to three-thousand feet deep had not been dreamt
of in petroleum-philosophy at that date, else Job Moses might have
diverted the whole current of oil-operations northward and postponed
indefinitely the advent of the Clarion and Butler districts! Boring a
four-inch hole a few hundred feet farther would have done it!

On what small causes great effects sometimes depend! Believing a
snake-story induced our first parents to sample “the fruit of that
forbidden tree whose mortal taste brought sin into our world and all our
woe.” Ambition to be a boss precipitated Lucifer “from the battlements
of heaven to the nethermost abyss.” A dream released Joseph from prison
to be “ruler over Egypt.” The smiles of a wanton plunged Greece into war
and wiped Troy from the face of the earth. A prod on the heel slew
Achilles, a nail—driven by a woman at that—finished Sisera and a pebble
ended Goliath. The cackling of a goose saved Rome from the barbarous
hordes of Brennus. A cobweb across the mouth of the cave secreting him
preserved Mahomet from his pursuers and gave Arabia and Turkey a new
religion. The scorching of a cake in a goatherd’s hut aroused King
Alfred and restored the Saxon monarchy in England. The movements of a
spider inspired Robert Bruce to renewed exertions and secured the
independence of Scotland. An infected rag in a bundle of Asiatic goods
scourged Europe with the plague. The fall of an apple from a tree
resulted in Sir Isaac Newton’s sublime theory of gravitation. The
vibrations of a tea-kettle lid suggested to the Marquis of Worcester the
first conception of the steam-engine. A woman’s chance-remark led Eli
Whitney to invent the cotton-gin. The twitching of a frog’s muscles
revealed galvanism. A diamond-necklace hastened the French Revolution
and consigned Marie Antoinette to the guillotine. Hacking a cherry-tree
with a hatchet earned George Washington greater glory than the victory
of Monmouth or the overthrow of Cornwallis. A headache helped cost
Napoleon the battle of Waterloo and change the destiny of twenty
kingdoms. An affront to an ambassador drove Germany to arms, exiled
Louis Napoleon and made France a republic. Mrs. O’Leary’s kicking cow
laid Chicago in ashes and burst up no end of insurance-companies. An
alliterative phrase defeated James G. Blaine for President of the United
States. An epigram, a couplet or a line has been known to confer
immortality. A new bonnet has disrupted a sewing-society, split a
congregation and put devout members on the toboggan in their hurry to
backslide. An onion-breath has severed doting lovers, cheated parsons of
their wedding-fees and played hob with Cupid’s calculations. Statistics
fail to disclose the awful havoc wrought in millions of homes by such
observations, on the part of thoughtless young husbands, as “this isn’t
the way mother baked,” or “mother’s coffee didn’t taste like this!”

Moses lived to produce oil from his farms and to witness, five miles
south of Limestone, the grandest petroleum-development of any age or
nation. He was built on the broad-gauge plan, physically and mentally,
and “the light went out” peacefully at last. The Kentucky well was never
revived. The rig decayed and disappeared, a timber or two lingering
until carried off by the flood in 1877.

[Illustration: GOVERNOR AMES.]

In the autumn of 1876 Frederic Prentice, a leading operator, engaged me
to go to Kentucky to lease and purchase lands for oil-purposes. Shortly
before Christmas he wished me to meet him in New York and go from there
to Boston, to give information to parties he expected to associate with
him in his Kentucky projects. Together we journeyed to the city of
culture and baked-beans and met the gentlemen in the office of the
Union-Pacific Railroad-Company. The gathering was quite notable. Besides
Mr. Prentice, who had long been prominent in petroleum affairs, Stephen
Weld, Oliver Ames, Sen., Oliver Ames, Jun., Frederick Ames, F. Gordon
Dexter and one or two others were present. Mr. Weld was the richest
citizen of New England, his estate at his death inventorying twenty-two
millions. The elder Oliver Ames, head of the giant shovel-manufacturing
firm of Oliver Ames & Sons, was a brother of Oakes Ames, the creator of
the Pacific Railroads, whom the Credit-Mobilier engulfed in its ruthless
destruction of statesmen and politicians. His nephew and namesake was a
son of Oakes Ames and Governor of Massachusetts in 1887-8-9. He began
his career in the shovel-works, learning the trade as an employé, and at
thirty-five had amassed a fortune of ten-millions. He occupied the
finest house in Boston, entertained lavishly, spent immense sums for
paintings and bric-a-brac and died in October of 1895. Frederick Ames,
son of the senior Oliver, has inherited his father’s executive talent
and he maintains the family’s reputation for sagacity and the
acquisition of wealth. F. Gordon Dexter is a multi-millionaire, a power
in the railroad-world and a resident of Beacon street, the swell avenue
of the Hub.

Such were the men who heard the reports concerning Kentucky. They did
not squirm and hesitate and wonder where they were at. Thirty-five
minutes after entering the room the “Boston Oil Company” was organized,
the capital was paid in, officers were elected, a lawyer had started to
get the charter and authority was given me to draw at sight for whatever
cash was needed up to one-hundred-thousand dollars! This record-breaking
achievement was about as expeditious as the Chicago grocer, who closed
his store one forenoon and pasted on the door a placard inscribed in
bold characters: “At my wife’s funeral—back in twenty minutes!”

Oliver Ames, the future governor, invited the party to lunch at the
Parker House, Boston’s noted hostelry. An hour sped quickly. My
return-trip had been arranged by way of Buffalo and the Lake-Shore Road
to Franklin. The time to start arrived, the sleigh to take me to the
depot was at the door, the good-byes were said, the driver tucked in the
robes and grasped the lines. At that instant Oliver Ames, Sen., called:
“Please come into the hotel one moment; I want to jot down something you
told us about the American Well.” The other gentlemen looked on, the
explanation was penciled rapidly, my seat in the sleigh was resumed and
Mr. Dexter jokingly said to the Jehu: “You’ll have to hustle, or your
fare will miss his train!”

Through the narrow, twisted, crowded streets the horses trotted briskly.
Rushing into the station, the train was pulling out and the
ticket-examiner was shutting the iron-gates. He refused to let me
attempt to catch the rear car and my disappointment was extreme. A train
for New York and Pittsburg left in fifteen minutes. It bore me, an
unwilling passenger, safely and satisfactorily to the “Smoky City.”
There the news reached me of the frightful railway-disaster at
Ashtabula, in which P. P. Bliss and fourscore fellow-mortals, filled
with fond anticipations of New-Year reunions, perished in the icy waters
ninety feet beneath the treacherous bridge that dropped them into the
yawning chasm! The doomed train was the same that would have borne me to
Ashtabula and—to death, had not Mr. Ames detained me to make the entry
in his memorandum-book! Call it Providence, Luck, Chance, what you will,
an incident of this stamp is apt to beget “a heap of tall thinking.”

               “There’s a divinity that shapes our ends.”


Returning to Burksville in January, the work of leasing went ahead
merrily. The lands around the American Well were taken at one-eighth
royalty. Forty rods northeast of the American, in a small ravine, a well
was drilled eight-hundred feet. At two-hundred feet some gas and oil
appeared, but the well proved a failure. While it was under way the gas
in a deserted salt-well twenty rods northwest of the American burst
forth violently, sending frozen earth, water and pieces of rock high
into the air. The derrick at the Boston Well, rising to the height of
seventy-two feet, was a perennial delight to the natives. Youths, boys
and old men ascended the ladder to the topmost round to enjoy the
beautiful view. Pretty girls longed to try the experiment and it was
whispered that six of them, one night when only the man in the moon was
peeping, performed the perilous feat. Certain it is that a winsome
teacher at the college, who climbed the celestial stair years ago,
succeeded in the effort and wrecked her dress on the way back to solid
ground. A dining-room girl at Petrolia, in 1873, stood on top of a
derrick, to win a pair of shoes banteringly offered by a jovial oilman
to the first fair maiden entitled to the prize. Lovely woman and
Banquo’s ghost will not “down!”

Three miles northeast of the American Well, at the mouth of Crocus
Creek, C. H. English drilled eight shallow wells in 1865. They were
bunched closely and one flowed nine-hundred barrels a day.
Transportation was lacking, the product could not be marketed and the
promising field was deserted. Twelve years later the Boston Oil-Company
drilled in the midst of English’s cluster, to discover the quality of
the strata, and could not exhaust the surface-water by the most
incessant pumping. The company also drilled on the Gilreath farm, across
the Cumberland from Burksville, where Captain Phelps found heavy oil in
paying quantity back in the sixties. The well produced nicely and would
have paid handsomely had a railroad or a pipe-line been within reach. A
well two miles west of the American, drilled in 1891, had plenty of sand
and showed for a fifty-barreler.

Six miles south-west of Burksville, at Cloyd’s Landing, J. W. Sherman,
of Oil-Creek celebrity, drilled a well in 1865 which spouted a thousand
barrels of 40° gravity oil in twenty-four hours. He loaded a barge with
oil in bulk, intending to ship it to Nashville. The ill-fated craft
struck a rock in the river and the oil floated off on its own hook.
Sherman threw up the sponge and returned to Pennsylvania. Three others
on the Cloyd tract started finely, but the wonderful excitement at
Pithole was breaking out and operations elsewhere received a cold chill.
Dr. Hunter purchased the Cloyd farm and leased it in 1877 to Peter
Christie, of Petrolia, who did not operate on any of the lands he
secured in Kentucky and Tennessee. Micawber-like, Cumberland county is
“waiting for something to turn up” in the shape of facilities for
handling oil. When these are assured the music of the walking-beam will
tickle the ears of expectant believers in Kentucky as the coming

Wayne and Cumberland had been heard from and Clinton county was the
third to have its inning. On the west bank of Otter Creek, a sparkling
tributary of Beaver Creek, a well bored for salt fifty or more years ago
yielded considerable oil. Instead of giving up the job, the owners
pumped the water and oil into a tank, over the side of which the lighter
fluid was permitted to empty at its leisure. The salt-works came to a
full stop eventually and the well relapsed into “innocuous desuetude.”
L. D. Carter, of Aurora, Ill., sojourning temporarily in Clinton for his
health, saw the old well in 1864. He dipped a jugful of oil, took it to
Aurora, tested it on the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad, found it
a good lubricant and concluded to give the well a square trial. The
railroad-company agreed to buy the oil at a fair price. Carter pumped
six or eight barrels a day, hauled it in wagons over the hills to the
Cumberland River and saved money. He granted Mr. Prentice an option on
the property in 1877. The day the option expired J. O. Marshall bought
the well, farm and ten-thousand acres of leases conditionally, for a
Butler operator who “didn’t have the price,” and the deal fell through.

The well stood idle until 1892, when J. Hovey, an ex-broker from New
York and relative of a late Governor of Indiana, drilled a short
distance down the creek. The result was a strike which produced
twenty-four hundred barrels of dark, heavy, lubricating oil in fifty
days. It was shut down for want of tankage and means to transport the
product to market. The Carter again yielded nicely, as did three more
wells in this neighborhood. In 1895 the Standard Oil-Company was given a
refusal of the Hovey and surrounding interests, in order to test the
territory fully and lay a pipe-line to Glasgow or Louisville, should the
production warrant the expenditure. Wells have been sunk east of the
Carter nearly to Monticello, eighteen miles off, finding gas and
indications of oil. Every true Clintonite is positive an ocean of
petroleum underlies his particular neck of woods, impatient to be
relieved and burden landholders and operators alike with excessive

A hard-headed youth, out walking with his best girl in the dog-days,
told her a fairy-story of the dire effects of ice-cream upon the
feminine constitution. “I knew a girl,” he declared, “who ate six plates
of the dreadful stuff and died next day!” The shrewd damsel exclaimed
rapturously: “Oh, wouldn’t it be sweet to die that way? Let us begin on
six plates now!” And wouldn’t it be nice to be loaded with riches, not
gained by freezing out some other fellow, by looting a bank, by wedding
an unloved bride, by grinding the poor, by manipulating stocks, by
cornering grain or by practices that make the angels weep, but by
bringing oil honestly from the bowels of the earth?

About the year 1839 a salt-well in Lincoln county, eight miles from the
pretty town of Stanford, struck a vein of oil unexpectedly. The
inflammable liquid gushed out with great force, took fire and burned
furiously for weeks. The owner was a grim joker in his way and he aptly
remarked, upon viewing the conflagration: “I reckon I’ve got a little
hell of my own!” Four more wells were drilled farther up the stream, two
getting a show of oil. One was plugged and the other, put down by the
late Marcus Hulings, the wealthy Pennsylvania operator, proved dry.
Surface indications in many quarters gave rise to the belief that oil
would be found over a wide area, and in 1861 a well was bored at
Glasgow, Barren county, one-hundred-and-ten miles below Louisville. It
was a success and a hundred have followed since, most of which are
producing moderately. Col. J. C. Adams, formerly of Tidioute, Pa., was
the principal operator for twenty years. A suburban town, happily termed
Oil City, is “flourishing like a green bay-horse.” The oil, dark and
ill-flavored, smelling worse than “the thousand odors of Cologne,” is
refined at Glasgow and Louisville. It can be deodorized and converted
into respectable kerosene. Sixteen miles south of Glasgow, on Green
River, four shallow wells were bored thirty years ago, one flowing at
the rate of six-hundred barrels, so that Barren county is by no means
barren of interest to the oil-fraternity.

At Bowling Green a well was sunk two-hundred feet, a few gallons of
green-oil bowling to the surface. Torpedoing was unknown, or the fate of
many Kentucky wells might have been reversed. John Jackson, of Mercer,
Pa., in 1866 drilled a well in Edmonson county, twenty-five miles
north-west of Glasgow. The tools dropped through a crevice of the
Mammoth Cave, but neither eyeless fish nor slippery petroleum repaid the
outlay of muscle and greenbacks. As if to add insult to injury, the well
hatched a mammoth cave that buried the tools eight-hundred feet out of

Loyal to his early training and hungry for appetizing slapjacks, Jackson
once imported a sack of the flour from Louisville and asked the obliging
landlady of his boarding-house to have buckwheat-cakes for breakfast. He
was on hand in the morning, ready to do justice to the savory dish. The
“cakes” were brought in smoking hot, baked into biscuit, heavy as lead
and irredeemably unpalatable! The sack of flour went to fatten the
denizens of a neighbor’s pig-pen. Jackson was a pioneer in the Bradford
region, head of the firm of Jackson & Walker, clever and generous. The
grass and the flowers have grown on his grave for ten years, “the
insatiate archer” striking him down in the prime of vigorous manhood.

Sandy Valley, in the north-eastern section of the state, contributed its
quota to the stock of Kentucky petroleum. From the first settlement of
Boyd, Greenup, Carter, Johnson and Lawrence counties oil had been
gathered for medical purposes by skimming it from the streams. About
1855 Cummings & Dixon collected a half-dozen barrels from Paint Creek
and treated it at their coal-oil refinery in Cincinnati, with results
similar to those attained by Kier in Pittsburg. They continued to
collect oil from Paint Creek and Oil-Spring Fork until the war, at times
saving a hundred barrels a month. In 1861 they drilled a well
three-hundred feet on Mud Lick, a branch of Paint Creek, penetrating
shale and sandstone and getting light shows of oil and gas. Surface-oil
was found on the Big-Sandy River, from its source to its mouth, and in
considerable quantities on Paint, Blaine, Abbott, Middle, John’s and
Wolf Creeks. Large springs on Oil-Spring Fork, a feeder of Paint Creek,
yielded a barrel a day. At the mouth of the Fork, in 1860, Lyon & Co.
drilled a well two-hundred feet, tapping three veins of heavy oil and
retiring from the scene when “the late unpleasantness” began to shake up
the country. The same year a well was sunk one-hundred-and-seventy feet,
on the headwaters of Licking River, near the Great Burning Spring. Gas
and oil burst out for days, but the low price of crude and the impending
conflict prevented further work. What an innumerable array of nice
calculations this cruel war nipped in the bud!


J. Hinkley bored two-hundred feet in 1860, on Paint Creek, eight miles
above Paintville, meeting a six-inch crevice of heavy-oil, for which
there was no demand, and the capacity of the well was not tested.
Salt-borers on a multitude of streams had much difficulty, fifty or
sixty years ago, in getting rid of oil that persisted in coming to the
surface. These old wells have been filled with dirt, although in some
the oil works to the top and can be seen during the dry seasons. The
Paint-Creek region had a severe attack of oil-fever in 1864-5. Hundreds
of wells were drilled, boats were crowded, the hotels were thronged and
the one subject of conversation was “oil—oil—oil!” Various causes,
especially the extraordinary developments in Pennsylvania, compelled the
plucky operators to abandon the district, notwithstanding encouraging
symptoms of an important field. Indeed, so common was it to find
petroleum in ten or fifteen counties of Kentucky that land-owners ran a
serious risk in selling their farms before boring them full of holes,
lest they should unawares part with prospective oil-territory at
corn-fodder prices!

Tennessee did not draw a blank in the awards of petroleum-indications.
Along Spring Creek many wells, located in 1864-5 because of
“surface-shows,” responded nobly, at a depth comparatively shallow, to
the magic touch of the drill. The product was lighter in color and
gravity than the Kentucky brand. Twelve miles above Nashville, on the
Cumberland River, wells have been pumped at a profit. Around Gallatin,
Sumner county, decisive tests demonstrated the presence of petroleum in
liberal measure. On Obey Creek, Fentress county, sufficient drilling has
been done to justify the expectation of a rich district. Near
Chattanooga, on the southern border of the state, oil seepages are “too
numerous to mention.” The Lacy Well, eighteen miles south of the Beatty,
drilled in 1893, is good for thirty barrels every day in the week. The
oil is of superior quality, but the cost of marketing it is too great. A
dozen wells are going down in Fentress, Overton, Scott and Putnam. Some
fine day the tidal wave of development will sweep over the
Cumberland-River region, with improved appliances and complete
equipment, and give the country a rattling “show for its white alley!”
Surely all these spouting-wells, oil-springs and greasy oozings mean
something. To quote a practical oilman, who knows both states from a to
z: “Twenty counties in Kentucky and Tennessee are sweating petroleum!”

              “Jes’ nail dat mink to de stable do’—
              De niggahs’ll dance when de oil-wells flo!”

Picking up a million acres of supposed oil-lands in the Blue-Grass and
Volunteer States had its serio-comic features. The ignorant squatters in
remote latitudes were suspicious of strangers, imagining them to be
revenue-officers on the trail of “moonshiners,” as makers of untaxed
whisky were generally called. More than one northern oilman narrowly
escaped premature death on this conjecture. J. A. Satterfield, the
successful Butler operator, went to Kentucky in the winter of 1877 to
superintend the leasing of territory for his firm, between which and the
Prentice combination a lively scramble had been inaugurated. Somebody
thought he must be a Government agent and passed the word to the lawless
mountaineers. The second night of his stay a shower of bullets riddled
the window, two lodging in the bed in which Satterfield lay asleep!
Daylight saw him galloping to the railroad at a pace eclipsing
Sheridan’s ride to Winchester, eager to “get back to God’s country.”
“Once was enough for him” to figure as the target of shooters who seldom
failed to score “a hit, a palpable hit.” The grim archer didn’t miss him
in 1894.


Arriving late one Saturday at Mt. Vernon, the county-seat of Rockcastle,
the colored waiter on Sunday morning inquired: “Hes yo done gone an’
seen em?” Asking what he meant, he informed me that three men were
dangling from a tree in the court-house yard, lynched by an infuriated
mob during the night on suspicion of horse-stealing, “the unpardonable
sin” in Kentucky. A party of citizens had started for the cabin of a
notorious outlaw, observed skulking homeward under cover of darkness,
intending to string him up. The desperado was alert. He fired one shot,
which killed a man and stampeded the assailants. They returned to the
village, broke into the jail, dragged out three cowering wretches and
hanged them in short metre! The bodies swung in the air all day, a
significant warning to whoever might think of “walkin’ off with a hoss

On that trip to Rockcastle county the train stopped at a wayside-station
bearing the pretentious epithet of Chicago. A tall, gaunt, unshaven,
uncombed man, with gnarled hands that appealed perpetually for soap and
water, high cheekbones, imperfect teeth and homespun-clothes of the
toughest description, stood on the platform in a pool of tobacco-juice.
A rustic behind me stuck his head through the car-window and addressed
the hard-looking citizen as “Jedge.” Honors are easy in Kentucky, where
“colonels,” “majors” and “judges” are “thick as leaves in Vallambrosa,”
but the title in this instance seemed too absurd to pass unheeded. When
the train started, in reply to my question whether the man on the
platform was a real judge, his friendly acquaintance took the pains to
say: “Wal, I can’t swar es he’s zackly, but las’ year he wuz jedge ov a
chicken-fight down ter Si Mason’s an’ we calls ’im jedge ever sence!”

[Illustration: A MOUNTAIN VENDETTA.]

Kentucky vendettas have often figured in thrilling narratives. Business
took me to the upper end of Laurel county one week. Litigants, witnesses
and hangers-on crowded the village, for a suit of unusual interest was
pending before the “’squar.” The principals were farmers from the hilly
region, whose fathers and grandfathers had been at loggerheads and
transmitted the quarrel to their posterity. Blood had been shed and
hatred reigned supreme. The important case was about to begin. Two shots
rang out so closely together as to be almost simultaneous, followed by a
regular fusilade. Everybody ran into the street, where four men lay
dead, a fifth was gasping his last breath and two others had ugly
wounds. The tragedy was soon explained. The two parties to the suit had
met on their way to the justice’s house. Both were armed, both drew
pistols and both dropped in their tracks, one a corpse and the second
ready for the coroner in a few moments. Relatives and adherents
continued the dreadful work and five lives paid the penalty of
ungovernable passion. The dead were wrapped in horse-blankets and carted
home. The case was not called. It had been “settled out of court.”

[Illustration: “A BIGGER MAN ’N GEN’RAL GRANT.”]

The spectators of this dreadful scene manifested no uncommon concern.
“It’s what might be expected,” echoed the local oracle; “when them
mountain fellers gets whiskey inside them they don’t care fur nuthin’!”
Within an hour of the shooting a young man stopped me on the
street-corner, where stood a wagon containing two bodies. “Kunnel,” he
went on to say, “I’ve h’ard es yo’s th’ man es got our farm fur oil. Dad
an’ Cousin Bill’s ’n that ar wagon, an’ I want yo ter giv’ me a job
haulin’ wood agin yo starts work up our way.” He mounted the vehicle and
drove off with his ghastly freight without a quiver of emotion.

At Crab Orchard, one beautiful Sunday, the clerk chatted with me on the
hotel-porch. A stalwart individual approached and my companion
ejaculated: “Thar’s a bigger man ’n Gen’ral Grant!” Next instant Col.
Kennedy was added to my list of Kentucky acquaintances. He was very
affable, wished oil-operations in the neighborhood success and, with
characteristic Southern hospitality, invited me to visit him. After he
left us the clerk, in answer to my desire to learn the basis of
Kennedy’s greatness, naively said: “Why, he’s killed eight men!”

                “Some have greatness thrust upon them.”

Politics and religion were staple wares, the susceptible negroes
inclining strongly to the latter. Their spasms of piety were extremely
inconvenient at times. News of a “bush meetin’” would be circulated and
swarms of darkeys would flock to the appointed place, taking provisions
for a protracted siege. No matter if it were the middle of harvest and
rain threatening, they dropped everything and went to the meeting.
“Doant ’magine dis niggah’s gwine ter lose his ’mo’tal soul fer no load
uv cow-feed” was the conclusive rejoinder of a colored hand to his
employer, who besought him to stay and finish the haying.

“In de Lawd’s gahden ebery cullud gentleman has got ter line his hoe.”

Rev. George O. Barnes, the gifted evangelist, who resigned a
five-thousand-dollar Presbyterian pastorate in Chicago to assist Moody,
was reared in Kentucky and lived near Stanford. He would traverse the
country to hold revivals, staying three to six weeks in a place. His
personal magnetism, rare eloquence, apostolic zeal, fine education,
intense fervor and catholic spirit made him a wonderful power. Converts
he numbered by thousands. He preferred Calvary to Sinai, the gentle
pleadings of infinite mercy to the harsh threats of endless torment. His
daughter Marie, with the voice of a Nilsson and the face of a Madonna,
accompanied her father in his wanderings, singing gospel-hymns in a
manner that distanced Sankey and Philip Phillips. Her rendering of “Too
Late,” “Almost Persuaded,” and “Only a Step to Jesus,” electrified and
thrilled the auditors as no stage-song could have done. Raymon Moore’s
hackneyed verses had not been written, yet the boys called Miss Barnes
“Sweet Marie” and thronged to the penitent-bench. The evangelist and his
daughter tried to convert New York, but the Tammany stronghold refused
to budge an inch. They invaded England and enrolled hosts of recruits
for Zion. The Prince of Wales is said to have attended one of their
meetings in the suburbs of London. Mr. Barnes finally proposed to cure
diseases by “anointing with oil and laying on of hands.” His pink
cottage became a refuge for cranks and cripples and patients, until a
mortgage on the premises was foreclosed and the queer aggregation
scattered to the winds.

Albany, the county-seat of Clinton, experienced a Barnes revival of the
tip-top order. Business with Major Brentz, the company’s attorney,
landed me in the cosy town on a bright March forenoon. Not a person was
visible. Stores were shut and comer-loungers absent. What could have
happened? Halting my team in front of the hotel, nobody appeared.
Ringing the quaint, old-fashioned bell attached to a post near the pump,
a lame, bent colored man shuffled out of the barn.

“Pow’ful glad ter see yer, Massa,” he mumbled, “a’l put up de hosses.”

“Where is the landlord?”

“Done gone ter meetin’.”

“Will dinner soon be ready?”

“Soon the folkses gits back frum meetin’.”

“All right, take good care of the horses and I’ll go over to the

“No good gwine dar, dey’s at the meetin’.”

It was true. Mr. Barnes was holding three services a day and the village
emptied itself to get within sound of his voice. For five weeks this
kept up. Lawyers quit their desks, merchants locked their stores, woman
deserted their houses and young and old thought only of the meetings.
Hardly a sinner was left to work upon, even the village-editor and the
disciples of Blackstone joining the hallelujah band! No wonder Satan’s
imps wailed sadly:

                  “And the blow almost killed father!”

An African congregation at Stanford had a preacher black as the ace of
spades and wholly illiterate, whom many whites liked to hear. “Brudders
an’ sistahs, niggahs and white folks,” he closed an exhortation by
saying, “dar’s no use ’temptin’ to sneak outen de wah ’tween de good
Lawd an’ de black debbil, ’cos dar’s on’y two armies in dis worl’ an’
bofe am a-fitin’ eberlastingly! So ’list en de army ob light, ef yer
want ter gib ole Satan er black eye an’ not roast fureber an’ eber in de
burnin’ lake whar watah-millions on ice am nebber se’ved for dinnah!”
Could the most astute theological hair-splitter have presented the issue
more concisely and forcibly to the hearers of the sable Demosthenes?

The first and only circus that exhibited at Burksville produced an
immense sensation. It was “Bartholomew’s Equescurriculum,” with
gymnastics and ring exercises to round out the bill. Barns, shops and
trees for miles bore gorgeous posters. Nast’s cartoons, which the most
ignorant voters could understand, did more to overthrow Boss Tweed than
the masterly editorials of the New-York _Times_. The flaming pictures
aroused the Cumberlanders, hundreds of whom could not read, to the
highest pitch of expectation. Monday was the day set for the show. On
Saturday evening country-patrons began to camp in the woods outside the
village. A couple from Overton county, Tennessee, and their four
children rode twenty-eight miles on two mules, bringing food for three
days and lodging under the trees! A Burksville character of the stripe
Miss Ophelia styled “shiftless” sold his cooking-stove for four dollars
to get funds to attend! “Alf,” the ebony-hued choreman at Alexander
College, who built my fires and blacked my shoes, was worked up to
fever-heat. “Befo’ de Lawd,” he sobbed, “dis chile’s er gone coon, ’less
yer len’ er helpin’ han’! Mah wife’s axed her mudder an’ sister ter th’
ci’cus an’ dar’s no munny ter take ’em an’ mah sister!” Giving him the
currency for admission dried the mourner’s tears and “pushed them clouds

[Illustration: AN AFRICAN TALE OF WOE.]

At noon on Sunday the circus arrived by boat from Nashville. Service was
in progress in one church, when an unearthly sound startled the
worshippers. The wail of a lost soul could not be more alarming. Simon
Legree, scared out of his boots by the mocking shriek of the wind
blowing through the bottle-neck Cassy fixed in the garret knot-hole, had
numerous imitators. Again and again the ozone was rent and cracked and
shivered. The congregation broke for the door, the minister jerking out
a sawed-off benediction and retreating with the rest. A half-mile down
the river a boat was rounding the bend. A steam-calliope, distracting,
discordant and unlovely, belched forth a torrent of paralyzing notes.
The whole population was on the bank by the time the boat stopped. The
crowd watched the landing of the animals and belongings of the circus
with unflinching eagerness. Few of the surging mass had seen a theatre,
a circus, or a show of any sort except the Sunday-school Christmas
performance. They were bound to take in every detail and that Sunday was
badly splintered in the peaceful, orderly settlement.

With the earliest streak of dawn the excitement was renewed. Groups of
adults and children, of all ages and sizes and complexions, were on hand
to see the tents put up. By eleven o’clock the town was packed. A
merry-go-round, the first Burksville ever saw, raked in a bushel of
nickels. The college domestics skipped, leaving the breakfast-dishes on
the table and the dinner to shift for itself. A party of friends went
with me to enjoy the fun. Beside a gap in the fence, to let wagons into
the field, sat “Alf,” the image of despair. Four weeping females—his
wife, sister, mother-in-law and sister-in-law—crouched at his feet. As
our party drew near he beckoned to us and unfolded his tale of woe. “Dem
fool-wimmin,” he exclaimed bitterly, “hes done spended de free dollars
yer guv me on de flyin’-hosses! Dey woodn’t stay off nohow an’ now dey
caint see de ci’cus! Oh, Lawd! Oh, Lawd!” The purchase of tickets poured
oil on the troubled waters. The Niobes wiped their eyes on their
jean-aprons and “Richard was himself again.” How the antics of the
clowns and the tricks of the ponies pleased the motley assemblage! Buck
Fanshaw’s funeral did not arouse half the enthusiasm in Virginia City
the first circus did in Burksville.

[Illustration: A WELCOME IN JUGS.]

It was necessary for me to visit Williamsburg, the county-seat of
Whitley, to record a stack of leases. Somerset was then the nearest
railway-point and the trip of fifty miles on horseback required a guide.
The arrival of a Northerner raised a regular commotion in the well-nigh
inaccessible settlement of four-hundred population. The landlord of the
public-house slaughtered his fattest chickens and set up a bed in the
front parlor to be sure of my comfort. The jailer’s fair daughter, who
was to be wedded that evening, kindly sent me an invitation to attend
the nuptials. By nine o’clock at night nearly every business-man and
official in the place had called to bid me welcome. Before noon next day
seventeen farmers, whose lands had been leased, rode into town to greet
me and learn when drilling would likely begin. Each insisted upon my
staying with him a week, “or es much longer es yo kin,” and fourteen of
them brought gallon-jugs of apple-jack, their own straight goods, for my
acceptance! Such a reception a king might envy, because it was entirely
unselfish, hearty and spontaneous. Williamsburg has got out of
swaddling-clothes, the railway putting it in touch with the balance of

Thirteen miles of land, in an unbroken line, on a meandering stream, had
been tied-up, with the exception of a single farm. The owner was
obdurate and refused to lease on any terms. Often lands not regarded
favorably as oil territory were taken to secure the right-of-way for
pipe-lines, as the leases conveyed this privilege. Driving past the
stubborn farmer’s homestead one afternoon, he was chopping wood in the
yard and strode to the gate to talk. His bright-eyed daughter of four
summers endeavored to clamber into the buggy. Handing the cute fairy in
coarse jeans a new silver-dollar, fresh from the Philadelphia mint, the
father caught sight of the shining coin.

“Hev yo mo’ ov ’em ’ar dollars about yo?” he asked.

“Plenty more.”

“Make out leases fur my three farms an’ me an’ the old woman’ll sign
’em! I want three ov ’em kines, for they be th’ slickest Demmycratic
money my eyes hes sot onto sence I fit with John Morgan!”

The documents were filled up, signed, sealed and delivered in fifteen
minutes. The chain of leased lands along Fanny Creek was intact, with
the “missing link” missing at last.

The simplicity of these dwellers in the wilderness was equaled only by
their apathy to the world beyond and around them. Parents loved their
children and husbands loved their wives in a quiet, unobtrusive fashion.
“She wuz a hard-workin’ woman,” moaned a middle-aged widower in Fentress
county, telling me of his deceased spouse, “an’ she allers wore a frock
five year, an’ she bed ’leven chil’ren, an’ she died right in
corn-shuckin’!” He was not stony-hearted, but twenty-five years of
married companionship meant to him just so many days’ work, so many
cheap frocks, child-bearing, corn-cake and bacon always ready on time.
Among these people woman was a drudge, who knew nothing of the higher
relations of life. Children were huddled into the hills to track game,
to follow the plough or to drop corn over many a weary acre. Reading and
writing were unknown accomplishments. Jackson, “the great tradition of
the uninformed American mind,” and Lincoln, whose name the tumult of a
mighty struggle had rendered familiar, were the only Presidents they had
ever heard of. “Where ignorance is bliss ’tis folly to be wise” may be a
sound poetical sentiment, but it was decidedly overdone in South-eastern
Kentucky and North-eastern Tennessee so recently as the year of the
Philadelphia Centennial.

Opposite the Hovey and Carter wells in Clinton county lives a portly
farmer who “is a good man and weighs two-hundred-and-fifty pounds.” He
is known far and wide as “Uncle John” and his wife, a pleasant-faced
little matron, is affectionately called “Aunt Rachel.” A log-church a
mile from “Uncle John’s” is situated on a pretty hill. There the young
folks are married, the children are baptized and the dead are buried.
The “June meetin’,” when services are held for a week, is the grand
incident of the year to the people for a score of miles. In December of
1893 Dr. Phillips, of Monticello, drove me to the wells. We stopped at
“Uncle John’s.” As we neared the house a dog barked and the hospitable
farmer came out to meet us. Behind him walked a man who greeted the
Doctor cordially. He glanced at me, recognition was mutual and we
clasped hands warmly. He was Alfred Murray, formerly connected with the
Pennsylvania-Consolidated Land-and-Petroleum-Company in Butler and at
Bradford. Fourteen years had glided away since we met and there were
many questions to ask and answer. He had been in the neighborhood a
twelvemonth, keeping tab on oil movements and indications, hoping,
longing and praying for the speedy advent of the petroleum-millenium. We
pumped the Hovey Well one hour, rambled over the hills and talked until
midnight about persons and things in Pennsylvania. Meeting in so dreary
a place, under such circumstances, was as thorough a surprise as
Stanley’s discovery of Livingstone in Darkest Africa. During our
conversation regarding the roughest portion of the county, bleak,
sterile and altogether repellant, selected by a hermit as his lonely
retreat, my friend remarked: “I have heard that the poor devil was
troubled with remorse and, as a sort of penance, vowed to live as near
Sheol as possible until he died!”

The stage that bore me from Monticello to Point Burnside on my homeward
journey stopped half-way to take up a countryman and an aged woman. Room
was found inside for the latter, a stout, motherly old creature, into
whose beaming face it did jaded mortals good to look. She said “howdy”
to the three passengers, a local trader, a farmer’s young wife and
myself, sat down solidly and fixed her gaze upon me intently. It was
evident the dear soul was fairly bursting with impatience to find out
about the stranger. Not a word was spoken until she could restrain her
inquisitive impulse no longer.

“Yo don’t liv’ eroun’ these air parts?” she interrogated.

“No, madam, my home is in Pennsylvania.”

“Land sakes! Be yo one ov ’em air ile-fellers?”


“Wal, I be orful glad ter see yo!” and she stretched out her hand and
shook mine vigorously. “Hope yo’re right peart, but yo’ be a long way
from home! Did yo see ’em wells over thar by Aunt Rachel’s?”

“Oh, yes, I saw the wells and stayed at Aunt Rachel’s all night.”

[Illustration: “I BE ORFUL GLAD TER SEE YO!”]

“I ain’t seed Aunt Rachel for nigh a year an’ a half. My old man bed
roomatiz and we couldn’t get ter meetin’ this summer. He sez thar’s ile
onto our farm. I be seventy-four an’ him on the ruf be my son’n-law. Yo
see he married, Jess did, my darter Sally an’ tha moved ter a place tha
call Kansas. Tha’s bin thar seventeen year an’ hes six chil’ren. Jess he
cum back las’ week ter see his fokeses an’ he be takin’ me ter Kansas
ter see Sally an’ the babies. I never seed ’em things Jess calls cyars,
an’ he sez tha ain’t drord by no hoss nuther! I wuz bo’n eight mile down
hyar an’ never wuz from home more’n eighteen mile, when we goes ter June
meetin’. But I be ter Monticeller six times.”

Truly this was a natural specimen, bubbling over with kindness,
unspoiled by fashion and envy and frivolity and superficial pretense.
Here was the counterpart of Cowper’s humble heroine, who “knew, and knew
no more, her Bible true.” The wheezy stage was brighter for her
presence. She told of her family, her cows, her pigs, her spinning and
her neighbors. She lived four miles from the Cumberland River, yet never
went to see a steamboat! When we alighted at the Burnside station and
the train dashed up she looked sorely perplexed. “Jess” helped her up
the steps and the “cyars” started. The whistle screeched, daylight
vanished and the train had entered the tunnel below the depot. A fearful
scream pierced the ears of the passengers. The good woman seventy-four
years old, who “never seed ’em things” before, was terribly frightened.
We tried to reassure her, but she begged to be let off. How “Jess”
managed to get her to Kansas safely may be imagined. But what a story
she would have to tell about the “cyars” and “Sally an’ the babies” when
she returned to her quiet home after such a trip! Bless her old heart!

[Illustration: “EF YO KNOW’D COUSIN JIM.”]

Although the broad hills and sweeping streams which grouped many sweet
panoramas might be dull and meaningless to the average Kentuckian of
former days, through some brains glowing visions flitted. Two miles
south of Columbia, Adair county, on the road to Burksville, a heap of
stones and pieces of rotting timber may still be seen. Fifty-five years
ago the man who owned the farm constructed a huge wheel, loaded with
rocks of different weights on its strong arms. Neighbors jeered and
ridiculed, just as scoffers laughed at Noah’s ark and thought it
wouldn’t be much of a shower anyway. The hour to start the wheel arrived
and its builder stood by. A rock on an arm of the structure slipped off
and struck him a fatal blow, felling him lifeless to the earth! He was a
victim of the craze to solve the problem of Perpetual Motion. Who can
tell what dreams and plans and fancies and struggles beset this obscure
genius, cut off at the moment he anticipated a triumph? The wheel was
permitted to crumble and decay, no human hand touching it more. The heap
of stones is a pathetic memento of a sad tragedy. Not far from the spot
Mark Twain was born and John Fitch whittled out the rough model of the
first steamboat.

Riding in Scott county, Tennessee, at full gallop on a rainy afternoon,
a cadaverous man emerged from a miserable hut and hailed me. The
dialogue was not prolonged unduly.

“Gen’ral,” he queried, “air yo th’ oilman frum Pennsylvany?”

“Yes, what can I do for you?”

“I jes’ wanted ter ax ef yo know’d my cousin Jim!”

“Who is your cousin Jim?”

“Law, Jim Sickles! I tho’t ez how ev’rybody know’d Jim! He went up No’th
arter th’ wah an’ ain’t cum back yit. Ef yo see ’im tell ’im yo seed

A promise to look out for “Jim” satisfied the verdant backwoodsman, who
probably had never been ten miles from his shanty and deemed “up No’th”
a place about the size of a Tennessee hunting-ground!

The South-Penn and the Forest Oil-Companies, branches of the Standard,
have drilled considerably in Kentucky and Tennessee, sometimes finding
oil in regular strata and occasionally encountering irregular
formations. More operating is required to determine precisely what place
to assign these pebbles on the beach as sources of oil-production.

          Fair women, pure Bourbon and men extra plucky,
          No wonder blue-grass folks esteem themselves lucky—
          But wait till the oil-boom gets down to Kentucky!

          Let Fortune assume forms and fancies Protean,
          No matter for that, there will rise a loud pæan
          So long as oil gladdens the proud Tennesseean!





                         A HOLE IN THE GROUND.



“Was it not time that Cromwell should come?”—_Edwin Paxton Hood._

“He who would get at the kernel must crack the shell.”—_Plautus._

“We should at least do something to show that we have lived.”—_Cicero._

“I have tapped the mine.”—_E. L. Drake._

“Petroleum has come to be King.”—_W. D. Gunning._

“It is our mission to illuminate all creation.”—_Robert Bonner._

“Tell the truth or trump, but take the trick.”—_Mark Twain._

“How far that little candle throws his beams!”—_Shakespeare._

“Behold how great a matter a little fire kindleth.”—_St. James iii:5._

“Judge of the size of the statue of Hercules from that of the
    foot.”—_Latin Proverb._


Nature certainly spared no effort to bring petroleum into general notice
ages before James Young manufactured paraffine-oil in Scotland or Samuel
M. Kier fired-up his miniature refinery at Pittsburg. North and south,
east and west the presence of the greasy staple was manifested
positively and extensively. The hump of a dromedary, the kick of a mule
or the ruby blossom on a toper’s nose could not be more apparent. It
bubbled in fountains, floated on rivulets, escaped from crevices,
collected in pools, blazed on the plains, gurgled down the mountains,
clogged the ozone with vapor, smelled and sputtered, trickled and seeped
for thousands of years in vain attempts to divert attention towards the
_source_ of this prodigal display. Mankind accepted it as a liniment and
lubricant, gulped it down, rubbed it in, smeared it on and never thought
of seeking whence it came or how much of it might be procured. Even
after salt-wells had produced the stuff none stopped to reflect that the
golden grease must be imprisoned far beneath the earth’s surface, only
awaiting release to bless the dullards callous to the strongest hints
respecting its headquarters. The dunce who heard Sydney Smith’s
side-splitting story and sat as solemn as the sphinx, because he
couldn’t see any point until the next day and then got it heels over
head, was less obtuse. Puck was right in his little pleasantry: “What
fools these mortals be!”

Dr. Abraham Gesner obtained oil from coal in 1846 and in 1854 patented
an illuminator styled “Kerosene,” which the North American Kerosene
Gaslight Company of New York manufactured at its works on Long Island.
The excellence of the new light—the smoke and odor were eliminated
gradually—caused a brisk demand that froze the marrow of the animal-oil
industry. Capitalists invested largely in Virginia, Kentucky and
Missouri coal-lands, saving the expense of transporting the “raw
material” by erecting oil-works at the mines. Exactly in the ratio that
mining coal was cheaper than catching whales mineral-oil had the
advantage in competing for a market. Realizing this, men owning fish-oil
works preserved them from extinction by manufacturing the
mineral-product Young and Gesner had introduced. Thus Samuel Downer’s
half-million-dollar works near Boston and colossal plant at Portland
were utilized. Downer had expanded ideas and remarked with
characteristic emphasis, in reply to a friend who criticised him for the
risk he ran in putting up an enormous refinery at Corry, as the
oil-production might exhaust: “The Almighty never does a picayune
business!” Fifty or sixty of these works were turning out oil from
bituminous shales in 1859, when the influx of petroleum compelled their
conversion into refineries to avert overwhelming loss. Maine had one,
Massachusetts five, New York five, Pennsylvania eight, Ohio twenty-five,
Kentucky six, Virginia eight, Missouri one and one was starting in
McKean county, near Kinzua village. The Carbon Oil-Company, 184 Water
street, New York City, was the chief dealer in the illuminant. The
entire petroleum-traffic in 1858 was barely eleven-hundred barrels, most
of it obtained from Tarentum. A shipment of twelve barrels to New York
in November, 1857, may be considered the beginning of the history of
petroleum as an illuminator. How the baby has grown!

The price of “kerosene” or “carbon-oil,” always high, advanced to two
dollars a gallon! Nowadays people grudge ten cents a gallon for oil
vastly clearer, purer, better and safer! One good result of the high
prices was an exhaustive scrutiny by the foremost scientific authorities
into all the varieties of coal and bitumen, out of which comparisons
with petroleum developed incidentally. Belief in its identity with
coal-oil prompted the investigations which finally determined the
economic value of petroleum. Professor B. Silliman, Jun., Professor of
Chemistry in Yale College, in the spring of 1855 concluded a thorough
analysis of petroleum from a “spring” on Oil Creek, nearly two miles
south of Titusville, where traces of pits cribbed with rough timber
still remained and the sticky fluid had been skimmed for two
generations. In the course of his report Professor Silliman observed:

“It is understood and represented that this product exists in great
abundance on the property; that it can be gathered wherever a well is
sunk, over a great number of acres, and that it is unfailing in its
yield from year to year. The question naturally arises, Of what value is
it in the arts and for what uses can it be employed? * * * The Crude-Oil
was tried as a means of illumination. For this purpose a weighed
quantity was decomposed by passing it through a wrought-iron retort
filled with carbon and ignited to redness. It produced nearly pure
carburetted hydrogen gas, the most highly illuminating of all carbon
gases. In fact, the oil may be regarded as chemically identical with
illuminating gas in a liquid form. It burned with an intense flame. * *
* The light from the rectified Naphtha is pure and white, without odor,
and the rate of consumption less than half that of Camphene or
Rosin-Oil. * * * Compared with Gas, the Rock-Oil gave more light than
any burner, except the costly Argand, consuming two feet of gas per
hour. These photometric experiments have given the Oil a much higher
value as an illuminator than I had dared to hope. * * * As this oil does
not gum or become acid or rancid by exposure, it possesses in that, as
well as in its wonderful resistance to extreme cold, important qualities
for a lubricator. * * * It is worthy of note that my experiments prove
that nearly the _whole_ of the raw product may be manufactured without
waste, solely by one of the most simple of all chemical processes.”

Notwithstanding these researches, which he spent five months in
prosecuting, the idea of artesian-boring for petroleum—naturally
suggested by the oil in the salines of the Muskingum, Kanawha,
Cumberland and Allegheny—never occurred to the learned Professor of
Chemistry in Yale! If he had been the Yale football, with Hickok
swatting it five-hundred pounds to the square inch, the idea might have
been pummeled into the man of crucibles and pigments! Once more was
nature frustrated in the endeavor to “bring out” a favorite child. The
faithful dog that attempted to drag a fat man by the seat of his pants
to the rescue of a drowning master, or Diogenes in his protracted quest
for an honest Athenian, had an easier task. The “spring” which furnished
the material for Silliman’s experiments was on the Willard farm, part of
the lands of Brewer, Watson & Co.—Ebenezer Brewer and James Rynd,
Pittsburg, Jonathan Watson, Rexford Pierce and Elijah Newberry,
Titusville—extensive lumbermen on Oil Creek. They ran a sawmill on an
island near the east bank of the creek, at a bend in the stream, a few
rods south of the boundary-line between Venango and Crawford counties.
Close to the mill was the rusty-looking “spring” from which the oil to
burn in rude lamps, smoky and chimneyless, and to lubricate the circular
saw was derived. The following document explains the first action
retarding the care and development of the “spring.”

“Agreed this fourth day of July, A.D. 1853, with J. D. Angier, of
Cherrytree Township, in the County of Venango, Pa., that he shall repair
up and keep in order the old oil-spring on land in said Cherrytree
township, or dig and make new springs, and the expenses to be deducted
out of the proceeds of the oil and the balance, if any, to be equally
divided, the one-half to J. D. Angier and the other half to Brewer,
Watson & Co., for the full term of five years from this date, if

All parties signed this agreement, pursuant to which Angier, for many
years a resident of Titusville, dug trenches centering in a basin from
which a pump connected with the sawmill raised the water into shallow
troughs that sloped to the ground. Small skimmers, nicely adjusted to
skim the oil, collected three or four gallons a day, but the experiment
did not pay and it was dropped. In the summer of 1854 Dr. F. B. Brewer,
son of the senior member of the firm owning the mill and “spring,”
visited relatives at Hanover, New Hampshire, carrying with him a bottle
of the oil as a gift to Professor Crosby, of Dartmouth College. Shortly
after George H. Bissell, a graduate of the college, practicing law in
New York with Jonathan G. Eveleth, while on a visit to Hanover called to
see Professor Crosby, who showed him the bottle of petroleum. Crosby’s
son induced Bissell to pay the expenses of a trip to inspect the
“spring” and to agree, in case of a satisfactory report, to organize a
company with a capital of a quarter-million dollars to purchase lands
and erect such machinery as might be required to collect all the oil in
the vicinity.

        “Great minds never limit their designs in their plans.”

Complications and misunderstandings retarded matters. Everything was
adjusted at last. Brewer, Watson & Co. conveyed in fee-simple to George
H. Bissell and Jonathan G. Eveleth one-hundred-and-five acres of land in
Cherrytree township, embracing the island at the junction of Pine Creek
and Oil Creek, on which the mill of the firm and the Angier ditches were
situated. The deed was formally executed on January first, 1855. Eveleth
and Bissell gave their own notes for the purchase-money—five-thousand
dollars—less five-hundred dollars paid in cash. The consideration
mentioned in the deed was twenty-five-thousand dollars, five times the
actual sum, in order not to appear such a small fraction of the total
capital—two-hundred-and-fifty-thousand dollars—as to injure the sale of
stock. On December thirtieth, 1854, articles of incorporation of The
Pennsylvania Rock-Oil-Company were filed in New York and Albany. The
stock did not sell, owing to the prostration of the money-market and the
fact that the company had been organized in New York, by the laws of
which state each shareholder in a joint-stock company was liable for its
debts to the amount of the par value of the stock he held. New-Haven
parties agreed to subscribe for large blocks of stock if the company
were reorganized under the laws of Connecticut. A new company was formed
with a nominal capital of three-hundred-thousand dollars, to take the
name and property of the one to be dissolved and levy an assessment to
develop the island “by trenching” on a wholesale plan.

Eveleth & Bissell retained a controlling interest and Ashael Pierpont,
James M. Townsend and William A. Ives were three of the New-Haven
stockholders. Bissell visited Titusville to complete the transfer. On
January sixteenth he and his partner had given a deed, which was not
recorded, to the trustees of the original company. At Titusville he
learned that lands of corporations organized outside of Pennsylvania
would be forfeited to the state. The new company was notified of this
law and to avoid trouble, on September twentieth, 1855, Eveleth &
Bissell executed a deed to Pierpont and Ives, who gave a bond for the
value of the property and leased it for ninety-nine years to a company
formed two days before under certain articles of association. It really
seemed that something definite would be done. The first oil-company in
the history of nations had been organized. Pierpont, an eminent
mechanic, was sent to examine the “spring,” with a view to improve
Angier’s machinery. Silliman’s reports had a stimulating effect and the
Professor was president of the company. But the monkey-and-parrot time
was renewed. Dissensions broke out, Angier was fired and the enterprise
looked to be “as dead as Julius Cæsar,” ready to bury “a hundred fathoms


One scorching day in the summer of 1856 Mr. Bissell, standing beneath
the awning of a Broadway drug-store for a moment’s shade, noticed a
bottle of Kier’s Petroleum and a queer show-bill, or label, in the
window. It struck him as rather odd that a four-hundred-dollar bill—such
it appeared—should be displayed in that manner. A second glance proved
that it was an advertisement of a substance that concerned him deeply.
He stepped inside and requested permission to scan the label. The
druggist told him to “take it along.” For an instant he gazed at the
derricks and the figures—four-hundred feet! A thought flashed upon
him—bore artesian wells for oil! Artesian wells! Artesian wells! rang in
his ears like the Trinity chimes down the street, the bells of London
telling “Dick” Whittington to return or the pibroch of the Highlanders
at Lucknow. The idea that meant so much was born at last. Patient nature
must have felt in the mood to turn somersaults, blow a tin-horn and
dance the fandango. It was a simple thought—merely to bore a hole in the
rock—with no frills and furbelows and fustian, but pregnant with
astounding consequences. It has added untold millions to the wealth of
the country and conferred incalculable benefits upon humanity. To-day
refined petroleum lights more dwellings in America, Europe, Asia, Africa
and Australia than all other agencies combined.

To put the idea to the test was the next wrinkle. Mr. Eveleth agreed
with Bissell’s theory. Their first impulse was to bore a well
themselves. Reflection cooled their ardor, as this course would involve
the loss of their practice for an uncertainty. Mr. Havens, a Wall-street
broker, whom they consulted, offered them five-hundred dollars for a
lease from the Pennsylvania Rock-Oil Company. A contract with Havens, by
the terms of which he was to pay “twelve cents a gallon for all oil
raised for fifteen years,” financial reverses prevented his carrying
out. The idea of artesian boring was too fascinating to lie dormant. Mr.
Townsend, president of the company, Silliman having resigned, employed
Edwin L. Drake, to whom in the darker days of its existence he had sold
two-hundred-dollars’ worth of his own stock, to visit the property and
report his impressions. Mrs. Brewer and Mrs. Rynd had not joined in the
power-of-attorney by which the agent conveyed the Brewer-Watson lands to
the company, hence they would be entitled to dower in case the husbands
died. Drake was instructed to return by way of Pittsburg and procure
their signatures. Illness had forced him to quit work—he was conductor
on the New-York & New-Haven Railroad—for some months and the opportunity
for change of air and scene was embraced gladly. Shrewd, far-seeing
Townsend, who still lives in New Haven and has been credited with “the
discovery” of petroleum, addressed legal documents and letters to
“Colonel” Drake, no doubt supposing this would enhance the importance of
his representative in the eyes of the Oil-Creek backwoodsmen. The
military title stuck to the diffident civilian whose name is interwoven
with the great events of the nineteenth century.

[Illustration: JONATHAN TITUS.]

Stopping on his way from New Haven to view the salt-wells at Syracuse,
about the middle of December, 1857, Colonel Drake was trundled into
Titusville—named from Jonathan Titus—on the mail-wagon from Erie. The
villagers received him cordially. He lodged at the American Hotel, the
home-like inn “Billy” Robinson, the first boniface, and Major Mills,
king of landlords, rendered famous by their bountiful hospitality. The
old caravansary was torn down in 1880 to furnish a site for the Oil
Exchange. Drake stayed a few days to transact legal business, to examine
the lands and the indications of oil and to become familiar with the
general details. Proceeding to Pittsburg, he visited the salt-wells at
Tarentum, the picture of which on Kier’s label suggested boring for oil,
and hastened back to Connecticut to conclude a scheme of operating the
property. On December thirtieth the three New-Haven directors executed a
lease to Edwin E. Bowditch and Edwin L. Drake, who were to pay the
Pennsylvania Rock-Oil-Company “five-and-a-half cents a gallon for the
oil raised for fifteen years.” Eight days later, at the annual meeting
of the directors, the lease was ratified, George H. Bissell and Jonathan
Watson, representing two-thirds of the stock, protesting. Thereupon the
consideration was placed at “one-eighth of all oil, salt or paint
produced.” The lease was sent to Franklin and recorded in Deed Book P,
page 357. A supplemental lease, extending the time to forty-five years
on the conditions of the grant to Havens, was recorded, and on March
twenty-third, 1858, the Seneca Oil-Company was organized, with Colonel
Drake as president and owner of one-fortieth of the “stock.” No stock
was issued, for the company was in reality a partnership working under
the laws governing joint-stock associations.


Provided with a fund of one-thousand dollars as a starter, Drake was
engaged at one-thousand dollars a year to begin operations. Early in
May, 1858, he and his family arrived in Titusville and were quartered at
the American Hotel, which boarded the Colonel, Mrs. Drake, two children
and a horse for six-dollars-and-a-half per week! Money was scarce,
provisions were cheap and the quiet village put on no extravagant airs.
Not a pick or shovel was to be had in any store short of Meadville,
whither Drake was obliged to send for these useful tools! Behold, then,
“the man who was to revolutionize the light of the world,” his mind full
of a grand purpose and his pockets full of cash, snugly ensconced in the
comfortable hostelry. Surely the curtain would soon rise and the drama
of “A Petroleum-Hunt” proceed without further vexatious delays.

Drake’s first step was to repair and start up Angier’s system of
trenches, troughs and skimmers. By the end of June he had dug a shallow
well on the island and was saving ten gallons of oil a day. He found it
difficult to get a practical “borer” to sink an artesian-well. In August
he shipped two barrels of oil to New Haven and bargained for a
steam-engine to furnish power for drilling. The engine was not furnished
as agreed, the “borer” Dr. Brewer hired at Pittsburg had another
contract and operations were suspended for the winter. In February,
1859, Drake went to Tarentum and engaged a driller to come in March. The
driller failed to materialize and Drake drove to Tarentum in a sleigh to
lasso another. F. N. Humes, who was cleaning out salt-wells for
Peterson, informed him that the tools were made by William A. Smith,
whom he might be able to secure for the job. Smith accepted the offer to
manufacture tools and bore the well. Kim Hibbard, favorably known in
Franklin, was dispatched with his team, when the tools were completed,
for Smith, his two sons and the outfit. On May twentieth the men and
tools were at the spot selected for the hole. A “pump-house” had been
framed and a derrick built. A room for “boarding the hands” almost
joined the rig and the sawmill. The accompanying illustration shows the
well as it was at first, with the original derrick enclosed to the top,
the “grasshopper walking-beam,” the “boarding-house” and part of the
mill-shed. “Uncle Billy” Smith is seated on a wheelbarrow in the
foreground. His sons, James and William, are standing on either side of
the “pump-house” entrance. Back of James his two young sisters are
sitting on a board. Elbridge Lock stands to the right of the Smiths.
“Uncle Billy’s” brother is leaning on a plank at the corner of the
derrick and his wife may be discerned in the doorway of the
“boarding-house.” This interesting and historic picture has never been
printed until now. The one with which the world is acquainted depicts
the _second_ rig, with Peter Wilson, a Titusville druggist, facing
Drake. In like manner, the portrait of Colonel Drake in this volume is
from the first photograph for which he ever sat. The well and the
portrait are the work of John A. Mather, the veteran artist and Drake’s
bosom-friend, who ought to receive a pension and no end of gratitude for
preserving “counterfeit presentments” of a host of petroleum-scenes and
personages that have passed from mortal sight.

Delays and tribulations had not retreated from the field. In
artesian-boring it is necessary to drill in rock. Mrs. Glasse’s old-time
cook-book gained celebrity by starting a recipe for rabbit-pie: “First
catch your hare.” The principle applies to artesian-drilling: “First
catch your rock.” The ordinary rule was to dig a pit or well-hole to the
rock and crib it with timber. The Smiths dug a few feet, but the hole
filled with water and caved-in persistently. It was a fight-to-a-finish
between three men and what Stow of Girard—he was Barnum’s hot-stuff
advance agent—wittily termed “the cussedness of inanimate things.” The
latter won and a council of war was summoned, at which Drake recommended
driving an iron-tube through the clay and quicksand to the rock. This
was effectual. Colonel Drake should have patented the process, which was
his exclusive device and decidedly valuable. The pipe was driven
thirty-six feet to hard-pan and the drill started on August fourteenth.
The workmen averaged three feet a day, resting at night and on Sundays.
Indications of oil were met as the tools pierced the rock. Everybody
figured that the well would be down to the Tarentum level in time to
celebrate Christmas. The company, tired of repeated postponements, did
not deluge Drake with money. Losing speculations and sickness had
drained his own meagre savings. R. D. Fletcher, the well-known
Titusville merchant, and Peter Wilson endorsed his paper for six-hundred
dollars to tide over the crisis. The tools pursued the downward road
with the eagerness of a sinner headed for perdition, while expectation
stood on tiptoe to watch the progress of events.

On Saturday afternoon, August twenty-eighth, 1859, the well had reached
the depth of sixty-nine feet, in a coarse sand. Smith and his sons
concluded to “lay off” until Monday morning. As they were about to quit
the drill dropped six inches into a crevice such as was common in
salt-wells. Nothing was thought of this circumstance, the tools were
drawn out and all hands adjourned to Titusville. Mr. Smith went to the
well on Sunday afternoon to see if it had moved away or been purloined
during the night. Peering into the hole he saw fluid within eight or ten
feet. A piece of tin-spouting was lying outside. He plugged one end of
the spout, let it down by a string and pulled it up. Muddy water? No! It
was filled with PETROLEUM!

“The fisherman, unassisted by destiny, could not catch fish in the

That was the proudest hour in “Uncle Billy” Smith’s forty-seven years’
pilgrimage. Not daring to leave the spot, he ran the spout again and
again, each time bringing it to the surface full of oil. A straggler out
for a stroll approached, heard the story, sniffed the oil and bore the
tidings to the village. Darkness was setting in, but the Smith boys
sprinted to the scene. When Colonel Drake came down, bright and early
next morning, they and their father were guarding three barrels of the
precious liquid. The pumping apparatus was adjusted and by noon the well
commenced producing at the rate of twenty barrels a day! The problem of
the ages was solved, the agony ended and petroleum fairly launched upon
its astonishing career.

The news flew like a Dakota cyclone. Villagers and country-folk flocked
to the wonderful well. Smith wrote to Peterson, his former employer:
“Come quick, there’s oceans of oil!” Jonathan Watson jumped on a horse
and galloped down the creek to lease the McClintock farm, where
Nathanael Cary dipped oil and a timbered crib had been constructed.
Henry Potter, still a citizen of Titusville, tied up the lands for miles
along the stream, hoping to interest New York capital. William Barnsdall
secured the farm north of the Willard. George H. Bissell, who had
arranged to be posted by telegraph, bought all the Pennsylvania Rock-Oil
stock he could find and in four days was at the well. He leased farm
after farm on Oil Creek and the Allegheny River, regardless of
surface-indications or the admonition of meddling wiseacres.

The rush for property resembled the wild scramble of the children when
the Pied Piper of Hamelin blew his fatal reed. Titusville was in a
whirlpool of excitement. Buildings arose as if by magic, the hamlet
became a borough and the borough a city of fifteen-thousand inhabitants.
Maxwell Titus sold lots at two-hundred dollars, people acquired homes
that doubled in value and speculation held undisputed sway. Jonathan
Titus, from whom it was named, lived to witness the farm he cleared
transformed into “The Queen City,” noted for its tasteful residences,
excellent schools, manufactories, refineries and active population. One
of his neighbors in the bush was Samuel Kerr, whose son Michael went to
Congress and served as Speaker of the House. Many enterprising men
settled in Titusville for the sake of their families. They paved the
streets, planted shade-trees, fostered local industries, promoted
culture and believed in public improvements. When Christine Nilsson
enraptured sixteen-hundred well-dressed, appreciative listeners in the
Parshall Opera-House, the peerless songstress could not refrain from
saying that she never saw an audience so keen to note the finer points
of her performance and so discriminating in its applause. “Praise from
Sir Hubert is praise indeed” and the compliment of the Swedish
Nightingale compressed a whole encyclopedia into a sentence. Titusville
has had its ups and downs, but there is no more desirable place in the

                “Auld Ayr, wham ne’er a town surpasses.”

[Illustration: MAIN STREET, TITUSVILLE, IN 1861.]

[Illustration: DANIEL CADY.]

Matches are supposed to be made in Heaven and the inspiration that led
to the choice of such a site for the future city must have been derived
from the same source. Healthfulness and beauty of location attest the
wisdom of the selection. Folks don’t have to climb precipitous hills or
risk life and limb crossing railway-tracks whenever they wish to
exercise their fast nags. Driving is a favorite pastime in fine weather,
the leading thoroughfares often reminding strangers of Central Park on a
coaching-day. Main, Walnut and Perry streets are lined with trees and
residences worthy of Philadelphia or Baltimore. Comfortable homes are
the crowning glory of a community and in this respect Titusville does
not require to take a back-seat. Near the lower end of Main street is
Ex-Mayor Caldwell’s elegant mansion, built by Jonathan Watson in the
days of his prosperity. Farther up are John Fertig’s, the late Marcus
Brownson’s, Mrs. David Emery’s and Mrs. A. N. Perrin’s. Franklin S.
Tarbell, a former resident of Rouseville, occupies an attractive house.
Joseph Seep, who has not changed an iota since the halcyon period of
Parker and Foxburg, shows his faith in the town by building a home that
would adorn Cleveland’s aristocratic Euclid Avenue. The host is the
cordial Seep of yore, quick to make a point and not a bit backward in
helping a friend. David McKelvy, whom everybody knew in the lower
oil-fields, remodeled the Chase homestead, a symphony in red brick.
Close by is W. T. Scheide’s natty dwelling, finished in a style
befitting the ex-superintendent of the National-Transit Pipe-Lines.
Byron D. Benson—he died in 1889—nine times elected president of the
Tidewater Pipe-Line-Company, lived on the corner of Oak and Perry
streets. Opposite is John L. McKinney’s luxurious residence, a credit to
the liberal owner and the city. J. C. McKinney’s is “one of the finest.”
James Parshall, W. B. Sterrett, O. D. Harrington, J. P. Thomas, W. W.
Thompson, Charles Archbold and hundreds more erected dwellings that
belong to the palatial tribe. Dr. Roberts—he’s in the cemetery—had a
spacious place on Washington street, with the costliest stable in
seventeen counties. E. O. Emerson’s house and grounds are the admiration
of visitors. The grand fountain, velvet lawns, smooth walks, tropical
plants, profusion of flowers, mammoth conservatory and Marechal-Niel
rose-bushes bewilder the novice whose knowledge of floral affairs stops
at button-hole bouquets. George K. Anderson—dead, too—constructed this
delightful retreat. Col. J. J. Carter, whose record as a military
officer, merchant, railroad-president and oil-operator will stand
inspection, has an ideal home, purchased from John D. Archbold and
refitted throughout. It was built and furnished extravagantly by Daniel
Cady, once a leading spirit in the business and social life of
Titusville. He was a man of imposing presence and indomitable pluck, the
confidant of Jay Gould and “Jim” Fisk, dashing, speculative and popular.
For years whatever he touched seemed to turn into gold and he computed
his dollars by hundreds of thousands. Days of adversity overtook him,
the splendid home was sacrificed and he died poor. To men of the stamp
of Watson, Anderson, Abbott, Emery, Fertig and Cady Titusville owes its
real start in the direction of greatness. Much of the froth and fume of
former days is missing, but the baser elements have been eliminated,
trade is on a solid basis and important manufactures have been
established. There are big refineries, Holly water-works, a race-track,
ball-grounds, top-notch hotels, live newspapers, inviting churches and a
lovely cemetery in which to plant good citizens when they pass in their
checks. Pilgrims who expect to find Titusville dead or dying will be as
badly fooled as the lover whose girl eloped with the other fellow.

Unluckily for himself, Colonel Drake took a narrow view of affairs.
Complacently assuming that he had “tapped the mine”—to quote his own
phrase—and that paying territory would not be found outside the
company’s lease, he pumped the well serenely, told funny stories and
secured not one foot of ground! Had he possessed a particle of the
prophetic instinct, had he grasped the magnitude of the issues at stake,
had he appreciated the importance of petroleum as a commercial product,
had he been able to “see an inch beyond his nose,” he would have gone
forth that August morning and become “Master of the Oil Country!” “The
world was all before him where to choose,” he was literally “monarch of
all he surveyed,” but he didn’t move a peg! Money was not needed, the
promise of one-eighth or one-quarter royalty satisfying the easy-going
farmers, consequently he might have gathered in any quantity of land.
Friends urged him to “get into the game;” he rejected their counsel and
never realized his mistake until other wells sent prices skyward and it
was everlastingly too late for his short pole to knock the persimmons.
Yet this is the man whom numerous writers have proclaimed “the
discoverer of petroleum!” Times without number it has been said and
written and printed that he was “the first man to advise boring for
oil,” that “his was the first mind to conceive the idea of penetrating
the rock in search of a larger deposit of oil than was dreamed of by any
one,” that “he alone unlocked one of nature’s vast storehouses” and “had
visions of a revolution in light and lubrication.” Considering what
Kier, Peterson, Bissell and Watson had done years before Drake ever
saw—perhaps ever heard of—a drop of petroleum, the absurdity of these
claims is “so plain that he who runs may read.” Couple with this his
incredible failure to secure lands after the well was drilled—wholly
inexcusable if he supposed oil-operations would ever be important—and
the man who thinks Colonel Drake was “the first man with a clear
conception of the future of petroleum” could swallow the fish that
swallowed Jonah!

Above all else history should be truthful and “hew to the line, let
chips fall where they may.” Mindful that “the agent is but the
instrument of the principal,” why should Colonel Drake wear the laurels
in this instance? Paid a salary to carry out Bissell’s plan of boring an
artesian-well, he spent sixteen months getting the hole down seventy
feet. For a man who “had visions” and “a clear conception” his movements
were inexplicably slow. He encountered obstacles, but salt-wells had
been drilled hundreds of feet without either a steam-engine or
professional “borer.” The credit of suggesting the driving-pipe to
overcome the quicksand is justly his due. Quite as justly the credit of
suggesting the boring of the well belongs to George H. Bissell. The
company hired Drake, Drake hired Smith, Smith did the work. Back of the
man who possessed the skill to fashion the tools and sink the hole, back
of the man who acted for the company and disbursed its money, back of
the company itself is the originator of the idea these were the means
employed to put into effect. Was George Stephenson, or the foreman of
the shop where the “Rocket” was built, the inventor of the locomotive?
Was Columbus, or the man whose name it bears, the discoverer of America?
In a conversation on the subject Mr. Bissell remarked: “Let Colonel
Drake enjoy the pleasure of giving the well his name; history will set
us all right.” So it will and this is a step in that direction. If the
long-talked-of monument to commemorate the advent of the petroleum-era
ever be erected, it should bear in boldest capitals the names of Samuel
M. Kier and George H. Bissell.

Edwin L. Drake, who is linked inseparably with the first oil-well in
Pennsylvania, was born on March eleventh, 1819, at Greenville, Greene
county, New York. His father, a farmer, moved to Vermont in 1825. At
eighteen Edwin left home to begin the struggle with the world. He was
night-clerk of a boat running between Buffalo and Detroit, worked one
year on a farm in the Wolverine state, clerked two years in a Michigan
hotel, returned east and clerked in a dry-goods store at New Haven,
clerked and married in New York, removed to Massachusetts, was
express-agent on the Boston & Albany railroad and resigned in 1849 to
become conductor on the New-York & New-Haven. His younger brother died
in the west and his wife at New Haven, in 1854, leaving one child. While
boarding at a hotel in New Haven he met James M. Townsend, who persuaded
him to draw his savings of two-hundred dollars from the bank and buy
stock of the Pennsylvania Rock-Oil-Company, his first connection with
the business that was to make him famous. Early in 1857 he married Miss
Laura Dow, sickness in the summer compelled him to cease punching
tickets and his memorable visit to Titusville followed in December. In
1860 he was elected justice-of-the-peace, an office worth
twenty-five-hundred dollars that year, because of the enormous number of
property-transfers to prepare and acknowledge. Buying oil on commission
for Shefflin Brothers, New York, swelled his income to five-thousand
dollars for a year or two. He also bought twenty-five acres of land from
Jonathan Watson, east of Martin street and through the center of which
Drake street now runs, for two-thousand dollars. Unable to meet the
mortgage given for part of the payment, he sold the block in 1863 to Dr.
A. D. Atkinson for twelve-thousand dollars. Forty times this sum would
not have bought it in 1867! With the profits of this transaction and his
savings for five years, in all about sixteen-thousand dollars, in the
summer of 1863 Colonel Drake left the oil-regions forever.

Entering into partnership with a Wall-street broker, he wrecked his
small fortune speculating in oil-stocks, his health broke down and he
removed to Vermont. Physicians ordered him to the seaside as the only
remedy for his disease, neuralgic affection of the spine, which
threatened paralysis of the limbs and caused intense suffering. Near
Long Branch, in a cottage offered by a friend, Mr. and Mrs. Drake drank
the bitter cup to the dregs. Their funds were exhausted, the patient
needed constant attention and helpless children cried for bread. The
devoted wife and mother attempted to earn a pittance with her needle,
but could not keep the wolf of hunger from the door. Medicine for the
sick man was out of the question. All this time men in the region the
Drake well had opened to the world were piling up millions of dollars!
One day in 1869, with eighty cents to pay his fare, Colonel Drake
struggled into New York to seek a place for his twelve-year-old boy. The
errand was fruitless. The distressed father was walking painfully on the
street to the railway-station, to board the train for home, when he met
“Zeb” Martin of Titusville, afterwards proprietor of the Hotel
Brunswick. Mr. Martin noted his forlorn condition, inquired as to his
circumstances, learned the sad story of actual privation, procured
dinner, gave the poor fellow twenty dollars and cheered him with the
assurance that he would raise a fund for his relief. The promise was

At a meeting in Titusville the case was stated and forty-two hundred
dollars were subscribed. The money was forwarded to Mrs. Drake, who
husbanded it carefully. The terrible recital aroused such a feeling that
the Legislature, in 1873, granted Colonel Drake an annuity of
fifteen-hundred dollars during his life and his heroic wife’s.
California had set a good example by giving Colonel Sutter, the
discoverer of gold in the mill-race, thirty-five-hundred dollars a year.
The late Thaddeus Stevens, “the Great Commoner,” hearing that Drake was
actually in want, prepared a bill, found among his papers after his
death, intending to present it before Congress for an appropriation of
two-hundred-and-fifty-thousand dollars for Colonel Drake. In 1870 the
family removed to Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Years of suffering, borne
with sublime resignation, closed on the evening of November ninth, 1881,
with the release of Edwin L. Drake from this vale of tears. A faithful
wife and four children survived the petroleum-pioneer. They lived at
Bethlehem until the spring of 1895 and then moved to New England.
Colonel Drake was a man of pronounced individuality, affable, genial and
kindly. He had few superiors as a story-teller, neither caroused nor
swore, and was of unblemished character. He wore a full beard, dressed
well, liked a good horse, looked every man straight in the face and his
dark eyes sparkled when he talked. Gladly he laid down the heavy burden
of a checkered life, with its afflictions and vicissitudes, for the
peaceful rest of the grave.

           “Since every man who lives is born to die * * *
           Like pilgrims to the appointed place we tend;
           The world’s an inn, and death the journey’s end.”

George H. Bissell, honorably identified with the petroleum-development
from its inception, was a New-Hampshire boy. Thrown upon his own
resources at twelve, by the death of his father, he gained education and
fortune unaided. At school and college he supported himself by teaching
and writing for magazines. Graduating from Dartmouth College in 1845, he
was professor of Greek and Latin in Norwich University a short time,
went to Washington and Cuba, did editorial work for the New Orleans
_Delta_ and was chosen superintendent of the public schools. Impaired
health forced him to return north in 1853, when his connection with
petroleum began. From 1859 to 1863 he resided at Franklin, Venango
county, to be near his oil-interests. He operated largely on Oil Creek,
on the Allegheny river and at Franklin, where he erected a
barrel-factory. He removed to New York in 1863, established the Bissell
Bank at Petroleum Centre in 1866, developed oil-lands in Peru and was
prominent in financial circles. His wife died in 1867 and long since he
followed her to the tomb. Mr. Bissell was a brilliant, scholarly man,
positive in his convictions and sure to make his influence felt in any
community. His son and daughter reside in New York.

                        “Pass some few years,
          Thy flowering Spring, thy Summer’s ardent strength,
          Thy sober Autumn fading into age,
          And pale concluding Winter comes at last
          And shuts the scene.”

William A. Smith, born in Butler county in 1812, at the age of twelve
was apprenticed at Freeport to learn blacksmithing. In 1827 he went to
Pittsburg and in 1842 opened a blacksmith-shop at Salina, below
Tarentum. Samuel M. Kier employed him to drill salt-wells and
manufacture drilling-tools. After finishing the Drake well, he drilled
in various sections of the oil-regions, retiring to his farm in Butler a
few years prior to his death, on October twenty-third, 1890. “Uncle
Billy,” as the boys affectionately called him, was no small factor in
giving to mankind the illuminator that enlightens every quarter of the
globe. The farm he owned in 1859 and on which he died proved good

Dr. Francis B. Brewer was born in New Hampshire, studied medicine in
Philadelphia and practiced in Vermont. His father in 1840 purchased
several thousand acres of land on Oil Creek for lumbering, and the firm
of Brewer, Watson & Co. was promptly organized. Oil from the “spring” on
the island at the mouth of Pine Creek was sent to the young physician in
1848 and used in his practice. He visited the locality in 1850 and was
admitted to the firm. Upon the completion of the Drake well he devoted
his time to the extensive oil-operations of the partnership for four
years. In 1864 Brewer, Watson & Co. sold the bulk of their oil-territory
and the doctor, who had settled at Westfield, Chautauqua county, N. Y.,
instituted the First National Bank, of which he was chosen president. A
man of solid worth and solid wealth, he has served as a Member of
Assembly and is deservedly respected for integrity and benevolence.

Jonathan Watson, whose connection with petroleum goes back to the
beginning of developments, arrived at Titusville in 1845 to manage the
lumbering and mercantile business of his firm. The hamlet contained ten
families and three stores. Deer and wild-turkeys abounded in the woods,
John Robinson was postmaster and Rev. George O. Hampson the only
minister. Mr. Watson’s views of petroleum were of the broadest and his
transactions the boldest. He hastened to secure lands when oil appeared
in the Drake well. At eight o’clock on that historic Monday morning he
stood at Hamilton McClintock’s door, resolved to buy or lease his
three-hundred-acre farm. A lease was taken and others along the stream
followed during the day. Brewer, Watson & Co. operated on a wholesale
scale until 1864, after which Watson continued alone. Riches poured upon
him. He erected the finest residence in Titusville, lavished money on
the grounds and stocked a fifty-thousand dollar conservatory with
choicest plants and flowers. A million dollars in gold he is credited
with “putting by for a rainy day.” He went miles ahead, bought huge
blocks of land and drilled scores of test-wells. In this way he barely
missed opening the Bradford field and the Bullion district years before
these productive sections were brought into line. His well on the
Dalzell farm, Petroleum Centre, in 1869, renewed interest in that
quarter long after it was supposed to be sucked dry. An Oil-City
clairvoyant indicated the spot to sink the hole, promising a
three-hundred-barrel strike. Crude was six dollars a barrel and Watson
readily proffered the woman the first day’s production for her services.
A check for two-thousand dollars was her reward, as the well yielded
three-hundred-and-thirty-three barrels the first twenty-four hours. Mrs.
Watson was an ardent medium and her husband humored her by consulting
the “spirits” occasionally. She became a lecturer and removed to
California long since. The tide of Watson’s prosperity ebbed. Bad
investments and dry-holes ate into his splendid fortune. The
gold-reserve was drawn upon and spent. The beautiful home went to
satisfy creditors. In old age the brave, hardy, indefatigable
oil-pioneer, who had led the way for others to acquire wealth, was
stripped of his possessions. Hope and courage remained. He operated at
Warren and revived some of the old wells around the Drake, which
afforded him subsistence. Advanced years and anxiety enfeebled the
stalwart fame. His steps faltered, and in 1893 protracted sickness
closed the busy, eventful life of the man who, more than any other,
fostered and developed the petroleum-industry.

                          “I am as a weed
      Flung from the rock, on ocean’s foam to sail
      Where’er the surge may sweep, the tempest’s breath prevail.”

The Drake well declined almost imperceptibly, yielding twelve barrels a
day by the close of the year. It stood idle on Sundays and for a week in
December. Smith had a light near a tank of oil, the gas from which
caught fire and burned the entire rig. This was the first “oil-fire” in
Pennsylvania, but it was destined to have many successors. Possibly it
brought back vividly to Colonel Drake the remembrance of his childish
dream, in which he and his brother had set a heap of stubble ablaze and
could not extinguish the flames. His mother interpreted it: “My son, you
have set the world on fire.”

The total output of the well in 1859 was under eighteen-hundred barrels.
One-third of the oil was sold at sixty-five cents a gallon for shipment
to Pittsburg. George M. Mowbray, the accomplished chemist, who came to
Titusville in 1860 and played a prominent part in early refining,
disposed of a thousand barrels in New York. The well produced moderately
for two or three years from the first sand, until shut down by low
prices, which made it ruinous to pay the royalty of twelve-and-a-half
cents a gallon. A compromise was effected in 1860, by which the Seneca
Oil-Company retained a part of the land as fee and surrendered the lease
to the Pennsylvania Rock-Oil-Company. Mr. Bissell purchased the stock of
the other shareholders in the latter company for fifty-thousand dollars.
He drilled ten wells, six of which for months yielded eighty barrels a
day, on the tract known thenceforth as the Bissell farm, selling it
eventually to the Original Petroleum-Company. The Drake was deepened to
five-hundred feet and two others, drilled beneath the roof of the
sawmill in 1862, were pumped by water.

The Drake machinery was stolen or scattered piecemeal. In 1876 J. J.
Ashbaugh, of St. Petersburg, and Thomas O’Donnell, of Foxburg, conveyed
the neglected derrick and engine-house to the Centennial at
Philadelphia, believing crowds would wish to look at the mementoes. The
exhibition was a fizzle and the lumber was carted off as rubbish.
Ex-Senator Emery saved the drilling-tools and he has them in his private
museum at Bradford. They are pigmies compared with the giants of to-day.
A man could walk away with them as readily as Samson skipped with the
gates of Gaza. Sandow and Cyril Cyr done up in a single package couldn’t
do that with a modern set. The late David Emery, a man of heart and
brain, contemplated reviving the old well—the land had come into his
possession—and bottling the oil in tiny vials, the proceeds to be
applied to a Drake monument. He put up a temporary rig and pumped a
half-barrel a week. Death interrupted his generous purpose. Except that
the trees and the saw-mill have disappeared, the neighborhood of the
Drake well is substantially the same as in the days when lumbering was
at its height and the two-hundred honest denizens of Titusville slept
without locking their doors. There is nothing to suggest to strangers or
travelers that the spot deserves to be remembered. How transitory is
human achievement!


William Barnsdall, Boone Meade and Henry R. Rouse started the second
well in the vicinity, on the James Parker farm, formerly the Kerr tract
and now the home of Ex-Mayor J. H. Caldwell. The location was north and
within a stone’s throw of the Drake. In November, at the depth of eighty
feet, the well was pumped three days, yielding only five barrels of oil.
The outlook had an indigo-tinge and operations ceased for a week or two.
Resuming work in December, at one-hundred-and-sixty feet indications
were satisfactory. Tubing was put in on February nineteenth, 1860, and
the well responded at the rate of fifty barrels a day! In the language
of a Hoosier dialect-poet: “Things wuz gettin’ inter-restin’!” William
H. Abbott, a gentleman of wealth, reached Titusville on February ninth
and bought an interest in the Parker tract the same month. David
Crossley’s well, a short distance south of the Drake and the third
finished on Oil Creek, began pumping sixty barrels a day on March
fourth. Local dealers, overwhelmed by an “embarrassment of riches,”
could not handle such a glut of oil. Schefflin Brothers arranged to
market it in New York. Fifty-six-thousand gallons from the Barnsdall
well were sold for seventeen-thousand dollars by June first, 1860. J. D.
Angier contracted to “stamp down a hole” for Brewer, Watson & Co., in a
pit fourteen feet deep, dug and cribbed to garner oil dipped from the
“spring” on the Hamilton-McClintock farm. Piercing the rock by
“hand-power” was a tedious process. December of 1860 dawned without a
symptom of greasiness in the well, from which wondrous results were
anticipated on account of the “spring.” One day’s hand-pumping produced
twelve barrels of oil and so much water that an engine was required to
pump steadily. By January twentieth, 1861, the engine was puffing and
the well producing moderately, the influx of water diminishing the yield
of oil. These four, with two getting under way on the Buchanan farm,
north of the McClintock, and one on the J. W. McClintock tract, the site
of Petroleum Centre, summed up all the wells actually begun on Oil Creek
in 1859.

Three of the four were “kicked down” by the aid of spring-poles, as were
hundreds later in shallow territory. This method afforded a mode of
development to men of limited means, with heavy muscles and light
purses, although totally inadequate for deep drilling. An elastic pole
of ash or hickory, twelve to twenty feet long, was fastened at one end
to work over a fulcrum. To the other end stirrups were attached, or a
tilting platform was secured by which two or three men produced a
jerking motion that drew down the pole, its elasticity pulling it back
with sufficient force, when the men slackened their hold, to raise the
tools a few inches. The principle resembled that of the treadle-board of
a sewing-machine, operating which moves the needle up and down. The
tools were swung in the driving-pipe or the “conductor”—a wooden tube
eight or ten inches square, placed endwise in a hole dug to the rock—and
fixed by a rope to the spring-pole two or three feet from the workmen.
The strokes were rapid and a sand-pump—a spout three inches in diameter,
with a hinged bottom opening inward and a valve working on a
sliding-rod, somewhat in the manner of a syringe—removed the borings
mainly by sucking them into the spout as it was drawn out quickly.
Horse-power, in its general features precisely the kind still used with
threshing-machines, was the next step forward. Steam-engines, employed
for drilling at Tidioute in September of 1860, reduced labor and
expedited work. The first pole-derricks, twenty-five to thirty-five feet
high, have been superseded by structures that tower seventy-two to
ninety feet.

[Illustration: “KICKING DOWN” A WELL.]

Drilling-tools, the chief novelty of which are the “jars”—a pair of
sliding-bars moving within each other—have increased from two-hundred
pounds to three-thousand in weight. George Smith, at Rouseville, forged
the first steel-lined jars in 1866, for H. Leo Nelson, but the steel
could not be welded firmly. Nelson also adopted the “Pleasantville Rig”
on the Meade lease, Rouseville, in 1866, discarding the “Grasshopper.”
In the former the walking-beam is fastened in the centre to the
“samson-post,” with one end attached to the rods in the well and the
other to the band-wheel crank, exactly as in side-wheel steamboats.
George Koch, of East Sandy, Pa., patented numerous improvements on
pumping-rigs, drilling-tools and gas-rigs; for which he asked no
remuneration. Primitive wells had a bore of three or four inches, half
the present size. To exclude surface-water a “seed-bag”—a leather-bag
the diameter of the hole—was tied tightly to the tubing, filled with
flax-seed and let down to the proper depth. The top was left open and in
a few hours the flax swelled so that the space between the tubing and
the walls of the well was impervious to water. Drilling “wet holes” was
slow and uncertain, as the tools were apt to break and the chances of a
paying well could not be decided until the pump exhausted the water. It
is surprising that over five-thousand wells were sunk with the rude
appliances in vogue up to 1868, when “casing”—a larger pipe inserted
usually to the top of the first sand—was introduced. This was the
greatest improvement ever devised in oil-developments and drilling has
reached such perfection that holes can be put down five-thousand feet
safely and expeditiously. Devices multiplied as experience was gained.

The tools that drilled the Barnsdall, Crossley and Watson wells were the
handiwork of Jonathan Lock, a Titusville blacksmith. Mr. Lock attained
his eighty-third year, died at Bradford in March of 1895 and was buried
at Titusville, the city in which he passed much of his active life. He
was a worthy type of the intelligent, industrious American mechanics, a
class of men to whom civilization is indebted for unnumbered comforts
and conveniences. John Bryan, who built the first steam-engine in Warren
county, started the first foundry and Machine-shop in Oildom and
organized the firm of Bryan, Dillingham & Co., began the manufacture of
drilling-tools in Titusville in 1860.

[Illustration: JONATHAN LOCK.]

Of the partners in the second well William Barnsdall survives. He has
lived in Titusville sixty-four years, served as mayor and operated
extensively. His son Theodore, who pumped wells on the Parker and Weed
farms, adjoining the Barnsdall homestead, is among the largest and
wealthiest producers. Crossley’s sons rebuilt the rig at their father’s
well in 1873, drilled the hole deeper and obtained considerable oil.
Other wells around the Drake were treated similarly, paying a fair
profit. In 1875 this spasmodic revival of the earliest territory died
out—Machinery was removed and the derricks rotted. Jonathan Watson, in
1889, drilled shallow wells, cleaned out several of the old ones and
awakened brief interest in the cradle of developments. Gas burning and
wells pumping, thirty years after the first strike, seemed indeed
strange. Not a trace of these repeated operations remains. The Parker
and neighboring farms north-west and north of Titusville proved
disappointing, owing to the absence of the third sand, which a hole
drilled two-thousand feet by Jonathan Watson failed to reveal. The
Parker-Farm Petroleum Company of Philadelphia bought the land in 1863
and in 1870 twelve wells were producing moderately. West and south-west
the Octave Oil-Company has operated profitably for twenty years and
Church Run has produced generously. Probably two-hundred wells were sunk
above Titusville, at Hydetown, Clappville, Tryonville, Centerville,
Riceville, Lincolnville and to Oil-Creek Lake, in vain attempts to
discover juicy territory.

Ex-Mayor William Barnsdall is the oldest living pioneer of Titusville.
Not only has he seen the town grow from a few houses to its present
proportions, but he is one of its most esteemed citizens. Born at
Biggleswade, Bedfordshire, England, on February sixth, 1810, he lived
there until 1831, when he came to America. In 1832 he arrived at what is
known as the English Settlement, seven miles north of Titusville. The
Barnsdalls founded the settlement, Joseph, a brother of William,
clearing a farm in the wilderness that then covered the country.
Remaining in the settlement a year, in 1833 William Barnsdall came to
the hamlet of Titusville, where he has ever since resided. He
established a small shop to manufacture boots and shoes, continuing at
the business until the discovery of oil in 1859. Immediately after the
completion of the Drake strike he began drilling the second well on Oil
Creek. Before this well produced oil, in February of 1860, he sold a
part interest to William H. Abbott for ten-thousand dollars. He
associated himself with Abbott and James Parker and, early in 1860,
commenced the first oil-refinery on Oil Creek. It was sold to Jonathan
Watson for twenty-five-thousand dollars. From those early days to the
present Mr. Barnsdall has been identified with the production of
petroleum. At the ripe age of eighty-seven years, respected as few men
are in any community and enjoying an unusual measure of mental and
physical strength, he calmly awaits “the inevitable hour.”

Hon. David Emery, the last owner of the Drake well, was for many years a
successful oil-operator. At Pioneer he drilled a number of prime wells,
following the course of developments along Oil Creek. He organized the
Octave Oil-Company and was its chief officer. Removing to Titusville, he
erected a fine residence and took a prominent part in public affairs.
His purse was ever open to forward a good cause. Had the Republican
party, of which he was an active member, been properly alive to the
interests of the Commonwealth, he would have been Auditor-General of
Pennsylvania. In all the relations and duties of life David Emery was a
model citizen. Called hence in the vigor of stalwart manhood, multitudes
of attached friends cherish his memory as that “of one who loved his

Born in England in 1818, David Crossley ran away from home and came to
America as a stowaway in 1828. He found relatives at Paterson, N.J., and
lived with them until about 1835, when he bound himself out to learn
blacksmithing. On March seventeenth, 1839, he married Jane Alston and in
the winter of 1841-2 walked from New York to Titusville, walking back in
the spring. The following autumn he brought his family to Titusville.
For a few years he tried farming, but gave it up and went back to his
trade until 1859, when he formed a partnership with William Barnsdall,
William H. Abbott and P. T. Witherop, under the firm-name of Crossley,
Witherop & Co., and began drilling the third well put down on Oil Creek.
The well was completed on March tenth, 1860, having been drilled
one-hundred-and-forty feet with a spring-pole. It produced at the rate
of seventy-five barrels per day for a short time. The next autumn the
property was abandoned on account of decline in production. In 1865
Crossley bought out his partners and drilled the well to a depth of
five-hundred-and-fifty feet, but again abandoned it because of water. In
1872 he and his sons drilled other wells upon the same property and in a
short time had so reduced the water that the investment became a paying
one. In 1873 he and William Barnsdall and others drilled the first
producing well in the Bradford oil-field. His health failed in 1875 and
he died on October eleventh, 1880, esteemed by all for his manliness and

[Illustration: Z. MARTIN]

Z. Martin, who befriended Drake in his sad extremity, landed at
Titusville in March of 1860 and pumped the Barnsdall, Mead & Rouse well
on Parker’s flat, the first well in Crawford county that produced oil.
In 1861 he went to the Clapp farm, above Oil City, as superintendent of
the Boston Rock-Oil-Company, only three of whose eighteen wells were
paying ventures. The Company quitting, Martin bought and shipped crude
to Pittsburg for Brewer, Burke & Co., traveling to the wells on
horseback to secure oil for his boats. He bought the Eagle Hotel at
Titusville in 1862, conducted it two years and sold the building to C.
V. Culver for bank-purposes. Mr. Martin resided at Titusville many years
and was widely known as the capable landlord of the palatial Hotel
Brunswick. He was the intimate friend of Colonel Drake, Jonathan Watson,
George H. Bissell and the pioneer operators on Oil Creek. His son, L. L.
Martin, is running the Commercial Hotel at Meadville, where the father
makes his home, young in everything but years and always pleased to
greet his oil-region acquaintances.

Thus dawned the petroleum-day that could not be hidden under myriads of
bushels. The report of the Drake well traveled “from Greenland’s icy
mountains” to “India’s coral strands,” causing unlimited guessing as to
the possible outcome. Crude-petroleum was useful for various things, but
a farmer who visited the newest wonder hit a fresh lead. Begging a jug
of oil, he paralyzed Colonel Drake by observing as he strode off:
“This’ll be durned good tew spread onto buckwheat-cakes!”

Bishop Simpson once delivered his lecture on “American Progress,” in
which he did not mention petroleum, before an immense Washington
audience. President Lincoln heard it and said, as he and the eloquent
speaker came out of the hall: “Bishop, you didn’t ‘strike ile’!”

When the Barnsdall well, on the Parker farm, produced hardly any oil
from the first sand, the coming Mayor of Titusville quietly clinched the
argument in favor of drilling it deeper by remarking: “It’s a long way
from the bottom of that hole to China and I’m bound to bore for
tea-leaves if we don’t get the grease sooner!”

“De Lawd thinks heaps ob Pennsylvany,” said a colored exhorter in
Pittsburg, “fur jes’ ez whales iz gettin’ sca’ce he pints outen de way
fur Kunnel Drake ter ’scoveh petroleum!” A solemn preacher in Crawford
county held a different opinion. One day he tramped into Titusville to
relieve his burdened mind. He cornered Drake on the street and warned
him to quit taking oil from the ground. “Do you know,” he hissed, “that
you’re interfering with the Almighty Creator of the universe? God put
that oil in the bowels of the earth to burn the world at the last day
and you, poor worm of the dust, are trying to thwart His plans!” No
wonder the loud check in the Colonel’s barred pantaloons wilted at this
unexpected outburst, which Drake often recounted with extreme gusto.

The night “Uncle Billy” Smith’s lantern ignited the tanks at the Drake
well the blaze and smoke of the first oil-fire in Pennsylvania ascended
high. A loud-mouthed professor of religion, whose piety was of the brand
that needed close watching in a horse-trade, saw the sight and scampered
to the hills shouting: “It’s the day of judgment!” How he proposed to
dodge the reckoning, had his surmise been correct, the terrified victim
could not explain when his fright subsided and friends rallied him on
the scare.

The Drake well blazed the path in the wilderness that set petroleum on
its triumphant march. This nation, already the most enlightened, was to
be the most enlightening under the sun. An Atlantic of oil lay beneath
its feet. America, its young, plump sister, could laugh at lean Europe.
War raged and the old world sought to drain the republic of its gold.
The United States exported mineral-fat and kept the yellow dross at
home. Petroleum was crowned king, dethroning cotton and yielding a
revenue, within four years of Drake’s modest strike, exceeding that from
coal and iron combined! Talk of California’s gold-fever, Colorado’s
silver-furore and Barney Barnato’s Caffir-mania.

American petroleum is a leading article of commerce, requiring hundreds
of vessels to transport it to distant lands. Its refined product is
known all over the civilized world. It has found its way to every part
of Europe and the remotest portions of Asia. It shines on the western
prairie, burns in the homes of New England and illumines miles of
princely warehouses in the great cities of America. Everywhere is it to
be met with, in the Levant and the Orient, in the hovel of the Russian
peasant and the harem of the Turkish pasha. It is the one article
imported from the United States and sold in the bazaars of Bagdad, the
“City of the Thousand-and-One-Nights.” It lights the dwellings, the
temples and the mosques amid the ruins of Babylon and Nineveh. It is the
light of Abraham’s birthplace and of the hoary city of Damascus. It
burns in the Grotto of the Nativity at Bethlehem, in the Church of the
Holy Sepulchre at Jerusalem, on the Acropolis of Athens and the plains
of Troy, in cottage and palace along the banks of the Bosphorus, the
Euphrates, the Tigris and the Golden Horn. It has penetrated China and
Japan, invaded the fastnesses of Tartary, reached the wilds of Australia
and shed its radiance over African wastes. Pennsylvania petroleum is the
true cosmopolite, omnipresent and omnipotent in fulfilling its mission
of illuminating the universe! A product of nature that is such a
controlling influence in the affairs of men may well challenge attention
to its origin, its history and its economic uses.

All this from a three-inch hole seventy feet in the ground!

                 A grape-seed is a small affair,
                   Yet, swallow’d when you sup,
                 In your appendix it may stick
                   Till doctors carve you up.

                 A coral-insect is not large,
                   Still it can build a reef
                 On which the biggest ship that floats
                   May quickly come to grief.

                 A hint, a word, a look, a breath
                   May bear envenom’d stings,
                 From all of which the moral learn:
                   Despise not little things!

                             IN A NUTSHELL.

Colonel Drake used the first driving pipe.

Adolph Schreiner, of Austria, made the first petroleum-lamp.

The first oil-well drilled by steam power was opposite Tidioute, in

Jonathan Watson put down the first deep well on Oil Creek—2,130 feet—in

William Phillips boated the first cargo of oil down the Allegheny to
Pittsburg in March, 1860.

The Chinese were the first to drill with tools attached to ropes, which
they twisted from rattan.

The Liverpool Lamp, devised by an unknown Englishman, was the first to
have a glass-chimney and do away with smoke.

The first tubing in oil-wells was manufactured at Pittsburg, with brass
screw-joints soldered on the pipe, the same as at Tarentum salt-wells.

The first steamboat reached the mouth of Oil Creek in 1828, with a load
of Pittsburgers. The first train crossed Oil Creek into Oil City on a
track on the ice.

William A. Smith, who drilled the Drake well, made the first rimmer.
While enlarging a well with a bit the point broke off, after which
greater progress was noted. The accident suggested the rimmer.

The first white settler in the Pennsylvania oil-regions was John
Frazier, who built a cabin at Wenango—Franklin—in 1745, kept a gun-shop
and traded with the Indians until driven off by the French in 1753, the
year of George Washington’s visit.

Jonathan Titus located at Titusville in 1797, on land made famous by the
Drake well. In that year the first oil skimmed from Oil Creek to be
marketed was sold at Pittsburg, then a collection of log-cabins, at
_sixteen dollars a gallon_! Now people kick at half that many cents for
the refined article.

Early well-owners found the tools and fuel, paid all expenses but labor
and paid three-dollars-and-fifty-cents per foot to the contractor, yet
so many contractors failed that a lien-law was passed. George Koch, in
November of 1873, took out a patent on fluted drills, which did away
with the rimmer, reduced the time of drilling a well from sixty days to
twenty and reduced the price from three dollars per foot to fifty cents.

Sam Taft was the first to use a line to control the engine from the
derrick, at a well near McClintockville, in 1867. Henry Webber was the
first to regulate the motion of the engine from the derrick. He drilled
a well near Smoky City, on the Porter farm, in 1863, with a rod from the
derrick to the throttle-valve. He also dressed the tools, with the forge
in the derrick, perhaps the first time this was done. He drilled this
well six-hundred feet with no help. Near this well was the first
plank-derrick in the oil-country.

The first derricks were of poles, twelve feet base and twenty-eight to
thirty feet high. The ladder was made by putting pins through a corner
of a leg of the derrick. The Samson-post was mortised in the ground. The
band-wheel was hung in a frame like a grindstone. A single bull-wheel,
made out of about a thousand feet of lumber, placed on the side of the
derrick next to the band-wheel, with a rope or old rubber-belt for a
brake, was used. When the tools were let down the former would burn and
smoke, the latter would smell like ancient codfish.


  MAJ. W. T. BAUM.

                         THE WORLD’S LUBRICANT.



“The race was on, the souls of the racers were in it.”—_Gen. Lew

“Wild rumors are afloat in Jericho.”—_J. L. Barlow._

“Carthage has crossed the Alps; Rome, the sea.”—_Victor Hugo._

“There shall be no Alps.”—_Napoleon._

              “We must not hope to be mowers
              Until we have first been sowers.”—_Alice Cary._

“Gained the lead, and kept it, and steered his journey free.”—_Will

“A cargo of petroleum may cross the ocean in a vessel propelled by steam
    it has generated, acting upon an engine it lubricates and directed
    by an engineer who may grease his hair, limber his joints, and
    freshen his liver with the same article.”—_Petrolia, A.D. 1870._

“Friction, not motion, is the great destroyer of
    machinery.”—_Engineering Journal._

“Here was * * * a battle of Marengo to be gained.”—_Balzac._



Cheap and abundant light the island-well on Oil Creek assured the
nations sitting in darkness. If there are “tongues in trees” and
“sermons in stones” the trickling stream of greenish liquid murmured:
“Bring on your lamps—we can fill them!” The _second_ oil-well in
Pennsylvania, eighteen miles from Col. Drake’s, changed the strain to:
“Bring on your wheels—we can grease them!” America was to be the world’s
illuminator and lubricator—not merely to dispel gloom and chase
hobgoblins, but to increase the power of machinery by decreasing the
impediments to easy motion. Friction has cost enough for extra wear and
stoppages and breakages “to buy every darkey forty acres and a mule.”
The first coal-oil for sale in this country was manufactured at Waltham,
Mass., in 1852, by Luther Atwood, who called it “Coup Oil,” from the
recent _coup_ of Louis Napoleon. Although highly esteemed as a
lubricator, its offensive odor and poor quality would render it
unmerchantable to-day. Samuel Downer’s hydro-carbon oils in 1856 were
marked improvements, yet they would cut a sorry figure beside the
unrivaled lubricant produced from the wells at Franklin, the county-seat
of Venango. It is a coincidence that the petroleum era should have
introduced light and lubrication almost simultaneously, one on Oil
Creek, the other on French Creek, and both in a region comparatively
isolated. “Misfortunes never come singly,” said the astounded father of
twins, in a paroxysm of bewilderment; but happily blessings often come
treading closely on each other’s heels.

[Illustration: J. B. NICKLIN.]

Pleasantly situated on French Creek and the Allegheny River, Franklin
is an interesting town, with a history dating from the middle of the
eighteenth century. John Frazer, a gunsmith, occupied a hut and traded
with the Indians in 1747. Four forts, one French, one British and two
American, were erected in 1754, 1760, 1787 and 1796. Captain Joncaire
commanded the French forces. George Washington, a British lieutenant,
with no premonition of fathering a great country, visited the spot in
1753. The north-west was a wilderness and Pittsburg had not been laid
out. Franklin was surveyed in 1795, created a borough in 1829 and a
city in 1869, deriving its chief importance from petroleum. Lofty
hills and winding streams are conspicuous. Spring-water is abundant,
the air is invigorating and healthfulness is proverbial. James
Johnston, a negro-farmer of Frenchcreek township, stuck it out for
one-hundred-and-nine summers, lamenting that death got around six
months too soon for him to attend the Philadelphia Centennial. Angus
McKenzie, of Sugarcreek, whose strong-box served as a bank in early
days, reached one-hundred-and-eight. Mrs. McDowell, a pioneer, was
bright and nimble three years beyond the century-mark. Galbraith
McMullen, of Waterloo, touched par. John Morrison, the first
court-crier, rounded out ninety-eight. A successor, Robert Lytle, was
summoned at eighty-seven, his widow living to celebrate her
ninety-fourth birthday. David Smith succumbed at ninety-nine and
William Raymond at ninety-three. Mr. Raymond was straight as an arrow,
walked smartly and in youth was the close friend of John J. Pearson,
who began to practice law at Franklin and was President Judge of
Dauphin county thirty-three years. J. B. Nicklin, fifty years a
respected citizen, died in 1890 at eighty-nine. To the end he retained
his mental and physical strength, kept the accounts of the Baptist
church, was at his desk regularly and could hit the bullseye with the
crack shots of the military company. William Hilands, county-surveyor,
was a familiar figure on the streets at eighty-seven. Rev. Dr. Crane
preached, lectured, visited the sick and continued to do good at
eighty-six. Grandma Snyder is eighty-eight and Benjamin May, a few
miles up the Allegheny, is hardy and hearty at ninety-one. At
eighty-five “Uncle Billy” Grove, of Canal, would hunt deer in Forest
county and walk farther and faster than any man in the township. The
people who have rubbed fourscore would fill a ten-acre patch. Of
course, some get sick and die young, or the doctors would starve,
heaven would be short of youthful tenants and the theories of Malthus
might have to be tried on.

Franklin boasts the finest stone side-walks in the State. There are
imposing churches, shady parks, broad streets, cosy homes, spacious
stores, first-class schools, fine hotels and inviting drives. For
years the Baptist quartette has not been surpassed in New York or
Philadelphia. The opera-house is a gem. Three railroads—a fourth is
coming that will lop off sixty-five miles between New York and
Chicago—and electric street-cars supply rapid transit. Five
substantial banks, a half-dozen millionaires, two-dozen
hundred-thousand-dollar-citizens and multitudes of well-to-do
property-holders give the place financial backbone. Manufactures
flourish, wages are liberal and many workmen own their snug houses.
Probably no town in the United States, of seven-thousand population,
has greater wealth, better society and a kindlier feeling clear
through the community.

On the south bank of French Creek, at Twelfth and Otter streets, James
Evans, blacksmith, had lived twenty years. A baby when his parents
settled farther up in 1802, he removed to Franklin in 1839. His house
stood near the “spring” from which Hulings and Whitman wrung out the
viscid scum. In dry weather the well he dug seventeen feet for water
smelled and tasted of petroleum. Tidings of Drake’s success set the
blacksmith thinking. Drake had bored into the well close to the “spring”
and found oil. Why not try the experiment at Franklin? Evans was not
flush of cash, but the hardware-dealer trusted him for the iron and he
hammered out rough drilling-tools. He and his son Henry rigged a
spring-pole and bounced the drill in the water-well. At seventy-two feet
a crevice was encountered. The tools dropped, breaking off a fragment of
iron, which obstinately refused to be fished out. Pumping by hand would
determine whether a prize or a blank was to be drawn in the greasian
lottery. Two men plied the pump vigorously. A stream of dark-green fluid
gushed forth at the rate of twenty-five barrels a day. It was heavy oil,
about thirty degrees gravity, free from grit and smooth as silk. The
greatest lubricant on earth had been unearthed!

Picture the pandemonium that followed. Franklin had no such convulsion
since the William B. Duncan, the first steamboat, landed one Sunday
evening in January, 1828. The villagers speeded to the well as though
all the imps of sheol were in pursuit. November court adjourned in half
the number of seconds Sut Lovingood’s nest of hornets broke up the
African camp-meeting. Judge John S. McCalmont, whose able opinions the
Supreme Court liked to adopt, decided there was ample cause for action.
A doctor rushed to the scene hatless, coatless and shoeless. Women
deserted their households without fixing their back-hair or getting
inside their dress-parade toggery. Babies cried, children screamed, dogs
barked, bells rang and two horses ran away. At prayer-meeting a ruling
elder, whom the events of the day had wrought to fever-heat, raised a
hilarious snicker by imploring God to “send a shower of blessings—yea,
Lord, twenty-five barrels of blessings!” Altogether it was a red-letter
forenoon, for twenty-five barrels a day of thirty-dollar oil none felt
inclined to sneeze at.

That night a limb of the law, “dressed in his best suit of clothes,”
called at the Evans domicile. Miss Anna, one of the fair daughters of
the house, greeted him at the door and said jokingly: “Dad’s struck
ile!” The expression caught the town, making a bigger hit than the well
itself. It spread far and wide, was printed everywhere and enshrined
permanently in the petroleum-vernacular. The young lady married Miles
Smith, the eminent furniture-dealer, still trading on Thirteenth street.
In 1875 Mr. Smith revisited his native England, after many years’
absence. Meeting a party of gentlemen at a friend’s house, the
conversation turned upon Pennsylvania. “May I awsk, Mr. Smith,” a
Londoner inquired, “if you hever ’eard in your ’ome about ‘dad’s stwuck
ile’? I wead it in the papahs, doncherknow, but I fawncied it nevah
weally ’appened.” Mr. Smith _had_ “’eard” it and the delight of the
company, when he recited the circumstances and told of marrying the
girl, may be conceived. The phrase is billed for immortality.

Sufficient oil to pay for an engine was soon pumped. Steam-power
increased the yield to seventy barrels! Franklin became the Mecca of
speculators, traders, dealers and monied men. Frederic Prentice, a
leader in aggressive enterprises, offered forty-thousand dollars for the
well and lot. Evans rejected the bid and kept the well, which declined
to ten or twelve barrels within six months. The price of oil shrank like
a flannel-shirt, but the lucky disciple of Vulcan realized a nice
competence. He enjoyed his good fortune some years before journeying to
“that bourne from which no traveler e’er returns.” Mrs. Evans long
survived, dying at eighty-six. The son removed to Kansas, three
daughters died and one resides at Franklin. The old well experienced its
complement of fluctuations. Mosely & Co., of Philadelphia, leased it. It
stood idle, the engine was taken away, the rig tumbled and the hole
filled up partially with dirt and wreckage. Prices spurted and the well
was hitched to a pumping-rig operating others around it. Captain S. A.
Hull ran a group of the wells on the flats and a dozen three miles down
the Allegheny. He was a man of generous impulses, finely educated and
exceedingly companionable. His death, in 1893, resulted in dismantling
most of these wells, hardly a vestige remaining to tell that the Evans
and its neighbors ever existed.

James Evans was not “left blooming alone” in the search for oily worlds
to conquer. Companies were organized while he was yanking the tools in
the well that “set ’em crazy.” The first of these—The Franklin
Oil-and-Mining-Company—started work on October fifth, twenty rods below
Evans, finding oil at two-hundred-and-forty-one feet on January twelfth,
1860. The well pumped about one-half as much as the Evans for several
months, but did not die of old age. The forty-two shares of stock
advanced ten-fold in one week, selling at a thousand dollars each. Three
or four wells were put down, the company dissolving and members
operating on their own hook. It was strongly officered, with Arnold
Plumer as president; J. P. Hoover, vice-president; Aaron W. Raymond,
secretary; James Bleakley, Robert Lamberton, R. A. Brashear, J. L. Hanna
and Thomas Hoge, executive committee. Mr. Plumer was a dominant factor
in Democratic politics, largely instrumental in the nomination of James
Buchanan for President, twice a member of Congress, twice
State-Treasurer, Canal-Commissioner and founder of the First-National
Bank. At his death, in 1869, he devised his family an estate that
appraised several million dollars, making it the largest in Venango
county. Judge Lamberton opened the first bank in the oil-regions, owned
hundreds of houses and in 1885 bequeathed each of his eight children a
handsome fortune. Colonel Bleakley rose by his own exertions, keen
foresight and skillful management. He invested in productive realty,
drilled scores of wells around Franklin, built iron-tanks and
brick-blocks, established a bank, held thousands of acres of lands and
in 1884 left a very large inheritance to his sons and daughters. Mr.
Raymond developed the Raymilton district—it was named from him—in which
hundreds of fair wells have rewarded Franklin operators, and at
eighty-nine was exceedingly quick in his movements. Mr. Brashear, a
civil engineer and exemplary citizen, has been in the grave twenty
years. Mr. Hanna operated heavily in oil, acquired numerous farms and
erected the biggest block—it contained the first opera-house—in the
city. He is handling real-estate, but his former partner, John Duffield,
slumbers in the cemetery. Mr. Hoge, an influential politician, elected
to the Legislature two terms and Mayor one term, has also joined the
silent majority.

In February, 1860, Caldwell & Co., a block southeast of Evans, finished
a paying well at two-hundred feet. The Farmers and Mechanics’ Company,
Levi Dodd, president, drilled a medium producer at the foot of High
street, on the bank of the creek. Mr. Dodd was an old settler,
originator of the first Sabbath-school in Franklin and a ruling-elder
for over fifty years. Numerous companies and individuals pushed work in
the spring. Holes were sunk in front yards, gardens and water-wells.
Derricks dotted the landscape thickly. Franklin was the objective point
of immense crowds of people. The earliest wells were shallow, seldom
exceeding two-hundred feet. The Mammoth, near a huge walnut tree back of
the Evans lot, began flowing on May fifteenth to the tune of a hundred
barrels. This was the first “spouter” in the district and it quadrupled
the big excitement. Four-hundred barrels of oil were shipped to
Pittsburg, by the steamboat Venango, on April twenty-seventh. Twenty-two
wells were drilling and twenty producing on July first. Farms for miles
up French Creek had been bought at high prices and the noise of the
drill permeated the summer ozone. Four miles west of Franklin, zig-zag
Sugar Creek shared in the activity. Then the prices “came down like a
thousand of brick.” Pumping was expensive, lands were scarce and dear,
hauling the oil to a railroad cost half its value and hosts of small
wells were abandoned. On November first, within the borough limits,
fifteen were yielding one-hundred-and-forty barrels. Curtz & Strain had
bored five-hundred feet in October, the deepest well in the
neighborhood, without finding additional oil-bearing rock. The
Presidential election foreboded trouble, war-clouds loomed up and the
year closed gloomily.


      LEVI DODD.
                COL. BLEAKLEY.
                              J. LINDSAY HANNA.
                                                 AARON W. RAYMOND.

The advantages of Franklin heavy-oil as a lubricant were quickly
recognized. It possessed a “body” that artificial oils could not rival.
In the crude state it withstood a cold-test twenty degrees below zero.
Here is where it “had the bulge” on alleged lubricants which solidify
into a sort of liver with every twitch of frost. The producing-area of
heavy-oil is restricted to a limited section, where the first sand is
thirty to sixty feet thick and the lower sands were entirely omitted in
the original distribution of strata. For years operators hugged the
banks of the streams and the low grounds, keeping off the hills more
willingly than General Coxey kept off the Washington grass. The famous
“Point Hill,” across French Creek from the Evans well, went begging for
a purchaser. At its southern base Mason & Lane, Cook & Co., Welsby &
Smith, Shuster, Andrews, Green and others had profitable wells, but
nobody dreamed of boring through the steep “Point” for oil. J. Lowry
Dewoody offered the lordly hill, with its forty acres of dense
evergreen-brush, to Charles Miller for fifteen-hundred dollars. He
wanted the money to drill on the flats and the hill was an elephant on
his hands.

During the Columbian Exposition an aged man alighted from a western
train at the union-depot in Chicago. His rifle and his buckskin-suit
indicated the Kit-Carson brand of hunter. He gazed about him in
amazement and a crowd assembled. “Wal,” ejaculated the white-haired
Nimrod, “this be Chicago, eh? Sixty years ago I killed lots ov game
right whar we stan’ an’ old man Kinzey fell all over hisse’f to trade me
a hunnerd acre ov land fur a pair ov cowhide boots! I might hev took him
up, but, consarn it, I didn’t hev the boots!”

[Illustration: J. LOWRY DEWOODY.]

[Illustration: WILLIAM PAINTER.]

[Illustration: EDWARD RIAL.]

Something of this kind would apply to Mr. Miller and the Dewoody
proposition. He had embarked in the business that was to bring him
wealth and honor, but just at that time “didn’t hev” the fifteen-hundred
to spare from his working-capital for the fun of owning a hill presumed
to be worthless except for scenery. Colonel Bleakley and Dr. A. G.
Egbert bought it later at a low figure. Operators scaled the slopes and
hills and the first well on the “Point” was of the kind to whet the
appetite for more. Bleakley & Egbert pocketed a keg of cold-cash from
their wells and the royalty paid by lessees. Daniel Grimm’s production
put him in the van of Franklin oilmen. He came to the town in 1861, had
a dry-goods store in partnership with the late William A. Horton and in
1869 drilled his first well. W. J. Mattem and Edward Rial & Son had a
rich slice. The foundation of a dozen fortunes was laid on the “Point,”
which yields a few barrels daily, although only a shadow of its former
self. From the western end of the hill thousands of tons of a peculiar
shale have been manufactured into paving-brick, the hardest and toughest
in America. A million dollars would not pay for the oil taken from the
hill that found no takers at fifteen-hundred!

Dewoody, over whose grave the storms of a dozen winters have blown, was
a singular character. He cared not a continental for style and was
independent in speech and behavior. Bagging a term in the Legislature as
a Democratic-Greenbacker, his rugged honesty was proof against the
allurements of the lobbyists, jobbers and heelers who disgrace common
decency. His most remarkable act was a violent assault on the
Tramp-Bill, a measure cruel as the laws of Draco, which Rhoads of
Carlisle contrived to pass. He paced the central aisle, spoke in the
loudest key and gesticulated fiercely. Tossing his long auburn hair like
a lion’s mane, he wound up his torrent of denunciation with terrible
emphasis: “If Jesus Christ were on earth this monstrous bill would jerk
him as a vagrant and dump him into the lock-up!”

Gradually developments crept north and east. The Galloway—its Dolly
Varden well was a daisy—Lamberton and McCalmont farms were riddled with
holes that repaid the outlay lavishly. Henry F. James drilled scores of
paying wells on these tracts. In his youth he circled the globe on
whaling voyages and learned coopering. Spending a few months at Pithole
in 1865, he returned to Venango county in 1871, superintended the
Franklin Pipe-Line five years and operated judiciously. He was active in
agriculture and served three terms in the Legislature with distinguished
fidelity. He defeated measures inimical to the oil-industry and promoted
the passage of the Marshall Bill, by which pipe-lines were permitted to
buy, sell or consolidate. This sensible law relieves pipe-lines in the
older districts, where the production is very light, from the necessity
of maintaining separate equipments at a loss or ruining hundreds of
well-owners by tearing up the pipes for junk and depriving operators of
transportation. The late Casper Frank, William Painter—he was killed at
his wells—Dr. Fee, the Harpers, E. D. Yates and others extended the
field into Sugarcreek township. Elliott, Nesbett & Bell’s first well on
the Snyder farm, starting at thirty barrels and settling down to regular
work at fifteen, elongated the Galloway pool and brought adjoining lands
into play. Kunkel & Newhouse, Stock & Co., Mitchell & Parker, Crawford &
Dickey, Dr. Galbraith and M. O’Connor kept many sets of tools from
rusting. The extension to the Carter and frontier-farms developed oil of
lighter gravity, but a prime lubricator. Mrs. Harold, a Chicago lady,
dreamed a certain plot, which she beheld distinctly, would yield
heavy-oil in abundance. She visited Franklin, traversed the district a
mile in advance of developed territory, saw the land of her dream,
bargained for it, drilled wells and obtained “lashin’s of oil!” Still
there are bipeds in bifurcated garments who declare woman’s “sphere” is
the kitchen, with dish-washing, sock-darning and meal-getting as her
highest “rights!”

Jacob Sheasley, who came from Dauphin county in 1860 and branched into
oil in 1864, is the largest operator in the bailiwick. He drilled at
Pithole, Parker, Bradford, on all sides of Franklin and put down a
hundred wells the last two years. He enlarged the boundaries of the
lubricating section by leasing lands previously condemned and sinking
test-wells in 1893-4, with gratifying results. Rarely missing his guess
on territory, he has been almost invariably fortunate. His son, George
R., has operated in Venango and Butler counties and owns a bunch of
desirable wells on Bully Hill, with his brother Charles as partner. The
father and two sons are “three of a kind” hard to beat.

A mile north of Franklin, in February of 1870, the Surprise well on
Patchel Run, a streamlet bearing the name of the earliest hat-maker,
surprised everybody by its output. It foamed and gassed and frothed
excessively, filling the pipe with oil and water. Throngs tramped the
turnpike over the toilsome hill to look at the boiling, fuming tank into
which the well belched its contents. “Good for four-hundred barrels” was
the verdict. A party of us hurried from Oil Creek to judge for
ourselves. Although the estimate was six times too great, a lease of
adjacent lands would not be bad to take. Rev. Mr. Johns, retired pastor
of the Presbyterian church at Spartansburg, Crawford county, had charge
of the property. My acquaintance with Mr. Johns devolved upon me the
duty of negotiating for the tract. He received me graciously and would
be pleased to lease twenty acres for one-half the oil and one-thousand
dollars an acre bonus! Br’er John’s exalted notions soared far too high
to be entertained seriously. The Surprise fizzled down to four or five
barrels in a week and the good minister—for twenty years he has been
enjoying his treasure in heaven—never fingered a penny from his land
save the royalty of two or three small wells.

Major W. T. Baum has operated in the heavy-oil field thirty-two years,
beginning in 1864. He passed through the Pithole excitement and drilled
largely at Foster, Pleasantville, Scrubgrass, Bullion, Gas City,
Clarion, Butler and Tarkiln. His faith in Scrubgrass territory has been
recompensed richly. In 1894 he sank a well on the west bank of the
Allegheny, opposite Kennerdell Station, in hope of a ten-barrel strike.
It pumped one-hundred-and-fifty barrels a day for months and it is doing
fifty barrels to-day, with three more of similar caliber to keep it
company! The Major’s persevering enterprise deserves the reward Dame
Fortune is bestowing. He owns the wells and lands on Patchel Run, which
yield a pleasant revenue. Colonel J. H. Cain, Colonel L. H. Fassett and
J. W. Grant, all successful operators, have their wells in the vicinity.
Modern devices connect wells far apart, by coupling them with rods two
to ten feet above ground, so that a single engine can pump thirty or
forty in shallow territory. The downward stroke of one helps the upward
stroke of the other, each pair nearly balancing. This enables the owners
of small wells to pump them at the least expense. Heavy-oil has sold for
years at three-sixty to four dollars a barrel, consequently a
quarter-barrel apiece from forty wells, handled by one man and engine,
would exceed the income from a quarter-million dollars salted down in
government bonds. It is worth traveling a long distance to stand on the
hill and watch the pumping of Baum’s, Grimm’s, Cain’s, Grant’s,
Sheasley’s and James’s wells, some of them a mile from the power that
sets the strings of connecting-rods in motion.

[Illustration: COL. JOHN H. CAIN.]

[Illustration: GEORGE PLUMER SMITH.]

[Illustration: W. S. M’MULLAN]

On Two-Mile Run, up the Allegheny two miles, W. S. McMullan drilled
several wells in 1871-2. The product was the blackest of black oils,
indicating a deposit separated from the main reservoir of the
lubricating region. Subsequent operations demonstrated that a dry streak
intervened. Captain L. L. Ray put down fair wells near the river in
1894. Mr. McMullan resided at Rouseville and had valuable interests on
Oil Creek. He served a term in the State Senate, reflecting honor upon
himself and his constituents. A man of integrity and capacity, he could
be trusted implicitly. Fifteen years ago he removed to Missouri to
engage in lumbering. Senator McMullan, Captain William Hasson, member of
Assembly, and Judge Trunkey, who presided over the court and later
graced the Supreme Bench, were three Venango-county men in public life
whom railroad-passes never swerved from the path of duty. They refused
all such favors and paid their way like gentlemen. If lawgivers and
judges of their noble impress were the rule rather than the exception—“a
consummation devoutly to be wished”—grasping corporations would not own
legislatures and “drive a coach and four” through any enactment with

George P. Smith’s tract of land between Franklin and Two-Mile Run netted
him a competence in oil and then sold for one-hundred-thousand dollars.
Mr. Smith dispenses liberally to charitable objects, assists his friends
and uses his wealth properly. He owns his money, instead of letting it
own him. He has traveled much, observed closely and profited by what he
has seen and read. He is verging on fourscore, his home is in
Philadelphia and “the world will be the better for his having lived in

The production of heavy-oil in 1875 aggregated
one-hundred-and-thirty-thousand barrels. In 1877 it dropped to
eighty-eight-thousand barrels and in 1878 to seventy thousand.
Thirteen-hundred wells produced sixty-thousand barrels in 1883. Taft &
Payn’s pipe-line was laid in 1870 from the Egbert and Dewoody tracts to
the river, extended to Galloway in 1872 and combined with the Franklin
line in 1878. The Producers’ Pipe-Line Company began to transport oil in
1883. J. A. Harris, who died in 1894, had the first refinery in the
oil-regions in 1860. His plant was extremely primitive. Colonel J. P.
Hoover built the first refinery of note, which burned in the autumn of
1861. Sims & Whitney had one in 1861 and the Norfolk Oil-Works were
established the same year, below the Allegheny bridge. Samuel Spencer,
of Scranton, expended thirty-thousand dollars on the Keystone Oil-Works,
near the cemetery, in 1864. Nine refineries, most of them running the
lighter oils, were operated in 1854-5, after which the business
collapsed for years. Dr. Tweddle, a Pittsburg refiner who had suffered
by fire, organized a company in 1872 to start the Eclipse Works. At
different periods many of the local operators have been interested in
refining, now the leading Franklin industry.

For some time heavy-oil was used principally in its natural state. At
length improvements of great value were devised, out of which have grown
the oil-works devoted solely to the manufacture of lubricants. Among
these the most important and successful was that adopted in 1869 by
Charles Miller, of Franklin, protected by letters-patent of the United
States and since by patents covering the complete method. Besides
improvements in the method of manufacturing, he recognized the value of
lead-oxide as an ingredient in lubricating oils and a patent was secured
for the combination of whale-oil, oxide of lead and petroleum. The
Great-Northern Oil-Company, once a big organization, had built a
refinery in 1865 on the north bank of French Creek, below the Evans
Well, and leased it in 1868 to Colonel Street. In May of 1869 Mr. Miller
and John Coon purchased the Point Lookout Oil-Works, as the refinery was
called, Street retiring. The total tankage was one-thousand barrels and
the daily manufacturing capacity scarcely one-hundred. The new firm, of
which R. L. Cochran became a member in July, pushed the business with
characteristic energy, doubling the plant and extending the trade in all
directions. Mr. Cochran withdrew in January of 1870, R. H. Austin buying
his interest. The following August fire destroyed the works, entailing
severe loss. A calamity that would have disheartened most men seemed
only to imbue the partners with fresh vigor. Colonel Henry B. Plumer, a
wealthy citizen of Franklin, entered the firm and the Dale light-oil
refinery, a half-mile up the creek, was bought and remodeled throughout.
Reorganized on a solid basis as the “Galena Oil-Works,” a name destined
to gain world-wide reputation, within one month from the fire the new
establishment, its buildings and entire equipment changed and adapted to
the treatment of heavy-oil, was running to its full capacity night and
day! Such enterprise and pluck augured happily for the future and they
have been rewarded abundantly.

Orders poured in more rapidly than ever. The local demand spread to the
adjoining districts. Customers once secured were sure to stay. In
addition to the excellence of the product, there was a vim about the
business and its management that inspired confidence and won patronage.
Messrs. Coon, Austin and Plumer disposed of their interest, at a
handsome figure, to the Standard Oil Company in 1878. The Galena
Oil-Works, Limited, was chartered and continued the business, with Mr.
Miller as president. Increasing demands necessitated frequent
enlargements of the works, which now occupy five acres of ground. Every
appliance that ingenuity and experience can suggest has been provided,
securing uniform grades of oil with unfailing precision.

The machinery and appurtenances are the best money and skill can supply.
The same sterling traits that distinguished the smaller firm have all
along marked the progress of the newer and larger enterprise. The
standard of its products is always strictly first-class, hence patrons
are never disappointed in the quality of any of the celebrated Galena
brands of “Engine,” “Coach,” “Car,” “Machinery,” or “Lubricating” oils.
Steadfast adherence to this cardinal principle has borne its legitimate
fruit. Railway-oils are manufactured exclusively. The daily capacity is
three-thousand barrels. “Galena Oils” are used on _over ninety per
cent._ of the railway-mileage of the United States, Canada and Mexico.
Such patronage has never before been gained by any one establishment and
it is the result of positive merit. The Franklin district furnishes more
and better lubricating oil than all the rest of the continent and the
Galena treatment brings it to the highest measure of perfection. Reflect
for a moment upon the enormous expansion of the Galena Works and see
what earnest, faithful, intelligent effort and straightforward dealing
may accomplish.

The first three railroads that tried the “Galena Oils” in 1869 have used
none other since. Could stronger proof of their excellence be desired?
It was a pleasing novelty for railway-managers to find a lubricant that
would neither freeze in winter nor dissipate in summer and they made
haste to profit by the experience. The severest tests served but to
place it far beyond all competition. At twenty degrees below zero it
would not congeal, while the fiercest heat of the tropical sun affected
it hardly a particle. As the natural consequence it speedily superseded
all others on the principal railroads of the country. The axles of the
magnificent Pullman and Wagner coaches on the leading lines have their
friction reduced to the minimum by “Galena Oil.” It adds immeasurably to
the smoothness and speed of railway-travel between the Atlantic and the
Pacific, from Maine to the Isthmus, from British Columbia to Florida.
Passengers detained by a “hot box” and annoyed by the fumes of rancid
grease frying in the trucks beneath their feet may be certain that the
offending railways _do not_ use “Galena Oil.” The “Galena” is not
constructed on that plan, but stands alone and unapproachable as the
finest lubricator of the nineteenth century.

This is a record-breaking age. The world’s record for fast time on a
railroad was again captured from the English on September
eleventh, 1895. The New-York-Central train, which left New
York that morning, accomplished the trip to Buffalo at the
greatest speed for a continuous journey of any train over any
railroad in the world. The distance—four-hundred-and-thirty-six
miles—was covered in four-hundred-and-seven minutes, a rate of
sixty-four-and-one-third miles per hour. Until that feat the English
record of sixty-three-and-one-fifth miles an hour for five-hundred miles
was the fastest. In other words, the American train of four heavy cars,
hauled to Albany by engine No. 999, the famous World’s Fair locomotive,
smashed the English record more than a mile an hour, in the teeth of a
stiff head-wind. Father Time, who has insisted for many years that
travelers spend at least twenty-four hours on the journey between
Chicago and New York, received a fatal shock on October twenty-fourth,
1895. Two men who left Chicago at three-thirty in the morning visited
five theatres in New York that night! A special New-York-Central train,
with Vice-President Webb and a small party of Lake-Shore officials, ran
the nine-hundred-and-eighty miles in seventeen-and-three-quarter hours,
averaging sixty-five miles an hour to Buffalo, beating all previous
long-distance runs. For the first time copies of Chicago newspapers,
brought by gentlemen on the train, were seen in New York on the day of
their publication. Every axle, every journal, every box, every wheel of
both these trains, from the front of the locomotive to the rear of the
hind-coach, was lubricated with “Galena Oil.”

Later a train in Scotland, keeping step with the oatmeal-and-haggis fad
that has deluged the land with Highland-dialect tales, snatched the
garland by adding a mile or more to the Central’s achievement. The
Scottish triumph was very brief. “Ian McLaren,” Barree and Crockett
might shine in literature, but no foreign line could be permitted to fix
the record for railroad-speed. Engineer Charles H. Fahl, of the Reading
system, believed American railways to be the best on earth and backed up
his opinion by solid proof. During the past summer he ran the famous
flyer between Camden and Atlantic City the entire season on time every
trip. The train, scheduled to travel the fifty-six miles in fifty-two
minutes, always started at least two minutes late, owing to the
ferryboats not connecting promptly. Yet Engineer Fahl made up this loss
and reached Atlantic City a trifle ahead of time, without missing once.
The trips averaged _forty-eight minutes_, or a fraction above
_sixty-nine miles an hour_! This was not one experimental test, but a
regular run day after day the whole season, generally with six
passenger-coaches crowded from end to end. Week in and week out the
flyer sped across the sandy plains of New Jersey, with never a skip or a
break, at the pace which placed the record of Train 25, of the
Atlantic-City branch of the Reading Railroad, upon the top rung of the
ladder. This performance, unequaled in railway-history at home or
abroad, brought Engineer Fahl a commendatory letter from Vice-President
Theodore Voorhees. It was rendered possible only by the exclusive use,
on locomotive and coaches alike, of the Galena Oils, which prevented the
hot-journals and excessive friction that are fatal to speed-records.

The works are situated in the very heart of the heavy-oil district. Two
railroads, with a third in prospect, and a paved street front the
spacious premises. The main building is of brick, covering about an acre
and devoted chiefly to the handling of oil for manufacture or in course
of preparation, the repairing and painting of barrels and the
accommodation of the engines and machinery. To the rear stands a
substantial brick-structure, containing the steam-boilers, the
electric-light outfit and the huge agitators in which the oil is
treated. Big pumps next force the fluid into large vessels, where it is
submitted to a variety of special processes, which finally leave it
ready for the consumer. A dozen iron-tanks, each holding many thousand
barrels, receive and store crude to supply the works for months. As this
is piped directly from the wells the largest orders are filled with the
utmost dispatch. Nothing is lacking that can ensure superiority. The
highest wages are paid and every employee is an American citizen or
proposes to become one. The men are regarded as rational, responsible
beings, with souls to save and bodies to nourish, and treated in
accordance with the Golden Rule. They are well-fed, well-housed,
prosperous and contented. A strike, or a demand for higher wages or
shorter hours, is unknown in the history of this model institution. Is
it surprising that each year adds to its vast trade and wonderful
popularity? The unrivalled “Galena Oil-Works,” of Franklin, Venango
county, Pennsylvania, must be ranked among the most noteworthy
representative industries of Uncle Sam’s splendid domain.

                Have you a somewhat cranky wife,
                  Whose temper’s apt to broil?
                To ease the matrimonial strife
                Just lubricate when trouble’s rife—
                  Pour on Galena Oil!

                Has life some rusty hinge or joint
                  That vexes like a boil,
                And always sure to disappoint?
                The hindrance to success anoint
                  As with Galena Oil!

                Does business seem to jar and creak,
                  Despite long years of toil,
                Till wasted strength has left you weak?
                Reduce the friction, so to speak—
                  Apply Galena Oil!

                Are your affairs all run aground,
                  The cause of sad turmoil?
                To see again “the wheels go ’wound,”
                Smooth the rough spots wherever found—
                  Soak in Galena Oil!

The Signal Oil-Works, Franklin, manufacture Sibley’s Perfection
Valve-Oil for locomotive-cylinders and Perfection Signal-Oil. More than
twenty-five years ago Joseph C. Sibley commenced experimenting with
petroleum-oils for use in steam-cylinders under high pressure. He found
that where the boiler-pressure was not in excess of sixty pounds the
proper lubrication of a steam-cylinder with petroleum was a matter of
little or no difficulty. With increase in pressure came increase in
temperature. As a result the oil vaporized and passed through the
exhaust. The destruction of steam-chests and cylinders through fatty
acids incident to tallow, or tallow and lard-oils, cost millions of
dollars annually; but it was held as a cardinal point in mechanical
engineering that these were the only proper steam-lubricants. Mr. Sibley
carried on his experiments for years. He conversed with leading
superintendents-of-machinery in the United States and with leading
chemists. Almost invariably he was laughed at when asserting his
determination to produce a product of petroleum, free from fatty acids,
capable of better lubrication even than the tallow then in use. Many of
his friends in the oil-business, who thought they understood the nature
of petroleum, expressed the deepest sympathy with Mr. Sibley’s
hallucination. Amid partial successes, interspersed with many failures,
he continued the experiments. So incredulous were chemists and
superintendents-of-machinery, so fearful of disasters to their machinery
through the use of such a compound, that he had in many instances to
guarantee to assume any damages which might occur to a locomotive
through its use. He rode thousands of miles upon locomotives, watching
the use of the oil, daily doubling the distance made by engineers.
Success at last crowned his efforts and the Perfection Valve-Oil has
been for nearly twenty years the standard lubricant of valves and
cylinders. To-day there is scarcely a locomotive in the United States
that does not use some preparation of petroleum and the steam-chests and
cylinders of _more than three-fourths_ of all in the United States are
lubricated with Perfection Valve-Oil.

The results have been astounding. Destruction of steam-joints by fatty
acids from valve-lubricants is now an unknown thing. Not only this, but
as a lubricant the Perfection Valve-Oil has proved itself so much
superior that, where valve-seats required facing on an average once in
sixty days, they do not now require facing on an average once in two
years. The steam-pressure carried upon the boilers at that time rarely
exceeded one-hundred-and-twenty pounds. With the increase of pressure
and the corresponding increase of temperature it was found next to
impossible to properly lubricate the valves and cylinders to prevent
cutting. The superintendent-of-machinery of a leading American railway
sent for Mr. Sibley at one time, told him that he proposed to build
passenger-locomotives carrying one-hundred-and-eighty pounds pressure
and asked if he would undertake to lubricate the valves and cylinders
under that pressure. The reply was: “Go ahead. We will guarantee perfect
lubrication to a pressure very much higher than that.” And to-day the
higher type of passenger-locomotives carry one-hundred-and-eighty pounds
pressure regularly.

When it was clearly demonstrated that the Perfection Valve-Oil was a
success, oil-men who had pronounced it impossible and had been backed in
their opinion by noted chemists commenced to make oils similar to it in
appearance. While many of them may have much confidence in their own
product, the highest testimonial ever paid to Perfection Valve-Oil is
that no competitor claims he has its superior. Some urge their product
with the assurance that it is the equal of Perfection Valve-Oil, thus
unconsciously paying the highest tribute possible to the latter.

The works also make Perfection Signal-Oil for use in railway-lamps and
lanterns. Since 1869 this oil has been before the public. It is in daily
use in more than three-fourths of the railway-lanterns of the United
States and it is the proud boast of Mr. Sibley that, during that time,
there has never occurred an accident which has cost either a human limb
or life or the destruction of one penny’s worth of property, through the
failure of this oil to perform its work perfectly. Making but the two
products, Valve and Signal-Oils, catering to no other than
railroad-trade, studying carefully the demands of the service, keeping
in touch with the latest developments of locomotive-engineering and
thoroughly acquainted with the properties of all petroleum in
Pennsylvania, the company may well believe that, granted the possession
of equal natural abilities with competitors, under the circumstances it
is entitled to lead all others in the production of these two grades of
oils for railroad-use.



Hon. Charles Miller, president of the Galena Oil-Works, and Hon. Joseph
C. Sibley, president of the Signal Oil-Works, are brothers-in-law and
proprietors of the great stock-farms of Miller & Sibley. Mr. Miller is
of Huguenot ancestry, born in Alsace, France, in 1843. The family came
to this country in 1854, settling on a farm near Boston, Erie county,
New York. At thirteen Charles clerked one year in the village-store for
thirty-five dollars and board. He clerked in Buffalo at seventeen for
one-hundred-and-seventy-five dollars, without board. In 1861 he enlisted
in the New-York National Guard. In 1863 he was mustered into the United
States service and married at Springville, N. Y., to Miss Ann Adelaide
Sibley, eldest child of Dr. Joseph C. Sibley. In 1864 he commenced
business for himself, in the store in which he had first clerked, with
his own savings of two-hundred dollars and a loan of two-thousand from
Dr. Sibley. In 1866 he sold the store and removed to Franklin. Forming a
partnership with John Coon of Buffalo, the firm carried on a large
dry-goods house until 1869, when a patent for lubricating oil and a
refinery were purchased and the store was closed out at heavy loss. The
refinery burned down the next year, new partners were taken in and in
1878 the business was organized in its present form as “The Galena
Oil-Works, Limited.” The entire management was given Mr. Miller, who had
built up an immense trade and retained his interest in the works. He
deals directly with consumers. Since 1870 his business-trips have
averaged five days a week and fifty-thousand miles a year of travel. No
man has a wider acquaintance and more personal friends among
railroad-officials. His journeys cover the United States and Mexico.
Wherever he may be, in New Orleans or San Francisco, on the train or in
the hotel, conferring with a Vanderbilt or the humblest manager of an
obscure road, receiving huge orders or aiding a deserving cause, he is
always the same genial, magnetic, generous exemplar of practical belief
in “the universal fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man.”

Major Miller is one whom money does not spoil. He is the master, not the
servant, of his wealth. He uses it to extend business, to foster
enterprise, to further philanthropy, to alleviate distress and to
promote the comfort and happiness of all about him. His benefactions
keep pace with his increasing prosperity. He is ever foremost in good
deeds. He gives thousands of dollars yearly to worthy objects, to the
needy, to churches, to schools, to missions and to advance the general
welfare. In 1889 he established a free night-school for his employés and
the youth of Franklin, furnishing spacious rooms with desks and
apparatus and engaging four capable teachers. This school has trained
hundreds of young men for positions as accountants, book-keepers,
stenographers and clerks. The First Baptist church, which he assisted in
organizing, is the object of his special regard. He bore a large share
of the cost of the brick-edifice, the lecture-room and the parsonage. He
and Mr. Sibley have donated the massive pipe-organ, maintained the
superb choir, paid a good part of the pastor’s salary, erected a
branch-church and supported the only services in the Third Ward. For
twenty-five years Mr. Miller has been superintendent of the
Sabbath-school, which has grown to a membership of six-hundred. His
Bible-class of three-hundred men is equalled in the state only by John
Wanamaker’s, in Philadelphia, and James McCormick’s, in Harrisburg. The
instruction is scriptural, pointed and business-like, with no taint of
bigotry or sectarianism. No matter how far away Saturday may find him,
the faithful teacher never misses the class that is “the apple of his
eye,” if it be possible to reach home. Often he has hired an engine to
bring him through on Saturday night, in order to meet the adult pupils
of all denominations who flock to hear his words of wisdom and
encouragement. Alike in conversation, teaching and public-speaking he
possesses the faculty of interesting his listeners and imparting
something new. He has raised the fallen, picked poor fellows out of the
gutter, rescued the perishing and set many wanderers in the straight
path. Not a few souls, “plucked as brands from the burning,” owe their
salvation to the kindly sympathy and assistance of this earnest layman.
Eternity alone will reveal the incalculable benefit of his night-school,
his Bible-class, his church-work, his charity, his personal appeals to
the erring and his unselfish life to the community and the world.

      “No duty could overtask him, no need his will outrun;
      Or ever our lips could ask him, his hand the work had done.”

Twice Mr. Miller served as mayor of Franklin. Repeatedly has he declined
nominations to high offices, private affairs demanding his time and
attention. He is president or director of a score of commercial and
industrial companies, with factories, mines and works in eight states.
He has been president time after time of the Northwestern Association of
Pennsylvania of the Grand Army of the Republic, Ordnance-Officer and
Assistant Adjutant-General of the Second Brigade of Pennsylvania and
Commander of Mays Post. He is a leading spirit in local enterprises. He
enjoys his beautiful home and the society of his wife and children and
friends. He prizes good horses, smokes good cigars and tells good
stories. In him the wage-earner and the breadwinner have a steadfast
helper, willing to lighten their burden and to better their condition.
In short, Charles Miller is a typical American, plucky, progressive,
energetic and invincible, with a heart to feel, genius to plan and
talent to execute the noblest designs.

Hon. Joseph Crocker Sibley, eldest son of Dr. Joseph Crocker Sibley, was
born at Friendship, N.Y., in 1850. His father’s death obliging him to
give up a college-course for which he had prepared, in 1866 he came to
Franklin to clerk in Miller & Coon’s dry-goods store. From that time his
business interests and Mr. Miller’s were closely allied. In 1870 he
married Miss Metta E. Babcock, daughter of Simon M. Babcock, of
Friendship. He was agent of the Galena Oil-Works at Chicago for two
years, losing his effects and nearly losing his life in the terrible
fire that devastated that city. His business-success may be said to date
from 1873, when he returned to Franklin. After many experiments he
produced a signal-oil superior in light, safety and cold-test to any in
use. The Signal Oil-Works were established, with Mr. Sibley as president
and the proprietors of the Galena Oil-Works, whose plant manufactured
the new product, as partners. Next he compounded a valve-oil for
locomotives, free from the bad qualities of animal-oils, which is now
used on three-fourths of the railway mileage of the United States.

Every newspaper-reader in the land has heard of the remarkable
Congressional fight of 1892 in the Erie-Crawford district. Both counties
were overwhelmingly Republican. People learned with surprise that Hon.
Joseph C. Sibley, a resident of another district, had accepted the
invitation of a host of good citizens, by whom he was selected as the
only man who could lead them to victory over the ring, to try
conclusions with the nominee of the ruling party, who had stacks of
money, the entire machine, extensive social connections, religious
associations—he was a preacher—and a regular majority of five-thousand
to bank upon. Some wiseacres shook their heads gravely and predicted
disaster. Such persons understood neither the resistless force of
quickened public sentiment nor the sterling qualities of the candidate
from Venango county. Democrats, Populists and Prohibitionists endorsed
Sibley. He conducted a campaign worthy of Henry Clay. Multitudes crowded
to hear and see a man candid enough to deliver his honest opinions with
the boldness of “Old Hickory.” The masses knew of Mr. Sibley’s courage,
sagacity and success in business, but they were unprepared to find so
sturdy a defender of their rights. His manly independence, ringing
denunciations of wrong, grand simplicity and incisive logic aroused
unbounded enthusiasm. The tide in favor of the fearless advocate of
fair-play for the lowliest creature no earthly power could stem. His
opponent was buried out of sight and Sibley was elected by a sweeping

Mr. Sibley’s course in Congress amply met the expectations of his most
ardent supporters. The prestige of his great victory, added to his
personal magnetism and rare geniality, at the very outset gave him a
measure of influence few members ever attain. During the extra-session
he expressed his views with characteristic vigor. A natural leader,
close student and keen observer, he did not wait for somebody to give
him the cue before putting his ideas on record. In the silver-discussion
he bore a prominent part, opposing resolutely the repeal of the Sherman
act. His wonderful speech “set the ball rolling” for those who declined
to follow the administration program. The House was electrified by
Sibley’s effort. Throughout his speech of three hours he was honored
with the largest Congressional audience of the decade. Aisles, halls,
galleries and corridors were densely packed. Senators came from the
other end of the Capitol to listen to the brave Pennsylvanian who dared
plead for the white metal. For many years Mr. Sibley has been a close
student of political and social economics and he so grouped his facts as
to command the undivided attention and the highest respect of those who
honestly differed from him in his conclusions. Satire, pathos, bright
wit and pungent repartee awoke in his hearers the strongest emotions,
entrancing the bimetalists and giving their enemies a cold chill, as the
stream of eloquence flowed from lips “untrained to flatter, to dissemble
or to play the hypocrite.” Thenceforth the position of the
representative of the Twenty-sixth district was assured, despite the
assaults of hireling journals and discomfited worshippers of the golden

He took advanced ground on the Chinese question, delivering a speech
replete with patriotism and common-sense. An American by birth, habit
and education, he prefers his own country to any other under the blue
vault of heaven. The American workman he would protect from pauper
immigration and refuse to put on the European or Asiatic level. He
stands up for American skill, American ingenuity, American labor and
American wages. Tariff for revenue he approves of, not a tariff to
diminish revenue or to enrich one class at the expense of all. The
tiller of the soil, the mechanic, the coal-miner, the coke-burner and
the day-laborer have found him an outspoken champion of their cause.
Small wonder is it that good men and women of all creeds and parties
have abiding faith in Joseph C. Sibley and would fain bestow on him the
highest office in the nation’s gift.

Human nature is a queer medley and sometimes manifests streaks of envy
and meanness in queer ways. Mr. Sibley’s motives have been impugned, his
efforts belittled, his methods assailed and his neckties criticised by
men who could not understand his lofty character and purposes. The
generous ex-Congressman must plead guilty to the charge of wearing
clothes that fit him, of smoking decent cigars, of driving fine horses
and of living comfortably. Of course it would be cheaper to buy
hand-me-down misfits, to indulge in loud-smelling tobies, to walk or
ride muleback, to curry his own horses and let his wife do the washing
instead of hiring competent helpers. But he goes right ahead increasing
his business, improving his farms, developing American trotters and
furnishing work at the highest wages to willing hands in his factories,
at his oil-wells, on his lands, in his barns and his hospitable home. He
dispenses large sums in charity. His benevolence and enterprise reach
far beyond Pennsylvania. He does not hoard up money to loan it at
exorbitant rates. As a matter of fact, from the hundreds of men he has
helped pecuniarily he never accepted one penny of interest. He has been
mayor of Franklin, president of the Pennsylvania State-Dairymen’s
Association, director of the American Jersey-Cattle Club and member of
the State Board of Agriculture. He is a brilliant talker, a profound
thinker, a capital story-teller and a loyal friend. “May he live long
and prosper!”

Miller & Sibley’s Prospect-Hill Stock-Farm is one of the largest, best
equipped and most favorably known in the world. Different farms
comprising the establishment include a thousand acres of land adjacent
to Franklin and a farm, with stabling for two-hundred horses and the
finest kite-track in the United States, at Meadville. On one of these
farms is the first silo built west of the Allegheny mountains. Trotting
stock, Jersey cattle, Shetland ponies and Angora goats of the highest
grades are bred. For Michael Angelo, when a calf six weeks old,
twelve-thousand-five-hundred dollars in cash were paid A. B. Darling,
proprietor of the Fifth-Avenue Hotel, New York City. Animals of the best
strain were purchased, regardless of cost. In 1886 Mr. Sibley bought
from Senator Leland Stanford, of California, for ten-thousand dollars,
the four-year-old trotting-stallion St. Bel. Seventy-five thousand were
offered for him a few weeks before the famous sire of numerous
prize-winners died. Cows that have broken all records for milk and
butter, and horses that have won the biggest purses on the leading
race-tracks of the country are the results of the liberal policy pursued
at Prospect-Hill. Charles Marvin, the prince of horsemen, superintends
the trotting department and E. H. Sibley is manager of all the Miller &
Sibley interests. Hundreds of the choicest animals are raised every
year. Prospect-Hill Farm is one of the sights of Franklin and the
enterprise represents an investment not far short of one-million
dollars. Wouldn’t men like Charles Miller and Joseph C. Sibley sweep
away the cobwebs, give business an impetus and infuse new life and new
ideas into any community?

Franklin had tallied one for heavy-oil, but its resources were not
exhausted. On October seventeenth, 1859, Colonel James P. Hoover, C. M.
Hoover and Vance Stewart began to drill on the Robert-Brandon—now the
Hoover—farm of three-hundred acres, in Sandycreek township, on the west
bank of the Allegheny river, three miles south of Franklin. They found
oil on December twenty-first, the well yielding one-hundred barrels a
day! This pretty Christmas gift was another surprise. Owing to its
distance from “springs” and the two wells—Drake and Evans—already
producing, the stay-in-the-rut element felt confident that the Hoover
Well would not “amount to a hill of beans.” It was “piling Ossa on
Pelion” for the well to produce, from the _second sand_, oil with
properties adapted to illumination and lubrication. The Drake was for
light, the Evans for grease and the Hoover combined the two in part.
Where and when was this variegated dissimilarity to cease? Perhaps its
latest phase is to come shortly. Henry F. James is beginning a well
south-west of town, on the N. B. Myers tract, between a sweet and a sour
spring. Savans, scientists, beer-drinkers, tee-totalers and
oil-operators are on the ragged edge of suspense, some hoping, some
fearing, some praying that James may tap a perennial fount of creamy

Once at a drilling-well on the “Point” the tools dropped suddenly. The
driller relieved the tension on his rope and let the tools down slowly.
They descended six or eight feet! The bare thought of a crevice of such
dimensions paralyzed the knight of the temper-screw, all the more that
the hole was not to the first sand. What a lake of oil must underlie
that derrick! He drew up the tools. They were dripping amber fluid,
which had a flavor quite unlike petroleum. Did his nose deceive him? It
was the aroma of beer! A lick of the stuff confirmed the nasal
diagnosis—it had the taste of beer! The alarm was sounded and the
sand-pump run down. It came up brimming over with beer! Ten times the
trip was repeated with the same result. Think of an ocean of the
delicious, foamy, appetizing German beverage! Word was sent to the
owners of the well, who ordered the tubing to be put in. They tried to
figure how many breweries the production of their well would retire.
Pumping was about to begin, in presence of a party of impatient, thirsty
spectators, when an excited Teuton, blowing and puffing, was seen
approaching at a breakneck pace. Evidently he had something on his mind.
“Gott in Himmel!” he shrieked, “you vas proke mit Grossman’s vault!” The
mystery was quickly explained. Philip Grossman, the brewer, had cut a
tunnel a hundred feet into the hill-side to store his liquid-stock in a
cool place. The well chanced to be squarely over this tunnel, the roof
of which the tools pierced and stove in the head of a tun of beer!
Workmen who came for a load were astonished to discover one end of a
string of tubing dangling in the tun. It dawned upon them that the
drillers three-hundred feet above must have imagined they struck a
crevice and a messenger speeded to the well. The saddened crowd slinked
off, muttering words that would not look nice in print. The tubing was
withdrawn, the hogshead was shoved aside, the tools were again swung and
two weeks later the well was pumping thirty barrels a day of
unmistakable heavy-oil.

The Hoover strike fed the flame the Evans Well had kindled. Lands in the
neighborhood were in demand on any terms the owners might impose. From
Franklin to the new well, on both sides of the Allegheny, was the
favorite choice, on a theory that a pool connected the deposits. Leases
were snapped up at one-half royalty and a cash-bonus. Additional wells
on the Hoover rivaled No. 1, which produced gamely for four years. The
tools were stuck in cleaning it out and a new well beside it started at
sixty barrels. The “Big-Emma Vein” was really an artery to which for
years “whoa, Emma!” did not apply. Bissell & Co. and the Cameron
Petroleum-Company secured control of the property, on which fifteen
wells were producing two-hundred barrels ten years from the advent of
the Hoover & Vance. Harry Smith, a city-father, is operating on the
tract and drilling paying wells at reasonable intervals. Colonel James
P. Hoover died on February fourth, 1871, aged sixty-nine. Born in Centre
county, he settled in the southern part of Clarion, was appointed by
Governor Porter in 1839 Prothonotary of Venango county and removed to
Franklin. The people elected him to the same office for three years and
State-Senator in 1844. The Canal-Commissioners in 1851 appointed him
collector of the tolls at Hollidaysburg, Blair county, for five years.
He filled these positions efficiently, strict adherence to principle and
a high sense of duty marking his whole career. The esteem and confidence
he enjoyed all through his useful life were attested by universal regret
at his death and the largest funeral ever witnessed in Franklin. His
estimable widow survived Colonel Hoover twenty years, dying at the
residence of her son-in-law, Arnold Plumer, in Minnesota. Their son, C.
M. Hoover, ex-sheriff of the county, has been interested in the street
railway. Vance Stewart, who owned a farm near the lower river-bridge,
removed to Greenville and preceded his wife and several children, one of
them Rev. Orlando V. Stewart, to the tomb. Another son, James Stewart,
was a prominent member of the Erie bar.

[Illustration: B. E. SWAN.]

The opening months of 1860 were decidedly lively on the Cochran Farm, in
Cranberry township, opposite the Hoover. The first well, the Keystone,
on the flats above where the station now stands, was a second-sander of
the hundred-barrel class. The first oil sold for fourteen dollars a
barrel, at which rate land-owners and operators were not in danger of
bankruptcy or the poor-house. Fourteen-hundred dollars a day from a
three-inch hole would have seemed too preposterous for Munchausen before
the Pennsylvania oil-regions demonstrated that “truth is stranger than
fiction.” The Monitor, Raymond, Williams, McCutcheon and other wells
kept the production at a satisfactory figure. Dale & Morrow, Horton &
Son, Hoover & Co., George R. Hobby, Cornelius Fulkerson and George S.
McCartney were early operators. B. E. Swan located on the farm in May of
1865 and drilled numerous fair wells. He has operated there for
thirty-two years, sticking to the second-sand territory with a tenacity
equal to the “perseverance of the saints.” When thousands of producers,
imitating the dog that let go the bone to grasp the shadow in the water,
quit their enduring small wells to take their chance of larger ones in
costlier fields, he did not lose his head and add another to the
financial wrecks that strewed the greasian shore. Appreciating his moral
stamina, his steadfastness and ability, Mr. Swan’s friends insist that
he shall serve the public in some important office. Walter Pennell—his
father made the first car-wheels—and W. P. Smith drilled several snug
wells on the uplands, Sweet & Shaffer following with six or eight.
Eighteen wells are producing on the tract, which contains
one-hundred-and-forty acres and has had only two dry-holes in its
thirty-six years of active developments.

[Illustration: ALEXANDER COCHRAN.]

Alexander Cochran, for forty years owner of the well-known farm bearing
his name, is one of the oldest citizens of Franklin. Winning his way in
the world by sheer force of character, scrupulous integrity and a fixed
determination to succeed, he is in the highest and best sense a
self-made man. Working hard in boyhood to secure an education, he taught
school, clerked in general stores, studied law and was twice elected
Prothonotary without asking one voter for his support. In these days of
button-holing, log-rolling, wire-pulling, buying and soliciting votes
this is a record to recall with pride. Marrying Miss Mary Bole—her
father removed from Lewistown to Franklin seventy-five years ago—he
built the home at “Cochran Spring” that is one of the land-marks of the
town and established a large dry-goods store. As his means permitted he
bought city-lots, put up dwelling-houses and about 1852 paid
sixteen-hundred dollars for the farm in Cranberry township for which in
1863, after it had yielded a fortune, he refused seven-hundred-thousand!
The farm was in two blocks. A neighbor expostulated with him for buying
the second piece, saying it was “foolish to waste money that way.” In
1861, when the same neighbor wished to mortgage his land for a loan, he
naively remarked: “Well, Aleck, I guess I was the fool, not you, in
1852.” A man of broad views, Mr. Cochran freely grants to others the
liberality of thought he claims for himself. A hater of cant and sham
and hollow pretence, he believes less in musty creeds than kindly deeds,
more in giving loaves than tracts to the hungry, and takes no stock in
religion that thinks only of dodging punishment in the next world and
fails to help humanity in this. In the dark days of low-priced oil and
depressed trade, he would accept neither interest from his debtors nor
royalty from the operators who had little wells on his farm. He never
hounded the sheriff on a hapless borrower, foreclosed a mortgage to grab
a coveted property or seized the chattels of a struggling victim to
satisfy a shirt-tail note. There is no shred of the Pecksniff, the
Shylock or the Uriah-Heep in his anatomy. At fourscore he is hale and
hearty, rides on horseback, cultivates his garden, attends to business,
likes a good play and keeps up with the literature of the day. The
productive oil-farm is now owned by his daughters, Mrs. J. J. McLaurin,
of Harrisburg, and Mrs. George R. Sheasley, of Franklin. The proudest
eulogy he could desire is Alexander Cochran’s just desert: “The Poor
Man’s Friend.”

Down to Sandy Creek many wells were drilled from 1860 to 1865, producing
fairly at an average depth of four-hundred-and-fifty to five-hundred
feet. These operations included the Miller, Smith and Pope farms, on the
west side of the river, and the Rice, Nicklin, Martin and Harmon, on the
east side, all second-sand territory. North of the Cochran and the
Hoover work was pushed actively. George H. Bissell and Vance Stewart
bored twelve or fifteen medium wells on the Stewart farm of two-hundred
acres, which the Cameron Petroleum Company purchased in 1865 and Joseph
Dale operated for some years. It lies below the lower bridge, opposite
the Bleakley tract, from which a light production is still derived.
Above the Stewart are the Fuller and the Chambers farms, the latter
extending to the Allegheny-Valley depot. Scores of eager operators
thronged the streets of Franklin and drilled along the Allegheny. Joseph
Powley and Charles Cowgill entered the lists in the Cranberry district.
Henry M. Wilson and George Piagett veered into the township and sank a
bevy of dry-holes to vary the monotony. That was a horse on Wilson, but
he got ahead of the game by a deal that won him the nicest territory on
Horse Creek. Stirling Bonsall and Colonel Lewis—they’re dead now—were in
the thickest of the fray, with Captain Goddard, Philip Montgomery, Boyd,
Roberts, Foster, Brown, Murphy and many more whom old-timers remember
pleasantly. Thomas King, whole-souled, genial “Tom”—no squarer man e’er
owned a well or handled oil-certificates—and Captain Griffith were “a
good pair to draw to.” King has “crossed over,” as have most of the
kindred spirits that dispelled the gloom in the sixties.

Colonel W. T. Pelton, nephew of Samuel J. Tilden, participated in the
scenes of that exciting period. He lived at Franklin and drilled wells
on French Creek. He was a royal entertainer, shrewd in business, finely
educated and polished in manner and address. He and his wife—a lovely
and accomplished woman—were fond of society and gained hosts of friends.
They boarded at the United-States Hotel, where Mrs. Pelton died
suddenly. This affliction led Colonel Pelton to sell his oil-properties
and abandon the oil-regions. Returning to New York, when next he came
into view as the active agent of his uncle in the secret negotiations
that grew out of the election of 1876, it was with a national fame. His
death in 1880 closed a busy, promising career.

In the spring of 1864 a young man, black-haired, dark-eyed, an Apollo in
form and strikingly handsome, arrived at Franklin and engaged rooms at
Mrs. Webber’s, on Buffalo street. The stranger had money, wore good
clothes and presented a letter of introduction to Joseph H. Simonds,
dealer in real-estate, oil-wells and leases. He looked around a few days
and concluded to invest in sixty acres of the Fuller farm, Cranberry
township, fronting on the Allegheny river. The block was sliced off the
north end of the farm, a short distance below the upper bridge and the
Valley station. Mr. Simonds consented to be a partner in the
transaction. The transfer was effected, the deed recorded and a well
started. It was situated on the hill, had twenty feet of second-sand and
pumped twenty barrels a day. The owner drilled two others on the bluff,
the three yielding twenty barrels for months. The ranks of the
oil-producers had received an addition in the person of—John Wilkes

The firm prospered, each of the members speculating and trading
individually. M. J. Colman, a capital fellow, was interested with one or
both in various deals. Men generally liked Booth and women admired him
immensely. His lustrous orbs, “twin-windows of the soul,” could look so
sad and pensive as to awaken the tenderest pity, or fascinate like “the
glittering eye” of the Ancient Mariner or the gaze of the basilisk.
“Trilby” had not come to light, or he might have enacted the hypnotic
role of Svengali. His moods were variable and uncertain. At times he
seemed morose and petulant, tired of everybody and “unsocial as a clam.”
Again he would court society, attend parties, dance, recite and be “the
life of the company.” He belonged to a select circle that exchanged
visits with a coterie of young folks in Oil City. A Confederate
sympathizer and an enemy of the government, his closest intimates were
staunch Republicans and loyal citizens. William J. Wallis, the veteran
actor who died in December of 1895, in a Philadelphia theater slapped
him on the mouth for calling President Lincoln a foul name. Booth’s
acting, while inferior to his brother Edwin’s, evinced much dramatic
power. He controlled his voice admirably, his movements were graceful
and he spoke distinctly, as Franklinites whom he sometimes favored with
a reading can testify.

[Illustration: JOSEPH H. SIMONDS.]

[Illustration: J. WILKES BOOTH.]

[Illustration: MOSES J. COLMAN.]

One morning in April, 1865, he left Franklin, telling Mr. Simonds he was
going east for a few days. He carried a satchel, which indicated that he
did not expect his stay to be prolonged indefinitely. His wardrobe,
books and papers remained in his room. Nothing was heard of him until
the crime of the century stilled all hearts and the wires flashed the
horrible news of Abraham Lincoln’s assassination. The excitement in
Franklin, the murderer’s latest home, was intense. Crowds gathered to
learn the dread particulars and discuss Booth’s conduct and utterances.
Not a word or act previous to his departure pointed to deliberate
preparation for the frightful deed that plunged the nation in grief.
That he contemplated it before leaving Franklin the weight of evidence
tended to disprove. He made no attempt to sell any of his property, to
convert his lands and wells into cash, to settle his partnership
accounts or to pack his effects. He had money in the bank, wells
bringing a good income and important business pending. All these things
went to show that, if not a sudden impulse, the killing of Lincoln was
prompted by some occurrence in Washington that fired the passionate
nature John Wilkes Booth inherited from his father. The world is
familiar with the closing chapters of the dark tragedy—the assassin’s
flight, the pursuit into Virginia, the burning barn, Sergeant Corbett’s
fatal bullet, the pathetic death-scene on the Garrett porch and the last
message, just as the dawn was breaking on the glassy eyes that opened
feebly for a moment: “Tell my mother I died for my country. I did what I
thought was best.”

The wells and the land on the river were held by Booth’s heirs until
1869, when the tract changed hands. The farm is producing no oil and the
Simonds-Booth wells have disappeared. Had he not intended to return to
Franklin, Booth would certainly have disposed of these interests and
given the proceeds to his mother. “Joe” Simonds removed to Bradford to
keep books for Whitney & Wheeler, bankers and oil-operators, and died
there years ago. He was an expert accountant, quick, accurate and neat
in his work and most fastidious in his attire. A blot on his paper, a
figure not exactly formed, a line one hair-breath crooked, a spot on his
linen or a speck of dust on his coat was simply intolerable. He was
correct in language and deportment and honorable in his dealings. Colman
continued his oil-operations, in company with W. R. Crawford, a
real-estate agency, until the eighties. He married Miss Ella Hull, the
finest vocalist Franklin ever boasted, daughter of Captain S. A. Hull,
and removed to Boston. For years paralytic trouble has confined him to
his home. He is “one of nature’s nobleman.”

“French Kate,” the woman who aided Ben Hogan at Pithole and followed him
to Babylon and Parker, was a Confederate spy and supposed to be very
friendly with J. Wilkes Booth. Besides his oil-interests at Franklin,
the slayer of Abraham Lincoln owned a share in the Homestead well at
Pithole. A favorite legend tells how, by a singular coincidence, which
produced a sensation, the well was burned on the evening of the
President’s assassination. It caught fire about the same instant the
fatal bullet was fired in Ford’s Theater and tanks of burning oil
enveloped Pithole in a dense smoke when the news of the tragedy flashed
over the trembling wires. The Homestead well was not down until Lincoln
had been dead seven weeks, Pithole had no existence and there were no
blazing tanks; otherwise the legend is correct. Two weeks before his
appalling crime Booth was one of a number of passengers on the scow
doing duty as a ferry-boat across the Allegheny, after the Franklin
bridge had burned. The day was damp and the water very cold. Some
inhuman whelp threw a fine setter into the river. The poor beast swam to
the rear of the scow and Booth pulled him on board. He caressed the dog
and bitterly denounced the fellow who could treat a dumb animal so
cruelly. At another time he knocked down a cowardly ruffian for beating
a horse that was unable to pull a heavy load out of a mud-hole. He has
been known to shelter stray kittens, to buy them milk and induce his
landlady to care for them until they could be provided with a home.
Truly his was a contradictory nature. He sympathized with horses, dogs
and cats, yet robbed the nation of its illustrious chief and plunged
mankind into mourning. To newsboys Booth was always liberal, not
infrequently handing a dollar for a paper and saying: “No change; buy
something useful with the money.” The first time he went to the
Methodist Sunday-school, with “Joe” Simonds, he asked and answered
questions and put a ten-dollar bill in the collection-box.

Over the hills to the interior of the townships developments spread.
Bredinsburg, Milton and Tarkiln loomed up in Cranberry, where Taylor &
Torrey, S. P. McCalmont, Jacob Sheasley, B. W. Bredin and E. W. Echols
have sugar-plums. In Sandycreek, between Franklin and Foster, Angell &
Prentice brought Bully Hill and Mount Hope to the front. The biggest
well in the package was a two-hundred barreler on Mount Hope, which
created a mount of hopes that were not fully realized. George V. Forman
counted out one-hundred-and-fifty-thousand dollars for the Mount Hope
corner. The territory lasted well and averaged fairly. Bully Hill
merited its somewhat slangy title. Dr. C. D. Galbraith, George R.
Sheasley and Mattern & Son are among its present operators. Angell and
Prentice parted company, each to engage in opening up the Butler region.
Prentice, Crawford, Barbour & Co. did not let the grass grow under their
feet. They “knew a good thing at sight” and pumped tens-of-thousands of
barrels of oil from the country south of Franklin. The firm was notable
in the seventies. Considerable drilling was done at Polk, where the
state is providing a half-million-dollar Home for Feeble-Minded
Children, and in the latitude of Utica, with about enough oil to be an
aggravation. The Shippen wells, a mile north of the county poor-house,
have produced for thirty years. West of them, on the Russell farm, the
Twin wells, joined as tightly as the derricks could be placed, pumped
for years. This was the verge of productive territory, test wells on the
lands of William Sanders, William Bean, A. Reynolds, John McKenzie,
Alexander Frazier and W. Booth, clear to Cooperstown, finding a trifle
of sand and scarcely a vestige of oil. The Raymonds, S. Ramage, John J.
Doyle and Daniel Grimm had a very tidy offshoot at Raymilton. On this
wise lubricating and second-sand oils were revealed for the benefit of
mankind generally. The fly in the ointment was the clerical crank who
wrote to President Lincoln to demand that the producing of heavy-oil be
stopped peremptorily, as it had been stored in the ground to grease the
axletree of the earth in its diurnal revolution! This communication
reminded Lincoln of a “little story,” which he fired at the fellow with
such effect that the candidate for a strait-jacket was perpetually


[Illustration: JOHN P. CRAWFORD.]

Hon. William Reid Crawford, a member of the firm of Prentice, Crawford,
Barbour & Co., lives in Franklin. His parents were early settlers in
north-western Pennsylvania. Alexander Grant, his maternal grandfather,
built the first stone-house in Lancaster county, removed to Butler
county and located finally in Armstrong county, where he died sixty-five
years ago. In 1854 William R. and four of his brothers went to
California and spent some time mining gold. Upon his return he settled
on a farm in Scrubgrass township, Venango county, of which section the
Crawfords had been prominent citizens from the beginning of its history.
Removing to Franklin in 1865, Mr. Crawford engaged actively in the
production of petroleum, operating extensively in various portions of
the oil-regions for twenty years. He acquired a high reputation for
enterprise and integrity, was twice a city-councillor, served three
terms as mayor, was long president of the school-board, was elected
sheriff in 1887 and State-Senator in 1890. Untiring fidelity to the
interests of the people and uncompromising hostility to whatever he
believed detrimental to the general welfare distinguished his public
career. Genial and kindly to all, the friend of humanity and benefactor
of the poor, no man stands better in popular estimation or is more
deserving of confidence and respect. His friends could not be crowded
into the Coliseum without bulging out the walls. Ebenezer Crawford,
brother of William R., died at Emlenton in August of 1897, on his
seventy-sixth birthday. John P. Crawford, another brother, who made the
California trip in 1849, still resides in the southern end of the county
and is engaged in oil-operations. E. G. Crawford, a nephew, twice
prothonotary of Venango and universally liked, passed away last June.
His cousin, C. J. Crawford, a first-class man anywhere and everywhere,
served as register and recorder with credit and ability. The Crawfords
“are all right.”

             For money may come and money may go,
             But a good name stays to the end of the show.

Captain John K. Barbour, a man of imposing presence and admirable
qualities, removed to Philadelphia after the dissolution of the firm.
The Standard Oil-Company gave him charge of the right-of-way department
of its pipe-line service and he returned to Franklin. Two years ago,
during a business visit to Ohio, he died unexpectedly, to the deep
regret of the entire community. S. A. Wheeler operated largely in the
Bradford field and organized the Tuna-Valley Bank of Whitney & Wheeler.
For a dozen years he has resided at Toledo, his early home. Like Captain
Barbour, “Fred,” as he was commonly called, had an exhaustless mine of
bright stories and a liberal share of the elements of popularity. One
afternoon in 1875, three days before the fire that wiped out the town, a
party of us chanced to meet at St. Joe, Butler county, then the centre
of oil-developments. An itinerating artist had his car moored opposite
the drug-store. Somebody proposed to have a group-picture. The motion
carried unanimously and a toss-up decided that L. H. Smith was to foot
the bill. The photographer brought out his camera, positions were taken
on the store-platform and the pictures were mailed an hour ahead of the
blaze that destroyed most of the buildings and compelled the artist to
hustle off his car on the double-quick. Samuel R. Reed, at the extreme
right, operated in the Clarion field. He had a hardware-store in company
with the late Dr. Durrant and his home is in Franklin. James Orr,
between whom and Reed a telegraph-pole is seen, was connected with the
Central Hotel at Petrolia and later was a broker in the Producers’
Exchange at Bradford. On the step is Thomas McLaughlin, now oil-buyer at
Lima, once captain of a talented base-ball club at Oil City and an
active oil-broker. Back of him is “Fred” Wheeler, with Captain Barbour
on his right and L. H. Smith sitting comfortably in front. Mr. Smith
figured largely at Pithole, operated satisfactorily around Petrolia and
removed years ago to New York. Cast in a giant mould, he weighs
three-hundred pounds and does credit to the illustrious legions of
Smiths. He is a millionaire and has an office over the Seaboard Bank, at
the lower end of Broadway. Joseph Seep, the king-bee of good fellows,
sits besides Smith. Pratt S. Crosby, formerly a jolly broker at Parker
and Oil City, stands behind Seep. Next him is “Tom” King, who has “gone
to the land of the leal,” J. J. McLaurin ending the row. James Amm, who
went from an Oil-city clerkship to coin a fortune at Bradford—a street
bears his name—sits on the platform. Every man, woman, child and baby
near Oil City knew and admired “Jamie” Amm, who is now enjoying his
wealth in Buffalo. Two out of the eleven in the group have “passed
beyond the last scene” and the other nine are scattered widely.

                     “Friend after friend departs,
                     Who hath not lost a friend?”

[Illustration: GROUP AT ST. JOE, BUTLER COUNTY, IN 1874.]

Frederic Prentice, one of the pluckiest operators ever known in
petroleum-annals, was the first white child born on the site of Toledo,
when Indians were the neighbors of the pioneers of Northern Ohio. His
father left a fine estate, which the son increased greatly by extensive
lumbering, in which he employed three-thousand men. Losses in the panic
of 1857 retired him from the business. He retrieved his fortune and paid
his creditors their claims in full, with ten per cent. interest, an act
indicative of his sterling character. Reading in a newspaper about the
Drake well, he decided to see for himself whether the story was fast
colors. Journeying to Venango county by way of Pittsburg, he met and
engaged William Reed to accompany him. Reed had worked at the Tarentum
salt-wells and knew a thing or two about artesian-boring. The two
arrived at Franklin on the afternoon of the day Evans’s well turned the
settlement topsy-turvy. Next morning Prentice offered Evans
forty-thousand dollars for a controlling interest in the well,
one-fourth down and the balance in thirty, sixty and ninety days. Evans
declining to sell, the Toledo visitor bought from Martin & Epley an acre
of ground on the north bank of French Creek, at the base of the hill,
and contracted with Reed to “kick down” a well, the third in the
district. Prentice and Reed tramped over the country for days, locating
oil-deposits by means of the witch-hazel, which the Tarentumite handled
skillfully. This was a forked stick, which it was claimed turned in the
hands of the holder at spots where oil existed. Various causes delayed
the completion of the well, which at last proved disappointingly small.
Meanwhile Mr. Prentice leased the Neeley farm, two miles up the
Allegheny, in Cranberry township, and bored several paying wells. A
railroad station on the tract is named after him and R. G. Lamberton has
converted the property into a first-class stock-farm. Favorable reports
from Little Kanawha River took him to West Virginia, where he leased and
purchased immense blocks of land. Among them was the Oil-Springs tract,
on the Hughes River, from which oil had been skimmed for generations.
Two of his wells on the Kanawha yielded six-hundred barrels a day, which
had to be stored in ponds or lakes for want of tankage. Confederate
raiders burned the wells, oil and machinery and drove off the workmen,
putting an extinguisher on operations until the Grant-Lee episode
beneath the apple-tree at Appomattox.

Assuming that the general direction of profitable developments would be
north-east and south-west, Mr. Prentice surveyed a line from Venango
county through West Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee. This idea, really
the foundation of “the belt theory,” he spent thousands of dollars to
establish. Personal investigation and careful surveys confirmed his
opinion, which was based upon observations in the Pennsylvania fields.
The line run thirty years ago touched numerous “springs” and “surface
shows” and recent tests prove its remarkable accuracy. On this theory he
drilled at Mount Hope and Foster, opening a section that has produced
several-million barrels of oil. C. D. Angell applied the principle in
Clarion and Butler counties, mapping out the probable course of the
“belt” and leasing much prolific territory. His success led others to
adopt the same plan, developing a number of pools in four states,
although nature’s lines are seldom straight and the oil-bearing strata
are deposited in curves and beds at irregular intervals.

[Illustration: FREDERIC PRENTICE.]

In company with W. W. Clark of New York, to whom he had traded a portion
of his West-Virginia lands, Mr. Prentice secured a quarter-interest in
the Tarr farm, on Oil Creek, shortly before the sinking of the Phillips
well, and began shipping oil to New York. They paid three dollars apiece
for barrels, four dollars a barrel for hauling to the railroad and
enormous freights to the east. The price dropping below the cost of
freights and barrels, the firm dug acres of pits to put tanks under
ground, covering them with planks and earth to prevent evaporation.
Traces of these storage-vats remain on the east bank of Oil Creek. Crude
fell to twenty-five cents a barrel at the wells and the outlook was
discouraging. Clark & Prentice stopped drilling and turned their
attention to finding a market. They constructed neat wooden packages
that would hold two cans of refined-oil, two oil-lamps and a dozen
chimneys and sent one to each United-States Consul in Europe. Orders
soon rushed in from foreign countries, especially Germany, France and
England, stimulating the erection of refineries and creating a large
export-trade. Clark & Summer, who also owned an interest in the Tarr
farm, built the Standard Refinery at Pittsburg and agreed to take from
Clark & Prentice one-hundred-thousand barrels of crude at a dollar a
barrel, to be delivered as required during the year. Before the delivery
of the first twenty-five-thousand barrels the price climbed to one-fifty
and to six dollars before the completion of the contract, which was
carried out to the letter. The advance continued to fourteen dollars a
barrel, lasting only one day at this figure. These were vivifying days
in oleaginous circles, never to be repeated while Chronos wields his
trusty blade.

When crude reached two dollars Mr. Prentice bought the
Washington-McClintock farm, on which Petroleum Centre was afterwards
located, for three-hundred-thousand dollars. Five New-Yorkers, one of
them the president of the Shoe and Leather Bank and another the
proprietor of the Brevoort House, advanced fifty-thousand dollars for
the first payment. Within sixty days Prentice sold three-quarters of his
interest for nine-hundred-thousand dollars and organized the Central
Petroleum Oil-Company, with a capital of five-millions! Wishing to repay
the New-York loan, the Brevoort landlord desired him to retain his share
of the money and invest it as he pleased. For his ten-thousand dollars
mine host received eighty-thousand in six months, a return that leaves
government-bond syndicates and Cripple-Creek speculations out in the
latitude of Nansen’s north-pole. The company netted fifty-thousand
dollars a month in dividends for years and lessees cleared three or four
millions from their operations on the farm. Greenbacks circulated like
waste-paper, Jules Verne’s fancies were surpassed constantly by actual
occurrences and everybody had money to burn.

Prentice and his associates purchased many tracts along Oil Creek,
including the lands where Oil City stands and the Blood farm of
five-hundred acres. In the Butler district he drilled hundreds of wells
and built the Relief Pipe-Line. Organizing The Producers’ Consolidated
Land-and-Petroleum-Company, with a capital of two-and-a-half millions,
he managed it efficiently and had a prominent part in the Bradford
development. Boston capitalists paid in twelve-hundred-thousand dollars,
Prentice keeping a share in his oil-properties representing
thirteen-hundred-thousand more. The company is now controlled by the
Standard, with L. B. Lockhart as superintendent. Its indefatigable
founder also organized the Boston Oil Company to operate in Kentucky and
Tennessee, put down oil-wells in Peru and gas-wells in West Virginia,
produced and piped thousands of barrels of crude daily and was a vital
force in petroleum-affairs for eighteen years. The confidence and esteem
of his compatriots were attested by his unanimous election to the
presidency of the Oilmen’s League, a secret-society formed to resist the
proposed encroachments of the South-Improvement Company. The League
accomplished its mission and then quietly melted out of existence.

Since 1877 Mr. Prentice has devoted his attention chiefly to lumbering
in West Virginia and to his brown-stone quarries at Ashland, Wisconsin.
The death of his son, Frederick A., by accidental shooting, was a sad
bereavement to the aged father. His suits to get possession of the site
of Duluth, the city of Proctor Knott’s impassioned eulogy, included in a
huge grant of land deeded to him by the Indians, were scarcely less
famous than Mrs. Gaines’s protracted litigation to recover a slice of
New Orleans. The claim involved the title to property valued at
twelve-millions of dollars. From his Ashland quarries the owner took out
a monolith, designed for the Columbian Exposition in 1893, forty yards
long and ten feet square at the base. Beside this monster stone
Cleopatra’s Needle, disintegrating in Central Park, Pompey’s Pillar and
the biggest blocks in the pyramids are Tom-Thumb pigmies. At
seventy-four Mr. Prentice, foremost in energy and enterprise, retains
much of his youthful vigor. Earnest and sincere, a master of business,
his word as good as gold, Frederic Prentice holds an honored place in
the ranks of representative oil-producers, “nobles of nature’s own

[Illustration: CYRUS D. ANGELL.]

A native of Chautauqua county, N. Y., where he was born in 1826, Cyrus
D. Angell received a liberal education, served as School-Commissioner
and engaged in mercantile pursuits at Forestville. Forced through
treachery and the monetary stringency of the times to compromise with
his creditors, he recovered his financial standing and paid every cent
of his indebtedness, principal and interest. In 1867 he came to the
oil-regions with a loan of one-thousand dollars and purchased an
interest in property at Petroleum Centre that paid handsomely. Prior to
this, in connection with Buffalo capitalists, he had bought Belle
Island, in the Allegheny River at Scrubgrass, upon which soon after his
arrival he drilled three wells that averaged one-hundred barrels each
for two years, netting the owners over two-hundred-thousand dollars.
Operations below Franklin, in company with Frederic Prentice, also
proved highly profitable. His observations of the course of developments
along Oil Creek and the Allegheny led Mr. Angell to the conclusion that
petroleum would be found in “belts” or regular lines. He adopted the
theory that two “belts” existed, one running from Petroleum Centre to
Scrubgrass and the other from St. Petersburg through Butler county.
Satisfied of the correctness of this view, he leased or purchased all
the lands within the probable boundaries of the “belt” from Foster to
Belle Island, a distance of six miles. The result justified his
expectations, ninety per cent. of the wells yielding abundantly. With
“the belt theory,” which he followed up with equal success farther
south, Mr. Angell’s name is linked indissolubly. His researches enriched
him and were of vast benefit to the producers generally. He did much to
extend the Butler region, drilling far ahead of tested territory. The
town of Angelica owed its creation to his fortunate operations in the
neighborhood, conducted on a comprehensive scale. Reverses could not
crush his manly spirit. He did a large real-estate business at Bradford
for some years, opening an office at Pittsburg when the Washington field
began to loom up. Failing health compelling him to seek relief in
foreign travel, last year he went to Mexico and Europe to recuperate.
Mr. Angell is endowed with boundless energy, fine intellectual powers
and rare social acquirements. During his career in Oildom he was an
excellent sample of the courageous, unconquerable men who have made
petroleum the commercial wonder of the world.

An old couple in Cranberry township, who eked out a scanty living on a
rocky farm near the river, sold their land for sixty-thousand dollars at
the highest pitch of the oil-excitement around Foster. This was more
money than the pair had ever before seen, much less expected to handle
and own. It was paid in bank-notes at noon and the log-house was to be
vacated next day. Towards evening the poor old woman burst into tears
and insisted that her husband should give back the money to the man that
“wanted to rob them of their home.” She was inconsolable, declaring they
would be “turned out to starve, without a roof to cover them.” The idea
that sixty-thousand dollars would buy an ideal home brought no comfort
to the simple-minded creature, whose hopes and ambitions were confined
to the lowly abode that had sheltered her for a half-century. A promise
to settle near her brother in Ohio reconciled her somewhat, but it
almost broke her faithful heart to leave a spot endeared by many tender
associations. John Howard Payne, himself a homeless wanderer, whose song
has been sung in every tongue and echoed in every soul, jingled by
innumerable hand-organs and played by the masters of music, was right:

          “Be it ever so humble, there’s no place like home.”

The refusal of his wife to sign the deed conveying the property enabled
a wealthy Franklinite to gather a heap of money. The tract was rough and
unproductive and the owner proposed to accept for it the small sum
offered by a neighboring farmer, who wanted more pasture for his cattle.
For the first time in her life the wife declined to sign a paper at her
husband’s request, saying she had a notion the farm would be valuable
some day. The purchaser refused to take it subject to a dower and the
land lay idle. At length oil-developments indicated that the “belt” ran
through the farm. Scores of wells yielded freely, netting the land-owner
a fortune and convincing him that womanly intuition is a sure winner.

A citizen of Franklin, noted for his conscientiousness and liberality,
was interested in a test-well at the beginning of the Scrubgrass
development. He vowed to set aside one-fourth of his portion of the
output of the well “for the Lord,” as he expressed it. To the delight of
the owners, who thought the venture hazardous, the well showed for a
hundred barrels when the tubing was put in. On his way back from the
scene the Franklin gentleman did a little figuring, which proved that
the Lord’s percentage of the oil might foot up fifty dollars a day. This
was a good deal of money for religious purposes. The maker of the vow
reflected that the Lord could get along without so much cash and he
decided to clip the one-fourth down to one-tenth, arguing that the
latter was the scripture limit. Talking it over with his wife, she
advised him to stick to his original determination and not trifle with
the Lord. The husband took his own way, as husbands are prone to do, and
revisited the well next day. Something had gone wrong with the
working-valve, the tubing had to be drawn out and the well never pumped
a barrel of oil! The disappointed operator concluded, as he charged two
thousand dollars to his profit-and-loss account, that it was not the
Lord who came out at the small end of the horn in the transaction.

[Illustration: REV. C. A. ADAMS, D.D.]

[Illustration: REV. EZRA F. CRANE, D.D.]

Rev. Clarence A. Adams, the eloquent ex-pastor of the First Baptist
Church at Franklin, is the lucky owner of a patch of paying territory at
Raymilton. Recently he finished a well which pumped considerable
salt-water with the oil. Contrary to Cavendish and the ordinary custom,
another operator drilled very close to the boundary of the Adams lease
and torpedoed the well heavily. Instead of sucking the oil from the
preacher’s nice pumper, the new well took away most of the salt-water
and doubled the production of petroleum! Commonly it would seem rather
mean to rob a Baptist minister of water, but in this case Dr. Adams is
perfectly resigned to the loss of aqueous fluid and gain of dollar-fifty
crude. A profound student of Shakespeare, Browning and the Bible, a
brilliant lecturer and master of pulpit-oratory, may he also stand on a
lofty rung of the greasian ladder and attain the goodly age of
Franklin’s “grand old man,” Rev. Dr. Crane. This “father in Israel,”
whose death in February of 1896 the whole community mourned, left a
record of devoted service as a physician and clergyman for over sixty
years that has seldom been equaled. He healed the sick, smoothed the
pillow of the dying, relieved the distressed, reclaimed the erring,
comforted the bereaved, turned the faces of the straying Zionward and
found the passage to the tomb “a gentle wafting to immortal life.” Let
his memory be kept green.

                   “Though old, he still retained
             His manly sense and energy of mind.
             Virtuous and wise he was, but not severe,
             For he remembered that he once was young;
             His kindly presence checked no decent joy.
             Him e’en the dissolute admired. Can he be dead
             Whose spiritual influence is upon his kind?”

The late Thomas McDonough, a loyal-hearted son of the Emerald Isle, was
also an energetic operator in the lubricating region. He had an
abundance of rollicking wit, “the pupil of the soul’s clear eye,” and an
unfailing supply of the drollest stories. Desiring to lease a farm in
Sandy-Creek township, supposed to be squarely “on the belt,” he started
at daybreak to interview the owner, feeling sure his mission would
succeed. An unexpected sight presented itself through the open door, as
the visitor stepped upon the porch of the dwelling. The farmer’s wife
was setting the table for breakfast and Frederic Prentice was folding a
paper carefully. McDonough realized in a twinkling that Prentice had
secured the lease and his trip was fruitless. “I am looking for John
Smith” he stammered, as the farmer invited him to enter, and beat a
hasty retreat. For years his friends rallied the Colonel on his search
and would ask with becoming solemnity whether he had discovered John
Smith. The last time we met in Philadelphia this incident was revived
and the query repeated jocularly. The jovial McDonough died in 1894. It
is safe to assume that he will easily find numerous John Smiths in the
land of perpetual reunion. One day he told a story in an office on
Thirteenth street, Franklin, which tickled the hearers immensely. A
full-fledged African, who had been sweeping the back-room, broke into a
tumultuous laugh. At that moment a small boy was riding a donkey
directly in front of the premises. The jackass heard the peculiar laugh
and elevated his capacious ears more fully to take in the complete
volume of sound. He must have thought the melody familiar and believed
he had stumbled upon a relative. Despite the frantic exertions of the
boy, the donkey rushed towards the building whence the boisterous guffaw
proceeded, shoved his head inside the door and launched a terrific bray.
The bystanders were convulsed at this evidence of mistaken identity,
which the jolly story-teller frequently rehearsed for the delectation of
his hosts of friends.

[Illustration: THOMAS M’DONOUGH.]

Looking over the Milton diggings one July day, Col. McDonough met an
amateur-operator who was superintending the removal of a wooden-tank
from a position beside his first and only well. A discussion started
regarding the combustibility of the thick sediment collected on the
bottom of the tank. The amateur maintained the stuff would not burn and
McDonough laughingly replied, “Well, just try it and see!” The fellow
lighted a match and applied it to the viscid mass before McDonough could
interfere, saying with a grin that he proposed to wait patiently for the
result. He didn’t have to wait “until Orcus would freeze over and the
boys play shinny on the ice.” In the ninetieth fraction of a second the
deposit blazed with intense enthusiasm, quickly enveloping the well-rig
and the surroundings in flames. Clouds of smoke filled the air,
suggesting fancies of Pittsburg or Sheol. Charred fragments of the
derrick, engine-house and tank, with an acre of blackened territory over
which the burning sediment had spread, demonstrated that the amateur’s
idea had been decidedly at fault. The experiment convinced him as
searchingly as a Roentgen ray that McDonough had the right side of the
argument. “If the ‘b. s.’ had been as green as the blamed fool, it
wouldn’t have burned,” was the Colonel’s appropriate comment.

Miss Lizzie Raymond, daughter of the pioneer who founded Raymilton and
erected the first grist-mill at Utica, has long taught the infant-class
of the Presbyterian Sunday-school at Franklin. Once the lesson was about
the wise and the foolish virgins, the good teacher explaining the
subject in a style adapted to the juvenile mind. A cute little tot,
impressed by the sad plight of the virgins who had no oil in their
lamps, innocently inquired: “Miss ’Aymond, tan’t oo tell ’em dirls to
turn to our house an’ my papa ’ll div’ ’em oil f’um his wells?” Heaven
bless the children that come as sunbeams to lighten our pathway, to
teach us lessons of unselfishness and prevent the rough world from
turning our hearts as hard as the mill-stone.

Judge Trunkey, who presided over the Venango court a dozen years and was
then elected to the Supreme Bench, was hearing a case of desertion. An
Oil-City lawyer, proud of his glossy black beard, represented the
forsaken wife, a comely young woman from Petroleum Centre, who dandled a
bright baby of twenty months on her knee. Mother and baby formed a
pretty picture and the lawyer took full advantage of it in his closing
appeal to the jury. At a brilliant climax he turned to his client and
said: “Let me have the child!” He was raising it to his arms, to hold
before the men in the box and describe the heinous meanness of the
wretch who could leave such beauty and innocence to starve. The baby
spoiled the fun by springing up, clutching the attorney’s beard and
screaming: “Oh, papa!” The audience fairly shrieked. Judge Trunkey
laughed until the tears flowed and it was five minutes before order
could be restored. That ended the oratory and the jury salted the
defendant handsomely. Hon. James S. Connelly, an Associate Judge, who
now resides in Philadelphia and enjoys his well-earned fortune, was also
on the bench at the moment. Judge Trunkey, one of the purest, noblest
men and greatest jurists that ever shed lustre upon Pennsylvania, passed
to his reward six years ago.

    In your wide peregrinations from the poles to the equator,
    Should you hear some ignoramus—let out of his incubator—
    Say the heavy-oil of Franklin is not earth’s best lubricator,
    Do as did renown’d Tom Corwin, the great Buckeye legislator,
    When a jabberwock in Congress sought to brand him as a traitor,
    Just “deny the allegation and defy the allegator!”


                             KEEPING STEP.

The Shasta was Karns City’s first well.

Missouri has two wells producing oil.

North Dakota has traces of natural-gas.

Ninety wells in Japan pump four-hundred barrels.

Elk City, in the Clarion field, once had two-thousand population.

The Rob Roy well, at Karns City, has produced a quarter-million barrels
of oil.

Alaska-oil is cousin of asphalt-pitch, very heavy, and thick as
New-Orleans molasses in midwinter.

Wade Hampton, postmaster of Pittsburg, and cousin of Governor Wade
Hampton, organized one of the first petroleum companies in the United

General Herman Haupt, of Philadelphia, now eighty-one years old,
surveyed the route and constructed the first pipe-line across

Robert Nevin, founder of the Pittsburg _Times_, drilled a dry-hole
four-hundred feet, ten miles west of Greensburg, in 1858, a year before
Drake’s successful experiment in Oil Creek.

The Powell Oil-Company, superintended by Col. A. C. Ferris, still a
resident of New York, paid fifty-thousand dollars in cash for the Shirk
farm, half way between Franklin and Oil City, drilled a dry-hole and
abandoned the property.

          The gentle wife who seeks your faults to cover
          You don’t deserve; prize naught on earth above her;
          Keep step and be through life her faithful lover.

The new town of Guffey, the liveliest in Colorado, thirty miles from
Cripple Creek, is fitly named in honor of James M. Guffey, the
successful Pennsylvania oil-producer and political leader, who has big
mining interests in that section.

The Fonner pool, Greene county, was the oil-sensation of 1897 in
Pennsylvania. The Fonner well, struck in March, and territory around it
sold for two-hundred-thousand dollars. Elk Fork wore the West-Virginia
belt, Peru took the Hoosier biscuit and Lucas county the Buckeye

           Say, boys, seein’ how fast th’ ranks iz thinnin’—
           Th’ way thar droppin’ out sets my head spinnin’—
           An’ knownin’ ez how death may take an innin’
           An’ clean knock out our underpinnin’,
           I kalkilate we oughter swar off sinnin’,
           Jes’ quit fer keeps our dog-gon’ chinnin’,
           Start in th’ narrer road fer a beginning’,
           An’ so strike oil in Heav’n fer a sure winnin’
           When up the golden-stairs we goes a-shinnin’.

When the biggest well in Indiana flowed oil fifty feet above the
derrick, at Van Buren, a local paper noted the effect thus: “The strike
has given the town a tremendous boom. Several real-estate offices have
opened and the town-council has raised the license for faro-banks from
five dollars a year to twelve dollars.” At this rate Van Buren ought
soon to be in the van.



                        THE VALLEY OF PETROLEUM.



“I pity the man who can travel from Dan to Beersheba and cry, ‘’Tis all

“This beginning part is not made out of anybody’s head; it’s

“Some ships come into port that are not steered.”—_Seneca._

“God has placed in his great bank—mother earth—untold wealth and many a
    poor man’s check has been honored here for large amounts of
    oil.”—_T. S. Scoville, A. D. 1861._

“Ain’t that well spittin’ oil?”—_Small Boy, A. D. 1863._

“Wonderful, most wonderful, marvelous, most marvelous, are the stories
    told of the oil-region. It is another California.”—_John W. Forney,
    A. D. 1863._

“Derricks peered up behind the houses of Oil City, like dismounted
    steeples, and oil was pumping in the back-yards.”—_London Post, A.
    D. 1865._

“From this place and from this day henceforth commences a new

“The chandelier drives off with its splendor the darkness of
    night.”—_Henry Stanton._

“The onlookers were struck dumb with astonishment.”—_Charles Kingsley._

“Either I will find a way or make one.”—_Norman Proverb._

“I bid you look into the past as if it were a mirror.”—_Terence._


Forty-three farms of manifold shapes and sizes lay along the stream from
the Drake well to the mouth of Oil Creek, sixteen miles southward. For
sixty years the occupants of these tracts had forced a bare subsistence
from the reluctant soil. “Content to live, to propagate and die,” their
requirements and their resources were alike scanty. They knew nothing of
the artificial necessities and extravagances of fashionable life. To
most of them the great, busy, plodding world was a sealed book, which
they had neither the means nor the inclination to unclasp. The world
reciprocated by wagging in its customary groove, blissfully unconscious
of the scattered settlers on the banks of the Allegheny’s tributary. A
trip on a raft to Pittsburg, with the privilege of walking back, was the
limit of their journeyings from the hills and rocks of Venango. Hunting,
fishing and hauling saw-logs in winter aided in replenishing the
domestic larder. None imagined the unproductive valley would become the
cradle of an industry before which cotton and coal and iron must “hide
their diminished heads.” No prophet had proclaimed that lands on Oil
Creek would sell for more than corner-lots in London or New York. Who
could have conceived that these bold cliffs and patches of clearing
would enlist ambitious mortals from every quarter of the globe in a mad
race to secure a foothold on the coveted acres? What seventh son of a
seventh son could foresee that a thousand dollars spent on the Willard
farm would yield innumerable millions? Who could predict that a tiny
stream of greenish fluid, pumped from a hole on an island too
insignificant to have a name, would swell into the vast ocean of
petroleum that is the miracle of the nineteenth century? Fortune has
played many pranks, but the queerest of them all were the vagaries
incidental to the petroleum-development on Oil Creek.

The Bissell, Griffin, Conley, two Stackpole, Pott, Shreve, two Fleming,
Henderson and Jones farms, comprising the four miles between the Drake
well and the Miller tract, were not especially prolific. Traces of a
hundred oil-pits, in some of which oak-trees had grown to enormous size,
are visible on the Bissell plot of eighty acres. A large dam, used for
pond-freshets, was located on Oliver Stackpole’s farm. Two refineries of
small capacity were built on the Stackpole and Fletcher lands, where
eighteen or twenty wells produced moderately. The owner of a flowing
well on the lower Fleming farm, imitating the man who killed the goose
that laid the golden eggs, sought to increase its output by putting the
tubing and seed-bagging farther down. The well resented the
interference, refusing to yield another drop and pointing the obvious
moral: “Let well enough alone!” The Miller farm of four-hundred acres,
on both sides of the creek, was purchased in 1863 from Robert Miller by
the Indian Rock-Oil Company of New York. Now a railroad-station and
formerly the principal shipping-point for oil, refineries were started,
wells were drilled and the stirring town of Meredith blossomed for a
little space. The Lincoln well turned out sixty barrels a day, the
Boston fifty, the Bobtail forty, the Hemlock thirty and others from ten
to twenty-five, at an average depth of six-hundred feet. The Barnsdall
Oil-Company operated on the Miller and the Shreve farms, drilling
extensively on Hemlock Run, and George Bartlett ran the Sunshine
Oil-Works. The village, the refineries and the derricks have disappeared
as completely as Herculaneum or Sir John Franklin.

George Shaffer owned fifty acres below the Miller farm, divided by Oil
Creek into two blocks, one in Cherrytree township and the other in
Allegheny. Twenty-four wells, eight of them failures, were put down on
the flats and the abrupt hill bordering the eastern shore of the stream.
Samuel Downer’s Rangoon and three of Watson & Brewer’s were the largest,
ranking in the fifty-barrel list. In July of 1864 the Oil-Creek Railroad
was finished to Shaffer farm, which immediately became a station of
great importance. From one house and barn the place expanded in sixty
days to a town of three-thousand population. And such a town!
Sixteen-hundred teams, mainly employed to draw oil from the wells down
the creek, supported the stables, boarding-houses and hotels that sprang
up in a night. Every second door opened into a bar-room. The buildings
were “balloon frames,” constructed entirely of boards, erected in a few
hours and liable to collapse on the slightest pretext. Houses of cards
would be about as comfortable and substantial. Outdo Hezekiah, by
rolling back time’s dial thirty-one years, and in fancy join the crowd
headed for Shaffer six months after the advent of the railway.

Start from Corry, “the city of stumps,” with the Downer refinery and a
jumble of houses thrown around the fields. Here the Atlantic &
Great-Western, the Philadelphia & Erie and the Oil-Creek Railroads meet.
The station will not shelter one-half the motley assemblage bound for
Oildom. “Mother Cary is plucking her geese” and snow-flakes are dropping
thickly. Speculators from the eastern cities, westerners in quest of “a
good thing,” men going to work at the wells, capitalists and farmers,
adventurers and drummers clamor for tickets. It is the reverse of “an
Adamless Eden,” for only three women are to be seen. At last the train
backs to the rickety depot and a wild struggle commences. Scrambling for
the elevated cars in New York or Chicago is a feeble movement compared
with this frantic onslaught. Courtesy and chivalry are forgotten in the
rush. Men swarm upon the steps, clog the platforms, pack the
baggage-car, thrust the women aside, stick to the cowcatcher and clamber
on the roofs of the coaches. Over the roughest track on earth, which
winds and twists and skirts the creek most of the way, the train rattles
and jolts and pitches. The conductor’s job is no sinecure, as he
squeezes through the dense mass that leaves him without sufficient
elbow-room to “punch in the presence of the passenjare.” Derricks—tall,
gaunt skeletons, pickets of the advancing army—keep solemn watch here
and there, the number increasing as Titusville comes in sight.

A hundred people get off and two-hundred manage somehow to get on. Past
the Drake well, past a forest of derricks, past steep cliffs and
tortuous ravines the engineer speeds the train. Did you ever think what
a weight of responsibility rests upon the brave fellow in the
locomotive-cab, whose clear eye looks straight along the track and whose
steady hand grasps the throttle? Should he relax his vigilance or lose
his nerve one moment, scores of lives might be the fearful penalty. A
short stop at Miller Farm, a whiff of refinery-smells and in five
minutes Shaffer is reached. The board-station is on the right hand,
landings on the left form a semi-circle hundreds of feet in length,
freight-cars jam the double track and warehouses dot the bank. The
flat-about thirty rods wide-contains the mushroom-town, bristling with
the undiluted essence of petroleum-activity. Three-hundred teamsters are
unloading barrels of oil from wagons dragged by patient, abused horses
and mules through miles of greasy, clayey mud. Everything reeks with
oil. It pervades the air, saturates clothes and conversation, floats on
the muddy scum and fills lungs and nostrils with its peculiar odor. One
cannot step a yard without sinking knee-deep in deceptive mire that
performs the office of a boot-jack if given “a ghost of a show.”
Christian’s Slough of Despond wasn’t a circumstance to this adhesive
paste, which engulfs unwary travelers to their trouser-pockets and
begets a dreadful craving for roads not

                         “Wholly unclassable,
                         Almost impassable,
                         Scarcely jackassable.”

The trip of thirty-five miles has shaken breakfast clear down to the
pilgrims’ boots. Out of the cars the hungry passengers tumble as
frantically as they had clambered in and break for the hotels and
restaurants. A dollar pays for a dinner more nearly first-class in price
than in quality. The narrow hall leading to the dining-room is crammed
with men—Person’s Hotel fed four-hundred a day—waiting their turn for
vacant chairs at the tables. Bolting the meal hurriedly, the next
inquiry is how to get down the creek. There are no coupés, no prancing
steeds, no stages, no carriages for hire. The hoarse voice of a hackman
would be sweeter music than Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata” or
Mendelssohn’s “Wedding March.” Horseback-riding is impracticable and
walking seems the only alternative. To wade and flounder twelve
miles—Oil City is that far off—is the dreary prospect that freezes the
blood. Hark! In strident tones a fierce-looking fellow is shouting:
“Packet-boat for Oil City! This way for the packet-boat! Packet-boat!
Packet-boat!” Visions of a pleasant jaunt in a snug cabin lure you to
the landing. The “packet-boat” proves to be an oily scow, without sail,
engine, awning or chair, which horses have drawn up the stream from Oil
City. It will float back at the rate of three miles an hour and the fare
is three-fifty! The name and picture of “Pomeroy’s Express,” the best of
these nondescript Oil-Creek vessels, will bring a smile and warm the
cockles of many an old-timer’s heart!


Perhaps you decide to stay all night at Shaffer and start on foot early
in the morning. A chair in a room thick with tobacco-smoke, or a quilt
in a corner of the bar, is the best you can expect. By rare luck you may
happen to pre-empt a half-interest in a small bed, tucked with two or
three more in a closet-like apartment. Your room-mates talk of “flowing
wells—five-hundred-thousand dollars—third sand—big strike—rich in a
week—thousand-dollars a day,” until you fall asleep to dream of wells
spouting seas of mud and hapless wights wading in greenbacks to their
waists. Awaking cold and unrefreshed, your brain fuddled and your
thoughts confused, you gulp a breakfast of “ham ’n eggs ’n fried
potatoes ’n coffee” and prepare to strike out boldly. Encased in
rubber-boots that reach above the thighs, you choose one of the two
paths—each worse than the other—pray for sustaining grace and begin the
toilsome journey. Having seen the tips of the elephant’s ears, you mean
to see the end of his tail and be able to estimate the bulk of the
animal. Night is closing in as you round up at your destination,
exhausted and mud-coated to the chin. But you have traversed a region
that has no duplicate “in heaven above, or in the earth beneath, or in
the waters under the earth,” and feel recompensed a thousand-fold for
the fatigue and exposure. Were your years to exceed Thomas Parr’s and
Methuselah’s combined, you will never again behold such a scene as the
Oil-Creek valley presented in the days of “the middle passage” between
Shaffer and Oil City. Rake it over with a fine-comb, turn on the X-rays,
dig and scrape and root and to-day you couldn’t find a particle of
Shaffer as big as a toothpick! When the railroad was extended the
buildings were torn down and carted to the next station.

Widow Sanney’s hundred-acre farm, south of the Shaffer, had three
refineries and a score of unremunerative wells. David Gregg’s
two-hundred acres on the west side of Oil Creek, followed suit with
forty non-paying wells, three that yielded oil and the Victoria and
Continental refineries. The McCoy well, the first put down below the
Drake, at two-hundred feet averaged fifteen barrels a day from March
until July, 1860. Fire burning the rig, the well was drilled to
five-hundred feet and proved dry. R. P. Beatty sold his two-hundred
acres on Oil Creek and Hemlock Run to the Clinton Oil-Company of New
York, a bunch of medium wells repaying the investment. James Farrell,
a teamster, for two-hundred dollars purchased a thirty-acre bit of
rough land south of Beatty, on the east side of Oil Creek and Bull
Run, the extreme south-west corner of Allegheny—now Oil
Creek—township. In the spring of 1860 Orange Noble leased sixteen
acres for six hundred dollars and one-quarter royalty. Jerking a
“spring-pole” five months sank a hole one-hundred-and-thirty feet,
without a symptom of greasiness, and the well was neglected nearly
three years. The “third sand” having been found on the creek, the
holders of the Farrell lease decided to drill the old hole deeper.
George B. Delamater and L. L. Lamb were associated with Noble in the
venture. They contracted with Samuel S. Fertig, of Titusville, whose
energy and reliability had gained the good-will of operators, to drill
about five-hundred feet. Fertig went to work in April of 1863, using a
ten-horse boiler and engine and agreeing to take one-sixteenth of the
working-interest as part payment. He had lots of the push that long
since placed him in the van as a successful producer, enjoying a
well-earned competence. Early in May, at four-hundred-and-fifty feet,
a “crevice” of unusual size was encountered. Fearing to lose his
tools, the contractor shut down for consultation with the well-owners.
Noble was at Pittsburg on a hunt for tubing, which he ordered from
Philadelphia. The well stood idle two weeks, waiting for the tubing,
surface-water vainly trying to fill the hole.

[Illustration: SAMUEL S. FERTIG.]

On the afternoon of May twenty-seventh, 1863, everything was ready.
“Start her slowly,” Noble shouted from the derrick to Fertig, who stood
beside the engine and turned on the steam. The rods moved up and down
with steady stroke, bringing a stream of fresh water, which it was hoped
a day’s pumping might exhaust. Then it would be known whether two of the
owners—Noble and Delamater—had acted wisely on May fifteenth in
rejecting one-hundred-thousand dollars for one-half of the well. Noble
went to an eating-house near by for a lunch. He was munching a sandwich
when a boy at the door bawled: “Golly! Ain’t that well spittin’ oil?”
Turning around, he saw a column of oil and water rising a hundred feet,
enveloping the trees and the derrick in dense spray! The gas roared, the
ground fairly shook and the workmen hastened to extinguish the fire
beneath the boiler. The “Noble well,” destined to be the most profitable
ever known, had begun its dazzling career at the dizzy figure of
three-thousand barrels a day!

Crude was four dollars a barrel, rose to six, to ten, to
thirteen! Compute the receipts from the Noble well at these
quotations—twelve-thousand, eighteen-thousand, thirty-thousand,
thirty-nine-thousand dollars a day! Sinbad’s fabled Valley of Diamonds
was a ten-cent side-show in comparison with the actual realities of the
valley of Oil Creek.

Soon the foaming volume filled the hollow close to the well and ran into
the creek. What was to be done? In the forcible jargon of a driller:
“The divil wuz to pay an’ no pitch hot!” For two-hundred dollars three
men crawled through the blinding shower and contrived to attach a
stop-cock device to the pipe. By sunset a seven-hundred-barrel tank was
overflowing. Boatmen down the creek, notified to come at once for all
they wanted at two dollars a barrel, by midnight took the oil directly
from the well. Next morning the stream was turned into a
three-thousand-barrel tank, filling it in twenty-one hours!
Sixty-two-thousand barrels were shipped and fifteen-thousand tanked,
exclusive of leakage and waste, in thirty days. Week after week the flow
continued, declining to six-hundred barrels a day in eighteen months.
The superintendent of the Noble & Delamater Oil Company—organized in
1864 with a million capital—in February of 1865 recommended pulling out
the tubing and cleaning the well. Learning of this intention, Noble and
Delamater unloaded their stock at or above par. The tubing was drawn,
the well pumped fifteen barrels in two days, came to a full stop and was
abandoned as a dry-hole!

The production of this marvelous gusher—over seven-hundred-thousand
barrels—netted upwards of four-million dollars! One-fourth of this
lordly sum went to the children of James Farrell—he did not live to see
his land developed—James, John, Nelson and their sister, now Mrs.
William B. Sterrett, of Titusville. Noble and Delamater owned one-half
the working-interest, less the sixteenth assigned to S. S. Fertig, who
bought another sixteenth from John Farrell while drilling the well and
sold both to William H. Abbott for twenty-seven-thousand dollars. Ten
persons—L. L. Lamb, Solomon and W. H. Noble, Rev. L. Reed, James and L.
H. Hall, Charles and Thomas Delamater, G. T. Churchhill and Rollin
Thompson—held almost one-quarter. Even this fractional claim gave each a
splendid income. The total outlay for the lease and well—not quite
four-thousand dollars—was repaid one-thousand times in twenty months! Is
it surprising that men plunged into speculations which completely
eclipsed the South-Sea Bubble and Law’s Mississippi-Scheme? Is it any
wonder that multitudes were eager to stake their last dollar, their
health, their lives, their very souls on the chance of such winnings?

Thirteen wells were drilled on the Farrell strip. The Craft had yielded
a hundred-thousand barrels and was doing two-hundred a day when the
seed-bag burst, flooding the well with water and driving the oil away.
The Mulligan and the Commercial did their share towards making the
territory the finest property in Oildom, with third sand on the flats
and in the ravine of Bull Run forty feet thick. Not a fragment of tanks
or derricks is left to indicate that twenty fortunes were acquired on
the desolate spot, once the scene of tremendous activity, more coveted
than Naboth’s vineyard or Jason’s Golden Fleece. On the Caldwell farm of
two-hundred acres, south of the Farrell, twenty-five or thirty wells
yielded largely. The Caldwell, finished in March of 1863, at the
north-west corner of the tract, flowed twelve-hundred barrels a day for
six weeks. Evidently deriving its supply from the same pool, the Noble
well cut this down to four-hundred barrels. A demand for one-fourth the
output of the Noble, enforced by a threat to pull the tubing and destroy
the two, was settled by paying one-hundred-and-forty-five-thousand
dollars for the Caldwell well and an acre of ground. “Growing smaller by
degrees and beautifully less,” within a month of the transfer the
Caldwell quit forever, drained as dry as the bones in Ezekiel’s vision!

Hon. Orange Noble, the son of a New-York farmer, dealt in sheep and
cattle, married in 1841 and in 1852 removed to Randolph, Crawford
county, Pa. He farmed, manufactured “shooks” and in 1855 opened a store
at Townville in partnership with George B. Delamater. The partners and
L. L. Lamb inspected the Drake well in October of 1859, secured leases
on the Stackpole and Jones farms and drilled two dry-holes. Other wells
on different farms in 1860-1 resulted similarly, but the Noble
compensated richly for these failures. The firm wound up the
establishment at Townville in 1863, squared petroleum-accounts, and in
1864 Mr. Noble located at Erie. There he organized banks, erected
massive blocks, served as mayor three terms, built the first grain
elevator and contributed greatly to the prosperity of the city. Blessed
with ample wealth—the Noble well paid him eight-hundred-thousand
dollars—a vigorous constitution and the regard of his fellows, he has
lived to a ripe age to enjoy the fruits of his patient industry and
remarkable success.

[Illustration: GEORGE W. DELAMATER.]

Hon. George B. Delamater, whose parents settled in Crawford county in
1822, studied law and was admitted to the Meadville bar in 1847. He
published a newspaper at Youngsville, Warren county, two years and in
1852 started in business at Townville. Clients were not plentiful in
the quiet village, where a lawsuit was a luxury, and the young
attorney found boring juries much less remunerative than he afterwards
found boring oil-wells. Returning to Meadville in 1864, with
seven-hundred-thousand dollars and some real-estate at his command, he
built the magnificent Delamater Block, opened a bank, promoted many
important enterprises and engaged actively in politics. Selected to
oppose George K. Anderson—he, too, had a bar’l—for the State Senate in
1869, Delamater carried off the prize. It was a case of Greek meeting
Greek. Money flowed like water, Anderson spending thirty-thousand
dollars and his opponent twenty-eight-thousand on the primaries alone!
This was the beginning of the depletion of the Delamater fortune and
the political demoralization that scandalized Crawford county for
years. Mr. Delamater served one term, declined to run again and
Anderson succeeded him. His son, George W., a young lawyer of ability
and superior address, entered the lists and was elected Mayor of
Meadville and State-Senator. He married an accomplished lady, occupied
a brick-mansion, operated at Petrolia, practiced law and assisted in
running the bank. Samuel B. Dick headed a faction that opposed the
Delamaters bitterly. Nominated for Governor of Pennsylvania in 1890,
George W. Delamater was defeated by Robert E. Pattison. He conducted
an aggressive campaign, visiting every section of the state and
winning friends by his frank courtesy and manly bearing. Ruined by
politics, unable longer to stand the drain that had been sapping its
resources, the Delamater Bank suspended two weeks after the
gubernatorial election. The brick-block, the homes of the parents and
the sons, the assets of the concern—mere drops in the bucket—met a
trifling percentage of the liabilities. Property was sacrificed, suits
were entered and dismissed, savings of depositors were swept away and
the failure entailed a host of serious losses. The senior Delamater
went to Ohio to start life anew at seventy-one. George W. located in
Chicago and quickly gathered a law-practice. That he will regain
wealth and honor, pay off every creditor and some day represent his
district in Congress those who know him best are not unwilling to
believe. The fall of the Delamater family—the beggary of the aged
father—the crushing of the son’s honorable ambition—the exile from
home and friends—the suffering of innocent victims—all these
illustrate the sad reverses which, in the oil-region, have “come, not
single spies, but in battalions.”

James Bonner, son of an Ohio clergyman and book-keeper for Noble &
Delamater, lodged in the firm’s new office beside the well. Seized with
typhoid fever, his recovery was hopeless. The office caught fire, young
Bonner’s father carried him to the window, a board was placed to slide
him down and he expired in a few moments. His father, overcome by smoke,
was rescued with difficulty; his mother escaped by jumping from the
second story.

James Foster owned sixty acres on the west side of Oil Creek, opposite
the Farrell and Caldwell tracts. The upper half, extending over the hill
to Pioneer Run, he sold to the Irwin Petroleum Company of Philadelphia,
whose Irwin well pumped two-hundred barrels a day. The Porter well,
finished in May of 1864, flowed all summer, gradually declining from
two-hundred barrels to seventy and finally pumping twenty. Other wells
and a refinery paid good dividends. J. W. Sherman, of Cleveland, leased
the lower end of the farm and bounced the “spring-pole” in the winter of
1861-2. His wife’s money and his own played out before the second sand
was penetrated. It was impossible to drill deeper “by hand-power.” A
horse or an engine must be had to work the tools. “Pete,” a white,
angular equine, was procured for one-sixteenth interest in the well. The
task becoming too heavy for “Pete,” another sixteenth was traded to
William Avery and J. E. Steele for a small engine and boiler. Lack of
means to buy coal—an expensive article, sold only for “spot cash”—caused
a week’s delay. The owners of the well could not muster “long green” to
pay for one ton of fuel! For another sixteenth a purchaser grudgingly
surrendered eighty dollars and a shot-gun! The last dollar had been
expended when, on March sixteenth, 1862—just in season to celebrate St.
Patrick’s day—the tools punctured the third sand. A “crevice” was hit,
the tools were drawn out and in five minutes everything swam in oil. The
Sherman well was flowing two-thousand barrels a day! Borrowing the
phrase of the parrot stripped of his feathers and blown five-hundred
feet by a powder-explosion, people might well exclaim: “This beats the
Old Scratch!”

To provide tankage was the first concern. Teams were dispatched for
lumber and carpenters hurried to the scene. Near the well a mudhole,
between two stumps, could not be avoided. In this one of the wagons
stuck fast and had to be pried out, John A. Mather chanced to come along
with his photograph apparatus. The men posed an instant, the horses
“looked pleasant,” the wagon didn’t stir and he secured the artistic
picture reproduced here thirty-five years after. It is an interesting
souvenir of former times—times that deserve the best work of pen and
pencil, camera and brush, “to hold them in everlasting remembrance.”


The Sherman well “whooped it up” bravely, averaging nine-hundred barrels
daily for two years and ceasing to spout in February of 1864. Pumping
restored it to seventy-five barrels, which dwindled to six or eight in
1867, when fire consumed the rig and the veteran was abandoned. The
product sold at prices ranging from fifty cents to thirteen dollars a
barrel, the total aggregating seventeen-hundred-thousand dollars! How
was that for a return? It meant one-hundred-thousand dollars for the man
who traded “Pete,” one-hundred-thousand for the man who invested eighty
dollars and a rusty gun, one-hundred-thousand for the two men who
furnished the second-hand engine, and a million—deducting the
royalty—for the man who had neither cash nor credit for a load of coal!

None of the other fifty or sixty wells on the Foster farm, some of them
Sherman’s, was particularly noteworthy. The broad flat, the sluggish
stream and the bluffs across the creek remain as in days of yore, but
the wells, the shanties, the tanks, the machinery and the workmen have
vanished. Sherman, long hale and hearty, struck a spouter in Kentucky,
operated two or three years at Bradford and took up his abode at Warren.
It was a treat to hear his vivid descriptions of life on Oil Creek in
the infancy of developments—life crowded with transformations far
surpassing the fantastic changes of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” He died
at Cleveland last year.

Among the teamsters who hauled oil from the Sherman well in its prime
was “Con” O’Donnell, a fun-loving, impulsive Irishman. He saved his
earnings, secured leases for himself, owned a bevy of wells at Kane City
and operated in the Clarion field. Marrying a young lady of
Ellicottville, N. Y., his early home, he lived some years at Foxburg and
St. Petersburg. He was the rarest of practical jokers and universally
esteemed. Softening of the brain afflicted him for years, death at last
stilling as warm and kindly a heart as ever throbbed in a manly breast.
“Con” often regaled me with his droll witticisms as we rode or drove
through the Clarion district. “Peace to his ashes.”

Late in the fall of 1859, “when th’ frost wuz on th’ punkin’ an’ th’
bloom wuz on th’ rye,” David McElhenny sold the upper and lower
McElhenny farms—one-hundred-and-eighty acres at the south-east corner of
Cherrytree township—to Captain A. B. Funk, for fifteen-hundred dollars
and one-fourth of the oil. Joining the Foster farm on the north, Oil
Creek bounded the upper tract on the east and south and Pioneer Run
gurgled through the western side. Oil Creek flowed through the northern
and western sides of the lower half, which had the Espy farm on the
east, the Boyd south and the Benninghoff north and west. McElhenny’s
faith in petroleum was of the mustard-seed order and he jumped at Hussey
& McBride’s offer of twenty-thousand dollars for the royalty. Captain
Funk—he obtained the title from running steamboats lumbering on the
Youghiogheny river—in February of 1860 commenced the first well on the
lower McElhenny farm. All spring and summer the “spring-pole” bobbed
serenely, punching the hole two-hundred-and-sixty feet, with no
suspicion of oil in the first and second sands. The Captain, believing
it a rank failure, would gladly have exchanged the hole “for a yellow
dog.” His son, A. P. Funk, bought a small locomotive-boiler and an
engine and resumed work during the winter. Early in May, 1861, at
four-hundred feet, a “pebble rock”—the “third sand”—tested the temper of
the center-bit. Hope, the stuff that “springs eternal in the human
breast,” took a fresh hold. It languished as the tools bored thirty,
forty, fifty feet into the “pebble” and not a drop of oil appeared. Then
something happened. Flecks of foam bubbled to the top of the conductor,
jets of water rushed out, oil and water succeeded and a huge pillar of
pure oil soared fifty yards! The Fountain well had tapped a fountain in
the rock ordained thenceforth to furnish mankind with Pennsylvania
petroleum. The _first well put down to_ “the third sand,” and really the
_first on Oil Creek that flowed_ from any sand, it revealed
oil-possibilities before unknown and unsuspected.

More tangible than the mythical Fountain of Youth, the Fountain well
tallied three-hundred barrels a day for fifteen months. The flow ended
as suddenly as it began. Paraffine clogged and strangled it to death,
sealing the pores and pipes effectually. A young man “taught the young
idea how to shoot” at Steam Mills, east of Titusville, where Captain
Funk had lumber-mills. A visit to the Drake and Barnsdall wells, in
December of 1859, determined the schoolmaster to have an oil-well of his
own. Funk liked the earnest, manly youth and leased him five acres of
the upper McElhenny farm. Plenty of brains, a brave heart, robust
health, willing hands and thirty dollars constituted his capital.
Securing two partners, “kicking down” started in the spring of 1860. Not
a sign of oil could be detected at two-hundred feet, and the partners
departed from the field. Summer and the teacher’s humble savings were
gone. He earned more money by drilling on the Allegheny river, four
miles above Oil City. While thus engaged the Fountain well
revolutionized the business by “flowing” from a lower rock. The
ex-wielder of the birch—he had resigned the ferrule for the
“spring-pole”—hastened to sink the deserted well to the depth of Funk’s
eye-opener. The second three-hundred-barrel gusher from the third sand,
it rivaled the Fountain and arrived in time to help 1861 crimson the
glorious Fourth!

[Illustration: JOHN FERTIG.        \CAPT. A. B. FUNK.]

Hon. John Fertig, of Titusville, the plucky schoolmaster of 1859-60,
has been largely identified with oil ever since his initiation on the
McElhenny lease. The Fertig well, in which David Beatty and Michael
Gorman were his partners originally, realized him a fortune. Born in
Venango county, on a farm below Gas City, in 1837, he completed a
course at Neilltown Academy and taught school several terms. Soon
after embarking in the production of oil he formed a partnership with
the late John W. Hammond, which lasted until dissolved by death twenty
years later. Fertig & Hammond operated in different sections with
great success, carried on a refinery and established a bank at
Foxburg. Mr. Fertig was Mayor of Titusville three terms,
School-Controller, State Senator and Democratic candidate for
Lieutenant-Governor in 1878. He has been vice-president of the
Commercial Bank from its organization in 1882 and is president of the
Titusville Iron-Works. Head of the National Oil-Company, he was also
chief officer of the Union Oil-Company, an association of refining
companies. For three years its treasurer—1892-5—he tided the
United-States Pipe-Line Company over a financial crisis in 1893. As a
pioneer producer—one of the few survivors connected with developments
for a generation—a refiner and shipper, banker, manufacturer and
business-man, John Fertig is most distinctively a representative of
the oil-country. From first to last he has been admirably prudent and
aggressive, conservative and enterprising in shaping a career with
much to cherish and little to regret.

Frederick Crocker drilled a notable well on the McElhenny, near the
Foster line, jigging the “spring-pole” in 1861 and piercing the sand at
one-hundred-and-fifty feet. He pumped the well incessantly two months,
getting clear water for his pains. Neighbors jeered, asked if he
proposed to empty the interior of the planet into the creek and advised
him to import a Baptist colony. Crocker pegged away, remembering that
“he laughs best who laughs last.” One morning the water wore a tinge of
green. The color deepened, the gas “cut loose,” and a stream of oil shot
upwards! The Crocker well spurted for weeks at a thousand-barrel clip
and was sold for sixty-five-thousand dollars. Shutting in the flow, to
prevent waste, wrought serious injury. The well disliked the treatment,
the gas sought a vent elsewhere, pumping coaxed back the yield
temporarily to fifty barrels and in the fall it yielded up the ghost.

Bennett & Hatch spent the summer of 1861 drilling on a lease adjoining
the Fountain, striking the third sand at the same depth. On September
eighteenth the well burst forth with thirty-three-hundred barrels per
day! This was “confusion worse confounded,” foreigners not wanting “the
nasty stuff” and Americans not yet aware of its real value. The addition
of three-thousand barrels a day to the supply—with big additions from
other wells—knocked prices to twenty cents, to fifteen, to ten! All the
coopers in Oildom could not make barrels as fast as the Empire
well—appropriate name—could fill them. Bradley & Son, of Cleveland,
bought a month’s output for five-hundred dollars, loading
one-hundred-thousand barrels into boats under their contract! The
despairing owners, suffering from “an embarrassment of riches,” tried to
cork up the pesky thing, but the well was like Xantippe, the scolding
wife of Socrates, and would not be choked off. They built a dam around
it, but the oil wouldn’t be dammed that way. It just gorged the pond,
ran over the embankment and greased Oil Creek as no stream was ever
greased before! Twenty-two-hundred barrels was the daily average in
November and twelve-hundred in March. The torrent played April-fool by
stopping without notice, seven months from its inception. Cleaning out
and pumping restored it to six-hundred barrels, which dropped two-thirds
and stopped again in 1863. An “air blower” revived it briefly, but its
vitality had fled and in another year the grand Empire breathed its

These wells boomed the territory immensely. Derricks and engine-houses
studded the McElhenny farms, which operators hustled to perforate as
full of holes as a strainer. To haul machinery from the nearest railroad
doubled its cost. Pumping five to twenty barrels a day, when adjacent
wells flowed more hundreds spontaneously, lost its charm and most of the
small fry were abandoned. Everybody wanted to get close to the
third-sand spouters, although the market was glutted and crude ruinously
cheap. A town—Funkville—arose on the northern end of the upper farm,
sputtered a year or two, then “folded its tent like the Arabs and
silently stole away.” A search with a microscope would fail to unearth
an atom of Funkville or the wells that created it. Fresh strikes in 1862
kept the fever raging. Davis & Wheelock’s rattler daily poured out
fifteen-hundred barrels. The Densmore triplets, bunched on a two-acre
lease, were good for six-hundred, four-hundred and five-hundred
respectively. The Olmstead, American, Canfield, Aikens, Burtis and two
Hibbard wells, of the vintage of 1863, rated from two-hundred to
five-hundred each. A band of less account—thirty to one-hundred
barrels—assisted in holding the daily product of the McElhenny farms,
from the spring of 1862 to the end of 1863, considerably above
six-thousand barrels. The mockery of fate was accentuated by a dry-hole
six rods from the Sherman and dozens of poor wells in the bosom of the
big fellows. Disposing of his timber-lands and saw-mills in 1863,
Captain Funk built a mansion and removed to Titusville. Early in 1864 he
sold his wells and oil-properties and died on August second, leaving an
estate of two-millions. He built schools and churches, dispensed freely
to the needy and was honest to the core. Pleased with the work of a
clerk, he deeded him an interest in the last well he ever drilled, which
the lucky young man sold for one-hundred-thousand dollars.

Almost simultaneously with the Empire, in September of 1861, the Buckeye
well, on the George P. Espy farm, east of lower McElhenney, set off at a
thousand-barrel jog. It was located on a strip of level ground too
narrow for tanks, which had to be erected two-hundred feet up the hill.
The pressure of gas sufficed to force the oil into these tanks for a
year. The production fell to eighty barrels and then, tiring of a
climbing job that smacked of Sisyphus and the rolling stone, took a
permanent rest. From this famous well J. T. Briggs, manager of the
Briggs and the Gillettee Oil-Companies, shipped to Europe in 1862 the
first cargo of petroleum ever sent across the Atlantic. The Buckeye
Belle stood about hip-high to its consort, a dozen other wells on the
Epsy produced mildly and Northrup Brothers operated a refinery.

     “Vare vos dose oil-wells now? Gone vhare dogs can’t bow-wow.”

[Illustration: PIONEER AS IT LOOKED IN 1864-5.]

Improved methods of handling and new uses for the product advanced crude
to five dollars in the spring of 1864. Operations encroached upon the
higher lands, exploding the notion that paying territory was confined to
flats bordering the streams. Pioneer Run, an affluent of Oil Creek,
bisecting the western end of the upper McElhenney and Foster farms,
panned out flatteringly. Substantial wells, yielding fifteen barrels to
three-hundred lined the ravine thickly. The town of Pioneer attracted
the usual throngs. David Emery and Lewis Emery, Frank W. Andrews and not
a few leading operators resided there for a time. The Morgan House, a
rude frame of one story, dished up meals at which to eat beef-hash was
to beefashionable. Clark & McGowen had a feed-store, offices and
warehouses abounded, tanks and derricks mixed in the mass and boats
loaded oil for refineries down the creek or the Allegheny river. The
characteristic oil-town has faded from sight, only the weather-beaten
rail road-station and a forlorn iron-tank staying. John Rhodes, the last
resident, was killed in February of 1892 by a train. He lived alone in a
small house beside the track, which he was crossing when the engine hit
him, the noisy waters in the culvert drowning the sound of the cars.
Rhodes hauled oil in the old days to Erie and Titusville, became a
producer, met with reverses, attended to some wells for a company,
worked a bit of garden and felt independent and happy.

Matthew Taylor, a Cleveland saloonist, whom the sequel showed to be no
saloonatic, took a four-hundred-dollar flyer at Pioneer, on his first
visit to Oildom. A well on the next lease elevated values and Taylor
returned home in two weeks with twenty-thousand dollars, which
subsequent deals quadrupled. A Titusville laborer—“a broth of a b’y wan
year frum Oireland”—who stuck fifty dollars into an out-of-the-way
Pioneer lot, sold his claim in a month for five-thousand. He bought a
farm, sent across the water for his colleen and “they lived happily ever
after.” The driver of a contractor’s team, assigned an interest in a
drilling-well for his wages, cleaned up thirty-thousand dollars by the
transaction and went to Minnesota. Could the mellowest melodrama unfold
sweeter melodies?

             “The jingle of gold is earth’s richest music.”

Although surrounded by farms unrivaled as oil-territory and sold to
Woods & Wright of New York at a fancy price, James Boyd’s seventy-five
acres in Cornplanter township, south of the lower McElhenny, dodged the
petroleum-artery. The sands were there, but so barren of oil that
nine-tenths of the forty wells did not pay one-tenth their cost. The
Boyd farm was for months the terminus of the railroad from Corry. Hotels
and refineries were built and the place had a short existence, a brief
interval separating its lying-in and its laying-out.

G. W. McClintock, in February of 1864, sold his two-hundred-acre farm,
on the west side of Oil Creek, midway between Titusville and Oil City,
to the Central Petroleum Company of New York, organized by Frederic
Prentice and George H. Bissell. This notable farm embraced the site of
Petroleum Centre and Wild-Cat Hollow, a circular ravine three-fourths of
a mile long, in which two-hundred paying wells were drilled. Brown,
Catlin & Co.’s medium well, finished in August of 1861, was the first on
the McClintock tract. The company bored a multitude of wells and granted
leases only to actual operators, for one-half royalty and a large bonus.
For ten one-acre leases one-hundred-thousand dollars cash and one-half
the oil, offered by a New-York firm in 1865, were refused. The
McClintock well, drilled in 1862, figured in the thousand-barrel class.
The Coldwater, Meyer, Clark, Anderson, Fox, Swamp-Angel and Bluff wells
made splendid records. Altogether the Central Petroleum-Company and the
corps of lessees harvested at least five-millions of dollars from the
McClintock farm!


                          RYND FARM       “KING OF THE HILLS”
              PETROLEUM CENTRE-1894-
           BOYD FARM-1864
                                     STORY FARM.

Aladdin’s lamp was a miserly glim in the light of fortunes accruing from
petroleum. The product of a flowing-well in a year would buy a tract of
gold-territory in California or Australia larger than the oil-producing
regions. Millions of dollars changed hands every week. The Central
Company staked off a half-dozen streets and leased building-lots at
exorbitant figures. Board-dwellings, offices, hotels, saloons and wells
mingled promiscuously. It mattered nothing that discomfort was the rule.
Poor fare, worse beds and the worst liquors were tolerated by the hordes
of people who flocked to the land of derricks. Edward Fox, a railroad
contractor who “struck the town” with eighty-thousand dollars,
felicitously baptised the bantling Petroleum Centre. The owners of the
ground opposed a borough-organization and the town traveled at a
headlong go-as-you-please. Sharpers and prostitutes flourished, with no
fear of human or divine law, in the metropolis of rum and debauchery.
Dance-houses, beside which “Billy” McGlory’s Armory-Hall and “The.”
Allen’s Mabille in New York were Sunday-school models, nightly counted
their revelers by hundreds. In one of these dens Gus Reil, the
proprietor, killed poor young Tait, of Rouseville. Fast women and faster
men caroused and gambled, cursed and smoked, “burning the candle at both
ends” in pursuit of—pleasure! Frequently the orgies eclipsed Monte
Carlo—minus some of the glitter—and the Latin Quartier combined. Some
readers may recall the night two “dead game sports” tossed dice twelve
hours for one-thousand dollars a throw! But there was a rich leaven of
first-class fellows. Kindred spirits, like “Sam” Woods, Frank Ripley,
Edward Fox and Col. Brady were not hard to discover. Spades were trumps
long years ago for Woods, who has taken his last trick and sleeps in an
Ohio grave. Ripley is in Duluth, Fox is “out west” and Brady is in
Harrisburg. Captain Ray and A. D. Cotton had a bank that handled barrels
of money. For two or three years “The Centre”—called that for convenient
brevity—acted as a sort of safety-valve to blow off the surplus
wickedness of the oil-regions. Then “the handwriting on the wall”
manifested itself. Clarion and Butler speedily reduced the four-thousand
population to a mere remnant. The local paper died, houses were removed
and the giddy Centre became “a back number.” The sounds of revelry were
hushed, flickering lights no longer glared over painted harlots and the
streets were deserted. Bissell’s empty bank-building, three dwellings,
the public school, two vacant churches and the drygoods box used as a
railway-station—scarcely enough to cast a shadow—are the sole survivors
in the ploughed field that was once bustling, blooming, surging, foaming
Petroleum Centre!

Across the creek from Petroleum Centre, on the east side of the stream,
was Alexander Davidson’s farm of thirty-eight acres. A portion of this
triangular “speck on the map” consisted of a mud-flat, a smaller portion
of rising ground and the remainder set edgewise. Dr. A. G. Egbert, a
young physician who had recently hung out his shingle at Cherrytree
village, in 1860 negotiated for the farm. Davidson died and a hitch in
the title delayed the deal. Finally Mrs. Davidson agreed to sign the
deed for twenty-six-hundred dollars and one-twelfth the oil. Charles
Hyde paid the doctor this amount in 1862 for one-half his purchase and
it was termed the Hyde & Egbert farm. The Hollister well, drilled in
1861, the first on the land, flowed strongly. Owing to the dearness and
scarcity of barrels, the oil was let run into the creek and the well was
never tested. The lessees could not afford, as their contract demanded,
to barrel the half due the land-owners, because crude was selling at
twenty-five cents and barrels at three-fifty to four dollars! A company
of Jerseyites, in the spring of 1863, drilled the Jersey well, on the
south end of the property. The Jersey—it was a Jersey Lily—flowed
three-hundred barrels a day for nine months, another well draining it
early in 1864. The Maple-Shade, which cast the majority into the shade
by its performance, touched the right spot in the third sand on August
fifth, 1863. Starting at one-thousand barrels, it averaged eight-hundred
for ten months, dropped to fifty the second year and held on until 1869.
Fire on March second, 1864, burned the rig and twenty-eight tanks of
oil, but the well kept flowing just the same, netting the owners a clear
profit of fifteen-hundred-thousand dollars! “Do you notice it?” A plump
million-and-a-half from a corner of the “measly patch” poor Davidson
offered in 1860 for one-thousand dollars! And the Maple Shade was only
one of twenty-three flowing wells on the despised thirty-eight acres!

Companies and individuals tugged and strained to get even the smallest
lease Hyde & Egbert would grant. The Keystone, Gettysburg, Kepler,
Eagle, Benton, Olive Branch, Laurel Hill, Bird and Potts wells, not to
mention a score of minor note, helped maintain a production that paid
the holders of the royalty eight-thousand dollars a day in 1864-5! E. B.
Grandin and William C. Hyde, partners of Charles Hyde in a store at
Hydetown, A. C. Kepler and Titus Ridgway obtained a lease of one acre on
the west side of the lot, north of the wells already down, subject to
_three-quarters royalty_. A bit of romance attaches to the transaction.
Kepler dreamed that an Indian menaced him with bow and arrow. A young
lady, considered somewhat coquettish, handed him a rifle and he fired at
the dusky foe. The redskin vamoosed and a stream of oil burst forth.
Visiting his brother, who superintended the farm, he recognized the
scene of his dream. The lease was secured, on the biggest royalty ever
offered. Kepler chose the location and bored the Coquette well. The
dream was a nightmare? Wait and see.

Drilling began in the spring of 1864 and the work went merrily on. Each
partner would be entitled to one-sixteenth of the oil. Hyde & Ridgway
sold their interest for ten-thousand dollars a few days before the tools
reached the sand. This interest Dr. M. C. Egbert, brother of the
original purchaser of the farm, next bought at a large advance. He had
acquired one-sixth of the property in fee and wished to own the
Coquette. Grandin and Kepler declined to sell. The well was finished and
did not flow! Tubed and pumped a week, gas checked its working and the
sucker-rods were pulled. Immediately the oil streamed high in the air!
Twelve-hundred barrels a day was the gauge at first, settling to steady
business for a year at eight-hundred. A double row of tanks lined the
bank, connected by pipes to load boats in bulk. Oil was “on the jump”
and the first cargo of ten-thousand barrels brought ninety-thousand
dollars, representing ten days’ production! Three months later Grandin
and Kepler sold their one-eighth for one-hundred-and-forty-five thousand
dollars, quitting the Coquette with eighty-thousand apiece in their
pockets. Kepler was a dreamer whom Joseph might be proud to accept as a

[Illustration: DR. M. C. EGBERT.]

Dr. M. C. Egbert retained his share. Riches showered upon him. His
interests in the land and wells yielded him thousands of dollars a day.
Once his safe contained, by tight squeezing, eighteen-hundred-thousand
dollars in currency and a pile of government bonds! He built a
comfortable house and lived on the farm. He and his family traveled over
Europe, met shoals of titled folks and saw all the sights. In company
with John Brown, subsequently manager of a big corporation at Bradford
and now a resident of Chicago, he engaged in oil-shipments on an
extensive scale. To control this branch of the trade, as the Standard
Oil-Company has since done by combinations of capital, was too gigantic
a task for the firm and failure resulted. The brainy, courageous doctor
went to California, returned to Oildom and operated in McKean county. He
has secured a foothold in the newer fields and lives in Pittsburg, frank
and urbane as in the palmiest days of the Hyde & Egbert farm. If Dame
Fortune was strangely capricious on Oil Creek, the pluck of the men with
whom “the fickle jade” played whirligig was surely admirable.

Probably no parcel of ground in America of equal size ever yielded a
larger return, in proportion to the expenditure, than the Hyde & Egbert
tract. Six weeks’ production of the Coquette or Maple Shade would drill
all the wells on the property. Charles Hyde and Dr. A. G. Egbert cleared
at least three-million dollars, the latter selling one-twelfth of the
Coquette alone for a quarter-million cash. Profits of others interested
in the land and of the lessees trebled this alluring sum. The
aggregate—eight to ten millions—in silver-dollars would load a
freight-train or build a column twenty miles high! Fused into a lump of
gold, a dozen mules might well decline the task of drawing it a mile.
Done up into a bundle of five-dollar bills, Hercules couldn’t budge the
bulky package. A “promoter” of the Mulberry-Sellers brand wanted an
owner of the farm, when the wells were at their best, to launch the
whole thing into a stock-company with five-millions capital. “Bah!”
responded the gentleman, “five millions—did you say five-millions? Don’t
waste your breath talking until you can come around with twenty-five

A native of New-York, born in 1822, Charles Hyde was fifteen when the
family settled on a farm two miles south of Titusville, now occupied by
the Octave Oil-Company. At twenty he engaged with his father and two
brothers, W. C. and E. B. Hyde, in merchandising, lumbering and the
manufacture of salts from ashes. In 1846 he assumed charge of the
lumber-mills John Titus sold the firm, originating the thrifty village
of Hydetown, four miles above Titusville. The Hydes frequently procured
oil from the “springs” on Oil Creek, selling it for medicine as early as
1840-1. From their Hydetown store Colonel Drake obtained some tools and
supplies Titusville could not furnish. Samuel Grandin, of Tidioute, in
the spring of 1860 induced Charles Hyde to buy a tenth-interest in the
Tidioute and Warren Oil-Company for one-thousand dollars. The company’s
first well, of which he heard on his way to Pittsburg with a raft, laid
the foundation of Hyde’s great fortune in petroleum. He organized the
Hydetown Oil-Company, which leased the McClintock farm, below
Rouseville, from Jonathan Watson and drilled a two-hundred-barrel well
in the summer of 1860. Mr. Hyde operated on the Clapp farm, south of
McClintock, and at different points on Oil Creek and the Allegheny
River. His gains from the Hyde & Egbert farm approximated two-millions.
Starting the Second National Bank of Titusville in 1865, he has always
been its president and chief stockholder. In 1869 he removed to
Plainfield, New Jersey, cultivating four-hundred acres of suburban land
and maintaining an elegant home.

Dr. Albert G. Egbert, born in Mercer county in 1828, belonged to a
family of eminent physicians, his grandfather, father, two uncles, three
brothers and one son practicing medicine. Predicating a future for oil
upon the Drake well, his good judgment displayed itself promptly.
Agreeing to purchase the Davison farm, which his modest income at
Cherrytree would not enable him to pay for, his sale of a half-interest
to Charles Hyde provided the money to meet the entire claim. After the
wonderful success of that investment the doctor located at Franklin. He
carried on oil-operations, farming and coal-mining and was always active
in advancing the general welfare. Elected to Congress against immense
odds, he served his district most capably, attending sedulously to his
official duties and doing admirable work on committees. In public and
private life he was enterprising and liberal, zealous for the right and
a helpful citizen. True to his convictions and professions, he never
turned his back to friend or foe. To the steady, masterful purpose of
men like Dr. Egbert the oil-industry owes its rapid strides and
commanding position as a commercial staple. His demise on March
twenty-eighth, 1896, severs another of the links that bind the eventful
past and the important present of petroleum. Early operators on Oil
Creek are reduced to a handful of men whose heads are white with the
snows no July sun can melt.

              “He has walk’d the way of nature;
            The setting sun, and music at the close,
            As the last taste of sweets, is sweetest last.”



The rich pickings around Petroleum Center set many on the straight
cinder-path to prosperity. The four Phillips brothers—Isaac N., Charles
M., John I. and Thomas M. came from Newcastle to coin money operating a
farm south of the Espy. Prolific wells on the Niagara tract, Cherrytree
Run, back of the Benninghoff farm, added to their wealth. They cut a
wide swath in all the Pennsylvania fields. Three of the brothers have
“ascended to the hill of frankincense and to the mountain of myrrh.”
Thomas M. was a millionaire congressman. During the heated debates on
free-silver, in 1894, he scored the hit of the season by suggesting to
convert each barrel of Petroleum into legal-tender for a dollar and let
it go at that. Crude was selling at sixty cents, which gave the Phillips
proposition a point “sharper than a serpent’s tooth” or a Demosthenean
philippic. Dr. Egbert offered Isaac Phillips an interest in the Davidson
farm in 1862. The offer was not accepted instantly, Phillips saying he
would “consider it a few days.” Two weeks later he was ready to close
the deal, but the plum had fallen into the lap of Charles Hyde and
diverted prospective millions into another channel.

George K. Anderson figured conspicuously in this latitude, his receipts
for two years exceeding five-thousand dollars a day! He built a
sumptuous residence at Titusville, sought political preferment and
served a term in the State Senate. Holding a vast block of
Pacific-Railroad stock, he was the bosom friend of the directors and
trusted lieutenant of William H. Kemble, the Philadelphia magnate whose
“addition, division and silence” gave him notoriety. He bought thousands
of acres of land, plunged deeply into stocks and insured his life for
three-hundred-and-fifteen-thousand dollars, at that time the largest
risk in the country. If he sneezed or coughed the agents of the
insurance-companies grew nervous and summoned a posse of doctors to
consult about the case. Outside speculations swamped him at last. The
stately mansion, piles of bonds and scores of farms passed under the
sheriff’s hammer in 1880. Plucky and unconquerable, Anderson tried his
hand in the Bradford field, operating on Harrisburg Run. The result was
discouraging and he entered an insurance-office in New York. Five years
ago he accepted a government-berth in New Mexico. Meeting him on
Broadway the week before he left New York, his buoyant spirits seemed
depressed. He spoke regretfully of his approaching departure, yet hoped
it might turn out advantageously. He arrived at his post, sickened and
died in a few days, “a stranger in a strange land.” Relatives and loved
ones were far away when he went down into the starless night of the
grave. No gentle wife or child or valued friend was there to smooth the
pillow of the dying man, to cool the fevered brow, to catch the last
whisper, to close the glassy eyes and fold the rigid hands above the
lifeless breast. The oil-regions abound with pathetic experiences, but
none surpassing George K. Anderson’s. Wealthy beyond the dreams of
avarice, the courted politician, the confidant of presidents and
statesmen, a social favorite in Washington and Harrisburg, the owner of
a home beautiful as Claude Melnotte pictured to Pauline, he drained the
cup of sorrow and misfortune. Reverses beset him, his riches took wings,
bereavements bore heavily upon him, he was glad to secure a humble
clerkship, and death ended the sad scene in a distant territory. Does
not human life contain more tears than smiles, more pain than pleasure,
more cloud than sunshine in the passage from the cradle to the tomb?

Frank W. Andrews, born in Vermont and reared in Ohio, taught school in
Missouri, hunted for gold at Pike’s Peak and landed on Oil Creek in the
winter of 1863-4. Hauling oil nine months supplied funds to operate on
Cherrytree Run. He drilled four dry holes. One on the McClintock farm
and three more on Pithole Creek followed. This was not a flattering
start, but Andrews had lots of sand and persistence. Emerging from the
Pithole excitement with limited cash and unlimited machinery, he
returned to Oil Creek and operated extensively. His first well at
Pioneer flowed three-hundred barrels a day. Fifty others at Shamburg, on
the Benninghoff farm and Cherrytree Run brought him hundreds of
thousands of dollars. He was rated at three-millions in 1870. Keeping up
with the tidal wave southward, he put down two-hundred wells in the
Franklin, Clarion and Butler districts. Failures of banks and
manufactories in which he had a large stake shattered his fortune. With
the loss of money he did not lose his manliness and self-reliance. In
the Bradford region he pressed forward vigorously. Again he “plucked the
flower of success” and was fast recuperating when thrown from his horse
and fatally injured. Upright, unassuming and refined, Andrews merited
the confidence and esteem of all.

The bluff overlooking Petroleum Centre from the east formed the western
side of the McCray farm. At its base, on the Hyde & Egbert plot, were
several of the finest wells in Pennsylvania, the Coquette almost
touching McCray’s line. Dr. M. C. Egbert leased part of the slope and
drilled three wells. Other parties drilled five and the eight behaved so
handsomely that the owner of the land declined an offer, in 1865, of a
half-million dollars for his eighty acres. A well on top of the hill,
not deep enough to hit the sand and supposed to be dry, postponed
further operations five years. His friends distanced Jeremiah in their
lamentations that McCray had spurned the five-hundred-thousand dollars.
He may have thought of Shakespeare’s “tide in the affairs of men,” but
he sawed wood and said nothing. Jonathan Watson, advised by a
clairvoyant, in the spring of 1870 drilled a three-hundred-barrel well
on the uplands of the Dalzell farm, close to the southern boundary of
the McCray. The clairvoyant’s astonishing guess revived interest in
Petroleum Centre, which for a year or two had been on the down grade.
Besieged for leases, McCray could not meet a tithe of the demand at
one-thousand dollars an acre and half the oil. Derricks clustered
thickly. Every well tapped the pool underlying fifteen acres, pumping as
if drawing from a lake of petroleum. Within four months the daily
production was three-thousand barrels. This meant nineteen-hundred
barrels for the land-owner—fifteen-hundred from royalty and four-hundred
from wells he had drilled—a regular income of nine-thousand dollars a
day! Cipher it out—nineteen-hundred barrels at four-fifty to five
dollars, with eleven-hundred barrels for the lessees—and what do you
find? Fourteen-thousand dollars a day for the last quarter of 1870 and
nine months of 1871, from one-sixth of a farm sold in 1850 for
seventeen-hundred dollars! Say, how was that for high?

James S. McCray, a farmer’s son, born in 1824 on the flats below
Titusville, at twenty-two set out for himself with two dollars in his
pocket. Working three years in a saw-mill on the Allegheny, he saved his
earnings and in 1850 was able to buy a team and take up the farm decreed
to enrich him beyond his wildest fancies. He married Miss Martha G.
Crooks, a willing helpmeet in adversity and wise counsellor in
prosperity. His first venture in oil, a share in a two-acre lease at
Rouseville, he sold to drill a well on the Blood farm, elbowing his own.
From this he realized seventy-thousand dollars. For his own farm he
refused a million dollars in 1871. Sharpers dogged his footsteps and
endeavored to rope him into all sorts of preposterous schemes. He told
me one project, which was expected to control the coal-trade of the
region, bled him two-hundred-and-sixty-thousand dollars! Instead of
selling his oil right along, at an average figure of nearly five
dollars, he stored two-hundred-thousand barrels in iron-tanks, to await
higher prices. In my presence H. I. Beers, of McClintockville, bid him
five-thirty-five a barrel for the lot. McCray stuck out for five-fifty.
He kept the oil for years, losing thousands of barrels by leakage and
evaporation, and sold the bulk of it at one to two dollars. Had he dealt
with Beers he would have been six-hundred-thousand dollars richer! Mr.
McCray removed to Franklin in 1872 and died some years ago. He rests in
the cemetery beside his faithful wife and only daughter. The wells on
his farm drooped and withered and the famous fifteen-acre field has long
been a pasture. A robust character, strong-willed and kindly, sometimes
queerly contradictory and often misjudged, James S. McCray could adopt
the words of King Lear: “I am a man more sinned against than sinning.”


  JAS. S. McCRAY FARM.       JAS. S. McCRAY.

The Dalzell or Hayes farm, on which the first well—fifty barrels—was
drilled in 1861, boasted the Porcupine, Rhinoceros, Ramcat, Wildcat, and
a menagerie of thirty others ranging from ten barrels to three-hundred.
At the north end of the farm, in the rear of the Maple-Shade and Jersey
wells, the Petroleum Shaft-and-Mining-Company attempted to sink a hole
seven feet by seventeen to the third sand. The shaft was dug and blasted
one-hundred feet, at immense cost. The funds ran out, gas threatened to
asphyxiate the workmen, the big pumps could not exhaust the water and
the absurd undertaking was abandoned.

The story of the Story farm does not lack romantic ingredients. William
Story owned five-hundred acres south of the G. W. McClintock farm, Oil
Creek, the Dalzell and Tarr farms bounding his land on the east. He sold
in 1859 to Ritchie, Hartje & Co., of Pittsburg, for thirty-thousand
dollars. George H. Bissell had negotiated for the property, but Mrs.
Story objected to signing the deed. Next day Bissell returned to offer
the wife a sufficient inducement, but the Pittsburg agent had been there
the previous evening and secured her signature to the Ritchie-Hartje
deed by the promise of a silk dress! Thus a twenty-dollar gown changed
the ultimate ownership of millions of dollars! The long-haired novelist,
who soars into the infinite and dives into the unfathomable, may try to
imagine what the addition of a new bonnet would have accomplished.

The seven Pittsburgers organized a stock company in 1860 to
develop the farm. By act of Legislature this was incorporated on
May first, 1861, as the Columbia Oil-Company, with a nominal
capital of two-hundred-and-fifty-thousand dollars—ten-thousand
shares of twenty-five dollars each. Twenty-one-thousand barrels of
oil were produced in 1861 and ninety-thousand in 1862, shares
selling at two to ten dollars. Foreign demand for oil improved
matters. On July eighth, 1863, the first dividend of thirty per
cent. was declared, followed in August and September by two of
twenty-five per cent. and in October by one of fifty per cent.
Four dividends, aggregating one-hundred-and-sixty per cent., were
declared the first six months of 1864. The capital was increased
to two-and-a-half-millions, by calling in the old stock and giving
each holder of a twenty-five-dollar share five new ones of fifty
dollars apiece. Four-hundred per cent. were paid on this capital
in six years. The original stockholders received their money back
_forty-three_ times and had ten times their first stock to keep on
drawing fat dividends! Suppose a person had bought one-hundred
shares in 1862 at two dollars, in eight years he would have been
paid one-hundred-and-seven-thousand dollars for his two hundred
and have five-hundred fifty-dollar shares on hand! From a mere
speck of the Story farm the Columbia Oil-Company in ten years
produced oil that sold for ten-millions of dollars! Wonder not
that men, dazzled by such returns, blind to the failures that
littered the oily domain, clutched at the veriest phantoms in the
mad craze for boundless wealth.

Splendidly managed throughout, the policy of the Columbia Company was to
operate its lands systematically. Wells were not drilled at random over
the farm, nor were leases granted to speculators. There was no effort to
make a big showing of production and exhaust the territory in the
shortest time possible. For twenty-five years the Story farm yielded
profitably. The wells, never amazingly large, held on tenaciously. The
Ladies’ well produced sixty-five-thousand barrels, the Floral
sixty-thousand, the Big Tank fifty-thousand, the Story Centre
forty-five-thousand, the Breedtown forty-thousand, the Cherry Run
fifty-five-thousand, the Titus pair one-hundred-thousand and the Perry
thirty-five-thousand. The company erected machine-shops, built houses
for employés, and the village of Columbia prospered. The Columbia Cornet
Band, superbly appointed, its thirty members in rich uniforms, its
instruments the finest and its drum-major an acrobatic revelation, could
have given Gilmore’s or Sousa’s points in ravishing music. G. S.
Bancroft superintended the wells and D. H. Boulton, now of Franklin,
assisted President D. B. Stewart, of Pittsburg, in conducting affairs
generally. The village has vanished, the cornet band is hushed forever,
the fields are the prey of weeds and underbrush and brakemen no more
call out “Columby!” A few small wells, hidden amid the hills, produce a
morsel of oil, but the farm, despoiled of sixteen-million dollars of
greasy treasure, would not bring one-fourth the price paid William Story
for it in the fall of 1859. “So passes away earthly glory” is as true
to-day as when Horace evolved the classic phrase two-thousand years ago.

              “Man wants but little, nor that little long;
              How soon must he resign his very dust,
              Which frugal nature lent him for an hour!”

On the east side of Oil Creek, opposite the southern half of the Story
farm, James Tarr owned and occupied a triangular tract of two-hundred
acres. He was a strong-limbed, loud-voiced, stout-hearted son of toil,
farming in summer and hauling lumber in winter to support his family.
Although uneducated, he had plenty of “horse sense” and native wit. His
quaint speech coined words and terms that are entrenched firmly in the
nomenclature of Oildom. Funny stories have been told at his expense. One
of these, relating to his daughter, whom he had taken to a seminary, has
appeared in hundreds of newspapers. According to the revised version,
the principal of the school expressing a fear that the girl had not
“capacity,” the fond father, profoundly ignorant of what was meant, drew
a roll of greenbacks from his pocket and exclaimed: “Damn it, that’s
nothing! Buy her one and here’s the stuff to pay for it!” The fact that
it is pure fiction may detract somewhat from the piquancy of this
incident. Tarr realized his own deficiencies from lack of schooling and
spared no pains, when the golden stream flowed his way, to educate the
children dwelling in the old home on the south end of the farm. His
daughters were bright, good-looking, intelligent girls. Scratching the
barren hills for a meager corn-crop, hunting rabbits on Sundays, rafting
in the spring and fall and teaming while snow lasted barely sufficed to
keep the gaunt wolf of hunger from the door of many a hardy Oil-Creek
settler. To their credit be it said, most of the land-owners whom
petroleum enriched took care of their money. Rough diamonds, uncut and
unpolished, they possessed intrinsic worth. James Tarr was of the number
who did not lose their heads and squander their substance. The richest
of them all, he bought a delightful home near Meadville, provided every
comfort and convenience, spent his closing years enjoyably and died in
1871. “Put yourself in his place” and, candidly, would you have done

For himself, George B. Delamater and L. L. Lamb, in the summer of 1860
Orange Noble leased seven acres of the Tarr farm, at the bend in Oil
Creek. Dry holes the partners “kicked down” on the Stackpole and Jones
farms dampening their ardor, they let the Tarr lease lie dormant some
months. Contracting with a Townville neighbor—N. S. Woodford—to juggle
the “spring-pole,” he cracked the first sand in June, 1861. The Crescent
well—so called because the faith of the owners was increasing—tipped the
beam at five-hundred barrels. The first well on the Tarr farm, it flowed
an average of three-hundred barrels a day for thirteen months, quitting
without notice. Cleaning it out, drilling it deeper and pumping it for
weeks were of no avail. Not a drop of oil could be extracted and the
Crescent was abandoned. Crude was so low during most of its
existence—ten to twenty-five cents—that the well, although it produced
one-hundred-and-twenty-thousand barrels, did not pay the owners a dollar
of profit! Drilling, royalty and tankage absorbed every nickel. Like the
victories of Pyrrhus, the more such strikes a fellow achieved the sooner
he would be undone!

On the evening of August first, 1861, as James Tarr sat eating his
supper of fried pork and johnny-cake, Heman Janes, of Erie, entered the
room. “Tarr,” he said, “I’ll give you sixty-thousand dollars in spot
cash for your farm!” Tarr almost fell off his chair. A year before
one-thousand dollars would have been big money for the whole plantation.
“I mean it,” continued the visitor; “if you take me up I’ll close the
deal right here!” Tarr “took him up” and the deal, which included a
transfer of several leases, was closed quickly. Janes planked down the
sixty-thousand and Tarr, within an hour, had stepped from poverty to
affluence. This was the first large _cash_ transaction in oil-lands on
the creek and people promptly pronounced Janes a fool of the
thirty-third degree. An Irishman, on trial for stealing a sheep, asked
by the judge whether he was guilty or not guilty, replied: “How can I
tell till I hear the ividence?” Don’t endorse the Janes verdict “till
you hear the ividence.”

A short distance below the Crescent well William Phillips, who had
leased a narrow strip the entire length of the farm, was also urging a
“spring-pole” actively. Born in Westmoreland county in 1824, he passed
his boyhood on a farm and earned his first money mining coal. Saving his
hard-won wages, he bought the keel-boat Orphan Boy and started
freighting on the Ohio and Allegheny rivers. The business proving
remunerative, he drilled salt-wells at Bull Creek and Wildcat Hollow. On
his last trip from Warren to Pittsburg, in September of 1859, he noticed
a scum of oil in front of Thomas Downing’s farm, where South Oil City
now stands. The story of the Drake well was in everybody’s mouth and it
occurred to Phillips that he could increase his growing fortune by
drilling on the Downing land. At Pittsburg he consulted Charles
Lockhart, William Frew, Captain Kipp and John Vanausdall and with them
formed the partnership of Phillips, Frew & Co. Returning at once, he
leased from Downing, erected a pole-derrick and proceeded to bore a well
on the water’s edge. With no machine-shops, tools or appliances nearer
than Pittsburg, a hundred-and-thirty miles off, difficulties of all
kinds retarded the work nine months. Finally the job was completed and
the Albion well, pumping forty barrels a day, raised a commotion.

The Albion brought Phillips to the front as an oil-operator. James Tarr
readily leased him part of his farm and he began Phillips No. 1 well in
the spring of 1861. The Crescent’s unexpected success spurred him to
greater efforts. Hurrying an engine and boiler from Pittsburg, he
started his second well on the flat hugging the stream twenty rods north
of the Crescent. Steam-power rushed the tools at a boom-de-ay gait. The
first sand, from which meanwhile No. 1 was rivaling the Crescent’s
yield, had not a pinch of oil. The solid-silver lining of the
petroleum-cloud assumed a plated look, but Phillips heeded it not. An
expert driller, he hustled the tools and on October nineteenth, at
four-hundred-and-eighty feet, pierced the shell above the third sand. At
dusk he shut down for the night. The weather was clear and the moon
shone brightly. Suddenly a vivid flame illumined the sky. Reuben
Painter’s well on the Blood farm, a mile southward, had caught fire and
blazed furiously. The rare spectacle of a burning well attracted
everybody for miles. Phillips and Janes were among those who hastened to
the fire, returning about midnight. An hour later they were summoned
from bed by a man yelling at the Ella-Yaw pitch: “The Phillips is
bu’sted and runnin’ down the creek!” People ran to the spot on the
double-quick, past the Crescent and down the bank. Gas was settling
densely upon the flats and into the creek oil was pouring lavishly.
Dreading a fire, lights were extinguished on the adjoining tracts and
needful precautions taken. For three or four days the flow raged
unhindered, then a lull occurred and tubing was inserted. After the
seed-bag swelled, a stop-cock was placed on the tubing and thenceforth
it was easy to regulate the flow. When oil was wanted the stop-cock was
opened and wooden troughs conveyed the stuff to boats drawn up the creek
by horses, the chief mode of transportation for years. The oil was
forty-four gravity and four-thousand barrels a day gushed out! In June
of 1862, when Phillips and Major Frew, with their wives and a party of
friends, inspected the well, a careful gauge showed it was doing
thirty-six-hundred-and-sixty barrels! The Phillips well held the
champion-belt twenty-seven years. It produced until 1871, getting down
to ten or twelve barrels and ceasing altogether the night James Tarr
expired, having yielded nearly _one-million_ barrels! Cargoes of the oil
were sold to boatmen at five cents a barrel, thousands of barrels were
wasted, tens of thousands were stored in underground tanks and much was
sold at three to thirteen dollars.


N. S. Woodford, Noble & Delamater’s contractor, had the foresight to
lease the ground between the Crescent and the Phillips No. 2. His
three-thousand barreler, finished in December, 1861, drew its grist from
the Phillips crevice and interfered with the mammoth gusher. When the
two became pumpers neither would give out oil unless both were worked.
If one was stopped the other pumped water. Ultimately the Phillips crowd
paid Woodford a half-million for his well and lease, a wad for which a
man would ford even the atrocious Tarr-farm mud and complacently whistle
“Ta-ra-ra.” He retired to his pleasant home, with six-hundred-thousand
dollars to show for eighteen months’ operations on Oil Creek, and never
bothered any more about oil. The Woodford well repaid its enormous cost.
Lockhart and Frew bought out their partners at a high price and put the
Phillips-Woodford interests into a stock-company capitalized at
two-million dollars. The Phillips well—one result of a keen-eyed
boatman’s observing an oily scum on the Allegheny River—enriched all
concerned. Had Phillips failed to see the speck of grease that September
day, who can tell how different oil-region history might have been?
Happily for a good many persons, the Orphan Boy was not one of the
“Ships that Pass in the Night.” What a field Oil Creek presents for the
fervid fancy of a Dumas, a Dickens, a Wilkie Collins or a Charles Reade!

Comrades in business and good-fellowship, William Phillips and John
Vanausdall removed to South Oil-City, lived neighbors and died twenty
years ago. They resembled each other in appearance and temper, in
charitable impulse and kindness to the poor. Phillips drilled dozens of
wells—none of them dry—aided Oil-City enterprises and was a member of
the shipping firm of Munhall & Co. until its dissolution in 1876. He was
the first man to ship oil by steamer, the Venango taking the first load
to Pittsburg, and the first to run crude in bulk down the creek. One
son, John C. Phillips, and a married daughter live at Oil City and two
sons at Freeport.

[Illustration: HEMAN JANES.]

Heman Janes, of Erie, the first purchaser of the Tarr farm, from 1850 to
1861 shipped large quantities of lumber to the eastern market. Passing
through Canada in 1858, he heard oil was obtained from gum-beds in
Lambton county, south of Lake Huron, and visited the place. John
Williams was dipping five barrels a day from a hole ten feet square and
twenty feet deep. The best gum-beds spread over two-hundred acres of
timbered land, which Mr. Janes bought at nine dollars an acre, the owner
selling because “the stinking oil smelled five miles off.” Leasing
four-hundred acres more, in 1860 he sold a half-interest in both tracts
for fifteen-thousand dollars and retired from lumbering to devote his
attention to oil. Large wells on his Canadian lands enabled him to sell
the second half of the property in 1865 for fifty-five-thousand dollars.
In February, 1861, he secured a thirty-day option on the J. Buchanan
farm, the site of Rouseville, and tendered the price at the stipulated
time, but the transaction fell through. In March of that year he went to
West Virginia and leased one-thousand acres on the Kanawha River,
including the famous “Burning Spring.” U. E. Everett & Co. agreed to pay
fifty-thousand dollars for one-half interest in the property, at
Parkersburg, on April twelfth. All parties met, a certified check was
laid on the table and Attorney J. B. Blair started to draw the papers.
At that moment a boy ran past, shouting: “Fort Sumpter’s fired on!” The
gentlemen hurried out to learn the particulars. “The cat came back,” but
Everett didn’t. A message told him to “hold off,” and he is holding off
still. Janes stayed as long as a Northerner dared and was thankful to
sell the batch of leases for seventy-five-hundred dollars. In 1862 he
sued the owners of the Phillips well for his royalty _in barrels_. They
refused to furnish the barrels, which were scarce and expensive, and the
well was shut down for months pending the litigation. The suit was for
one-hundred-and-twelve-thousand dollars, up to that time the largest
amount ever involved in a case before the Venango court. Edwin M.
Stanton, soon to be known as the illustrious War-Secretary, was one
of the attorneys engaged by the plaintiff, for a fee of
twenty-five-thousand dollars. A compromise was arranged for half the
oil. The first oil sold after this agreement was at three dollars a
barrel, taken from the first twelve-hundred-barrel tank ever seen in the
region. A wooden tank of that size excited more curiosity in those days
than a hundred iron-ones of forty-thousand barrels in this year of
grace. Janes sold back half the farm to Tarr for forty-thousand dollars
and two-thirds of the remaining half to Clark & Sumner for
twenty-thousand, leaving him one-sixth clear of cost, the same month he
bought the tract. He first suggested casing wells to exclude the water,
built the first bulk-boat decked over—six-hundred barrels—to transport
oil and was identified with the first practicable pipe-line. Paying
seventy-five-thousand dollars for the Blackmar farm, at Pithole, he
drilled three dry holes and then got rid of the land at a snug advance.
Since 1878 Mr. Janes has been interested in the Bradford field and
living at Erie. A man of forceful character and executive ability,
hearty, vigorous and companionable, he deserves the large measure of
success that rewarded him as an important factor in petroleum-affairs.
In the words of the good Scottish mother to her son: “May your lot be
wi’ the rich in this warld and wi’ the puir in the warld to come.”

The amazing output of the Phillips and Woodford wells stimulated the
demand for territory to the boiling point. Men were infinitely less
eager to “read their title clear to mansions in the skies” than to
secure a title to a fragment of the Tarr farm. Rigs huddled on the bank
and in the water, for nobody thought oil existed back in the hilly
sections. Sixty yards below the Phillips spouter J. F. Crane sank a well
that responded as pleasantly as “the swinging of the crane.” Densmore
Brothers, at the lower end of the farm, drilled a seven-hundred-barreler
late in 1861. A zoological freak introduced the animal-fad, which named
the Elephant, Young Elephant, Tigress, Tiger, Lioness, Scared Cat,
Anaconda and Weasel wells. Reckless speculation held the fort unchecked.
The third sand was sixty feet thick, the territory was durable and
three-hundred walking-beams exhibited “the poetry of motion” to the
music of three-four-five-six-eight-ten-dollar oil. Mr. Janes built a
commodious hotel and a town of two-thousand population flourished. James
Tarr sold his entire interest in 1865, for gold equivalent to
two-millions in currency, and removed to Crawford county. Another
million would hardly cover his royalties. Three-million dollars ahead of
the game in four years, he could afford to smile at the jibes of
small-souled retailers of witless ridicule. If “money talks,”
three-millions ought to be pretty eloquent. The churches, stores,
houses, offices, wells and tanks have “gone glimmering.” Tarr-Farm
station appears no more on railroad time-tables. Modern maps do not
reveal it. Few know and fewer care who owns the place once the apple of
the oilman’s eye, now a shadowy relic not worth carting off in a

Producers have enjoyed quite a reputation for “resolving,” and the first
meeting ever held to regulate the price of crude was at Tarr farm in
1861. The moving spirits were Mr. Janes, General James Wadsworth and
Josiah Oakes, the latter a New-York capitalist. The idea was to raise
five-hundred-thousand dollars and buy up the territory for ten miles
along Oil Creek. Wadsworth and Oakes raised over three-hundred-thousand
dollars for this purpose, when the panic arising from the war ended the
scheme. A contract was also made with Erie parties to lay a four-inch
wooden pipe-line from Tarr farm to Oil City. On the advice of Col.
Clark, of Clark & Sumner, and Sir John Hope, the eminent London banker,
it was decided to abandon the project and apply for a charter for a
pipe-line. This was done in the winter of 1861-2, Hon. Morrow B. Lowry,
who represented the district in the State Senate, favoring the
application. Hon. M. C. Beebe, the local member of the Legislature,
opposed it resolutely, because, to quote his own words: “There are
four-thousand teams hauling oil and my constituents won’t stand this
interference.” The measure failing to carry, Clark & Hope built the
Standard refinery at Pittsburg.

Resistance to the South-Improvement-Company welded the producers solidly
in 1872. The refiners organized to force a larger margin between crude
and refined. To offset this and govern the production and sale of crude,
the producers established a “union,” “agencies” and “councils.” In
October of 1872 every well in the region was shut down for thirty days.
The “spirit of seventy-six” was abroad and individual losses were borne
cheerfully for the general good. This was the heroic period, which
demonstrated the manly fiber of the great body of oil-operators. E. E.
Clapp, of President, and Captain William Harson, of Oil City, were the
chief officers of these remarkable organizations. Suspensions of
drilling in 1873-4-5 supplemented the memorable “thirty-day shut-down.”
At length the “union,” the “councils” and the “agencies” wilted and
dissolved. The area of productive territory widened and strong companies
became a necessity to develop it. The big fish swallowed the little
ones, hence the _personal_ feature so pronounced in earlier years has
been almost eliminated. Many of the operators are members of the
Producers’ Association, in which Congressman Phillips, Lewis Emery,
David Kirk and T. J. Vandergrift are prime factors. Its president, Hon.
J. W. Lee, practiced law at Franklin, served twice as State-Senator and
located at Pittsburg last year. He is a cogent speaker, not averse to
legal tilts and not backward flying his colors in the face of the enemy.

South of the Story and Tarr farms, on both sides of Oil Creek, were John
Blood’s four-hundred-and-forty acres. The owner lived in an unpainted,
weatherbeaten frame house. On five acres of the flats the Ocean
Petroleum-Company had twelve flowing wells in 1861. The Maple-Tree
Company’s burning well spouted twenty-five-hundred barrels for several
months, declined to three-hundred in a year and was destroyed by fire in
October of 1862. The flames devastated twenty acres, consuming ten wells
and a hundred tanks of oil, the loss aggregating a million dollars. A
sheet of fire, terribly grand and up to that date the most extensive and
destructive in Oildom, wrapped the flats and the stream. Blood Well No.
1, flowing a thousand barrels, Blood No. 2, flowing six hundred, and
five other gushers never yielded after the conflagration, prior to which
the farm was producing more oil than the balance of the region. Brewer &
Watson, Ballard & Trax, Edward Filkins, Henry Collins, Reuben Painter,
James Burrows and J. H. Duncan were pioneer operators on the tract.
Blood sold in 1863 for five-hundred-and-sixty-thousand dollars and
removed to New York. Buying a brownstone residence on Fifth avenue, he
splurged around Gotham two or three years, quit the city for the country
and died long since. The Blood farm was notably prolific, but its glory
has departed. Stripped bare of derricks, houses, wells and tanks, naught
is left save the rugged hills and sandy banks. “It is no matter, the cat
will mew, the dog will have his day.”

Neighbors of John Blood, a raw-boned native and his wife, enjoyed an
experience not yet forgotten in New York. Selling their farm for big
money, the couple concluded to see Manhattanville and set off in high
glee, arrayed in homespun-clothes of most agonizing country-fashion.
Wags on the farm advised them to go to the Astor House and insist upon
having the finest room in the caravansary. Arriving in New York, they
were driven to the hotel, each carrying a bundle done up in a colored
handkerchief. Their rustic appearance attracted great attention, which
was increased when the man marched to the office-counter and demanded
“the best in the shebang, b’gosh.” The astounded clerk tried to get the
unwelcome guest to go elsewhere, assuring him he must have made a
mistake. The rural delegate did not propose to be bluffed by coaxing or
threats. At length the representative of petroleum wanted to know “how
much it would cost to buy the gol-darned ranche.” In despair the clerk
summoned the proprietor, who soon took in the situation. To humor the
stranger he replied that one-hundred-thousand dollars would buy the
place. The chap produced a pile of bills and tendered him the money on
the spot! Explanations followed, a parlor and bedroom were assigned the
pair and for days they were the lions of the metropolis. Hundreds of
citizens and ladies called to see the innocents who had come on their
“first tower” as green and unsophisticated as did Josiah Allen’s Wife
twenty years later.

Ambrose Rynd, an Irish woolen-factor, bought five-hundred acres from the
Holland Land-Company in 1800 and built a log-cabin at the mouth of
Cherrytree Run. He attained the Nestorian age of ninety-nine. His
grandson, John Rynd, born in the log-cabin in 1815, owned three-hundred
acres of the tract when the petroleum-wave swept Oil Creek. The Blood
farm was north and the Smith east. Cherrytree and Wykle Runs rippled
through the western half of the property, which Oil Creek divided
nicely. Developments in 1861 were on the eastern half. Starting at
five-hundred barrels, the Rynd well flowed until 1863. The Crawford
“saw” the Rynd and “went it one better,” lasting until June of 1864. Six
fair wells were drilled on Rynd Island, a dot at the upper part of the
farm. The Rynd-Farm Oil-Company of New York purchased the tract in 1864.
John Rynd moved to Fayette county and died in the seventies. Hume &
Crawford, Porter & Milroy, B. F. Wren, the Ozark, Favorite, Frost,
Northern and a score of companies operated vigorously. The third sand
thickened and improved with the elevation of the hills. Five refineries
handled a thousand barrels of crude per week. A snug village bloomed on
the west side, the broad flat affording an eligible site. The late John
Wallace and Theodore Ladd were prominent in the later stage of
operations. Cyrus D. Rynd returned in 1881 to take charge of the farm
and served as postmaster six years. Rynd, once plump and juicy, now lean
and desiccated, resembles an orange which a boy has sucked and thrown
away the rind.

Two museum-curio wells on the Rynd farm illustrated practically Chaplain
McCabe’s “Drinking From the Same Canteen.” A dozen strokes of the pump
every hour caused the Agitator to flow ten or fifteen minutes. The pious
Sunday well, its companion, loafed six days in the week while the other
worked, flowing on the Sabbath when the Agitator pump rested from its
labors. This sort of affinity, which cost William Phillips and Noble &
Delamater a mint of money, was evinced most forcibly on the McClintock
farm, west side of Oil Creek, south of Rynd. William McClintock,
original owner of the two-hundred acres, dying in 1859, the widow
remained on the farm with her grandson, John W. Steele, whom the couple
had adopted at a tender age, upon the decease of his mother. Nearly half
the farm was bottom-land, fronting the creek, on the bank of which the
first wells were sunk in 1861. The Vanslyke flowed twelve-hundred
barrels a day, declined slowly and in its third year pumped
fourteen-thousand. The Lloyd, Eastman, Little Giant, Morrison, Hayes &
Merrick, Christy, Ocean, Painter, Sterrett, Chase and sixty more each
put up fifty to four-hundred barrels daily. Directly between the
Vanslyke and Christy, a few rods from either, New-York parties finished
the Hammond well in May, 1864. Starting to flow three-hundred barrels a
day, the Hammond killed the Lloyd and Christy and reduced the Vanslyke
to a ten-barrel pumper. Its triumph was short-lived. Early in June the
New Yorkers, elated over its performance, bought the royalty of the well
and one-third acre of ground for two-hundred thousand dollars. The end
of June the tubing was drawn from the Excelsior well, on the John
McClintock farm, five-hundred yards east, flooding the Hammond and all
the wells in the vicinity. The damage was attributed to Vandergrift &
Titus’s new well a short distance down the flat, nobody imagining it
came from a hole a quarter-mile off. Retubing the Excelsior quickly
restored one-half the Hammond’s yield, which increased as the
Excelsior’s lessened. An adjustment followed, but the final pulling of
the tubing from the Excelsior drowned the affected wells permanently.
Geologists and scientists reveled in the ethics suggested by such
interference, which casing wells has obviated. The Widow-McClintock farm
produced hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil and changed hands
repeatedly. For years it was owned by a man who as a boy blacked
Steele’s boots. In 1892 John Waites renovated a number of the old wells.
Pumping some and plugging others, to shut out water, surprised and
rewarded him with a yield that is bringing him a tidy fortune. The
action of the stream has washed away the ground on which the Vanslyke,
the Sterrett and several of the largest wells were located. “Out, out,
brief candle!”

Mrs. McClintock, like thousands of women since, attempted one day in
March of 1863 to hurry up the kitchen-fire with kerosene. The result was
her fatal burning, death in an hour and the first funeral to the account
of the treacherous oil-can. The poor woman wore coarse clothing, worked
hard and secreted her wealth about the house. Her will, written soon
after McClintock’s exit, bequeathed everything to the adopted heir, John
W. Steele, twenty years old when his grandmother met her tragic fate. At
eighteen he had married Miss M. Moffett, daughter of a farmer in
Sugarcreek township. He hauled oil in 1861 with hired plugs until he
could buy a span of stout horses. Oil-Creek teamsters, proficient in
lurid profanity, coveted his varied stock of pointed expletives. The
blonde driver, of average height and slender build, pleasing in
appearance and address, by no means the unlicked cub and ignorant boor
he has been represented, neither smoke nor drank nor gambled, but “he
could say ‘damn’!” Climbing a hill with a load of oil, the end-board
dropped out and five barrels of crude wabbled over the steep bank. It
was exasperating and the spectators expected a special outburst. Steele
“winked the other eye” and remarked placidly: “Boys, it’s no use trying
to do justice to this occasion.” The shy youth, living frugally and not
the type people would associate with unprecedented antics, was to figure
in song and story and be advertised more widely than the sea-serpent or
Barnum’s woolly-horse. Millions who never heard of John Smith, Dr. Mary
Walker or Baby McKee have heard and read and talked about the
one-and-only “Coal-Oil Johnnie.”

The future candidate for minstrel-gags and newspaper-space was hauling
oil when a neighbor ran to tell him of Mrs. McClintock’s death. He
hastened home. A search of the premises disclosed two-hundred-thousand
dollars the old lady had hoarded. Wm. Blackstone, appointed his
guardian, restricted the minor to a reasonable allowance. The young
man’s conduct was irreproachable until he attained his majority. His
income was enormous. Mr. Blackstone paid him three-hundred-thousand
dollars in a lump and he resolved to “see some of the world.” He saw it,
not through smoked glass either. His escapades supplied no end of
material for gossip. Many tales concerning him were exaggerations and
many pure inventions. Demure, slow-going Philadelphia he colored a
flaming vermilion. He gave away carriages after a single drive, kept
open-house in a big hotel and squandered thousands of dollars a day.
Seth Slocum was “showing him the sights” and he fell an easy victim to
blacklegs and swindlers. He ordered champagne by the dozen baskets and
treated theatrical companies to the costliest wine-suppers. Gay ballet
girls at Fox’s old play-house told spicy stories of these midnight
frolics. To a negro-comedian, who sang a song that pleased him, he
handed a thousand-dollar pin. He would walk the streets with bank-bills
stuck in the buttonholes of his coat for Young America to grab. He
courted club-men and spent cash like the Count of Monte Cristo. John
Morrissey sat a night with him at cards in his Saratoga gambling-house,
cleaning him out of many thousands. Leeches bled him and sharpers
fleeced him mercilessly. He was a spendthrift, but he didn’t light
cigars with hundred-dollar bills, buy a Philadelphia hotel to give a
chum nor destroy money “for fun.” Usually somebody benefited by his

Occasionally his prodigality assumed a sensible phase.
Twenty-eight-hundred dollars, one day’s receipts from his wells and
royalty, went toward the erection of the soldiers’ monument—a
magnificent shaft of white marble—in the Franklin park. Except Dan
Rice’s five-thousand memorial at Girard, Erie county, this was the first
monument in the Union to the fallen heroes of the civil war. Ten, twenty
or fifty dollars frequently gladdened the poor who asked for relief. He
lavished fine clothes and diamonds on a minstrel-troupe, touring the
country and entertaining crowds in the oil-regions. John W. Gaylord, an
artist in burnt-cork and member of the troupe, has furnished these

“Yes. ‘Coal-Oil Johnnie’ was my particular friend in his palmiest days.
I was his room-mate when he cut the shines that celebrated him as the
most eccentric millionaire on earth. I was with the Skiff & Gaylord
minstrels. Johnnie saw us perform in Philadelphia, got stuck on the
business and bought one-third interest in the show. His first move was
to get five-thousand dollars’ worth of woodcuts at his own expense. They
were all the way from a one-sheet to a twenty-four-sheet in size and the
largest amount any concern had ever owned. The cartoon, which attracted
so much attention, of ‘Bring That Skiff Over Here,’ was in the lot. We
went on the road, did a monstrous business everywhere, turned people
away and were prosperous.

“Reaching Utica, N. Y., Johnnie treated to a supper for the company,
which cost one-thousand dollars. He then conceived the idea of traveling
by his own train and purchased an engine, a sleeper and a baggage-car.
Dates for two weeks were cancelled and we went junketing, Johnnie
footing the bills. At Erie we had a five-hundred-dollar supper; and so
it went. It was here that Johnnie bought his first hack. After a short
ride he presented it to the driver. Our dates being cancelled, Johnnie
insisted upon indemnifying us for the loss of time. He paid all
salaries, estimated the probable business receipts upon the basis of
packed houses and paid that also to our treasurer.

“In Chicago he gave another exhibition of his eccentric traits. He
leased the Academy of Music for the season and we did a big business.
Finally he proposed a benefit for Skiff & Gaylord and sent over to rent
the Crosby Opera-House, then the finest in the country. The manager sent
back the insolent reply: ‘We won’t rent our house for an infernal
nigger-show.’ Johnnie got warm in the collar. He went down to their
office in Root & Cady’s music-store.

“‘What will you take for your house and sell it outright?’ he asked Mr.

“‘I don’t want to sell.’

“‘I’ll give you a liberal price. Money is no object.’

“Then Johnnie pulled out a roll from his valise, counted out
two-hundred-thousand dollars and asked Root if that was an object. Mr.
Root was thunderstruck. ‘If you are that kind of a man you can have the
house for the benefit free of charge.’ The benefit was the biggest
success ever known in minstrelsy. The receipts were forty-five-hundred
dollars and more were turned away than could be given admission. Next
day Johnnie hunted up one of the finest carriage-horses in the city and
presented it to Mr. Root for the courtesy extended.

“Oh, Johnnie was a prince with his money. I have seen him spend as high
as one hundred-thousand dollars in one day. That was the time he hired
the Continental Hotel in Philadelphia and wanted to buy the Girard
House. He went to the Continental and politely said to the clerk: ‘Will
you please tell the proprietor that J. W. Steele wishes to see him?’
‘No, sir,’ said the clerk; ‘the landlord is busy.’ Johnnie suggested he
could make it pay the clerk to accommodate the whim. The clerk became
disdainful and Johnnie tossed a bell-boy a twenty-dollar gold-piece with
the request. The result was an interview with the landlord. Johnnie
claimed he had been ill-treated and requested the summary dismissal of
the clerk. The proprietor refused and Johnnie offered to buy the hotel.
The man said he could not sell, because he was not the entire owner. A
bargain was made to lease it one day for eight-thousand dollars. The
cash was paid over and Johnnie installed as landlord. He made me
bell-boy, while Slocum officiated as clerk. The doors were thrown open
and every guest in the house had his fill of wine and edibles free of
cost. A huge placard was posted in front of the hotel: ‘Open house
to-day; everything free; all are welcome!’ It was a merry lark. The
whole city seemed to catch on and the house was full. When Johnnie
thought he had had fun enough he turned the hostelry over to the
landlord, who reinstated the odious clerk. Here was a howdedo. Johnnie
was frantic with rage. He went over to the Girard and tried to buy it.
He arranged with the proprietor to ‘buck’ the Continental by making the
prices so low that everybody would come there. The Continental did
mighty little business so long as the arrangement lasted.

“The day of the hotel-transaction we were up on Arch street. A rain
setting in, Johnnie approached a hack in front of a fashionable store
and tried to engage it to carry us up to the Girard. The driver said it
was impossible, as he had a party in the store. Johnnie tossed him a
five-hundred-dollar bill and the hackman said he would risk it. When we
arrived at the hotel Johnnie said: ‘See here, Cabby, you’re a likely
fellow. How would you like to own that rig?’ The driver thought he was
joking, but Johnnie handed him two-thousand dollars. A half-hour later
the delighted driver returned with the statement that the purchase had
been effected. Johnnie gave him a thousand more to buy a stable and that
man to-day is the wealthiest hack-owner in Philadelphia.”

Steele reached the end of his string and the farm was sold in 1866. When
he was flying the highest Captain J. J. Vandergrift and T. H. Williams
kindly urged him to save some of his money. He thanked them for the
friendly advice, said he had made a living by hauling oil and could do
so again if necessary, but he couldn’t rest until he had spent that
fortune. He spent a million and got the “rest.” Returning to Oildom
“dead broke,” he secured the position of baggage-master at Rouseville
station. He attended to his duties punctually, was a model of domestic
virtue and a most popular, obliging official. Happily his wife had saved
something and the reunited couple got along swimmingly. Next he opened a
meat-market at Franklin, built up a nice business, sold the shop and
moved to Ashland, Nebraska. He farmed, laid up money and entered the
service of the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad some years ago as
baggage-master. His manly son, whom he educated splendidly, is
telegraph-operator at Ashland station. The father, “steady as a clock,”
is industrious, reliable and deservedly esteemed. Recently a fresh crop
of stories regarding him has been circulated, but he minds his own
affairs and is not one whit puffed up that the latest rival of Pears and
Babbitt has just brought out a brand of “Coal-Oil Johnnie Soap.”

John McClintock’s farm of two-hundred acres, east of Steele and south of
Rynd, Chase & Alden leased in September of 1859, for one-half the oil.
B. R. Alden was a naval officer, disabled from wounds received in
California, and an oil-seeker at Cuba, New York. A hundred wells
rendered the farm extremely productive. The Anderson, sunk in 1861 near
the southeast corner, on Cherry Run, flowed constantly three years,
waning gradually from two-hundred barrels to twenty. Efforts to stop the
flow in 1862, when oil dropped to ten or fifteen cents, merely imbued it
with fresh vigor. Anderson thought the oil-business had gone to the
bow-wows and deemed himself lucky to get seven-thousand dollars in the
fall for the well. It earned one-hundred-thousand dollars subsequently
and then sold for sixty-thousand. The Excelsior produced fifty-thousand
barrels before the interference with the Hammond destroyed both. The
Wheeler, Wright & Hall, Alice Lee, Jew, Deming, Haines and Taft wells
were choice specimens. William and Robert Orr’s Auburn Oil-Works and the
Pennechuck Refinery chucked six-hundred barrels a week into the stills.
The McClintocks have migrated from Venango. Some are in heaven, some in
Crawford county and some in the west. If Joseph Cooke’s conundrum—“Does
Death End All?”—be negatived, there ought to be a grand reunion when
they meet in the New Jerusalem and talk over their experiences on Oil


                                             SAMUEL Q. BROWN
                           FOSTER W. MITCHELL
           JOHN L. MITCHELL

Eight miles east of Titusville, at Enterprise, John L. and Foster W.
Mitchell, sons of a pioneer settler of Allegheny township, were
lumbering and merchandising in 1859. They had worked on the farm and
learned blacksmithing from their father. The report of Col. Drake’s
well stirred the little hamlet. John L. Mitchell mounted a horse and
rode at a John-Gilpin gallop to lease Archibald Buchanan’s big farm,
on both sides of Oil Creek and Cherry Run. The old man agreed to his
terms, a lease was executed, the rosy-cheeked mistress and all the
pupils in the log school-house who could write witnessed the
signatures and Mitchell rode back with the document in his pocket. He
also leased John Buchanan’s two hundred acres, south of Archibald
Buchanan’s three-hundred on the same terms—one-fourth the oil for
ninety years. Forming a partnership with Henry R. Rouse and Samuel Q.
Brown, he “kicked down” the first well in 1860 to the first sand. It
pumped ten barrels a day and was bought by A. Potter, who sank it and
another to the third sand in 1861. A three-hundred-barreler for
months, No. 1 changed hands four times, was bought in 1865 by Gould &
Stowell and produced oil—it pumped for fifteen years—that sold for
two-hundred-and-ninety-thousand dollars! This veteran was the third or
fourth producing well in the region. The Curtis, usually considered
“the first flowing-well,” in July of 1860 spouted freely at
two-hundred feet. It was not tubed and surface-water soon mastered the
flow of oil. The Brawley—sixty-thousand barrels in eight months—Goble
& Flower, Shaft and Sherman were moguls of 1861-2. Beech & Gillett,
Alfred Willoughby, Taylor & Rockwell, Shreve & Glass, Allen Wright,
Wesley Chambers—his infectious laugh could be heard five squares—and a
host of companies operated in 1861-2-3. Franklin S. Tarbell, E. M.
Hukell, E. C. Bradley, Harmon Camp, George Long and J. T. Jones
arrived later. The territory was singularly profitable. Mitchell &
Brown erected a refinery, divided the tracts into hundreds of
acre-plots for leases and laid out the town of Buchanan Farm. Allen
Wright, president of a local oil-company, in February of 1861 printed
his letter-heads “Rouseville” and the name was adopted unanimously.

Rouseville grew swiftly and for a time was headquarters of the oil
industry. Churches and schools arose, good people feeling that man lives
not by oil alone any more than by bread. Dwellings extended up Cherry
Run and the slopes of Mt. Pisgah. Wells and tanks covered the flats and
there were few drones in the busy hive. If Satan found mischief for the
idle only, he would have starved in Rouseville. Stores and shops
multiplied. James White fitted up an opera-house and C. L. Stowell
opened a bank. Henry Patchen conducted the first hotel. N. W. Read
enacted the role of “Petroleum V. Nasby, wich iz postmaster.” The
receipts in 1869 exceeded twenty-five-thousand dollars. Miss Nettie
Dickinson, afterwards in full charge of the money-order department at
Pittsburg and partner with Miss Annie Burke in a flourishing Oil-City
bookstore, ran the office in an efficient style Postmaster-General
Wilson would have applauded. Yet moss-backed croakers in pants, left
over from the Pliocene period, think the gentle sex has no business with
business! The town reached high-water mark early in the seventies, the
population grazing nine-thousand. Production declined, new fields
attracted live operators and in 1880 the inhabitants numbered
seven-hundred, twice the present figure. Rouseville will go down in
history as an oil-town noted for progressiveness, intelligence, crooked
streets and girls “pretty as a picture.”

             You could always count on a lively rustle—
             The boys knew how to get up and hustle,
             And of course the girls had plenty of bustle.

[Illustration: WESLEY CHAMBERS.]

The Buchanan-Farm Oil-Company purchased Mitchell & Brown’s interest and
the Buchanan Royalty Oil-Company acquired the one-fourth held by the
land-owners. Both realized heavily, the Royalty Company paying its
stock-holders—Arnold Plumer, William Haldeman and Dr. C. E. Cooper were
principals—about a million dollars. The senior Buchanan, after receiving
two or three-hundred-thousand dollars—fifty times the sum he would ever
have gained farming—often denounced “th’ pirates that robbed an old man,
buyin’ th’ farm he could ’ave sold two year later fur two millyun!” The
old man has been out of pirate range twenty-five years and the Buchanan
families are scattered. Most of the old-time operators have handed in
their final account. Poor Fred Rockwell has mouldered into dust. Wright,
Camp, Taylor, Beech, Long, Shreve, Haldeman, Hostetter, Cooper, Col.
Gibson and Frank Irwin are “grav’d in the hollow ground.” Death claimed
“Hi” Whiting in Florida and last March stilled the cheery voice of
Wesley Chambers. The earnest, pleading tones of the Rev. R. M. Brown
will be heard no more this side the walls of jasper and the gates of
pearl. Scores moved to different parts of the country. John L. Mitchell
married Miss Hattie A. Raymond and settled at Franklyn. He organized the
Exchange Bank in 1871 and was its president until ill-health obliged him
to resign. Foster W. Mitchell also located at the county-seat and built
the Exchange Hotel. He operated extensively on Oil Creek and in the
northern districts, developed the Shaw Farm and established a bank at
Rouseville, subsequently transferring it to Oil City. He was active in
politics and in the producers’ organizations, treasurer of the
Centennial Commission and an influential force in the Oil-Exchange.
David H. Mitchell likewise gained a fortune in oil, founded a bank and
died at Titusville. Samuel Q. Brown, their relative and associate in
various undertakings, was a merchant and banker at Pleasantville.
Retiring from these pursuits, he removed to Philadelphia and then to New
York to oversee the financial work of the Tidewater Pipe-Line. He
procured the charter for the first pipe-line and acquired a fortune by
his business-talent and wise management.

             “Let Hercules himself do what he may,
             The cat will mew, the dog will have his day.”

Born in New York in 1824, Henry R. Rouse studied law, taught school in
Warren county and engaged in lumbering and storekeeping at Enterprise.
He served in the legislatures of 1859-60, acquitting himself manfully.
Promptly catching the inspiration of the hour, he shared with William
Barnsdall and Boone Meade the honor of putting down the third oil-well
in Pennsylvania. With John L. Mitchell and Samuel Q. Brown he leased the
Buchanan farm and invested in oil-lands generally. Fabulous wealth began
to reward his efforts. Had he lived “he would have been a giant or a
bankrupt in petroleum.” Operations on the John Buchanan farm were pushed
actively. Near the upper line of the farm, on the east side of Oil
Creek, at the foot of the hill, Merrick & Co. drilled a well in 1861,
eight rods from the Wadsworth. On April seventeenth, at the depth of
three-hundred feet, gas, water and oil rushed up, fairly lifting the
tools out of the hole. The evening was damp and the atmosphere
surcharged with gas. People ran with shovels to dig trenches and throw
up a bank to hold the oil, no tanks having been provided. Mr. Rouse and
George H. Dimick, his clerk and cashier, with six others, had eaten
supper and were sitting in Anthony’s Hotel discussing the fall of Fort
Sumter. A laborer at the Merrick well bounded into the room to say that
a vein of oil had been struck and barrels were wanted. All ran to the
well but Dimick, who went to send barrels. Finishing this errand, he
hastened towards the well. A frightful explosion hurled him to the
earth. Smouldering coals under the Wadsworth boiler had ignited the gas.
In an instant the two wells, tanks and an acre of ground saturated with
oil were in flames, enveloping ninety or a hundred persons. Men digging
the ditch or dipping the oil wilted like leaves in a gale. Horrible
shrieks rent the air. Dense volumes of black smoke ascended. Tongues of
flame leaped hundreds of feet. One poor fellow, charred to the bone,
died screaming with agony over his supposed arrival in hell. Victims
perished scarcely a step from safety. Rouse stood near the derrick at
the fatal moment. Blinded by the first flash, he stumbled forward and
fell into the marshy soil. Throwing valuable papers and a wallet of
money beyond the circuit of fire, he struggled to his feet, groped a
dozen paces and fell again. Two men dashed into the sea of flame and
dragged him forth, his flesh baked and his clothing a handful of shreds.
He was carried to a shanty and gasped through five hours of excruciating
torture. His wonderful self-possession never deserted him, no word or
act betraying his fearful suffering. Although obliged to sip water from
a spoon at every breath, he dictated a concise will, devising the bulk
of his estate in trust to improve the roads and benefit the poor of
Warren county. Relatives and intimate friends, his clerk and hired boy,
the men who bore him from the broiling furnace and honest debtors were
remembered. This dire calamity blotted out nineteen lives and disfigured
thirteen men and boys permanently. The blazing oil was smothered with
dirt the third day. Tubing was put in the well, which flowed
ten-thousand barrels in a week and then ceased. Nothing is left to mark
the scene of the sad tragedy. The Merrick, Wadsworth, Haldeman, Clark &
Banks, Trundy, Comet and Imperial wells, the tanks and the dwellings
have been obliterated. Dr. S. S. Christy—he was Oil City’s first
druggist—Allen Wright, N. F. Jones, W. B. Williams and William H.
Kinter, five of the six witnesses to Rouse’s remarkable will, are in
eternity, Z. Martin alone remaining.

Warren’s greatest benefactor, the interest of the half-million dollars
Rouse bequeathed to the county has improved roads, constructed bridges
and provided a poor-house at Youngsville. Rouse was distinguished for
noble traits, warm impulses, strong attachments, energy and decision of
character. He dispensed his bounty lavishly. It was a favorite habit to
pick up needy children, furnish them with clothes and shoes and send
them home with baskets of provisions. He did not forget his days of
trial and poverty. His religious views were peculiar. While reverencing
the Creator, he despised narrow creeds, deprecated popular notions of
worship and had no dread of the hereafter. To a preacher, in the little
group that watched his fading life, who desired an hour before the end
to administer consolation, he replied: “My account is made up. If I am a
debtor, it would be cowardly to ask for credit now. I do not care to
discuss the matter.” He directed that his funeral be without display,
that no sermon be preached and that he be laid beside his mother at
Westfield, New York. Thus lived and died Henry R. Rouse, of small
stature and light frame, but dowered with rare talents and heroic soul.
Perhaps at the Judgment Day, when deeds outweigh words, many a strict
Pharisee may wish he could change places with the man whose memory the
poor devoutly bless. As W. A. Croffut has written of James Baker in “The
Mine at Calumet”:

                 “‘Perfess’? He didn’t perfess. He hed
                   One simple way all through—
                 He merely practiced an’ he sed
                   That that wud hev to do.
                 ‘Under conviction’? The idee!
                   He never done a thing
                 To be convicted fer. Why, he
                   Wuz straighter than a string.”

Seventy-five wells were drilled on Hamilton McClintock’s four-hundred
acres in 1860-1. Here was Cary’s “oil-spring” and expectations of big
wells soared high. The best yielded from one-hundred to three-hundred
barrels a day. Low prices and the war led to the abandonment of the
smaller brood. A company bought the farm in 1864. McClintockville, a
promising village on the flat, boasted two refineries, stores, a hotel
and the customary accessories, of which the bridge over Oil Creek is the
sole reminder. Near the upper boundary of the farm the Reno Railroad
crossed the valley on a giddy center-trestle and timber abutments, not a
splinter of which remains. General Burnside, the distinguished
commander, superintended the construction of this mountain-line,
designed to connect Reno and Pithole and never completed. Occasionally
the dignified general would be hailed by a soldier who had served under
him. It was amusing to behold a greasy pumper, driller or teamster step
up, clap Burnside on the shoulder, grasp his hand and exclaim: “Hello,
General! Deuced glad to see you! I was with you at Fredericksburg! Come
and have a drink!”

The Clapp farm of five-hundred acres had a fair allotment of long-lived
wells. George H. Bissell and Arnold Plumer bought the lower half, in the
closing days of 1859, from Ralph Clapp. The Cornplanter Oil Company
purchased the upper half. The Hemlock, Cuba, Cornwall—a
thousand-barreler—and Cornplanter, on the latter section, were notably
productive. The Williams, Stanton, McKee, Elizabeth and Star whooped it
up on the Bissell-Plumer division. Much of the oil in 1862-3 was from
the second sand. Four refineries flourished and the tract coined money
for its owners. A mile east was the prolific Shaw farm, which put
two-hundred-thousand dollars into Foster W. Mitchell’s purse. Graff &
Hasson’s one-thousand acres, part of the land granted Cornplanter in
1796, had a multitude of medium wells that produced year after year. In
1818 the Indian chief, who loved fire-water dearly, sold his reservation
to William Connely, of Franklin, and William Kinnear, of Centre county,
for twenty-one-hundred-and-twenty-one dollars. Matthias Stockberger
bought Connely’s half in 1824 and, with Kinnear and Reuben Noyes,
erected the Oil-Creek furnace, a foundry, mill, warehouses and
steamboat-landing at the east side of the mouth of the stream. William
and Frederick Crary acquired the business in 1825 and ran it ten years.
William and Samuel Bell bought it in 1835 and shut down the furnace in
1849. The Bell heirs sold it to Graff, Hasson & Co. in 1856 for
seven-thousand dollars. James Hasson located on the property with his
family and farmed five years. Graff & Hasson sold three-hundred
acres in 1864 to the United Petroleum Farms Association for
seven-hundred-and-fifty-thousand dollars. James Halyday settled on the
east side in 1803. His son James, the first white baby in the
neighborhood, was born in 1809. The Bannon family came in the forties,
Thomas Moran built the Moran House—it still lingers—in 1845 and died in
1857. Dr. John Nevins arrived in 1850 and in the fall of 1852 John P.
Hopewell started a general store. Hiram Gordon opened the “Red Lion
Inn,” Samuel Thomas shod horses and three or four families occupied
small habitations. And this was the place, when 1860 dawned, that was to
become the petroleum-metropolis and be known wherever men have heard a
word of “English as she is spoke.”

Cornplanter was the handle of the humble settlement, towards which a
stampede began with the first glimmer of spring. To trace the uprising
of dwellings, stores, wharves and boarding-houses would be as difficult
as perpetual motion. People huddled in shanties and lived on barges
moored to the bank. Derricks peered up behind the houses, thronged the
marshy flats, congregated on the slopes, climbed the precipitous bluffs
and established a foothold on every ledge of rock. Pumping-wells and
flowing-wells scented the atmosphere with gas and the smell of crude.
Smoke from hundreds of engine-houses, black, sooty and defiling,
discolored the grass and foliage. Mud was everywhere, deep, unlimited,
universal—yellow mud from the newer territory—dark, repulsive, oily mud
around the wells—sticky, tricky, spattering mud on the streets and in
the yards. J. B. Reynolds, of Clarion county, and Calvin and William J.
McComb, of Pittsburg, opened the first store under the new order of
things in March of 1860. T. H. and William M. Williams joined the firm.
They withdrew to open the Pittsburg store next door. Robson’s
hardware-store was farther up the main street, on the east side, which
ended abruptly at Cottage Hill. William P. Baillee—he lives in
Detroit—and William Janes built the first refinery, on the same street,
in 1861, a year of unexampled activity. The plant, which attracted
people from all parts of the country—Mr. Baillee called it a
“pocket-still”—was enlarged into a refinery of five stills, with an
output of two-hundred barrels of refined oil every twenty-four hours.
Fire destroyed it and the firm built another on the flats near by. On
the west side, at the foot of a steep cliff, Dr. S. S. Christy opened a
drug-store. Houses, shops, offices, hotels and saloons hung against the
side of the hill or sat loosely on heaps of earth by the creek and
river. One evening a half-dozen congenial spirits met in Williams &
Brother’s store. J. B. Reynolds, afterwards a banker, who died several
years since, thought Cornplanter ought to be discarded and a new name
given the growing town. He suggested one which was heartily approved.
Liquid refreshments were ordered and the infant was appropriately
baptized OIL CITY.


Peter Graff was laid to rest years ago. The venerable James Hasson
sleeps in the Franklin cemetery. His son, Captain William Hasson, is an
honored resident of the city that owes much to his enterprise and
liberality. Capable, broad-minded and trustworthy, he has been earnest
in promoting the best interests of the community, the region and the
state. A recent benefaction was his splendid gift of a public park—forty
acres—on Cottage Hill. He was the first burgess and served with
conspicuous ability in the council and the legislature. Alike as a
producer, banker, citizen, municipal officer and lawgiver, Captain
Hasson has shown himself “every inch a manly man.”

When you talk of any better town than Oil City, of any better section
than the oil-regions, of any better people than the oilmen, of any
better state than Pennsylvania, “every potato winks its eye, every
cabbage shakes its head, every beet grows red in the face, every onion
gets stronger, every sheaf of grain is shocked, every stalk of rye
strokes its beard, every hill of corn pricks up its ears, every foot of
ground kicks” and every tree barks in indignant dissent.

Such was the narrow ravine, nowhere sixty rods in width, that figured so
grandly as the Valley of Petroleum.

[Illustration: FARMS ON OIL CREEK, VENANGO COUNTY, PA., IN 1860-65.]

                         A SPLASH ON OIL CREEK.

          The dark mud of Oil Creek! Unbeautiful mud,
          That couldn’t and wouldn’t be nipped in the bud!
                    Quite irreclaimable,
                    Wholly untamable;
                There it was, not a doubt of it,
                People couldn’t keep out of it;
                    On all sides they found it,
                    So deep none dare sound it—
                    No way to get ’round it.
                To their necks babies crept in it,
                To their chins big men stept in it;
                  Ladies—bless the sweet martyrs!
                  Plung’d far over their garters;
                    Girls had no exemption,
                    Boys sank past redemption;
                To their manes horses stall’d in it,
                To their ear-tips mules sprawl’d in it!
                  It couldn’t be chain’d off,
                  It wouldn’t be drain’d off;
                  It couldn’t be tied up,
                  It wouldn’t be dried up;
                  It couldn’t be shut down,
                  It wouldn’t be cut down.
          Riders gladly abroad would have shipp’d it,
          Walkers gladly at home would have skipp’d it.
                    Frost bak’d it,
                    Heat cak’d it;
                To batter wheels churned it,
                To splashes rains turned it,
                Bad teamsters gol-durned it!
          Each snow-flake and dew-drop, each shower and flood
          Just seem’d to infuse it with lots of fresh blood,
                      Increasing production,
                      Increasing the ruction,
                      Increasing the suction!
                    Ev’ry flat had its fill of it,
                    Ev’ry slope was a hill of it,
                    Ev’ry brook was a rill of it;
                    Ev’ry yard had three feet of it,
                    Ev’ry road was a sheet of it;
                    Ev’ry farm had a field of it,
                    Ev’ry town had a yield of it.
                      No use to glare at it,
                      No use to swear at it;
                    No use to get mad about it,
                    No use to feel sad about it;
                  No use to sit up all night scheming
                  Some intricate form of blaspheming;
                    No use in upbraiding—
                    You _had_ to go wading,
                    Till wearied humanity,
                    Run out of profanity,
                    Found rest in insanity;
          Or winged its bright way—unless dropp’d with a thud—
          To the land of gold pavements and no Oil-Creek mud!


  [From a photograph taken one hour before they were destroyed by

                         PICKING RIPE CHERRIES.



“Who can view the ripened rose, nor seek to wear it?”—_Byron._

“Black’s not so black, nor white so very white.”—_Canning._

“Wild and eerie is the story, but it is true as Truth.”—_Hall Caine._

“No two successes ever were alike.”—_Hawthorne._

“There is nothing so great as the collection of the minute.”—_Vitus

              “The toad beneath the harrow knows
              Exactly where each tooth-point goes.”—_Kipling._

“The crop is always greater on the lands of another.”—_Ovid._

“It didn’t rain, the water simply fell out of the clouds.”—_Cy Warman._

“There are days when every stream is Pachlus and every man is
    Crœsus.”—_Richard Le Gallienne._

“We shall not fail, if we stand firm.”—_Abraham Lincoln._



Rich pickings, luscious as the clustering grapes beyond the fox’s reach,
were not limited to the wonderful Valley of Petroleum. Live operators
quickly learned that big wells could be found away from the low banks of
Oil Creek. Anon they climbed the hills, ascended the ravines and invaded
the near townships. Very naturally the tributary streams were favored at
first, until experience inspired courage and altitude failed to be a
serious obstacle. In this way many juicy streaks were encountered,
broadening men’s ideas and the area of profitable developments to a
marvelous degree. Alaska nuggets are fly-specks compared with the golden
spoil garnered from oil-wells on scores of farms in Allegheny,
Cherrytree and Cornplanter. Tales of the petroleum-seesaw’s ups and
downs, without any “mixture rank of midnight weeds” that savor of
“something rotten in Denmark,” need no Klondyker’s imagination,
measureless as the ice-floes of the Yukon, to awaken interest and be
worthy of attention.

By the side of the romance, the pathos, the tragedy and the startling
incidents of the oil-regions thirty years ago the gold-excitements of
California and Australia and the diamond-fever of South Africa are tame
and vapid. Prior to the oil-development settlers in the back-townships
lived very sparingly. Children grew up simple-minded and untutored. The
sale of a pig or a calf or a turkey was an event looked forward to for
months. Petroleum made not a few of these rustics wealthy. Families that
had never seen ten dollars suddenly owned hundreds-of-thousands.
Lawless, reckless, wicked communities sprang up. The close of the war
flooded the region with paper-currency and bold adventurers. Leadville
or Cheyenne at its zenith was a camp-meeting compared with Pithole,
Petroleum Centre or Babylon. Men and women of every degree of decency
and degradation huddled as closely as the pig-tailed Celestials in
Chinatown. Millions of dollars were lost in bogus stock-companies.
American history records no other such era of riotous extravagance. The
millionaire and the beggar of to-day might change places to-morrow.
Blind chance and consummate rascality were equally potent. Of these
centers of sin and speculation, strange transformations and wild
excesses, scarcely a trace remains. Where hosts of fortune-seekers and
devotees of pleasure strove and struggled nothing is to be seen save the
bare landscape, a growth of underbrush or a grassy field. Sodom was not
blotted out more completely than Pithole, the type of many oil-towns
that have been utterly exterminated.

North and west of the lower McElhenny farm, at the bend in Oil Creek,
lay John Benninghoff’s two big blocks of land, through which Benninghoff
Run flowed southward. Pioneer Run crossed the north-east corner of the
property, the greater part of which was on the hills. Five acres on Oil
Creek and the slopes on Pioneer Run were first developed. Leases for a
cash-bonus and liberal royalty were gobbled greedily. Up Benninghoff Run
and back of the hills operations spread. For one piece of ground the
owner declined tempting offers, because he would not permit his
potato-patch to be trodden down! Some wells pumped and some flowed from
twenty-five to three-hundred barrels a day seven days in the week.
William Jenkins, the Huidekoper Oil-Company, the DeKalb Oil-Company and
Edward Harkins had regular bonanzas. The Lady Herman, which Robert
Herman had the politeness to name for his wife, was a genuine beauty.
The first well ever cased and the first pump-station—it hoisted oil to
Shaffer—were on the hillside at the mouth of Benninghoff Run. The
platoon of wells in the illustration of that locality, as they appeared
in 1866, includes these and a hint of the barn beside the homestead. The
busy scene—pictured now for the first time—was photographed within an
hour of its obliteration. The artist had not finished packing his outfit
when lightning struck one of the derricks and a disastrous fire swept
the hill as bare as Old Mother Hubbard’s cupboard! Wealth deluged the
thrifty land-holder, oil converting his broad acres into a veritable
Golconda. He awoke one morning to find himself rich. He was awakened one
night to find himself famous, the newspapers devoting whole pages—under
“scare-heads”—to the unpretending farmer in the southern end of Cherry
tree. “And thereby hangs a tale.”

Suspicious of banks, Benninghoff stored his money at home. Purchasing a
cheap safe, he placed it in a corner of the sitting-room and stocked it
with a half-million dollars in gold and greenbacks! Cautious friends
warned him to be careful, lest thieves might “break through and steal.”
James Saeger, of Saegertown, a handsome, popular young fellow, who
sometimes played cards, heard of the treasure in the flimsy receptacle.
“Jim” belonged to a respectable family and had been a merchant at
Meadville. Napoleon melted silver statues of the apostles to put the
precious metal in circulation and Saeger concluded to give Benninghoff’s
pile an airing. He spoke to George Miller of the ease with which the
safe could be cracked and engaged two Baltimore burglars, McDonald and
Elliott, to manage the job. Jacob Shoppert, of Saegertown, and Henry
Geiger, who worked for Benninghoff and slept in the house, were
enlisted. The deed, planned with extreme care not to miss fire, was
fixed for a night when Joseph Benninghoff, the son, was to attend a

On Thursday evening, January sixteenth, 1868, Saeger, Shoppert,
McDonald and Elliott left Saegertown in a two-horse sleigh for
Petroleum Centre, twenty-nine miles distant. At midnight they knocked
at Benninghoff’s door. Geiger answered the rap and was quickly gagged,
said to be as arranged previously. John Benninghoff, his wife and
daughter were bound and the experts proceeded to open the safe. The
frail structure was soon ransacked. The marauders bundled up their
booty, sampled Mrs. Benninghoff’s pies, drank a gallon of milk and
departed at their leisure, leaving the inmates of the house securely
tied. Joseph returned in an hour or two and relieved the prisoners
from their unpleasant predicament. An examination of the safe showed
that two-hundred-and-sixty-five-thousand dollars had been taken! The
bulk of this was in gold. A package of two-hundred-thousand dollars,
in large bills, done up in a brown paper, the looters passed
unnoticed! The alarm was given, the wires flashed the news everywhere
and the press teemed with sensational reports. By noon on Friday the
oil-regions had been set agog and people all over the United States
were talking of “the Great Benninghoff Robbery.”

Saegar and his pals drove back and stopped at Louis Warlde’s hotel to
divide the spoils. McDonald, Elliott and Saeger took the lion’s share,
Geiger and Shoppert received smaller sums and Warlde accepted
thirteen-hundred dollars for his silence. The Baltimore toughs lingered
in the neighborhood a week and then sought the wintry climate of Canada,
Saeger staying around home. Intense excitement prevailed. Hundreds of
detectives, eager to gain reputation and the reward of ten-thousand
dollars, spun theories and looked wise. Ex-Chief-of-Police Hague, of
Pittsburg, was especially alert. For three months the search was vain.
George Miller, whom McDonald wished to put out of the road “to keep his
mouth shut,” in a quarrel with Saeger over a game of cards, blurted out:
“I know about the Benninghoff robbery!” Saeger pacified Miller with a
thousand dollars, which the latter scattered quickly. Jacob Shoppert was
his boon companion and the pair spent money at a rate that caused
officers to shadow them. Shoppert visited a town on the edge of Ohio and
was arrested. Calling for a pen and paper, he wrote to Louis Warlde, the
Saegertown hotel-keeper, reproaching him for not sending money. The
jailer handed the detectives the letter, on the strength of which
Warlde, who had started a brewery in Ohio, and Miller were arrested. The
three were convicted and sentenced to a short term in the penitentiary.
Geiger’s complicity in the plot could not be proved beyond a doubt and
he was acquitted. Officer Hague captured McDonald and Elliott in
Toronto, but Canadian lawyers picked flaws in the papers and they could
not be extradited. Escaping to Europe, they were heard of no more.
Saeger, who had not been suspected until after his departure, went west
and was lost sight of for many a day.

Three years later a noted cattle king of the Texas-Colorado trail
entered a saloon in Denver to treat a party of friends. The bar-tender,
Gus. Peiflee, formerly of Meadville, recognized the customer as “Jim.”
Saeger. He telegraphed east and Chief-of-Police Rouse, of Titusville,
posted off to Denver with Joseph Benninghoff. They secured
extradition-papers and arrested Saeger, who coolly remarked: “You’ll be
a devilish sight older before you see me in Pennsylvania.” Their lawyers
informed them that a hundred of Saeger’s cowboys were in the
city—reckless, lawless fellows, certain to kill whoever attempted to
take him away. Rouse and Benninghoff dropped the matter and returned
alone. Saeger is living in Texas, prosperous and respected. He is just
in his dealings, a bountiful giver, and not long ago sent five-thousand
dollars to the widow of George Miller. Perhaps he may yet turn up in
Washington as Congressman or United-States Senator. This is the story of
a robbery that attracted more attention than the first woman in

John Benninghoff was born in Lehigh county, where his ancestors were
among the first German immigrants, on Christmas Day, 1801. His father,
Frederick Benninghoff, settled near New Berlin, Union county, in John’s
boyhood. There the son married Elizabeth Heise in 1825 and in 1828
located on a farm near Oldtown, Clearfield county. Thence he removed to
Venango county, living close to Cherry tree village four years. In 1836
he bought a piece of land on the south border of Cherrytree township,
near what was to become Petroleum Centre. He added to his purchase as
his means permitted, until he owned about three-hundred acres, with
solid buildings and modern improvements. He was in easy circumstances
prior to the oil-developments that enriched him. Contrary to the general
opinion, the robbery did not impoverish him, as one-half the money was
untouched. His twelve children—eight boys and four girls—grew up and
eight are still living. Selling his farms in Venango, he removed to
Greenville, Mercer county, in the spring of 1868 and died in March,
1882. At his death he had sixty-one grandchildren and fifteen
great-grandchildren. He left his family a large estate. The Benninghoff
farms, so far as oil is concerned, are utterly deserted.

West and north of Benninghoff were the farms of John and R. Stevenson.
On the former, extending south to Oil Creek, Reuben Painter, a live
operator, drilled a well in 1863. The contractor reporting it dry,
Painter moved the machinery and surrendered the lease. He and his
brothers operated profitably in Butler and McKean counties, Reuben dying
at Olean in 1892. In November of 1864 the Ocean Oil-Company of
Philadelphia bought John Stevenson’s lands. The Ocean well began flowing
at a six-hundred-barrel pace on September first, 1865, with the Arctic a
good second. Fifty others varied from fifty to two-hundred barrels.
Thomas McCool built a refinery and the farm paid the company about
two-thousand per cent! The principal wells on both Stevenson tracts
clustered far above the flats, the derricks and buildings resembling “a
city set on a hill.” Major Mills, justly proud of his King of the Hills,
an elegant producer, delighted to visit it with his wife and two young
daughters, one of them now Mrs. John D. Archbold, of New York. Painter’s
supposed dry-hole, drilled seventeen feet deeper, gushed furiously,
proving to be the best well in the collection! Said the Ocean manager,
as he watched the oily stream ascend “higher ’n a steeple”: “A million
dollars wouldn’t touch one side of this property!” Sinking a four-inch
hole seventeen feet farther would have given Reuben Painter this
splendid return two years earlier! He missed a million dollars by only
seventeen feet! A Gettysburg soldier, from whose nose a rifle-ball
shaved a piece of cuticle the size of a pin-head, wittily observed:
“That shot came mighty near missing me!” Inverting this remark, Painter
had cause to exclaim: “That million came mighty near hitting me!”

                     “A miss is as good as a mile.”

Various companies bored three-hundred wells on Cherrytree Run and its
tiny branches without jarring the trade particularly. Prolific strikes
on the Niagara tract, in the rear of the Benninghoff lands, added to the
wealth of Phillips Brothers. Kane City, two miles north of Rynd, raised
Cain in mild style, “wearing like leather.” Farther back D. W. Kenney’s
wells, lively as the Kilkenny cats, stirred a current that wafted in
Alemagooselum City. Its unique name, the biggest feature of the “City,”
was worked out by Kenney, a fun-loving genius, known far and wide as
“Mayor of Alemagooselum.” He and his wells and town have long been “out
of sight.” Kane City casts an attenuated shadow.


Rev. William Elliott, who united in one package the fervor of Paul and
the snap of Ebenezer Elliott, “the Corn-Law Rhymer,” lived and preached
at Rynd. He organized a Sunday-school in Kenney’s parish, which a devout
settler undertook to superintend. At the close of the regular service on
the opening day, Mr. Elliott asked the pious ruralist to “say a few
words.” The good man, wishing to clinch the lesson—about Mary
Magdalene—in the minds of the youngsters, implored them to follow the
example of “Miss Magdolin.” The older brood tittered at this
Hibernianism, the laugh swelled into a cloudburst. Mr. Elliott nearly
swallowed his pocket-handkerchief trying to shut in his smiles and a new
query was born, which had a long run. It was fired at every visitor to
the settlement. Small boys hurled it at the defenceless superintendent,
who resigned his job and broke up the school the next Sunday. Possibly
Br’er Elliott, when ushered into Heaven, would not be one whit surprised
to hear some white-winged cherub from Alemagooselum sing out: “Say, do
you know Miss Mag Dolin?”


The scanty herbage on the tail of the parson’s horse gave rise to
endless surmises. The animal stranded in a mud-hole and keeled over on
his side. Four sturdy fellows tried to fish him out. In his misguided
zeal one of the rescuers, tugging at the caudal appendage, pulled so
hard that half the hair peeled off, leaving the denuded nag a fitting
mate for Tam O’Shanter’s tailless Meg.

A Kane-City youngster prayed every morning and night that a well her
father was drilling would be a good one. It was a hopeless failure,
finished the day before Christmas. The result disturbed the child
exceedingly. That night, as the loving mother was preparing her for bed,
the little girl observed: “I dess it’s no use prayin’ till after Kismas,
’cos God’s so busy helpin’ Santa Claus He hasn’t time for nobody else!”



Cherry Run, once the ripest cherry in the orchard, had a satisfactory
run. A spice of romance flavored its actual realities. Not two miles up
the stream William Reed, in 1863, drilled a dry-hole six-hundred feet
deep. Two miles farther, in the vicinity of Plumer, a test well was sunk
seven-hundred feet, with no better result. Wells near the mouth of the
ravine produced very lightly. Fifty-thousand dollars would have been an
extreme price for all the land from Rouseville to Plumer, the tasteful
village Henry McCalmont named in honor of Arnold Plumer. In May of 1864
Taylor & Rockwell opened a fresh vein on the run. At two-hundred feet
their well threw oil above the derrick and flowed sixty barrels a day
regularly. Operators reversed their opinion of the territory. To the
surprise of his acquaintances, who deemed him demented, Reed started
another well four rods below his failure of the previous year. It was on
the right bank of the run, on a five-acre patch bought from John Rynd in
1861 by Thomas Duff, who sold two acres to Robert Criswell. Reed was not
over-stocked with cash and Criswell joined forces with him to sink the
second well. I. N. Frazer took one-third interest. At the proper depth
the outlook was gloomy. The sand appeared good, but days of pumping
failed to bring oil. On July eighteenth, 1864, the well commenced
flowing three-hundred barrels a day, holding out at this rate for
months. Criswell realized thirty-thousand dollars from his share of the
oil and then sold his one-fourth interest in the land and well for
two-hundred-and-eighty-thousand to the Mingo Oil-Company. He operated in
the Butler field, lived at Monterey, removed to Ohio and died near
Cincinnati. One son, David S., a well-known producer, resides at Oil
City; another, Robert W., is on the editorial staff of a New-York daily.
Frazer sold for one-hundred-thousand dollars and next loomed up as “the
discoverer of Pithole.” Reed sold to Bishop & Bissell for
two-hundred-thousand dollars, after pocketing seventy-five-thousand from
oil. Coming to Venango county with Frederic Prentice in 1859, he drilled
wells by contract, sometimes “a solid Muldoon” and sometimes “a broken
Reed.” He returned east—his birthplace—with the proceeds of the
world-famed well bearing his name. An idea haunted him that Captain
Kidd’s treasure was buried at a certain part of the Atlantic coast. He
boarded at a house on the shore and hunted land and sea for the hidden
deposit. He would dig in the sand, sail out some distance and peer into
the water. One day he went off in his skiff, a storm arose, the boat
drifted away and that was the last ever seen of William Reed. He was a
liberal supporter of the United-Presbyterian church and his nearest
relatives live in the vicinity of Pittsburg.

The Reed well put Cherry Run at the head of the procession. Within sixty
days it enriched Reed, Criswell and Frazer nearly seven-hundred-thousand
dollars. The new owners drilled three more on the same acre, getting
back every cent of their purchase-money and fifty per cent. extra for
good measure. In other words, the five-acre collection of rocks and
stumps, with eleven producing wells and one duster, harvested
two-million dollars! The Mountain well mounted high, the Phillips &
Egbert was a fillip and the Wadsworth & Wynkoop rolled out oil in wads
worth a wine-coop of gold-eagles. The fever to lease or buy a spot to
plant a derrick burned fiercely. The race to gorge the ravine with rigs
and drilling appliances would shut out Edgar Saltus in his “Pace that
Kills.” Soon three-hundred wells lined the flats and lofty banks
guarding the purling streamlet. Clanking tools, wheezy engines and
creaking pumps assailed the ears. Smoke from a myriad soft-coal fires
attacked the eyes. An endless cavalcade of wagons churned the soil into
vicious batter. The activities of the Foster, McElhenny, Farrell,
Davison and Tarr farms were condensed into one surging, foaming caldron,
quickening the pulse-beats and sending the brain see-sawing.

Across the run the Curtin Oil-Company farmed out forty acres. The Baker
well, an October biscuit, flowed one-hundred barrels a day all the
winter of 1864-5 and pumped six years. Water, bane of flannel-suits and
uncased oil-wells, deluged it and its neighbors. Hugh Cropsey, a
New-York lawyer and last owner of the well nearest the Baker, “ran
engine,” saved a trifle, pulled up stakes in 1869 and tried his luck at
Pleasantville. Returning to Cherry Run, he resuscitated a well on the
hill and was suffocated by gas in a tank containing a few inches of
fresh crude. His heirs sold me the old well, which pumped nine months
without varying ten gallons in any week and repaid twice its cost.
Unchangeable as the laws of the Medes and Persians, its production was
the steadiest in the chronicles of grease. One Saturday evening N. P.
Stone, superintendent of the St. Nicholas Oil-Company, bought it from me
at the original price. His men took charge of it at noon on Tuesday. At
five o’clock the well quit forever, “too dead to skin!” Cleaning out,
drilling deeper, casing, torpedoing and weeks of pumping could not
persuade it to shed another drop of oil or water. This close shave was a
small by-play in a realistic drama teeming with incidents far stranger
than “The Strange Adventures of Miss Brown.” B. H. Hulseman, president
of the St. Nicholas Oil-Company, was a wealthy leather-merchant in
Philadelphia. He spent much of his time on Cherry Run, lost heavily in
speculations, entered the oil-exchange and died at Oil City.
Kind-hearted, sincere and unpretending, his good remembrance is a legacy
to cherish lovingly.

                      “Nothing in his life
               Became him like the leaving it; he died
               As one who had been studied in his death,
               To throw away the dearest thing he owned,
               As ’twere a careless trifle.”

Two-hundred yards above the Baker a half-dozen wells crowded upon a
half-acre. True to its title, the Vampire sucked the life-blood from its
pal and produced bounteously. The Munson, owned by the first sacrifice
to nitro-glycerine, sustained the credit of its environment. The Wade
was the star-performer of the group. James Wade, an Ohio teamster,
earned money hauling oil. Concluding to wade in, he secured a bantam
lease and engaged Thomas Donnelly to drill a well. It surpassed the
Reed, flowing four-hundred barrels a day at the start. Frank Allen,
agent of a gilt-edged New-York company, rode from Oil City to see a well
described to him as “livelier than chasing a greased pig at a
county-fair.” His exalted conceptions of petroleum befitted the
representative of a company capitalized at three-millions, in which
August Belmont, Russell Sage and William B. Astor were said to be
stockholders. The fuming, gassing stream of oil suited him to a t. “I’ll
give you three-hundred-thousand dollars for it,” he said to Wade, whom
the offer well-nigh paralyzed. The two men went into the grocery close
by, Wade signed a transfer of the well and Allen handed him a New-York
draft. The happiest being in the pack, Wade packed his carpet-bag,
hitched his horses to the wagon, bade the boys good-bye and drove to Oil
City to get the paper cashed. He wore greasy clothes and did not wear
the air of a millionaire. “Is Mr. Bennett in?” he asked a clerk at the
bank. “Naw; what do you want?” was the reply. “I want a draft cashed.”
“Oh, you do, eh? I guess I can cash it!” The clerk’s haughty demeanor
fell below zero upon beholding the draft. He invited Wade to be seated.
Mr. Bennett, the urbane cashier, returned in a few moments. The bank
hadn’t half the currency to meet the demand on the instant. Wade left
directions to forward the money to his home in Ohio, where he and his
faithful steeds landed two days later. He bought fine farms for his
brothers and himself, invested two-hundred-thousand dollars in
government-bonds and wisely enjoyed, amid the peaceful scenes of
agricultural life, the fruits of his first and last oil-venture. Few
have been as sensible, for the petroleum-coast is encrusted with
financial wrecks—vast fortunes amassed only to be lost on the perilous
sea of speculation. The world has heard of the _prizes_ in the lottery
of oil, while the _blanks_—tenfold more numerous—are glossed over by the
glamour of the Sherman, Empire, Noble, Phillips, Reed and other wells,
“familiar as household words.”

[Illustration: PETER P. CORNEN]

[Illustration: HENRY I. BEERS]

Thomas Johnson, of Oil City, held one-eighth of the Curtin interest and
Patrick Johnson had a bevy of patrician wells at the summit of the
tallest hill in the valley. The curtain has been rung down, the lights
are out, the players have dispersed and none can hint of “Too Much
Johnson.” The farm of sixty acres adjacent to the Curtin and the
Criswell nook Hamilton McClintock traded to Daniel Smith in 1858 for a
yoke of oxen. Smith sold it in 1860 for five-hundred dollars and sank
the cash in a dry-hole on Oil Creek. P. P. Cornen and Henry I. Beers
bought the farm in 1863 for twenty-five-hundred dollars, clearing
two-millions from the investment. Cornen served as State-Senator in
Connecticut and died in 1893. His sons operate in Warren county and down
the Allegheny. Mr. Beers, who settled at McClintockville, for thirty
years has been prominent in business and politics. He was a California
argonaut, spent three years in San Francisco, built the first house in
that city after the first great fire and revisited the East to marry
“the girl he left behind him” in 1849. The Yankee well, erratic as
George Francis Train, was the first glory of the Smith tract. The Reed
caused a rush for one-acre leases at four-thousand-dollars bonus and
half the oil. Picking up gold-dollars at every step would have been less
lucrative. The wells were stayers and Daniel Smith was not “a Daniel
come to judgment” in his estimate of the farm he implored J. W. Sherman
to buy for two-hundred-and-fifty dollars.

Cornen & Beers first leased a half-dozen plots six rods square at
one-half royalty. Two New-Englanders and Cyrus A. Cornen, son of Peter
P. Cornen and nephew of Mr. Beers, drilled the first well, the queer
Yankee. Some gas and no oil looked promising for a dry-hole, but the
owners put in small tubing and pumped a plump day. They decided to draw
the tubing, seed-bag higher and try it once more for luck. The tubing
had been raised only a foot when the well flowed “like Mount Vesuvius
spilling lava.” The flow lasted five minutes, stopped twenty, flowed
five more, stopped twenty and kept up this program regularly twenty-one
months. Sixty barrels a day was the average yield month after month,
until one day the Yankee concluded to retire from active duty. Much of
its product sold at ten to thirteen dollars a barrel, enriching all
concerned. The Yankee boomed the crush for leases and was altogether a
tempting plum. The Auburn, the second well on the Smith farm, was a good
second to the Yankee, the Gromiger and Cattaraugus traveled in the
one-hundred-and-fifty-barrel class, while the Watkins toed the
two-hundred mark, with the Aazin and Fry chasing it closely.

S. S. Watkins, who died at St. Paul in the fall of 1896, was given a lot
for a grocery, with the privilege of sinking one well for half the oil.
He opened the store and sold the oil-right to Wade Brothers for
twenty-five-hundred dollars. The Wades sold one-eighth of the
working-interest to the Pittsburg Petroleum-Company, used the proceeds
to drill the hole and stuck the tools in the third sand. The lookout for
a paying strike was exceedingly poor, but James Wade held on and tubed
the well above the tools. It flowed three-hundred barrels a day and Wade
sold his seven-eighths to Frank Allen, who offered the Pittsburg
Petroleum-Company seventy-five-thousand dollars for its eighth. When the
Wade declined to fifty barrels the company pulled the tubing, moved the
derrick three feet and drilled another, with no better result. Thereupon
the Wade was abandoned, after having netted the Great-Republic
Oil-Company a quarter-million dead loss. In 1864 Cornen & Beers
organized the Cherry-Valley Oil-Company, sold twelve or fifteen leases
and put down all the other wells themselves. The partnership dissolved
in 1876, Mr. Beers maintaining the farm and Mr. Cornen dying at his
Connecticut home in 1893. The Smith rated among the best properties in
the region and it still rewards its fortunate owner with a moderate
production, although merely a shadow of its former greatness.

[Illustration: PORTER PHIPPS.]

Blacklegs, thieves and murderers ran little risk of punishment in the
early days of oil-developments, unless they became unusually
obstreperous and were brought to a period with a shot-gun. Scoundrels
lay in wait for victims at every turn and stories of their misdeeds
could be told by the hundred. The McFate farm was one of the first on
Cherry Run to be sold at a fancy price. S. J. McFate, one of the
brothers owning the property, two weeks after the sale in 1862, walked
down to Oil City to draw several-thousand dollars from the bank. He
displayed the money freely and left for home late at night. The road was
dark and lonely and next morning, in a clump of bushes a mile above Oil
City, his lifeless body was discovered. A ghastly wound in the head and
the absence of the money explained the tragedy and the motive. No clue
to the murderer was ever found, although squads of detectives “worked on
the case” and queer fictions regarding the mysterious assassin were
printed in many newspapers.

Queerly enough, the farms above the Smith were failures. Hundreds of
wells clear up to Plumer never paid the expense of recording the leases.
The territory was a roast for scores of stock-companies. Below Plumer a
mile Bruns & Ludovici, of New York, built the Humboldt Refinery in 1862.
Money was lavished on palatial quarters for the managers, enclosed
grounds, cut-stone walls, a pipe-line to Tarr Farm and the largest
refining capacity in America. Inconvenient location and improved methods
of competitors forced the Humboldt to retire. Part of the machinery was
removed, the structures crumbled and some of the dressed stone forms the
foundations of the National Transit Building at Oil City. Plumer, which
had a grist-mill, store, blacksmith-shop and tavern in 1840 and
four-thousand population in 1866, is quiet as its briar-grown graveyard.
The Brevoort Oil-Company, Murray & Fawcett and John P. Zane raked in
shekels on Moody Run, which emptied into Cherry Run a half-mile
south-west of the Reed well. Zane, whole-souled, resolute and manly,
operated in the northern district and died at Bradford in 1894. A
“forty-niner,” he supported John W. Geary for Mayor of San Francisco,
built street-railways and worked gold-mines in California. He wrote on
finance and petroleum, hated selfishness and stood firmly on the
platform laid down in the beatitudes by the Man of Galilee.

                        “The good die first,
              And they whose hearts are dry as summer-dust
              Burn to the socket.”

In the winter of 1859-60 Robert Phipps, of Clinton township, sold a
horse to D. Knapp, who owned a farm, “between Plumer and the mouth of
Oil Creek,” that extended across Cherry Run some distance above the
Smith patch. Phipps followed up the horse-sale by paying Knapp
twenty-five dollars and one-eighth the oil for one acre of his land. He
took A. Lowry for a partner, and sent his son, Porter Phipps, and John
Haas, a German blacksmith, to “kick down” a well. Haas constructed a set
of light tools—the augur stem was one-inch iron—lumber for a shanty and
the rig was drawn from Hood’s Mill on Pithole Creek and a forty-foot
hemlock served as a spring-pole. Drilling began in April of 1860 at the
first well on the bank of Cherry Run. Young Phipps would carry the bit
or the reamer daily on his shoulder to be dressed at a blacksmith-shop
on Hamilton McClintock’s farm. The work had continued three months, when
one day the tools struck a crevice at a hundred feet, a gurgling sound
greeted the ears of the expectant drillers and they awaited the flow.
Sulphur-water, not oil, was the outcome and the well was abandoned.
Robert Phipps “exchanged mortality for life” at a ripe old age. His
parents settled in Venango county a century ago and the Phipps family
has always been noted for intelligence and progressiveness. Porter
Phipps, known everywhere as ’Squire, was reared on the farm, had his
initial tussle with oil-wells in 1860 and operated at Bullion and in
Butler county. He is Vice-president of the Monroe Oil-Company and makes
Pittsburg his headquarters.

[Illustration: DR. G. SHAMBURG.]

Two miles east of Miller-Farm station, on the eighty-acre tract of
Oliver Stowell, the Cherry-Run Petroleum-Company finished a well in
February of 1866. It was eight-hundred feet deep, drilled through the
sixth sand and pumped one-hundred barrels a day. The company operated
systematically, using heavy tools, tall derricks and large casing. It
was managed by Dr. G. Shamburg, a man of character and ability, who
studied the strata carefully and gathered much valuable data. The second
well equalled No. 1 in productiveness and longevity, both lasting for
years. J. B. Fink’s, a July posy of two-hundred barrels, was the third.
The grand rush began in December, 1867, the Fee and Jack-Brown wells, on
the Atkinson farm, flowing four-hundred barrels apiece. A lively town,
eligibly located in a depression of the table-lands, was properly named
Shamburg, as a compliment to the genial doctor. The Tallman, Goss,
Atkinson and Stowell farms whooped up the production to three-thousand
barrels. Frank W. and W. C. Andrews, Lyman and Milton Stewart, John W.
Irvin and F. L. Backus had bought John R. Tallman’s one-hundred acres in
1865. Their first well began producing in September, 1867, and in 1868
they sold two-hundred-thousand barrels of oil for nearly
eight-hundred-thousand dollars! A. H. Bronson—bright, alert, keen in
business and popular in society—paid twenty-five-thousand for the
Charles Clark farm, a mile north-east. His first well—three-hundred
barrels—paid for the property and itself in sixty days. Operations in
the Shamburg pool were almost invariably profitable and handsome
fortunes were realized. A peculiarity was the presence of green and
black oils, a line on the eastern part of the Cherry-Run Company’s land
defining them sharply. Their gravity and general properties were
identical and the black color was attributed to oxide of iron in the
rock. Dr. Shamburg died at Titusville and the town he founded is taking
a perpetual vacation.

Carl Wageforth, a genius well known in early days as one of the owners
of the Story farm, started a “town” in the woods two miles above
Shamburg. The “town” collapsed, Wageforth clung to his store a season
and next turned up in Texas as the founder of a German colony. He
secured a claim in the Lone-Star State about thrice the size of Rhode
Island, settled it with thrifty immigrants from the “Faderland” and
bagged a bushel of ducats. He made and lost fortunes in oil and could no
more be kept from breaking out occasionally than measles or small-pox.

East of Petroleum Centre three miles, on the bank of a pellucid stream,
John E. McLaughlin drilled a well in 1868 that flowed fourteen-hundred
barrels. The sand was coarse, the oil dark and the magnitude of the
strike a surprise equal to the answer of the dying sinner who, asked by
the minister if he wasn’t afraid to meet an angry God, unexpectedly
replied: “Not a bit; it’s the other chap I’m afraid of!” Excepting the
half-dozen mastodons on Oil Creek, the McLaughlin was the biggest well
in the business up to that date. Wide-awake operators struck a bee-line
for leases. A town was floated in two weeks, a Pithole grocer erecting
the first building and labeling the place “Cash-Up” as a gentle hint to
patrons not to let their accounts get musty with age. The name fitted
the town, which a twelvemonth sufficed to sponge off the slate. Small
wells and dry-holes ruled the roost, even those nudging “the big ’un”
missing the pay-streak. The McLaughlin—a decided freak—declined
gradually and pumped seven years, having the reservoir all to itself.
Located ten rods away in any direction, it would have been a duster and
Cash-Up would not have existed! A hundred surrounding it did not cash-up
the outlay for drilling.


Attracted by the quality of the soil and the beauty of the
location—six-hundred feet above the level of Oil Creek and abundantly
watered—in 1820 Abraham Lovell forsook his New York farm to settle in
Allegheny township, six miles east by south of Titusville. Aaron
Benedict and Austin Merrick came in 1821. John Brown, the first
merchant, opened a store in 1833. A pottery, tannery, ashery, store and
shops formed the nucleus of a village, organized in 1850 as the borough
of Pleasantville. Three wells on the outskirts of town, bored in 1865-6,
produced a trifling amount of oil. Late in the fall of 1867 Abram James,
an ardent spiritualist, was driving from Pithole to Titusville with
three friends. A mile south of Pleasantville his “spirit-guide” assumed
control of Mr. James and humped him over the fence into a field on the
William Porter farm. Powerless to resist, the subject was hurried to the
northern end of the field, contorted violently, jerked through a species
of “couchee-couchee dance” and pitched to the ground! He marked the spot
with his finger, thrust a penny into the dirt and fell back pale and
rigid. Restored to consciousness, he told his astonished companions it
had been revealed to him that streams of oil lay beneath and extended
several miles in a certain direction. Putting no faith in “spirits” not
amenable to flasks, they listened incredulously and resumed their
journey. James negotiated a lease, borrowed money—the “spirit-guide”
neglected to furnish cash—and planted a derrick where he had planted the
penny. On February twelfth, 1868, at eight-hundred-and-fifty feet, the
Harmonial Well No. 1 pumped one-hundred-and-thirty barrels!

The usual hurly-burly followed. People who voted the James adventure a
fish-story writhed and twisted to drill near the spirited Harmonial. New
strikes increased the hubbub and established the sure quality of the
territory. Scores of wells were sunk on the Porter, Brown, Tyrell,
Beebe, Dunham and other farms for miles. Prices of supplies advanced and
machine-shops in the oil-regions ran night and day to meet orders. Land
sold at five-hundred to five-thousand dollars an acre, often changing
hands three or four times a day. Interests in wells going down found
willing purchasers. Strangers crowded Pleasantville, which trebled its
population and buildings during the year. It was a second edition of
Pithole, mildly subdued and divested of frothy sensationalism. If
gigantic gushers did not dazzle, dry-holes did not discourage. If nobody
cleared a million dollars at a clip, nobody cleared out to avoid
creditors. Nobody had to loaf and trust to Providence for daily bread.
Providence wasn’t running a bakery for the benefit of idlers and work
was plentiful at Pleasantville. The production reached three-thousand
barrels in the summer of 1868, dropping to fifteen-hundred in 1870.
Three banks prospered and imposing brick-blocks succeeded unsubstantial
frames. Fresh pastures invited the floating mass to Clarion, Armstrong
and Butler. Small wells were abandoned, machinery was shipped southward
and the pretty village moved backward gracefully. Pleasantville had
“marched up the hill and then marched down again.”

Abram James, a man of fine intellect, nervous temperament and lofty
principle, lived at Pleasantville a year. He located a dozen paying
wells in other sections, under the influence of his “spirit-guide.” The
Harmonial was his greatest hit, bringing him wealth and distinction. His
worst break—a dry-hole on the Clarion river eighteen-hundred feet
deep—cost him six-thousand dollars in 1874. None questioned his absolute
sincerity, although many rejected his theories of the supernatural.
Whether he is still in the flesh or has become a spirit has not been
manifested to his old friends in Oildom.

Samuel Stewart, an old resident and prosperous land-owner, is a leading
citizen of Cherrytree township. He operated successfully in his own
neighborhood and around Pleasantville. His acquaintance with men and
affairs is not surpassed in Venango county. He is half-brother of Mrs.
William R. Crawford, Franklin. Lyman and Milton Stewart, of Titusville,
have not stayed in the rear. They drilled hundreds of wells in
Pennsylvania and invested liberally in California territory. Good men
and true are the Stewarts from beginning to end.

[Illustration: SAMUEL STEWART.]

Red-Hot, in the palmy era of the Shamburg excitement a place of much
sultriness, is cold enough to chill any stray visitor who knew the
mushroom at its warmest stage. Windsor Brothers, of Oil City—they
built the Windsor Block—drilled a well in 1869 that flowed
three-hundred-and-fifty barrels. Others followed rapidly, people
flocked to the newest centre of attraction and a typical oil-town
strutted to the front. The territory lacked the staying quality, the
Butler region was about to dawn and 1871 saw Red-Hot reduced to three
houses, a half-dozen light wells and a muddy road. Lightning-rod
pedlars, book-agents and medical fakirs no longer disturb its calm
serenity. Not a scrap of the tropical town has been visible for two

[Illustration: RED-HOT, A TYPICAL OIL-TOWN, IN 1870.]

Tip-Top filled a short engagement. Operations around Shamburg and
Pleasantville directed attention to the Captain Lyle and neighboring
farms, midway between these points. “Ned” Pitcher’s well, drilled in
1866 on the Snedaker farm, east of Lyle, had started at eighty barrels
and pumped twenty for two years. Pithole was booming and nobody thought
of Ned’s pitcher until 1868. Many of the wells produced fairly, but the
territory soon depreciated and the elevated town—aptly named by a poet
with an eye to the eternal fitness of things—lost its hold and glided
down to nothingness. The hundred-eyed Argus could not find a sliver that
would prick a thumb or tip a top.

[Illustration: VIEW AT M’CLINTOCKVILLE IN 1862.]

Picking cherries was sometimes a mixed operation in the land of grease.

                             OILY OOZINGS.

Kerosene is often the last scene.

The ladies—God bless them!—are nothing if not consistent—at times. It
used to be a fad with Bradford wives to keep a stuffed owl in the parlor
for ornament and a stuffed club in the hall for the night-owl’s benefit.

                The Oil-Creek girls are the dandy girls,
                    For their kiss is most intense;
                They’ve got a grip like a rotary-pump
                    That will lift you over the fence.

The steel of a rimmer was lost in a drilling well on Cherry Run. After
fishing for it for a longtime the well-owner, becoming discouraged,
offered a man one-thousand dollars to take it out. He broomed the end of
a tough block, ran it down the well attached to the tools and in ten
minutes had the steel out.

            The woman who eagerly seized the oil-can
            And to pour kerosene in the cook-stove began,
            So that people for miles to quench the fire ran,
            While she soar’d aloft like a flash in the pan,
                      Didn’t know it was loaded.

At a drilling well near Rouseville the tools were lowered on Monday
morning and, after running a full screw, were drawn minus the bit, with
the stem-box greatly enlarged. After fishing several days for it the
drillers were greatly surprised to find the lost bit standing in the
slack-tub. The tools had been lowered in the darkness with no bit on.

              An Oil-City tramp on the pavement drear
                Saw something that seem’d to shine;
              He pick’d it up and gave a big cheer—
              ’Twas a nickel bright, the price of a beer—
                And shouted “The world is mine!”

William McClain, grandfather of Senator S. J. M. McCarrell, Harrisburg,
once owned and occupied the Tarr farm, on Oil Creek. Fifty or more years
ago he sold the tract to James Tarr for a rifle and an old gray horse
named Diamond. McClain removed to Washington county and settled on a
farm which his son inherited and sold before oil was found in the
neighborhood. Like the Tarr farm on Oil Creek, the McClain farm in
Washington county proved a petroleum-bonanza to the purchasers.

               Said a Shamburg young maiden: “Alas, Will,
                       You come every night,
                       And talk such a sight,
                       And burn so much light,
               My papa declares you’re a Gas Bill!”

All kinds of engines, from one to fifty horse-power, were used on Oil
Creek in the sixties. The old “Fabers,” with direct attachment, will
recall many a broad grin. The boys called them “Long Johns.” The
Wallace-engine had hemp-packing on the piston, and the inside of the
cylinder, rough as a rasp, soon used it up and leaked steam like a
sieve. The Washington-engine was the first to come into general use. C.
M. Farrar, of Farrar & Trefts, whose boilers and engines have stood
every test demanded by improvements in drilling, made the drawing for
the first locomotive-pattern boiler on a drilling well—a wonderful
stride in advance of the old-time boiler. Trefts made the castings for
the engine that pumped the Drake well and was the first man, in company
with J. Willard, to use ropes on Oil Creek in drilling. This was on the
Foster farm, near the world-famed Empire well, in 1860. Willard made the
second set of jars on the creek. Senator W. S. McMullan was a stalwart
blacksmith, who made drilling-tools noted for their enduring quality.



                         A GOURD IN THE NIGHT.



    “The gourd came up in a night and perished in a night.”—_Jonah,

“The earth hath bubbles, as the water has.”—_Shakespeare._

“All things rise to fall and flourish to decay.”—_Sallust._

“A lively place in days of yore, but something ails it

“Ah! who shall lift that wand of magic power?”—_Longfellow._

              “Wealth flowed from wood and stream and soil,
              The rock poured forth its amber oil,
                And, lo! a magic city rose.”—_Marjorie Meade._

“It went up like a rocket and came down like a stick.”—_Thomas Paine._

“Yet golde all is not that doth golden seeme.”—_Spenser._

“Can it be that this is all remains of life.”—_Bryon._

“What it is to eat forbidden fruit and find it a turnip!”—_Flora Annie

“Old Rhinestein’s walls are crumbled now.”—_Birch Arnold._

“For this will never hold water again.”—_J. Fenimore Cooper._

“Of the vanished drama no image was there left.”—_William Morris._


Pithole, “the magic city,” had little in its antecedents to betoken the
meteoric rise and fall of the most remarkable oil-town that ever “went
up like a rocket and came down like a stick.” The unpoetic name of
Pithole Creek was applied to the stream which flows through Allegheny
township and bounds Cornplanter for several miles on the east. It
empties into the Allegheny River eight miles above Oil City and was
first mentioned by Rev. Alfred Brunson, an itinerant Methodist minister,
in his “Western Pioneer” in 1819. Upheavals of rock left a series of
deep pits or chasms on the hills near the mouth of the stream. From the
largest of these holes a current of warm air repels leaves or pieces of
paper. Snow melts around the cavity, which is of unknown depth, and the
air is a mephitic vapor or gas. A story is told of three hunters who,
finding the snow melted on a midwinter day, determined to investigate.
One of them swore it was an entrance to the infernal regions and that he
intended to warm himself. He sat on the edge of the hole, dangled his
feet over the side, thanked the devil for the opportune heat, inhaled
the gas and tumbled back insensible. His companions dragged him away and
the investigation ended summarily. Seven miles up the creek, in the
northeast corner of Cornplanter, Rev. Walter Holmden was a
pioneer-settler. Choosing a tract of two-hundred acres, he built a
log-house on the west bank of the creek, cleared a few acres, struggled
with poverty and died in 1840. Mr. Holmden was a fervent Baptist
preacher. Thomas Holmden occupied the farm after the good old man’s
decease, with the Copelands and Blackmers and James Rooker as neighbors.
Developments had covered the farms from the Drake well to Oil City.
Operators ventured up the ravines, ascended the hills and began to take
chances miles from either side of Oil Creek. Successful wells on the
Allegheny River broadened opinions regarding the possibilities of
petroleum. Nervy men invaded the eastern portion of Cornplanter, picking
up lands along Pithole Creek and its tributaries. I. N. Frazer, fresh
from his triumph on Cherry Run as joint-owner of the Reed well, desired
fresh laurels. He organized the United-States Oil-Company, leased part
of the Holmden farm for twenty years and started a well in the fall of
1864. The primitive derrick was reared in the woods below the Holmden
home. At six-hundred feet the “sixth sand”—generally called that at
Pithole—was punctured. Ten feet farther the tools proceeded, the
drillers watching intently for signs of oil. On January seventh, 1865,
the torrent broke loose, the well flowing six-hundred-and-fifty barrels
a day and ceasing finally on November tenth. A picture of the well,
showing Frazer with his back to the tree beside his horse and a group of
visitors standing around, was secured in May. Kilgore & Keenan’s Twin
wells, good for eight-hundred barrels, were finished on January
seventeenth and nineteenth. The unfathomable mud and disastrous floods
of that memorable season retarded the hegira from other sections, only
to intensify the excitement when it found vent. Duncan & Prather bought
Holmden’s land for twenty-five-thousand dollars and divided the flats
and slopes into half-acre leases. The first of May witnessed a small
clearing in the forest, with three oil-wells, one drilling-well and
three houses as its sole evidences of human handiwork.


Ninety days later the world heard with unfeigned surprise of a “city” of
sixteen-thousand inhabitants, possessing most of the conveniences and
luxuries of the largest and oldest communities! Capitalists eager to
invest their greenbacks thronged to the scene. Labor and produce
commanded extravagant figures, every farm for miles was leased or bought
at fabulous rates, money circulated like the measles and for weeks the
furore surpassed the frantic ebullitions of Wall Street on Black Friday!
New strikes perpetually inflated the mania. Speculators wandered far and
wide in quest of the subterranean wealth that promised to outrival the
golden measures of California or the silver-lodes of Nevada. The value
of oil-lands was reckoned by millions. Small interests in single wells
brought hundreds-of-thousands of dollars. New York, Philadelphia, Boston
and Chicago measured purses in the insane strife for territory. Hosts of
adventurers sought the new Oil-Dorado and the stocks of countless
“petroleum-companies” were scattered broadcast over Europe and America.
An ambitious operator sold _seventeen_-sixteenths in one well and shares
in leases were purchased ravenously. A half-acre lease on the Holmden
farm realized bonuses of twenty-four-thousand dollars before a well was
drilled on the property and the swarm of dealers resembled the plague of
locusts in Egypt in number and persistence!

Everything favored the growth of Pithole. The close of the war had left
the country flooded with paper currency and multitudes of men thrown
upon their own resources. Hundreds of these flocked to the inviting
“city,” which presented manifold inducements to venturesome spirits,
keen shysters, unscrupulous stock-jobbers, needy laborers and dishonest
tricksters. The post-office speedily ranked third in Pennsylvania,
Philadelphia and Pittsburg alone excelling it. Seven chain-lightning
clerks assisted Postmaster S. S. Hill to handle the mail. Lines of men
extending a block would await their turns for letters at the
general-delivery. It was a roystering time! Hotels, theaters, saloons,
drinking-dens, gambling-hells and questionable resorts were counted by
the score. A fire-department was organized, a daily paper established
and a mayor elected. Railways to Reno and Oleopolis were nearly
completed before “the beginning of the end” came with terrible
swiftness. In November and December the wells declined materially. The
laying of pipe-lines to Miller Farm and Oleopolis, through which the oil
was forced to points of shipment by steam-pumps, in one week drove
fifteen-hundred teams to seek work elsewhere. Destructive fires
accelerated the final catastrophe. The graphic pen of Dickens would fail
to give an adequate idea of this phenomenal creation, whose career was a
magnified type of dozens of towns that suddenly arose and as suddenly
collapsed in the oil-regions of Pennsylvania.

[Illustration: JOHN A. MATHER.]

Pithole had many wells that yielded freely for some time. The Homestead,
on the Hyner farm, finished in June of 1865, proved a gusher. On August
first the Deshler started at one-hundred barrels; on August second the
Grant, at four-hundred-and-fifty barrels; on August twenty-eighth the
Pool, at eight-hundred barrels; on September fifth the Ogden, at
one-hundred barrels, and on September fifteenth Pool & Perry’s No. 47,
at four-hundred barrels. The Frazer improved during the spring to
eight-hundred barrels, while the Grant reached seven-hundred in
September. On November twenty-second the Eureka joined the chorus at
five-hundred barrels. The daily production of the Holmden farm exceeded
five-thousand barrels for a limited period, with a proportionate yield
of seven-dollar crude from adjacent tracts. John A. Mather, the veteran
Titusville photographer, discarded his camera to become a full-fledged
oilman. He bored a well that tinctured the suburban slope of Balltown a
glowing madder. The frenzy spread. J. W. Bonta and James A. Bates paid
James Rooker two-hundred-and-eighty-thousand dollars for his
hundred-acre farm, south of the Holmden. Rooker, a hard-working tiller
of the soil, lived in a kind of rookery and earned a poor subsistence by
constant toil. He stuck to the money derived from the sale of his farm,
and he is still living at a goodly age. The Grand Dutch S well would
have given Lillian Russell new wrinkles in her delineation of the “Grand
Duchess of Gerolstein.” A neighbor refused eight-hundred-thousand
dollars for his barren acres. “I don’t keer ter hev my buckwheat tramped
over,” he explained, “but you kin hev this farm next winter fur a
million!” He kept the farm, reaped his crop and was not disturbed until
death compelled him to lodge in a plot six by two.

[Illustration: GRAND DUTCH S WELL.]

[Illustration: VIEW OF PITHOLE IN THE FALL OF 1865.]

Bonta & Bates did not linger for “two blades of grass to grow where one
grew before.” Within two months they disposed of ninety leases for
four-hundred-thousand dollars and half the oil! They spent
eighty-thousand on the Bonta House, a sumptuous hostlery. Duncan &
Prather leased building-lots at a yearly rental of one-hundred to
one-thousand dollars. First, Second and Holmden streets bristled with
activity. The Danforth House stood on a lot subleased for
fourteen-thousand dollars bonus. Sixty hotels could not accommodate the
influx of guests. Beds, sofas and chairs were luxuries for the few.
“First come, first served,” was the rule. The many had to seek the
shaving-pile, the hay-cock or the tender side of a plank. Some mingled
promiscuously in “field-beds”—rows of “shake-downs” on attic floors.
Besides the Bonta and Danforth, the United States, Chase, Tremont,
Buckley, Lincoln, Sherman, St. James, American, Northeast, Seneca,
Metropolitan, Pomeroy and fifty hotels of minor note flourished. If
palaces of sin, gorgeous bar-rooms, business-houses and places of
amusement abounded, churches and schools marked the moral sentiment.
Fire wiped out the Tremont and adjoining houses in February of 1866.
Eighty buildings went up in smoke on May first and June thirteenth.
Thirty wells and twenty-thousand barrels of oil went the same road in
August. The best buildings were torn down, to bloom at Pleasantville or
Oil City. The disappearance of Pithole astonished the world no less than
its marvelous growth. The Danforth House sold for sixteen dollars, to
make firewood! The railroads were abandoned and in 1876 only six voters
remained. A ruined tenement, a deserted church and traces of streets
alone survive. Troy or Nineveh is not more desolate.

In July of 1865 Duncan & Prather granted Henry E. Picket, George J.
Sherman and Brian Philpot, of Titusville, a thirty-day option on the
Holmden farm for one-million-three-hundred-thousand dollars. Mr. Sherman
arranged to sell the property in New York at sixteen-hundred-thousand!
The wells already down produced largely, seventy more were drilling and
the annual ground-rents footed up sixty-thousand dollars. The Ketcham
forgeries tangled the funds of the New-Yorkers and negotiations were
opened with H. H. Honore, of Chicago. After dark on the last day of the
option Honore tendered the first payment—four-hundred-thousand dollars.
It was declined, on the ground that the business day expired at sundown,
and litigation ensued. A compromise resulted in the transfer of the
property to Honore. The deal involved the largest sum ever paid in the
oil regions for a single tract of land. The bubble burst so quickly that
the Chicago purchaser, like Benjamin Franklin, “paid too much for the
whistle.” Col. A. P. Duncan commanded the Fourth Cavalry Company, the
first mustered in Venango county, every member of which carried to the
war a small Bible presented by Mrs. A. G. Egbert, of Franklin. Tall,
erect, of military bearing and undoubted integrity, he lived at Oil City
and died years ago. Duncan & Prather owned one of the two banks that
handled car-loads of money in the dizziest town that ever blasted
radiant hopes and shriveled portly pocket-books.


[Illustration: BONTA HOUSE, PITHOLE.]

The Pithole bubble was blown at an opportune moment to catch suckers.
Hundreds of oil-companies had come into existence in 1864, hungry for
territory and grasping at anything within rifle-shot of an actual or
prospective “spouter.” The speculative tide flowed and ebbed as never
before in any age or nation. Volumes could be written of amazing
transitions of fortune. Scores landed at Pithole penniless and departed
in a few months “well heeled.” Others came with “hatfuls of money” and
went away empty-handed. Thousands of stockholders were bitten as badly
as the sailor, whom the shark nipped off by the waist-band. It was
rather refreshing in its way for “country Reubens” to do up Wall-street
sharpers at their own game. Shrewd Bostonians, New-Yorkers and
Philadelphians, magnates in business and finance, were snared as readily
as hayseeds who buy green-goods and gold-bricks. There are no flies on
the smooth, glib Oily Gammon whose mouth yielded more lubricating oil
than the biggest well on French Creek. His favorite prey was a pilgrim
with a bursting wallet or the agent of an eastern petroleum-company. A
well pouring forth three, six, eight, ten, twelve or fifteen-hundred
barrels of five-dollar crude every twenty-four hours was a spectacle to
fire the blood and turn the brain of the most sluggish beholder. “Such a
well,” he might calculate, “would make me a millionaire in one year and
a Crœsus in ten.” The wariest trout would nibble at bait so tempting.
The schemer with property to sell had “the very thing he wanted” and
would “let him in on the ground-floor.” He met men who, driving mules or
jigging tools six months ago, were “oil-princes” now. Here lay a tract,
“the softest snap on top of the earth,” only a mile from the Great
Geyser, with a well “just in the sand and a splendid show.” He could
have it at a bargain-counter sacrifice—one-hundred-thousand dollars and
half the oil. The engine had given out and the owner was about to order
a new one when called home by the sudden death of his mother-in-law.
Settling the old lady’s estate required his entire attention, therefore
he would consent to sell his oil-interests “dirt-cheap” to a responsible
buyer who would push developments. The price ought to be two or three
times the sum asked, but the royalty from the big wells sure to be
struck would ultimately even up matters. The tale was plausible and the
visitor would “look at the property.” He saw real sand on the
derrick-floor and everything besmeared with grease. The presence of oil
was unmistakable. Drilling ten feet into the rich rock would certainly
tap the jugular and—glorious thought!—perhaps outdo the Great Geyser
itself. He closed the deal, telegraphed for an engine—he was dying to
see that stream of oil climbing skywards—and chuckled gleefully. The
keen edge of his delight might have been dulled had he known that the
well was _through_, not merely _to_, the sand and absolutely guiltless
of the taint of oil! He did not suspect that barrels of crude and
buckets of sand from other wells had been dumped into the hole at night,
that the engine had been disabled purposely and that another innocent
was soon to cut his wisdom-teeth! He found out when the well “came in
dry” that Justice Dogberry was not a greater ass and that the
fool-killer’s snickersnee was yearning for him. Possibly he might by
persistent drilling find paying wells and get back part of his money,
but nine times out of ten the investment was a total loss and the
disgusted victim quit the scene with a new interpretation of the
scriptural declaration: “I was a stranger and ye took me in.” Butler
anticipated Pithole when he wrote in Hudibras:

             “Make fools believe in their foreseeing
             Of things before they are in being;
             To swallow gudgeons ere they’re catched,
             And count their chickens ere they’re hatched.”

The methods of “turning an honest penny” varied to fit the case. To
“doctor” a well by dosing it with a load of oil was tame and
commonplace. In three instances wells sold at fancy prices were
connected by underground pipes with tanks of oil at a distance. When the
parties arrived to “time the well” the secret pipe was opened. The oil
ran into the tubing and pumped as though coming direct from the sand!
The deception was as perfect as the oleomargarine the Pennsylvania State
Board of Agriculture pronounced “dairy butter of superior quality!”
“Seeing is believing” and there was the oil. They had seen it pumping a
steady stream into the tank, timed it, gauged it, smelled it. The
demonstration was complete and the cash would be forked over, a
twenty-barrel well bringing a hundred-barrel price! A smart widow near
Pithole sold her farm at treble its value because of “surface
indications” she created by emptying a barrel of oil into a spring. The
farm proved good territory, much to the chagrin of the widow, who
roundly abused the purchasers for “cheatin’ a poor lone woman!” Selling
stock in companies that held lands, or interests in wells to be drilled
“near big gushers”—they might be eight or ten miles off—was not
infrequent. On the other hand, a very slight risk often brought an
immense return. Parties would pay five-hundred dollars for the refusal
of a tract of land and arrange with other parties to sink a well for a
small lease on the property. If the well succeeded, one acre would pay
the cost of the entire farm; if it failed, the holders of the option
forfeited the trifle that secured it and threw up the contract. It was
risking five-hundred dollars on the chance, not always very remote, of
gaining a half-million.

Sometimes the craze to invest bordered upon the ludicrous. Sixteenths
and fractions of sixteenths in producing, non-producing, drilling,
undrilled and never-to-be-drilled wells “went like hot cakes” at two to
twenty-thousand dollars. A newcomer, in his haste to “tie onto
something,” shelled out one-thousand dollars for a share in a gusher
that netted him two quarts of oil a day! Another cheerfully paid
fifteen-thousand for the sixteenth of a flowing well which discounted
the Irishman’s flea—“you put your finger on the varmint and he wasn’t
there”—by balking that night and declining ever to start again! At a
fire in 1866 water from a spring, dashed on the blaze, added fuel to the
flames. An examination showed that oil was filling the spring and
water-wells in the neighborhood. From the well in Mrs. Reichart’s yard
the wooden pump brought fifty barrels of pure oil. L. L. Hill’s well and
holes dug eight or ten feet had the same complaint. Excitement blew off
at the top gauge. The _Record_ devoted columns to the new departure. Was
the oil so impatient to enrich Pitholians that, refusing to wait for the
drill to provide an outlet, it burst through the rocks in its eagerness
to boom the district? Patches of ground the size of a quilt sold for
two, three or four-hundred dollars and rows of pits resembling open
graves decorated the slope. In a week a digger discovered that a break
in the pipe-line supplied the oil. The leak was repaired, the pits dried
up, the water-wells resumed their normal condition and the fiasco ended
ignominiously. It was a modern version of the mountain that set the
country by the ears to bring forth a mouse.

Joseph Wood, proprietor of the St. James Hotel at Paterson, N.J., died
on May thirteenth, 1896. He was a wit and story-teller of the best kind,
a gallant fighter for the Union and for a year lived at Pithole. A
fortune made by operating and speculation he lost by fire in a year. He
conducted hotels at Hot Springs, Washington, Chicago and Milwaukee and
was one of the famous Bonifaces of the United States. On his
business-cards he printed these “religious beliefs:”

“Do not keep the alabaster-boxes of your love and tenderness sealed up
until your friends are dead. Fill their lives with sweetness. Speak
approving, cheering words while their ears can hear them and while their
hearts can be thrilled and made happier by them. The kind things you
mean to say when they are gone say before they go. The flowers you mean
to send to their coffins send to brighten and sweeten their homes before
they leave them. If my friends have alabaster-boxes laid away, full of
fragrant perfumes of sympathy and affection, which they intend to break
over my dead body, I would rather they would bring them out in my weary
and troubled hours and open them, that I may be refreshed and cheered by
them while I need them. I would rather have a plain coffin without a
flower, a funeral without a eulogy, than a life without the sweetness of
love and sympathy. Let us learn to anoint our friends beforehand for
their burial. Post-mortem kindness does not cheer the burdened spirit.
Flowers on the coffin cast no fragrance backward over the weary way.”

Let down the bars and enter the field that was once the seething,
boiling caldron called Pithole. A poplar-tree thirty feet high grows in
the cellar of the National Hotel. Stones and underbrush cover the site
of the Metropolitan Theater and Murphy’s Varieties. This bit of sunken
ground, clogged with weeds and brambles, marks the Chase House. Here was
Main street, where millions of dollars changed hands daily. For years
the Presbyterian church stood forsaken, the bell in the tower silent,
the pews untouched and the pulpit-Bible lying on the preacher’s desk.
John McPherson’s store and Dr. Christie’s house were about the last
buildings in the place. Not a human-being now lives on the spot. All the
old-timers moved away. All? No, a score or two quietly sleep among the
bushes and briars that run riot over the little graveyard in which they
were laid when the dead city was in the throes of a tremendous

         The rate at which towns rose was surely most terrific
         Nothing to rival it from Maine to the Pacific;
         The rate at which they fell has never had an equal—
         Woods, city, ruin’d waste—the story and the sequel.

[Illustration: JOHN GALLOWAY.]

Pithole was the Mecca of a legion of operators whose history is part and
parcel of the oil-development. Phillips Brothers, giants on Oil Creek,
bought farms and drilled extensively. Frederic Prentice and W. W. Clark,
who figured in two-thirds of the largest transactions from Petroleum
Centre to Franklin, held a full hand. Frank W. Andrews, John
Satterfield, J. R. Johnson, J. B. Fink, A. J. Keenan—the first
burgess—D. H. Burtis, Heman Janes, “Pap” Sheakley, L. H. Smith and
hundreds of similar caliber were on deck. John Galloway, known in every
oil-district of Pennsylvania and West Virginia as a tireless hustler,
did not let Pithole slip past unnoticed. He has been an operator in all
the fields since his first appearance on Oil Creek in the fall of 1861.
Sharing in the prosperity and adversity of the oil-regions, he has never
been hoodooed or bankrupted. His word is his bond and his promise to pay
has always meant one-hundred cents on the dollar. More largely
interested in producing than ever, he attends to business at Pittsburg
and lives at Jamestown, happy in his deserved success, in the love of
his family and the esteem of countless friends. Mr. Galloway’s
pedestrian feats would have crowned him with olive-wreaths at the
Olympic games. Deerfoot could hardly have kept up with him on a
twenty-mile tramp to see an important well or hit a farmer for a lease
before breakfast. He’s a good one!

The Swordsman’s Club attained the highest reputation as a social
organization. One night in 1866, when Pithole was at the zenith of its
fame, John Satterfield, Seth Crittenden, Alfred W. Smiley, John
McDonald, George Burchill, George Gilmore, Pard B. Smith, L. H. Smith,
W. H. Longwell and other congenial gentlemen met for an evening’s
enjoyment. The conversation turned upon clubs. Smiley jumped to his feet
and moved that “we organize a club.” All assented heartily and the
Swordman’s Club was organized there and then, with Pard B. Smith as
president and George Burchill as secretary. Elegant rooms were fitted
up, the famous motto of “R. C. T.” was adopted and the club gave a
series of most elaborate “promenade-concerts and balls” in 1866-7.
Invitations to these brilliant affairs were courted by the best people
of Oildom. The club dissolved in 1868. Its membership included four
congressmen, two ex-governors wore its badge and scores of men
conspicuous in the state and nation had the honor of belonging to the
Swordman’s. At regular meetings “the feast of reason and the flow of
soul” blended merrily with the flowing bowl. Sallies of bright wit,
spontaneous and never hanging fire, were promptly on schedule time. Good
fellowship prevailed and C. C. Leonard immortalized the club in his
side-splitting “History of Pithole.” Verily the years slip by. Long ago
the ephemeral town went back to its original pasture, long ago the
facetious historian went back to dust, long ago many a good clubman’s
sword turned into rust. Pard B. Smith runs a livery in Cleveland,
Longwell is in Oil City, Smiley—he represented Clarion county twice in
the Legislature—manages the pipe-line at Foxburg, L. H. Smith is in New
York and others are scattered or dead. On November twenty-first, 1890,
the “Pioneers of Pithole”—among them a number of Swordsmen—had a reunion
and banquet at the Hotel Brunswick, Titusville. These stanzas, composed
and sung by President Smith and “Alf” Smiley, were vociferously cheered:

              “’Twas side by side, as Swordsmen true,
                  In Pithole long ago,
              We met the boys on common ground
                  And gave them all a show.
              In social as in business ways
                  Our honor was our law,
              And when a brother lost his grip
                  He on the boys could draw.

              CHORUS: “We’re the boys, the same old boys,
                Who were there in sixty-five;
              If any Swordsman comes our way
                He’ll find us still alive.

              “What if grim age creeps on apace,
                  Our souls will ne’er grow old;
              We will, as in the Pithole days,
                  Stand true as Swordsmen bold.
              In those old days we had our fun,
                  But stood for honor true;
              Here, warmly clasping hand-to-hand,
                  Our friendship we renew.”

“Spirits” inspired four good wells at Pithole. One dry hole, a mile
south-east of town, seriously depressed stock in their skill as
“oil-smellers.” An enthusiastic disciple of the Fox sisters, assured of
“a big well,” drilled two-hundred feet below the sixth sand in search of
oil-bearing rock. He drilled himself into debt and Sheriff C. S.
Mark—six feet high and correspondingly broad—whom nobody could mistake
for an ethereal being, sold the outfit at junk-prices.

[Illustration: ALFRED W. SMILEY.]

In the swish and swirl of Pithole teamsters—a man with two stout horses
could earn twenty dollars a day clear—drillers and pumpers played no
mean part. They received high wages and spent money freely.
Variety-shows, music-halls—with “pretty waiter-girls”—dance-houses,
saloons, gambling-hells and dens of vice afforded unlimited
opportunities to squander cash and decency and self-respect. Many a
clever youth, flushed with the idea of “sowing his wild oats,”
sacrificed health and character on the altars of Bacchus and Venus. Many
a comely maiden, yielding to the wiles of the betrayer, rounded up in
the brothel and the potter’s field. Many a pious mother, weeping for the
wayward prodigal who was draining her life-blood, had reason to inquire:
“Oh, where is my boy to-night?” Many a husband, forgetting the trusting
wife and children at home, wandered from the straight path and tasted
the forbidden fruit. Many a promising life was blighted, many a hopeful
career blasted, many a reputation smirched and many a fond heart broken
by the pitfalls and temptations of Pithole. Dollars were not the only
stakes in the exciting game of life—good names, family ties, bright
prospects, domestic happiness and human souls were often risked and
often lost. “The half has never been told.”

[Illustration: GOVERNOR SHEAKLEY.]

Scarcely less noted was the organization heralded far and wide as
“Pithole’s Forty Thieves.” Well-superintendents, controlling the
interests of outside companies, were important personages. Distant
stockholders, unable to understand the difficulties and uncertainties
attending developments, blamed the superintendents for the lack of
dividends. No class of men in the country discharged their duties more
faithfully, yet cranky investors in wildcat stocks termed them “slick
rascals,” “plunderers” and “robbers.” Some joker suggested that once a
band of Arabian Knights—fellows who stole everything—associated as “The
Forty Thieves” and that the libeled superintendents ought to organize a
club. The idea captured the town and “Pithole’s Forty Thieves” became at
once a tangible reality. Merchants, producers, capitalists and
business-men hastened to enroll themselves as members. Hon. James
Sheakley, of Mercer, was elected president. Social meetings were held
regularly and guying greenhorns, who supposed stealing to be the object
of the organization, was a favorite pastime. The practical pranks of the
“Forty” were laughed at and relished in the whole region. Nine-tenths of
the members were young men, honorable in every relation of life, to whom
the organization was a genuine joke. They enjoyed its notoriety and
delighted to gull innocents who imagined they would purloin engines,
derricks, drilling-tools, saw-mills and oil-tanks. Ten years after the
band disbanded its president served in Congress and was a leading
debater on the Hayes-Tilden muddle. “Pap” Sheakley—as the boys
affectionately called him—was the embodiment of integrity, kindliness
and hospitality. He operated in the Butler field and lived at
Greenville. Bereft of his devoted wife and lovely daughters by “the fell
sergeant, Death,” he sold his, desolated home and accepted from
President Cleveland the governorship of Uncle Sam’s remotest Territory.
His administration was so satisfactory that President Harrison
reappointed him. There was no squarer, truer, nobler man in the public
service than James Sheakley, Ex-Governor of Alaska.

Rev. S. D. Steadman, the first pastor at Pithole, a zealous
Methodist—was universally respected for earnestness and piety. The
“forty thieves” sent him one-hundred-and-fifty dollars at Christmas of
1866, with a letter commending his moral teachings, his courtesy and
charity. Another minister inquired of a Swordsman what the letters of
the club’s motto—“R. C. T.”—signified, “Religious Councils Treasured”
was the ready response. This raised the club immensely in the divine’s
estimation and led to a sermon in which he extolled the jolly
organization! He “took a tumble” when a deacon smilingly informed him
that the letters—a fake proposed in sport—symbolized “Rum, Cards,


Mud was responsible for the funniest—to the spectators—mishap that ever
convulsed a Pithole audience. A group of us stood in front of the
Danforth House at the height of the miry season. Thin mud overflowed the
plank-crossing and a grocer laid short pieces of scantling two or three
feet apart for pedestrians to step on. A flashy sport, attired in a
swell suit and a shiny beaver, was the first to take advantage of the
improvised passage. Half-way across the scantling to which he was
stepping moved ahead of his foot. In trying to recover his balance the
sport careened to one side, his hat flew off and he landed plump on his
back, in mud and water three feet deep! He disappeared beneath the
surface as completely as though dropped into the sea, his head emerging
a moment later. Blinded, sputtering and gasping for breath, he was a
sight for the gods and little fishes! Mouth, eyes, nose and ears were
choked with the dreadful ooze. Two men went to his assistance, led him
to the rear of the hotel and turned the hose on him. His clothes were
ruined, his gold watch was never recovered and for weeks small boys
would howl: “His name is Mud!”

John Galloway, on one of his rambles for territory, ate dinner at the
humble cabin of a poor settler. A fowl, tough, aged and peculiar, was
the principal dish. In two weeks the tourist was that way again. A boy
of four summers played at the door, close to which the visitor sat down.
A brood of small chickens approached the entrance. “Poo’, ittey sings,”
lisped the child, “oo mus’ yun away; here’s ’e yasty man ’at eated up
oos mammy.” The good woman of the shanty had stewed the clucking-hen to
feed the unexpected guest.

A maiden of uncertain age owned a farm which various operators vainly
tried to lease. Hoping to steal a march on the others, one smooth talker
called the second time. “I have come, Miss Blank,” he began, “to make
you an offer.” He didn’t get a chance to add “for your land.” The old
girl, not a gosling who would let a prize slip, jumped from her chair,
clasped him about the neck and exclaimed: “Oh! Mr. Blank, this is so
sudden, but I’m yours!” The astounded oilman shook her off at last and
explained that he already had a wife and five children and wanted the
Farm only. The clinging vine wept and stormed, threatened a
breach-of-promise suit and loaded her dead father’s blunderbuss to be
prepared for the next intruder.

W. J. Bostford, who died at Jamestown in November of 1895, operated at
Pithole in its palmy days. Business was done on a cash basis and
oil-property was paid for in money up to hundreds-of-thousands of
dollars. Bostford made a big sale and started from Pithole to deposit
his money. A cross-country trip was necessary to reach Titusville.
Shortly after leaving Pithole he was attacked by robbers, who took all
the money and left him for dead upon the highway. He was picked up
alive, with a broken head and many other injuries, which he survived
thirty years.


The first “hotel” at Pithole—a balloon-frame rushed up in a day—bore the
pretentious title of Astor House. Before its erection pilgrims to the
coming city took their chance of meals at the Holmden farm-house. As a
guest wittily remarked: “It was table d’hote for men and also table
d’oat for horses.” The viands were all heaped upon large dishes and
everybody helped himself. The Morey-Farm Hotel, just above Pithole,
charged twenty-one dollars a week for board, had gas-light, steam-heat,
telegraph-office, barber-shop, colored waiters and “spring-mattresses.”
Its cooking rivalled the best in the large cities. At Wiggins’s Hotel, a
three-story boarding-house in the Tidioute field, two-hundred men would
often wait their turn to get dinner. This was a common experience in the
frontier towns, to which big throngs hurried before houses could be
erected for their accommodation. E. H. Crittenden’s hotel at Titusville
was the finest Oildom boasted in the sixties. Book & Frisbee’s was
notable at the height of the Parker development. A dollar for a meal or
a bed, four dollars a day or twenty-eight dollars a week, be the stay
long or short, was the invariable rate. Peter Christie’s Central Hotel,
at Petrolia, was immensely popular and a regular gold-mine for the
owner. Oil City’s Petroleum House was a model hostelry, under “Charley”
Staats and “Jim” White. The Jones House cleared Jones forty-thousand
dollars in nine months. Its first guest was a Mr. Seymour, who spent one
year collecting data for a statistical work on petroleum. His
manuscripts perished in the flood of 1865. The last glimpse my eyes
beheld of Jones was at Tarport, where he was driving a dray. Bradford’s
Riddell House and St. James Hotel both sized up to the most exacting
requirements. Good hotels and good restaurants were seldom far behind
the triumphant march of the pioneers whose successes established

Col. Gardner, “a big man any way you take him,” was Chief-of-Police at
Pithole. He has operated at Bradford and Warren, toyed with politics and
military affairs and won the regard of troops of friends. Charles H.
Duncan, of Oil City—his youthful appearance suggests Ponce de Leon’s
spring—served in the borough-council, of which James M. Guffey, the
astute Democratic leader and successful producer, was clerk. Col. Morton
arrived in August of 1865 with a carpet-bag of job-type. His first
work—tickets for passage over Little Pithole Creek—the first printing
ever done at Pithole, was never paid for. The town had shoals of trusty,
generous fellows—“God’s own white boys,“ Fred Wheeler dubbed them—whose
manliness and enterprise and liberality were always above par.

When men went crazy at Pithole and outsiders thought the oil-country was
“flowing with milk and honey” and greenbacks, a party of wags thought to
put up a little joke at the expense of a new-comer from Boston. They
arranged with the landlord for some coupon-bonds to use in the
dining-room of the hotel and to seat the youth at their table. The
New-Englander was seated in due course. The guests talked of oil-lands,
fabulous strikes and big fortunes as ordinary affairs. Each chucked
under his chin a five-twenty government-bond as a napkin. One lay in
front of the Bostonian’s plate, folded and creased like a genuine
linen-wiper. Calmly taking the “paper” from its receptacle, the chap
from The Hub wiped his brow and adjusted the valuable napkin over his
shirt-bosom. A moment later he beckoned to a servant and said: “See
here, waiter, this napkin is too small; bring me a dish of soup and a
‘ten-forty.’” The jokers could not stand this. A laugh went around the
festive board that could have been heard at the Twin Wells and the
matter was explained to the bean-eater. He was put on the trail of “a
soft snap” and went home in a month with ten-thousand dollars. “Bring me
a ten-forty” circulated for a twelve-month in cigar-shops and bar-rooms.

Ben Hogan was one of the motley crew that swarmed to Pithole “broke.” He
taught sparring and gave exhibitions of strength at Diefenbach’s
variety-hall. He fought Jack Holliday for a purse of six-hundred dollars
and defeated him in seven rounds. Four-hundred tough men and tougher
women were present, many of them armed. Hogan was assured before the
fight he would be killed if he whipped his opponent. He was shot at by
Marsh Elliott during the mill, but escaped unhurt. Ben met Elliott soon
thereafter and knocked him out in four brief rounds, breaking his nose
and using him up generally. Next he opened a palatial sporting-house,
the receipts of which often reached a thousand dollars a day. An
adventure of importance was with “Stonehouse Jack.” This desperado and
his gang had a grudge against Hogan and concocted a scheme to kill him.
Jack was to arrange a fight with Ben, during which Hogan was to be
killed by the crowd. Ben saw his enemy coming out of a dance-house and
blazed away at him, but without effect. The fusillade scared
“Stonehouse” away from Pithole and on January twenty-second, 1866, a
vigilance committee at Titusville drove the villain out of the
oil-region, threatening to hang him or any of his gang who dared return.
This committee was organized to clear out a nest of incendiaries and
thugs. The vigilants erected a gallows near the smoking embers of E. B.
Chase & Co.’s general store, fired the preceding night, and decreed the
banishment of hordes of toughs. “Stonehouse Jack” and one-hundred other
men, with a number of vile women came under this sentence. The whole
party was formed in line in front of the gallows, the “Rogue’s March”
was played and the procession, followed by a great crowd of people,
proceeded to the Oil-Creek Railroad station. The prisoners were ordered
on board a special train, with a warning that if they ever again set
foot upon the soil of Titusville they would be summarily executed. This
salutary action ended organized crime in the oil-region.

North of Pithole the tide crossed into Allegheny township. Balltown, a
meadow on C. M. Ball’s farm in July, 1865, at the end of the year
paraded stores, hotels, a hundred dwellings and a thousand people. Fires
in 1866 scorched it and waning production did the rest. Dawson Centre,
on the Sawyer tract, budded, frosted and perished. The Morey House, on
the Copeland farm, was the oasis in the desert, serving meals that
tickled the midriff and might cope with Delmonico’s. Farms on Little
Pithole Creek were riddled without swelling the yield of crude
immoderately. Where are those oil-wells now? Echo murmurs “where?” In
all that section of Cornplanter and Allegheny townships a derrick, an
engine-house or a tank would be a novelty of the rarest breed.

Eight miles north-east of Titusville, where Godfrey Hill drilled a
dry-hole in 1860 and two companies drilled six later, the Colorado
district finally rewarded gritty operators. Enterprise was benefited by
small wells in the vicinity. Down Pithole Creek to its junction with the
Allegheny the country was punctured. Oleopolis straggled over the slope
on the river’s bank, a pipe-line, a railroad to Pithole and minor wells
contributing to its support. The first well tackled a vein of natural
gas, which caught fire and consumed the rig. The driller was alone, the
owner of the well having gone into the shanty. In a twinkling flames
enveloped the astonished knight of the temper-screw, who leaped from the
derrick, clothes blazing and hair singed off, and headed for the water.
“Boss,” he roared in his flight, “jump into the river and say your
prayers quick! I’ve bu’sted the bung and hell’s running out.”

“Breathe through the nostrils” is good advice. People should breathe
through the nose and not use it so much for talking and singing through.
Yet every rule has exceptions. A pair of mules hauled oil from Dawson
Centre in the flush times of the excitement. The mud was practically
bottomless. A visitor was overheard telling a friend that the bodies of
the mules sank out of sight and that they were breathing through their
ears, which alone projected above the ooze. Dawson and many more
departed oil-towns suggest the jingle:

              “There was an old woman lived under a hill;
              If she hadn’t moved she’d be there still:
                          But she moved!”

About St. Valentine’s Day in 1866, when the burning of the Tremont House
led to the discovery of oil in springs and wells, was a hilarious time
at Pithole. Every cellar was fairly flooded with grease. People pumped
it from common pumps, dipped it from streams, tasted it in tea, inhaled
it from coffee-pots and were afraid to carry lights at night lest the
very air should cause explosion and other unhappiness. It became a
serious question what to drink. The whiskey could not be watered—there
was no water. Dirty shirts could not be washed—the very rain was crude
oil. Dirt fastened upon the damask cheeks of Pithole damsels and found
an abiding-place in the whiskers of every bronzed fortune-hunter. Water
commanded an enormous price and intoxicating beverages were cheap, since
they could scarcely be taken in the raw. The editor of the _Record_, a
strict temperance man, was obliged to travel fourteen miles every
morning by stone-boat to get his glass of water. Stocks of oil-companies
were the only thing in the community thoroughly watered. Tramps, hobos,
wandering vagrants and unwashed disbelievers that “cleanliness is next
to Godliness” pronounced Pithole a terrestrial paradise. They were
willing to reverse Muhlenburg’s sentiment and “live alway” in that kind
of dry territory.

“You’re not fit to sit with decent people; come up here and sit along
with me!” thundered a Dawson teacher who sat at his desk hearing a
recitation, as he discovered at a glance the worst boy in school
annoying his seatmate.

Charles Highberger, who had lost a leg, was elected a justice of the
peace at Pithole in 1866. Attorney Ruth, who came from Westmoreland
county, was urging the conviction of a miserable whelp when he noticed
Highberger had fallen asleep, as was his custom during long arguments.
Mr. Ruth aroused him and remarked: “I wish your honor would pay
attention to the points which I am about to make, as they have an
important bearing on the case.” Highberger opened his eyes, glared
around the room and rose on his crutches in great wrath, exclaiming:
“There has been too much blamed chin-whacking in this case; you have
been talking two hours and I haven’t seen a cent of costs. The prisoner
may consider himself discharged. The court will adjourn to Andy
Christy’s drug-store.” This was the way justice was dispensed with in
those good old days when “go as you please” was the rule at Pithole.

John G. Saxe once lectured at Pithole and was so pleased with the people
and place that he donated twenty-five dollars to the charity-fund and
wrote columns of descriptive matter to a Boston newspaper. “If I were
not Alexander I would be Diogenes,” said the Macedonian conqueror.
Similarly Henry Ward Beecher remarked, when he visited Oil City to
lecture, “If I were not pastor of Plymouth church I would be pastor of
an Oil-City church.” The train conveying Dom Pedro, Emperor of Brazil,
through the oil-region stopped at Foxburg to afford the imperial guest
an opportunity to see an oil-well torpedoed. He watched the filling of
the shell with manifest interest, dropped the weight after the torpedo
had been lowered and clapped his hands when a column of oil rose in the
air. An irreverent spectator whispered: “This beats playing pedro.”

[Illustration: J. P. ALBEE.]

J. P. Albee, laborer, painter, carpenter, rig-builder, pumper,
pipe-liner, merchant and insurance-agent, was born in Warren county,
reared on a farm in the Wisconsin lead-mining regions, enlisted in 1861,
served three years gallantly and was discharged because of a wound in
the breast by a rifle-ball. He struck Pithole in September of 1865,
shared in the ups and downs of the transitory excitement and was one of
the founders, if not the full-fledged father, of Cash-Up. The brave
veteran was a pioneer in shoving ahead and demonstrating where oil was
_not_ to be expected. He owned fourteen dry-holes in whole or part, a
number sufficient to establish quite a record. Drifting to Butler with
the tide of developments, he engaged in various pursuits with varying
success. Hosts of friends relish his tales of army-life and of ventures
in Oildom, a knapsack of which he has constantly on hand. The years
speed quickly, bringing many changes in their wake, and thousands who
once waded through the muddy streets of Pithole are now treading the
golden pavements of the Celestial City. Those who linger here a while
longer love to recall the times that can never be repeated under the
blue canopy.

Mud-veins in the third sand on Oil Creek and at Pithole would often
stick the tools effectually. On Bull Run three wells in one derrick were
abandoned with tools stuck in the third sand. The theory was that the
mud vein was a stratum of slate in the sand, which became softened and
ran into the well when water came in contact with it. Casing has robbed
it of its terrors.

Before casing was introduced it was often difficult to tell if oil was
found. Oilmen would examine the sand, look for “soot” on the
sand-pumpings and place a lighted match to the sand-pump immediately
after it was drawn from the well, as a test for gas. If the driller was
sure the drill dropped two or three feet, with “soot” on the
sand-pumpings, the show was considered worth testing. A seed-bag was put
on the tubing and the well was allowed to stand a day or two to let the
seed swell. To exhaust the water sometimes required weeks, but when all
hope of a producer was lost and the last shovel of coal was in the
boiler the oil might come. There seemed to be a virtue in that last
shovel of coal. The shoemaker who could make a good seed-bag was a big
man. The man who tied on the seed-bag for a well that proved a good
producer was in demand. If, after oil showed itself, flax-seed was seen
coming from the pipe the well-owner’s heart could be found in his boots.
The bag was burst, the water let in and the operator’s hopes let out.

A young divine preached a sermon at Pithole, on the duty of
self-consecration, so effectively that a hearer presented him with a
bundle of stock in a company operating on the Hyner farm. The preacher
sold his shares for ten-thousand dollars and promptly retired from the
pulpit to study law! Rev. S. D. Steadman, while a master of sarcasm that
would skewer a hypocrite on the point of irony, was particularly at home
in the realm of the affections and of the ideal. In matters of the heart
and soul few could with surer touch set aflow the founts of tender
pathos. He met his match occasionally. Rallying a friend on his
Calvinism, he said, “I believe Christians may fall from grace.” “Brother
Steadman,” was the quick rejoinder, “you need not argue that; the flock
you’re tending is convincing proof that the doctrine is true of your

A good deal of fun has been poked at the Georgia railroad which had
cow-catchers at the rear, to keep cattle from walking into the cars, and
stopped in the woods while the conductor went a mile for milk to
replenish a crying baby’s nursing-bottle. On my last trip to Pithole by
rail there were no other passengers. The conductor sat beside me to chat
of former days and the decadence of the town at the northern end of the
line. Four miles from Oleopolis fields of wild strawberries “wasted
their sweetness on the desert air.” In reply to my hint that the berries
looked very tempting, the conductor pulled the bell-rope and stopped the
train. All hands feasted on the luscious fruit until satisfied.
Coleridge, who observed that “Doubtless the Almighty _could_ make a
finer fruit than the wild strawberry, but doubtless He never did,” would
have enjoyed the scene. “Don’t hurry too much,” the conductor called
after me at Pithole “we can start forty minutes behind time and I’ll
wait for you!” The rails were taken up and the road abandoned in the
fall, but the strawberry-picking is as fresh as though it happened

Long ago teamsters would start from the mines with twenty bushels of
fifteen-cent coal. By the time they reached Pithole it would swell to
thirty-five bushels of sixty-cent coal. With oil for back-loading the
teamsters made more money then than a bond-juggler with a cinch on the
United-States treasury.

A farmer’s wife near Dawson Centre, who had washed dishes for forty
years, became so tired of the monotony that, the day her husband leased
the farm for oil-purposes, she smashed every piece of crockery in the
house and went out on the woodpile and laughed a full hour. It was the
first vacation of her married life and dish-washing women will know how
to sympathize with the poor soul in her drudgery and her emancipation.

Pithole, Shamburg, Red-Hot, Tip-Top, Cash-Up, Balltown and Oleopolis
have passed into history and many of their people have gone beyond the
vale of this checkered pilgrimage, yet memories of these old times come
back freighted with thoughts of joyous days that will return no more

       “Better be a young June-bug than an old bird of Paradise.”

                           PITHOLE REVISITED.

The following lines, first contributed by me to the Oil-City _Times_ in
1870, went the rounds twenty-five years ago:

         Not a sound was heard, not a shrill whistle’s scream,
             As our footsteps through Pithole we hurried;
         Not a well was discharging an unctuous stream
             Where the hopes of the oilmen lay buried!

         We walk’d the dead city till far in the night—
             Weeds growing where wheels once were turning—
         While seeking to find by the struggling moonlight
             Some symptom of gas dimly burning.

         No useless regret should encumber man’s breast,
             Though dry-holes and Pitholes may bound him;
         So we lay like a warrior taking his rest,
             Each with his big overcoat ’round him.

         Few and short were the prayers we said,
             We spoke not a sentence of sorrow,
         But steadfastly gazed on the place that was dead
             And bitterly long’d for the morrow!

         We thought, as we lay on our primitive bed,
             An old sand-pump reel for a pillow,
         How friends, foes and strangers were heartily bled
             And ruin swept on like a billow!

         Lightly we slept, for we dreamt of the scamp,
             And in fancy began to upbraid him,
         Who swindled us out of our very last stamp—
             In the grave we could gladly have laid him!

         We rose half an hour in advance of the sun,
             But little refreshed for retiring!
         And, feeling as stiff as a son of a gun,
             Set off on a hunt for some firing.

         Slowly and sadly our hard-tack went down,
             Then we wrote a brief sketch of our story
         And struck a bee-line for Oil City’s fair town,
             Leaving Pithole alone in its glory!

[Illustration: PARKER OIL EXCHANGE IN 1874.]

  J. D. Emery
  Warren Gray.
  —— Harris.
  E. Seldon.
  C. Seldon.
  Nelson Cochran.
  Col. Sellers.
  Milo Marsden.
  W. A. Pullman.
  L. W. Waters.
  Lemuel Young.
  Chas. Archbold.
  Harry Parker.
  Hugh McKelvy.
  James Green.
  James McCutcheon.
  J. M’Donald.
  Dr. Thorn.

  O J. Greer.
  Fullerton Parker.
  Full. Parker, Jr.
  James Goldsborough.
  W. C. Henry.
  Thos. McLaughlin.
  Col. Brady.
  Sam. Morrow.
  Joseph Seep.
  Charles Hatch.
  John Barton.
  R. Moorhead.
  H. W. Batchelor.
  —— Gephardt.
  Shep. Morehead.

  Capt. J. T. Chalfant.
  Thos. McConnell.
  Weston Howland.
  James Lowe.
  Chas. Riddell.
  Richard Conn.
  Rem Offley.
  Ren. Kerr.
  Harry Marlin.
  H. Beers.
  Jas. Garrett.
  Chas. W. Ball.
  Walter Fleming.
  Chas. J. Frazer.

                         UP THE WINDING RIVER.



    “The ocean is vast and our craft is small.”—_Norman Gunnison._

    “Heaven sends us good meat, but the devil sends cooks.”—_Garrick._

                   “Stay, stay thy crystal tide,
                     Sweet Allegheny!
                   I would by thee abide,
                     Sweet Allegheny.”—_Marjorie Meade._

    “Keep account of crises and transactions in this life.”—_Mrs.

    “Five minutes in a crisis is worth years.”—_Freeman Hunt._

    “It does upset a man’s calculations most confoundedly.”—_Grant

    “Run if you like, but try to keep your breath.”—_Holmes._

    “Then it was these Philistine sinners’ turn to be skeered and they
    broke for the brush.”—_Dr. Pierson._

    “And all may do what has by man been done.”—_Edward Young._

    “Spurr’d boldly on and dashed through thick and thin.”—_Dryden._


[Illustration: DAVID BEATTY.]

[Illustration: JESSE A. HEYDRICK.]

In transforming the unfruitful, uninteresting Valley of Oil Creek into
the rich, attractive Valley of Petroleum the course of developments was
southward from the Drake well. Although some persons imagined that a
pool or a strip bordering the stream would be the limit of successful
operations, others entertained broader ideas and believed the
petroleum-sun was not doomed to rise and set on Oil Creek. The Evans
well at Franklin confirmed this view. Naturally the Allegheny River was
regarded with favor as the base of further experiments. Quite as
naturally the town at the junction of the river and the creek was
benefited. The Michigan Rock-Oil-Company laid out building-lots and Oil
City grew rapidly in wealth, ambition, enterprise and population. From a
half-dozen dwellings, two unbridged streams, the remnants of an
iron-furnace and a patch of cleared land on the flats it speedily
advanced to a hustling settlement of five-thousand souls, “out for the
stuff” and all eager for profit. Across the Allegheny, on the Downing
and Bastian farms, William L. Lay laid out the village of Laytonia in
1863 and improved the ferriage. Phillips & Vanausdall, who struck a
thirty-barrel well on the Downing farm in 1861, established a ferry
above Bastian’s and started the suburbs of Albion and Downington. In
1865 these were merged into Imperial City, which in 1866 was united with
Laytonia and Leetown to form Venango City. In 1871 the boroughs of
Venango City and Oil City were incorporated as the city of Oil City,
with William M. Williams as mayor. Three passenger-bridges, one railroad
bridge and an electric street-railway connect the north and south sides
of the “Hub of Oildom.” Beautiful homes, first-class schools and
churches, spacious business-blocks, paved streets, four railroads,
electric-lights, water-works, pipe-line offices, strong banks, enormous
tube-works, huge refineries, bright newspapers, a paid fire-department,
all the modern conveniences and twelve-thousand clever people make Oil
City one of the busiest and most desirable towns in or out of

The largest of twenty-five or thirty wells drilled around Walnut Bend,
six miles up the river, in 1860-65, was rated at two-hundred barrels.
Four miles farther, two miles north-east of the mouth of Pithole Creek,
John Henry settled on the north bank of the river in 1802. Henry’s Bend
perpetuates the name of this brave pioneer, who reared a large family
and died in 1858. The farm opposite Henry’s, at the crown of the bend,
Heydrick Brothers, of French Creek township, leased in the fall of 1859.
Jesse Heydrick organized the Wolverine Oil-Company, the second ever
formed to drill for petroleum. Thirty shares of stock constituted its
capital of ten-thousand-five-hundred dollars. The first well,
one-hundred-and-sixty feet deep, pumped only ten barrels a day, giving
Wolverine shares a violent chill. The second, also sunk in 1860, at
three-hundred feet flowed fifteen-hundred barrels! Beside this giant the
Drake well was a midget. The Allegheny had knocked out Oil Creek at a
stroke, the production of the Heydrick spouter doubling that of all the
others in the region put together. It was impossible to tank the oil,
which was run into a piece of low ground and formed a pond through which
yawl-boats were rowed fifty rods! By this means seven-hundred barrels a
day could be saved. At last the tubing was drawn, which decreased the
yield and rendered pumping necessary. The well flowed and pumped about
one-hundred-thousand barrels, doing eighty a day in 1864-5, when the
oldest producer in Venango county. It was a celebrity in its time and
proved immensely profitable. In December of 1862 Jesse Heydrick went to
Irvine, forty miles up the river, to float down a cargo of empty
barrels. Twenty-five miles from Irvine, on the way back, the river was
frozen from bank to bank. He sawed a channel a mile, ran the barrels to
the well, filled them, loaded them in a flat-boat and arrived at
Pittsburg on a cold Saturday before Christmas. Oil was scarce, the
zero-weather having prevented shipments, and he sold at thirteen dollars
a barrel. A thaw set in, the market was deluged with crude and in four
days the price dropped to two dollars! Stock-fluctuations had no
business in the game with petroleum.

Wolverine shares climbed out of sight. Mr. Heydrick bought the whole
batch, the lowest costing him four-thousand dollars and the highest
fifteen-thousand. He sold part of his holdings on the basis of
fifteen-hundred-thousand dollars for the well and farm of two-hundred
acres, forty-three-thousand times the original value of the land!
Heydrick Brothers bored seventy wells on three farms in President
township, one of which cost eighteen months’ labor and ten-thousand
dollars in money and produced nine barrels of oil. They disposed of it,
the new owner fussed with it and for five years received fifteen barrels
of oil a day.

Accidents and incidents resulting from the Wolverine operations would
fill a dime-novel. Jesse Heydrick, organizer of the company, went east
with two or three-hundred-thousand dollars, presumably to “play Jesse”
with the bulls and bears of Wall Street. He returned in a year or more
destitute of cash, but loaded with entertaining tales of adventure. He
told a thrilling story of his abduction from a New-York wharf and
shipment to Cuba by a band of kidnappers, who stole his money and
treated him harshly. He endured severe hardships and barely escaped with
his life and a mine of experience. Working his way north, he resumed
surveying, prepared valuable maps of the Butler field and was a standard
authority on oil-matters in the district. For years he was connected
with a pipe-line in Ohio, returning thence to Butler, his present
residence, to engage in oil-operations. Mr. Heydrick is cultured and
social, brimful of information and interesting recitals, and not a
bilious crank who thinks the world is growing worse because he lost a
fortune. A brother at Franklin was president of the Oil-City Bank,
incorporated in 1864 as a bank of issue and forced to the wall in 1866,
and served a year on the Supreme Bench. James Heydrick was a skilled
surveyor and Charles W. resided at the old homestead on French Creek.
Heydrick Brothers were “the Big Four” in developments that brought the
Allegheny-River region into the petroleum-column. It is singular that
the Heydrick well, located at random thirty-seven years ago, was the
largest ever struck on the banks of the zig-zagged, ox-bowed stream.

                It set the pace to serve as an example,
                But not another could come up to sample.

Eight rods square on the Heydrick tract leased for five-thousand dollars
and fifty per cent. of the oil, while the Wolverine shares attested the
increasing wealth of the oil-interest and the pitch to which oil-stocks
might rise. Hussey & McBride secured the Henry farm and obtained a large
production in 1860-1. The Walnut Tree and Orchard wells headed the list.
Warren & Brother pumped oil from Pithole to Henryville, a small town on
the flats, of whose houses, hotels, stores and shipping-platforms no
scrap survives. The Commercial Oil-Company bought the Culbertson farm,
above Henry, and drilled extensively on Muskrat and Culbertson Runs.
Patrick McCrea, the first settler on the river between Franklin and
Warren, the first Allegheny ferryman north of Franklin and the first
Catholic in Venango county, migrated from Virginia in 1797 to the wilds
of North-western Pennsylvania. C. Curtiss purchased the McCrea tract of
four-hundred acres in 1861 and stocked it in the Eagle Oil-Company of
Philadelphia. Fair wells were found on the property and the town of
Eagle Rock attained the dignity of three-hundred buildings. An eagle
could fly away with all that is left of the town and the wells.

[Illustration: EDWIN E. CLAPP.]

Farther along Robert Elliott, who removed from Franklin, owned
one-thousand acres on the south side of the river and built the first
mill in President township. Rev. Ralph Clapp built a blast-furnace in
1854-5, a mile from the mouth of Hemlock Creek, at the junction of which
with the Allegheny a big hotel, a store and a shop are situated. Mr.
Clapp gained distinction in the pulpit and in business, served in the
Legislature and died in 1865. His son, Edwin E. Clapp, had a block of
six-thousand acres, the biggest slice of undeveloped territory in
Oildom. Productive wells have been sunk on the river-front, but Clapp
invariably refused to sell or lease except once. To Kahle Brothers, for
the sake of his father’s friendship for their father, he leased
two-hundred acres, on which many good wells are yielding nicely.
Preferring to keep his own lands untouched until he “got good and
ready,” he operated largely at Tidioute, he and his brother, John M.
Clapp, acquiring great wealth. He was chairman of the Producers’ Council
and active in the memorable movements of 1871-3. He built for his home
the President Hotel, furnishing it with every comfort and luxury except
the one no _bachelor_ can possess. From him Macadam, Talbot and
Nicholson could have learned much about road-making. At his own expense
he constructed many a mile of first-class roads in President, grading,
ditching and leveling in a fashion to make a bicycler’s mouth water.
There was not a scintilla of pride or affectation in his composition. It
is told that an agent of the Standard Oil-Company appointed a time to
meet him “on important business.” The interview lasted two minutes.
“What is the business?” interrogated Clapp. “Our company authorizes me
to offer you one-million dollars for your lands in President and I am
prepared to pay you the money.” “Anything else?” “No.” “Well, the land
isn’t for sale; good-morning!” Off went Clapp as coolly as though he had
merely received a bid for a bushel of potatoes. Whether true or not, the
story is characteristic. As a friend to swear by, a helper of the poor,
a believer in fair-play, a prime joker and an inimitable weaver of comic
yarns few could equal, none excel, the “President of President.” He died
in July, 1897.

Around Tionesta, the county-seat of Forest, numerous holes were punched.
Thomas Mills, who operated in Ohio and missed opening the Sistersville
field by a scratch, drilled in 1861-2. The late George S. Hunter—he
built Tionesta’s first bridge and ought to have a monument for
enterprise—hunted earnestly for paying territory. Up Tionesta Creek
operations extended slowly, but developments in 1882-3 atoned for the
delay. Then Forest county was “the cynosure of all eyes,” each week
springing fresh surprises. Balltown had a crop of dry-holes, followed by
wells of all grades from twenty barrels to fifteen-hundred. At Henry’s
Mills and on the Cooper lands, north-east of Balltown and running into
Warren county, spouters were decidedly in vogue. Reno No. 1 well,
finished in December of 1882, flowed twenty-eight-hundred barrels! Reno
No. 2, McCalmont Oil-Company’s No. 1, Patterson’s and the Anchor
Oil-Company’s No. 14 went over the fifteen-hundred mark. In the midst of
these gushers Melvin, Walker & Shannon’s duster indicated spotted
territory, uncertain as the verdict of a petit jury. The Forest splurge
held the entire oil-trade on the ragged edge for months. Every time one
or more fellows took to the woods to manipulate a wildcat-well oil took
a tumble. Notwithstanding the magnitude of the business, with
thirty-six-million barrels of oil in stock and untold millions of
dollars invested, the report from Balltown or Cooper of a new strike
caused a bad break. Some owners of important wells worked them as
“mysteries” to “milk the trade.” Derricks were boarded tightly, armed
men kept intruders from approaching too near and information was
withheld or falsified until the gang of manipulators “worked the
market.” To offset this leading dealers employed “scouts,” whose mission
was to get correct news at all hazards. The duties of these trusty
fellows involved great labor, night watches, incessant vigilance and
sometimes personal danger. The “mystery” racket and the introduction of
“scouts” were new elements in the business, necessitated by the peculiar
tactics of a small clique whose methods were not always creditable. The
passing of the Forest field, which declined with unprecedented rapidity,
practically ended the system that had terrorized the oil-exchanges in
New York, Oil City, Bradford and Pittsburg. The collapse of the Cooper
pool was more unexpected than the striking of a gusher would be under
any circumstances. Its influence upon oil-values was ridiculously
disproportionate to its merits, just as the tail sometimes wags the dog.

[Illustration: IN THE MIDDLE FIELD.]

Closely allied to Balltown and Cooper in its principal features, its
injurious effects and sudden depreciation, was the field that taught the
Forest lesson. On May nineteenth, 1882, the oil-trade was paralyzed by
the report of a big well in Cherry-Grove township, Warren county, miles
from previous developments. The general condition of the region was
prosperous, with an advancing market and a favorable outlook. The new
well—the famous “646”—struck the country like a cyclone. Nobody had
heard a whisper of the finding of oil in the hole George Dimick was
drilling near the border of Warren and Forest. The news that it was
flowing twenty-five-hundred barrels flashed over the wires with
disastrous consequences. The excitement in the oil-exchanges, as the
price of certificates dropped thirty to fifty per cent. in a few
moments, was indescribable. Margins and small-fry holders were wiped out
in a twinkling and the losses aggregated millions. It was a panic of the
first water, far-reaching and ruinous. A plunge from one-thirty to
fifty-five cents for crude meant distress and bankruptcy to thousands of
producers and persons carrying oil. Men comfortably off in the morning
were beggared by noon. Other wells speedily followed “646.” The Murphy,
the Mahoopany and scores more swelled the daily yield to thirty-thousand
barrels. Five-hundred wells were rushed down with the utmost celerity.
Big companies bought lands at big prices and operated on a big scale.
Pipe-lines were laid, iron-tanks erected and houses reared by the
hundred. Cherry Grove dwarfed the richest portions of the region into
insignificance. It bade fair to swamp the business, to flood the world
with cheap oil, to compel the abandonment of entire districts and to
crush the average operator. But if the rise of Cherry Grove was vividly
picturesque, its fall was startlingly phenomenal. One dark December
morning the workmen noticed that the Forest Oil-Company’s largest gusher
had stopped flowing. Within a week the disease had spread like an
epidemic. Spouters ceased to spout and obstinately declined to pump. The
yield was counted by dozens of barrels instead of thousands. In January
one-fourth the wells were deserted and the machinery removed.
Three-hundred wells on April first yielded hardly two-thousand barrels,
three-quarters what “646” or the Murphy had done alone! The suddenness
of the topple cast Oil Creek into the shade and eclipsed Pithole itself.
Piles of junk represented miles of pipe-lines and acres of tanks. The
Cooper fever was breaking out and, with Henry’s Mills and Balltown,
repeated in 1883 the hurrah of 1882. For eleven months the Forest-Warren
pools fretted and fumed, producing five-million barrels of oil and
having the trade by the throat. In that brief period Cherry Grove came
and went, Cooper threatened and subsided, and Balltown was bowled out.
Nine-tenths of the operators figured as heavy losers. Pennsylvania’s
production shrank from ninety-thousand barrels to sixty-thousand and a
healthy reaction set in. Petroleum-developments often presented
remarkable peculiarities, but the strangest of all was the readiness
with which speculators time and again fell a prey to the schemes of
Forest-Warren jobbers, whose “picture is turned to the wall.”

[Illustration: S. B. HUGHES.]

The professional “oil-scout” first became prominent at Cherry Grove. He
was neither an Indian fighter nor a Pinkerton detective, although
possessing the courage and sharpness of both. He combined a knowledge of
woodcraft and human-nature with keen discernment, acute judgment and
infinite patience. S. B. Hughes, J. C. Tennent, P. C. Boyle, J. C.
McMullen, Frank H. Taylor, Joseph Cappeau, James Emery and J. H. Rathbun
were captains in the good work of worrying and circumventing the
“mystery” men. Hughes rendered service that won the confidence of his
employers and brought him a competence. Never caught napping, for one
special feat he was said to have received ten-thousand dollars. It was
not uncommon for him and his comrades to keep their boots on a week at a
stretch, to snatch a nap under a tree or on a pile of casing, to creep
on all-fours inside the guard-lines and watch pale Luna wink merrily and
the bright stars twinkle while reclining on the damp ground to catch the
faintest sound from a mystified well. Boyle and Tennent made brilliant
plays in the campaign of 1882-3. Captain J. T. Jones, failing to get
correct information regarding “646,” lost heavily on long oil when the
Cherry-Grove gusher hypnotized the market and sent Tennent from Bradford
to size up the wells and the movements of those manipulating them.
Michael Murphy, learning that Grace & Dimick were quietly drilling a
wildcat-well on lot 646, smelled a large-sized rodent and concluded to
share in the sport. For one-hundred dollars an acre and one-eighth the
usufruct Horton, Crary & Co., the Sheffield tanners, sold him lot 619,
north-east of 646. Murphy had cut his eye-teeth as an importer—John S.
Davis was his partner—of oil-barrels, an exporter of crude and an
operator at Bradford. He pushed a well on the south-west corner of his
purchase and secured lands in the vicinity. Grace & Dimick held back
their well a month to tie up lots and complete arrangements regarding
the market. Everything was managed adroitly. The trade had not a glimmer
of suspicion that a bombshell might be fired at any moment. Murphy’s rig
burned down on May fifteenth, he was in Washington trying to close a
deed for another tract and “646” was put through the sand. On June
second Murphy’s No. 1, which he guarded strictly after rebuilding the
rig, flowed sixteen-hundred barrels. His No. 2, finished on July third,
flowed thirty-six-hundred barrels in twenty-four hours! The Mahoopany
and a half-dozen others aided in the demoralization of prices. Murphy
sold eighty acres of lot 619 for fifty-thousand dollars to the McCalmont
Oil-Company. The Anchor Oil-Company’s gusher on lot 647 caught fire,
without curtailing the flow, and was burning furiously as “Jim” Tennent
arrived from Bradford. The scouts had their hands full, with the
“white-sand pools” and the keenest masters of “mystery wells” to demand
their best licks.

Watching Murphy’s dry-hole on lot 633 was Tennent’s initial job. The
Whale Oil-Company’s duster on lot 648 next claimed the attention of the
scouts. It had been drilled below the sand-level and the tools left at
the bottom. On Sunday night, July ninth, 1882, Boyle, Tennent and two
companions raised the tools by hand, measured the well with a steel-line
and telegraphed their principals that it was dry. This report jumped the
market on Monday morning from forty-nine cents to sixty. The Shannon
well on the Cooper tract needed constant care and the scouts divided the
labor. Tennent and Rathbun one night sought to crawl near the well. A
twig snapped off and a guard fired, the ball grazing “Jim’s” ear. In
December Boyle and W. C. Edwards drilled Grandin No. 4 below the sand
before the owners knew the rock had been reached. Its failure surprised
the trade as much as the success of “646.” Boyle actually posted the
guards to keep intruders away and they refused to let W. W. Hague, an
owner of the well, inside the line until the contractor appeared and
permitted him to pass! Boyle and Tennent did fine work north of the
Cooper field. At the Shultz well Tennent, in order to make a quick trip
of a half-mile to the pipe-line telegraph, clung to the tail of
Cappeau’s horse and kept up with the animal’s gallop. Mercury might not
have endorsed that style of locomotion, but it served the purpose and
got the news to Jones ahead of everybody else. Tennent played the market
skillfully, cleared twenty-five-thousand dollars on Macksburg lands and
operated with tolerable success in McKean county. Nine years ago he
removed to his thousand-acre prairie-farm in Kansas, the land of
sockless statesman and nimble grasshoppers.

Boyle, brimful of novel resources, puzzled the “mystery” chaps by his
bold ingenuity and usually beat them at their own game. He squarely
overmatched the field-marshals of manipulation. His fertile brain
originated the plan of drilling Grandin No. 4 and other test wells. The
night he went to drill the Grace well through the sand he paid the
ferryman at Dunham’s Mills not to answer any calls until morning, thus
cutting off all chance of pursuit and surprise. At the well Boyle wrote
an order to deliver the well to Tennent, signing it Pickwick, and the
drillers retired to bed! Somebody had been there before them and poured
back the sand-pumpings. At the Patterson well Boyle devised a code of
tin-horn signals that outwitted the men inside the derrick and flashed
the result to Gusher City. The number of expedients continually devised
was a marvel. Thanks to the energy and ability of these tireless scouts,
of whose midnight exploits, wild rides, hairbreadth escapes and queer
adventures many pages could be written, the effect of “mysteries” was
frequently neutralized and at length the whole system of guarded wells,
bull-dogs and shot-guns was eliminated.

[Illustration: P. M. SHANNON.]

The Forest-Warren white-sand pools marked a new era in developments,
with new ideas and new methods to hoodoo speculation. Cherry Grove had
wilted from twenty-five-thousand barrels in September to three-thousand
in December, when Cooper Hill loomed above the horizon and Balltown
appeared on deck. Shallow wells had been sunk far up Tionesta Creek in
1862-3. Near the two dwellings, saw-mill, school-house and barn dubbed
Foxburg, the stamping-ground of deer-hunters and bark-peelers, Marcus
Hulings—his name is a synonym for successful wildcatting—in 1876 drilled
a well that smacked of oil. The derrick stood ten years and globules of
grease bubbled up from the depths, a thousand feet beneath. C. A.
Shultz, a piano-tuner, taking his cue from the Hulings well, interested
Frederick Morck, a Warren jeweler, and leased the Fox estate and
contiguous lands in 1881. The Blue-Jay and two Darling wells, small
producers, created a ripple which dry-holes evaporated. They were on
Warrant 2991, Howe township, known to fame as the Cooper tract,
north-west of Foxburg. The conditions of the lease required a well at
the western end of the warrant. Cherry Grove was at its zenith, crude
was flirting with the fifties and operators considered the Blue-Jay
chick a lean bird. J. Mainwaring leased one-hundred acres from Morck &
Shultz and built a rig at the head of a wild ravine, in the sunless
woodland, a half-mile from Tionesta Creek. He lost faith and the
Mainwaring lease and rig passed to P. M. Shannon, of Bradford. Born in
Clarion county, Philip Martin Shannon enlisted at fourteen, served
gallantly through the war, traveled as salesman for a Pittsburg house
and in 1870 cast his lot with the oilmen at Parker. A pioneer at
Millerstown and its burgess in 1874, he filled the office capably and in
1876 received a big majority at the Republican primary for the
legislative nomination. The county-ring counted him out. He drifted with
the tide to Bullion, removed to Bradford in 1879, was elected mayor in
1885 and discharged his official duties with excellent discretion.
Temperate in habits and upright in conduct, Mayor Shannon had been an
observer and not a participant in the nether side of oil-region life and
knew where to draw the line. He was a favorite in society, high in
Masonic circles and efficient in securing lands for firms with which he
had become connected. Pittsburg is now his home and he manages the
company that is developing the Wyoming field. Mr. Shannon is always
generous and courteous. He could give a scout “the marble heart,”
lecture an offender, denounce a wrong or decline to furnish points
regarding his mystery-well in a good-natured way that disarmed
criticism. He retains his old-time geniality and prosperity has not
compelled him to buy hats three sizes larger than he wore at Parker and
Millerstown “in the days of auld lang-syne.”

A. B. Walker and T. J. Melvin joined Shannon in his Cooper venture. A
road was cut through the dense forest from the Fox farm-house up the
steep hill to the Mainwaring derrick. An engine and boiler were dragged
to the spot and Captain Haight contracted to drill the hole. Melvin and
Walker, believing the well a failure at eighteen-hundred feet, went to
Cherry Grove on July twenty fifth, 1882. Shannon stayed to urge the
drill a trifle farther and it struck the sand at one o’clock next day.
He drove in two pine-plugs, sent a messenger for his partners and filled
the well with water to shut in the oil. The well wouldn’t consent to be
plugged and drowned. The stream broke loose at three o’clock, hurling
the tools and plugs into the Forest ozone. Shannon and Haight, standing
in the derrick, narrowly escaped death as the tools crashed through the
roof and fell to the floor. More plugs, sediment and old clothes were
jammed down to conceal the true inwardness of the well, news of which
was expected to pulverize the market. Heavy flows following the
expulsion of the tools led the owners to anticipate a big strike.
Outposts were established and guards, each armed with a Winchester
rifle, were changed every six hours. The wildcat-well, eight miles from
a telegraph-wire, became an entrenched camp with a half-dozen wakeful
scouts besieging the citadel. Vicksburg was not guarded more vigilantly.
If a twig cracked or an owl hooted a shower of bullets whizzed in the
direction of the noise. Through August the well was permitted to
slumber, oil that forced a passage in spite of the obstructions running
into pits inside “the dead-line.” The trade staggered under the adverse
fear of the mystery. Bradford operators formed a syndicate with the
owners in lands and speculation and sold a million barrels of crude
short. When everything was ready to spring the trap some of the parties
went to drill out the plugs and usher in the market-crusher. “We have a
jack-pot to open at our pleasure” remarked one of them, voicing the
sentiment of all. None looked for anything smaller than fifteen-hundred
barrels. The four drillers were discharged and two trusted lieutenants
turned the temper-screw and dressed the bits. Ten plugs and a mass of
dirt must be cleaned out. From a distance the scouts timed every motion
of the walking-beam, gluing their eyes to field-glasses that not a
symptom of a flow might slip their eager gaze, “like stout Cortez when
he stared at the Pacific upon a peak in Darien.” Swift horses were
fastened to convenient trees, saddled and bridled for a race to the
telegraph-office. A slice of bread and a can of beans served for food.
For days the drilling continued. On September fourteenth the last
splinter of the plugs was extracted, the sand was cut deeper and—the
well didn’t respond worth a cent! The faithful scouts, who had stood
manfully between the trade and the manipulators, rushed the report. It
was a bracer to the market. Bears who pinned their hopes to the Shannon
well, the pivot upon which petroleum hinged, scrambled to cover their
shorts at heavy loss. Balltown duplicated some of the Cooper
experiences, mystery-wells on Porcupine Run agitating the trade in the
spring of 1883. The Cherry-Grove, Cooper-Hill and Balltown pools yielded
eight or nine-million barrels. Operations extended to Sheffield and the
cream was soon skimmed off. The middle field had enjoyed a very lively

Two miles back of Trunkeyville, on the west side of the Allegheny,
Calvert, Gilchrist & Risley drilled the Venture well in April, 1870, on
the Tuttle farm. Fisher Brothers, of Oil City, and O. D. Harrington, of
Titusville, bought the well for fifteen-thousand dollars when it touched
the third sand. It was eight-hundred feet deep, flowed three-hundred
barrels and started the Fagundas field. The day after it began flowing
the Fishers, Adnah Neyhart, Grandin Brothers and David Bently paid
one-hundred-and-twenty-thousand dollars for the Fagundas farm of
one-hundred-and-sixty acres. Mrs. Fagundas, one son and one daughter
died within three months of the sale. Neyhart & Grandin bought a
half-interest in David Beatty’s farm for ninety-thousand dollars. The
Lady Burns well, on the Wilkins farm, finished in June, seconded the
Venture. A daily production of three-thousand barrels and a town of
twenty-five-hundred population followed quickly. A mile from Fagundas
operations on the Hunter, Pearson, Guild and Berry farms brought the
suburb of Gillespie into being. The territory lasted and a small yield
is obtained to-day. A half-dozen houses, the Venture derrick, Andrews &
Co.’s big store and the office in which whole-souled M. Compton—he’s in
Pittsburg with the Forest Oil-Company now—labored as secretary of the
Producers’ Council, hold the fort on the site of well-nigh-forgotten
Fagundas. William H. Calvert, who projected the Venture well, died at
Sistersville, West Virginia, on February seventeenth, 1896. He had
drilled on Oil Creek and at Pithole, operated in the southern field and
was negotiating for a block of lands near Sistersville when a clot of
blood on the brain cut short his active life.

David Beatty had drilled on Oil Creek in 1859-60 with John Fertig. He
settled on a farm in Warren county “to get away from the oil.” His farm
was smothered in oil by the Fagundas development. He removed to the
pretty town of Warren, building an elegant home on the bank of Conewango
Creek. Fortune hounded him and insisted upon heaping up his riches. John
Bell drilled a fifty-barrel well eighty rods above the mansion. Wells
surrounding his lot and in his yard emitted oil. Mr. Beatty resigned
himself to the inevitable and lived at Warren until called to his final
rest some years ago. His case resembled the heroine in Milton Nobles’s
Phenix, where “the villain still pursued her.” The boys used to relate
how a negro, the first man to die at Oil City after the advent of
petroleum, was buried in a lot on the flats. Somebody wanted that
precise spot next day to drill a well and the corpse was planted on the
hill-side. The next week that particular location was selected for a
well and the body was again exhumed. To be sure of getting out of reach
of the drill the friends of the deceased boated his remains down the
river to Butler county. Twelve years later the bones were disinterred—an
oil-company having leased the old graveyard—and put in the garden of the
dead man’s son, to be handy for any further change of base that may be

At East Hickory the Foster well, drilled in 1863, flowed three-hundred
barrels of amber oil. Two-hundred wells were sunk in the Hickory
district, which proved as tough as Old Hickory to nineteen-twentieths of
the operators. Three Hickory Creeks—East Hickory and Little Hickory on
the east and West Hickory—enter the river within two miles. Near the
mouth of West Hickory three Scotchmen named McKinley bored a well
two-hundred-and-thirty feet in 1861. They found oil and were preparing
to tube the well when the war broke out and they abandoned the field. A
well on the flats, drilled in 1865, flowed two-hundred barrels of
lubricating oil, occasioning a furore. One farm sold for a
hundred-thousand dollars and adjacent lands were snapped up eagerly.

Ninety-five years ago hardy lumbermen settled permanently in Deerfield
township, Warren county, thirty miles above the mouth of Oil Creek.
Twenty years later a few inhabitants, supported by the lumber trade, had
collected near the junction of a small stream with the Allegheny. Bold
hills, grand forests, mountain rills and the winding river, sprinkled
with green islets, invested the spot with peculiar charms. Upon the
creek and hamlet the poetic Indian name of Tidioute, signifying a
cluster of islands, was fittingly bestowed. Samuel Grandin, who located
near Pleasantville, Venango county, in 1822, removed to Tidioute in
1839. He owned large tracts of timber-lands and increased the mercantile
and lumbering operations that gave him prominence and wealth. Mr.
Grandin maintained a high character and died at a ripe age. His oldest
son, John Livingston Grandin, returned from college in 1857 and engaged
in business with his father, assuming almost entire control when the
latter retired from active pursuits. News of Col. Drake’s well reached
the four-hundred busy residents of the lumber-center in two days. Col.
Robinson, of Titusville, rehearsed the story of the wondrous event to an
admiring group in Samuel Grandin’s store. Young J. L. listened intently,
saddled his horse and in an hour purchased thirty acres of the Campbell
farm, on Gordon Run, below the village, for three-hundred dollars. An
“oil-spring” on the property was the attraction. Next morning he
contracted with H. H. Dennis, a man of mechanical skill, to drill a well
“right in the middle of the spring.” The following day a derrick—four
pieces of scantling—towered twenty feet, a spring-pole was procured, the
“spring” was dug to the rock, and the “tool” swung at the _first_
oil-well in Warren county and among the first in Pennsylvania. Dennis
hammered a drilling-tool from a bar of iron three feet long, flattening
one end to cut two-and-a-half inches, the diameter of the hole. In the
upper end of the drill he formed a socket, to hold an inch-bar of round
iron, held by a key riveted though and lengthened as the depth required.
Two or three times a day, when the “tool” was drawn out to sharpen the
bit and clean the hole, the key had to be cut off at each joint! With
this rude outfit drilling began the first week of September, 1859, and
the last week of October the well was down one-hundred-and-thirty-four
feet. Tubing would not go into the hole and it was enlarged to four
inches. The discarded axle of a tram-car, used to carry lumber from
Gordon Run to the river, furnished iron for the reamer. Days, weeks and
months were consumed at this task. At last, when the hole had been
enlarged its full depth, the reamer was let down “to make sure the job
was finished.” It stuck fast, never saw daylight again and the well sunk
with so much labor had not one drop of oil!

Other wells in the locality fared similarly, none finding oil nearer
than Dennis Run, a half-mile distant. There scores of large wells
realized fortunes for their owners. In two years James Parshall was a
half-million ahead. He settled at Titusville and built the Parshall
House—a mammoth hotel and opera-house—which fire destroyed. The “spring”
on the Campell farm is in existence and the gravel is impregnated with
petroleum, supposed to percolate through fissures in the rocks from
Dennis Run.

During the summer of 1860 developments extended across and down the
river a mile from Tidioute. The first producing well in the district,
owned by King & Ferris, of Titusville, started in the fall at
three-hundred barrels and boomed the territory amazingly. It was on the
W. W. Wallace lands—five-hundred acres below town—purchased in 1860 by
the Tidioute & Warren Oil-Company, the third in the world. Samuel
Grandin, Charles Hyde and Jonathan Watson organized it. J. L. Grandin,
treasurer and manager of the company, in eight years paid the
stockholders twelve-hundred-thousand dollars dividends on a capital of
ten-thousand! He leased and sub-leased farms on both sides of the
Allegheny, drilling some dry-holes, many medium wells and a few large
ones. He shipped crude to the seaboard, built pipe-lines and iron-tanks
and became head of the great firm of Grandins & Neyhart. Elijah Bishop
Grandin—named from the father of C. E. Bishop, founder of the Oil-City
_Derrick_—who had carried on a store at Hydetown and operated at
Petroleum Centre, resumed his residence at Tidioute in 1867 and
associated with his brother and brother-in-law, Adnah Neyhart, in
producing, buying, storing and transporting petroleum. Mr. Neyhart and
Joshua Pierce, of Philadelphia, had drilled on Cherry Run, on Dennis Run
and at Triumph and engaged largely in shipping oil to the coast. Pierce
& Neyhart—J. L. Grandin was their silent partner—dissolved in 1869. The
firm of Grandins & Neyhart, organized in 1868, was marvelously
successful. Its high standing increased confidence in the stability of
financial and commercial affairs in the oil-regions. The brothers
established the Grandin Bank and Neyhart, besides handling one-fourth of
the crude produced in Pennsylvania, opened a commission-house in New
York to sell refined, under the skilled management of John D. Archbold,
now vice-president of the Standard Oil-Company. They and the Fisher
Brothers owned the Dennis Run and Triumph pipe-lines and piped the oil
from Fagundas, where they drilled a hundred prolific wells and were the
largest operators. They bought properties in different portions of the
oil-fields, extended their pipe-lines to Titusville and erected tankage
at Parker and Miller Farm. The death of Mr. Neyhart terminated their
connection with oil-shipments.

                    “There is no parley with death.”

[Illustration: J. L. GRANDIN.]

[Illustration: ADNAH NEYHART.]

[Illustration: E. B. GRANDIN.]

Owning thousands of acres in Warren and Forest counties, the
Grandins were heavily interested in developments at Cherry Grove,
Balltown and Cooper. As those sections declined they gradually
withdrew from active oil-operations, sold their pipe-lines and wound
up their bank. J. L. Grandin removed to Boston and E. B. to
Washington, to embark in new enterprises and enjoy, under most
favorable conditions, the fruits of their prosperous career at
Tidioute. Their business for ten years has been chiefly loaning
money, farming and lumbering in the west. They purchased
seventy-two-thousand acres in the Red-River Valley of Dakota—known
the world over as “the Dalrymple Farm”—and in 1895 harvested
six-hundred-thousand bushels of wheat and oats. They employ hundreds
of men and horses, scores of ploughs and reapers and steam-threshers
and illustrate how to farm profitably on the biggest scale. With
Hunter & Cummings, of Tidioute, and J. B. White, of Kansas City, as
partners, they organized the Missouri-Lumber-and-Mining-Company. The
company owns two-hundred-and-forty-thousand acres of timber-land in
Missouri and cut fifty-million feet of lumber last year in its vast
saw-mills at Grandin, Carter county. Far-seeing, clear-headed, of
unblemished repute and liberal culture, such men as J. L. and E. B.
Grandin reflect honor upon humanity and deserve the success an
approving conscience and the popular voice commend heartily.

Above Tidioute a number of “farmers’ wells”—shallow holes sunk by hand
and soon abandoned—flickered and collapsed. On the islands in the river
small wells were drilled, most of which the great flood of 1865
destroyed. Opposite the town, on the Economite lands, operations began
in 1860. Steam-power was used for the first time in drilling. The wells
ranged from five barrels to eighty, at one-hundred-and-fifty feet. They
belonged to the Economites, a German society that enforced celibacy and
held property in common. About 1820 the association founded the village
of Harmony, Butler county, having an exclusive colony and transacting
business with outsiders through the medium of two trustees. The members
wore a plain garb and were distinguished for morality, simplicity,
industry and strict religious principles. Leaving Harmony, they located
in the Wabash Valley, lost many adherents, returned to Pennsylvania and
built the town of Economy, in Beaver county, fifteen miles below
Pittsburg. They manufactured silks and wine, mined coal and accumulated
millions of dollars. A loan to William Davidson, owner of eight-thousand
acres in Limestone township, Warren county, obliged them to foreclose
the mortgage and bid in the tract. Their notions of economy applied to
the wells, which they numbered alphabetically. The first, A well,
yielded ten barrels, B pumped fifty and C flowed seventy. The trustees,
R. L. Baker and Jacob Henrici, erected a large boarding-house for the
workmen, whose speech and manners were regulated by printed rules. Pine
and oak covered the Davidson lands, which fronted several miles on the
Allegheny and stretched far back into the township. Of late years the
Economite Society has been disintegrating, until its membership has
shrunk to a dozen aged men and women. Litigation and mismanagement have
frittered away much of its property. It seems odd that an organization
holding “all things in common” should, by the perversity of fate, own
some of the nicest oil-territory in Warren, Butler and Beaver counties.
A recent strike on one of the southern farms flows sixty barrels an
hour. Natural gas lighted and heated Harmony and petroleum appears bound
to stick to the Economites until they have faded into oblivion.

Below the Economite tract numerous wells strove to impoverish the
first sand. G. I. Stowe’s, drilled in 1860, pumped eight barrels a
day for six years. The Hockenburg, named from a preacher who wrote
an essay on oil, averaged twelve barrels a day in 1861. The
Enterprise Mining-and-Boring-Company of New-York leased fifteen rods
square on the Tipton farm to sink a shaft seven feet by twelve.
Bed-rock was reached at thirty feet, followed by ten feet of shale,
ten of gray sand, forty of slate and soap-rock and twenty of first
sand. The shaft, cribbed with six-inch plank to the bottom of the
first sand, tightly caulked to keep out water, was abandoned at
one-hundred-and-sixty feet, a gas-explosion killing the
superintendent and wrecking the timbers. Of forty wells on the
Tipton farm in 1860-61 not a fragment remained in 1866.

Tidioute’s laurel wreath was Triumph Hill, the highest elevation in the
neighborhood. Wells nine-hundred feet deep pierced sixty feet of
oil-bearing sand, which produced steadily for years. Grandins, Fisher
Brothers, M. G. Cushing, E. E. Clapp, John M. Clapp and other leading
operators landed bounteous pumpers. The east side of the hill was a
forest of derricks, crowded like trees in a grove. Over the summit and
down the west side the sand and the development extended. For five years
Triumph was busy and prosperous, yielding hundreds-of-thousands of
barrels of oil and advancing Tidioute to a town of five-thousand
population. Five churches, the finest school-buildings in the county,
handsome houses, brick blocks, superior hotels and large stores greeted
the eye of the visitor. The Grandin Block, the first brick structure,
built of the first brick made in Deerfield township, contained an
elegant opera-house. Three banks, three planing-mills, two foundries and
three machine-shops flourished. A dozen refineries turned out
merchantable kerosene. Water-works were provided and an iron bridge
spanned the river. Good order was maintained and Tidioute—still a tidy
village—played second fiddle to no town in Oildom for intelligence,
enterprise and all-round attractiveness.


The tidal wave effervesced at intervals clear to the Colorado district.
Perched on a hill in the hemlock woods, Babylon was the rendezvous of
sports, strumpets and plug-uglies, who stole, gambled, caroused and did
their best to break all the commandments at once. Could it have spoken,
what tales of horror that board-house under the evergreen tree might
recount! Hapless wretches were driven to desperation and fitted for the
infernal regions. Lust and liquor goaded men to frenzy, resulting
sometimes in homicide or suicide. In an affray one night four men were
shot, one dying in an hour and another in six weeks. Ben. Hogan, who
laughed at the feeble efforts of the township-constable to suppress his
resort, was arrested, tried for murder and acquitted on the plea of
self-defence. The shot that killed the first victim was supposed to have
been fired by “French Kate,” Hogan’s mistress. She had led the
demi-monde in Washington and led susceptible congressmen astray. Ben met
her at Pithole, where he landed in the summer of 1865 and ran a
variety-show that would make the vilest on the Bowery blush to the roots
of its hair. He had been a prize-fighter on land, a pirate at sea, a
bounty-jumper and blockade-runner, and prided himself on his title of
the “Wickedest Man in the World.” Sentenced to death for his crimes
against the government, President Lincoln pardoned him and he joined the
myriad reckless spirits that sought fresh adventures in the Pennsylvania
oil-fields. In a few months the Scripture legend—“Babylon has
fallen”—applied to the malodorous Warren town. The tiger can “change his
spots”—by moving from one spot to another—and so could Hogan. He was of
medium height, square-shouldered, stout-limbed, exceedingly muscular and
trained to use his fists. He fought Tom Allen at Omaha, sported at
Saratoga and in 1872 ran “The Floating Palace”—a boat laden with harlots
and whiskey—at Parker. The weather growing too cold and the law too hot
for comfort, he opened a den and built an opera-house at Petrolia. In
“Hogan’s Castle” many a clever young man learned the short-cut to
disgrace and perdition. Now and then a frail girl met a sad fate, but
the carnival of debauchery went on without interruption. Hogan put on
airs, dressed in the loudest style and would have been the burgess had
not the election-board counted him out! A fearless newspaper forcing him
to leave Petrolia, Hogan went east to engage in “the sawdust swindle,”
returned to the oil-regions in 1875, built an opera-house at Elk City,
decamped from Bullion, rooted at Tarport and Bradford and departed by
night for New York. Surfeited with revelry and about to start for Paris
to open a joint, he heard music at a hall on Broadway and sat down to
wait for the show to begin. Charles Sawyer, “the converted soak,”
appeared shortly, read a chapter from the Bible and told of his rescue
from the gutter. Ben was deeply impressed, signed the pledge at the
close of the service, agonized in his room until morning and on his
knees implored forgiveness. How surprised the angels must have been at
the spectacle of the prodigal in this attitude! After a fierce struggle,
to quote his own words, “peace filled my soul chock-full and I felt
awful happy.” He claimed to be converted and set to work earnestly to
learn the alphabet, that he might read the Scriptures and be an
evangelist. He married “French Kate,” who also professed religion, but
it didn’t strike in very deep and she eloped with a tough. Mr. Moody
welcomed Hogan and advised him to traverse the country to offset as far
as possible his former misdeeds. Amid the scenes of his grossest
offenses his reception varied. High-toned Christians, who would not
touch a down-trodden wretch with a ten-foot pole, turned up their
delicate noses and refused to countenance “the low impostor.” They
forgot that he sold his jewelry and most of his clothes, lived on bread
and water and endured manifold privations to become a bearer of the
gospel-message. Even ministers who proclaimed that “the blood of Christ
cleanses from _all_ sin” doubted Hogan’s salvation and showed him the
cold shoulder in the chilliest orthodox fashion. He stuck manfully and
for eighteen years has labored zealously in the vineyard. Judging from
his struggles and triumphs, is it too much to believe that a front seat
and a golden crown are reserved for the reformed pugilist, felon,
robber, assassin of virtue and right bower of Old Nick? Unlike
straddlers in politics and piety, who want to go to Heaven on
velvet-cushions and pneumatic tires,

                  “He doesn’t stand on one foot fust,
                    An’ then stand on the other,
                  An’ on which one he feels the wust
                    He couldn’t tell you nuther.”

[Illustration: LEWIS F. WATSON.]

The expectation of an extension of the belt northward was not fulfilled
immediately. Wells at Irvineton, on the Brokenstraw and tributary runs,
failed to find the coveted fluid. Captain Dingley drilled two wells on
Sell’s Run, three miles east of Irvineton, in 1873, without slitting the
jugular. A test well at Warren, near the mouth of Conewango Creek, bored
in 1864 and burned as pumping was about to begin, had fair sand and a
mite of oil. John Bell’s operations in 1875 opened an amber pool up the
creek that for a season crowded the hotels three deep with visitors.
They bored dozens of wells, yet the production never reached
one-thousand barrels and in four months the patch was cordoned by dry
holes and as quiet as a cemetery. The crowds exhaled like morning dew.
Warren is a pretty town of four-thousand population, its location and
natural advantages offering rare inducements to people of refinement and
enterprise. Its site was surveyed in 1795 and the first shipment of
lumber to Pittsburg was made in 1801. Incorporated as a borough in 1832,
railroad communication with Erie was secured in 1859, with Oil City in
1867 and with Bradford in 1881. Many of the private residences are
models of good taste. Massive brick-blocks, solvent banks, churches,
stores, high-grade schools, shaded streets and modern conveniences
evidence its substantial prosperity. Hon. Thomas Struthers—he built
sections of the Philadelphia & Erie and the Oil-Creek railroads and
established big iron-works—donated a splendid brick building for a
library, opera-house and post-office. His grandson, who inherited his
millions and died in February, 1896, was a mild edition of “Coal-Oil
Johnnie” in scattering money. Lumbering, the principal industry for
three generations, enriched the community. Col. Lewis F. Watson
represented the district twice in Congress and left an estate of
four-millions, amassed in lumber and oil. He owned most of the township
bearing his name. Hon. Charles W. Stone, his successor, ranks with the
foremost members of the House in ability and influence. A Massachusetts
boy, he set out in life as a teacher, came to Warren to take charge of
the academy, was county-superintendent, studied law and rose to eminence
at the bar. He was elected Lieutenant-Governor of the State, served as
Secretary of the Commonwealth and would be Governor of Pennsylvania
to-day had “the foresight of the Republicans been as good as their
hindsight.” He has profitable oil-interests, is serving his fourth term
in Congress and may be nominated the fifth time. Alike fortunate in his
political and professional career, his social relations, his business
connections and his personal friendships, Charles W. Stone holds a place
in public esteem few men are privileged to attain.

[Illustration: CHARLES W. STONE.]

At Clarendon and Stoneham hundreds of snug wells yielded three-thousand
barrels a day from a regular sand that did not exhaust readily.
Southward the Garfield district held on fairly and a narrow-gauge
railroad was built to Farnsworth. The Wardwell pool, at Glade, four
miles east of Warren, fizzed after the manner of Cherry Grove, rich in
buried hopes and dissipated greenbacks. P. M. Smith and Peter Grace
drilled the first well—a sixty-barreler—close to the ferry in July of
1873. Dry-holes and small wells alternated with provoking uncertainty
until J. A. Gartland’s twelve-hundred-barrel gusher on the Clark farm,
in May of 1885, inaugurated a panic in the market that sent crude down
to fifty cents. The same day the Union Oil-Company finished a
four-hundred-barrel spouter and May ended with fifty-six wells producing
and a score of dusters. June and July continued the refrain, values
see-sawing as reports of dry-holes or fifteen-hundred-barrel-strikes,
some of them worked as “mysteries,” bamboozled the trade. Wardwell’s
production ascended to twelve-thousand barrels and fell by the dizziest
jumps to as many hundred, the porous rock draining with the speed of a
lightning-calculator. Tiona developed a lasting deposit of superior oil.
Kane has a tempting streak, in which Thomas B. Simpson and other
Oil-City parties are interested. Gas has been found at Wilcox,
Johnsonburg and Ridgway, Elk county, taking a slick hand in the game.
Kinzua, four miles north-east of Wardwell, revealed no particular cause
why the spirit of mortal ought to be proud. Although Forest and Warren,
with a slice of Elk thrown in, were demoralizing factors in 1882-3-4,
their aggregate output would only be a light luncheon for the polar bear
in McKean county.

The Tidioute belt, varying in narrowness from a few rods to a half-mile,
was one of the most satisfactory ever discovered. When lessees fully
occupied the flats Captain A. J. Thompson drilled a two-hundred-barrel
well on the point, at the junction of Dingley and Dennis Runs. Quickly
the summit was scaled and amid drilling wells, pumping wells, oil-tanks
and engine-houses the town of Triumph was created. Triumph Hill turned
out as much money to the acre as any spot in Oildom. The sand was the
thickest—often ninety to one-hundred-and-ten feet—and the purest the
oil-region afforded. Some of the wells pumped twenty years. Salt-water
was too plentiful for comfort, but half-acre plots were grabbed at
one-half royalty and five-hundred dollars bonus. Wells jammed so closely
that a man could walk from Triumph to New London and Babylon on the
steam-boxes connecting them. Percy Shaw—he built the Shaw House—had a
“royal flush” on Dennis Run that netted two-hundred-thousand dollars.
From an investment of fifteen-thousand dollars E. E. and J. M. Clapp
cleared a half-million.

“Spirits” located the first well at Stoneham and Cornen Brothers’ gasser
at Clarendon furnished the key that unlocked Cherry Grove. Gas was piped
from the Cornen well to Warren and Jamestown. Walter Horton was the
moving spirit in the Sheffield field, holding interests in the Darling
and Blue Jay wells and owning forty-thousand acres of land in Forest
county. McGrew Brothers, of Pittsburg, spent many thousands seeking a
pool at Garland. Grandin & Kelly’s operations below Balltown exploded
the theory that oil would not be found on the south side of Tionesta
Creek. Cherry Grove was at its apex when, in July of 1884, with
Farnsworth and Garfield boiling over, two wells on the Thomas farm, a
mile south-east of Richburg, flowed six-hundred barrels apiece. They
were among the largest in the Allegany district, but a three-line
mention in the Bradford _Era_ was all the notice given the pair.

To the owner of a tract near “646,” who offered to sell it for
fifty-thousand dollars, a Bradford operator replied: “I would take it at
your figure if I thought my check would be paid, but I’ll take it at
forty-five-thousand whether the check is paid or not!” The check was not

Tack Brothers drilled a dry-hole twenty-six-hundred feet in Millstone
township, Elk county. Grandin & Kelly drilled four-thousand feet in
Forest county and got lots of geological information, but no oil.

Get off the train at Trunkeyville—a station-house and water-tank—and
climb up the hill towards Fagundas. After walking through the woods a
mile an opening appears. A man is plowing. The soil looks too poor to
raise grasshoppers, yet that man during the oil-excitement refused an
offer of sixty-thousand dollars for this farm. His principal reason was
that he feared a suitable house into which to move his family could not
be obtained! On a little farther a pair of old bull-wheels, lying
unused, tells that the once productive Fagundas pool has been reached. A
short distance ahead on an eminence is a church. This is South Fagundas.
No sound save the crowing of a chanticleer from a distant farm-yard
breaks the silence. The merry voices heard in the seventies are no
longer audible, the drill and pump are not at work, the dwellings,
stores and hotels have disappeared. The deserted church stands alone. A
few landmarks linger at Fagundas proper. There is one store and no place
where the weary traveler can quench his thirst. The nearest resemblance
to a drinking-place is a boy leaning over a barrel drinking rain-water
while another lad holds him by the feet. Fagundas is certainly “dry.”
The stranger is always taken to the Venture well. Its appearance differs
little from that of hundreds of other abandoned wells. The conductor and
the casing have not been removed. Robert W. Pimm, who built the rig,
still lives at Fagundas. He will be remembered by many, for he is a
jovial fellow and was “one of the boys.” The McQuade—the biggest in the
field—the Bird and the Red Walking-beam were noted wells. If Dr.
Stillson were to hunt up the office where he extracted teeth “without
pain” he would find the building used as a poultry-house. Men went to
Fagundas poor and departed with sufficient wealth to live in luxury the
rest of their lives; others went wealthy and lost everything in a vain
search for the greasy fluid. Passing through what was known as Gillespie
and traversing three miles of a lonely section, covered with scrub-oak
and small pine, Triumph is reached. It is not the Triumph oil-men knew
twenty-five years ago, when it had four-thousand population, four good
hotels, two drug-stores, four hardware-stores, a half-dozen groceries
and many other places of business. No other oil-field ever held so many
derricks upon the same area. The Clapp farm has a production of twelve
barrels per day. Traces of the town are almost completely blotted out.
The pilgrim traveling over the hill would never suspect that a rousing
oil-town occupied the farm on which an industrious Swede has a crop of
oats. Along Babylon hill, once dotted with derricks thickly as trees in
the forest, nothing remains to indicate the spot where stood the
ephemeral town.

               “We are such stuff as dreams are made of.”

John Henderson, a tall, handsome man, came from the east during the
oil-excitement in Warren county and located at Garfield. In a fight at a
gambling-house one night George Harkness was thrown out of an
upstairs-window and his neck broken. Foul play was suspected, although
the evidence implicated no one, and the coroner’s jury returned a
verdict of accidental death. Harkness had left a young bride in
Philadelphia and was out to seek his fortune. Henderson, feeling in a
degree responsible for his death, began sending anonymous letters to the
bereaved wife, each containing fifty to a hundred dollars. The letters
were first mailed every month from Garfield, then from Bradford, then
from Chicago and for three years from Montana. In 1893 she received from
the writer of these letters a request for an interview. This was
granted, the acquaintance ripened into love and the pair were married!
Henderson is a wealthy stockman in Montana. In 1867 an English vessel
went to pieces in a terrible storm on the coast of Maine. The captain
and many passengers were drowned. Among the saved were two children, the
captain’s daughters. One was adopted by a merchant of Dover, N. H. He
gave her a good education, she grew up a beautiful woman and it was she
who married George Harkness and John Henderson.

[Illustration: T. J. VANDERGRIFT.]

Balltown was the chief pet of T. J. Vandergrift, now head and front of
the Woodland Oil-Company, and he harvested bushels of money from the
middle-field. “Op” Vandergrift is not an apprentice in petroleum. He
added to his reputation in the middle-field leading the opposition to
the mystery-dodge. Napoleon or Grant was not a finer tactician. His
clever plans were executed without a hitch or a Waterloo. He neither
lost his temper nor wasted his powder. The man who “fights the devil
with fire” is apt to run short of ammunition, but Vandergrift knew the
ropes, kept his own counsel, was “cool as a cucumber” and won in an easy
canter. He is obliging, social, manfully independent and a zealous
worker in the Producers’ Association. It is narrated that he went to New
York three years ago to close a big deal for Ohio territory he had been
asked to sell. He named the price and was told a sub-boss at Oil City
must pass upon the matter. “Gentlemen,” he said, “I am not going to Oil
City on any such errand. I came prepared to transfer the property and,
if you want it, I shall be in the city until noon to-morrow to receive
the money!” The cash—three-hundred-thousand dollars—was paid at eleven
o’clock. Mr. Vandergrift has interests in Pennsylvania, Ohio,
West-Virginia and Kentucky. He knows a good horse, a good story, a good
lease or a good fellow at sight and a wildcat-well does not frighten him
off the track. His home is at Jamestown and his office at Pittsburg.

The Anchor Oil-Company’s No. 1, the first well finished near “646,” in
Warren county, flowed two-thousand barrels a day on the ground until
tanks could be provided. It burned when flowing a thousand barrels and
for ten days could not be extinguished. One man wanted to steam it to
death, another to drown it, another to squeeze its life out, another to
smother it with straw, another to dig a hole and cut off the flow,
another to roll a big log over it, another to blow out its brains with
dynamite, another to blind it with carbolic acid, another to throw up
earth-works and so on until the pestered owners wished five-hundred
cranks were in the asylum at North Warren. Pipes were finally attached
in such a way as to draw off the oil and the flame died out.

The first funeral at Fagundas was a novelty. A soap-peddler, stopping at
the Rooling House one night, died of delirium-tremens. He was put into a
rough coffin and a small party set off to inter the corpse. Somebody
thought it mean to bury a fellow-creature without some signs of respect.
The party returned to the hotel with the body, a large crowd assembled
in the evening, flowers decorated the casket, services were conducted
and at dead of night two-hundred oil-men followed the friendless
stranger to his grave.

This year, at a drilling well near Tiona, the workmen of Contractor
Meeley were surprised to strike oil three feet from the surface. A
stream of the real stuff flowed over the top of the derrick, scattering
seven men who happened to be standing on the floor. Fortunately no fire
was about the structure, hence a thorough soaking with seventy-cent
crude was the chief damage to the crew and the spectators. Visions of a
new sand close to the grass-roots filled the minds of all beholders. At
that rate every man, woman, boy, girl and baby who could burrow a yard
into the earth might have a paying well. The cool-headed foreman, R. G.
Thompson, decided to investigate before ordering tankage and taking down
the tools. He discovered that the derrick had been set directly above a
six-inch pipe-line, which the bit had punctured, thus letting the oil
escape under the heavy pressure of a fifty-ton pump. Word was sent to
the pump-station to shut off the flow, a new joint of pipe was put in
and drilling proceeded to the third sand without further disturbance.

[Illustration: W. H. STALEY.]

One bright day in the summer of 1873 an active youth, beardless and
boyish in appearance, dropped into Fagundas. With little cash, but no
end of energy and pluck, he soon picked up a lease. Fortune smiled upon
him and he followed the surging tide to the different pastures as they
came into line. He operated at Bradford, Tiona, Clarendon, in Clarion
county, in Ohio and Indiana. West Virginia has been his best hold for
some years, and the boys all know W. H. Staley as a live oilman, who has
stayed with the procession two-dozen years.

Stories of the late E. E. Clapp’s rare humor and rare goodness of heart
might be recited by the score. He never grew weary helping the poor and
the unfortunate. Once a zealous Methodist minister, whose meagre salary
was not half-paid, thought of leaving his mission from lack of support.
Clapp heard the tale and handed the good man a sealed envelope, telling
him not to open it until he reached home and gave it to his wife. It
contained a check for five-hundred-dollars. Like thousands of producers,
Clapp was sued by the torpedo-monopoly for alleged infringement of the
Roberts patent. Meeting Col. E. A. L. Roberts at Titusville while the
suit was pending, he was invited to go through the great building
Roberts Brothers were completing. The delegate from President peered
into the corners of the first room as though looking for something. The
Colonel’s curiosity was aroused and he inquired what the visitor meant.
“Oh,” came the quick rejoinder, “I’m only trying to find where the
twenty-thousand-dollars I’ve paid you for torpedoes may be built in
these walls!” A laugh followed and Roberts proposed to square the suit,
which was done forthwith. At a country-fair E. Harvey, the Oil-City
music-dealer, played and sang one of Gerald Massey’s sublime
compositions with thrilling effect. Among the eager listeners was E. E.
Clapp, beside whom stood a farmer’s wife. The woman shouted to Harvey:
“Tech it off agin, stranger, but don’t make so much noise yerself!” Poor
Harvey—dead long ago—subsided and Clapp took up the expression, which he
often quoted at the expense of loquacious acquaintances. Humanity lost a
friend when Edwin Emmett Clapp left the smooth roads of President to
walk the golden streets of the New Jerusalem.

Up the winding river proved in not a few instances the straight path to
a handsome fortune, while some found only shoals and quicksands.

                            THE AMEN CORNER.

Better a kink in the hair than a kink in the character.

Good creeds are all right, but good deeds are the stuff that won’t
shrink in the washing.

Domestic infidelity does more harm than unbelieving infidelity and
hearsay knocks heresy galley-west as a mischief-maker.

                  Stick to the right with iron nerve,
                  Nor from the path of duty swerve,
                  Then your reward you will deserve.

The Baptists of Franklin offered Rev. Dr. Lorimer, the eminent Chicago
divine, a residence and eight-thousand dollars a year to become their
pastor. How was that for a church in a town of six-thousand population?

“Pray—pray—pray for—” The good minister bent down to catch the whisper
of the dying operator, whom he had asked whether he should petition the
throne of grace—“pray for five-dollar oil!”

St. Joseph’s church, Oil City, is the finest in the oil-region and has
the finest altar in the state. Father Carroll, for twenty years in
charge of the parish, is a priest whose praises all denominations carol.

                  You “want to be an angel?”
                    Well, no need to look solemn;
                  If you haven’t got what you desire,
                    Put an ad. in the want column.

The Presbyterian church at Rouseville, torn down years ago, was built,
paid for, furnished handsomely and run nine months before having a
settled pastor. Not a lottery, fair, bazaar or grab-bag scheme was
resorted to in order to raise the funds.

The Salvation Army once scored a sensational hit in the oil-regions. A
lieutenant struck a can of nitro-glycerine with his little tambourine
and every house in the settlement entertained more or less
Salvation-Army soldier for a month after the blow-up.

                     “Like a sawyer’s work is life—
                       The present makes the flaw,
                     And the only field for strife
                       Is the inch before the saw.”

“What are the wages of sin?” asked the teacher of Ah Sin, the first
Chinese laundryman at Bradford, who was an attentive member of a class
in the Sunday-school. Promptly came the answer: “Sebenty-flive cente a
dozen; no checkee, no washee!”

The first sound of a church-bell at Pithole was heard on Saturday
evening, March 24, 1866, from the Methodist-Episcopal belfry. The first
church-bell at Oil City was hung in a derrick by the side of the
Methodist church, on the site of a grocery opposite the _Blizzard_
office. At first Sunday was not observed. Flowing-wells flowed and
owners of pumping wells pumped as usual. Work went right along seven
days in the week, even by people who believed the highest type of church
was not an engine-house, with a derrick for its tower, a well for its
Bible and a tube spouting oil for its preacher.

            “If you have gentle words and looks, my friends,
                To spare for me—if you have tears to shed
            That I have suffered—keep them not I pray
                Until I hear not, see not, being dead.”

Many people regard religion as they do small-pox; they desire to have it
as light as possible and are very careful that it does not mark them.
Most people when they perform an act of charity prefer to have it like
the measles—on the outside where it can be seen. Oil-region folks are
not built that way.


         -RICHBURG, N.Y. 1879-        -TARPORT AND TUNA VALLEY-
                             EXCHANGE HOTEL TIDIOUTE 1863
         TIDIOUTE 1876

                       A BEE-LINE FOR THE NORTH.



“Like youthful steers unyoked, they take their courses

“Be sure you’re right, then go ahead.”—_Davy Crockett._

“Jes foller de no’th star an’ yu’ll come out right, shuah.”—_Joel
    Chandler Harris._

“Better a year of Bradford than a cycle of Cathay.”—_L. M. Morton._

“He did it with all his heart, and prospered.”—_II Chronicles xxxi: 21._

“The Temple of Fame has, you see, many departments.”—_Walter Besant._

“Bid the devil take the hindmost.”—_Butler._

“When Greeks joined Greeks then was the tug of war.”—_Lee._

“Nature must give way to art.”—_Dean Swift._

“The wise and active conquer by daring to attempt.”—_Rowe._

“God helps them that help themselves.”—_Franklin._

“The north breathes steadily beneath the stars.”—_Shelley._


[Illustration: M’KEAN COUNTY, PA.]

Oil Creek and its varied branches, Pithole and its suburbs, Forest and
Warren had figured creditably in oil-developments, but the Mastodon of
the North was yet to come. “The goal of yesterday shall be the starting
point of to-morrow” is especially true of oil-operations. At times men
have supposed the limits of juicy territory had been reached, only to be
startled by the unexpected opening of a larger, grander field than any
that preceded it. Guessing the weather a month ahead is child’s play in
comparison with guessing where oil may be found in paying quantity.
Geology is liable to shoot wide of the mark, so that the drill is the
one indisputable test, from which there is no appeal for an injunction
or a reversal of the verdict. Years of waiting sharpened the appetite of
the polar bear for the feast to be spread in McKean county and across
the New-York border. Tempting tidbits prepared the hungry animal to
digest the rich courses that were to follow in close succession, until
the whole world was cloyed and gorged, and surfeited with petroleum. It
could not hold another mouthful, and the surplus had to be stored in
huge tanks ready for the demand certain to come some day and empty the
vast receptacles of their last drop.

                 “Still linger, in our northern clime,
                 Some remnants of the good old time.”

The United States Land-Company, holding a quarter-million acres in
McKean and adjoining counties, in 1837 sent Col. Levitt C. Little from
New Hampshire to look after its interests. He located on Tuna Creek,
eight miles from the southern border of New-York state. The Websters
arrived in 1838, journeying by canoe from Olean. Other families settled
in the valley, founding the hamlet of Littleton, which in 1858 adopted
the name of Bradford and became a borough in 1872, with Peter T. Kennedy
as burgess. The vast forests were divided into huge blocks, such as the
Bingham, Borden, Clark & Babcock, Kingsbury and Quintuple tracts. Lumber
was rafted to distant points and thousands of hardy woodmen “shantied”
in rough huts each winter. They beguiled the long evenings singing
coarse songs, playing cards, imbibing the vintage of Kentucky or New
England from a black jug and telling stories so bald the mules drooped
their ears to hide their blushes. But they were open-hearted, sternly
honest, sticklers for fair-play, hard-working and admirable forerunners
of the approaching civilization. To the sturdy blows of the rugged
chopper and raftsman all classes are indebted for fuel, shelter and
innumerable comforts. Like the rafts they steered to Pittsburg and the
wild beasts they hunted, most of these brave fellows have drifted away
never to return.

[Illustration: FREDERICK CROCKER.]

Six-hundred inhabitants dwelt peacefully at Bradford ten years after the
Pithole bubble had been blown and pricked. The locomotive and track of a
branch of the Erie Railroad had supplanted A. W. Newell’s rude engine,
which transported small loads to and from Carrollton. An ancient coach,
weather-beaten and worm-eaten, sufficed for the scanty passenger-traffic
and the quiet borough bade fair to stay in the old rut indefinitely. The
collection of frames labeled Tarport—a suit of tar and feathers
presented to a frisky denizen begot the name—snuggled on a muddy road a
mile northward. Seven miles farther, at Limestone, the “spirits”
directed Job Moses to buy ten-thousand acres of land. He bored a
half-dozen shallow wells in 1864, getting some oil and gas. Jonathan
Watson skirmished two miles east of Limestone, finding slight tinges of
greasiness. A mile south-west of Moses the Crosby well was dry. Another
mile south the Olmsted well, on the Crooks farm, struck a vein of oil at
nine-hundred feet and flowed twenty barrels on July fourteenth, 1875.
The sand was poor and dry-holes south and west augured ill for the
territory. Frederick Crocker drilled a duster early in 1875 on the
Kingsbury lands, east side of Tuna Creek. He had grit and experience and
leased an angular piece of ground formed by a bend of the creek for his
second venture. It was part of the Watkins farm, a mile above Tarport. A
half-mile south-west, on the Hinchey farm, the Foster Oil-Company had
sunk a twenty-barrel well in 1872, which somehow passed unnoticed. On
September twenty-sixth, 1875, from a shale and slate at nine-hundred
feet, the Crocker well flowed one-hundred-and-seventy barrels. This
opened the gay ball which was to transmute the Tuna Valley from its
arcadian simplicity to the intense bustle of the grandest
petroleum-region the world has ever known. The valley soon echoed and
re-echoed the music of the tool-dresser and rig-builder and the click of
the drill as well as the vigorous profanity of the imported teamster.
Frederick Crocker, who drilled on Oil Creek in 1860 and devised the
valve which kept the Empire well alive, had won another victory and the
great Bradford field was born. He lived at Titusville fifteen years,
erected the home afterwards occupied by Dr. W. B. Roberts, sold his
Bradford property, operated in the Washington district and died at
Idlewild on February twenty-second, 1895. Mr. Crocker possessed real
genius, decision and the qualities which “from the nettle danger pluck
the flower success.” Active to the close of his long and useful
eighty-three years, he met death calmly and was laid to rest in the
cemetery at Titusville.

Scarcely had the Crocker well tanked its initial spurt ere “the fun grew
fast and furious.” Rigs multiplied like rabbits in Australia.
Train-loads of lively delegates from every nook and cranny of Oildom
crowded the streets, overran the hotels and taxed the commissary of the
village to the utmost. Town-lots sold at New-York prices and buildings
spread into the fields. At B. C. Mitchell’s Bradford House, headquarters
of the oil-fraternity, operators and land-holders met and drillers “off
tour” solaced their craving for “the good things of this life” playing
billiards and practising at the hotel-bar. Hundreds of big contracts
were closed in the second-story room where Lewis Emery, “Judge” Johnson,
Dr. Book and the advance-guard of the invading hosts assembled. Main
street blazed at night with the light of dram-shops and the gaieties
incidental to a full-fledged frontier-town. Noisy bands appealed to
lovers of varieties to patronize barnlike-theatres, strains of syren
music floated from beer-gardens, dance-halls of dubious complexion were
thronged and gambling-dens ran unmolested. The free-and-easy air of the
community, too intent chasing oil and cash to bother about morality,
captivated the ordinary stranger and gained “Bad Bradford” notoriety as
a combination of Pithole and Petroleum Centre, with a dash of Sodom and
Pandemonium, condensed into a single package. In February of 1879 a
city-charter was granted and James Broder was elected mayor. Radical
reforms were not instituted with undue haste, to jar the sensitive
feelings of the incongruous masses gathered from far and near. Their
accommodating nature at last adapted itself to a new state of affairs
and accepted gracefully the restrictions imposed for the general
welfare. Checked temporarily by the Bullion spasm in 1876-7, the influx
redoubled as the lower country waned. Fires merely consumed
frame-structures to hasten the advent of costly brick-blocks. Ten
churches, schools, five banks, stores, hotels, three newspapers,
street-cars, miles of residences and fifteen-thousand of the liveliest
people on earth attested the permanency of Bradford’s boom. Narrow-gauge
railroads circled the hills, traversed spider-web trestles and brought
tribute to the city from the outlying districts. The area of
oil-territory seemed interminable. It reached in every direction, until
from sixteen-thousand mouths seventy-five thousand acres poured their
liquid treasure. The daily production waltzed to one-hundred-thousand
barrels! Iron-tanks were built by the thousand to store the surplus
crude. Two, three or four-thousand-barrel gushers were lacking, but
wells that yielded twenty-five to two-hundred littered the slopes and
valleys. The field was a marvel, a phenomenon, a revelation. Bradford
passed the mushroom-stage safely and was not snuffed out when
developments receded and the floaters wandered south in quest of fresh
excitement. To-day it is a thriving railroad and manufacturing centre,
the home of ten-thousand intelligent, independent, go-ahead citizens,
proud of its past, pleased with its present and confident of its future.

To trace operations minutely would be an endless task. Crocker sold a
half-interest in his well and drilled on an adjacent farm. Gillespie,
Buchanan & Kelly came from Fagundas in 1874 and sank the two Fagundas
wells—twenty and twenty-five barrels—a half-mile west of Crocker, in the
fall and winter. Butts No. 1, a short distance north, actually flowed
sixty barrels in November of 1874. Jackson & Walker’s No. 1, on the
Kennedy farm, north edge of town, on July seventeenth, 1875, flowed
twenty barrels at eleven-hundred feet. The dark, pebbly sand, the best
tapped in McKean up to that date, encouraged the belief of better strata
down the Tuna. On December first, two months after Crocker’s strike, the
yield of the Bradford district was two-hundred-and-ten barrels. The
Crocker was doing fifty, the Olmsted twenty-five, the Butts fifteen, the
Jackson & Walker twenty and all others from one to six apiece. The oil,
dark-colored and forty-five gravity, was loaded on Erie cars direct from
the wells, most of which were beside the tracks. The Union Company
finished the first pipe-line and pumped oil to Olean the last week of
November. Prentice, Barbour & Co. were laying a line through the
district and 1875 closed with everything ripe for the millenium these
glimmerings foreshadowed.

Lewis Emery, richly dowered with Oil-Creek experience and the
get-up-and-get quality that forges to the front, was an early arrival at
Bradford. He secured the Quintuple tract of five-thousand acres and
drilled a test well on the Tibbets farm, three miles south of town. Its
success confirmed his judgment of the territory and began the wonderful
Quintuple development. The Quintuple rained staying wells on the lucky,
plucky graduate from Pioneer, quickly placing him in the
millionaire-class. He built blocks and refineries, opened an immense
hardware-store, constructed pipe-lines, established a daily-paper,
served two terms in the Senate and opposed the Standard “tooth and
toe-nail.” Thoroughly earnest, he champions a cause with unflinching
tenacity. He owns a big ranche in Dakota, big lumber-tracts and
saw-mills in Kentucky, a big oil-production and a big share in the
United-States Pipe-Line. He has traveled over Europe, inspected the
Russian oil-fields and gathered in his private museum the rarest
collection of curiosities and objects of interests in the state. Senator
Emery is a staunch friend, a fighter who “doesn’t know when he is
whipped,” liberal, progressive, fluent in conversation and firm in his

                  “A prince can mak’ a belted knight,
                      A marquis, duke and a’ that;
                  But an honest man’s aboon his might—
                      Guid faith, he maunna fa’ that.”

Hon. David Kirk sticks faithfully to Emery in his hard-sledding to array
petroleumites against the Standard. He manages the McCalmont
Oil-Company, which operated briskly in the Forest pools, at Bradford and
Richburg. Mr. Kirk is a rattling speaker, positive in his sentiments and
frank in expressing his views. He extols Pennsylvania petroleum, backs
the outside pipe-lines and is an influential leader of the Producers’

Dr. W. P. Book, who started at Plumer, ran big hotels at Parker and
Millerstown and punched a hole in the Butler field occasionally, leased
nine-hundred acres below Bradford in the summer of 1875. He bored
two-hundred wells, sold the whole bundle to Captain J. T. Jones and went
to Washington Territory with eight-hundred-thousand dollars to engage in
lumbering and banking. Captain Jones landed on Oil Creek after the war,
in which he was a brave soldier, and drilled thirteen dry-holes at
Rouseville! Repulses of this stripe would wear out most men, but the
Captain had enlisted for the campaign and proposed to stand by his guns
to the last. His fourteenth attempt—a hundred-barreler on the Shaw
farm—recouped former losses and inaugurated thirty years of remarkable
prosperity. Fortune smiled upon him in the Clarion field. Pipe-lines,
oil-wells, dealings in the exchanges, whatever he touched turned into
gold. Not handicapped by timid partners, he paddled his own canoe and
became the largest individual operator in the northern region. Acquiring
tracts that proved to be the heart of the Sistersville field, he is
credited with rejecting an offer last year of five-million dollars for
his West-Virginia and Pennsylvania properties! From thirteen wells, good
only for post-holes if they could be dug up and retailed by the foot, to
five-millions in cash was a pretty stretch onward and upward. He
preferred staying in the harness to the obscurity of a mere
coupon-clipper. He lives at Buffalo, controls his business, enjoys his
money, remembers his legions of old friends and does not put on airs
because of marching very near the head of the oleaginous procession.


                -THEO BARNSDALL-
          -LEWIS EMERY-
  DAVID KIRK             CAPT. J. T. JONES

Theodore Barnsdall has never lagged behind since he entered the arena in
1860. He operated on Oil Creek and has been a factor in every important
district. Marcus Hulings, reasoning that a paying belt intersected it
diagonally, secured the Clark & Babcock tract of six-thousand acres on
Foster Brook, north-east of Bradford. Hundreds of fine wells verified
his theory and added a half-million to his bank-account. Sitting
beside me on a train one day in 1878, Mr. Hulings refused
three-hundred-thousand dollars, offered by Marcus Brownson, for his
interest in the property. He projected the narrow-gauge railroad from
Bradford to Olean and a bevy of oil-towns—Gillmor, Derrick City, Red
Rock and Bell’s Camp—budded and bloomed along the route. Frederic
Prentice built pipe-lines and tanks, leased a half-township, started
thirty wells in a week on the Melvin farm and organized the Producers’
Consolidated Land-and-Petroleum-Company, big in name, in quality and in
capital. The American Oil-Company’s big operations wafted the late W. A.
Pullman a million and the presidency of the Seaboard Bank in New York,
filled Joseph Seep’s stocking and saddled a hundred-thousand dollars on
James Amm. The Hazlewood Oil-Company, guided by Bateman Goe’s prudent
hand, drilled five-hundred wells and counted its gains in columns of six
figures. Robert Leckey, a first-class man from head to foot, was a royal
winner. Frederick Boden—true-blue, clear-grit, sixteen ounces to the
pound—forsook Corry to extract a stream of wealth from the Borden lands,
six miles east of Tarport. Prompt, square and manly, he merited the good
luck that rewarded him in Pennsylvania and followed him to Ohio, where
for four years he has been operating extensively. Boden’s wells boosted
the territory east and north. From its junction with the Tuna at
Tarport—Kendall is the post-office—to its source off in the hills,
Kendall Creek steamed and smoked. Tarport expanded to the proportions of
a borough. Two narrow-gauge roads linked Bradford and Eldred, Sawyer
City, Rew City, Coleville, Rixford and Duke Centre—oil-towns in all the
term implies—keeping the rails from rusting. Other narrow-gauges
diverged to Warren, Mt. Jewett and Smethport. The Erie extended its
branch south and the Rochester & Pittsburg crossed the Kinzua gorge over
the highest railway viaduct—three-hundred feet—in this nation of tall
projects and tall achievements.

[Illustration: BATEMAN GOE.]

[Illustration: FREDERICK BODEN.]

[Illustration: ROBERT LECKEY.]

Twenty-nine years ago a stout-hearted, strong-limbed, wiry youth, fresh
from the Emerald Isle, asked a man at Petroleum Centre for a job. Given
a pick and shovel, he graded a tank-bottom deftly and swiftly. He dug,
pulled tubing, drove team and earned money doing all sorts of chores.
Reared in poverty, he knew the value of a dollar and saved his pennies.
To him Oildom, with its “oil-princes”—George K. Anderson, Jonathan
Watson, Dr. M. C. Egbert, David Yanney, Sam Woods, Joel Sherman and the
Phillips Brothers were in their glory—was a golden dream. He learned to
“run engine,” dress tools, twist the temper-screw and handle drilling
and pumping-wells expertly. Although neither a prohibitionist nor a
prude, he never permitted mountain-dew, giddy divinities in petticoats
or the prevailing follies to get the better of him in his inordinate
desire for riches. Drop by drop for three years his frugal store
increased and he migrated to Parker early in the seventies. Such was the
young man who “struck his gait” in the northern end of Armstrong county,
who was to outshine the men he may have envied on Oil Creek, to scoop
the biggest prize in the petroleum-lottery and weave a halo of
glittering romance around the name of John McKeown.

Working an interest in an oil-well, he hit a paying streak and joined
the pioneers who had sinister designs on Butler county, proverbial for
“buckwheat-batter” and “soap-mines.” At Lawrenceburg, a suburb of
Parker, he boarded with a comely widow, the mother of two bouncing kids
and owner of a little cash. He married the landlady and five boys
blessed the union of loyal hearts. His wife’s money aided him to develop
the Widow Nolan farm, east of the coal-bank near Millerstown. Regardless
of Weller’s advice to “beware of vidders,” he wedded one and from
another obtained the lease of a farm on which his first well produced
one-hundred-and-fifty barrels a day for a year, a fortune in itself.
This was the beginning of McKeown’s giant strides. In partnership with
William Morrisey, a stalwart fellow-countryman—dead for years—he drilled
at Greece City, Modoc and on the Cross-Belt. He held interests with
Parker & Thompson and James Goldsboro, played a lone hand at
Martinsburg, invested in the Karns Pipe-Line and avoided speculation. He
agreed with Thomas Hayes, of Fairview, in 1876, to operate in the
Bradford field. Hayes went ahead to grab a few tracts at Rixford,
McKeown remaining to dispose of his Butler properties. He sold every
well and every inch of land at top figures. No slave ever worked harder
or longer hours than he had done to gain a firm footing. No task was too
difficult, no fatigue too severe, no undertaking too hazardous to be met
and overcome. Avarice steeled his heart and hardened his muscles.
Wrapped in a rubber-coat and wearing the slouch-hat everybody
recognized, he would ride his powerful bay-horse knee-deep in mud or
snow at all hours of the night. It was his ambition to be the leading
oil-operator of the world. While putting money into Baltimore blocks,
bank-stocks and western ranches, he always retained enough to gobble a
slice of seductive oil-territory. Plunging into the northern field
“horse, foot and dragoons,” he bought out Hayes, who returned to
Fairview with a snug nest-egg, and captured a huge chunk of the Bingham
lands. Robert Simpson, agent of the Bingham estate, fancied the bold,
resolute son of Erin and let him pick what he wished from the
fifty-thousand acres under his care. McKeown selected many juicy tracts,
on which he drilled up a large production, sold portions at excessive
prices and cleared at least a million dollars in two or three years! As
Bradford declined he turned his gaze towards the Washington district,
bought a thousand acres of land and at the height of the excitement had
ten-thousand barrels of oil a day! His object had been attained and John
McKeown was the largest oil-producer in the universe.

Down in Washington, as in Butler and McKean, he attended personally to
his wells, hired the workmen, negotiated for all materials and managed
the smallest details. He removed his family to the county-seat and lived
in a plain, matter-of-fact way. It had been his intention to erect a
forty-thousand-dollar house and reside at Jamestown, N. Y. Ground was
purchased and the foundation laid. The local papers spoke of the
acquisition he would be to the town, one suggesting to haul him into
politics and municipal improvements, and McKeown resented the notoriety
by pulling up stakes and locating at Washington. It often amused me to
hear him denounce the papers for calling him rich. He was more at home
in a derrick than in a drawing-room. The din of the tools boring for
petroleum was sweeter to his ears than “Lohengrin” or “The Blue Danube.”
Watching oil streaming from his wells delighted his eye more than a
Corot or a Meissonier in a gilt frame. For claw-hammer coats, tooth-pick
shoes and vulgar show he had no earthly use. Democratic in his habits
and speech, he heard the poor man as patiently as the banker or the
schemer with a “soft snap.” Clothes counted for nothing in his judgment
of people. He enjoyed the hunt for riches more than the possession. In
no sense a liberal man, sometimes he thawed out to friends who got on
the sunny side of his frosty nature and wrote checks for church or
charity. Hard work was his diversion, his chief happiness. His wells and
lands and income grew to dimensions it would have strained the nerves
and brains of a half-dozen men to supervise. He had mortgaged his robust
constitution by constant exposure and the foreclosure could not always
be postponed. Repeated warnings were unheeded and the strong man broke
down just when he most needed the vitality his lavish drafts exhausted.
Eminent physicians hurried from Pittsburg and Philadelphia to his
relief, but the paper had gone to protest and on Sunday forenoon,
February eighth, 1891, at the age of fifty-three, John McKeown passed
into eternity. Father Hendrich administered the last rites to the dying
man. He sank into a comatose state and his death was painless. The
remains were interred in the Catholic cemetery at Lawrenceville, in
presence of a great multitude that assembled to witness the curtain fall
on the most eventful life in the oil-regions.

One touching little tale about McKeown, which might adorn the pages of a
Sunday-school library, has drifted out of Bradford. Landing on the
platform of the dilapidated Erie-Railroad station, upon his first visit
to the metropolis of mud and oil, John McKeown, wearing his greasiest
suit, asked a group of boys to direct him to the Parker House. “I’ll
tell you for a quarter,” said one. “I’ll show you where it is for ten
cents,” chimed in another. “Say, I’ll do it for five cents,” remarked a
third. “Mister,” said bright-eyed Jimmie Duffy, “I will show you the
place for nothing.” So the stranger went with Jimmie. He took the lad to
a clothing-store, arrayed him sumptuously in the best hand-me-downs that
Bradford could afford and sent the boy away with a five-dollar
gold-piece. Jimmie bought a shoeblack-outfit and began to “shine ’em up”
at ten cents a clip. His good work, cheerfulness and ready wit brought
him many a quarter. Soon he hired a number of assistants, built a
“parlor,” controlled every stand in town and at nineteen went west with
seven-thousand dollars in his pockets. Jimmie Duffie’s luck set all the
Bradford urchins to lying in wait for strangers in greasy garments lined
with gold-pieces.

[Illustration: JOHN MCKEOWN.]

Estimates of McKeown’s wealth ranged from three-millions to ten. A guess
midway would probably be near the mark. When asked by Dun or Bradstreet
how he should be rated, his invariable answer was: “I pay cash for all I
get.” O. D. Bleakley, of Franklin, was appointed guardian of the sons
and Hon. J. W. Lee is Mrs. McKeown’s legal adviser. The oldest boy has
married, has received his share of the estate and is spending it freely.
A younger son was drowned in a pond at the school to which his mother
sent the bright lad. Once McKeown, desiring to have Dr. Agnew’s candid
opinion at the lowest cost, put on his poorest garb and secured a rigid
examination upon his promise to pay the great Philadelphia practitioner
ten dollars “as soon as he could earn the money.” He thanked the doctor,
returned in a business-suit, told of the ruse he had adopted and
cemented the acquaintance with a check for one-hundred dollars. In
Baltimore he posed as a hayseed at a forced sale of property the
mortgagors calculated to bid in at a fraction of its value. He deposited
a million dollars in a city-bank and appeared at the sale in the old
suit and slouched hat he had packed in his satchel for the occasion.
Stylish bidders at first ignored the seedy fellow whose winks to the
auctioneer elevated the price ten-thousand dollars a wink. One of them
hinted to the stranger that he might be bidding beyond his limit. “I
guess not,” replied John, “I pay cash for what I get.” The property was
knocked down to him for about six-hundred-thousand dollars. He requested
the attorney to telephone to the bank whether his check would be
honored. “Good for a million!” was the response. Now his triumphs and
his spoils have shrunk to the little measure of the grave!

           “Through the weary night on his couch he lay
           With the life-tide ebbing fast away.
           When the tide goes out from the sea-girt lands
           It bears strange freight from the gleaming sands:
           The white-winged ships, which long may wait
           For the foaming wave and the wind that’s late;
           The treasures cast on a rock-bound shore
           From stranded ships that shall sail no more,
           And hopes that follow the shining seas—
           Oh! the ocean wide shall win all these.
           But saddest of all that drift to the sea
           Is the human soul to eternity,
           Floating away from a silent shore,
           Like a fated ship, to return no more.”

The Bradford Oil-Company—J. T. Jones, Wesley Chambers, L. G. Peck and L.
F. Freeman were the principal stockholders—owned a good share of the
land on which Greater Bradford was built and ten-thousand acres in the
northern field. The company drilled three-hundred wells in McKean and
Allegany, realized fifty-thousand dollars from city-lots and its stock
rose to two-thousand dollars a share. In 1881 Captain Jones bought out
his copartners. The Enterprise Transit-Company, managed by John Brown,
achieved reputation and currency. The McCalmont Oil-Company—organized
during the Bullion phantom by David Kirk, I. E. Dean, Tack Brothers and
F. A. Dilworth—humped itself in the middle and northern fields,
sometimes paying three-hundred-thousand dollars a year in dividends.
Kirk & Dilworth founded Great Belt City, in Butler county, cutting up a
farm and selling hundreds of lots. “Farmer” Dean, manager of the
company, operated in the lower fields, lived two years at Richburg,
toured the country to preach the gospel according to the Greenbackers
and won laurels on the rostrum. Frank Tack—frank and trustworthy—was
vice-president of the New-York Oil-Exchange and his brother is dead. The
Emery Oil-Company, the Quintuple, Mitchell & Jones, Whitney & Wheeler,
Melvin and Fuller, George H. Vanvleck, George V. Forman, John L.
McKinney & Co., Isaac Willets and Peter T. Kennedy were shining lights
in the McKean-Allegany firmament. Kennedy owned the saw-mill when
Bradford was a lumber camp and his estate—he died at fifty—inventoried
eleven-hundred-thousand dollars. Hundreds of small operators left
Bradford happy as men should be with as much money as their wives could
spend; other hundreds dumped their well-earnings into the insatiable maw
of speculation.

[Illustration: COL. JOHN J. CARTER.]

The Bradford field was young when Col. John J. Carter, of Titusville,
paid sixty-thousand dollars for the Whipple farm, on Kendall Creek.
Friends shook their heads over the purchase, up to that time the largest
by a private individual in the district, but the farm produced
fifteen-hundred-thousand barrels of oil and demonstrated the wisdom of
the deed. Other properties were developed by this indefatigable worker,
until his production was among the largest in the northern region and he
could have sold at a price to number him with the millionaires.
Unanimously chosen president of the Bradford, Bordell & Kinzua
Railroad-Company, he completed the line in ninety days from the issue of
the charter and in eighteen months returned the stockholders eighty per
cent. in dividends. President Carter’s ability in handling the property
saved it to its owners, while every other narrow-gauge in the system
fell into the clutches of receivers or sold as junk to meet
court-charges for costly litigation.

All “Old-Timers” remember the “Gentlemen’s Furnishing-House of John J.
Carter,” the finest establishment of the kind west of New York. Young
Carter, with a splendid military record, located at Titusville in the
summer of 1865, immediately after being mustered out of the service, and
engaged in mercantile pursuits ten years. Like other progressive men, he
took interests in the wild-cat ventures that made Pithole, Shamburg,
Petroleum Centre and Pleasantville famous. From large holdings in
Venango, Clarion and Forest he reaped a rich harvest. One tract of
four-thousand acres in Forest, purchased in 1886 and two-thirds of it
yet undrilled, he expects to hand down to his children as a proof of
their father’s business-foresight. He scanned the petroleum-horizon
around Pittsburg carefully and retained his investments in the middle
and upper fields. Taylorstown and McDonald, with their rivers of oil,
burst forth with the fury of a flood and disappeared. Sistersville, in
West Virginia, had given the trade a taste of its hidden treasures from
a few scattered wells. Much salt-water, little oil and deep drilling
discouraged operators. How to produce oil at a profit, with such
quantities of water to be pumped out, was the problem. Col. Carter
visited the scene, comprehended the situation, devised his plans and
bought huge blocks of the choicest territory before the oil-trade
thought Sistersville worth noticing. This bold stroke added to the value
of every well and lease in West Virginia, inspired the faltering with
courage and rewarded him magnificently. Advancing prices rendered the
princely yield of his scores of wells immensely profitable. Purchases
based on fifty-cent oil—the trade had small faith in the outcome—he sold
on the basis of dollar-fifty oil. Col. Carter is in the prime of
vigorous manhood, ready to explore new fields and surmount new
obstacles. He occupies a beautiful home, has a superb library, is a
thorough scholar and a convincing speaker. His recent argument before
the Ohio Legislature, in opposition to the proposed iniquitous tax on
crude-petroleum, was a masterpiece of effective, pungent, unanswerable
logic. None who admire a brave, manly, generous character will say that
his success is undeserved.

[Illustration: O. P. TAYLOR.]

Five townships six miles square—Independence, Willing, Alma, Bolivar and
Genesee, with Andover, Wellsville, Scio, Wirt and Clarksville north—form
the southern border of Allegany county, New York. The first well bored
for oil in the county—the Honeyoe—was the Wellsville & Alma Oil
Company’s duster in Independence township, drilled eighteen-hundred feet
in September, 1877. Gas at five-hundred feet caught fire and burned the
rig, and signs of oil were found at one-thousand feet. The second was O.
P. Taylor’s Pikeville well, Alma township, finished in November, 1878.
Taylor, the father of the Allegany field, decided to try north of Alma,
and in July of 1879 completed the Triangle No. 1, in Scio township, the
first in Allegany to produce oil. It originated the Wellsville
excitement and first diverted public attention from Bradford. Triangle
No. 2, drilled early in 1880, pumped twelve barrels a day. S. S.
Longabaugh, of Duke Centre, sank a dry-hole, the second well in Scio,
three miles north-east of Triangle No. 1. Operations followed rapidly.
Richburg No. 1, Wirt township, in which Taylor enlisted three
associates, responded at a sixty barrel gait in May of 1881 to a huge
charge of glycerine. Samuel Boyle, who had struck the first big well at
Sawyer City, completed the second well at Richburg in June, manipulated
it as a “mystery” and torpedoed it on July thirteenth. It flowed
three-hundred barrels of blue-black oil, forty-two gravity, from fifty
feet of porous sand and slate. Taylor’s exertions and perseverance
showed indomitable will, bravery and pluck. He was a Virginian by birth,
a Confederate soldier and a cigar-manufacturer at Wellsville. It is
related that while drilling his first Triangle well the tools needed
repairs and he had not money to send them to Bradford. His Wellsville
acquaintances seemed amazingly “short” when he attempted a loan. His
wife had sold her watch to procure food and she gave him the cash. The
tools were fixed, the well was completed and it started Taylor on the
road to the fortune he and his helpmeet richly earned. The pioneer died
in the fall of 1883. The record of his adventures, trials and
tribulations in opening a new oil-district would fill a volume. He was
prepared for the message: “Child of Earth, thy labors and sorrows are

Eighteen lively months sufficed to define the Allegany field, which was
confined to seven-thousand acres. Twenty-nine-hundred wells were bored
and the maximum yield of the district was nineteen-thousand barrels.
Richburg and Bolivar, both old villages, quadrupled their size in three
months. Narrow-gauge railroads soon connected the new field with Olean,
Friendship and Bradford. The territory was shallow in comparison with
parts of McKean, where eighteen-hundred feet was not an uncommon depth
for wells. Timber and water were abundant, good roads presented a
pleasing contrast to the unfathomable mud of Clarion and Butler and the
country was decidedly attractive. Efforts to find an outlet to the belt
failed in every instance. The climax had been reached and a gradual
decline set in. Allegany was the northern limit of remunerative
developments in the United States, which the next turn of the wheel once
more diverted southward. The McCalmont Oil-Company and Phillips Brothers
were leaders in the Richburg field. The country had been settled by
Seventh-day Baptists, whose “Sunday was on Saturday.” Not to offend
these devout people by discriminating in favor of Sunday, operators
“whipped the devil around the stump” by drilling and pumping their wells
seven days a week!

The Chipmunk pool, a dozen miles north of Bradford, was trotted out in
1895. For a season its shallow wells promised a glut of real oil, the
daily production rising to twenty-six-hundred barrels. The area of
creamy territory was quickly defined. Captain E. H. Barnum, long an
enterprising Bradford operator, drilled a test-well near Arkwright,
Chautauqua County, N.Y., in 1897. He put twenty-five-hundred feet of
six-inch and three-hundred feet of eight-inch casing in the hole, which
proved barren of oil or gas and was abandoned when three-thousand feet
deep. The Watsonville pool, south-west of Bradford, lively drilling
brought to the nine-thousand-barrel notch for a time this season.

The town of Ceres, which celebrated its one-hundredth birthday this
year, has had some peculiar experiences. Located on the state-line
between New York and Pennsylvania, the boundary has figured in many
curious ways since the pioneers erected the first log-cabin in 1797. The
first squabble related to the post-office, which was established on the
south-side of the line, in Pennsylvania, with a basket to hold the mail.
By some hocus-pocus the department permitted the office to be removed to
the north-side, in New York, fifty or more years ago. Every President
from Andrew Jackson to William McKinley has been importuned to change it
back again, but the population is so nearly divided that the question
bids fair, like Tennyson’s brook, “to go on forever.” Ceres was strictly
in it as a Gretna Green. The little Methodist church, the only one in
the village, is built against the line, the porch extending into New
York. The parsonage is in the same fix. To avoid securing a license,
Pennsylvania couples had merely to step out of the parsonage to the
porch and be married in New York. Eloping couples have had some lively
rides to Ceres. For many years Justice Peabody was very popular at
knot-tying. He was aroused one midnight by a man who wanted a warrant
for the arrest of a pair of elopers. The judge was friendly to the young
fellow in love. As he was making out the papers a rap at the door
interrupted him. The caller was the young man himself. The judge stepped
outside behind a stump-fence, across the state-line, married the eloping
couple and then returned to the house to finish making out the warrant.
A hotel built by a bright genius close to the line had an addition for a
barroom. The barroom extended over the line and its sole entrance was
from the Pennsylvania side. The bartender, by stepping a foot either way
from the center of the bar, could pass from one state to another. He was
arrested for illegal selling many times, but in each instance he would
swear that the whisky he sold was disposed of in the other state. One
day a Pennsylvania prisoner slipped his handcuffs when the sheriff was
not looking, jumped out of the dining-room into New York, made faces at
the minion of the law and defied arrest. For fifty years state-pride
kept the people apart on the school-question. They had a small
district-school on each side of the line in preference to a graded
school, because the latter would demand a surrender of state-pride. Four
years ago the differences were patched up and a graded-school was
provided. The engine of the steam saw-mill is in Pennsylvania and the
boiler in New York. The logs enter the mill in Pennsylvania and are
sawed in New York, the boards are edged in Pennsylvania and the lumber
is piled up crosswise on the state-line. At the grist-mill the grain
entered on the New-York side, was ground in Pennsylvania and carried
back into New York by the bolting-machinery. When the oil-boom was on at
Bolivar and Richburg two narrow-gauge railroads passed through Ceres.
One station was in New York and the other in Pennsylvania, with tracks
parallel to Bolivar. The schedules of the passenger-trains were alike
and some of the fastest rides ever taken on a narrow-gauge road
resulted. Oil-developments did not hit Ceres hard, wells around the tidy
village failing to tap the greasy artery. Possibly Nature thought the
folks had enough fun over the boundary complications to compensate for
the lack of petroleum.

Canada has oil-fields of considerable importance. The largest and oldest
is in Enniskillen township, Lambton county, a dozen miles from Port
Sarnia, at the foot of Lake Huron. Black Creek, a small tributary of the
Detroit river, flows through this township and for many years its waters
had been coated with a greasy liquid the Indians sold as a specific for
countless diseases. The precious commodity was of a brown color,
exceedingly odorous, unpleasant to the taste and burned with great
intensity. In 1860 several wells were started, the projectors believing
the floating oil indicated valuable deposits within easy reach of the
surface. James Williams, who had previously garnered the stuff in pits,
finished the first well that yielded oil in paying quantity. Others
followed in close succession, but months passed without the sensation of
a genuine spouter. Late in the summer of the same year that operations
commenced, John Shaw, a poor laborer, managed to get a desirable lease
on the bank of the creek. He built a cheap rig, provided a spring-pole
and “kicked down” a well, toiling all alone at his weary task until
money and credit and courage were exhausted. Ragged, hungry and
barefooted, one forenoon he was refused boots and provisions by the
village-merchant, nor would the blacksmith sharpen his drills without
cash down. Reduced to the verge of despair, he went back to his derrick
with a heavy heart, ate a hard crust for dinner and decided to leave for
the United States next morning if no signs of oil were discovered that
afternoon. He let down the tools and resumed his painful task. Twenty
minutes later a rush of gas drove the tools high in the air, followed
the next instant by a column of oil that rose a hundred feet! The roar
could be heard a mile and the startled populace rushed from the
neighboring hamlet to see the unexpected marvel. Canada boasted its
first flowing-well and the tidings flew like wild-fire. Before dark
hundreds of excited spectators visited the spot. For days the oil gushed
unchecked, filling a natural basin an acre in extent, then emptying into
the creek and discoloring the waters as far down as Lake St. Clair. None
knew how to regulate its output and bring the flow under control. Thus
it remained a week, when a delegate from Pennsylvania showed the owner
how to put in a seed-bag and save the product. The first attempt
succeeded and thenceforth the oil was cared for properly. Opinions
differ as to the actual production of this novel strike, although the
best judges placed it at five-thousand barrels a day for two or three
weeks! The stream flowed incessantly the full size of the hole, a strong
pressure of gas forcing it out with wonderful speed. The well produced
generously four months, when it “stopped for keeps.” Persons who visited
the well at its best will recall the surroundings. A pond of oil large
enough for a respectable regatta lay between it and Black Creek, whose
greasy banks for miles bore traces of the lavish inundation of crude.
The locality was at once interesting and high-flavored and a conspicuous
feature was Shaw himself. Radiant in a fresh suit of store-clothes, he
moved about with the complacency incident to a green ruralist who has
“struck ile.”

[Illustration: JOHN SHAW.]

One of the persons earliest on the ground after the well began to flow
was the storekeeper who had refused the proprietor a pair of boots that
morning. With the cringing servility of a petty retailer he hurried to
embrace Shaw, coupling this outbreak of affection with the assurance
that everything in the shop was at his service. It is gratifying to note
that Shaw had the spirit to rebuke this puppyism. Bringing his ample
foot into violent contact with the dealer’s most vital part, he
accompanied a heavy kick with an emphatic command to go to the place
Heber Newton and Pentecost have ruled out. Shaw was uneducated and fell
a ready prey to sharpers on the watch for easy victims. Cargoes of oil
shipped to England brought small returns and his sudden wealth slipped
away in short order. Ere long the envied possessor of the big well was
obliged to begin life anew. For a few years he struggled along as an
itinerant photographer, traveling with a “car” and earning a precarious
substance taking “tin-types.” Death closed the scene in 1872, the
luckless pioneer expiring at Petrolea in absolute want. Thus sadly ended
another illustration of the adverse fortune which frequently overtakes
men whose energy and grit confer benefits upon mankind that surely
entitle them to a better fate. Mr. Williams saved money, served in
parliament and died in the city of Hamilton years ago. He was the
intimate friend of Hon. Isaac Buchanan, the distinguished Canadian
statesman, whose sons are well-known operators at Oil City and

              “The stars shall fade away, the sun himself
              Grow dim with age and nature sink in years;
              But thou shall flourish in immortal youth.”

As might be imagined, Shaw’s venture gave rise to operations of great
magnitude. Hosts flocked to the scene in quest of lands and developments
began on an extensive scale. Among others a rig was built and a well
drilled without delay as close to the Shaw as it was possible to place
the timbers. The sand was soon reached by the aid of steam-power and
once more the oil poured forth enormously, the new strike proving little
inferior to its neighbor. It was named the Bradley, in honor of the
principal owner, E. C. Bradley, afterwards a leading operator in
Pennsylvania, president of the Empire Gas-Company and still a resident
of Oildom. The yield continued large for a number of months, then ceased
entirely and both wells were abandoned. Of the hundreds in the vicinity
a good percentage paid nicely, but none rivalled the initial spouters.
The influx of restless spirits led to an “oil-town,” which for a brief
space presented a picture of activity rarely surpassed. Oil Springs, as
the mushroom city was fittingly termed, flourished amazingly. The
excessive waste of oil filled every ditch and well, rendering the water
unfit for use and compelling the citizens to quench their thirst with
artificial drinks. The bulk of the oil was conveyed to Mandaumin,
Wyoming or Port Sarnia, over roads of horrible badness, giving
employment to an army of teamsters. A sort of “mud canal” was formed,
through which the horses dragged small loads on a species of flat-boats,
while the drivers walked along the “tow-path” on either side. The mud
had the consistency of thin batter and was seldom under three feet deep.
To those who have never seen this unique system of navigation the most
graphic description would fail to convey an adequate idea of its
peculiar features. Unlike the Pennsylvania oil-fields, the
petroleum-districts of Canada are low and swampy, a circumstance that
added greatly to the difficulty of moving the greasy staple during the
wet season. Ultimately roads were cut through the soft morasses and
railways were constructed, although not before Oil Springs had seen its
best days and begun a rapid descent on the down grade. Salt-water
quickly put a stop to many wells, the production declined rapidly and
the town was depopulated. Operations extended towards the north-west,
where Petrolea, which is yet a flourishing place, was established in
1864. Bothwell, twenty-six miles south of Oil Springs, had a short
career and light production. Canadian operators were slower than the
Yankees of the period and the tireless push of the Americans who crowded
to the front at the beginning of the developments around Oil Springs was
a revelation to the quiet plodders of Enniskillen and adjacent
townships. The leading refineries are at London, fifty miles east of
Wyoming and one of the most attractive cities in the Dominion.



Petroleum has long been known to exist in considerable quantity in the
Gaspe Peninsula, at the extreme eastern end of Quebec. The Petroleum
Oil-Trust, organized by a bunch of Canadians to operate the district,
put down eight wells in 1893, finding a light green oil. The Trust
continued its borings in 1894, on the left bank of the York River, south
of the anticlinal of Tar Point. Several of the ten wells yielded
moderately, and operations extended to the portion of Gaspe Basin called
Mississippi Brook. One well in that section, completed in July of 1897,
flowed from a depth of fifteen-hundred feet. Hundreds of barrels were
lost before the well could be controlled. Its first, pumping produced
forty barrels, and two others in the vicinity are of a similar stripe.
The results thus far are deemed sufficiently encouraging to warrant
further tests in hope of developing an extensive field. The oil comes
from a coarse rock of sandy texture, and in color and gravity resembles
the Pennsylvania article. The formation around the newest strikes is
nearly flat, while the shallow wells in the section first prospected
were bored at a sharp angle, to keep in touch with the dip of the rock,
just as diamond drills follow the gold-bearing ledges in the Black Hills
of South Dakota. Crossing the continent, oil has been tapped in the
gold-diggings of British Columbia, although in amounts too small to be
important commercially.

John Shaw, whose gusher brought the “gum-beds” of Enniskillen into the
petroleum-column, narrowly escaped anticipating Drake three years. Shaw
removed from Massachusetts to Canada in 1838, and was regarded as a
visionary schemer. In 1856 he sought to interest his neighbors in a plan
to _drill a well through the rock_ in search of the reservoir that
supplied Bear Creek with a thick scum of oil. They hooted at the idea
and proposed to send Shaw to the asylum. This tabooed the subject and
postponed the advent of petroleum until the end of August, 1859.

Not content to crown Alaska with mountains of gold and valleys of yellow
nuggets, inventors of choice fables have invested the hyperborean region
with an exhaustless store of petroleum. In July of 1897 this paragraph,
dated Seattle, went the rounds of the press:

“What is said to be the greatest discovery ever made is reported from
Alaska. Some gold-prospectors several months ago ran across what seemed
to be a lake of oil. It was fed by innumerable springs and the
surrounding mountains were full of coal. They brought supplies to
Seattle and tests proved it to be of as high grade as any ever taken out
of Pennsylvania wells. A local company was formed and experts sent up.
They have returned on the steamer Topeka, and their report has more than
borne out first reports. It is stated there is enough oil and coal in
the discovery to supply the world. It is close to the ocean; in fact,
the experts say that the oil oozes out into the salt-water.”

William H. Seward’s purchase from Russia, for years ridiculed as good
only for icebergs and white-bears, may be credited with Klondyke placers
and vast bodies of gold-bearing quartz, but a “lake of oil” is too great
a stretch of the long bow. If “a lake of oil” ever existed, the lighter
portions would have evaporated and the residue would be asphaltum. The
story “won’t hold water” or oil.

A thief broke into a Bradford store and pilfered the cash-drawer. Some
months later the merchant received an unsigned letter, containing a
ten-dollar bill and this explanatory note: “I stole seventy-eight
dollars from your money-drawer. Remorse gnaws at my conscience. When
remorse gnaws again I will send you some more.”

It is not surprising that evil travels faster than good, since it takes
only two seconds to fight a duel and two months to drill an oil-well at

“The Producers’ Consolidated Land-and-Petroleum-Company,” the formidable
title over the Bradford office of the big corporation, is apt to suggest
to observant readers the days of old long sign.

[Illustration: REUBEN CARROLL.]

Hon. Reuben Carroll, a pioneer-operator, was born in Mercer county in
1823, went to Ohio to complete his education, settled in the Buckeye
State, and was a member of the Legislature when developments began on
Oil Creek. Solicited by friends to join them in an investment that
proved fortunate, he removed to Titusville and cast his lot with the
producers. He operated extensively in the northern fields, residing at
Richburg during the Allegheny excitement. He took an active interest in
public affairs, and contributed stirring articles on politics, finance
and good government to leading journals. He opposed Wall-street
domination and vigorously upheld the rights of the masses. Upon the
decline of Richburg he located at Lily Dale, New York. As a
representative producer he was asked to become a member of the South
Improvement-Company in 1872. The offer aroused his inflexible sense of
justice and was indignantly spurned. He knew the sturdy quality and
large-heartedness of the Oil-Creek operators and did not propose to
assist in their destruction. At seventy-four, Mr. Carroll is vigorous
and well-preserved, ready to combat error and champion truth with tongue
and pen. An intelligent student of the past and of current events, a
close observer of the signs of the times and a keen reasoner, Reuben
Carroll is a fine example of the men who are mainly responsible for the
birth and growth of the petroleum-development.

[Illustration: RALPH W. CARROLL.]

There is much uncertainty as to the youngest soldier in the civil-war,
the oldest Mason, the man who first nominated McKinley for President,
and who struck Billie Patterson, but none as to the youngest dealer in
oil-well supplies in the oil-region. This distinction belongs to Ralph
W. Carroll, a native of Youngstown, Ohio, and son of Hon. Reuben
Carroll. Born in 1860, at eighteen he was at the head of a large
business at Rock City, in the Four-Mile District, five miles south-west
of Olean. Three brothers were associated with him. The firm was the
first to open a supply-store at Richburg, with a branch at Allentown,
four miles east, and an establishment later at Cherry Grove. In 1883
Ralph W. succeeded the firm, his brothers retiring, and located at
Bradford. In 1886 he opened offices and warehouses at Pittsburg and in
1894 removed to New York to engage in placing special investments. The
young merchant was secretary of the Producers’ Protective Association,
organized at Richburg in 1891, and a member of the executive committee
that conducted the fight against the Roberts Torpedo-Company. Hon. David
Kirk, Asher W. Milner, J. E. Dusenbury and “Farmer” Dean were his four
associates on this important committee. Roscoe Conkling, for the Roberts
side, and General Butler, for the Producers’ Association, measured
swords in this legal warfare. Mr. Carroll has a warm welcome for his
oil-region friends, a class of men the like of whom for geniality,
sociability, liberality and enterprise the world can never duplicate.

The Beardsleys, Fishers, Dollophs and Fosters were the first inhabitants
in the wilds of Northern McKean. Henry Bradford Dolloph, whose house
above Sawyer City was shattered by a glycerine-explosion, was the first
white child who saw daylight and made infantile music in the Tuna
Valley. One of the first two houses where Bradford stands was occupied
by the Hart family, parents and twelve children. When the De Golias
settled up the East Branch a road had to be cut through the forest from
Alton. Hon. Lewis Emery’s No. 1, on the Tibbets farm, the first good
well up the Branch, produced oil that paid two or three times the cost
of the entire property.

The United-States Pipe-Line has overcome legal obstructions, laid its
tubes under railroads that objected to its passage to the sea and will
soon pump oil direct to refineries on the Jersey coast. Senator Emery,
the sponsor of the line, is not the man to be bluffed by any
railroad-popinjay who wants him to get off the earth. The
National-Transit Line has ample facilities to transport all the oil in
Pennsylvania to the seaboard, but Emery is a true descendant of the
proud Highlander who wouldn’t sail in Noah’s ark because “ilka McLean
has a boat o’ his ain.” He was born in New-York State, reared in
Michigan, whither the family removed in his boyhood, and learned to be a
miller. Arriving at Pioneer early in the sixties, he cut his eye-teeth
as an oil-operator on Oil Creek and had much to do with bringing the
great Bradford district to the front. He served one term in the
Legislature and two in the Senate, gaining a high reputation by his
fearless opposition to jobbery and corruption.

Michael Garth, a keen-witted son of the Emerald Isle, has the easiest
snap in the northern region. Scraping together the funds to put down a
well on his rocky patch of ground near Duke Centre, he rigged a
water-wheel to pump the ten barrels of crude the strike yielded daily.
Another well of similar stripe was drilled and the faithful creek drives
the wooden-wheel night and day, without one cent of expense or one
particle of attention on the part of the owner. Garth can go fishing
three days at a lick, to find the wells producing upon his return just
as when he left. Such a picnic almost compels a man to be lazy.

The Devonian Oil Company, of which Charles E. Collins is the
clear-brained president and guiding star, has operated on the wholesale
plan in the northern region and in West Virginia. In October of 1897 the
Devonian, the Watson and the Emery companies sold a part of their
holdings north and south to the West Penn, a producing wing of the
Standard, for fourteen-hundred-thousand dollars in spot cash. The
largest cash sale of wells and territory on record, this transaction was
negotiated by John L. and J. C. McKinney acting in behalf of the buyer,
and Charles E. Collins and Lewis Emery representing the sellers.

“Hell in harness!” Davy Crockett is credited with exclaiming the first
time he saw a railroad train tearing along one dark night. Could he have
seen an oil-train on the Oil-Creek Railroad, blazing from end to end and
tearing down from Brocton at sixty miles an hour, the conception would
have been yet more realistic. Engineer Brown held the throttle, which he
pulled wide open upon discovering a car of crude on fire. Mile after
mile he sped on, thick smoke and sheets of flame each moment growing
denser and fiercer. At last he reached a long siding, slackened the
speed for the fireman to open the switch and ran the doomed train off
the main track. He detached the engine and two cars, while the rest of
the train fell a prey to the fiery demon. A similar accident at
Bradford, caused by a tank at the Anchor Oil-Company’s wells overflowing
upon the tracks of the Bradford & Bordell narrow-gauge, burned two or
three persons fatally. The oil caught fire as the locomotive passed the
spot and enveloped the passenger-coach in flames so quickly that escape
was cut off.

Bradford, Tarport, Limestone, Sawyer, Gillmor, Derrick, Red Rock, State
Line, Four-Mile, Duke Centre, Rexford, Bordell, Rew City, Coleville,
Custer and De Golia, with their thousands of wells, their hosts of live
people, their boundless activity, their crowded railways, their endless
procession of teams and their unlimited energy, were for the nonce the
brightest galaxy of oil-towns that ever flourished in the busy realm of
petroleum. Some have vanished, others are mere skeletons and Bradford
alone retains a fair semblance of its pristine greatness.

The bee-line for the north was fairly and squarely “on the belt.”

                           THE SEX MEN ADORE.

A little girl at Titusville, when she prayed to have herself and all of
her relations cared for during the night, added: “And, dear God, do try
and take good care of yourself, for if anything should happen to you we
should all go to pieces. Amen.”

A young lady at Sawyer City accepted a challenge to climb a derrick on
the Hallenback farm, stand on top and wave her handkerchief. She was to
receive a silk-dress and a ten-dollar greenback. The feat was performed
in good shape. It is probably the only instance on record where a woman
had the courage to climb an eighty-foot derrick, stand on top and wave
her handkerchief to those below. It was done and the enterprising girl
gathered in the wager.

Mrs. Sands, formerly a resident of Oil City, built the Sands Block and
owned wells on Sage Run. McGrew Brothers, of Pittsburg, struck a spouter
in 1869 that boomed Sage Run a few months. A lady at Pleasantville, who
had coined money by shrewd speculations in oil-territory, purchased
two-hundred acres near the McGrew strike, while the well was drilling
and nobody thought it worth noticing. The lady was Mrs. Sands, who
enacted the role of “a poor lone widow,” anxious to secure a patch of
ground to raise cabbage and garden-truck, to get the property. She
worked so skillfully upon the sensibilities of the Philadelphians owning
the land that they sold it for a trifle “to help a needy woman!” Her
first well, finished the night before the “thirty-day shut down,” flowed
five-hundred barrels each twenty-four hours. The “poor lone widow”
valued the tract at a half-million dollars and at one time was rated at
six-hundred-thousand, all “earned by her own self.” Yet weak-minded men
and strong-minded women talk of the suppressed sex!

A Franklin lady asked her husband one morning to buy five-thousand
barrels of oil on her account, saying she had an impression the price
would advance very soon. To please her he promised to comply. At dinner
she inquired about it and was told the order had been filled by an
Oil-City broker. In the afternoon the price advanced rapidly. Next
morning the lady asked hubby to have the lot sold and bring her the
profits. The miserable husband was in for it. He dared not confess his
deception and the only alternative was to pay the difference and keep
mum. His sickly smile, as he drew fifteen-hundred dollars out of the
bank to hand his spouse, would have cracked a mirror an inch thick.
Solomon got a good deal of experience from his wives and that Franklin
husband began to think “a woman might know something about business
after all.”

Mrs. David Hanna, of Oil City, is not one of the women whose idea of a
good time is to go to a funeral and cry. She tried a bit of speculation
in certificates and the market went against her. She tried again and
again, but the losses exceeded the profits by a large majority. The
phenomenal spurt in April of 1895 was her opportunity. She held down a
seat in the Oil-Exchange gallery three days, sold at almost the top
notch and cleared twelve-thousand dollars. People applauded and declared
the plucky little woman “had a great head.”


                                    SCHRUBRASS FERRY 1873
                            SUMMIT CITY
                                     TURKEY CITY IN 1874
                MAIN STREET, ST. PETERSBURG.
                                           VIEW IN EDENBURG.

                      DOWN THE ZIG-ZAGGED STREAM.



“He left the barren-beaten thoroughfare.”—_Tennyson._

“Who, grown familiar with the sky, will grope * * * among

“What lavish wealth men give for trifles light and small!”—_W. S

“How soon our new-born light attains to full-aged noon.”—_Francis

          “Liberal as noontide speeds the ambient ray
          And fills each crevice in the world with day.”—_Lytton._

“We must take the current when it serves or lose our

“Let us battle for elbow-room.”—_James Parish Steele._

“Peter Oleum came down like a wolf on the fold.”—_Byron Parodied._

“Plunged into darkness or plunged into light.”—_Hester M. Poole._

“Lord love us, how we apples swim!”—_Mallett._

“The best-laid schemes o’ mice and men gang aft a-gley.”—_Robert Burns._

“Fortune turns everything to the advantage of her

“Good, the more communicated, more abundant grows.”—_Milton._

“A gorgeous sunset is coloring the whole sky.”—_Julius Stinde._


South and west of Oil Creek for many miles the petroleum-star shed its
effulgent luster. Down the Allegheny adventurous operators groped their
way patiently, until Clarion, Armstrong, Butler, Washington and West
Virginia unlocked their splendid store-houses at the bidding of the
drill. Aladdin’s wondrous lamp, Stalacta’s wand or Ali Babi’s magic
sesame was not so grand a talisman as the tools which from the bowels of
the earth brought forth illimitable spoil. No need of fables to varnish
the tales of struggles and triumphs, of disappointments and successes,
of weary toil and rich reward that have marked the oil-development from
the Drake well to the latest strike in Tyler county. Men who go miles in
advance of developments to seek new oil-fields run big chances of
failure. They understand the risk and appreciate the cold fact that
heavy loss may be entailed. But “the game is worth the powder” in their
estimation and impossibility is not the sort of ability they swear by.
“Our doubts are traitors and make us lose the good we oft might win” is
a maxim oil-operators have weighed carefully. The man who has faith to
attempt something is a man of power, whether he hails from Hong Kong or
Boston, Johannesburg or Oil City. The man who will not improve his
opportunity, whether seeking salvation or petroleum, is a sure loser.
His stamina is as fragile as a fifty-cent shirt and will wear out
quicker than religion that is used for a cloak only. Muttering long
prayers without working to answer them is not the way to angle for
souls, or fish, or oil-wells. It demands nerve and vim and enterprise to
stick thousands of dollars in a hole ten, twenty, fifty or “a hundred
miles from anywhere,” in hope of opening a fresh vein of petroleum.
Luckily men possessing these qualities have not been lacking since the
first well on Oil Creek sent forth the feeble squirt that has grown to a
mighty river. Hence prolific territory, far from being scarce, has
sometimes been too plentiful for the financial health of the average
producer, who found it hard to cipher out a profit selling dollar-crude
at forty cents. As old fields exhausted new ones were explored in every
direction, those south of the original strike presenting a very
respectable figure in the oil-panorama. If “eternal vigilance is the
price of liberty,” eternal hustling is the price of oil-operations.
Maria Seidenkovitch, a fervid Russian anarchist, who would rather hit
the Czar with a bomb than hit a thousand-barrel well, has written:

             “There is no standing still! Even as I pause
               The steep path shifts and I slip back apace;
             Movement was safety; by the journey’s laws
               No help is given, no safe abiding-place;
             No idling in the pathway, hard and slow—
               I must go forward or must backward go!”

[Illustration: GEN. JESSE L. RENO.]

Down the Allegheny three miles, on a gentle slope facing bold hills
across the river, is the remnant of Reno, once a busy, attractive town.
It was named from Gen. Jesse L. Reno, who rose to higher rank than any
other of the heroes Venango “contributed to the death-roll of
patriotism.” He spent his boyhood at Franklin, was graduated from West
Point in the class with George B. McClellan and “Stonewall” Jackson,
served in the Mexican war, was promoted to Major-General and fell at the
battle of South Mountain in 1862. The Reno Oil-Company, organized in
1865 as the Reno-Oil-and-Land Company, owns the village-site and
twelve-hundred acres of adjacent farms. The company and the town owed
their creation to the master-mind of Hon. C. V. Culver, to whose rare
faculty for developing grand enterprises the oil-regions offered an
inviting field. Visiting Venango county early in the sixties, a canvass
of the district convinced him that the oil-industry, then an infant
beginning to creep, must attain giant proportions. To meet the need of
increased facilities for business, he conceived the idea of a system of
banks at convenient points and opened the first at Franklin in 1861.
Others were established at Oil City, Titusville and suitable
trade-centres until the combination embraced twenty banks and
banking-houses, headed by the great office of Culver, Penn & Co. in New
York. All enjoyed large patronage and were converted into corporate
banks. The speculative mania, unequaled in the history of the world,
that swept over the oil-regions in 1864-5, deluged the banks with
applications for temporary loans to be used in purchasing lands and
oil-interests. Philadelphia alone had nine-hundred stock-companies. New
York was a close second and over seven-hundred-million dollars were
capitalized—on paper—for petroleum-speculations! The production of oil
was a new and unprecedented business, subject to no known laws and
constantly overturning theories that set limits to its expansion. There
was no telling where flowing-wells, spouting thousands of dollars daily
without expense to the owners, might be encountered. Stories of sudden
fortunes, by the discovery of oil on lands otherwise valueless, pressed
the button and the glut of paper-currency did the rest.

Mr. Culver directed the management and employment of fifteen-million
dollars in the spring of 1865! People literally begged him to handle
their money, elected him to Congress and insisted that he invest their
cash and bonds. The Reno Oil-Company included men of the highest
personal and commercial standing. Preliminary tests satisfied the
officers of the company that the block of land at Reno was valuable
territory. They decided to operate it, to improve the town and build a
railroad to Pithole, in order to command the trade of Oil Creek, Cherry
Run and “the Magic City.” Oil City opposed the railroad strenuously,
refusing a right-of-way and compelling the choice of a circuitous route,
with difficult grades to climb and ugly ravines to span. At length a
consolidation of competing interests was arranged, to be formally
ratified on March twenty-ninth, 1866. Meanwhile rumors affecting the
credit of the Culver banks were circulated. Disastrous floods, the close
of the war and the amazing collapse of Pithole had checked speculation
and impaired confidence in oil-values. Responsible parties wished to
stock the Reno Company at five-million dollars and Mr. Culver was in
Washington completing the railroad-negotiations which, in one week,
would give him control of nearly a million. A run on his banks was
started, the strain could not be borne and on March twenty-seventh,
1866, the failure of Culver, Penn & Co. was announced. The assets at
cost largely exceeded the liabilities of four-million dollars, but the
natural result of the suspension was to discredit everything with which
the firm had been identified. The railroad-consolidation, confessedly
advantageous to all concerned, was not confirmed and Reno stock was
withheld from the market. While the creditors generally co-operated to
protect the assets and adjust matters fairly, a few defeated measures
looking to a safe deliverance. These short-sighted individuals
sacrificed properties, instituted harassing prosecutions and
precipitated a crisis that involved tremendous losses. Many a man
standing on his brother’s neck claims to be looking up far into the sky
watching for the Lord to come!

The fabric reared with infinite pains toppled, pulling down others in
its fall. The Reno, Oil-Creek & Pithole Railroad, within a mile of
completion, crumbled into ruin. The architect of the splendid plans that
ten days of grace would have carried to fruition displayed his manly
fiber in the dark days of adversity and he has been amply vindicated.
Instead of yielding to despair and “letting things take their course,”
he strove to realize for the creditors every dollar that could be saved
from the wreck. Animated by a lofty motive, for thirty years Mr. Culver
has labored tirelessly to discharge the debts of the partnership. No
spirit could be braver, no life more unselfish, no line of action more
steadfastly devoted to a worthy object. He had bought property and
sought to enhance its value, but he had never gambled in stocks, never
dealt in shares on the mere hazard of a rise or gone outside the
business—except to help customers whose necessities appealed to his
sympathy—with which he was intimately connected. Driven to the wall by
stress of circumstances and general distrust, he has actually paid off
all the small claims and multitudes of large ones against his banks. How
many men, with no legal obligation to enforce their payment, would toil
for a generation to meet such demands? Thistles do not bear figs and
banana-vendors are not the only persons who should be judged by their
fruits. It is a good thing to achieve success and better still to
deserve it. Gauged by the standard of high resolve, earnest purpose and
persistent endeavor—by what he has tried to do and not by what may have
been said of him—Charles Vernon Culver can afford to accept the verdict
of his peers and of the Omniscient Judge, who “discerns the thoughts and
intents of the heart.”

           “I will go on then, though the limbs may tire,
             And though the path be doubtful and unseen;
           Better with the last effort to expire
             Than lose the toil and struggle that have been,
           And have the morning strength, the upward strain,
           The distance conquered in the end made vain.”

[Illustration: JAMES H. OSMER.]

Reorganized in the interest of Culver, Penn & Co.’s creditors, the Reno
Company developed its property methodically. No. 18 well, finished in
May of 1870, pumped two-hundred barrels and caused a flutter of
excitement. Fifty others, drilled in 1870-1, were so satisfactory that
the stockholders might have shouted “Keno!” The company declined to
lease and very few dry-holes were put down on the tract. Gas supplied
fuel and the sand, coarse and pebbly, produced oil of superior gravity
at five to six-hundred feet. Reno grew, a spacious hotel was built,
stores prospered, two railroads had stations and derricks dotted the
banks of the Allegheny. The company’s business was conducted admirably,
it reaped liberal profits and operated in Forest county. Its affairs are
in excellent shape and it has a neat production today. Mr. Culver and
Hon. Galusha A. Grow have been its presidents and Hon. J. H. Osmer is
now the chief officer. Mr. Osmer is a leader of the Venango bar and has
lived at Franklin thirty-two years. His thorough knowledge of law,
sturdy independence, scorn of pettifogging and skill as a pleader gained
him an immense practice. He has been retained in nearly all the most
important cases before the court for twenty-five years and appears
frequently in the State and the United-States Supreme Courts. He is a
logical reasoner and brilliant orator, convincing juries and audiences
by his incisive arguments. He served in Congress with distinguished
credit. His two sons have adopted the legal profession and are
associated with their father. A man of positive individuality and
sterling character, a friend in cloud and sunshine, a deep thinker and
entertaining talker is James H. Osmer.

Cranberry township, a regular petroleum-huckleberry, duplicated the Reno
pool at Milton, with a vigorous offshoot at Bredinsburg and nibbles
lying around loose. Below Franklin the second-sand sandwich and
Bully-Hill successes were special features. A mile up East Sandy
Creek—it separates Cranberry and Rockland—was Gas City, on a toploftical
hill twelve miles south of Oil City. A well sunk in 1864 had heaps of
gas, which caught fire and burned seven years. E. E. Wightman and
Patrick Canning drilled five good wells in 1871 and Gas City came into
being. Vendergrift & Forman constructed a pipeline and telegraph to Oil
City. Gas fired the boilers, lighted the streets, heated the dwellings
and great quantities wasted. The pressure could be run up to
three-hundred pounds and utilized to run engines in place of steam, were
it not for the fine grit with the gas, which wore out the cylinders.
Wells that supplied fuel to pump themselves seemed very similar to mills
that furnished their own motive-power and grist for the hoppers. A cow
that gave milk and provided food for herself by the process could not be
slicker. Gas City vaporized a year or two and flickered out. The last
jet has been extinguished and not a glimmer of gas or symptom of wells
has been visible for many years.

Fifteen of the first sixteen wells at Foster gladdened the owners by
yielding bountifully. To drill, to tube, to pump, to get done-up with a
dry-hole, “aye, there’s the rub” that tests a fellow’s mettle and
changes blithe hope to bleak despair. Foster wells were not of that
complexion. They lined the steep cliff that resembles an Alpine farm
tilted on end to drain off, the derricks standing like sentries on the
watch that nobody walked away with the romantic landscape. Lovers of the
sterner moods of nature would revel in the rugged scenery, which
discounts the overpraised Hudson and must have fostered sublime emotions
in the impassive redmen. Indian-God Rock, inscribed with untranslatable
hieroglyphics, presumably tells what “Lo” thought of the surroundings.
Six miles south of the huge rock, which somebody proposed to boat to
Franklin and set in the park as an interesting memento of the
aborigines, was “the burning well.” For years the gas blazed,
illuminating the hills and keeping a plot of grass constantly fresh and
green. The flood in 1865 overflowed the hole, but the gas burned just as
though water were its native element. It was the fad for sleighing
parties to visit the well, dance on the sward when snow lay a yard deep
ten rods away and hold outdoor picnics in January and February. This
practically realized the fancy of the boy who wished winter would come
in summer, that he might coast on the Fourth of July in shirt-sleeves
and linen-pants. Here and there in the interior of Rockland township
morsels of oil have been unearthed and small wells are pumping to-day.

C. D. Angell leased blocks of land from Foster to Scrubgrass in 1870-71
and jabbed them with holes that confirmed his “belt theory.” His first
well—a hundred-barreler—on Belle Island, a few rods below the station,
opened the Scrubgrass field. On the Rockland side of the river the
McMillan and 99 wells headed a list of remunerative producers. Back a
quarter-mile the territory was tricky, wells that showed for big strikes
sometimes proving of little account. A town toddled into existence.
Gregory—the genial host joined the heavenly host long ago—had a hotel at
which trains stopped for meals. James Kennerdell ran a general store and
the post-office. The town was busy and had nothing scrubby except the
name. The wells retired from business, the depot burned down, the people
vanished and Kennerdell Station was established a half-mile north.
Wilson Cross continued his store at the old stand until his death in
March, 1896. Within a year paying wells have been drilled near the
station and two miles southward. On the opposite bank Major W. T. Baum,
of Franklin, has a half-dozen along the base of the hill that net him a
princely return. A couple of miles north-west, in Victory township,
Conway Brothers, of Philadelphia, recently drilled a well forty-two
hundred feet. The last sixty feet were sand with a flavor of oil, the
deepest sand and petroleum recorded up to the present time. Careful
records of the strata and temperature were taken. Once a thermometer
slipped from Mr. Conway’s hand and tumbled to the bottom of the well,
the greatest drop of the mercury in any age or clime.

Sixty farmers combined in the fall of 1859 to drill the first well in
Scrubgrass township, on the Rhodabarger tract. They rushed it like sixty
six-hundred feet, declined to pay more assessments, kicked over the
dashboard and spilled the whole combination. The first productive well
was Aaron Kepler’s, drilled on the Russell farm in 1863, and John
Crawford’s farm had the largest of the early ventures. On the Witherup
farm, at the mouth of Scrubgrass Creek, paying wells were drilled in
1867. Considerable skirmishing was done at intervals without startling
results. The first drilling in Clinton township was on. the Kennerdell
property, two miles west of the Allegheny, the Big-Bend Oil-Company
sinking a dry-hole in 1864-5. Jonathan Watson bored two in 1871, finding
traces of oil in a thin layer of sand. The Kennerdell block of
nine-hundred acres figured as the scene of milling operations from the
beginning of the century. David Phipps—the Phipps families are still
among the most prominent in Venango county—built a grist-mill on the
property in 1812, a saw-mill and a woolen-factory, operated an
iron-furnace a mile up the creek and founded a natty village. Fire
destroyed his factory and Richard Kennerdel bought the place in 1853. He
built a woolen-mill that attained national celebrity, farmed
extensively, conducted a large store and for thirty years was a leading
business-man. A handsome fortune, derived from manufacturing and
oil-wells on his lands, and the respect of all classes rewarded the
enterprise, sagacity and hospitality of this progressive citizen. The
factory he reared has been dismantled, the pretty little settlement amid
the romantic hills of Clinton is deserted and the man to whom both owed
their development rests from his labors. Mr. Kennerdell possessed
boundless energy, decision and the masterly qualities that surmount
obstacles, build up a community and round out a manly character. Cornen
Brothers have a production on the Kennerdell tract, which they purchased
in 1892. During the Bullion furore a bridge was built at Scrubgrass and
a railroad to Kennerdell was constructed. Ice carried off the bridge and
the faithful old ferry holds the fort as in the days of John A. Canan
and George McCullough.

Phillips Brothers, who had operated largely on Oil Creek and in Butler
county, leased thousands of acres in Clinton and drilled a number of
dry-holes. Believing a rich pool existed in that latitude, they were not
deterred by reverses that would have stampeded operators of less
experience. On August ninth, 1876, John Taylor and Robert Cundle
finished a two-hundred-barrel spouter on the George W. Gealy farm, two
miles north of Kennerdell. They sold to Phillips Brothers, who were
drilling on adjacent farms. The new strike opened the Bullion field,
toward which the current turned forthwith. H. L. Taylor and John
Satterfield, the biggest operators in Butler, visited the Gealy well and
offered a half-million dollars for the Phillips interests in Clinton. A
hundred oilmen stood watching the flow that August morning. The parties
consulted briefly and Isaac Phillips invited me to walk with him a few
rods. He said: “Taylor & Satterfield wish to take our property at
five-hundred-thousand dollars. This is a good deal of money, but we have
declined it. We think there will be a million in this field for us if we
develop it ourselves.” They carried out this programme and the estimate
was approximated closely.

[Illustration: J. J. MYERS.]

The Sutton, Simcox, Taylor, Henderson, Davis, Gealy, Newton and
Berringer farms were operated rapidly. Tack Brothers paid ten-thousand
dollars to Taylor for thirty acres and Porter Phipps leased fifteen
acres, which he sold to Emerson & Brownson, whose first well started at
seven-hundred barrels. Phillips Brothers’ No. 3 well, on the Gealy farm,
was a four-hundred-barreler. In January, 1877, Frank Nesbit’s No. 2,
Henderson farm, flowed five-hundred barrels, and in February the
Galloway began at two-hundred. The McCalmont Oil-Company’s Big Medicine,
on the Newton Farm, tipped the beam at one-thousand barrels on June
seventh. Mitchell & Lee’s Big Injun flowed three-thousand barrels on
June eighteenth, the biggest yield in the district. Ten yards away a
galaxy of Franklinites drilled the driest kind of a dry-hole. In August
the McCalmont No. 31 and the Phillips No. 7 gauged a plump thousand
apiece. These were the largest wells and they exhausted speedily. The
oil from the Gealy No. 1 was hauled to Scrubgrass until connections
could be laid to the United Pipe-Lines. The Bullion field, in which a
few skeleton-wells produce a few barrels daily, extended seven miles in
length and three-eighths of a mile in width. Like the business-end of a
healthy wasp, “it was little, but—oh, my!” It swerved the tide from
Bradford and ruled the petroleum-roost eighteen months. Summit City on
the Simcox farm, Berringer City on the Berringer farm, and Dean City on
the McCalmont farm flourished during the excitement. The first house at
Summit was built on December eighth, 1876. In June of 1877 the town
boasted two-hundred buildings and fifteen-hundred population. Abram
Myers, the last resident, left in April of 1889. All three towns have
“faded into nothingness” and of the five-hundred wells producing at the
summit of Bullion’s short-lived prosperity not a dozen survive. Westward
a new strip was opened, the wells on several farms yielding their owners
a pleasant income. J. J. Myers, whose home is now at Hartstown, operated
successfully in this district. George Rumsey, an enterprising citizen,
is the lucky owner of a number of slick wells. The pretty town of
Clintonville has been largely benefited by oil-operations in the
vicinity. It is surrounded by a fine agricultural country and possesses
many desirable features as a place of residence. Bullion had its turn
and others were to follow in short meter.

[Illustration: GEO. RUMSEY.]

               “’Tis not too late to seek a newer world,
               Tho’ much is taken, much abides.”

[Illustration: VIEW ON RITCHEY RUN.]

Major St. George—the kindly old man sleeps in the Franklin cemetery—had
a bunch of wells and lived in a small house close to the
Allegheny-Valley track, near the siding in Rockland township that bears
his name. At Rockland Station a stone chimney, a landmark for many
years, marked the early abode of Hon. Elisha W. Davis, who operated at
Franklin, was speaker of the House of Representatives and the
State-Senate five terms and spent the closing years of his active life
in Philadelphia. Emlenton, the lively town at the south-eastern corner
of Venango county, was a thriving place prior to the oil-development.
The wells in the vicinity were generally medium, Ritchey Run having some
of the best. This romantic stream, south of the town, borders Clarion
county for a mile or two from its mouth. John Kerr, a squatter, cleared
a portion of the forest and was drowned in the river, slipping off a
flat rock two miles below his bit of land. The site of Emlenton was
surveyed and the warrant from the state given in 1796 to Samuel B. Fox,
great-grandfather of the late William Logan Fox and J. M. Fox, of
Foxburg. Joseph M., son of Samuel B. Fox, settled on the land in 1827.
Andrew McCaslin owned the tract above, from about where the Valley Hotel
and the public-school now stand. He was elected sheriff in 1832 and
built an iron-furnace. As a compliment to Mrs. Fox—Miss Hanna Emlen—he
named the hamlet Emlenton. Doctor James Growe built the third house in
the settlement. The covered wooden-bridge, usually supposed to have been
brought over in the Mayflower, withstood floods and ice-gorges until
April of 1883. John Keating, who had the second store, built a furnace
near St. Petersburg and held a thousand acres of land. Oil-producers
were well represented in the growing town, which has been the home of
Marcus Hulings, L. E. Mallory, D. D. Moriarty, M. C. Treat and R. W.
Porterfield. James Bennett, a leader in business, built the brick
opera-house and the flour-mills and headed the company that built the
Emlenton & Shippenville Railroad, which ran to Edenburg at the height of
the Clarion development. Emlenton is supplied with natural-gas and noted
for good schools, good hotels and get-up-and-get citizens and is
wide-awake in every respect.

[Illustration: DR. A. W. CRAWFORD.]

Dr. A. W. Crawford, of Emlenton, who served in the Legislature, was
appointed consul to Antwerp by President Lincoln in 1861. At the time he
reached Antwerp a cheap illuminant was unknown on the continent. Gas was
used in the cities, but the people of Antwerp depended mainly upon
rape-seed oil. Only wealthy people could afford it and the poorer folks
went to bed in the dark. From Antwerp to Brussels the country was
shrouded in gloom at night. Not a light could be seen outside the towns,
in the most populous section on earth. A few gallons of American refined
had appeared in Antwerp previous to Dr. Crawford’s arrival. It was
regarded as an object of curiosity. A leading firm inquired about this
new American product and Dr. Crawford was the man who could give the
information. He was from the very part of the country where the new
illuminant was produced. The upshot of the matter was that Dr. Crawford
put the firm in communication with American shippers, which led to an
order of forty barrels by Aug. Schmitz & Son, Antwerp dealers. The
article had tremendous prejudice to overcome, but the exporters
succeeded in finally disposing of their stock. It yielded them a net
return of forty francs. The oil won its way and from the humble
beginning of forty barrels in 1861, the following year witnessing a
demand for fifteen-hundred-thousand gallons. By 1863 it had come largely
into use and since that time it has become a staple article of commerce.
Dr. Crawford served as consul at Antwerp until 1866, when he returned
home and began a successful career as an oil-producer. It was fortunate
that Col. Drake chanced upon the shallowest spot in the oil-regions
where petroleum has ever been found, when he located the first well, and
equally lucky that a practical oilman represented the United States at
Antwerp in 1861. Had Drake chanced upon a dry-hole and some other man
been consul at Antwerp, oil-developments might have been retarded for

                     “Oft what seems a trifle,
         A mere nothing in itself, in some nice situations
         Turns the scale of Fate and rules important actions.”

It is interesting to note that in the original land-warrants to Samuel
M. Fox certain mineral-rights are reserved, although oil is not
specified. A clause in each of the documents reads:

* * * “To the use of him, the said Samuel M. Fox, his heirs and assigns
forever, free and clear of all restriction and reservation as to mines,
royalties, quit-rents or otherwise, excepting and reserving only the
fifth part of all gold and silver-ore for the use of this Commonwealth,
to be delivered at the pit’s mouth free of all charges.”

The lands of Joseph M. Fox extended five miles down the Allegheny, to
the north bank of the Clarion River. He built a home a mile back of the
Allegheny and endeavored to have the county-seat established at the
junction of the two streams. The village of Foxburg, which bears the
family-name and is four miles below Emlenton, had no existence until
long after his death. Contrary to the accepted opinion, he was not a
Quaker, nor do his descendants belong to the Society of Friends or any
religious denomination in particular.

The prudence and wisdom of his father’s policy left the estate in
excellent shape when its management devolved largely upon W. L. Fox.
Progressive and far-seeing, the young man possessed in eminent degree
the business-qualities needed to handle vast interests successfully. His
honored mother and his younger brother aided him in building up and
constantly improving the rich heritage. Oil-operations upon and around
it added enormously to the value of the property. Hundreds of prolific
wells yielded bounteously and the town of Foxburg blossomed into the
prettiest spot on the banks of the Allegheny. The Foxes erected a
spacious school and hotel, graded the streets, put up dainty residences
and fostered the growing community most generously. A bank was
established, stores and dwellings multiplied, the best people found the
surroundings congenial and the lawless element had no place in the
attractive settlement. The master-hand of William Logan Fox was visible
everywhere. With him to plan was to execute. He constructed the railroad
that connected Foxburg with St. Petersburg, Edenburg and Clarion. The
slow hacks gave way to the swift iron-horse that brought the interior
towns into close communication with each other and the world outside. It
would be impossible to estimate the advantage of this enterprise to the
producers and the citizens of the adjacent country.


The narrow-gauge railroad from Foxburg to Clarion was an engineering
novelty. It zig-zagged to overcome the big hill at the start, twisted
around ravines and crossed gorges on dizzy trestles. Near Clarion was
the highest and longest bridge, a wooden structure on stilts, curved and
single-tracked. One dark night a drummer employed by a Pittsburg house
was drawn over it safely in a buggy. The horse left the wagon-road, got
on the railroad-track, walked across the bridge—the ties supporting the
rails were a foot apart—and fetched up at his stable about midnight. The
drummer, who had imbibed too freely and was fast asleep in the vehicle,
knew nothing of the drive, which the marks of the wheels on the
approaches and the ties revealed next morning. The horse kept closely to
the center of the track, while the wheels on the right were outside the
rails. Had the faithful animal veered a foot to the right, the buggy
would have tumbled over the trestle and there would have been a vacant
chair in commercial ranks and a new voice in the celestial choir. That
the horse did not step between the ties and stick fast was a wonder. The
trip was as perilous as the Mohammedan passage to Paradise over a
slack-wire or Blondin’s tight-rope trip across Niagara.

Mr. Fox’s busy brain conceived even greater things for the benefit of
the neighborhood. Millions of capital enabled him to carry out the ideas
of his resourceful mind. He created opportunities to invest his wealth
in ways that meant the greatest good to the greatest number. The family
heartily seconded his efforts to advance the general welfare. He built
and operated the only extensive individual pipe-line in the oil-regions.
To extend the trade and influence of Foxburg he devised new lines of
railway, which would traverse a section abounding in coal, timber and
agricultural products. He outlined the plan of an immense refinery,
designed to employ a host of skilled workmen and utilize the crude-oil
derived from the wells within several miles of his home. In the midst of
these and other useful projects, in the very heyday of vigorous manhood,
just as the full fruition of his highest hopes seemed about to be
grandly realized, the end of his bright career came suddenly. His death,
met in the discharge of duty, was almost tragic in its manner and

[Illustration: WILLIAM LOGAN FOX.]

In February of 1880 Conductor W. W. Gaither, of the Foxburg-Clarion
Railroad, ejected a peddler named John Clancy from his train, near
King’s Mills, for refusing to pay his fare. Clancy shot Gaither, who
died in a few days from the wound. W. L. Fox was the president of the
road and a warm personal friend of the murdered conductor. He took
charge of the pistol and became active in bringing Clancy to punishment.
Clancy was placed on trial at Clarion. President Fox was to produce the
pistol in court. Leaving home on the early train for Clarion, he had
proceeded some distance from Foxburg when he discovered he had forgotten
the pistol. He stopped the train and ran back to get the weapon. When he
returned he was almost exhausted. W. J. McConnell, beside whom he was
sitting, attempted to revive him, but he sank into unconsciousness and
expired in the car near the spot where his friend Gaither was shot.
Clancy was convicted of murder in the second degree and sentenced to
eight years in the penitentiary. His wife and twelve-year-old son were
left destitute. The boy went to work for a farmer near St. Petersburg. A
week later, it is said, he was crossing a field in which a vicious bull
was feeding. The bull attacked him, ripped his side open, tossed him
from the field into the road and the boy died in a short time. Besides
these fatalities resulting from Clancy’s crime, the business of Foxburg
was seriously crippled. The village depended mainly upon the
oil-business of the Fox estate, of which Mr. Fox, although only
twenty-nine years old, was manager. Its three-thousand acres of
oil-territory, but partially developed, yielded forty-five-thousand
barrels of crude a month. The refinery was never built, the pipe-line
was sold and extensive development of the property practically ceased.
The pathetic death of William Logan Fox took the distribution of a
million dollars a year from the region about Foxburg. The stricken
family erected a splendid church to his memory, but it is seldom used.
Much of its trade and population has sought other fields and the pretty
town is merely a shadow of the past.

                 “The massive gates of circumstance
                   Are turned upon the smallest hinge,
                 And thus some seeming pettiest chance
                   Oft gives our life its after tinge.”

Fertig & Hammond drilled numerous wells on the Fox estate in 1870-71 and
started a bank. Operations were pressed actively by producers from the
upper districts. Foxburg was the jumping off point for pilgrims to the
Clarion field, which Galey No. 1 well, on Grass Flats, inaugurated in
August, 1871. Others on the Flats, ranging from thirty to eighty
barrels, boomed Foxburg and speedily advanced St. Petersburg, three
miles inland, from a sleepy village of thirty houses to a busy town of
three-thousand population. In September of 1871 Marcus Hulings, whose
great specialty was opening new fields, finished a hundred-barrel well
on the Ashbaugh farm, a mile beyond St. Petersburg. The town of Antwerp
was one result. The first building, erected in the spring of 1872, in
sixty days had the company of four groceries, three hotels, innumerable
saloons, telegraph-office, school-house and two-hundred dwellings. Its
general style was summed up by the victim of a poker-game in the
expressive words: “If you want a smell of brimstone before supper go to
Antwerp!” Fire in 1873 wiped it off the face of the planet.

Charles H. Cramer, now proprietor of a hotel in Pittsburg, left the
Butler field to drill the Antwerp well, in which he had a
quarter-interest. James M. Lambing, for whom he had been drilling,
jokingly remarked: “When you return ‘broke’ from the wildcat well on the
Ashbaugh farm I will have another job for you.” It illustrates the ups
and downs of the oil business in the seventies to note that, when the
well was completed, Lambing had met with financial reverses and Cramer
was in a position to give out jobs on his own hook. Victor Gretter was
one of the spectators of the oil flowing over the derrick. The waste
suggested to him the idea of the oil-saver, which he patented. This
strike reduced the price of crude a dollar a barrel. Antwerp would have
been more important but for its nearness to St. Petersburg, which
disastrous fires in 1872-3 could not prevent from ranking with the best
towns of Oildom. Stages from Foxburg were crowded until the narrow-gauge
railroad furnished improved facilities for travel. Schools, churches,
hotels, newspapers, two banks and an opera-house flourished. The
Pickwick Club was a famous social organization. The Collner, Shoup,
Vensel, Palmer and Ashbaugh farms and Grass Flats produced
three-thousand barrels a day. Oil was five to six dollars and business
strode ahead like the wearer of the Seven-League Boots. Now the
erstwhile busy town is back to its pristine quietude and the farms that
produced oil have resumed the production of corn and grass.

A jolly Dutchman near St. Petersburg, who married his second wife soon
after the funeral of the first, was visited with a two-hours’ serenade
in token of disapproval. He expostulated pathetically thus: “I say,
poys, you ought to be ashamed of myself to be making all dish noise ven
der vas a funeral here purty soon not long ago.” This dispersed the
party more effectually than a bull-dog and a revolver could have done.

A girl just returned to St. Petersburg from a Boston high-school said,
upon seeing the new fire-engine at work: “Who would evah have dweamed
such a vewy diminutive looking apawatus would hold so much wattah!”

“Where are you going?” said mirth-loving Con. O’Donnell to an elderly
man in a white cravat whom he overtook on the outskirts of Antwerp and
proposed to invite to ride in his buggy. “I am going to heaven, my son.
I have been on my way for eighteen years.” “Well, good-bye, old fellow!
If you have been traveling toward heaven for eighteen years and got no
nearer than Antwerp, I will take another route.”

The course of operations extended past Keating Furnace, up and beyond
Turkey Run, a dozen miles from the mouth of the Clarion River. Good
wells on the Ritts and Neeley farms originated Richmond, a small place
that fizzled out in a year. The Irwin well, a mile farther, flowed
three-hundred barrels in September of 1872. The gas took fire and burned
three men to death. The entire ravine and contiguous slopes proved
desirable territory, although the streak rarely exceeded a mile in
breadth. Turkey City, in a nice expanse to the east of the famous
Slicker farm, for months was second only to St. Petersburg as a frontier
town. It had four stages to Foxburg, a post-office, daily mail-service
and two passable hotels. George Washington, who took a hack at a
cherry-tree, might have preferred walking to the drive over the rough,
cut-up roads that led to and from Turkey City. The wells averaged
eleven-hundred feet, with excellent sand and loads of gas for fuel.
Richard Owen and Alan Cochran, of Rouseville, opened a jack-pot on the
Johnson farm, above town. Wells lasted for years and this nook of the
Clarion district could match pennies with any other in the business of
producing oil.

Northward two miles was Dogtown, beautifully situated in the midst of a
rich agricultural section. The descendents of the first settlers retain
their characteristics of their German ancestors. Frugal, honest and
industrious, they live comfortably in their narrow sphere and save their
gains. The Delo farm, another mile north, was for a time the limit of
developments. True to his instincts as a discoverer of new territory,
Marcus Hulings went six miles north-east of St. Petersburg, leased B.
Delo’s farm and drilled a forty-barrel well in the spring of 1872.
Enormous quantities of gas were found in the second sand. The oil was
piped to Oil City. A half-mile east, on the Hummell farm, Salem
township, Lee & Plumer struck a hundred-barreler in July of 1872. The
Hummell farm had been occupied for sixty years by a venerable Teuton,
whose rustic son of fifty-five summers described himself as “the
pishness man ov the firm.” The new well, twelve-hundred feet deep, had
twenty-eight feet of nice sand and considerable gas. Its success bore
fruit speedily in the shape of a “town” dubbed Pickwick by Plumer, who
belonged to the redoubtable Pickwick Club at St. Petersburg. A
quarter-mile ahead, on a three-cornered plot, Triangle City bloomed. The
first building was a hotel and the second a hardware store, owned by
Lavens & Evans. Charles Lavens operated largely in the Clarion region
and in the northern field, lived at Franklin several years and removed
to Bradford. He is president of the Bradford Commercial Bank and a
tip-top fellow at all times and under all circumstances. Evans may claim
recognition as the author, in the muddled days of shut-downs and
suspensions in 1872, of the world-famed platform of the Grass-Flats
producers: “Resolved that we don’t care a damn!” The three tailors of
Tooley street, who issued a manifesto as “We, the people of England,”
were outclassed by Evans and his friends. News of their action was
flashed to every “council” and “union” in the oil-country, with more
stimulating effect than a whole broadside of formal declarations.
Triangle, Pickwick and Paris City have passed to the realm of

Marcus Hulings, a leader in the world of petroleum, was born near
Philipsburg, Clarion county, and began his career as a producer in 1860.
For some years he had been a contractor and builder and he turned his
practical knowledge of mechanics to good account. His earliest
oil-venture was a well on the Allegheny River above Oil City, for which
he refused sixty-thousand dollars. To be nearer the producing-fields, he
removed to Emlenton and resided there a number of years. The Hulings
family had been identified with Venango county from the first
settlement, one of them establishing a ferry at Franklin a century ago.
Prior to that date the family owned and lived on what is now Duncan’s
Island, at the junction of the Susquehanna and Juniata Rivers, fifteen
miles north-west of Harrisburg. Marcus was a pathfinder in Forest county
and opened the Clarion region. He leased Clark & Babcock’s six-thousand
acres in McKean county and drilled hundreds of paying wells. Deciding to
locate at Oil City, he built an elegant home on the South Side and
bought a delightful place in Crawford county for a summer residence. His
liberality, enterprise and energy seemed inexhaustible. He donated a
magnificent hall to Allegheny College, Meadville, aided churches and
schools, relieved the poor and was active in political affairs. Besides
his vast oil-interests he had mines in Arizona and California, mills on
the Pacific coast and huge lumber-tracts in West Virginia. Self-poised
and self-reliant, daring yet prudent, brave and trustworthy, he was one
of the grandest representatives of the petroleum-industry. Neither
puffed up by prosperity nor unduly cast down by adversity, he met
obstacles resolutely and accepted results manfully. My last talk with
him was at Pittsburg, where he told of his endeavor to organize a
company to develop silver-claims in Mexico. He had grown older and
weaker, but the earnestness of youth was still his possession. His eyes
sparkled and his face lightened as he shook my hand at parting and said:
“You will hear from me soon. If this company can be organized I would
not exchange my Mexican properties for the wealth of the Astors!”



He died in a few weeks, his dream unfulfilled. Losses in the west had
reduced his fortune without impairing his splendid courage, hope and
patience. He united the endurance of a soldier with the skill of a
commander. Marcus Hulings deserved to enjoy a winter of old age as green
as spring, as full of blossoms as summer, as generous as autumn. His
son, Hon. Willis J. Hulings, served in the Legislature three terms. He
introduced the bills prohibiting railroad-discriminations and was a
strong debater on the floor. Senator Quay favored him for State
Treasurer and attempted to stampede the convention which nominated
William Livsey. This was the beginning of the differences between Quay
and the combine which culminated in the rout of the latter and the
triumph of the Beaver statesman in 1895-6. Mr. Hulings lives at Oil
City, has a beautiful home and is colonel of the Sixteenth Regiment of
the National Guards. He practiced law in 1877-81, then devoted his
attention to oil-operations, to mining and lumbering, in which he is at
present actively engaged.

John Lee drilled his first well on the Hoover farm, near Franklin, in
1860, and he is operating to-day in Clinton and Rockland townships. He
has had his share of storm and sunshine, from dusters at Nickelville to
a slice of the Big Injun at Bullion, in the shifting panorama of
oil-developments for thirty-six years, but his fortitude and manliness
never flinched. He is no sour dyspeptic, whose conduct depends upon what
he eats for breakfast and who cannot believe the world is O. K. if he
drills a dry-hole occasionally.

Frederick C. Plumer and John Lee, partners in the Clarion and Butler
fields, were successful operators. Their wells on the Hummell farm
netted handsome returns. By a piece of clever strategy they secured the
Diviner tract, drilled a well that extended the territory two miles
south of Millerstown and sold out for ninety-thousand dollars. Plumer
quit with a competence, purchased his former hardware-store at
Newcastle, took a flyer in the Bullion district and died at Franklin,
his birthplace and boyhood home, in 1879. “Fred” was a thorough man of
affairs, prompt, courteous, affable and popular. His long sickness was
borne cheerfully and he faced the end—he died at thirty-one—without
repining. His wife and daughter have joined him in the land of deathless

                            “Over the river!
                Sailing on waters where lotuses smile,
                Passing by many a tropical isle,
                Sighting savannas there mile upon mile,
                            Over the river!
                Music forever and beauty for aye,
                Sunlight unending—the sunlight and day,
                Never a farewell to weep on the way,
                            Over the river!”


East, north and west the area of prolific territory widened. Wells on
the Young farm started a jaunty development at Jefferson Furnace. Once
the scene of activity in iron-manufacture, the old furnace had been
neglected for three decades. Oil awakened the spot from its
Rip-Van-Winkle slumber. A narrow-gauge railroad crossed Beaver Creek on
a dizzy trestle, which afforded an enticing view of derricks, streams,
hills, dales, cleared farms and wooded slopes. The wells have pumped
out, the railroad has been switched off and the stout furnace stands
again in its solitary dignity. James M. Guffey, J. T. Jones, Wesley
Chambers and other live operators kept branching out until Beaver City,
Mongtown, Mertina, Edenburg, Knox, Elk City, Fern City and Jerusalem,
with Cogley as a supplement, were the centers of a production that
aggregated ten-thousand barrels a day. The St. Lawrence well, on the
Bowers farm, a mile north of Edenburg, was finished in June of 1872 and
directed attention to Elk township. For two years it pumped sixty-nine
barrels a day, six days each week, the owners shutting it down on
Sunday. Previously Captain Hasson, of Oil City, and R. Richardson, then
of Tarr Farm and now of Franklin, had drilled in the vicinity. Ten
dusters north of the Bowers farm augured poorly for the St. Lawrence. It
disappointed the prophets of evil by striking a capital sand and
producing with a regularity surpassed only by one well on Cherry Run. It
was not “a lovely toy, most fiercely sought, that lost its charm by
being caught.”

The St. Lawrence jumped the northern end of the Clarion district to the
front. Hundreds of wells ushered in new towns. Knox, on the Bowers farm,
attained a post-office, a hardware store and a dozen dwellings, its
proximity to Edenburg preventing larger growth. The cross-roads
collection of five houses and a store known as Edenburg progressed
immensely. John Mendenhall and J. I. Best’s farm-houses, ’Squire
Kribbs’s country-store and justice-mill, a blacksmith-shop and three
dwellings constituted the place at the date of the St. Lawrence advent.
The nearest hotel—the Berlin House—was three miles northward. In six
months the quiet village became a busy, hustling, prosperous town of
twenty-five hundred population. It had fine hotels, fine stores, banks
and people whom a destructive fire—it eliminated two-thirds of the
buildings in one night—could not “send to the bench.” When the flames
had been subdued, a crowd of sufferers gathered at two o’clock in the
morning, sang “Home, Sweet Home,” and at seven were clearing away the
embers to rebuild. Narrow-gauge railroads were built and the folks
didn’t scare at the cars. Elk City flung its antlers to the breeze two
miles east. Isaac N. Patterson—he is president of the Franklin Savings
Bank and a big operator in Indiana—had a creamy patch on the Kaiser
farm. Jerusalem’s first arrival—Guffey’s wells created it—was a Clarion
delegate with a tent and a cargo of liquids. He dealt the drink over a
rough board, improvised as a counter, so briskly that his receipts in
two days footed up seven-hundred dollars. He had no license, an officer
got on the trail and the vendor decamped. He is now advance-agent of a
popular show, wears diamonds the size of walnuts and tells hosts of
oil-region stories. The Clarion field was not inflamed by enormous
gushers, but the wells averaged nicely and possessed the cardinal virtue
of enduring year after year. It is Old Sol, steady and persevering, and
not the flashing meteor, “a moment here, then gone forever,” that lights
and heats the earth and is the fellow to bank upon.

An Edenburg mother fed her year-old baby on sliced cucumbers and milk,
and then desired the prayers of the church “because the Lord took away
her darling.” “How is the baby?” anxiously inquired one lady of another
at Beaver City. “Oh, baby died last week, I thank you,” was the
equivocal reply.

Some of the oilmen were liberally endowed with the devotional sentiment.
When the news of a blazing tank of oil at Mertina reached Edenburg, a
jolly operator telegraphed the fact to Oil City, with the addendum:
“Everything has gone hellward.” A half-hour later came his second
dispatch: “The oil is blazing, with big flames going heavenward.” Such a
happy blending of the infernal with the celestial is seldom witnessed in
ordinary business.

The behavior of some people in a crisis is a wonderful puzzle, sometimes
funnier than a pig-circus. At the St. Petersburg fire, which sent half
the town up in smoke, an old woman rescued from the Adams House, with a
bag of money containing four-hundred dollars, was indignant that her
fifty-cent spectacles had been left to burn. A male guest stormed over
the loss of his satchel, which a servant had carried into the street,
and threatened a suit for damages. The satchel was found and opened. It
had a pair of dirty socks, two dirty collars, a comb and a toothbrush!
The man with presence of mind to throw his mother-in-law from the
fourth-story window and carry a feather-pillow down stairs was not on
hand. St. Petersburg had no four-story buildings.

John Kiley and “Ed.” Callaghan headed a circle of jolly jokers at
Triangle City and Edenburg. Hatching practical sells was their meat and
drink. One evening they employed a stranger to personate a constable
from Clarion and arrest a pipe-line clerk for the paternity of a bogus
offspring. In vain the astonished victim protested his innocence,
although he acknowledged knowing the alleged mother of the alleged kid.
The minion of the law turned a deaf ear to his prayers for release, but
consented to let him go until morning upon paying a five-dollar note.
The poor fellow thought of an everlasting flight from Oildom and was
leaving the room to pack up his satchel when the “constable” appeared
with a supply of fluids. The joke was explained and the crowd liquidated
at the expense of the subject of their pleasantry. Kiley was an oilman
and operated in the northern fields. Callaghan slung lightning in the
telegraph-office. He married at Edenburg and went to Chicago. His wife
procured a divorce and married a well-known Harrisburger.

A letter from his feminine sweetness, advising him to hurry up if he
wished her not to marry his rival, so flustrated an Edenburg druggist
that he imbibed a full tumbler of Jersey lightning. An irresistible
longing to lie down seized him and he stretched himself for a nap on a
lounge in a room back of the store. John Kiley discovered the sleeping
beauty, spread a sheet over him and prepared for a little sport. He let
down the blinds, hung a piece of crape on the door and rushed out to
announce that “Jim” was dead. People flocked to learn the particulars.
Entering the drug-store a placard met their gaze: “Walk lightly, not to
disturb the corpse!” They were next taken to the door of the rear
apartment, to see a pair of boots protruding from beneath a sheet.
Nobody was permitted to touch the body, on a plea that it must await the
coroner, but the friends were invited to drink to the memory of the
deceased pill-dispenser and suggest the best time for his funeral. Thus
matters continued two hours, when the “corpse” wakened up, kicked off
the sheet and walked out! His friends at first refused to recognize him,
declaring the apparition was a ghost, but finally consented to renew the
acquaintance upon condition that he “set ’em up” for the thirsty

A Clarion operator, having to spend Sunday in New York, strayed into a
fashionable church and was shown to a swell seat. Shortly after a
gentleman walked down the aisle, glared at the stranger, drew a pencil
from his pocket, wrote a moment and handed him a slip of paper
inscribed, “This is my pew.” The unabashed Clarionite didn’t bluff a
little bit. He wrote and handed back the paper: “It’s a darned nice pew.
How much rent do you ante up for it?” The New-Yorker saw the joke, sat
down quietly and when the service closed shook hands with the intruder
and asked him to dinner. The acquaintance begun so oddly ripened into a
poker-game next evening, at which the oilman won enough from the city
clubman to pay ten years’ pew-rent. At parting he remarked: “Who’s in
the wrong pew now?” Then he whistled softly: “Let me off at Buffalo!”

Clarion’s products were not confined to prize pumpkins, mammoth corn and
oil-wells. The staunch county supplied the tallest member of the
National Guard, in the person of Thomas Near, twenty-one years old, six
feet eleven in altitudinous measurement and about twice the thickness of
a fence-rail. The Clarion company was mustered in at Meadville. General
Latta’s look of astonishment as he surveyed the latitude and longitude
of the new recruit was exceedingly comical. He rushed to Governor
Hartranft and whispered, “Where in the name of Goliath did you pick up
that young Anak?” At the next annual review Near stood at the end of the
Clarion column. A staff-officer, noticing a man towering a foot above
his comrades, spurred his horse across the field and yelled: “Get down
off that stump, you blankety-blank son of a gun!” The tall boy did not
“get down” and the enraged officer did not discover how it was until
within a rod of the line. His chagrin rivaled that of Moses Primrose
with the shagreen spectacles. Poor Near, long in inches and short in
years, was not long for this world and died in youthful manhood.

[Illustration: JAMES M. GUFFEY.]

[Illustration: WESLEY S. GUFFEY.]

Hon. James M. Guffey, one of Pennsylvania’s most popular and successful
citizens, began his career as a producer in the Clarion district. Born
and reared on a Westmoreland farm, his business aptitude early
manifested itself. In youth he went south to fill a position under the
superintendent of the Louisville & Nashville Railroad. The practical
training was put to good use by the earnest young Pennsylvanian. Its
opportunities for dash and energy to gain rich rewards attracted him to
the oil-region. Profiting by what he learned from the experiences of
others in Venango—a careful observer, he did not have to scorch himself
to find out that fire is hot—he located at St. Petersburg in 1872.
Clarion was budding into prominence as a prospective oil-field. Handling
well-machinery as agent of the Gibbs & Sterrett Manufacturing Company
brought him into close relations with operators and operations in the
new territory. He improved his advantages, leased lands, secured
interests in promising farms, drilled wells and soon stepped to the
front as a first-class producer. Fortune smiled upon the plucky
Westmorelander, whose tireless push and fearless courage cool judgment
and sound discretion tempered admirably. While always ready to accept
the risks incident to producing oil and developing untried sections, he
was not a reckless plunger, going ahead blindly and not counting the
cost. He decided promptly, moved forward resolutely and took nobody’s
dust. Those who endeavored to keep up with him had to “ride the horse of
Pacolet” and travel fast. He invested in pipe-lines and local
enterprises, helped every deserving cause, stood by his friends and his
convictions, believed in progress and acted strictly on the square. Not
one dollar of his splendid winnings came to him in a manner for which he
needs blush, or apologize or be ashamed to look any man on earth
straight in the face. He did not get his money at the expense of his
conscience, of his self-respect, of his generous instincts or of his
fellow-men. Of how many millionaires, in this age of shoddy and
chicanery, of jobbery and corruption, of low trickery and inordinate
desire for wealth, can this be said?

Mr. Guffey is an ardent Democrat, but sensible voters of all classes
wished him to represent them in Congress and gave him a superb send-off
in the oil-portion of the Clarion district. Unfortunately the fossils in
the back-townships prevented his nomination. The uncompromising foe of
ring-rule, boss-domination and machine-crookedness, he is a leader of
the best elements of his party and not a noisy ward-politician. His
voice is potent in Democratic councils and his name is familiar in every
corner of the producing-regions. His oil-operations have reached to
Butler, Forest, Warren, McKean and Allegheny counties. He furnished the
cash that unlocked the Kinzua pool and extended the Bradford field miles
up Foster Brook. In company with John Galey, Michael Murphy and Edward
Jennings, he drilled the renowned Matthews well and owned the juiciest
slice of the phenomenal McDonald field. He started developments in
Kansas, putting down scores of wells, erecting a refinery and giving the
state of Mary Ellen Lease a product drouths cannot blight nor
grasshoppers devour. He was largely instrumental in developing the
natural-gas fields of Western Pennsylvania, Ohio and Indiana, heading
the companies that piped it into Pittsburg, Johnstown, Wheeling,
Indianapolis and hundreds of small towns. He owns thousands of acres of
the famous gas-coal lands of his native county, vast coal-tracts in West
Virginia and valuable reality in Pittsburg. He lives in a handsome house
at East Liberty, brightened by a devoted wife and four children, and
dispenses a bountiful hospitality. Quick to mature and execute his
plans, he dispatches business with great celerity, keeping in touch
constantly with the details of his manifold enterprises. He is the soul
of honor in his dealings, liberal in his benefactions and always
approachable. His charm of manner, kindness of heart, keen intuition and
rare geniality draw men to him and inspire their confidence and regard.
He is a striking personality, his lithe frame, alert movements, flowing
hair, luxuriant mustache, rolling collar, streaming tie, frock-coat and
broad-brimmed hat suggesting General Custer. When at last the vital
fires burn low, when his brave heart beats weak and slow, when the
evening shadows lengthen and he enters the deepening dusk at the ending
of many happy years, James M. Guffey will have lived a life worth living
for its worth to himself, to his family, to the community and to the

               “The grass is softer to his tread
                 For rest it yields unnumber’d feet;
               Sweeter to him the wild rose red
                 Because it makes the whole world sweet.”

Wesley S. Guffey, for many years a prominent operator, resembles his
brother in enterprise, activity and the manly qualities that win
respect. He owns scores of productive wells, and the firm of Guffey &
Queen ranks high in the southern fields. He has labored zealously to
secure political reform and free Pittsburg, where he has his beautiful
home and office, from the odious thraldom of corrupt bossism. Unhappily
the last legislature defeated the efforts of good citizens in this
direction. Mr. Guffey is a fluent talker, knows lots of rich stories and
reckons his friends by whole battalions. Pride and meanness he despises
and “his word is his bond.” Another brother, John Guffey, has been
sheriff of Westmoreland county and is a leading citizen. The Guffeys are
men to trust implicitly, to tie to, to swear by and to bank upon at all
times and under all circumstances.

[Illustration: HENRY WETTER.]

Major Henry Wetter, the embodiment of honor and energy, was the largest
operator in the Clarion district until swamped by the low price of oil.
Death overtook him while struggling against heavy odds to recuperate his
health and fortune. How sad it is that the flower must die before the
fruit can bloom. A terrible decline in oil-values caused his failure in
1877 and compelled Merrick & Conley’s Edenburg bank to close.

                    “I falter where I firmly trod.”

Edenburg, in its prime the liveliest inland town the Clarion district
could boast, is in Beaver township, ten miles from Foxburg and Emlenton.
It was named by. J. G. Mendenhall, who located on a big farm and opened
the Eden Inn fifty years ago. Two farms, one two miles north and the
other a mile south-west of his home-farm, he dubbed Jerusalem and Egypt
respectively. Mendenhall lived to see all three tracts productive
oil-territory, with a busy town occupying part of the central tract. J.
I. Best, who died in 1880, was his early neighbor and P. F. Kribbs
started a country-store opposite the Mendenhall homestead. In the spring
of 1872 Balliet & Co. drilled a duster on the Best farm. Hahn & Co. had
similar ill-luck on the Kiser farm, a mile south, following in the wake
of W. J. Brundred’s dry-hole on the Eischelman tract a month previous.
The St. Lawrence strike changed the aspect of affairs and brought the
territory into notice. Wooden buildings were hurried up, wells were
rushed through the sand, crowds thronged the streets and Edenburg became
the centre of attraction. Page Maplestone had the first hotel, to which
Robert Orr quickly succeeded. The Winebrennerians had the first church,
chased closely by the Methodists. Two banks, countless stores and shops,
plenty of saloons, hundreds of houses and hosts of operators were soon
in evidence. Knox, Elk City, Slam Bang, Wentling, Jefferson, Beaver and
other suburban oil-towns put in an appearance. Ross Haney, D. J.
Wyncoop, Charles Lavens, A. J. Urquhart, Gray Brothers, G. M. Cushing,
Clark Hayes, B. F. Painter, J. D. Wolff, G. W. Moltz, Joseph E. Zuver,
James Travis, M. E. Hess, Charles Shaw and dozens of others were
familiar figures. J. M. Gifford launched the _Herald_, J. Edd Leslie
exploited the _Spirit_, Campbell Brothers loaded the _Oil-Times_ and Tom
Whittaker fired off the malodorous _Gattling Gun_. Col. J. S. Brown
dealt in real-estate and wrote breezily for the Oil-City _Derrick_. Sam
Magee, M. M. Meredith and William Wirt Johnson practised law. Major J.
B. Maitland managed the United Pipe-Lines and Goss Brothers owned the
best well in the diggings. Narrow-gauge railroads were built from
Emlenton and Foxburg, a borough charter was obtained and 1877 saw the
town at its highest point. Severe fires scourged it frightfully, the
Butler field lured many of the operators and Edenburg relapsed into a
tidy village.

Thomas McConnell, Smith K. Campbell, W. D. Robinson and Col. J. B.
Finlay, of Kittanning, in 1860 purchased two acres of land on the west
bank of the Allegheny, ninety rods above Tom’s Run, from Elisha
Robinson. Organizing the Foxburg Oil-Company of sixteen shares, they
drilled a well four-hundred-and-sixty feet. An obstruction delayed work
a few days, the war broke out and the well was abandoned. The same
parties paid Robinson five-thousand dollars in 1865 for one-hundred
acres and sold thirty to Philadelphia capitalists. The latter formed the
Clarion and Allegheny-River Oil-Company and sunk a well which struck oil
on October tenth, the first produced in the upper end of Armstrong
county and the beginning of the Parker development. Venango was drooping
and operators sought the southern trail. The Robinson farm was not
perforated as quickly as “you could say Jack Robinson,” the owners
choosing not to cut it into small leases, but other tracts were seized
eagerly. Drilled deeper, the original Robinson well was utterly dry! Had
it been finished in 1860-1 the territory might have been condemned and
the Parker field never heard of!

John Galey’s hundred-barrel well, drilled in 1869 on the island above
Parker, relieved the monotony of commonplace strikes—twenty to fifty
barrels—on the Robinson and adjacent farms and elevated the district to
the top rung of the ladder. Parker’s Landing—a ferry and a dozen
houses—named from a pioneer settler, ambled merrily to the head of the
procession. The center of operations that stretched into Butler county
and demonstrated the existence of three greasy streaks, Parker speedily
became a red-hot town of three-thousand inhabitants. Hotels, stores,
offices, banks and houses crowded the strip of land at the base of the
steep cliff, surged over the hill, absorbed the suburbs of Lawrenceburg
and Farrentown and proudly wore the title of “Parker City.” Hosts of
capital fellows made life a perpetual whirl of business and jollity.
Operators of every class and condition, men of eminent ability,
indomitable hustlers, speculators, gamblers and adventurers thronged the
streets. It was the vim and spice and vigor of Oil City, Rouseville,
Petroleum Centre and Pithole done up in a single package. A hundred of
the liveliest laddies that ever capered about a “bull-ring” traded jokes
and stories and oil-certificates at the Oil-Exchange. Two fires
obliterated nine-tenths of the town, which was never wholly rebuilt.
Developments tended southward for years and the sun of Parker set
finally when Bradford’s rose in the northern sky. The bridge and a few
buildings have held on, but the banks have wound up their accounts, the
multitudes have dispersed, the residence-section of the cliff is a waste
and the glory of Parker a tradition. As the ghost of Hamlet’s father
observed concerning the bicycle academy, where beginners on wheels were
plentiful: “What a falling off was there!”

Galey leased lands, sunk wells and sold to Phillips Brothers for a
million dollars. He played a strong hand in Butler and Allegheny and
removed to Pittsburg, his present headquarters. He possessed nerve,
energy and endurance and, like the country-boy applying for a job, “wuz
jam’d full ov day’s work.” He would lend a hand to tube his wells, lay
pipes, move a boiler or twist the tools. There wasn’t a lazy bone in his
anatomy. Rain, mud, storm or darkness had no terrors for the bold rider,
who bestrode a raw-boned horse and “took Time by the forelock.” A young
lady from New York, whose father was interested with Galey in a tract of
oil-land, accompanied him on one of his visits to Millerstown. She had
heard a great deal about her father’s partner and the producers, whom
she imagined to be clothed in broadcloth and diamonds. When the stage
from Brady drew up at the Central Hotel a gorgeous chap was standing on
the platform. He sported a stunning suit, a huge gold-chain, a
diamond-pin and polished boots, the whole outfit got up regardless of
expense. “Oh, papa, I see a producer! That must be Mr. Galey,” exclaimed
the girl as this prototype of the dude met her gaze. The father glanced
at the object, recognized him as a neighboring bar-tender and spoiled
his daughter’s fanciful notion by the curt rejoinder: “That blamed fool
is a gin-slinger!” Butler had long been a sort of by-word for poverty
and meanness, the settlers going by the nickname of “Buckwheats.” This
was an unjust imputation, as the simple people were kind, honest and
industrious, in these respects presenting a decided contrast to some of
the new elements in the wake of the petroleum-development. The New-York
visitor drove out in the afternoon to meet his business-associate. A
mile below the Diviner farm a man on horseback was seen approaching. Mud
covered the panting steed and his rider. The young lady, anxious to show
how much she knew about the country, hazarded another guess. “Oh! papa,”
she said earnestly, “I’m sure that’s a Buckwheat!” The father chuckled,
next moment greeted the rider warmly and introduced him to his
astonished daughter as “My partner, Mr. Galey!” A hearty laugh followed
the father’s version of the day’s incidents.

[Illustration: JOHN H. GALEY.]

[Illustration: JAMES M. LAMBING.]

John H. Galey has been engaged in oil-operations for a generation.
Coming from Clarion county to Oil Creek in the sixties, he participated
in the Pithole excitement, drilled a test-well that broadened the
Pleasantville field and started the Parker furore with his
island-strike. He is every inch a petroleum-pioneer. To him belongs the
honor of ushering in various new districts in Pennsylvania and the
oil-developments in Kansas and Texas. Well-earned success has rewarded
his persistent, indomitable energy. He owns a fat slice of the finest
silver-mine in Idaho and holds a large stake in California, Colorado and
Nova-Scotia gold-mines. Mr. Galey is thoroughly practical and
companionable, has traveled much and observed closely, nor can any excel
him in narrating reminiscences and experiences of life in the

John McKeown drilled on the Farren hill and the slopes bordering the
north bank of Bear Creek. Glory Hole popped up on B. B. Campbell’s
Bear-Creek farm. Campbell-bluff, whole-souled “Ben”—is a Pittsburg
capitalist, big in body and mind, outspoken and independent. “The
Campbells are coming” could not have found a better herald. He produced
largely, bought stacks of farms, refined and piped oil and was an
important factor in the Armstrong-Butler development. At the Ursa Major
well, the first on the farm, large casing and heavy tools were first
used, with gratifying results. “Charley” Cramer juggled the temper-screw
and laughed at the chaps who solemnly predicted the joints would not
stand the strain and the engine would not jerk the tools out of the
hole. The tool-dresser on Cramer’s “tower”—drilling went on night and
day, each “tower” lasting twelve hours and the men changing at noon and
midnight—was A. M. Lambing, now the learned and zealous parish-priest at
Braddock. The well, completed in June of 1871 and good for a hundred
barrels, was owned by James M. Lambing, to whom more than any other man
the world is indebted for the extension of the Butler field.

Born in Armstrong county, in 1861 young Lambing concluded to invest some
time and labor—his sole capital—in a well at the mouth of Tubb’s Run,
two miles above Tionesta. A dry-hole was the poor reward of his efforts.
Enlisting in the Eighty-third Regiment, he received disabling injuries,
was discharged honorably, returned to Forest county in 1863,
superintended the Denver Petroleum-Company, dealt in real estate and in
1866 commenced operating at Tidioute. A vein of bad luck in 1867
exhausting his last dollar, he sold his gold-watch and chain to pay the
wages of his drillers. Facing the future bravely, he worked by the day,
contracted to bore wells at Pleasantville, Church Run, Shamburg and Red
Hot and bore up cheerfully during three years of adversity. In the
winter of 1869 he traded an engine for an interest in a well at Parker
that smelled of oil. For another interest he drilled the Wilt & Crawford
well and secured leases on Tom’s Run. His Pharos, Gipsy Queen and Lady
Mary wells enabled him to strike out boldly. In company with his
brother—John A. Lambing—C. D. Angell and B. B. Campbell, he ventured
beyond the prescribed limits to the Campbell, Morrison and Gibson farms.
He “wildcatted” farther south, at times with varying success, pointing
the way to Modoc and Millerstown. Reverses beset him temporarily, but
hope and courage and integrity remained and he recovered the lost
ground. Charitable, enterprising and sincere, no truer, squarer, manlier
man than James M. Lambing ever marched in the grand cavalcade of
Pennsylvania oil-producers. He and John A. retired from the business
years ago to engage in other pursuits. James M. settled at Corry and
served so capably as mayor that the citizens wanted to elect him for
life. His noble, womanly wife, a real helpmeet always, made his
hospitable home an earthly paradise. He had an office in Pittsburg and
customers for his Ajax machinery wherever oil is produced. He died in
January, 1897. “Who can blot his name with any just reproach?”

Counselled by “spirits,” Abram James selected a block of land on Blyson
Run, twenty miles up the Clarion River, as the location of a rich
petroleum-field. His luck at Pleasantville induced numbers to believe
him an infallible oil-smeller. The test-well that was to deluge Blyson
with crude was bored eighteen-hundred feet. It had no sand or oil and
the tools were stuck in the hole! The “spirits” couldn’t have missed the
mark more widely if they had directed James to mine for gold in a

The Big-Injun well at Bullion, owned originally by Prentice, Wheeler &
Crawford, was located in the center of a wheat-patch by William R.
Crawford, of Franklin, a member of the firm. His opinion carried against
the choice of his partners, who preferred a spot fifteen rods eastward,
where a well drilled later was “dry as a powder-horn.” The direction
“Smiley’s Frog” might happen to jump was less uncertain than the outcome
of many a Bullion well before the tools pierced the sand to the last
foot and settled the matter positively.

On October third, 1875, the boiler at the Goss well, J. I. Best farm,
exploded, fatally injuring Alonzo Goss and instantly killing A. Wilson,
the man in charge.

The first pipe-line in Clarion County was laid in 1871, by Martin &
Harms, on lands of the Fox estate. In October of 1877 the Rev. Dr.
Newman, President Grant’s pastor in Washington, dedicated the second
church the Methodists built at Edenburg. Fire cremated the structure and
seriously damaged the third one on the site in 1879. Probably no other
town of its size on the face of the earth has suffered so repeatedly and
disastrously at the hands of incendiaries as Edenburg. The third great
conflagration, on October thirteenth, 1878, destroyed two-hundred
buildings and thirteen oil-wells.

Sad accidents happened before drillers learned how to manage a flowing
oil-well with casing in it. At Frank Fertig’s well, Antwerp, a man was
burned to death. The burning of the Shoup & Vensel well at Turkey City
cost three lives and led to an indignation-meeting at St. Petersburg to
protest against casing. Danger from its use was soon removed by Victor
Gretter’s invention of the oil-saver. Gretter, a small, dark-haired,
dark-eyed man, lived at St. Petersburg. He was an inventive genius and a
joker of the first water. His oil-saver doubtless saved many lives, by
preventing gas and oil from escaping when a vein was tapped and coming
in contact with the tool-dresser’s fire in the derrick.

Captain John Kissinger, a pioneer settler, died in 1880 at the age of
eighty-five. He was the father of thirty-four children, nine of whom
perished by his dwelling taking fire during the absence of the parents
from home. His second wife, who survived him ten years, weighed
three-hundred pounds.

Lillian Edgarton, the plump and talented platform-speaker, was billed to
appear at Franklin. She traveled from Pittsburg by rail. A Parker broker
was a passenger on the train and wired to the oil-exchange that Josie
Mansfield was on board. The news flew and five-hundred men stood on the
platform when the train arrived. The broker jumped off and said the lady
had a seat near the center of the coach he had just left. The boys
climbed on the car-platform, opened the door and marched in single file
along the aisle to get a look at “Josie.” The conductor tore his hair in
anguish that the train would not carry such a crowd as struggled to get
on, but he was dumbfounded when the long procession began to get off.
The sell was not discovered until next morning, by which time the author
of the joke had started on his summer-vacation and could not be reached
by the vigilance-committee.

Down the zig-zagged stream proved to not a few operators a pleasant
voyage to wealth and to others the direct road to disaster. Venango,
Clarion and Armstrong counties had been explored, with Butler on deck to
surprise mankind by the extent and richness of its amazing territory.

                       WHERE IGNORANCE IS BLISS.

The first building at Triangle bore in bold letters and bad spelling a
sign labeled “Tryangle Hotel.”

“A Black Justice of the Peace” ran the off-color legend, painted by an
artist not up in punctuation, on the weather-beaten sign of ’Squire
Black, at Shippenville.

An honest Dutchman near Turkey City declined to lease his farm at
one-fourth royalty, insisting upon _one-eighth_ as the very lowest he
would accept. He did not discover that one-eighth was not twice
one-fourth until he received his first instalment of oil, when he fired
off the simple expletive, “Kreutzmillionendonnerwetter!”

A farmer rather shy on grammar, who represented Butler county in the
Legislature at the outset of developments around Petrolia, “brought down
the house” and a unanimous appropriation by his maiden-speech: “Feller
citizens, if we’uns up to Butler county wuz yu’uns down to Harrisburg
we’uns would give yu’uns what we’uns is after!”

At Oil City in 1863-4 J. B. Allen, of Michigan, a first-class chemist,
had charge of the prescription-department in Dr. Colbert and Dr.
Egbert’s drug-store. He could read Greek as readily as English, declaim
in Latin by the hour, quote from any of the classics and speak three or
four modern languages. To raise money to pay off a mortgage on his
father’s farm he walked across the Allegheny on a wire thirty feet above
the water. He carried a large flag, attached to a frame mounted on a
pulley-wheel, which he shoved with one hand, holding a balance-pole in
the other. It was a feat Blondin could not excel. Allen was decidedly
eccentric and the hero of unnumbered stories. Once a mud-bespattered
horseman rushed into the store with a prescription that called for a
deadly poison. The horseman was informed it was not safe to fill it, but
he insisted upon having it, saying it bore a prominent doctor’s
signature and there could be no mistake. Allen filled it and wrote on
the label: “Caution—If any damphool takes this prescription it will kill
him as dead as the devil!”

General Reed, of Erie, the largest vessel-owner on the lakes,
represented his district in Congress and desired a second term. The
Democrats nominated Judge Thompson and Clarion county was the pivot upon
which the election turned. The contest waxed furious. Near its close the
two candidates brought up at a big meeting in the wilds of Clarion to
debate. Lumbermen and furnacemen were out in force. Reed led off and on
the homestretch told the people how he loved them and their county. He
had built the fastest craft on the lakes and named the vessel Clarion.
As the craft sailed from Buffalo to Erie, and from Cleveland to Detroit,
and from Saginaw to Mackinaw, to Oconomowoc and Manitowoc, Oshkosh,
Milwaukee and Chicago, in every port she folded her white wings and told
of the county that honored him with a seat in Congress. The people were
untutored in nautical affairs and listened with rapt attention. As the
General closed his speech the enthusiasm was unbounded. Things looked
blue for Judge Thompson. After a few moments required to get the
audience out of the seventh heaven of rapture, he stepped to the front
of the platform, leaned over it, motioned to the crowd to come up close
and said: “Citizens of Clarion, what General Reed has told you is true.
He has built a brig and a grand one. But where do you suppose he painted
the proud name of Clarion?” Turning to General Reed, he said: “Stand up
here, sir, and tell these honest people where you had the painter put
the name of Clarion. You never thought the truth would reach back here.
I shall tell these people the truth and I challenge you to deny one word
of it. Yes, fellow-citizens, he painted the proud name of Clarion under
the stern of the brig—under her stern, gentlemen!” The indignation of
the people found vent in groans and curses. General Reed sat stunned and
speechless. No excuses would be accepted and the vote of proud Clarion
made Judge Thompson a Congressman.

[Illustration: HASCAL L. TAYLOR.]

[Illustration: MARCUS BROWNSON.]

[Illustration: JOHN SATTERFIELD.]


                                    PARKER—FROM PROSPECT ROCK
                     ARGYLE CITY-1872.
            KARNS CITY-1873
                  GREECE CITY 1873
                           MILLERSTOWN 1874
                                               PETROLIA 1873

                         ON THE SOUTHERN TRAIL.



“I’m comin’ from de Souf, Susanna, do’ant yo cry.”—_Negro Melody._

“Again the lurid light gleamed out.”—_J. Boyle O’Reilly._

“I have never been known to miss one end of the trail.”—_J. Fennimore

“An eagle does not catch flies.”—_Latin Proverb._

“Step by step one goes very far.”—_French Proverb._

“The light fell like a halo upon their bent heads.”—_Rev. John Watson._

“Either I will find a way or make one.”—_Norman Crest._

“I stretch lame hands of faith and grope.”—_Tennyson._

“We but catch at the skirts of the thing we would be.”—_Owen Meredith._

“Where are frost and snow when the hawthorn blooms?”—_Julius Stinde._

“The things we see are shadows of the things to be.”—_Phœbe Cary._

“Oh! but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp.”—_Robert Browning._

“These little things are great to little man.”—_Oliver Goldsmith._

“So will a greater fame redound to thee.”—_Dante._

“Every white will have its black and every sweet its sour.”—_Dr. Percy._


[Illustration: DAVID DOUGALL.]

Klondyke nuggets, cold, yellow and glittering, could not be more
fascinating to lovers of the most exciting methods of gaining wealth
than were the oil-wells that started Parker on the highway to
prosperity. All eyes turned instinctively southward, believing the next
center of activity lay in that direction. The Israelites scanning the
horizon for a glimpse of the promised land were less earnest and
anxious. Butler, not Canaan, was on everybody’s lips. “On to Richmond,”
the frenzied cry during the civil war, appeared in the new dress of “On
to Butler!” For a time, just to catch breath for the supreme movement,
operators groped their way cautiously. But Napoleon scaled the Alps and
the advance-couriers of the coming host of oilmen climbed Farren Hill
and the slopes beyond. Julius Cæsar crossed the Rubicon in days of old,
so Campbell and Lambing in 1871 crossed Bear Creek, three miles
south-west of Parker, to plant the tall derricks which signified that
the invasion of Butler by the petroleumites was about to begin and to be
carried through to a finish. With Richard each of the bold invaders
might declare:

                “I have set my life upon a cast,
                And I will stand the hazard of the die.”

Butler, the county-seat of Butler county, was laid out in 1802 by the
Cunninghams, two brothers from Lancaster, who repose in the old
cemetery. The surveyor was David Dougall, who lived seventy-five years
alone, in a shanty near the court-house, dying at ninety-eight. He owned
a row of tumble-down frames on the public-square, eye-sores to the
community, but would not sell lest his poor tenants might suffer by a
change of proprietors! His memory of local events was marvelous. He
walked from Detroit through the forest to Butler, following an Indian
trail, and remembered when Pittsburg had only three brick-buildings. He
was agent of the McCandless family and once consented to spend a night
at the mansion of his friends in Pittsburg. To do honor to the occasion
he wore trousers made of striped bed-ticking. Fearing fire, he would not
sleep up-stairs and a bed was provided in the parlor. About midnight an
alarm sounded. Dougall jumped up, grabbed his shoes and hat and walked
home-thirty-three miles-before breakfast. He was an eccentric bachelor
and had his coffin ready for years. It was constructed of oak, grown on
one of his farms, which he willed to a friend upon condition that the
legatee buried him at the foot of a particular tree and kept a
night-watchman at his grave one year. He was the last of his race and
the last survivor of the bold pioneers to whom Butler owed its

[Illustration: BUTLER COUNTY]

Well-known operators figured in the vicinity of Bear Creek. Joseph Overy
drilled rows of good wells, pushed south and founded the town embalmed
as St. Joe in compliment to its progenitor. Marcus Brownson—he was
active in Venango and McKean and died at Titusville—had a walkover on
the Walker farm, a mile in advance. On Donnelly’s eleven-hundred acres,
offered in 1868 for six-thousand-dollars, scores of medium wells yielded
from 1871 to 1878. S. D. Karns drained the Morrison farm and John
McKeown hit the “sucker-rod belt”—so called from its extreme
narrowness—near Martinsburg. Ralph Brothers tickled the sand on the
Sheakley farm. Up the stream operations jogged and Argyle City sprouted
on the hillside. Two miles ahead, upon the line dividing the Jameson and
Blaney farms, Dimick, Nesbit & Co. finished a wildcat well on April
seventeenth, 1892. This was the noted Fanny Jane—gallantly named in
honor of a pretty girl—which pumped one-hundred barrels and gave birth
to Petrolia, seven miles south by west of Parker. George H. Dimick,
examining lands in Fairview township, Butler county, decided that a
natural basin at the junction of South Bear Creek and Dougherty Run was
oil-territory. Fifty men were raising a barn on the Campbell farm,
overlooking this basin. Proceeding to the spot, he proposed to drill a
test well if the owners of the soil would lease enough land to warrant
the undertaking. Terms were agreed upon which secured twenty acres of
the Blaney farm, sixteen of the Jameson, ten of the W. A. Wilson, ten of
the James Wilson and ten of the Graham, at one-eighth royalty. The
nearest producing wells at that date were three miles north. The Fanny
Jane stirred the blood of the oil-clans. The moving mass began to-arrive
in May and by July two-thousand people had their home at Petrolia.

A charter was obtained and Mr. Dimick was chosen burgess at the first
borough-election, in February of 1873. The town expanded like the turnip
Longfellow said “grew and it grew and it grew all it was able.” Hotels,
stores, shops and offices lined the valley and dwellings crowned the
hills. A narrow-gauge railroad from Parker was built in 1874, extended
to Karns City and Millerstown and ultimately to Butler. Fisher Brothers
paid sixty-thousand dollars for the Blaney farm and wells multiplied in
all directions. A dog-fight or a street-scrap would gather hundreds of
spectators. The Argyle Savings Bank handled hundreds-of-thousands of
dollars daily. Ben Hogan erected a big opera-house and May Marshall was
the Cora Pearl of the frail sisterhood. R. W. Cram ran the post-office
and news-room. “Steve” Harley wafted newsy items to the newspapers. Dr.
Frank H. Johnston, now of Franklin, was the first physician. Kindred
spirits met at “Sam” McBride’s drug-store and Peter Christie’s Central
Hotel. Poor “Sam,” “Dave” Mosier, H. L. McCance and S. S. Avery are in
their graves and others have wandered nobody knows whither. Petrolia
continued the metropolis four years and then dropped out of the game.
Some straggling houses and left-over derricks alone remain of the
gayest, sprightliest, hottest, busiest town that bloomed and withered in
old Butler.



George H. Dimick, the son of a Wisconsin farmer and sire of Petrolia, is
liberally stocked with the never-say-die qualities of the breezy
Westerner. At nineteen he taught a Milwaukee school, landed on Oil Creek
in 1860 and was appointed superintendent of the two Buchanan farms by
Rouse & Mitchell. He drilled on his own account in the spring of 1861,
aided in settling the Rouse estate, enrolled as a private in “Scott’s
Nine-Hundred” and came out a captain at the close of the war. In May of
1865 he bent his footsteps towards Pithole, sold lands for the United
States Petroleum-Company and drilled eleven dry-holes on the McKinney
farm! Interests in the Poole, Grant, Eureka and Burchill spouters offset
these losses and added thousands of dollars a week to his wealth.
Staying at Pithole too long, values had shrunk to such a degree that he
was virtually penniless at his departure from the “Magic City” in 1867.
A whaling voyage of fifteen months in the Arctic seas and a sojourn at
his boyhood home improved his health and he returned in time to share in
the Pleasantville excitement. He located at Parker’s Landing in 1871 as
partner of McKinney & Nesbit in the sale of oil-well supplies. He
operated in the Parker field, at St. Petersburg, Petrolia, Greece City
and Slippery Rock. Disposing of his properties in these localities, he
and Captain Peter Grace drilled the wildcat-well that opened Cherry
Grove and paralyzed the market in 1882. He had been active at Bradford
and the middle field felt the influence of his shrewd movements. He has
kept abreast of developments in the southern districts, sometimes
getting several lengths ahead. He is now interested in West Virginia and
Kentucky. Those who know his quick perception, his executive ability and
his intense love for opening new fields would not wonder to hear of his
striking a gusher at Oshkosh or Kamtschatka. Mr. Dimick is a man of
active temperament, high character and sturdy industry, a genuine
pathfinder and tireless explorer.

An Erie boy of fifteen when he left his father’s house for the
oil-region in 1862, George H. Nesbit first fired a still in a Titusville
refinery and in 1863 engaged with Dinsmore Brothers at Tarr Farm. He
built a small refinery at Shaffer, sold it in 1864 and in the spring of
1865 drilled wells for himself on Benninghoff and Cherry-Tree Runs. He
spent two years at Pithole, gaining a fortune and remaining until the
collapse swallowed the bulk of his profits. He operated at Pioneer in
1867 and a year later at Pleasantville. He and George H. Dimick
prospected in 1869 for oil-belts and fresh territory, located rich
leases on Hickory Creek and established the line of the Venture well at
Fagundas. In 1870 Nesbit moved to Parker and, in company with John L.
McKinney, sold oil-well machinery and oil-lands. McKinney & Nesbit
drilled along Bear Creek, especially on the Black and Dutchess farms,
prospering greatly. The firm ranked with the most enterprising and
realized large returns from wells at St. Petersburg and Parker. Dimick &
Nesbit, with Mr. McKinney as their associate, opened the Petrolia field
in 1872. William Lardin, the contractor of the Fanny Jane, bought
McKinney’s interest in the well and leases. The three partners were
right in the swim, their first six wells at Petrolia yielding them a
thousand barrels a day. Nesbit bought the Patton farm, below town, in
1872 for twenty-thousand dollars, selling five-eighths. Five third-sand
wells ranged from thirty to one-hundred barrels and oil ruled at three
to five dollars. The fourth-sand was found in 1873, and in January of
1874 Nesbit & Lardin struck a thousand-barrel gusher on the Patton. The
farm paid enormously and Nesbit became an “oil-prince.” He developed
hundreds of acres and displayed masterly tact. His check was good for a
half-million any day and his luck was so remarkable that, had he fallen
into the river, probably he would not have been wet. He paid the highest
wages and met his bills at sight. He entered the oil-exchange at Parker,
for a time was a high-roller and ended a bankrupt! The desk on which he
wrote his bold, round signature on checks aggregating many
hundred-thousand dollars was stored away among shocks of corn and
sheaves of oats in the weather-stained barn on the Patton farm. J. N.
Ireland bought the tract for seven-thousand dollars. Nesbit drifted
about aimlessly, heard from occasionally at Macksburg and fetching up at
last in Cincinnati. His prestige was gone, his star had waned and he
never “caught on” again. He was no sluggard in business, no dullard in
society, no niggard with money, no laggard in the petroleum-column.
Surely the oil-region has furnished its full allotment of sad romances
from real life. Nesbit died July eighth, 1897.

            “Time, with a face like a mystery,
            And hands as busy as hands can be,
            Sits at the loom with its warp outspread,
            To catch in its meshes each glancing thread.
            Click, click! there’s a thread of love wove in!
            Click, click! and another of wrong and sin!
            What a checkered thing this web will be
            When we see it unrolled in eternity!”

James E. Brown, to whom Nesbit sold one-quarter of the Patton farm, made
his mark upon the industries of the state. A carpenter’s son, he started
a store on the site of Kittanning, saved money, purchased lands and at
his death in 1880 left his family four-millions. He manufactured iron at
various furnaces and owned a big block of stock in the rolling-mills at
East Brady. Samuel J. Tilden was a stockholder in the works, which
employed sixteen hundred men, turned out the first T-rails west of the
Alleghenies and tottered to their fall in 1874. Mr. Brown cleared
eight-hundred-thousand dollars in 1872 by the advance in iron. He owned
oil-farms in Butler county, took stock in the Parker Bridge, the Parker
& Karns City Railroad and the Karns Pipe-Line Company and conducted a
bank at Kittanning. His granddaughter, Miss Findley, who inherited half
his wealth, married Lord Linton, a British baronet. The aged banker—he
stuck it out to eighty-two—knew how to pile up money.

Stephen Duncan Karns, who had a railroad and a town named in his honor,
was a picturesque figure in the Armstrong-Butler district. With his two
uncles he operated the first West-Virginia well, at the mouth of
Burning-Spring Run, in 1860. His experience at his father’s Tarentum
salt-wells enabled him to run engine, to sharpen tools and clean out an
old salt-well to be tested for oil. The well pumped forty barrels a day
during the winter of 1860-1. Fort Sumter was bombarded, several Kanawha
operators were killed and young Karns escaped by night in a canoe. He
enlisted, served three years, led his company at Antietam and
Chancellorsville and in 1866 leased one acre at Parker’s Landing from
Fullerton Parker. His first well, starting at one barrel a day, by
months of pumping was increased to twelve barrels and earned him
twenty-thousand dollars. From the Miles Oil-Company of New York he
leased a farm and an abandoned well a mile below Parker. He drilled the
well through the sand and it produced twenty-five barrels a day. This
settled the question of oil south of Parker. “Dunc,” as he was usually
called by his friends, leased the Farren farm, drilled on Bear Creek,
secured the famous Stonehouse farm of three-hundred acres and in 1872
enjoyed an income of five-thousand dollars a day! A mile south of
Petrolia, on the McClymonds farm, Cooper Brothers were about to give up
their first well as a hopeless duster. Karns thought the hole not deep
enough, bought the property, resumed drilling and in two days the well
was flowing one-hundred barrels! The town of Karns City blossomed into a
community of twenty-five-hundred people, with three big hotels, stores,
offices and dwellings galore. It fell a prey to the flames eventually.
The McClymonds, Riddle and J. B. Campbell farms doubled “Dunc’s” big
income for many moons. He had the second well at Greece City and for a
year or more was the largest producer in the oil-region. He built a
pipe-line from Karns City to Harrisburg to fight the United Lines, held
fifty-five-thousand dollars’ stock in the Parker Bridge and controlled
the Parker & Karns-City Railroad and the Exchange Bank.

Near Freeport, on the Allegheny River, thirty miles above Pittsburg, he
lassoed a great farm and erected a fifty-thousand-dollar mansion.
Fourteen race-horses fed in his palatial stables. Guests might bathe in
champagne and the generous host spent money royally. A good strike or a
point gained meant a general jollification. He played billiards
skillfully, handled cards expertly and wagered heavily on anything that
hit his fancy. He and his wife were in Paris during the siege. Upon his
return from Europe he built the Fredericksburg & Orange Railroad, in
Virginia. The glut of crude from Butler wells dropped the price in 1874
to forty cents. Losses of different kinds cramped Karns and the man
worth three-millions in 1872-3 was obliged to surrender his stocks and
lands and wells and begin anew! James E. Brown secured Glen-Karns, the
beautiful home below Freeport. In 1880 Karns induced E. O. Emerson, the
wealthy Titusville producer, to start a cattle-ranch in Western
Colorado. For six years he superintended the herds on the immense
plains, joining the round-ups, sleeping on the ground with the boys,
roping and branding cattle and accumulating a stock of health and muscle
which he thinks will carry him to the hundred-year mark. Emerson had
bought from Karns the Riddle farm for eleven-thousand dollars. He
deepened one well—supposed dry—to the fourth sand. It flowed six-hundred
barrels and Emerson sold the tract in sixty days for ninety-thousand
dollars. Karns returned from the west, practiced law a short while in
Philadelphia and for some years has managed a Populist paper at
Pittsburg. He ran against John Dalzell for Congress and walked at the
head of the parade when General Coxey’s “Army of the Commonweal” marched
through the Smoky City. He enjoyed making money more than handling it,
was honorable in his dealings, intensely active, comprehensive in his
views and positive in his opinions. His “yes” or “no” was given
promptly. “Dunc” is of slender build and nervous temperament, easy in
his manners, frank in his utterances and not scared by spooks in
politics or trade. He had his share of light and shade, struggle and
triumph, defeat and victory, incident and adventure in his pilgrimage.

                         “How chances mock,
                 And changes fill the cup of alteration
                 With divers liquors!”

Richard Jennings, over whose head the grass and flowers are growing, and
his brother-in-law, the late Jacob L. Meldren, did much to develop the
territory east of Petrolia. Coming from England to Armstrong county a
half-century ago, they located at what is now Queenstown. Meldren bought
the farm at the head of Armstrong Run on which the noted Armstrong well
was struck in 1870. It opened “the Cross-Belt,” an abnormal strip
running nearly at right angles to the main lines and remarkable for
mammoth gushers. This unprecedented “belt” upset the theories of
geologists and operators. The first and only one of its kind, it
resembled the mule that “had no pride of ancestry and no hope of
posterity.” Mr. Jennings drilled on many farms and gathered a large
fortune. He was a man of character and ability, with a priceless
reputation for integrity and truthfulness. Once he sent his foreman,
Daniel Evans, to secure the Dougherty farm, on the southern edge of
Petrolia, owned by two maiden sisters. The foreman knocked at the door,
engaged board for a week, was engaged to the elder sister before the
week expired and had the pleasure of reaping a harvest of greenbacks
from the property in due course. It is satisfactory to find such
enterprise abundantly recompensed. Not so lucky was a gay and festive
operator with an ancient maiden who owned a tempting patch of land near
Millerstown. He exhausted every art to get a lease, in desperation
finally hinting at matrimony. The indignant lady exploded like a ton of
dynamite, seizing a broom and compelling the bold visitor to beat an
ungraceful retreat through the window, minus his hat and gloves! Evans
leased part of the farm to his former employer, who finished the
Dougherty spouter on November twenty-second, 1873. It flowed
twenty-seven-hundred barrels a day from the fourth sand, loading
Jennings with greenbacks and sending the speculative trade into
convulsions. A patriotic citizen, devoted parent and genuine
philanthropist, Richard Jennings was sincerely respected and his death
was deeply mourned. His sons inherited their father’s sagacity and manly
principle. They have operated in the McDonald field and are prominent in
banking and business at Pittsburg.

The “Cross-Belt” crossed the petroleum-horizon in dead earnest in March
of 1874. Taylor & Satterfield’s Boss well, on the James Parker farm, two
miles east of Petrolia, flowed three-thousand barrels a day! William
Hartley—General Harrison Allen defeated him for Auditor-General in
1872—organized the Stump Island Oil-Company and drilled from the mouth
of the Clarion River six miles south, in 1866-7. He and John Galey owned
the Island-King well at Parker’s Landing and a hundred others, some of
which crept well down into Armstrong county. Richard Jennings and Jacob
L. Meldren had punched holes on Armstrong Run and around Queenstown, but
the spouter in the Parker-farm ravine was the fellow that touched the
spot and hypnotized the trade. A solid stream of oil poured into the
tank as if butted through the pipe by a hundred hydraulic-rams. The
billowy mass of fluid heaved and foamed and boiled and tried its level
best to climb over the wooden walls and unload the roof. David S.
Criswell, of Oil City, had an interest in the gusher, and Criswell
City—a shop, a lunch-room and five or six dwellings—was imprinted on
Heydrick & Stevenson’s map. Stages between Petrolia and Brady halted at
the bantling town for the convenience of pilgrims to the shrine of the
Boss—a “boss” representing innumerable “bar’ls.” Wells were hurried down
at a spanking gait, to divy up the oily freshet. “The best-laid schemes
o’ mice an’ men gang aft a-gley” and the uncertainty of fourth-sand
wells was forcibly illustrated. Jennings had dry-holes on the Steele and
Bedford farms, the latter ten rods north-west of the mastodon. Taylor &
Satterfield’s No. 2, thirty rods west, was a small affair. Dusters and
light pumpers studded the road from Criswell to Petrolia, with the
Hazelwood Oil-Company’s two-hundred-barreler a trifle north to tantalize
believers in a straight “belt.” Lines and belts and theories and former
experiences amounted to little or nothing. The only safe method was to
“go it blind” and bear with exemplary resignation whatever might turn
up, be it a big gusher or a measly duster.

[Illustration: H. H. CUMMINGS.           JAHU HUNTER.]

The Boss weakened to eleven-hundred barrels in July and to a humble
pumper by the end of the year. Forty rods east, on the Crawford farm,
Hunter & Cummings plucked a September pippin. Their Lady Hunter,
sixteen-hundred feet deep and flowing twenty-five-hundred barrels, was a
trophy to enrapture any hunter coming from the chase. The Boss and the
Lady Hunter were the lord and lady of the manor, none of the others
approaching them in importance. Hunter & Cummings laid a pipe-line to
East Brady, to load their oil on the Allegheny-Valley Railroad. The
railroad company refused to furnish cars, urging a variety of pretexts
to disguise the unfair discrimination. The owners of the oil had a
Roland for the Oliver of the officials. They quietly gauged their output
and let it run upon the ground, notifying the company to pay for the
oil. A new light dawned upon the railroaders, who discovered they had to
deal with men who knew their rights and dared maintain them. Crawling
off their high stool, they footed the bill, apologized meekly and
thenceforth took precious care Hunter & Cummings should not have reason
to complain of a car-famine. Simon Legree was not the only braggart whom
good men have been obliged to knock down to inspire with decent respect
for fair-play.

Hunter & Cummings stayed in the business, opening the “Pontius Pool,”
east of Millerstown, and sinking many wells at Herman Station, where
they acquired a snug production. They operated on the lands of the
Brady’s Bend Iron-company, putting down the wells on the hills opposite
East Brady and a number in the Bradford region. They owned the Tidioute
Savings Bank and large tracts in North Dakota—the scene of their
“bonanza farming”—and were interested with the Grandins in the great
lumber-mills at Grandin, Missouri, the largest in the south-west. In
connection with these mills they were building railroads to develop
their two-hundred-thousand acres of timber lands and establish
experimental farms. Both members of the firm were the architects of
their own fortunes, public-spirited, generous and eminently deserving of
the liberal measure of success that has attended their labors during the
twenty-three years of their association as partners.

Jahu Hunter was born on a farm two miles above Tidioute in 1830. From
seventeen to twenty-seven he lumbered and farmed, in 1857 engaged in
merchandising and in 1861 sold his store and embarked in oil. He
operated moderately five years, increasing his interests largely in
1866 and forming a partnership with H. H. Cummings in 1873, which
death ended. Mr. Hunter married Miss Margaret R. Magee in 1860 and one
son, L. L. Hunter, survives to aid in managing his extensive
business-enterprises. He occupied a delightful home at Tidioute, was
president of the Savings Bank and of the chair-factory, a Mason of the
thirty-second degree and a leader in all progressive movements. He had
lands in various states and was prospered in manifold undertakings. He
served as school-director fifteen years, contributing time and money
freely in behalf of education. He believed in bettering humanity, in
relieving distress, in befriending the poor, in helping the struggling
and in building up the community. Retired from active work, the
evening of Jahu Hunter’s useful life was serene and unclouded. As the
shadows lengthened he reviewed the past with calm content and awaited
the future without apprehension. He died last March.

Captain H. H. Cummings removed from Illinois, his birthplace in 1840, to
Ohio and was graduated from Oberlin College at twenty-two. Enlisting in
July, 1862, he shared the privations and achievements of the Army of the
Cumberland until mustered out in June, 1865. Three months later he
visited the oil-region and in January of 1866 located at Tidioute in
charge of Day & Co.’s refinery. Becoming a partner, he refined and
exported oil seven years and was interested in wells at Tidioute and
Fagundas. The firm dissolving in 1873, he joined hands with Jahu Hunter
and operated extensively in the lower country. Hunter & Cummings stood
in the front rank as representative producers. Captain Cummings is
president of the Missouri Mining and Lumbering Company, which has a
paid-up capital of five-hundred-thousand dollars and saws forty-million
feet of lumber a year. L. L. Hunter is secretary, E. B. Grandin is
treasurer and Hon. J. B. White, formerly a member of the Legislature
from Warren county, is general manager. As Commander of the Grand Army
of the Republic in Pennsylvania, Judge Darte succeeding him this year,
Captain Cummings is favorably known to veterans over the entire state.
He is a man of fine attainments, broad views and noble traits—a man who
sizes up to a high ideal, who can be trusted and whose friendship “does
not shrink in the wash.”

Taylor & Satterfield began operations in the lower fields in 1870,
secured much of the finest territory in Butler and became one of the
wealthiest firms in the oil-region. Harvesters rather than sowers, their
usual policy was to buy lands tested by one or more wells and avoid the
risk of wildcatting. In this way they acquired productive farms in every
part of the district, which yielded thousands of barrels a day when
fully developed. Their transactions footed up many millions yearly. They
established banks at Petrolia and Millerstown, employed an army of
drillers and pumpers and clerks and were always ready fora big purchase
that promised fat returns. In company with Vandergrift & Forman, John
Pitcairn and Fisher Brothers, they built the Fairview Pipe-Line from
Argyle to Brady, the nucleus of the magnificent National-Transit system
of oil-transportation. Captain J. J. Vandergrift, George V. Forman and
John Pitcairn were associated with them in their gigantic
producing-operations, which in 1879 extended to the Bradford field and
grew to such magnitude that the Union Oil-Company was formed in 1881,
with five-millions capital. The Union was almost uniformly successful,
owning big wells and paying big dividends. In 1883 it paid Forman a
million dollars for his separate holdings in Allegany county, up to that
date the largest individual sale in the region. All its properties were
sold to the Forest Oil-Company and the Union was dissolved, Taylor
retiring and Satterfield continuing to assist in the management some

Hascal L. Taylor was first known in Oildom as a member of the firm of
Taylor & Day, Fredonia, N. Y., whose “buckboards” had a tremendous sale
in Venango, Clarion, Armstrong and Butler. He lived at Petrolia several
years, having charge of the office of Taylor & Satterfield and general
oversight of the Argyle Savings Bank. After his retirement from the
oil-business with an ample fortune he lived at Buffalo, speculated in
real-estate and purchased miles of Florida lands. He died last year, as
he was arranging to erect a fifteen-story office-block in Buffalo. Mr.
Taylor was of medium height and stout build, energetic, resourceful and
notable in the busy world of petroleum. His only son, Emory G., clerked
in the bank at Petrolia, engaged in manufacturing at Williamsport a year
or two and removed to Buffalo before his father’s death. He and his
sister inherited the estate.

John Satterfield, a man of heart and brain, imposing in stature, frank
in speech and square in his dealings, was a Mercer boy. He served four
years in a regiment organized at Greenville and opened a grocery at
Pithole in 1865, with James A. Waugh as partner. Selling the remnants of
the grocery in 1867, he superintended wells at Tarr Farm three years and
went to Parker in 1870. His work in the Butler field increased his
excellent reputation for honesty and enterprise. He married Miss Matilda
Martin, of Allentown, lived four years at Millerstown, removed to
Titusville and built an elegant house on Delaware avenue, Buffalo. When
the Union Oil-Company’s accounts were closed, the books balanced and the
assets transferred to the Forest he engaged in banking. He was
vice-president of the Third National Bank of Buffalo and president of
the Fidelity Trust Company, whose new bank-building is the boast of the
Bison City. George V. Forman and Thomas L. McFarland joined him in the
Fidelity. Mr. McFarland, formerly cashier of the bank at Petrolia and
secretary of the Union Company, is exceedingly affable, capable and
popular. Failing health induced Mr. Satterfield to go on a trip designed
to include France, the Mediterranean Sea and the warmer countries of the
east. With his brother-in-law, Dr. T. J. Martin, he reached Paris, took
seriously ill and died on April sixth, 1894, in his fifty-fourth year.
Besides his wife, who was on the ocean hastening to his bedside when the
end came, he left one son and one daughter. Dr. Martin cremated the
body, pursuant to the wish of the deceased, and brought the ashes home
for interment. Charitable and unostentatious, upright and active, all
men liked and trusted “Jack” Satterfield, whom old friends miss sadly
and remember tenderly.

  The sinless land some of his friends have enter’d long ago,
  Some others stay a little while to struggle here below;
  But, be the conflict short or long, life’s battle will be won
  And lovingly he’ll welcome us when earthly toil is done.
  Nor will our joy be less sincere—we’ll slap him on the back,
  Clasp his brave hand and warmly say: “We’re glad to see you, Jack!”

[Illustration: W. J. YOUNG.]

The Forest Oil-Company, into which the Union was merged, reckons its
capital by millions, numbers its wells by thousands and is at the head
of producing companies. Its operations cover five states. The company
has hundreds of wells and farms in Pennsylvania, operates extensively in
Ohio, is developing large interests in Kansas and seems certain to place
Kentucky and Tennessee high up in the petroleum-galaxy. From its
inception as a Limited Company the management has been progressive and
efficient. To meet the increasing demands of new sections the original
company was closed out and the present one incorporated, with Captain
Vandergrift as president and W. J. Young as vice-president and general
manager. Mr. Young, who was also elected treasurer in 1890, was
peculiarly fitted for his responsible duties by long experience and
executive ability. Born and educated in Pittsburg, he entered the employ
of a leather-merchant in 1856, spent six years in the establishment and
in 1862 went to Oil City to take charge of the forwarding and storage
business of John and William Hanna. The Hannas owned the steamboat
Allegheny Belle No. 4 and Hanna’s wharf, the site of the
National-Transit machine-shops in the Third Ward. Captain John Hanna
dying, John Burgess & Co. bought the firm’s storage interests and
admitted Young as a partner. Burgess & Co. sold to Fisher Brothers, who
used the wharf and yard for shipping and appointed Mr. Young their
financial agent. How capably he filled the place every operator on Oil
Creek can attest. He and John J. Fisher, under the name of Young & Co.,
bought and shipped crude-oil in bulk-barges. His relations with the
Fishers ceased in 1872 with his appointment as book-keeper of the
Oil-City Savings Bank. Elected cashier of the Oil-City Trust Company in
1874, he was afterwards vice-president and president, holding the latter
office until 1891. John Pitcairn retiring from the firm of Vandergrift,
Pitcairn & Co., he purchased an interest in the business. The firm of
Vandergrift, Young & Co. was organized and sold its property to the
Forest Oil-Company, of which Mr. Young was one of the incorporators and
chairman. The business of the Forest necessitated his removal to
Pittsburg in 1889. He is president of the Washington Oil-Company and the
Taylorstown Natural-Gas Company and has his offices in the Vandergrift
building, on Fourth avenue. During his twenty-seven years’ residence in
Oil City he was active in promoting the welfare of the community. In
1866 he married Miss Morrow, sister-in-law and adopted daughter of
Captain Vandergrift. Two daughters, one the wife of Lieutenant P. E.
Pierce, West Point, N. Y., and the other a young lady residing with her
parents, blessed the happy union. The hospitable home at Oil City was a
delightful center of moral and social influence. Mr. Young represented
the First Ward nine years in Common and Select Councils and was
school-director six years. He furthered every good cause and was a
helpful, honored citizen. Now at the meridian of life, his judgment
matured and his acute perceptions quickened, young in heart and earnest
in spirit, a wider sphere enlarges his opportunities. Of W. J. Young,
true and tried, faithful and competent, a loyal friend and prudent
counsellor, it can never be said: “Thou art weighed in the balance and
found wanting.”

Fairview, charmingly located two miles south-west of Petrolia, was on
one side of the greased streak. James M. Lambing’s gas-well a mile west
lighted and heated the town, but vapor-fuel and pretty scenery could not
offset the lack of oil and the dog-in-the-manger policy of greedy
land-holders. Portly Major Adams—under the sod for years—built a
spacious hotel, which William Lecky, Isaac Reineman, William Fleming and
kindred spirits patronized. A mile-and-a-half east of Fairview and as
far south of Petrolia, on a branch of Bear Creek, the Cooper well
originated Karns City in June of 1872. S. D. Karns laid down
eight-thousand dollars for the supposed dry-hole on the McClymonds farm,
drilled forty feet and struck a hundred-barreler. Cooper Brothers
finished the second well—it flowed two-hundred barrels for months—on the
Saturday preceding “the thirty-day shut-down.” Tabor & Thompson and
Captain Grace had moguls on the Riddle and Story farms. Big-hearted,
open-handed “Tommy” Thompson—a whiter man ne’er drew breath—operated
profitably in Butler and McKean and was active in the movements that
made 1872-3 memorable to oil-producers. The biggest well in the bunch
was A. J. Salisbury’s five-hundred-barrel spouter on the J. B. Campbell
farm, in January of 1873. Salisbury conducted the favorite Empire House,
which perished in the noon-day blaze that extinguished two-thirds of
Karns City in December of 1874. One day he bought a wagon-load of
potatoes from a verdant native, who dumped the tubers into the cellar
and was given a check for the purchase. He gazed at the check long and
earnestly, finally breaking out: “Vot for you gives me dose paper?”
Salisbury explained that it was payment for the murphies. “Mein Gott!”
ejaculated the ruralist, “you dinks me von tarn fool to take dot papers
for mein potatoes?” The proprietor strove to enlighten the farmer,
telling him to step across the street to the bank and get his money. “I
see nein monish there,” replied the innocent, looking at John Shirley’s
hardware-store, part of which a bank occupied. Discussing finance with
the rustic would be useless, so “Jack” sent the hotel-clerk for the cash
and counted it out in crisp documents bearing the serpentine autograph
of General Spinner.

Vandergrift & Forman paid ninety-thousand dollars for the McCafferty
farm, a mile south-west of Karns City. Mr. Forman closed the deal, going
to the house with a lawyer and a New-York draft. The honest granger, not
familiar with bank-drafts, would not receive anything except actual
greenbacks. The parties journeyed to the county-seat to convert the
draft into legal-tenders, which the seller of the property carried home.
William McCafferty was a thrifty tiller of the soil and cultivated his
farm thoroughly. He bought a home at Greenville, near John
Benninghoff’s, put his money in Government bonds and died in 1880. Half
the farm was fine territory and repaid its cost several times.
One-twentieth of the price in 1873 would be good value to-day for the
broad acres. For John Blaney’s farm, adjoining the McCafferty, Melville,
Payne & Fleming put up fifteen-thousand dollars, bored a well and sold
out to Vandergrift & Forman at fifty-thousand. The Rob Roy well, on the
McClymonds farm, produced forty-thousand barrels of fourth-sand oil,
while a dry hole was sunk thirty yards away. Colonel Woodward, Mattison
& McDonald, Tack & Moorhead and John Markham owned wells good for thirty
to eight-hundred barrels. A cloud of dry-holes encompassed the May
Marshall, on the Wallace farm. Haysville, on the Thomas Hays farm, had a
brief run, a harvest of small strikes and dusters nipping it off
prematurely. The epitaph of the Philadelphia baby would about fit:

                “Died when young and full of promise,
                Our own little darling Thomas;
                We can’t have things here to please us—
                He has gone to dwell with Jesus.”

Branching off a mile south of Karns City, on January thirty-first, 1873,
the first well—one-hundred and fifty barrels—was finished on the Moore &
Hepler farm of three-hundred acres. Another in February strengthened
“the belt theory,” belief in which induced C. D. Angell, John L.
McKinney, Phillips Brothers and O. K. Warren to form a company and test
the tract. Their faith was recompensed “an hundred fold” by an array of
dandy wells and the unfolding of Angelica. Operators were feeling their
way steadfastly. Two miles south-east of Angelica, on the Simon Barnhart
farm, Messimer & Backus’s wild-cat—also a February plant—pumped eight
barrels a day. Shreve & Kingsley’s, on the Stewart farm, a mile
north-east, found good sand and flowed one-hundred-and-forty barrels, in
April, 1873. The fickle tide turned in that direction and Millerstown, a
dingy, pokey hamlet on a side-elevation in Donegal township, a half-mile
south-east of the Shreve-spouter, was on everybody’s lips. Some persons
and some communities have greatness thrust upon them and Millerstown was
of this brood. The natives awakened one April morning to find their
settlement invaded by the irrepressible oilmen.

For sixty years the quiet hamlet of Barnhart’s Mills—a colony of
Barnharts settled in Donegal when the nineteenth century was in its
teens—stuck contentedly in the old rut, “the world unknowing, by the
world unknown.” It consisted chiefly of log-houses, looking sufficiently
antiquated to have been imported in William Penn’s good ship Welcome. A
church, a school, a blacksmith-shop, a grocery, a general store and a
tavern had existed from time immemorial. A grist-mill ground wheat and
the name of Barnhart’s Mills was adopted by the post-office authorities.
It yielded to Millerstown and finally to Chicora. The two-hundred
villagers went to bed at dark and breakfasted by candle-light in winter.
A birth, a marriage or a funeral aroused profound interest. At last news
of oil “from Parker down” was heard occasionally. Petrolia arose and the
Millerites shivered with apprehension. Was the petroleum-wave to
submerge their peaceful homes? The Shreve well answered the query
affirmatively and the invasion was not delayed. Crowds came, properties
changed hands, old houses were razed and by July the ancient borough was
disguised as a modern oil-town. Dr. Book built a grand hotel, Taylor &
Satterfield established a bank, the United and Relief Pipe-Lines opened
offices, the best firms were represented and “on to Millerstown” was the
shibboleth of the hour. McFarland & Co.’s seventy-barrel well on the
Thorn farm, a mile north-east of town, the third in the district, fed
the oily flame. Dr. James, on R. Barnhart’s lands, finished the fourth,
an eighty-barreler, in June, a half-mile west of the Shreve & Kingsley,
which Clark & Timblin bought for twenty-thousand dollars. Wyatt, Fertig
& Hammond’s mammoth flowed one-thousand barrels a day! Col. Wyatt was a
real Virginian, chivalric, educated and high-strung. Hon. John Fertig
was a pioneer on Oil Creek and had operated at Foxburg with John W.
Hammond. The Wyatt spouted for months.

McKeown & Morissey drilled rib-ticklers on the Nolan farm. Warden &
Frew, F. Prentice, Taylor & Satterfield, Captain Grace, John Preston,
Cook & Goldsboro, Samuel P. Boyer, C. D. Angell and multitudes more
scored big hits. McKinney Brothers & Galey secured the Hemphill and
Frederick farms, on which they drilled scores of splendid wells. James
M. Lambing had a chunk near the Wyatt, with Col. Brady next door. Lee &
Plumer, fresh from their triumphs in Clarion, leased the Diviner farm,
two miles south-west of Millerstown, for two-hundred dollars an acre
bonus and one-eighth royalty. Their first well flowed fifteen-hundred
barrels and they sold to Taylor & Satterfield for ninety-thousand
dollars after its production paid the bonus and the drilling. Henry
Greene drilled on the Johnson farm, two miles straight south of the
village, and P. M. Shannon’s, on the Boyle, was the lion of the eastern
belt. A dry strip divided the field into two productive lines. P. H.
Burchfield opened the Gillespie farm and Joseph Overy touched the Mead,
four miles south of Millerstown, for a two-hundred-barreler that
installed St. Joe. Dr. Hunter, of Pittsburg, monkeyed a well on the
Gillespie for many weeks, inaugurating the odious “mystery” racket.
Millerstown was a peach of the most approved pattern, holding its own
bravely until Bradford overwhelmed the southern region. A narrow-gauge
railroad connected it with Parker in 1876. Fire in 1875 swept away the
central portion of the town and blotted out seven lives. Oil has
receded, the operators have departed and the town is once more a placid
country village.

The Barnhart and Hemphill farms yielded McKinney Brothers a lavish
return, the wells averaging fifty to three-hundred barrels month after
month. The two brothers, John L. and J. C., were not amateurs in
oil-matters. Sons of a well-to-do lumberman and farmer in Warren county,
they learned business-methods in boyhood and were fitted by habit and
education to manage important enterprises. Their connection with
petroleum dated back to the sixties, in the oldest districts. The
knowledge stored up on Oil Creek and around Franklin and at
Pleasantville was of immense benefit in the lower fields. Organizing the
firm of McKinney Brothers in 1890, to operate at Parker, they kept pace
with the trend of developments southward. Millerstown impressed them
favorably and they paid seventy-thousand dollars for the Barnhart and
two Hemphill farms, two-hundred-and-seventy acres in the heart of the
richest territory. John Galey purchased an interest in the properties,
which the partners developed judiciously. J. C. McKinney and Galey
resided at Millerstown to oversee the numerous details of their
extensive operations. In 1877, H. L. Taylor, John Satterfield, John
Pitcairn and the brothers formed the partnership known as John L.
McKinney & Co. It was controlled and managed by the McKinneys, until the
sale of its interests to the Standard Oil-Company. John L. and J. C.
McKinney sold their Ohio lands and wells in 1889 and their Pennsylvania
oil-properties in 1890, since which period they have been associated
with the Standard in one of its great producing branches, the South Penn
Oil-Company. Noah S. Clark is president of the South Penn, with
headquarters at Oil City and Pittsburg. This company has thousands of
wells in Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia. The wise policy that has
made the Standard the world’s foremost corporation has nowhere been
manifested more effectively than in the formation of such companies as
the Forest and the South Penn. Letting sellers of production share in
the ownership and management of properties united in one grand system
secures the advantages of concerted action, unlimited capital, identity
of interest and combined experience. Thus men of the highest skill join
hands for the good of all, using the latest appliances, buying at
wholesale for cash, producing oil at the smallest cost and giving the
public the fruits of systematic coöperation. In this free country “the
poor man’s back-yard opens into all out-doors” and many producers, like
John McKeown, Captain Jones “The.” Barnsdall and Michael Murphy have
been conspicuously successful going it alone. Sometimes a growl is heard
about monopoly, centralization and the octave of similar phrases, just
as folks grumble at the weather, the heat and cold and think they could
run the universe much better than its Creator does it.

                  “Oh, many a wicked smile they smole,
                    And many a wink they wunk;
                  And, oh, it is an awful thing
                    To think the thoughts they thunk.”

[Illustration: JOHN L. MCKINNEY.]

[Illustration: J. C. MCKINNEY.]

Hon. John L. McKinney’s talent for business displayed itself in youth.
“The boy’s the father to the man” and at sixteen he assumed charge of
his father’s accounts, superintending the sale of lumber and
farm-products three years. At nineteen, in the fall of 1861, he drilled
his first well, a dry-hole south of Franklin. Two leases on Oil Creek
fared better and in the spring he purchased one-third of a drilling well
and lease on the John McClintock farm, near Rouseville. The well was
spring-poled three-hundred feet, horse-power put it to four-hundred and
an engine to five-hundred, at which depth it flowed six-hundred barrels,
lasting two years, lessening slowly and producing enough oil to enrich
the owners. Young McKinney worked his turn, “kicking the pole” all
summer and visiting his home in Warren county when steam was substituted
for human and equine muscle. During his absence the sand was prodded,
the golden stream responded and his partner sold out for a round sum,
taking no note of his share! He heard of the strike and found the
purchasers in full possession upon his return. His contract had not been
recorded, one day remained to file it with the register and he saved his
claim by a few hours! He bought interests on Cherry Run that profited
him two-hundred thousand dollars, in 1864 leased large tracts in Greene
county and in 1865 removed to Philadelphia. He operated on Benninghoff
Run in 1866, the crash of 1867 swept away his gains and he began again
“at the top of the ground.” With his younger brother, J. C. McKinney, he
drilled at Pleasantville in 1868 and the next year located at Parker’s
Landing, operating constantly and managing an agency for the sale of
Gibbs & Sterrett machinery. Success crowded upon him in 1871 and in 1873
McKinney Brothers & Galey were the leaders in the Millerstown field.
Mrs. McKinney, a beautiful and accomplished woman, died in 1894. Mr.
McKinney built an elegant home at Titusville and he has been an
influential citizen of “the Queen City of Oildom” for twenty years. He
is president of the Commercial Bank and a heavy stockholder in local
industries. He has resisted pressing demands for his services in public
office, preferring the private station, yet participating actively in
politics. John L. McKinney is earnest and manly everywhere, steadfast in
his friendships, true to his professions, liberal and honorable always.

J. C. McKinney engaged with an engineer-corps of the Pennsylvania
Railroad Company in 1861, at the age of seventeen, to survey lines
southward from Garland, on the Philadelphia & Erie Road. The survey
ending at Franklin in 1863, he left the corps and started a lumber-yard
at Oil City. His father was a lumberman at Pittsfield, Warren county,
and the youth of nineteen knew every branch of the business thoroughly.
He opened a yard at Franklin in 1864, resided there a number of years
and in 1868 married Miss Agnes E. Moore. His first well, drilled at
Foster in 1865, produced moderately. In company with C. D. Angell, he
drilled on Scrubgrass Island—Mr. Angell changed the name to Belle Island
for his daughter Belle—in 1866 and at Pleasantville in 1868 with his
brother, John L. Operating for heavy-oil at Franklin in 1869-70, he sold
his wells to Egbert, Mackey & Tafft and settled at Parker’s Landing in
1870. The firm’s operations in Butler county requiring his personal
attention, he built a house and resided at Millerstown several years.
There he worked zealously, purchasing blocks of land and drilling a
legion of prolific wells. Upon the subsidence of the Butler field he
removed to Titusville, buying and remodeling the Windsor mansion, which
he made one of the finest residences in the oil-region. He assists in
managing the South Penn Oil-Company, to which McKinney Brothers disposed
of their interests in Ohio and Pennsylvania. In the flush of healthful
vigor, wealthy and respected, he enjoys “the good the gods provide.” He
keeps fast horses, handles the ribbons skillfully, can guide a big
enterprise or an untamed bicycle deftly, is companionable and utterly
devoid of affectation. To the McKinneys, men of positive character and
strict integrity, the Roman eulogy applies: “A pair of noble brothers.”

“Plumer’s Ride to Diviner” discounted Sheridan’s Ride to Winchester in
the estimation of Millerstown hustlers. Various operators longed and
prayed for the Diviner farm of two-hundred acres, two miles south of
Millerstown, which “Ed” Bennett’s three-hundred barrel well on the Boyle
farm rendered very desirable. The old, childless couple owning it
declined to lease or sell, not wishing to move out of the old house. Lee
& Plumer were on the anxious seat with the rest of the fraternity.
Plumer overheard a big operator tell his foreman one morning to offer
three-hundred dollars an acre for the farm. “Fred” lost not a moment.
Ordering his two-twenty horse to be saddled instantly, he galloped to
the Diviner domicile in hot haste and said: “I’ll give you two-hundred
dollars an acre and one-eighth the oil for your land and let you stay in
the house!” The aged pair consulted a moment, accepted the offer and
signed an agreement to transfer the property in three days. The ink was
not dry when the foreman rode up, but “Fred” met him in the yard with a
smile that expressed the gospel-hymn: “Too late, too late, ye cannot
enter in!” The first well repaid the whole outlay in thirty days, when
Taylor & Satterfield paid ninety-thousand dollars for Lee & Plumer’s
holdings, a snug sum to rake in from a two-mile horseback-ride. With a
fine sense of appreciation the well was labeled “Plumer’s Ride to
Diviner,” a board nailed to the walking-beam bearing the protracted
title in artistic capitals.

The Millerstown fire ended seven human lives, four of them at Dr. Book’s
Central Hotel. A. G. Oliver, of Kane City, was roasted in the room
occupied by me the previous night. Norah Canty, a waitress, descended
the stairs, returned for her trunk and was burned to a cinder. Nellie
McCarthy jumped from a high window to the street, fracturing both legs
and sustaining injuries that crippled her permanently. In loss of life
the fire ranked next to the dreadful tragedy of the burning-well at

P. M. Shannon, first burgess of Millerstown, had a fashion of saluting
intimate friends with the query: “Where are we now?” Possibly this was
the origin of the popular phrase, “Where are we at?” A zealous officer
arrested a drunken loafer one afternoon. The fellow struggled to get
free and the officer halted a wagon to haul the obstreperous drunk to
the lock-up. The prisoner was laid on his back in the wagon and his
captor tried to hold him down.

[Illustration: “WHERE ARE WE NOW?”]

A crowd gathered and the burgess got aboard to assist the peeler. He was
holding the feet of the law-breaker, with his back to the end-board, at
the instant the wheels struck a plank-crossing. The shock keeled Shannon
backwards over the end-board into the deep, vicious mud! The spectators
thought of shedding tears at the sad plight of their chief magistrate,
who sank at full length nearly out of sight. As he raised his head a
ragged urchin bawled out: “Where are we now?” The laugh that ensued was
a risible earthquake and thenceforth the expression had unlimited
circulation in the lower districts.

The Millerstown field produced ten-thousand barrels a day at its prime
and the temptation to enlarge the productive area even St. Anthony, had
he been an oil-operator, would have found it hard to resist. A half-mile
west, at the Brick Church, J. A. Irons punched a hole and started a
hardware-store that hatched out Irons City. St. Joe, where two-hundred
lots were sold in thirty days and a beer-jerker’s tent was the first
business-stand, was the outcome of good wells on the Now, Meade, Boyd,
Neff and Graham farms, four miles south. Three miles farther dry-holes
blasted the budding hopes of Jeffersonville. Three miles south-west of
Millerstown, on an elevated site, Buena Vista bade fair to knock the
persimmons. The territory exhausted too speedily for comfort, other
points lured the floaters, hotels and stores stood empty and a fire sent
three-fourths of the neat little town up in smoke. Two miles west the
Hope Oil-Company’s Troutman well, reported on March twenty-second, 1873,
“the biggest strike since ’sixty-five,” flowed twelve-hundred barrels.
The tools hung in the hole seven months, by which time the well had
produced ninety-six-thousand barrels. The gusher was on the Troutman
farm, a patch of rocks and stunted trees tenanted by a Frenchman. I. E.
Dean, Lecky & Reineman, Captain Grace, Captain Boyer, the Reno
Oil-Company and others jostled neck and neck in the race to drain the
Ralston, Harper, Starr, Jenkins and Troutman lands. The result was a
series of spouters that aggregated nine-thousand barrels a day. Phillips
Brothers paid eighty-thousand dollars for the Starr farm and trebled
their money in a year. William K. Vandergrift’s Blackhawk was a
five-hundred barreler and dozens more swelled the production and the
excitement. The day before Husselton & Thompson’s seven-hundred
barreler, on the Gruber farm, struck the sand the boiler exploded. Two
men were standing on a tank discussing politics. They saw a ton of iron
heading directly towards them, concluded to postpone the argument and
leaped from the tank as the flying mass tore off half the roof. The
Ralston farm evoluted the embryo town of Batesville, named for the late
Joseph Bates, of Oil City, and Modoc planted its wigwams on the Starr
and Sutton.

Modoc stood at the top of the class for mud. The man who found a
gold-dollar in a can of tomatoes and denounced the grocer for selling
adulterated goods would have had no reason to grumble at the mud around
Modoc. It was pure, unmixed and unstinted. The voyager who, in the
spring or fall of 1873, accomplished the trip from Troutman to the
frontier wells without exhausting his stock of profanity earned a
free-pass to the happy hunting-grounds. Twenty balloon-structures were
erected by May first and a red-headed dispenser of stimulants answered
to the title of “Captain Jack.” Modoc was not a Tammany offshoot, but
the government had an Indian war on hand and red-skinned epithets
prevailed. The town soon boasted three stores, four hotels, liveries and
five-hundred people. By and by the spouters wilted badly, degenerating
into pumpers. On a cold, rainy night in the autumn of 1874 fire started
in Max Elasser’s clothing-store and one-half the town was absent at dawn
next morning. Biting wind and drenching showers added to the sadness of
the dismal scene. Women and children, weeping and homeless, crouched in
the fields until daylight and shelter arrived. That was the last chapter
in the history of Modoc. The American Hotel and a few houses escaped the
flames, but the destroyed buildings were not replaced. It would puzzle a
tourist now to find an atom of Modoc or the wells that vegetated about
the Troutman whale.

Two miles south of Modoc the McClelland farm made a bold effort to
outshine the Troutman. Phillips Brothers owned the biggest wells,
luscious fellows that salt-water killed off prematurely. They paid
forty-five-thousand dollars for the Stahl & Benedict No. 1 well. The
farmer leased the tract to George Nesbit and John Preston. Nesbit placed
timbers for a rig on the ground and entrenched a force of men behind a
fence. Preston’s troops scaled the fence, dislodged the enemy, carried
the timbers off the premises, built a rig and drilled a well. Such
disputes were liable to occur from the ignorance or knavery of the
natives, some of whom leased the same land to several parties. In one of
these struggles for possession Obadiah Haymaker was shot dead at
Murraysville, near Pittsburg. Milton Weston, a Chicago millionaire, who
hired and armed the attacking party, was sent to the penitentiary for
manslaughter. Haymaker was pleasant, sociable and worthy of a better

David Morrison leased ten acres of the Jamison farm, three miles below
Modoc and seven south of Petrolia, at one-fiftieth royalty. The
property was situated on Connoquinessing Creek, a tributary of Beaver
River, in the bosom of a rugged country. On August twenty-fourth,
1872, the tools pricked the sand, gas burst forth and oil flowed
furiously. The gas sought the boiler-fire and the entire concern was
speedily in a blaze. Unlike many others in the oil-region, the
Morrison well suffered no injury from the fire. It flowed
three-hundred barrels a day for a month and in October was sold to
Taylor & Satterfield for thirty-eight-thousand dollars. They cleaned
out the hole, which mud had clogged, restoring the yield to
two-hundred barrels. S. D. Karns completed the Dogleg well, the second
in the field, on Christmas day, and the third early in January, the
two wells flowing seven-hundred barrels. John Preston’s No. 1, a
half-mile northward, flowed two-hundred barrels on January twelfth.
Preston was a strong-limbed, black-haired, courageous operator, who
cut his eye-teeth in the upper fields. He augmented his pile at
Parker, Millerstown and Greece City, landing at last in Washington
county. He was not averse to a hand at cards or a gamble in
production. His word was never broken and he vied with John McKeown
and John Galey in untiring energy. A truer, livelier, braver lot of
men than the Butler oil-operators never stepped on God’s green carpet.
A mean tyrant might as well try to climb into heaven on a greased pole
as to keep them at the bottom of the heap.

The first new building on the Jamison farm, a frame drug-store, was
erected on September tenth. Eight-hundred people inhabited Greece City
by the end of December. Drinking dens drove a thriving trade and three
hotels could not stow away the crowds. J. H. Collins fed five-hundred a
day. Theodore Huselton established a bank and Rev. Mr. Thorne a
newspaper. A post-office was opened at New-Year. Two pipe-lines conveyed
oil to Butler and Brady, two telegraph-offices rushed messages, a church
blossomed in the spring and a branch of the West Penn Railroad was
proposed. Greece City combined the muddiness and activity of Shaffer and
Funkville with the ambition of Reno. Fifty wells were drilling in
February and the surrounding farms were not permitted to “linger longer,
Lucy,” than was necessary to haul machinery and set the walking-beam
sawing the atmosphere. Joseph Post—a jolly Rousevillean, who weighed
two-hundred pounds, operated at Bradford and retired to a farm in
Ohio—tested the Whitmire farm, two miles south. An extensive water-well
was the best the farm had to offer and Boydstown, built in expectation
of the oil that never came, scampered off. The third sand was only
twelve to fifteen feet thick and the wells declined with unprecedented
suddenness. The bottom seemed to drop out of the territory in a
twinkling. The town wilted like a paper-collar in the dog-days. Houses
were torn down or deserted and rigs carted to Millerstown. In December
fire licked up three-fourths of what removals had spared, summarily
ending Greece City at the fragile age of thirteen months. “The isles of
Greece, were burning Sappho loved and sung,” may have been pretty slick,
but the oil of Greece City would have burned out Sappho in one round.

“The meanest man I ever saw,” a Butler judge remarked to a company of
friends at Collins’s Hotel, “has never appeared in my court as a
defendant and it is lucky for him. As a matter of course he was a
newspaper man—a rascal of a reporter for the Greece City _Review_,
printed right in this town, and there he stands! One day he was playing
seven-up with a young lady and guess what he did? He told her that
whenever she had the jack of trumps it was a sure sign her lover was
thinking of her. Then he watched her and whenever she blushed and looked
pleased he would lead a high card and catch her jack. A man who would do
that would steal a hot stove or write a libellous joke about me.” The
judge was a rare joker and the young man whom he apostrophised for fun
didn’t know a jack from a load of hay.

Parker, Martinsburg, Argyle, Petrolia, the “Cross Belt,” Karns City,
Angelica, Millerstown, St. Joe, Buena Vista, Modoc and Greece City had
passed in review. The “belt” extended fifteen miles and the Butler field
acknowledged no rival. The great Bradford district was about to distance
all competitors and leave the southern region hopelessly behind, yet
operators did not desist from their efforts to discover an outlet below
Greece City and St. Joe. Two miles west of the county-seat Phillips
Brothers stumbled upon the Baldridge pool, which produced largely. The
old town of Butler, settled at the beginning of the century and not
remarkable for enterprise until the oilmen shoved it forward, was dry
territory. Eastward pools of minor note were revealed. William K.
Vandergrift, whose three-hundred-barrel well on the Pontius farm ushered
in Buena Vista’s short-lived reign, drilled at Saxonburg. Along the
West-Penn Railroad fair wells encouraged the quest. David Kirk entered
Great Belt City in the race and the country was punctured like a
bicycle-tire tripping over a road strewn with tacks pointing skyward and
loaded for mischief. South of St. Joe gas blew off and Spang & Chalfant
laid a line from above Freeport to pipe the stuff into their
rolling-mills at Pittsburg. The search proceeded without big surprises,
Bradford monopolizing public interest and Butler jogging on quietly at
the rear. But the old field had plenty of ginger and was merely
recovering some of the breath expended in producing forty-million
barrels of crude. “I smell a rat,” felicitously observed Sir Boyle
Roche, “and see him floating in the air.” The free play of the drill
could hardly fail to ferret out something with the smell of petroleum in
the soap-mine county, beyond the cut-off at Greece City and Baldridge.
Bradford was sliding down the mountain it had ascended and Butler
furnished the answer to the conundrum of where to look for the next
fertile spot.

Col. S. P. Armstrong, who experienced a siege of hard luck in the upper
latitudes, in 1884 leased a portion of the Marshall farm, on Thorn
Creek, six miles south-west of the town of Butler. Operators had been
skirmishing around the southern rim of the basin, looking for an annex
to the Baldridge pool. Andrew Shidemantle was drilling near the mouth of
the creek, on the north bank of which Johnson & Co.’s well, finished in
May, found plenty of sand and salt-water and a taste of oil. More than
once Armstrong was pressed for funds to pay the workmen drilling the
well he began on the little stream and he sold an interest to Boyd &
Semple. A vein of oil was met on June twenty-seventh, gas ignited the
rig and for a week the well burned fiercely. The flames were subdued
finally, the well pumped and flowed one-hundred-and-fifty barrels a day
and No. 2 was started fifty rods north-east. Meanwhile Phillips Brothers
set the tools dancing on the Bartlett farm, adjoining the Marshall on
the north. They hit the sand on August twenty-ninth and the well flowed
five-hundred barrels next day. Drilling ten feet deeper jagged a
veritable reservoir of petroleum, the well flowing forty-two-hundred
barrels on September fifteenth! At last Phillips & Vanausdall’s spouter
on Oil Creek had been eclipsed. The trade was “shaken clear out of its
boots.” Glowing promises of a healthy advance in prices were
frost-bitten. Scouts had been hovering around and their reckoning was
utterly at fault. Brokers knew not which way to turn. Crude staggered
into the ditch and speculators on the wrong side of the market went down
like the Louisiana Tigers at Gettysburg. The bull-element thought the
geyser “a scratch,” quite sure not to be duplicated, and all hands
awaited impatiently the completion of Hezekiah Christie’s venture on a
twenty-five acre plot hugging the Phillips lease. The one redeeming
feature of the situation was that nobody had the temerity to remark, “I
told you so!”


A telegraph office was rigged up near the Phillips well in an abandoned
carriage, one-third mile from the Christie. About it the sharp-eyed
scouts thronged night and day. On October eleventh the Christie was
known to be nearing the critical point. Excitement was at fever-heat
among the group of anxious watchers. In the afternoon some knowing-one
reported that the tools were twenty-seven feet in the sand, with no show
of oil. The scouts went to condole with Christie, who was sitting in the
boiler-house, over his supposed dry-hole. One elderly scout, whose
rotundity made him “the observed of all observers,” was especially warm
in his expressions of sympathy. “That’s all right, Ben,” said Christie,
“but before night you’ll be making for the telegraph-office to sell your
oil at a gait that will make a euchre-game on your coat-tails an easy
matter.” When the scout had gone he walked into the derrick and asked
his driller how far he was in the sand. “Only twenty-two feet and we are
sure to strike oil before three o’clock. Those scouts don’t know what
they’re talking about.” Christie went back to the boiler-house and
waited. It was an interesting scene. About the old buggy were the
self-confident scouts, many of whom had already wired their principals
that the well was dry. The intervals between the strokes of the drill
appeared to be hours. At length the well began to gas. Then came a low,
rumbling sound and those about the carriage saw a cloud-burst of oil
envelop the derrick. The Christie well was in and the biggest gusher the
oil-country had ever known! The first day it did over five-thousand
barrels, seven-thousand for several days after torpedoing, and for a
month poured out a sea of oil. Christie refused one-hundred-thousand
dollars for his monster, which cast the Cherry Grove gushers completely
into the shade. Phillips No. 3, four-hundred barrels, Conners No. 1,
thirty-seven-hundred, and Phillips No. 2, twenty-five hundred, were
added to the string on October eighteenth, nineteenth and twenty-first.
Crude tumbled, the bears pranced wildly and everybody wondered if Thorn
Creek had further surprises up its sleeve. Bret Harte’s “heathen Chinee”
with five aces was less of an enigma.

All this time Colonel Armstrong, who borrowed money to build his first
derrick and buy his first boiler, was pegging away at his second well.
The sand was bored through into the slate beneath and the contractor
pronounced the well a failure. The scouts agreed with him unanimously
and declared the contractor a level-headed gentleman. The owner, who
looked for something nicer than salt-water and forty-five feet of
ungreased sand, did not lose every vestige of hope. He decided to try
the persuasive powers of a torpedo. At noon on October twenty-seventh
sixty quarts of nitro-glycerine were lowered into the hole. The usual
low rumbling responded, but the expected flow did not follow
immediately. One of the scouts laughingly offered Armstrong a cigar for
the well, which the whole party declared “no good.” They broke for the
telegraph-office in the buggy to wire that the well was a duster. Prices
stiffened and the bulls breathed more freely.

The scouts changed their minds and their messages very speedily. The
rumbling increased until its roar resembled a small Niagara. A sheet of
salt-water shot out of the hole over the derrick, followed by a shower
of slate, stones and dirt. A moment later, with a preliminary cough to
clear its passage, the oil came with a mighty rush. A giant stream
spurted sixty feet above the tall derrick, dug drains in the ground and
saturated everything within a radius of five-hundred feet! The Jumbo of
oil-wells had been struck. Thousands of barrels of oil were wasted
before the cap could be adjusted on the casing. Tanks had been provided
and a half-dozen pipes were needed to carry the enormous mass of fluid.
It was an inspiring sight to stand on top of the tank and watch the
tossing, heaving, foaming deluge. The first twenty-four hours Armstrong
No. 2 flowed _eight-thousand-eight-hundred barrels_! It dropped to
six-thousand by November first, to six-hundred by December first and
next morning stopped altogether, having produced eighty-nine-thousand
barrels in thirty-seven days! Armstrong then divided his lease into
five-acre patches, sold them at fifteen-hundred dollars bonus and half
the oil and quit Thorn Creek in the spring a half-million ahead.


                       ARMSTRONG WELL

Fisher Brothers were the largest operators in the field. From the
Marshall farm of three-hundred acres—worth ten dollars an acre for
farming—they took four-hundred-thousand dollars’ worth of oil. Their
biggest well flowed forty-two-hundred barrels on November fifteenth,
when the total output of the field was sixteen-thousand, its highest
notch. Miller & Yeagle’s spouter put forty-five-hundred into the tank,
sending out a stream that filled a five-inch pipe. Thomas B. Simpson, of
Oil City, joined with Thomas W. Phillips in leasing the Kennedy farm and
drilling a three-thousand-barrel well. They sold to the Associated
Producers in December for eighty-thousand dollars and Simpson, a
sensible man every day in the year, presented his wife with a Christmas
check for his half of the money. McBride and Campbell, two young
drillers who had gone to Thorn Creek in search of work, went a mile in
advance of developments and bored a well that did five-thousand barrels
a day. They sold out to the Associated Producers for ninety-thousand and
six months later their big well was classed among the small pumpers.
Campbell saved what he had made, but success did not sit well on
McBride’s shoulders. After lighting his cigars awhile with five-dollar
bills he touched bottom and went back to the drill. Hell’s Half Acre, a
crumb of land owned by the Bredin heirs, emptied sixty-thousand barrels
into the tanks of the Associated Producers. The little truck-farm of
John Mangel put ninety-thousand into its owner’s pocket, although a
losing venture to the operators, producing barely a hundred-thousand
barrels. For the half-acre on which the red school-house was built, ten
rods from the first Phillips well, the directors were offered
fifty-thousand dollars. This would have endowed every school in the
township, but legal obstacles prevented the sale and the district was
the loser. By May the production declined to seven-thousand barrels and
to one-thousand by the end of 1885. The sudden rise of the field made a
score of fortunes and its sudden collapse ruined as many more. Thorn
Creek, like reform measures in the Legislature, had a brilliant opening
and an inglorious close.

The Thorn-Creek white-sanders encouraged wildcatting to an extraordinary
degree. In hope of extending the pool or disclosing a fresh one, “men
drilled who never drilled before, and those who always drilled but
drilled the more.” Johnson & Co., Campbell & McBride, Fisher Brothers
and Shidemantle’s dusters on the southern end of the gusher-farms
condemned the territory in that direction. Painter Brothers developed a
small pool at Riebold Station. Craig & Cappeau, who struck the initial
spouter at Kane, and the Fisher Oil-Company failed to open up a field in
Middlesex township. Some oil was found at Zelienople and gas at numerous
points in raking over Butler county. The country south-west of Butler,
into West Virginia and Ohio, was overrun by oil-prospectors, intent upon
tying up lands and seeing that no lurking puddle of petroleum should
escape. Test wells crossed the lines into Allegheny and Beaver counties
and Shoustown, Shannopin, Mt. Nebo, Coraopolis, Undercliff and Economy
figured in the newspapers as oil-centers of more or less consequence.
Members of the old guard, fortified with a stack of blues at their elbow
to meet any contingency, shared in these proceedings. Brundred & Marston
drilled on Pine Creek, at the lower end of Armstrong county, in the
seventies, a Pittsburg company repeating the dose in 1886. At New
Bethlehem they bored two-thousand feet, finding seven-hundred feet of
red-rock. This rock varies from one to three-hundred feet on Oil Creek
and geologists assert is six-thousand feet thick at Harrisburg,
diminishing as it approaches the Alleghenies. The late W. J. Brundred,
agent at Oil City of the Empire Line until its absorption by the
Pennsylvania Railroad, was a skilled oil-operator, practical in his
ideas and prompt in his methods. His son, B. F. Brundred, is president
of the Imperial Refining Company and a prosperous resident of Oil City.
Joseph H. Marston died in California, whither he had gone hoping to
improve his health, in 1880. He was an artist at Franklin in the opening
years of developments and removed to Oil City. He owned the Petroleum
House and was exceptionally genial, enterprising and popular.

                      “Through many a year
              We shall remember, with a sad delight,
              The friends forever gone from mortal sight.”

Pittsburg assumed the airs of a petroleum-metropolis. Natural-gas in the
suburbs and east of the city changed its sooty blackness to a delicate
clearness that enabled people to see the sky. Oilmen made it their
headquarters and built houses at East Liberty and Allegheny. To-day more
representative producers can be seen in Pittsburg than in Oil City,
Titusville or Bradford. Within a hundred yards of the National-Transit
offices one can find Captain Vandergrift, T. J. Vandergrift, J. M.
Guffey, John Galey, Frank Queen, W. J. Young, P. M. Shannon, Frederick
Hayes, Dr. M C. Egbert, A. J. Gartland, Edward Jennings, Captain Grace,
S. D. Karns, William Fleming, C. D. Greenlee, John N. Lambing, John
Galloway, John J. Fisher, Henry Fisher, Frederick Fisher, J. A.
Buchanan, J. N. Pew, Michael Murphy, James Patterson and other veterans
in the business. These are some of the men who had the grit to open new
fields, to risk their cash in pioneer-experiments, to cheapen
transportation and to make kerosene “the poor man’s light.” They are not
youngsters any more, but their hearts have not grown old, their heads
have not swelled and the microbe of selfishness has not soured their
kindly impulses. They are of the royal stamp that would rather tramp the
cross-ties with honor than ride in a sixteen-wheeled Pullman

[Illustration: W. E. GRIFFITH.]

Gas east and oil west was the rule at Pittsburg. Wildwood was the chief
sensation in 1889-90. This was the pet of W. E. Griffith, whose first
well on the Whitesell farm, twelve miles above Pittsburg, tapped the
sand in March of 1890, and flowed three-hundred barrels a day. This
prime send-off inaugurated Wildwood in good style. The Bear-Creek
Refining-Company drilled on the C. J. Gibson farm, Pine Creek, in 1888,
finding considerable gas. Later Barney Forst and Max Klein found third
sand and no oil in a well two-thirds of a mile west, on the Moon farm.
John M. Patterson went two miles south-east and drilled the Cockscomb
well, twin-link to a duster. J. M. Guffey & Co. hit sand and a taste of
oil near Perrysville, between which and the Cockscomb venture Gibson &
Giles had encouraging indications. Anon Griffith’s spouter touched the
jugular and opened a prolific pool. His No. 2 produced a quarter-million
barrels. Guffey & Co.’s No. 4, Rolsehouse farm, and Bamsdall’s No. 2,
Kress farm, started at three-thousand apiece the first twenty-four
hours. About three-hundred acres of rich territory were punctured, some
of the wells piercing the fifth sand at two-thousand feet. By the end of
1890 the district had yielded thirteen-hundred-thousand barrels, placing
it close to the top of the white-sand column. Wildwood is situated in
Allegheny county, on the Pittsburg & Western Railroad, and W. E.
Griffith is justly deemed the father of the nobby district. He is a
practical man, admirably posted regarding sands and oils and in every
respect worthy of the success that has crowned his efforts to hold up
his end of the string.

Thirty-three wells at Wildwood realized Greenlee & Forst not far from a
quarter-million dollars. Five in “the hundred-foot” field west of Butler
repaid their cost and brought them fifty-thousand dollars from the
South-Penn Oil-Company. The two lucky operators next leased and
purchased eight-hundred acres at Oakdale, Noblestown and McDonald, in
Allegheny and Washington counties, fifteen to twenty miles west of
Pittsburg. The Crofton third-sand pool was opened in February of 1888,
the Groveton & Young hundred-foot in the winter of 1889-90 and the
Chartiers third-sand field in the spring of 1890. South-west of these,
on the J. J. McCurdy farm, five miles north-east of Oakdale, Patterson &
Jones drilled into the fifth sand on October seventeenth, 1890. The well
flowed nine-hundred barrels a day for four months, six months later
averaged two-hundred and by the end of 1891 had yielded a
hundred-and-fifty thousand. Others on the same and adjacent tracts
started at fifty to twenty-five-hundred barrels, Patterson & Jones alone
deriving four-thousand barrels a day from thirteen wells. In the summer
of 1890 the Royal Gas-Company drilled two wells on the McDonald estate,
two miles west of McDonald Station and ten south-west of McCurdy,
finding a show of oil in the so-called “Gordon sand.” On the farm of
Edward McDonald, west side of the borough, the company struck oil and
gas in the same rock the latter part of September. The well stood idle
two months, was bored through the fifth sand in November, torpedoed on
December twentieth and filled three tanks of oil in ten days. The tools
were run down to clean it out, stuck fast and the pioneer venture of the
McDonald region ended its career simultaneously with the ending of 1890.
Thorn Creek had been a wonder and Wildwood a dandy, yet both combined
were to be dwarfed and all records smashed by the greatest white-sand
pool and the biggest gushers in America.

Geologists solemnly averred in 1883 that “the general boundaries of the
oil-region of Pennsylvania are now well established,” “we can have no
reasonable expectation that any new and extensive field will be found”
and “there are not any grounds for anticipating the discovery of new
fields which will add enough to the declining products of the old to
enable the output to keep pace with the consumption.” Notwithstanding
these learned opinions, Thorn Creek had the effrontery to “be found” in
1884, Wildwood in 1890 and the monarch of the tribe in 1891. The men who
want people to discard Genesis for their interpretation of the rocks
were as wide of the mark as the dudish Nimrod who couldn’t hit a
barn-door at thirty yards. He paralyzed his friends by announcing: “Wal,
I hit the bullseye to-day the vehwy fiwst shot!” Congratulations were
pouring in when he added: “Yaas, and the bweastly fawmeh made me pay
twenty-five dollahs fawh the bull I didn’t see when I fiwed,
doncherknow!” A raw recruit instructed the architect of his uniform to
sew in an iron-plate “to protect the most vital part.” The facetious
tailor, instead of fixing the plate in the breast of the coat, planted
it in the seat of the young fellow’s breeches. The enemy worsting his
side in a skirmish, the retreating youth tried to climb over a
stone-wall. A soldier rushed to transfix him with his bayonet, which
landed on the iron-plate with the force of a battering-ram. The shock
hurled the climber safely into the field, tilted his assailant backward
and broke off the point of the cold steel! The happy hero picked himself
up and exclaimed fervently: “That tailor knew a devilish sight better’n
me what’s my most vital part!” Operators who paid no heed to scientific
disquisitions, but went on opening new fields each season, believed the
drill was the one infallible test of petroleum’s most vital part.

In May of 1891 the Royal Gas-Company finished two wells on the Robb and
Sauters tracts, south of town, across the railroad-track. The Robb
proved a twenty-barreler and the Sauters flowed one-hundred-and-sixty
barrels a day from the fifth sand. They attracted the notice of the
oilmen, who had not taken much stock in the existence of paying
territory at McDonald. Three miles north-east the Matthews well, also a
May-flower, produced thirty barrels a day from the Gordon rock. On July
first it was drilled into the fifth sand, increasing the output to
eight-hundred barrels a day for two months. Further probing the first
week in September increased it to _eleven-thousand barrels_! Scouts
gauged it at seven-hundred barrels an hour for three hours after the
agitation ceased! It yielded four-hundred-thousand barrels of oil in
four months and was properly styled Matthews the Great. The owners were
James M. Guffey, John Galey, Edward Jennings and Michael Murphy. They
built acres of tanks and kept ten or a dozen sets of tools constantly at
work. Mr. Guffey, a prime mover in every field from Richburg to West
Virginia, was largely interested in the Oakdale Oil-Company’s
eighteen-hundred acres. With Galey, Jennings and Murphy he owned the
Sturgeon, Bell and Herron farms, the first six wells on which yielded
twenty-eight-thousand barrels a day! The mastodon oil-field of the world
had been ushered in by men whose sagacious boldness and good judgment
Bradford, Warren, Venango, Clarion and Butler had witnessed repeatedly.


  C. D. GREENLEE.           B. FORST.

C. D. Greenlee and Barney Forst, who joined forces west of Butler and at
Wildwood, in August of 1891 leased James Mevey’s two-hundred-and-fifty
acres, a short distance north-east of McDonald. Greenlee and John W.
Weeks, a surveyor who had mapped out the district and predicted it would
be the “richest field in Pennsylvania,” selected a gentle slope beside a
light growth of timber for the first well on the Mevey farm. The rig was
hurried up and the tools were hurried down. On Saturday, September
twenty-sixth, the fifth sand was cracked and oil gushed at the rate of
one-hundred-and-forty barrels an hour. The well was stirred a trifle on
Monday, September twenty-eighth, with startling effect. It put
_fifteen-thousand-six-hundred barrels_ of oil into the tanks in
twenty-four hours! The Armstrong and the Matthews had to surrender their
laurels, for Greenlee & Forst owned the largest oil-well ever struck on
this continent. On Sunday, October fourth, after slight agitation by the
tools, the mammoth poured out seven-hundred-and-fifty-barrels an hour
for four hours, a record that may, perhaps, stand until Gabriel’s horn
proclaims the wind-up of oil-geysers and all terrestrial things. The
well has yielded several-hundred-thousand barrels and is still pumping
fifty. Greenlee & Forst’s production for a time exceeded twenty-thousand
barrels a day and they could have taken two or three-million dollars for
their properties. The partners did not pile on the agony because of
their good-luck. They kept their office at Pittsburg and Greenlee
continued to live at Butler. He is a typical manager in the field,
bubbling over with push and vim. Forst had a clothing-store at
Millerstown in its busy days, waltzed around the bull-ring in the
Bradford oil-exchange and returned southward to scoop the capital prize
in the petroleum-lottery.

Scurrying for territory in the Jumbo-field set in with the vigor of a
thousand football-rushes. McDonald tourists, eager to view the wondrous
spouters and hungry for any morsel of land that could be picked up,
packed the Panhandle trains. Rigs were reared on town-lots, in gardens
and yards. Gaslights glared, streams of oil flowed and the liveliest
scenes of Oil Creek were revived and emphasized. By November first
two-hundred wells were drilling and sixty rigs building. Fifty-four
October strikes swelled the daily production at the close of the month
to eighty-thousand barrels! What Bradford had taken years to accomplish
McDonald achieved in ninety days! Greenlee & Forst had thirty wells
drilling and three-hundred-thousand barrels of iron-tankage. Guffey,
Galey & Jennings were on deck with fifteen or twenty. The Fisher
Oil-Company, owning one-fourth the Oakdale’s big tract and the McMichael
farm, had sixteen wells reaching for the jugular, from which the
Sturgeon and Baldwin spouters were drawing ten-thousand barrels a day.
William Guckert—he started at Foster and was active at Edenburg, Parker,
Millerstown, Bradford and Thorn Creek—and John A. Steele had two
producing largely and eight going down on the Mevey farm. J. G.
Haymaker, a pioneer from Allegany county, N. Y., to Allegheny county,
Pa., and Thomas Leggett owned one gusher, nine drilling wells and
five-hundred acres of leases. Haymaker began at Pithole, drilled in
Venango and Clarion, was prominent in Butler and in 1878 optioned blocks
of land on Meek’s Creek that developed good territory and the thriving
town of Haymaker, the forerunner of the Allegheny field. He boosted
Saxonburg and Legionville and his brother, Obadiah Haymaker, opened the
Murraysville gas-field and was shot dead defending his property against
an attack by Weston’s minions. Veterans from every quarter flocked in
and new faces were to be counted by hundreds at Oakdale, Noblestown and
McDonald. The National-Transit Company laid a host of lines to keep the
tanks from overflowing and Mellon Brothers operated an independent
pipe-line. Handling such an avalanche of oil was not child’s play and it
would have been utterly impossible in the era of wagons and flat-boats
on Oil Creek.

McDonald territory, if unparalleled in richness, in some respects
tallied with portions of Oil Creek and the fourth-sand division of
Butler. Occasionally a dry-hole varied the monotony of the reports and
ruffled the plumage of disappointed seekers for gushers. Even the Mevey
farm trotted out dusters forty rods from Greenlee & Forst’s
record-breaker. The “belt” was not continuous from McCurdy and dry-holes
shortened it southward and narrowed it westward, but a field so prolific
required little room to build up an overwhelming production. An engine
may exert the force of a thousand horses and the yield of the Greenlee &
Forst or the Matthews in sixty days exceeded that of a hundred average
wells in a twelvemonth. The remotest likelihood of running against such
a snap was terribly fascinating to operators who had battled in the
older sections. They were not the men to let the chance slip and stay
away from McDonald. Hence the field was defined quickly and the line of
march resumed towards the southward, into Washington county and

Wrinkles, gray-hairs and sometimes oil-wells come to him who has
patience to wait. Just as 1884 was expiring, the discovery of oil in a
well on the Gantz lot, a few rods from the Chartiers-Railroad depot,
electrified the ancient borough of Washington, midway between Pittsburg
and Wheeling. The whole town gathered to see the grease spout above the
derrick. Hundreds of oilmen hurried to pick up leases and jerk the
tools. For six weeks a veil of mystery shrouded the well, which was then
announced to be of small account. Eight others had been started, but the
territory was deep, the rock was often hard, and the excited populace
had to wait six months for the answer to the drill.

Traveling over Washington county in 1880, Frederick Crocker noticed its
strong geological resemblance to the upper oil-fields, which he knew
intimately. The locality was directly on a line from the northern
districts to points south that had produced oil. He organized the
Niagara Oil-Company and sent agents to secure leases. Remembering the
collapse of Washington companies in 1860-1, when wells on Dunkard Creek
attracted folks to Greene county, farmers held back their lands until
public-meetings and a house-to-house canvass satisfied them the Niagara
meant business. Blocks were leased in the northern tier of townships and
in 1882 a test well was drilled on the McGuigan farm. An immense flow of
gas was encountered at twenty-two-hundred feet and not a drop of oil.
Not disheartened, the company went west three miles and sank a well on
the Buchanan farm, forty-two-hundred feet. Possibly the hole contained
oil, but it was plugged and the drillers proceeded to bore
thirty-six-hundred feet on the Rush farm, four miles south. Jumping
eleven miles north-east, they obtained gas, salt-water and feeble spurts
of oil from a well on the Scott farm. About this stage of the
proceedings the People’s Light and Heat Company was organized to supply
Washington with natural-gas. From three wells plenty of gas for the
purpose was derived. A rival company drilled a well on the Gantz lot,
adjacent to the town, which at twenty-one-hundred feet struck the vein
of oil that threw the county-seat into spasms on the last day of 1884.

The fever broke out afresh in July of 1885, by a report that the Thayer
well, on the Farley farm, a mile south-west in advance of developments,
had “come in.” This well, located in an oatfield in a deep ravine, was
worked as a mystery. Armed guards constantly kept watch and scouts
reclining on the hill-top contented themselves with an unsatisfactory
peep through a field-glass. One night a shock of oats approached within
sixty feet of the derrick. The guard fired and the propelling power
immediately took to its heels and ran. Another night, while a crowd of
disinterested parties jangled with the guards, scouts gained entrance to
the derrick from the rear, but discovered no oil. Previous to this a
scout had paid a midnight visit to the well, eluded the guards, boldly
climbed to the top of the derrick and with chalk marked the
crown-pulley. With the aid of their glasses the vigilant watchers on the
hill-top counted the revolutions and calculated the length of cable
needed to reach the bottom of the well. A bolder move was to crawl under
the floor of the derrick. This was successfully accomplished by several
daring fellows, one of whom was caught in the act. He weighed
two-hundred-and-forty pounds and his frantic struggles for a comfortable
resting-place led to his discovery. A handful of cigars and a long pull
at his pocket flask purchased his freedom. The well was a failure. R. H.
Thayer drilled four more good ones, one a gusher that netted him
three-thousand dollars a day for months. Other operators crowded in and
were rewarded with dusters of the most approved type.

The despondency following the failure of Thayer’s No. 1 was dispelled on
August twenty-second. The People’s Light and Heat Company’s well, on the
Gordon farm, pierced a new sand two-hundred-and-sixty feet below the
Gantz formation, and oil commenced to scale the derrick. Again the
petroleum-fever raged. An owner of the well, at church on Sunday
morning, suddenly awakened from his slumbers and horrified pastor and
congregation by yelling: “By George! There she spouts!” The day previous
he had seen the well flow and religious thoughts had been temporarily
replaced by dreams of a fortune. This well’s best day’s record was
one-hundred-and-sixty barrels. Test wells for the new Gordon sand were
sunk in all directions and the Washington field had made a substantial
beginning. The effect on the inhabitants was marked. The price of wool
no longer formed the staple of conversation, the new industry entirely
superseding it. Real-estate values shot skyward and the borough
population strode from five-thousand to seventy-five-hundred. The sturdy
Scotch-Presbyterians would not tolerate dance-houses, gambling-hells and
dens of vice in a town that for twenty years had not permitted the sale
of liquor. Time works wonders. Washington county, which fomented the
Whisky Insurrection, was transformed into a prohibition stronghold. The
festive citizen intent upon a lark had to journey to Pittsburg or
Wheeling for his jag.

Col. E. H. Dyer, whom the Gantz well allured to the new district, leased
the Calvin Smith farm, three miles north-east, and started the drill. He
had twenty years’ experience and very little cash. His funds giving out,
he offered the well and lease for five-hundred dollars. Willets & Young
agreed to finish the well for two-thirds interest. They pounded the
rock, drilled through the fifth sand and hit “the fifty-foot” nearer
China. In January of 1886 the well-Dyer No. 1—flowed four-hundred
barrels a day. Expecting gas or a dry-hole, from the absence of oil in
the customary sand, the owners had not erected tanks and the stream
wasted for several days. Dyer sold his remaining one-third to Joseph W.
Craig, a well-known operator in the Oil-City and Pittsburg
oil-exchanges, for seventy-five-thousand dollars. He organized the
Mascot Oil-Company, located the McGahey in another section of the field
and pocketed two-hundred-thousand dollars for his year’s work in
Washington county. The Smith proved to be the creamiest farm in the
field, returning Willets, Young and Craig six-hundred-thousand dollars.
Calvin Smith was a hired man in 1876, working by the month on the farm
he bought in 1883, paying a small amount and arranging to string out the
balance in fifteen annual instalments. His one-eighth royalty fattened
his bank-account in eighteen months to six figures, an achievement
creditable to the scion of the multitudinous Smith-family.

From the sinking of the Dyer well drilling went on recklessly. Everybody
felt confident of a great future for Washington territory. Isaac
Willets, brother of an owner of the Smith tract, paid sixty-thousand
dollars for the adjoining farm—the Munce—and spent two-hundred-thousand
in wells that cleared him a plump half-million. John McKeown the same
day bought the farm of the Munce heirs, directly north of their uncle’s,
and drilled wells that yielded him five-thousand dollars a day. He
removed to Washington and died there. His widow erected a
sixty-thousand-dollar monument over his grave, something that would
never have happened if John, plain, hard-headed and unpretentious, could
have expressed his sentiments. Thayer No. 2, on the Clark farm,
adjoining the Gordon, startled the fraternity in May of 1886 by flowing
two-thousand barrels a day from the Gordon sand. It was the biggest
spouter in the heap. Lightning struck the tank and burned the gusher,
the blazing oil shooting flames a hundred feet towards the blue canopy.
At night the brilliant light illumined the country for miles, travelers
pronouncing it equal to Mt. Vesuvius in active eruption. The burning oil
ran to Gordon No. 1, on lower ground, setting it off also. In a week the
Thayer blaze was doused and the stream of crude turned into the tanks of
No. 1. Next night a tool-dresser, carrying a lantern on his way to
“midnight tower,” set fire to the gas which hung around the tanks. The
flames once more shot above the tree-tops, the tool-dresser saved his
life only by rolling into the creek, but the derrick was saved and no
damage resulted to the well.

Captain J. J. Vandergrift leased the Barre farm, south of the Smith, and
drilled a series of gushers that added materially to his great wealth.
Disposing of the Barre, he developed the Taylorstown pool and reaped a
fortune. T. J. Vandergrift leased the McManis farm, six miles south of
Washington, and located the first Taylorstown well. Taylorstown is still
on duty and W. J. Young manages the company that acquired the
Vandergrift interests. South of the Barre farm James Stewart, vendor of
a cure-all salve, owned a shanty and three acres of land worth
four-hundred dollars. He leased to Joseph M. Craig for one-fourth
royalty. The one well drilled on the lot spouted two-thousand barrels a
day for weeks. It is now pumping fairly. This was salve for Stewart and
liniment for Craig, whose Washington winnings exceed a half-million.
“Mammy” Miller, an aged colored woman, lived on a small lot next to
Stewart and leased it at one-fourth royalty to a couple of local
merchants. They drilled a thousand-barrel well and “Mammy” became the
most courted negress in Pennsylvania. The Union Oil-Company took
four-hundred-thousand dollars from the Davis farm. Patrick Galligan, the
contractor of the Smith well, leased the Taylor farm and grew rich. Pew
& Emerson, who have made millions by natural-gas operations, leased the
Manifold farm, west of the Smith. The first well paid them
twenty-thousand dollars a month and subsequent strikes manifolded this a
number of times. Pew & Emerson have risen by their energy and shrewdness
and can occupy a front pew in the congregation of petroleumites.

Samuel Fergus, once county-treasurer and a man of broad mould, struck a
geyser in the Fergus annex to the main pool. He drilled on his
twenty-four acres solely to accommodate Robert Greene, pumper for Davis
Brothers. Greene had much faith and no money, but he advised Fergus to
exercise the tools at a particular spot. Fergus might have kept the
whole hog and not merely a pork-chop. He sold three-eighths and carried
one-eighth for Greene, who refused twenty-thousand dollars for it the
day the well began flowing two-thousand barrels. “Bob” Greene, like
Artemas Ward’s kangaroo, was “a amoosin’ cuss!” Called to Bradford
shortly after the gusher was struck, he met an old acquaintance at the
station. His friend invited Bob into the smoker to enjoy a good cigar.
He declined and in language more expressive than elegant said: “I’ve
been a ridin’ in smokers all my life. Now I’m goin’ to turn a new leaf.
I’m goin’ to take a gentleman’s car to Pittsburg and from there to
Bradford I’m goin’ to have a Pullman, if it takes a hull day’s
production.” Bob took his first ride in a Pullman accordingly. The first
venture induced Fergus to punch his patch full of holes and do a turn at
wildcatting. His stalwart luck fired the hearts of many young farmers to
imitate him, in some instances successfully. Washington has not yet gone
out of the oil-business. The Cecil pool kept the trade guessing this
year, but its gushers lacked endurance and the field no longer
terrorizes the weakest lambkin in the speculative fold.

Greene county experienced its first baptism of petroleum in 1861-2-3,
when many wells were drilled on Dunkard Creek. The general result was
unsatisfactory. The idea of boring two-thousand feet for oil had not
been conceived and the shallow holes did not reach the principal strata.
Of fourth sand, fifth sand, Gordon rock, fifty-foot rock, Trenton rock,
Berea grit, corn-meal rock, Big-Injun sand and others of the deep-down
brand operators on Dunkard Creek never dreamed. Some oil was detected
and more blocks of land were tied up in 1864-5. The credulous natives
actually believed their county would soon be shedding oil from every
hill and hollow, garden and pasture-field. The holders of the
tracts—lessees for speculation only—drilled a trifle, sold interests to
any suckers wanting to bite and the promised developments fizzled. E. M.
Hukill, who started in 1868 at Rouseville, leased twenty-thousand acres
in 1885 and located a well on D. L. Donley’s farm, one-third mile
south-east of the modest hamlet of Mt. Morris. Morris Run empties into
Dunkard Creek near the village. The tools were swung on March second,
1886. Fishing-jobs, hard rock and varied hindrances impeded the work. On
October twenty-first oil spouted, two flows occurred next day and a tank
was constructed. Saltwater bothered it and the well—twenty-two-hundred
feet—was not worth the pains taken for months to work it as a mystery.
Hukill drilled a couple of dusters and the Gregg well at Willowtree was
also a dry-hole at twenty-three hundred feet. Craig & Cappeau and James
M. Guffey & Co. swept over the south-western section in an expensive
search for crude. From the northern limit of McKean to the southern
border of Greene county Pennsylvania had been ransacked. The Keystone
players—Venango, Warren, Forest, Elk, McKean, Clarion, Armstrong,
Butler, Allegheny, Beaver and Washington—put up a stiff game and the
region across the Ohio was to have its innings.

In the summer of 1881 Butler capitalists drilled a well on the Smith
farm, near Baldridge, seven miles south of the county-seat. It had a
nice white sand and a smell of oil. S. Simcox, J. J. Myers and Porter
Phipps leased the land on which Renfrew now stands and put down a hole
on the Hamill tract. The well showed only a freshet of salt-water until
thirty feet in the third sand, when it flowed crude at a hundred-barrel
gait. This strike, in March of 1882, boomed the territory below Butler
and ushered in Baldridge and Renfrew. Milton Stewart and Lyman Stewart
were interested with Simcox, Myers and Phipps in the property and helped
organize the Bullion Salt-Water Company.

The Cecil pool, in Washington county, furnishes its oil from the
fifty-foot sand. One well, finished in April of 1895, on a village lot,
flowed thirty-three hundred barrels in twenty-four hours. The biggest
strike at Legionville, Beaver county, was Haymaker’s seven-hundred
barreler. The Shoustown or Shannopin field, also in Beaver, sixteen
miles from Pittsburg, is owned principally by James Amm & Co. Coraopolis
is a thriving oil town, fifteen miles west of the Smoky City. For miles
along the Ohio derricks are quite plentiful. Greene county has been
decidedly brisk in this year of grace and cheap petroleum. And so the
tide rolls on and “thus wags the world away.”

The southern trail, with its magnificent Butler output, its Allegheny
geysers, its sixteen-thousand barrels a day in Washington and its
wonderful strikes in Greene, was big enough to fill the bill and lap
over all the edges.


A Bradford minister, when the Academy of Music burned down, shot wide of
the mark in attributing the fire to “the act of God.” Sensible
Christians resented the imputation that God would destroy a dozen houses
and stores to wipe out a variety-theater, or that He had anything to do
with building up a trade in arson and figuring as an incendiary.

                He struck a match and the gas exploded;
                An angel now, he knows it was loaded.

“Mariar, what book was you readin’ so late last night?” asked a stiff
Presbyterian father at Franklin. “It was a novel by Dumas the elder.”
“‘Elder!’ I don’t believe it. What church was he elder on, Ish’d like to
know, and writ novels? Go and read Dr. Eaton’s Presbytery uv Erie.”

Hymn-singing is not always appropriate, or a St. Petersburg leader would
not have started “When I Can Read My Title Clear” to the minstrel-melody
of “Wait for the Wagon and We’ll All Take a Ride!” At an immersion in
the river below Tidioute, as each convert, male or female, emerged
dripping from the water, the people interjected the revivalist chorus:

                    “They look like men in uniform,
                      They look like men of war!”

Mr. Gray, of Boston, once discovered a “non-explosive illuminating
gasoline.” To show how safe the new compound was, he invited a number of
friends to his rooms, whither he had taken a barrel of the fluid, which
he proceeded to stir with a red-hot poker. As they all went through the
roof he endeavored to explain to his nearest companion that the
particular fluid in the barrel had too much benzine in it, but the
gentleman said he had engagements higher up and could not wait for the
explanation. Mr. Gray continued his ascent until he met Mr. Jones, who
informed him that there was no necessity to go higher, as everybody was
coming down; so Mr. Gray started back to be with the party. Mr. Gray’s
widow offered the secret for the manufacture of the non-explosive fluid
at a reduced rate, to raise money to buy a silver-handled coffin with a
gilt plate for her departed husband.

            The speech of a youth who goes courting a lass,
            Unless he’s a dunce at the foot of the class,
            Is sure to be season’d with natural gas.

Grant Thomas, train-dispatcher at Oil City of the Allegheny-Valley
Railroad, is one of the jolliest jokers alive. When a conductor years
ago a young lady of his acquaintance said to him: “I think that Smith
girl is just too hateful; she’s called her nasty pug after me!” “Oh,”
replied the genial ticket-puncher, in a tone meant to pour oil on the
troubled waters, “that’s nothing; half the cats in Oil City are called
after me!” The girl saw the point, laughed heartily and the angel of
peace hovered over the scene.

               “What’s in a name?” so Shakespeare wrote.
               Well, a good deal when fellows vote,
               Want a check cashed, or sign a note;
               And when an oilman sinks a well,
               Dry as the jokes of Digby Bell,
               Dennis or Mud fits like a shell.

[Illustration: VIEWS ON THE TARR FARM, OIL CREEK, IN 1863-6.]

                                      TARR HOMESTEAD IN 1862
                           WELLS ON TARR FARM
             LOWER TARR FARM
                                            JAMES S. TARR


                       MORE OYSTERS IN THE STEW.



“The world’s mine oyster.”—_Shakespeare._

“’Tis not too late to seek a newer world.”—_Tennyson._

“To-morrow to fresh woods and pastures new.”—_Milton._

“Leaving thine outgrown shell by life’s unresting sea.”—_Holmes._

               “I am his Highness’ dog at Kew,
               Pray tell me, sir, whose dog are you?”—_Pope._

“The influence of a strong spirit makes itself felt.”—_Colmore._

“Nature fits all her children with something to do.”—Lowell.

              “Let us, then, be up and doing;
              Still achieving, still pursuing.”—_Longfellow._

“An intense hour will do more than dreamy years.”—_Beecher._

“If thy heart fails thee, climb not at all.”—_Queen Elizabeth._

“There yet remains one effort to be made.”—_Samuel Johnson._

“Do what lieth in thy power and God will assist thy good-will.”—_Thomas
    à Kempis._


[Illustration: EDWARD H. JENNINGS.]

Pennsylvania was not to be the solitary oyster in the stew, the one and
only winner in the petroleum-game. Although the Keystone State raked in
the first jack-pot on Oil Creek with the Drake royal-flush, rival
players were billed for an early appearance. Ohio, always ready to
furnish presidents and office-holders for the whole nation, was equally
willing to gather riches by the oleaginous route and dealt Mecca as its
initial trump in the summer of 1860. Years before a farmer near the
quiet town in Trumbull county, digging a well for water, found an
evil-smelling liquid and promptly filled up the hole. This supplied a
cue to J. H. Hoxie, after the news of Drake’s experiment reached him,
and he sank a shallow well close to the farmer’s unlucky venture.
Piercing a covering of dirt twenty feet and coarse sand-rock ten feet,
the tools unlocked a reservoir of dark oil, which responded to the pump
with the vehemence of a Venango spouter. Estimates of the daily yield,
much of which floated down stream, varied from one-hundred to
three-hundred barrels. Probably forty to fifty would be nearer the real
figure. The oil, 26° gravity and very dark green in color, was a
superior lubricant. This new phase of “the Ohio Idea” brought multitudes
of visitors to the scene. Mecca became the mecca of all sorts, sizes and
conditions of worshippers at the greasian shrine. To come and see was to
desire a chance in the exciting lottery. Hoxie, elated beyond measure
over the strike, traveled around the country to magnify the field and
his own connection with it. Small leases were gobbled eagerly for a
small cash-bonus and a royalty, sometimes half the oil done up in
barrels. A three-pole derrick, a spring-pole and light tools hitched to
a rope sufficed to “kick down” a well. Depths ranged from thirty feet to
one-hundred. Portable engines and boilers followed when hand-power
weakened and the wells must be pumped steadily. Rude drilling-outfits
and board-shanties went up by hundreds. Needy adventurers might secure
an acre of ground and sprout into prosperous oilmen in twenty or thirty
days. The tempting bait was snapped at greedily. Rig-builders,
carpenters, teamsters, tool-dressers, laborers, shop-keepers, saloonists
and speculators crowded the busy spot in quest of jobs, locations or
easy victims. Mecca seemed too far off, so a genuine “oil-town,” lacking
none of the earmarks of such creations, was established on the James
Cowdey farm and labeled Oil Diggings. It soon sported a post-office,
which distributed stacks of mail, machine-shops, groceries and
boarding-houses galore; nor were groggeries, gambling-dens and the usual
incidentals difficult to discover.

The opening months of 1861 swelled the excitement and the population.
The bright and the dark sides were not far apart. Many who came with
high expectations in January returned disappointed in June. The field
had extended south from Power’s Corners, substantial frames enclosed
numerous wells and a refinery was erected. Yet the good quality of the
oil was scantily appreciated until most of the wells had been about
exhausted. Often it went begging vainly for purchasers in Cleveland or
Buffalo. Then the price advanced, actually reaching fifty-two dollars a
barrel in 1863-4. Adulteration with cheaper oils deteriorated the
product and it dropped below a paying rate. Operators realized in the
autumn of 1861 that the territory was declining rapidly and the wiser
ones departed. Some held on a year or two longer, drilled their wells
five-hundred feet in hope of hitting other sands and quit at last.
George Moral, a one-eyed veteran of the war, has stuck to the Shaeffer
farm, at the southern end of the district, and he is still getting a
morsel of oil from a nest of shallow wells. The forest of derricks and
engine-houses has disappeared. Oil Diggings is a tradition and “Ichabod”
is written over the once stirring district.

       “Old Rhinestein’s walls are crumbled now.
       Stern Ruin’s ploughshare drives elate full on thy bloom.”

Mix & Force were, perhaps, the most successful Mecca operators. It was
hard to extract the heavy oil from the rock by ordinary processes.
Calvin Adams, of Pittsburg, conceived the idea of sinking a shaft and
drifting into the sand, exactly as in gold-mining. He employed four men,
pumped the oil and water that seeped in and hoisted lots of rock to the
surface, where steam was used to force out the greasy fluid that
saturated the sand. This novel method paid while oil was high-priced,
but was too expensive when the stuff went zero-wards. The oil-bearing
rock, known as Berea grit, lay in flat formations and was somewhat
porous. Mr. Rider removed his refinery to Oil Creek in 1862, since which
period refining has been a lost art in Trumbull county. Everybody has
heard of the resolute pioneer who, bound for Colorado by the overland
line of prairie-schooners, inscribed on his Conestoga wagon: “Pike’s
Peak or Bust!” He was distanced by a band of petroleum-seekers at Oil
Diggings. The jokers built their engine-house and belt-house parallel
with the public road and emblazoned in two-foot capitals on the derrick:
“Oil, Hell or China!” James A. Garfield, afterwards Chief Magistrate of
the United States—he was a pilgrim to Mecca and owned an interest in the
“Preachers’ Wells,” among the best in the bundle—once quoted this legend
in Congress. Paying his respects pointedly to “Sunset” Cox, who
represented an Ohio district in the House and had failed of re-election,
Garfield closed with these words:

“My friend found in the late election a decided majority against him.
Evidently he is going down, down, down until, in the language of an
oil-explorer, he comes to ‘OIL, HELL OR CHINA!’”

Garfield left Oil Diggings when the bubble burst, served term after term
in Congress, went to the White House and perished by the bullet of a
vile assassin. Cox left Ohio for New York, secured the good-will of
Tammany, went back to Congress repeatedly, died years ago and was
honored with a statue in Astor Place. Both were political leaders on
opposing sides and warm personal friends, both gained world-wide
celebrity, both were Ohioans and oil-producers, and both retained to the
last that “chastity of honor which felt a stain like a wound.”

[Illustration: MICHAEL EDIC HESS.]

M. E. Hess, for thirty years a respected citizen of Pennsylvania, began
his oil-career at Mecca. He came to Oil Creek in the sixties, formed a
partnership with Franklin S. Tarbell and operated largely in various
sections. He was prominent in the Clarion field and took up his abode at
Edenburg. There, as wherever he lived, he has been active in
church-work, in building up a religious sentiment and in furthering the
best interests of the community. He has served acceptably in the
borough-council and is now justice of the peace. Upright in his life and
character, sincere in his friendships, kind to the poor and trustworthy
everywhere, M. E. Hess deserves the high place he has always held in
popular regard. The passing years have touched him lightly, his heart is
young, he is “not slothful in business” and he trains with the “men who
can hear the Decalogue and feel no self-reproach.”

               “An honest man’s the noblest work of God.”

The south-east border of Ohio next experienced the petroleum-revival.
The region about Marietta, where surface-signs of greasiness were noted
a century ago, for years enjoyed its full share of satisfactory
developments. Three or four counties have been covered satisfactorily,
producing from the Big Injun sand. The Benwood pool, in Monroe county,
introduced by a big well on the Price farm in August of 1896, has
yielded liberally and is still the object of respectful attention.
Macksburg, sufficiently important in 1881 to hold the entire oil-trade
in mortal suspense for weeks, is on hand with a small output. John
Denman, of Bradford, and Thomas Mills were pioneers in the field and did
a turn in working the “mystery racket.” Hundreds assembled to watch the
torpedoing of their frontier-well, four miles east of Macksburg, kept in
abeyance a month for speculative purposes. Natives, with their wives and
families, lined the hillside to behold the novel sight. Col. John J.
Carter had arranged a system of flag-signals and stationed men to wave
the news to Dexter City, five miles away. The swiftest horse in the
county was at my service, to bear my message to the nearest
telegraph-office for transmission to the New-York Oil-Exchange. George
H. Nesbit, L. E. Mallory, Denman and a dozen other Pennsylvania
operators stood by. Hours were frittered away, until the exchanges had
closed, before the shell was lowered into the hole. The reaction
following the explosion came at last. A column of water rose mildly a
few feet in the air and—that was all! The much-vaunted well, which
throttled the great petroleum-industry three or four weeks, was
practically a failure and never rose above the five-barrel grade!

           “The mountain labored and brought forth a mouse.”

A thousand barrels a day was the average yield of the south-eastern
division in 1896. George Rice’s refinery at Marietta treated the bulk of
the production at the primitive stage of developments. It was a
rice-pudding for Rice, who is a thoroughbred hustler and wastes no love
upon anyone who may encroach upon his particular preserve. He has loads
of pluck and enterprise and the staying quality that is desirable alike
in oilmen and oil-territory, to say nothing of bull-dogs and

            “‘Thrice is he armed who hath his quarrel just,’
            And four times he who gets his work in fust.”

The great Lima field, spreading over a dozen counties in North-western
Ohio, was the star performer of the Buckeye galaxy. Centering in Allen,
Hancock, Wood and Seneca, it has grasped big slices of the bordering
counties, with a strip of Lucas for good measure. Gas-indications in
Hancock, which resulted in a large well at Findlay in 1884, set the ball
rolling. Others were drilled forthwith, one on the Kramer farm getting
five barrels of oil a day. Findlay and Bowling Green had dipped into the
Trenton rock profitably, but nobody thought a huge oil-field at all
likely to be encountered. The Strawboard Works at Lima, in Allen county,
south-west of Hancock, needed more water and the manager decided to
drill for water and gas. The hole was punched through the Trenton rock
and pronounced a rank failure for gas. The company exploded a torpedo in
the barren rock on April twelfth, 1885. To the astonishment of owners
and spectators, the well sent out a stream of oil. It was tubed and
pumped fifteen barrels a day. Such was the modest beginning of an
oil-district destined to cause a greater stir than Grover Cleveland’s
boy-baby or Albert Edward’s green necktie.

              There were no flies on Lima that glad day;
              Great expectations had the right of way,
              For the oil-boom had come, and come to stay.

It was “the old, old story.” The Queen of Sheba doubted the reports of
Solomon’s grandeur until she sized up the outfit personally and
declared: “The half has not been told.” Outsiders doubted the truth of a
paying strike at Lima, and doubted its importance after seeing the well
and the contents of the tank. The oil had a sickly tint and an odor that
“smelled to heaven.” People sniffed the dreadful aroma and proclaimed
the oil good only for fuel. A few Limans thought differently and
organized the Citizens’ Gas-Company to help play the game to a finish.
Not a cloud of gas, but a forty-barrel pumper, was the result in
December. Regardless of tint or odor, outsiders and insiders hastened to
get drilling-sites. By May first, 1886, sixteen wells on town-lots were
producing nicely. George P. Waldorf and James B. Townsend, residents of
Lima, were the first to lease a farm in the neighborhood, at one-eighth
royalty. They visited Bradford, returned with David Kirk and Isaac E.
Dean, formed the Trenton-Rock Oil-Company, leased many lots and
fifty-thousand acres of land, set strings of tools boring and soon piled
up a tidy production. The year closed with two-hundred wells doing
nine-thousand barrels, which the Buckeye Pipe-Line transported and
stored. Operations extended north-east and south-west, until
thirty-thousand wells were drilled and a half-million acres of territory
opened. Findlay, Lima, Fostoria and Toledo were strictly in the swim.
The deluge of grease swelled to mammoth proportions. Iron-tanks stored
thirty-million barrels, while iron-pipes bore other millions east and
west. Refineries used what they could, Ohio oil netting a smaller
percentage of kerosene than Pennsylvania crude, and in 1889 the price
crawled down to fifteen cents. Think of it—fifteen cents for forty-two
gallons of oil pumped from twelve-hundred feet beneath the earth’s

[Illustration: LIMA OIL-FIELDS.]

Developments covered large areas in Hancock and Wood counties, took in a
strip of Allen and Auglaize one to three miles wide, and extended
south-west to St. Mary’s, thirty miles from Lima. They reached
north-east into Sandusky and Ottawa, east into Seneca, north into Lucas
and west into Van Wert and across the state-line into Indiana. Wood
county stood at the top of the heap, with the rest as offshoots. Its
first well, drilled three miles north of North Baltimore by T. J.
Vandergrift & Co., cantered off in March, 1888, at four-hundred barrels.
The second, put down three miles east a year later by Bowling-Green
tenderfeet, rated as a fifteen-hundred barreler. Smith & Zeigler’s, on
the adjoining farm, outdid this three to one by bowling out
five-thousand barrels per diem. The plot thickened very rapidly. Gushers
tumbled into line at a dizzy pace. Cygnet lots boasted clusters of
derricks that marked king-pin strikes. Agents of the Standard bought
thousands of wells and the cream of the territory. The product fed a
myriad furnace-fires in Chicago and the half-mile battery of
steam-boilers at the Columbian Exposition. In Sandusky county, whose
earliest wells, at Gibsonburg in 1888, were by no means aggressive, T.
E. Kirkbride called the turn on a six-thousand-barrel spouter in
November, 1894. Altogether the Ohio oil-region, with its eastern pool in
Trumbull county, its south-eastern branch in Washington, Monroe and
Noble and its vast deposit of gas and petroleum in the north-western
section, was a startling revelation. But all the territory was not
velvet, as eight-thousand dry-holes attest. No leopard could be more
spotted. The present average yield of the wells is under four barrels,
with sixty-six cents as the average price last year. Five-sixths of the
twenty-four-million barrels Ohio produced in 1896 must be credited to
the north-western colossus.

Thomas E. Kirkbride, the man that owned the well that raised the smell
that set the pace that led the race that broke the slate that it was
fate that Coxey’s state should elevate, hails from Tidioute, where his
parents located in 1866. He started in oil young, operated in the Warren
and Bradford fields, caught the Ohio fever and landed at Findlay in
1890. His first ventures were around Gibsonburg, four miles west of
which, on the Jones farm, he drilled the gusher that smashed the Lima
record and fattened his bank-account six figures.

Mr. Kirkbride lives at Toledo, in a handsome home gladdened by a devoted
wife and five children. S. M. Jones, the distinguished Mayor of Toledo,
also came from the Keystone State. He drilled in the lower oil-districts
in 1868, joined the tide for Bradford and located at Duke Centre. Thence
he migrated to Toledo, patented a sucker-rod improvement, erected a big
factory, dabbled skilfully in municipal affairs, advocated civic reforms
and won the mayoralty on the grand platform of “eight hours work a day.”
Mr. Jones helped organize the Western Oilmen’s Association, which
occupies fine quarters in the heart of the city. There Fred Boden, W. J.
McCullagh, Frank Steele, C. A. Lupher and other Keystoners often hang
out to welcome old friends from Pennsylvania. W. B. Nolan, who pumped at
Oil City in 1864 and operated from Edenburg to Bradford, has drilled
five-hundred wells in Ohio for himself or by contract. C. C. Harris, who
sold to the Ohio Oil-Company in 1890 for one-hundred-thousand dollars,
has put down four-hundred. Truly the Buckeye State is no slouch in


A farmer in the Black Swamp of Wood county, half-starved on corn-bread
and bad water, leased his forty-acre patch for oil-purposes. The first
well, which was sunk a hundred yards from his cabin, flowed two-thousand
barrels a day. When the spurt began the old fellow happened to be
chopping wood beside his door. He saw the mass of oil climb into the
atmosphere, flung down his axe and shouted: “Bet yer life, no more
corn-dodgers an’ watered whisky for this chicken!”

A barren streak in Mercer and Van Wert, on Ohio’s western border, seemed
to demonstrate the folly of seeking an extension of the Lima belt in
Indiana, despite convincing symptoms of oil at Geneva. To test the
matter the Northern-Indiana Oil-Company, composed mainly of Lima
operators, leased five-thousand acres along the boundary between Adams
and Jay counties and drilled several wells in 1892. Nearly the whole
range proved productive, showing that the belt stretched westward.
Portions of Wells, Blackford, Grant and Huntingdon joined the procession
in due course. Last year an important pool was unearthed near
Alexandria, Madison county, twenty-five miles south-west of the original
field, which demanded a pipe-line to Montpelier. This newest accession
is in the town of Peru, with spurs quite close to Cass county. This has
been the stellar attraction of Hoosierdom, fifty-five wells completed in
October of 1897 yielding thirty-five-hundred barrels. Roan, New Waverley
and Denver have not escaped and the drill has invaded Kokomo, twenty
miles south. Peru is the fad of the hour, the pride of the Wabash. Just
clear across the state, several wells at Terre Haute have revealed the
presence of sand, gas and oil. The average price of Indiana crude in
1896 was sixty-three cents, and five-million barrels were produced.


The Indiana oil-region is a level country, about forty miles long east
and west and three to four wide. The oil, dark green in color and
thirty-six gravity, is found in the Trenton limestone, at a depth of a
thousand feet. Thirty to a hundred feet of driving-pipe and
three-hundred feet of casing are needed in each well. The main belt runs
in regular pools and may be considered ten-barrel territory. The
aggregate production of the field is twelve to fifteen-thousand barrels
a day. The largest well started at two-thousand barrels and some have
records of five-hundred to eight-hundred. The great gas-field, south of
the oil-belt, has boomed manufactures and contributed vastly to the
wealth of the Hoosiers.

Last May the Byram Oil-Company of Indianapolis finished the first
oil-well, within sight of the village of Dundee, ever drilled by
electricity. A fifty-horse dynamo, which runs the small motors at a
dozen wells on the tract, supplied the power. Gas is used under the
boilers in the power-house, a substantial frame-building, which shelters
the central station. The entire plant cost five-thousand dollars and the
company votes it a success of the first magnitude.

Hiram Tewksbury, of Montpelier, who pays taxes on six-hundred acres of
land in Wells county, is one of the few men whom getting into a lawsuit
enriched. When the Indiana field was in its infancy he contracted to
purchase the Howard farm for some oilmen, who refused to take it off his
hands and were sustained by the Court. He sued Howard to take it back,
the Supreme Court decided against him and Tewksbury had to keep the
land. It turned out to be the bosom of an oil-pool, the cream of the
district. One acre brought Tewksbury eleven-thousand dollars, and for
months his royalty exceeded five-hundred dollars a week.

[Illustration: JAMES W. ROWLAND.]

Peru, a natty place of ten-thousand inhabitants, twelve miles east of
Logansport, is the Indiana sensation of the year. Last June a bevy of
citizens drilled a duster on the Wallace farm, two miles east. This dose
of Peruvian bark spurred them to drill on the north-west edge of town in
July. The well flowed fifteen barrels a day through the casing, at
twenty feet in the Trenton rock, increasing ten-fold when tubed and
pumped. At once the oil craze ran riot in the wild rush for leases.
Tourists from Ohio and Pennsylvania led the long procession of
land-seekers. The Klondyke pool east of Toledo and the Hume south of
Lima were forgotten temporarily. Scores of slick wells demolished the
theory of a mere “pocket,” which the absence of gas and scarcity of
salt-water led would-be scientists to expect at the first blush. The
good work has crowded ahead and Peru roosts high on the petroleum-perch
in the center of the patch.

                 A dandy thing it is to be on top,
                 Provided you don’t have to take a drop
                 And come down with a thud, kerflop.

[Illustration: H. C. ZEIGLER.]

Thirteen per cent. of the five-thousand wells drilled in Benjamin
Harrison’s state are dry-holes. Montpelier has benefited largely from
operations in Wells, Blackford and Jay counties. The Sibley Oil-Company,
Isaac N. Patterson, the Rowland-Zeigler Oil-Company and other
Pennsylvania firms and individuals have been prominent in the field. Mr.
Patterson lives at Franklin, is president of the savings bank and has
figured extensively in the chief districts since Petroleum Centre and
Pithole first tinctured the horizon a flaming red. James W. Rowland quit
mercantile-life in Franklin to conduct a bank at Emlenton and embark in
the oil-business. The success he richly merited attended him in banking,
producing and refining. He gained a liberal fortune, returned to
Franklin and took a leading share in developing the Indiana region. Mr.
Rowland is a first-class man of affairs, genial and generous, true to
his convictions, loyal in his friendships and always ready to further a
good cause. The Rowland-Zeigler Company sold to the Standard recently at
a price which hugged a quarter-million dollars closely. H. C. Zeigler,
who managed and was president of the company, began his oil-career as
owner of an interest in the first two producing wells at Raymilton,
drilled in 1869. Operating at Pleasantville a short season, the
fourth-sand development attracted him to Petrolia. In 1873 he and J. D.
Ritchey and W. T. Jackson procured a charter for the Cleveland
Pipe-Line, which was sold to S. D. Karns and merged into the Karns Line.
Assisting in the management of the Karns Line until the United Lines
absorbed it, he then engaged actively in producing oil. His circuit of
operations comprised Bullion, Cogley, Thorn Creek, Cherry Grove,
Bradford and Richburg. Moving westward, he participated in the early
development of the Ohio and Indiana fields. In company with Jacob S.
Smith he established the plant that supplied natural-gas to Chicago. His
master-stroke was the organization of the Rowland-Zeigler Company, which
alone realized him a competence. Mr. Zeigler is in his prime, hearty and
vigorous, quick to relieve distress and prompt to aid the right. None
better deserves the compliment George D. Prentice paid Mark M. Pomeroy:
“He is a brick.”

John and Michael Cudahy, behind whom Philip Armour, the Swifts,
Fairbanks and Nelson Morris, the Chicago beef-magnates, are supposed to
pose, in 1895 purchased a huge slice of the Indiana field, laid a
pipe-line to the Windy City and talked of building a refinery that would
outshine the Standard giant at Whiting. The brothers are sons of an
Irish resident of Milwaukee, who taught them his own trade of
meat-packing. Michael Cudahy went to Chicago to manage a branch for John
Plankington, whom the Armours succeeded, and John “came tumbling after.”
John piled up millions by plunges in pork and lard that won him the
soubriquet of “Daring Jack” Cudahy, while Michael stuck to Armour
faithfully. John toppled and lost his wealth, Michael started him
afresh, he paid off a million of debts and built up another fortune.
Michael, several times a millionaire, has studied the swine as Sir John
Lubbock has studied the ant. No part of the hog is wasted under his
trained system, but thus far the Cudahys have not been able to hog the
Hoosier oil-fields.

C. H. Shattuck had the first well in West Virginia drilled for oil. He
came from Michigan in the fall of 1859, secured land in Wirt county and
bored one-hundred feet by the tedious spring-pole process. The well was
on the bank of the Hughes river, from which the natives skimmed off a
greasy fluid to use for rheumatism and bruises. It was dry and Shattuck
settled at Parkersburg, his present abode. At Burning Springs a
“disagreeable fluid” flooded a salt-well, which the owner quit in
disgust. General Samuel Karns, of Pennsylvania, and his nephew, S. D.
Karns, rigged it up in 1860 and pumped considerable oil. The shallow
territory was operated extensively. Ford & Hanlon bored on Oil-Spring
Run, Ritchie county, in 1861-2, finding heavy oil in paying quantities.
W. H. Moore started the phenomenal eruption at Volcano in 1863, by
drilling the first well, which produced eight-thousand barrels of
lubricating oil. Sheafer & Steen’s, the second well, was a good second
and the Cornfield pumped seven-thousand barrels of thirty-five-gravity
oil in six months. William C. Stiles and the Oil-Run Petroleum Company
punched scores of wells. Volcano perched on the lubricating pedestal for
years, but it is now extinct. E. L. Gale—he built the railroad
freight-houses at Aspinwall and Panama and owned the site of Joliet and
half the land on which Milwaukee thrives—in 1854 purchased two-thousand
acres of bush twenty-five miles from Parkersburg. In 1866 the celebrated
Shaw well, the first of any note on his tract, flowed one-hundred
barrels of twenty-six-degree oil. Gale sent samples to the Paris
Exposition in 1867 and received the only gold-medal awarded for natural
oils. The Shaw well kicked up a fuss, leases brought large bonuses,
excitement ran high and the “Gale Oil Field” was king of the hour.
Land-grabbers annoyed Gale, who declined a million dollars for his
property. He routed the herd and died at an advanced age, leaving his
heirs ample means to weather the severest financial gale. The war had
driven northern operators from the field and heavy-oil developments
cleared the coast for the next act on the program.

Charles B. Traverneir, in the spring of 1883, on Rock Run, put down the
first deep well in West Virginia. It encountered a strong flow of oil at
twenty-one-hundred feet and yielded for eleven years. Volcano and
Parkersburg had retired and light-oil territory was the object of the
ambitious wildcatter. At Eureka, situated in a plain contiguous to the
Ohio river, Brown & Rose struck the third sand in April, 1886, at
thirteen-hundred feet. The well flowed seven-hundred barrels of
forty-four-gravity oil, similar to the Macksburg variety and equal to
the Pennsylvania article for refining. The derrick burned, with the
tools at the bottom of the well, and the yield decreased to
three-hundred barrels in May. Oilmen pronounced Eureka the coming
oil-town and farmers asked ridiculous prices for their lands. Bradford
parties leased numerous tracts and bounced the drill merrily. The third
sand in West Virginia was found in what are known as “oil breaks,” at
irregular depths and sometimes cropping out upon the surface. Eureka is
still a center of activity. The surrounding country resembles the
Washington district in appearance and fertility of the soil. In 1891
Thomas Mills, who operated at Tionesta in 1862 and at Macksburg in
1883-4, leased a bundle of lands near Sistersville and sank a well
sixteen-hundred feet. A glut of salt-water induced him to sell out
cheap. The first important results were obtained on the Ohio side of the
Ohio river, where many wells were bored. The Polecat well, drilled in
1890, daily pumped fifty barrels of oil and two-thousand of salt-water,
bringing Sistersville forward a peg. Eight wells produced a thousand
barrels of green oil per day in May of 1892. Operating was costly and
only wealthy individuals or companies could afford to take the risks of
opening such a field. Captain J. T. Jones, J. M. Guffey, Murphy &
Jennings, the Carter Oil-Company, the Devonian Oil-Company, the Forest
Oil-Company and the South-Penn have reduced the business to an exact
science and secured a large production. Sistersville, named from the two
Welles sisters, who once owned the site of the town, has been a magnet
to petroleumites for two years. Gushers worthy of Butler or Allegheny
have been let loose in Tyler, Wood, Ritchie, Marion and Doddridge. The
Big Moses, on Indian Creek, is a first-class gasser. Morgantown,
Mannington and Sistersville are as familiar names as McDonald,
Millerstown or Parker. Pipe-lines handle the product and old-timers from
Bradford, Warren and Petrolia are seen at every turn. West-Virginia is
on top for the moment, with the tendency southward and operators eagerly
seeking more petroleum-worlds to conquer in Kentucky and Tennessee.

She was a radiant Sistersville girl. She descended the stairs quietly
and laid her hand on the knob of the door, hoping to steal out
stealthily in the gray dawn. Her father stood in the porch and she was
discovered. “My daughter,” said the white-haired old gentleman, “what is
that—what are those you have on?” She hung her head and turned the
door-knob uneasily back and forth between her fingers, but did not
answer. “Did you not promise me,” the old man went on, “that if I bought
you a bicycle you would not wear—that is, you would ride in skirts?” She
stepped impulsively toward him and paused. “Yes, father,” she said, “I
did and I meant it. But I didn’t know these then. The more I saw of them
the better I liked them. They improve on acquaintance, father. They grow
on one——” “My daughter,” he interrupted, “Eve’s garments grew on her!”
And so it has been with the West-Virginia oil-field—it grows on one and
the more he sees of it the better he likes it.

Long after the Ruffners’ time Tyler county, the heart of the
West-Virginia region, was a backwoods district, two generations behind
the age and traveling at an ice-wagon gait, until it caught “the glow of
the light to come.” Its beginning was small, but men who sneer at little
things merely show that they have sat on a tack and been worsted in the
fray. It has taken grit and perseverance to bring a hundred-thousand
barrels of oil a day from the bowels of the earth in Pennsylvania, Ohio,
West-Virginia and Indiana. The man who has not a liberal stock of these
qualities should steep himself in brine before engaging in
oil-operations. He will only hit the nail on the thumb and be as badly
fooled as the chump who deems he has a cinch on heaven because he never
stole sheep. Petroleum is all right and a long way from its ninth
inning. The alarmist who thinks it is playing out would have awakened
Noah with the cry of “Fire!”


Edward H. Jennings is among the most enterprising and fortunate
operators in West Virginia. His Kanawha Oil Company has a legion of
tip-top wells and miles of approved territory. Like his deceased father,
a pioneer in Armstrong and Butler, he decides promptly and acts
vigorously. With James M. Guffey, John H. Galey and one or two others he
owned the phenomenal Matthews well and the richest territory at
McDonald. The same gentlemen now own the famous Trade-Dollar Mine in
Idaho, the greatest silver-mine on earth to-day, and gold-mines in
California, Colorado and Nova Scotia that yield bountiful returns. Mr.
Jennings is president of the Columbia Bank and lives in the beautiful
East End of Pittsburg. He ranks high in business and finance. Brainy,
cultured, energetic and courageous, Mr. Jennings scored his mark through
well-directed effort and systematic industry

Womanly intuition is a hummer that discounts science, philosophy and
red-tape. Mrs. Katherine E. Reed died at Sistersville in June of 1896.
Her foresight secured fortunes for herself and many other in Tyler
county. Left a widow five years ago, with eight children and a farm that
would starve goats to death, she leased the land for oil-purposes. The
test-well proving dry, Mrs. Reed implored the men to try again at a spot
she had proposed for the first venture. The drillers were hard up, but
consented to make a second trial when the good woman agreed to board
them for nothing in case no oil was found. The well was the biggest
gusher in the bundle. To-day it is producing largely and is known oil
over West Virginia as “The Big Kate.” Mrs. Reed cleared
two-hundred-thousand dollars from the sterile tract, which would sell
for as much more yet, and her children and neighbors are independent for

Do any of the Pioneers on Kanawha remember “Dick” Timms’s Half-way
House? The weather-beaten sign bore the legend, in faded letters: “Rest
for the Weary. R. Timms.” The exterior was rough and unpainted, but
inside was cheery and homelike in its snugness. When travelers rode up
to the door “Uncle Dick,” in full uniform of shirt and pantaloons,
barefooted and hatless, rough and uncouth in speech and appearance, but
with a heart so big that it made his fat body bulge and his whole face
light up with a cheerful smile, stood ready with his welcome salutation
of “Howdy, howdy? ’Light; come in.”

Colorado counts confidently upon a production sufficient to give the
Centennial State a solid lodgment in the petroleum-column. Its earliest
development was a small well on the Lobach ranch, near Florence, in
1882. Other wells yielded enough crude to warrant the erection of a
refinery in 1885, by the Arkansas-Valley Oil-Company, to which the
United Oil-Company has succeeded. The United pumps ten or twelve-hundred
barrels a day from forty wells, refining the product into illuminating
oils, gasoline and lubricants of superior quality. The Florence
Oil-Company pumps a dozen wells, owns a little refinery and holds large
blocks of leased lands. The Rocky-Mountain Oil-Company, organized in
1890, has drilled forty-five wells south of the town of Florence,
twenty-four of which yield three-hundred barrels a day. The Eureka
Company is also operating briskly. The production of the Colorado region
is nearly two-thousand barrels a day, derived from wells that average
twenty-five hundred feet in depth, too expensive for persons of slender
means to tamper with.

             The lively folks who drill in Colorado
             May justly be excused for some bravado,
             Because their hopes are not based on a shadow.

The Salt-Creek oil-field, the first worked in Wyoming, is in the
northern part of Natrona and the southern part of Johnson county, fifty
miles north of Caspar, the terminus of the Fremont, Elkhorn &
Missouri-Valley Railroad. As known to-day the field is eighteen by
thirty miles. It lies along Salt Creek and its tributaries, which drain
northward and empty into Powder River, and is a rough country, cut by
deep gulches, beneath which there are table-lands of small extent.
Vegetation is scanty and timber is found only on the highest bluffs. In
1889 the Pennsylvania Oil-Company, composed of Pennsylvanians and under
the management of George B. McCalmont, located on Salt Creek and drilled
a well which, early in the spring of 1890, struck oil. Obstacles of no
small magnitude were met with. The oil had to be freighted fifty miles
by wagon; railroad-freights were controlled by eastern oil producers,
rates that would justify shipments seemed almost impossible, and the oil
had to be proved before it could be placed upon the market in
competition with well-known brands. In the face of these difficulties
the company continued work, and in the spring of 1894 succeeded in
making arrangements to ship crude-oil. Storage-tanks were erected at the
wells and at the railroad, and a refinery is now in operation at Caspar.
The wells vary in depth from nine-hundred to fifteen-hundred feet and
three companies are operating. The oil is a valuable lubricant. The
transportation of the oil to the railroad is effected by freight-wagons
of the ordinary sort. Behind them is a fourth wagon, or the freighter’s
home, which has wide boards projecting from the sides of the wagon-box
over the wheels, making a box of unusual width covered with heavy canvas
over the ordinary wagon-bows and provided with a window in the back, a
door in front, a bed, cook-stove, table, cupboard and the necessary
equipment for keeping house. In this house on wheels the freighter
passes the night, and in breaking camp he is not bothered with his
camp-outfit. This novelty has been recently introduced by Mr. Johnson,
the leading freighter for the Pennsylvania Company. With sixteen mules
he draws his four wagons with nine tons of oil, over a very sandy road.

Wyoming oil sells high at Caspar, which is becoming a place of some
consequence and may soon figure as the state-metropolis. It was a fort
in the days of wild beasts and wilder Indians. Soft rock, with a
provoking tendency to cave-in, and artesian water, impregnated with
sulphur and found just above the oil-sand, rendered drilling a difficult
task. The best well in the bunch produces from a rock five-hundred feet
down, while the deepest is sixteen-hundred feet and the sand is fifty
feet thick. Oil-basins on Caspar Creek, Powder River, Salt Creek and
Poison Spider indicate the existence of petroleum over a wide section of
the state. Wells on Salt Creek resemble those in Russia. True-blue
Wyomingites proudly anticipate the day when their gilt-edged basin will
hit the Baku mastodons a Fitzsimmons sock-dolager in the solar-plexus.

              My! Won’t the Czar feel like the deuceovitch
              When the Wyoming wells cut looseovitch
              And Baku spouters must vamooseovitch?


William M. Mills, boring for gas in 1892 near the east side of Neodesha,
Wilson county, Kansas, found sand with oil in two wells and plugged the
holes. John H. Galey, ever awake to the importance of prospective
territory, heard the news and proceeded to investigate. He examined the
sand and the oil—almost black in color and of heavy gravity—thought
favorably of the country, enlisted Mills for the campaign, leased
sixty-thousand acres for himself and James M. Guffey, located a number
of wells and prepared for extensive developments. Guffey & Galey’s first
well was rather slim. Their second, at Thayer, fourteen miles
north-east, was also small. Their third, twenty-five miles farther
north-east, at Humbolt, Allen county, had sand and gas and a feeble show
of oil. Similar results forty miles south-west of Neodesha confirmed
their opinion of plenty spotted territory to be worth testing to a
finish. They drilled twenty wells in the vicinity of Neodesha, the
majority of them fair. Several out of eighteen put down around Thayer,
in the winter of 1893-4, rated in the medium class. The principal
production of the Kansas field to-day—about five-hundred barrels derived
from a hundred or more wells—is at these two points. In all Guffey &
Galey drilled one-hundred-and-forty wells, averaging eight-hundred feet
deep and half of them dry, and sold to the Forest Oil-Company in 1895.


E. E. Crocker, son of the Bradford pioneer, superintended the drilling
of numerous wells for the Forest in 1896-7. Scattered over Bourbon,
Crawford, Allen, Neosho, Woodson, Elk, Wilson and Montgomery counties,
two-thirds of these ventures were dusters. Three at Humboldt are the
farthest north that produce any oil. The farthest south are near Sedan
and Peru, Chautauqua county. This embraces about seventy-five miles
north-east and south-west. The whole district is as uncertain as the age
of the oldest Betsey Bobbet in the pack. Dry-holes may surround a fair
strike. The sand runs from eight to twenty feet. The oil is extremely
dark, twenty to thirty-five gravity, with asphalt base, no paraffine and
no sulphur. From the company’s refinery at Neodesha, which has a
capacity of one-thousand barrels, the first shipment of kerosene was
made last June. The refinery is designed to supply Kansas and portions
of Nebraska and Missouri. Most of the crude is produced so near the
refinery that pipe-lines have not been laid to transport it.

Gas is struck ninety to a hundred feet below the oil-sand, sometimes in
large quantity and occasionally at about four-hundred feet from the
surface. Low pressure and water prevent piping gas in the shallow wells
long distances. It was a Fourth of July when the vapor illuminant was
first lighted at Neodesha. Enthusiasm and patriotism drew thousands to
the celebration. Jerry Simpson’s candidacy and Peffer’s whiskers were
side-tracked and forgotten. Darkness gathered and the impatient throng
waited for the torch to be applied to the tall stand-pipes. Their cheers
might be heard in Oklahoma when masses of flame lit up the sky and
bathed the town in a lurid glare.

The Guiper Oil-Company, managed by William Guiper of Oil City, the
Palmer Oil-Company and James Amm & Co. have drilled many wells that did
not bear the market a little bit. Across the Kansas border, at Eufala,
Indian Territory, the Enterprise Oil-Company bored twenty-eight-hundred
feet without finding the stuff. Two wells in Creek county had white-sand
and a trifle of amber-oil at seven-hundred and a thousand feet. The
Cherokee Oil-Company drilled ten wells that produced a moderate amount
of heavy-oil from two slates. Wisconsin parties, making deep tests on
the Cherokee border, indulge in fond hopes that “Bleeding Kansas” and
the country south may shortly bleed petroleum from a half-score rich

Five wells near Litchfield, Illinois, pump fifty gallons of
lubricating-oil a day. Two in Bates county, Missouri, dribble enough to
grease wagon-axles and farm-implements. A New-York syndicate has
obtained large concessions of land from the government and is drilling
at Jalapa, Mexico, where oil was found in shallow wells a few years ago.
In Kentucky a host of small or dry wells have gone down since 1894. The
Bobs-Bar well, the only one producing in Tennessee, drilled in 1896,
flowed fifty barrels an hour, caught fire the first night and afterwards
pumped sixty barrels a day for a season.

Believing an artesian-well would supply the community with abundant pure
water, a local company at Corsicana, Navarro county, Texas, three years
ago started the tools to pierce the “joint clay” in the south-west end
of town. Sixteen years before a well drilled nine-hundred feet failed to
accomplish this purpose and was filled up. Geologists gravely announced
that water—unfit to use at that—could not be had within
thirty-five-hundred feet. The company kept right along. At ten-hundred
feet the clay ceased and twenty feet of sandy shale, soft and bluish,
followed. Oil, real petroleum, hardly inferior to the best in
Pennsylvania, flowed strongly. Doubting Thomases felt sure this
unexpected glut of oil settled the water-question in the negative and
advised tubing the well. The company cased off the oil, resumed
drilling, pierced five-hundred feet more of “joint clay,” four-hundred
feet of “Dallas chalk” and another immense layer of clay. At twenty-five
hundred feet a crystal current of water gushed forth to the rhythm of
fifteen-thousand gallons an hour. The water-problem was solved happily,
the company was amply vindicated and the Corsicanans were
correspondingly jubilant. The geological freaks were confounded. Of
course, they knew more about the creation than Moses and could upset
Genesis in one round, but a six-inch hole on their own ground put them
floundering in the soup.

John H. Galey read a brief report of the water-well and visited
Corsicana “on the quiet.” He had cart-loads of experience in oil-matters
and a faculty for opening new fields. He drilled on Oil Creek in the
sixties, had a hand in the Pithole pie, broadened the Pleasantville
limit, set the Parker district going, went to the front in Butler and
let no patch of creamy territory escape his vigilant eye. In Kansas he
had located and drilled the first wells—at Neodesha and Thayer—that
brought into play the only pools that have paid their way. He spent a
year in Texas picking up lands and putting down wells. As in Kansas, his
first and second wells were ten or twelve miles apart and both touched
the jugular. He sold his entire interest, four companies entered the
field and thirty wells are doing a thousand barrels a day. The first car
of Corsicana oil was shipped last July, amid the huzzas of a crowd of
cheering citizens. Senator Roger Q. Mills, the Democratic statesman, is
the lucky owner of a thousand acres of land on the outskirts of town.
The property has been leased and it bids fair to make the Senator a
millionaire. Petroleum may yet be the brightest star in the
constellation of the Lone-Star State.

California is not content to have gold-mines, overgrown trees and
tropical fruits and leave petroleum out in the cold. For years
developments have been carried on, centering finally at Los Angeles.
City-lots are punctured with holes and three-hundred wells have been
drilled on two-hundred acres. Samuel M. Jones, formerly of the
Pennsylvania oil-region and now president of the Acme Sucker-Rod-Company
of Toledo, leveled his kodak at the Los-Angeles wells in 1895, securing
the view printed in the cut. Hon. W. L. Hardison, who operated in the
Clarion and Bradford fields and served a couple of terms in the
Legislature, and Lyman Stewart, of Titusville, have been largely
interested in the California field for ten years. Los-Angeles wells are
seven to nine-hundred feet deep, yield six barrels to seventy-five at
the start and employ six-hundred men. The oil is used for fuel and
lubrication, produces superior asphaltum and a distillate for
stove-burners and gasoline-engines. It cannot be refined profitably for
illuminating. The Los-Angeles field, about one mile long and six-hundred
feet wide, had a small beginning. The first wells, near the
Second-Street Park, were small, only to the first sand—four-hundred
feet—and yielded poorly. The operators lacked knowledge and bunched the
holes as closely as sardines in a box. Deeper drilling revealed richer
strata, from which four-hundred wells are producing eighteen-hundred
barrels a day. Railways, electric lines and manufacturing establishments
consume the bulk of the output—equivalent to seven-hundred tons of coal
daily—for fuel. The best wells have been pumping twenty months to two
years, a few starting at three-hundred barrels for a week.
Twenty-five-hundred dollars is the average cost of a California well and
the total yield of the district approximates two-million barrels up to


Los Angeles is a genuine California town, with oil-wells as an extra
feature. Derricks cluster on Belmont Hill, State street, Lakeshore
avenue, Second street, and leading thoroughfares. A six-inch line
conveys crude to the railroads and car-tanks are shipped over the
Southern Pacific and Santa Fé routes. At least one of the preachers
seems to be drilling “on the belt,” if a tourist’s tale of a prayer he
offered be true. Here it is:

“O, Lord! we pray that the excursion train going east this morning may
not run off the track and kill any church-members that may be on board.
Thou knowest it is bad enough to run oil-wells on Sunday, but worse to
run Sunday excursions. Church-members on Sunday excursions are not in
condition to die. In addition to this, it is embarrassing to a minister
to officiate at a funeral of a member of the church who has been killed
on a Sunday excursion. Keep the train on the track and preserve it from
any calamity, that all church-members among the excursionists may have
opportunity for repentance, that their sins may be forgiven. We ask it
for Christ’s sake. Amen.”

With juicy Ohio, plump West Virginia, nutritious Indiana, succulent
California, appetizing Texas and many other luscious bivalves to keep
fat Pennsylvania company, there is no lack of oysters in the stew.

                           SOME OF THE BOYS.

Michael Murphy, of “mystery” fame, lives in Chester county.

William L. Lay, founder of South Oil-City, died last winter.

W. J. Welch, a respected citizen, who operated at Bullion and Bradford
and for years belonged to the Oil-City Exchange, died in 1897.

Ruel A. Watson, an active broker, as he lay gasping for breath, raised
his head, asked an attendant “What’s the market?” sank back on his
pillow and expired. “The ruling passion is strong in death.”

John Vanausdall, partner of William Phillips in the biggest well on Oil
Creek, left his home at Oil City in the morning, took ill at Petrolia
and telegraphed for his wife. She reached his bedside just as he drew
his last breath.

                A man may seem to be a bang-up seraph,
                Yet be a proper subject for the sheriff.

John Wallace, an early oil-operator at Rouseville and merchant at Rynd,
died in 1880. Born in Great Britain, he served in the English army,
participated in the Crimean war and was one of the “Gallant Six Hundred”
in the desperate charge at Balaklava immortalized by Tennyson.

The late H. L. McCance, long secretary of the Oil-City Exchange, was the
Thomas Nast of Oildom. Two of his cartoons—“When Oil is Seventy Cents”
and “When Oil is Three Dollars”—in this volume and those exposing the
South-Improvement infamy were especially striking.

B. D. J. McKeown is probably the only millionaire ball-player in the
United States. He belongs to the Washington team, which is a member of
the Pennsylvania State-League, and has played first base with the nine
the entire season. He is a son of the late John McKeown, a keen man of
affairs, a clean fielder, heavy batter and swift base-runner.

              Many a chap who thinks he’s sure of Heaven,
              But in his make-up lacks the kindly leaven,
              Will find Old Nick on hand with a replevin.

Col. W. H. Kinter, of Oil City, a man of kindliest impulses, genial and
whole-souled, greeting a neighbor one Sunday evening, remarked:
“Goodnight, old boy—no, make it good-bye; we may never meet again!” He
retired in excellent health and spirits. Next morning, feeling drowsy,
he asked his wife—a daughter of Hamilton McClintock—to bring him a cup
of tea. She returned in a short time to find her husband asleep in

The irrepressible “Sam” Blakely originated the term “shuffle,” which he
often practiced in his dealings in the oil-exchanges, and the phrase,
“Boys, don’t take off your shirts!” This expression spread far and wide
and was actually repeated by Osman Pasha—if the cablegrams told the
truth—at the battle of Plevna, when his troops wavered an instant in the
face of a dreadful rain of bullets. “Sam” also inaugurated the custom of
drinking Rhine-wine. Once he constituted himself a committee of one to
celebrate the Fourth of July at Parker. He printed a great lot of
posters, which announced a celebration on a gorgeous scale—horse-races,
climbing the greased pole, boat-races, orations, fireworks and other
attractions. These were posted about the city and on barns and fences
within a radius of ten miles. A friend asked him how his celebration was
likely to come off. “Oh,” he said, “we’re going to get all the hayseeds
in here and then we’ll give them the great kibosh.” On the glorious day
“Sam” mounted a box in front of the Columbia hose-house and delivered an
oration before four-thousand people, who pronounced it the funniest
thing they ever heard and accepted the situation good-naturedly. Some
impromptu games were got up and the day passed off pleasantly.

[Illustration: POND-FRESHET