Transcribed by Andrea Leone. For an explanation and caution about this transcription, please read this page.
SURNAMES APPEARING IN THIS CHAPTERADAMS, ANGELL, AUSTIN, AVERY, BADGER, BANKS, BARNHART, BAUER, BERG, BISSELL, BLACK, BLANEY, BOSWELL, BOWERS, BRANDON, BRAWLEY, BREDIN, BREWER, BROWN, BRUCE, BURCHFIELD, BUSSELL, CAMPBELL, CHANCE, CHARLEVOIX, CHRISTY, COLBERT, COOPER, CORNWALL, CRAIG, CREER, CRISWELL, CROWE, CUMMINGS, DAUGHERTY, De JOUCAIRE, DENNEY, DIMMICK, IVENER, DONELLY, DRAKE, DRESSER, DUNCAN, EGBERT, EITENMILLER, ELLENBERGER, EVANS, EVELETH, FETZER, FLEEGER, FLETCHER, FORCHT, FORD, FORQUER, FREDERICK, FUNK, GAILEY, GIBSON, GORDON, GRAHAM, GROFF, HAINES, HAMIL, HASLETT, HATCH, HAYES, HAYS, HECK, HEINER, HEMPHILL, HENRY, HINDMAN, HOFFMAN, HUGHES, HULENS, HUNTER, HUSELTON, IRONS, IRVINE, JACOBS, JAMES, JAMISON, JENKIN, JENNINGS, KARNS, KEARNS, KENNEDY, KEPPLE, KERN, KINGSLEY, KLINGER, KRUGH, LAMBING, LARDIN, LAUGHLIN, LEE, LEONARD, LOWRY, LYON, McALEER, McBRIDE, McCAFFERTY, McCALMONT, McCLELLAND, McCLYMONDS, McDONNELL, McELHENY, McGINLEY, McGORMLEY, McJUNKIN, McKEE, McKINNEY, McPHERSON, MEYERS, MITCHELL, MONTCALM, MOOREHEAD, MORGAN, NEELEY, NESBITT, NEYMAN, PARKER, PATTERSON, PATTON, PEIRSAL, PHILLIPS, PLUMMER, RED, REDICK, REIBER, RENFREW, RIDDLE, RITLER, SAY, SCHUSTER, SCOTT, SCUDDER, SHEADLEY, SHIDEMANTEL, SHREAVE, SIMCOX, SMITH, STEWART, STOREY, SULLIVAN, SUTTON, TABOR, TACK, TARR, TAYLOR, THOMPSON, TROUTMAN, VANDERGRIFT, VOGELEY, WATSON, WEEKS, WESTERMAN, WILSON, WOOLFORD, WYATT, YETLER, ZEIGLER, ZIEGLER
THE EARLY HISTORY OF PETROLEUM IN PENNSYLVANIA OUTLINED--THE BEGINNING IN BUTLER COUNTY -- THE BUTLER COUNTY AND JACOBS' OIL COMPANIES -- PIONEER OPERATIONS ON THE MAIN OR 22º BELT -- RISE OF OIL TOWNS--PETROLIA, KARNS CITY AND MILLERSTOWN -- THE CROSS BELT OR FOURTH SAND EXCITEMENT -- IMMENSE FLOWING WELLS -- GREECE CITY -- AREA OF GREATEST PRODUCTION -- NOTED FARMS -- HEAVY OPERATIONS -- BALD RIDGE -- THE SHIDEMANTLE WELL -- STATISTICS OF PRESENT AND TOTAL PRODUCTION IN THE COUNTY -- GEOLOGY
The earliest well-authenticated mention of petroleum in Pennsylvania seems to have been made in a letter written by the commander of Fort DuQuesne, to Gen. MONTCALM, in 1750, describing a ceremony of the Senceca Indians, on Oil Creek, a prominent feature of which was a fire made from the oil which oozed to the surface of the ground. Thirty years prior to that time, however, CHARLEVOIX, the French explorer, in his journal of May, 1721, quoting Capt. DE JOUCAIRE as authority, mentions a "fountain at the head of the Ohio" (the Allegheny was then called the Ohio) "the water of which is like oil, has a taste of iron and seems to appease all manner of pain."
Along Oil Creek, particularly between Titusville and Oil City, and in other localities in Western Pennsylvania, circular and square-walled pits, cribbed with timber, have been found, which are supposed to have been the work of Indians, and excavated for the purpose of obtaining oil.
The early white settlers gathered oil from the surface of the streams by spreading blankets in such a manner as to absorb it, and then wringing them over a kettle, tub, or other receptacle. Occasionally, it was found in salt wells. In one of these, sunk in 1811, near the present home of James KEARNS, a mile northeast of Butler, was discovered the first petroleum in Butler County of which we have any record. The oil was present in a sufficient quantity to render the salt made from the brine unfit to preserve meat in. It was gathered by Mrs. KEARNS, the wife of one of the pioneers, and people came from long distances to procure small vials of the liquid for medicinal purposes. It was considered very valuable in cases of [p. 131] rheumatism, bruises, flesh wounds and similar ailments, and was kept in store by druggists throughout the country, bringing a high price. As late as 1859, it was sold as a remedy for the ills of man and beast under the name of Seneca, Rock or British oil, or Naphtha.
As the most prolific and widely known of the natural oil springs were on Oil Creek, Venango County, Penn., it was natural that the first steps toward systematic and extensive production should be first taken there. In 1858, Messrs. J. E. EVELETH and George H. BISSELL, of New York City, having leased from Messrs. BREWER, WATSON & Co., of Titusville, 100 acres of land in Venango County, just south of the village, on which was an oil spring, which had been the source of considerable profit for a number of years, concluded to sink an artesian well for the purpose of tapping the stream or reservoir, which they conjectured flowed beneath the surface. They engaged for this undertaking Mr. E. L. DRAKE, of New Haven, Conn., who began with a set of tools which he could almost carry upon his shoulder, to sink the first oil well in this country, or for that matter, upon the globe, and persevered, though contending with many difficulties, until his efforts culminated in success.
On the afternoon of Saturday, August 28, 1859, the drill of the Drake well dropped into the first crevice of oil, at a depth of only seventy-one feet. Thus was born a new industry, and one of the greatest in the world--an industry of which the rapid growth and colossal proportions may be suggested by the statement that the petroleum production of 2,000 barrels in 1859, was increased to 27,358,000 barrels in the year 1881.
When the pump was adjusted to the Drake well, it produced about twenty-five barrels per day. A second sand rock was found at the depth of about two hundred feet, which gave a greater yield.
Another noteworthy pioneer oil well was within the limits of Franklin Borough. It was known as the EVANS well, being sunk by a man of that name. He had, a short time prior to the commencement of the "excitement, put down a well to the depth of seventeen feet, and struck a vein of fresh water, which soon became covered with a thick scum of oil, rendering it unfit for use. When Mr. EVANS heard of the success of the DRAKE well, he resolved to drill his well down to the sand rock. He had great difficulty in obtaining the necessary implements, but a merchant of Franklin finally sold him the iron, on credit, and he being a blacksmith, constructed the tools. He then erected a derrick and by means of a spring pole, with the assistance of his two sons, bored the well to the depth of seventy-two feet, when he struck a heavy vein of oil, which flowed over the top of the conductor. The tubing was put down and the well pumped by hand with a common pump, produced about twenty barrels per day. Some of the oil sold for $30 per barrel."
*From "The Oil Bubble," by S. P. IRVINE, Esq.
At the close of the year 1860, over two hundred wells were in successful operation, and the production of that year reached about 500,000 barrels, all of which was brought to the surface by pumping. Up to this time, no flowing wells had been struck, but, in February, 1861, Mr. FUNK found upon the McELHENY farm on Oil Creek a third sand rock at a depth of about 400 feet, and his well began flowing at the rate of about 400 barrels per day. The excitement in the oil region reached a height which cannot be described or imagined, and other wells were drilled as quickly as possible by eager operators. The PHILLIPS well, on the TARR farm, Oil Creek, flowed 3,000 barrels per day, and the Empire, near Mr. FUNK's first well, about the same.
The consumption of oil as an illuminator was not equal to the enormous production which was by this time obtained, and consequently, the remarkable spectacle was witnessed of oil selling at 10 cents per barrel. It was often given away, or allowed to run upon the ground. Production was paralyzed, and small wells were abandoned. A vigorous recuperation, however, occurred in 1864. Consumption had steadily increased, while the production had declined to less than 4,000 barrels per day, and the price for crude rose to the highest figure ever known to the trade--$14 per barrel. The average price for the year was $9. The increased demand was met by the developments at Pit Hole and elsewhere, and under the stimulus of high prices, territory was rapidly drilled. Search was made with untiring diligence for new oil-producing territory, and the energy and capital of thousands of men were brought to bear upon the great industry, which, however, was still in its infancy. It was discovered that the oil sand rock was not confined to the courses of the streams alone, but extended horizontally under the hills, and could be reached by drilling as much deeper as the height of the hill required. Various theories were promulgated respecting the nature of the oil sand deposit, its extent and direction, and among them was that of the "oil belt," deduced from the observation of C. D. ANGELL, of Franklin, Penn., that a number of the oil-producing spots would be intersected by a straight line whose bearing was north about 16 degrees east. The belt theory thus advanced has in the main been demonstrated, the most material modificiation being the substitution of a 22 1/2 degree line for the original 16 degree line, as indicating the direction of the third sand.
The course of the great belt of the Butler and Clarion region, generally conforms to the 22 1/2 degree line, and is crossed in Butler County by the great "Fourth Sand Belt," lying below it and extending in a course which may be described as from the northeast to the southwest. The main belt may be said to extend from Triangle City, on Beaver Creek, Clarion County, to a point in Summit Township, in Butler County.
The first paying well in the Butler-Clarion belt was obtained on the Allegheny River, at Parker's Landing, in the fall of 1868, and operations spread out from that point slowly during the remainder of that year and the whole of the next.
It is necessary to go several years back of the date last mentioned to get at the beginning of Butler County oil history. Soon after the first developments were made in the upper field, various citizens of Butler County speculated and theorized upon the probability of finding petroleum nearer home. Previous to 1864, however, no organized effort was made to develop the territory which many firmly believed to contain oil deposits. In the autumn of that year and spring of 1865, Capt. Jacob ZEIGLER, Dr. Stephen BREDIN, Judge James BREDIN, John M. THOMPSON, Esq., Alexander LOWRY, Lewis Z. MITCHELL, Esq., H. J. KLINGER, William CAMPBELL, James CAMPBELL, John BERG and others, all of the borough of Butler, organized the Butler County Oil Company, and leased a large body of land extending from the vicinity of Martinsburg, on Bear Creek, nearly as far south as Millerstown. The leases of the company covered what in after years proved to be the very best oil territory in the whole lower region, and for that matter, perhaps the richest that was ever drilled. The company owned the oil privileges of the GIBSON and FLETCHER farms, the CAMPBELL farm, the SHEADLEY, McCLYMONDS, WILSON, McDONNELL FARMS--in fact, almost all of the best territory in what came to be known as the great Butler Belt, extending to Robert THOMPSON's, at Carbon, and Herman SMITH's at Summit. They also had the RENFREW farm and a large body of other land at Bald Ridge. On the bases of these leases, capital was solicited, and about $29,000 was secured through Mr. W. HUGHES, of Pottsville, which with considerable more, was disbursed by the company. Unfortunately, it was expended under the direction of an executive committee, the members of which knew practically nothing about the business in which they were engaged, and the result was what might have been expected under such a condition of circumstances. Locations were made for five wells, machinery purchased and drilling commenced. The wells were all "wild cats" of the most pronounced type, sunk with the hope of finding somewhere in Butler County the extension of the Clarion belt. Martinsburg, Buffalo Creek, Buhl's Mill and Butler were the locations chosen. Not one of the wells was drilled even to the second sand rock, the dip of the strata toward the southwest, which made it necessary to drill deeper in Butler than in the upper region, not being understood. Had the Martinsburg well, the first one located, been drilled deep enough, it would have been a success. The money of the Butler County Oil Company was exhausted without obtaining demonstration of the presence of oil in the county, and the organization was practically disbanded. A new company, organized in 1868, by Jacob ZIEGLER and named after him, the Jacob's Oil Company, took up a portion of the leases held by the old company, among them those covering the Thomas FLETCHER and Robert BLACK farms in Parker Township. Following are the names of the stockholders of the Jacob's Oil Company, viz., Herman J. BERG, William VOGELEY, R. L. BLACK, James BREDIN, William CAMPBELL, Mrs. Judge BREDIN, J. C. REDICK, A.M. NEYMAN, Rev. LAUGHLIN, Robert BLACK, Sr., Mrs. L. Z. MITCHELL, Edwin LYON, I. J. CUMMINGS, Jacob ZIEGLER, J. Q. A. KENNEDY, N. S. THOMPSON, J. B. STOREY, Milton HENRY, Mrs. Elvira LYON. The company began to drill the Martinsburg well in the autumn of 1868, and, in February, 1869, had signs of oil. The well was then sunk one hundred feet deeper, and pumping commenced, but the production was very small. Mr. John Q. A. KENNEDY then examined the well and found it too deep. The pump being re-adjusted, the well produced three barrels per day, and after being "shot" with a torpedo, produced sixty barrels. This well, known as the Jacobs well, the first successful one in Butler County, was pumped for eleven years, but never was a large producer. The well was sold in 1872, together with the company's lease of the farm on which it was situated, to Robert BLACK, the consideration being $4,000.
The striking of the Jacobs well produced quite a stir among oil men, and eager speculators flocked to the Parker Township region, and leased all of the available territory which in their judgment was worth drilling. Strangers came in from the upper region, from Buffalo, Erie, Cleveland and New York. Operations extended toward Parker, along Bear Creek, and in a few months many rigs were up and many drills going down toward the sand. In the fall of 1870, a portion of the Stonehouse Farm, northeast of Martinsburg, then owned by John M. THOMPSON, Esq. And Judge BREDIN, of Butler, was leased by John Q. A. KENNEDY to E. BENNETT, who drilled a well upon it, which provided to be good for fifteen barrels of oil per day. This well stimulated operations in all directions. A number of wells were located in the remainder of [p. 133] the Stonehouse farms by D. C. KARNS and Charles BADGER. John H. HEINER began drilling on the STEVENSON farm; operations were began on the Thomas DONELLY farm of 1,100 acres, and upon the John SAY farm by John CORNWALL. The "Pine Tree" well, on this property, struck in the spring of 1871, started with a production of eighty barrels per day, and gave a fresh fillip of energy to the operators. One of the earliest wells between Parker and Martinsburg was drilled on the Simeon LEONARD farm, at the forks of Bear Creek, by Shields ADAMS. It proved to be a remarkably good well, and is still producing ten barrels per day. Adams sold it to George H. GRAHAM, and he transferred it to the present owner, William MORGAN. The operations which we have briefly outlined were carried on in 1869, 1870 and 1871. Up to this time, but little had been done toward the development of the belt southward.
The Martinsburg wells had been generally regarded as "pointers" as to the direction of the belt from Parker. Among the first to take practical action in accordance with the theory of a southerly extension of the oil sand rock was A. L. CAMPBELL. He began leasing "at the front" in May, 1871. He secured thirty-five acres of the Robert CAMPBELL farm, on the south line of Parker Township, and leases of numerous other farms, subject to developments on the CAMPBELL property. John A. LAMBING took these leases and organized a company to sink a "wild-cat" well on the farm named. This organization, known as the Robert CAMPBELL Oil Company, was composed of Messrs. H. L. TAYLOR, C. D. ANGEL, B. B. CAMPBELL, James E. and R. L. BROWN and James M. and John A. LAMBING. They began drilling in the summer, and on the 19th of November, the "Robert CAMPBELL" well, as it was named, struck the third sand. The rig caught fire and burned to the ground, but was reconstructed within twenty-four hours, and the well was found to produce eighty barrels per day.
The striking of the Robert CAMPBELL (which was just north of the spot on which the village of Argyle was afterward laid out) caused a great rush to the front. A large amount of territory was leased south of the new well, including the site of Petrolia and several farms surrounding it. A number of operators sunk "wild-cat" wells, which proved to be dry, but Messrs. George H. NESBITT, William LARDIN and George H. DIMMICK, who had leased the BLANEY and JAMISON farms, were successful in striking the oil deposit. Their well was located upon the line between the two farms which divides the present town of Petrolia, north and south, and was named the "Fanny Jane," after Fanny BLANEY and Jane JAMISON. The well was struck on or about the 1st of April, 1872, and started off with a flow of about two hundred and fifty to three hundred barrels per day, causing great excitement among oil men and the farmers in the region, who began to see visions of large wealth accruing from their hitherto poor lands. People flocked from all parts of the country to see the new "gusher," and an immense influx of capital set hundreds of drills at work during the summer. The few experienced operators, who had been the pioneers in the region, were crowded by others who were anxious to secure a share in what all now believed would prove an enormously prolific field. Two other wells were in process of drilling within the present limits of Petrolia Borough when the "Fanny Jane" began to flow, and they both proved to be fairly good producers. These were the HATCH and DRESSER wells. The "Lightfoot," put down by M. S. ADAMS, and others soon came in with a production of about two hundred barrels, and the "Ivanhoe," on the A. L. CAMPBELL farm (between Argyle and Petrolia) reached the sand in May, 1872, and began to flow at the rate of about three hundred barrels. This well averaged 228 barrels per day for the first month, and exceeded in production any of its predecessors. It was drilled by Angus McPHERSON and Co., but sold to Parker THOMPSON & Co. before the sand was reached. In the meantime, the Argyles, Nos. 1, 2, 3 and 4, had been struck upon the A. L. CAMPBELL farm, and the owner had laid out the village of Argyle, named appropriately after the ancient family home in Scotland. Argyle became quite a flourishing village, and had a population at one time of several hundred. The wells were not large, averaging only about seventy-five barrels per day, but were profitable, and they increased the value of Mr. CAMPBELL's farm from about $50 to $1,000 per acre. Operations were now fast extended toward the south on a line running about 22 1/2 degrees west. COOPER Bros. And D. C. KARNS were the pioneers who first obtained successful results in advance of Petrolia. They began drilling a test well on the McCLYMOND farm, at the site of the future Karns City, in December, 1871, and reached the sand in June, 1872, less than three months after the "Fanny Jane" was struck at Petrolia. The KARNS well produced 120 barrels daily. The belt thus defined as far south as Karns City, was about this time shown to extend a half mile farther west than had been generally supposed by the striking of a well upon the McALEER farm--the McALEER No. 1--put down by TACK Bros. & Co. (A. L. CAMPBELL and others.) It was not a large producer, but valuable as a factor in outlining the territory. The extension of the belt to the westward as originally indicated by the McALEER No. 1, was confirmed in the fall of 1872 by the striking of a very successful well on the Alexander STOREY farm, southwest of Karns City. This well, which was owned by William KERN, had quite a [p. 134] marked effect in increasing the cost of leasing territory, but that fact did not deter ambitious operators from thronging into the field. J. AVERY and the BRAWLEY Bros., who were at this time drilling between Petrolia and Parker, were among the first to go forward toward the front as defined by the KERN well. They began extensive operations on the John B. CAMPBELL farm, between the KERN location and Karns City. The Keystone Oil Company and Richard JENNINGS, who was undoubtedly the heaviest individual operator ever in Butler County, quickly followed. THOMPSON & TABOR were among the first operators at Karns City, and struck the "Clipper Shades No. 1," on the Alex STOREY farm, in December, 1872. This well flowed from three to four hundred barrels at the start, and is still pumping.
Prior to the time at which we have now arrived, the town of Petrolia, destined to be the most notable oil center of the lower region, had come into existence. When the "Fanny Jane" was struck, in April, 1872, the JAMISON farmhouse was the only dwelling within the present limits of Petrolia Borough, but the new and rich strike was a sufficient incentive to set a number of people to building, and with the mushroom-like growth, only known in oil and mining regions, a village was formed in the little valley of Bear Creek. It seemed to the astonished farmers, who had lived for long years on the hills of Fairview Township, as if the bustling little village grew up in a single night. The little cluster of houses, shops and stores, certainly did grow very rapidly and spread out over the lands west of the creek, sold by George H. GRAHAM to C. D. ANGELL, and the JAMISON farm and property of ADAMS & SCOTT east of the creek. It was incorporated as a borough in February, 1873, in response to a petition circulated in the fall of 1872 and signed by 103 citizens. Argyle, the older but lesser town, was swallowed up. Like all oil towns springing quickly into existence through the pressure of a suddenly developed need, Petrolia consisted entirely of light and flimsily constructed wooden buildings. They were put up hastily to meet the demands of the strange heterogeneous population which poured into the county. Hotel followed hotel, and all were crowded to their utmost capacity as soon as completed. The town quickly leaped to a population of 3,000, and ultimately to 5,000. The lucky strikes in the 22-degree belt, and the rapid development of the territory, brought in all classes of people. The heavy capitalist, the experienced operator, the shrewd speculator, the penniless adventurer, the "man who had seen better days," the green novice, the curious tourist, the honest citizen, the common laborer, the tramp, beggar, gambler, sharper, thief, the courtesan, all were there, and jostled each other on the narrow sidewalks. The sodden, aimless, broken-down wretches who form the human flotsam and jetsam of the ocean of life, depraved characters of every type and every degree of degradation, came upon the heels of the pushing men of business as a horde of camp followers straggling on after an army. Petrolia afforded a marked illustration of condensed and intense life. Five thousand people--a constantly changing population, made up of all grades and classes, good and bad, lived in a town which at a casual glance appeared scarcely large enough to hold as many hundred, and the majority of them crowded ten years of action into one of actual time. Business and pleasure and dissipation were carried on during the height of the great oil excitement with a rush, which is never equaled outside of a great center of oil production and oil speculation. The better elements of society, however, were always dominant in Petrolia, and it never had as bad a reputation as some of the older oil towns in the upper region. The town soon became the head center for some of the oldest and heaviest operators, and gigantic business interests had their inception there and were successfully conducted. In October, 1975, after the great cross belt development, of which we shall presently speak, the oil exchange was organized (the first in Butler County), with S. H. SMITH as President. Speculation ran high, and at one time Petrolia made the market price for oil for the world. The borough passed through the usual ups and downs of oil-town history, had its great fires, its record of quickly made fortunes and heavy failures of individuals, and finally, its own prosperity began to wane, as the oil production which had made it fell off.
*For a detailed history of Petrolia, see the chapter on Fairview Township.
Quickly following the origin of Petrolia, came the laying out of* Karns City, a mile and a half south, by Samuel DUNCAN KARNS and John H. HAINES. It was located on the farms of Samuel L. RIDDLE and Hugh P. McCLYMONDS, which had been proven prolific oil territory by the pioneer operations of Mr. KARNS, COOPER Bros. and others in the summer of 1872. This town eventually gained a population of about 2,000, but was never a successful rival of Petrolia.
The vicinity of Millerstown became the scene of pioneer operations early in 1872 and 1873, and that town, which had been for many years in existence, although very small, grew rapidly as the extensive developments of the territory around it. From a population of little more than two hundred, it increased by several thousand by 1876.
*The reader is referred to the chapter on Donegal Township for the history of Millerstown.
The SCUDDER well, on the KEPPLE farm, North of Millerstown, in Fairview Township, put down by E. SCUDDER, Harvey and Miles GIBSON and F. M. CAMPBELL, struck the sand July 17, 1873, and began flow [p.135]ing at a tremendous rate. Its average daily production during the first thirty days was upward of 455 barrels. The SCUDDER well ultimately passed into the hands of H. L. TAYLOR & Co., for a consideration of $40,000. The HOFFMAN & BOSWELL well, on the DEIT's farm, a mile north of Millerstown, was in process of drilling when the SCUDDER was struck, and came in, about sixty days later, with a production of 100 barrels per day. A few days later, the SAULSBURY was struck, and began flowing at the rate of about 300 barrels in twenty-four hours.
The first well in Donegal Township on the 22-degree belt, was the Adam STEWART No. 1, on the STEWART farm. It was originally owned by A. SHREAVE, Cyrus KINGSLEY, ____ IRONS, A. L. CAMPBELL and Charles HULENS, and at present is the property of HOFFMAN & FORD, who own nine other producing wells in the vicinity. It started at 150 barrels. The second well in the vicinity of Millerstown, about one mile northwest, was on the BARNHART farm, and known as the LAMBING well, being owned by LAMBING Bros. and B.B. CAMPBELL. It produced about 175 barrels at the start, and gave confidence in the belt between the STEWART well and Karns City. The Dr. JAMES well, put down by WYATT & Co., on the Samuel BARNHART farm, came next in order of drilling, but was "shut down" on top of the sand for two or three months, while her owners and other interested parties took advantage of the uncertain condition of affairs to procure leases. The B. B. CAMPBELL, on the FORQUER farm, one mile south of Millerstown, proved a good well, producing at least 250 barrels per day, and extended the limits of the territory. It was one of the best paying wells in the whole region, and it is a little singular that no other wells of note were ever struck in the immediate neighborhood. The HEMPHILL No. 4, put down early in 1873 by McKINNEY Bros., GAILEY & co., on the Jacob HEMPHILL farm, was one of the most remarkable producers in the whole third sand belt. It spouted about 1,600 barrels during the first twenty-four hours, and for quite a long period maintained a flow of from 600 to 1,000 barrels. Its total production has been about 200,000 barrels, and it is still pumping nine barrels per day for HOFFMAN & FORD. Another notable well was struck the 1st of March, 1874--the DIVENER No. 1--on the farm of the same name, drilled by PLUMMER & LEE. It started at about 1,000 barrels, and has produced a total of not less than 200,000 barrels. This well was sold to H. L. TAYLOR & Co. for $100,000. It is now producing about eleven barrels per day, and is owned by SUTTON, AUSTIN, BRUCE & Co. Late in 1873, a well was put down on the Squire McGINLEY farm, two miles south of Millerstown, which was made a "mystery" and manipulated for speculative purposes by the celebrated Dr. HUNTER, who has operated in a similar manner in other localities. This was the first "mystery well."
As fast as pioneer operations revealed the extension of the belt to the southward, the territory added was made the scene of operations, and hundreds of wells were put down. By 1875, the country from Parker to a point several miles south of Millerstown fairly bristled with derricks, and a torrent of wealth flowed into the hands of producers and land-owners. Oil men at this time readily gave $100, $200 and even $250 per acre, with an eighth royalty of all production for land, which, prior to the excitement, was not worth more than $30 to $40 per acre. Millerstown had its full share of benefit from the oil development. An oil exchange was organized there to meet the demands of speculators, who, as is always the case in a great field of production, were numerous. Some idea of the amount of business transacted during the palmy days of exchange, may be conceived from the statement that the receipts of the telegraph office during that time were from $4,000 to $5,000 per month, the office ranking as the third largest in the State.
"Wild-cat" wells were drilled as far south as Herman's Station, on the Butler Branch Railroad (Summit Township), in 1873, and the territory between that point was spasmodically developed in patches from time to time, the most prolific production occurring in the vicinity of St. Joe, and resulting in the building up of that small oil town. The first of the Summit Township wells was drilled on the Peter SCHNUR farm, in 1873. The first well on the EICHENLAUB farm, known as the Summit well, was finished in 1874 at a cost of $10,000. It is the best well in the neighborhood. It originally produced about fifteen barrels per day, but the present yield is not more than ten. This well and several others were put down by P. H. & T. F. BURCHFIELD, by whom they are still pumped. Herman's Station is at present the southern terminus of development on the 22-degree belt, though not the most recently drilled portion of it. Operations at Carbon Center were begun in 1877. BOWERS & CREER struck the first and second wells on the FORCHT farm, and Charles HASLETT the third. The latter started at a hundred barrels per day, and, like several others in the vicinity, continued to produce moderately.
The great "Cross Belt," or "Fourth Sand," development, which had its inception in 1872, we have purposely reserved for a separate consideration.
After the great strike of the "Fanny Jane," in the 22-degree belt, at Petrolia, in April, 1872, prospecting for oil was carried on with great energy, and "wild-cat" wells were sunk in all directions and far [p. 136] away from the territory which had been proved good. Among them was one put down by David MORRISON on the farm of his father-in-law, S. S. JAMISON, in the southern part of Concord township, about seven miles from Petrolia, in a southeasterly direction. This well, upon the 22nd of August, 1872, struck the great fourth sand deposit, which was literally to "pour forth rivers of oil," to bring into existence several new towns, among them Greece City, and ultimately to have the most powerful depressing effect upon the petroleum market ever known in the history of the trade. The "wild cat" known as the MORRISON well surprised even the most sanguine, and after making a spurt of 700 barrels the first day, flowed at the rate of 300 for some time. Her average for the first six months was 250 barrels per day. Territory in the vicinity, and especially between the new well and Petrolia, was eagerly leased, and a number of wells were soon located. Theodore HUSELTON, who owned the farm south of the Karns branch of the Connoquenessing and adjoining the JAMISON farm, on which the lucky strike had resulted, immediately laid out a portion of his land in village lots, and the owners of property on the north side followed suit. A village sprang up as if by magic and grew with astounding rapidity, being incorporated as a borough a few months after its origin. Greece City,* as it was called, has now almost entirely disappeared, but for a brief period during the years 1872-73 and 1874, it was one of the prominent towns of the oil region, and exhibited great bustle and business stir. It had several good hotels, three banks and a large number of shops, stores and dwellings. That portion of the town north of the creek was twice burned down and rebuilt. In this respect, it shared the usual fate of the other lower region oil towns--Petrolia, Karns City, Modoc, Buena Vista, Martinsburg and Millerstown all having disastrous fires, and some of them being several times visited. Greece City was probably, during the heyday of the oil excitement, the "hardest" town in the lower country. Saloons, gambling places and bawdy houses abounded; the town was thronged with brazen and depraved characters, and drunkenness, profligacy and crime held high carnival, much to the disgust of the many steady-going, substantial class of citizens who were compelled by business interests to make their home here.
*See chapter on Concord Township for a fuller history than is here given.
The second well struck at Greece City was S. D. KARNS' "Dog Leg," located a quarter of a mile southwest of the MORRISON well, which reached the sand on Christmas Day, 1873, and proved to be a hundred-barrel well. The GORDON well, on the CHRISTY farm, put down by C. D. GORDON & Bros. and I. J. McCANDLESS, and the Asa SAY, on the HUSELTON farm, came in a little later and were good for about a hundred barrels each.
Operations were pushed eastward toward the main belt, and, in January, or February, 1873, the WEEKS & McGORMLEY, a 400-barrel well, was struck on the McCLELLAN farm, half a mile east of Greece City. On March 12, VANDERGRIFT & Co. reached the sand on the TROUTMAN farm, where the village of the same name adjoining Modoc, was afterward built, and the "Old Troutman," as it was called, began to spout at the rate of from 800 to 1,000 barrels.
At RALSTON' Mill, one mile east of TROUTMAN, the LAMBING Bros. and B. B. & A. L. CAMPBELL drilled a well, in the fall of 1872, which was pronounced dry, but afterward (in 1873), the water was shut off, and it was found to produce from fifty to one hundred barrels. This was the first well drilled in the cross belt east of Greece City, and was under way before the MORRISON was struck.
The territory around Greece City, Modoc and Troutman was soon very thoroughly drilled, heavy operators at once coming into the field. Among the first in the vicinity of the last named villages were PHILLIPS Bros., of New Castle, who now have very large interests in Butler County. Developments upon the HAYES farm followed those at Greece City, and TROUTMAN in the summer of 1873.
Up to this time, although scores of wells had been drilled and were producing from the fourth sand, the operators were ignorant of its existence.
The existence of the fourth sand was first demonstrated where the third existed and was known, upon the McALEER farm, between Karns City and Hayesville. A well known as McALEER No. 1, was sunk by TACK Bros. & Co. (L. W. MOOREHEAD, A. L. CAMPBELL and John SMITH), in September, 1873, which struck the fourth sand at a depth of about seventy feet beneath the third, and demonstrated the fact that the Greece City and Modoc wells were upon a cross belt. Almost simultaneously with the sinking of this well, another reached the fourth sand on the SCOTT farm between Karns City and Hayesville. BANKS Bros. & GAILEY had put the well down to third sand, and sold it to Charles STEWART and Foster HINDMAN, who, not being pleased with it, drilled deeper, hoping to increase the small production. When they struck the fourth sand, the "Old Hickory," as it was named, began to flow at the rate of 500 barrels. The owner supposed it was the third sand from which the oil came, until they measured the well. SMITH Bros. had a third sand well on the ROGERS farm, between Karns City and Petrolia, and when the fourth sand theory dawned upon them, they drilled it deeper and struck the great reservoir of riches October 16, 1873, the well flowing at the start 300 barrels. The fourth [p. 137] sand fever had now fairly set in, and only a few days elapsed before tools were swung in almost every derrick between Karns City and Petrolia. It was quick work drilling the old third sand wells in the 22-degree belt down to the fourth sand of the cross belt, and probably there never was a time in the history of oil production when so many good wells were struck in as short a period and within as limited an area, as here, at the crossing of the two belts. The excitement began in this locality in 1873, and was kept up with little abatement through 1874. Almost everybody who looked for the fourth sand between Karns City and Petrolia, seemed to find it, and big wells were reported daily. Operations were continued at Greece City, Troutman and Modoc with the most gratifying results. At the latter place three spouters were struck in one day--January 3. In March, 1874, 125 wells were in process of drilling. The "Big Medicine," on the BROWN farm, between Troutman and Fairview, came in with a production of 600 barrels in the fall of 1873, and made the territory in its vicinity very valuable.
The cross belt excitement brought heavy operators into the field, and they at first concentrated their efforts upon the farms lying between Petrolia and Karns City. Richard JENNINGS, of Queenstown, Armstrong County, got the largest well in Butler County--the JENNINGS No. 19" on the DAUGHERTY farm, in 1874. This great fourth sander spouted, according to the estimates of many witnesses, the enormous amount of 4,000 barrels during the first twenty-four hours. The "EVANS No. 2" was another gigantic "gusher." The "Rob Roy," on the McCLYMONDS farm, at Karns City (owned by PARKER, THOMPSON & HAINES), which had been a small producer in the third sand, was a 600-barrel spouter in the fourth, and made her owners a handsome fortune. This well, which has proved one of the most lasting in the county, had, in ten years, up to September 1, 1881, produced from the two sand formations (principally from the fourth) over 260,000 barrels of oil.
The history of HOFFMAN & BUSSELL's "Eureka," on the same farm as the above, is similar to that of the "Rob Roy." It was put down to the third sand by DANIELS & Co., found to be a small producer, and sold by them to HOFFMAN & BUSSELL; who intended to move the machinery to Modoc. They were prevented from doing so, however, by the serving of an injunction (which led to their entering into bond in the sum of $100,000), and drilled about eighty feet, to the fourth sand. The Eureka then began flowing, or, rather spouting, and put 2,200 barrels in the tank during the first day. This well produced a total of about 100,000 barrels.
Among the other notable wells in the fourth sand belt, west of the 22-degree belt, were the "Hope," at TROUTMAN, which produced 800 to 1,000 barrels per day. Th "Modoc," "Sweepstakes" and "W. W. THOMPSON," in the same locality, each flowing from 500 to 600 barrels, the Frank and Maggie," on the RALSTON farm, also good for 500 barrels, and the "Laura," on the DAUGHERTY farm, which started at 1,000.
The eastern half of the cross belt now remained to be developed. Richard JENNINGS had sunk a well at the mouth of Armstrong Run (Armstrong County), in 1870, and when the Greece City, Modoc and Troutman wells were struck, and the fourth sand developments made around Petrolia and Karns City, he conjectured that the belt extended eastward, as well as westward, of the main or 22-degree belt, and accordingly ran a line from his well toward the junction of the two belts. D. S. CRISWELL ran a similar line, in 1874, and located a well upon it on the PARKER farm, about two and a half miles east of Petrolia (in Armstrong County). This well, known as the "Boss," struck in July, flowed at the rate of 2,500 barrels.
The land lying between this well and Petrolia was thus indicated to be oil territory, and was immediately leased. Most of it passed into the hands of HUNTER & CUMMINGS, of Tidioute, who immediately commenced operations, which resulted in the striking of the famous "Lady Hunter," in the summer of 1874, which flowed nearly or quite as much oil at the "boss." Operations then extended both ways from these two wells, and from Petrolia and Queenstown toward them, and, by the end of the year, the eastern half of the belt was definitely outlined.
The fourth sand belt extends from Greece City, ten miles, to Criswell. It bears east from the first point from 40 to 45 degrees north, and from Petrolia north 88 degrees east, showing a decided curve from northeast to southwest. It is from one-eighth to one-fourth mile wide at Greece City, from one-half to one mile wide at Troutman, two miles wide at Petrolia and Karns City, and about an eighth of a mile at Criswell.
The cross belt development astonished the petroleum world. In 1874, when operations within its limits had reached their height, the maximum production of the lower oil region and of Butler County was obtained. The great spouting wells along the cross belt swelled the daily production of the region, at one time, to the enormous amount of 42,000 barrels. The average production in the region was 28,424 barrels per day, for the month of July, 1874, or an average of 17,665-1000 for each of the wells then at work.
As a consequence, crude oil dropped in value to 40 cents per barrel. This, however, did not discourage [p. 138] those operators who had wells in the fourth sand, as their enormous flowing wells brought them in huge incomes; even while oil was sold for one-third the average cost of production. The cross-belt wells, however, soon ceased to pour forth their floods of fortune, and most of them became either small producers or entirely dry.
Since the cross belt development there has been no special activity in operations, save in small local patches, as in the Millerstown Eastern Belt, the region around Six Points and Bryon Center, in Allegheny Township and at Bald Ridge. The history of the pioneer operations in the last named locality we shall present further along.
Looking over the entire Butler County oil region, we can see no spot which has been more richly productive than that lying between Petrolia and Karns City where the two belts cross, and oil has been brought to the surface from both the third and fourth sands. It was here that the development of the third sand reached its maximum, in 1872, and the production from the fourth became most prolific in 1874. The area of most remarkable productiveness includes the WILSON, James BLANEY, Jamison DAUGHERTY, PATTON, John BLANEY, McCAFFERTY and McCLYMONDS farms.
The daughter of the owner of the DAUGHERTY farm, before the days of the oil excitement, saved it from being sold for taxes by her industry plying the needle. The farm was then worth about $30 per acre. After it was found to lie in the limits of the main belt, one-half of the oil right was sold for $34,000. It was on this farm, it will be remembered, that the great fourth sander, "Jennings No. 19," was struck. A large number of other wells, some of them almost equal to the Jennings, were drilled on the farm.
The Hugh McCLYMONDS farm, at Karns City, on which the "Rob Roy" and several other big wells were located, consisting of 214 acres, has produced, during the ten years from 1872 to 1882, over $1,500,000 worth of oil.
Among the operators in this district were nearly all of the larger class known in the lower region. H. L. TAYLOR & Co., the predecessors of the Union Oil Company, were extensively engaged in the rich locality, as well as in all other parts of the Butler oil field. They put down in the county from 225 to 250 wells, and bought many more, drilled by other parties, being the heaviest operators in the region. The largest individual operator ever engaged in the county was Richard JENNINGS, who put down no less than seventy paying wells. Some idea of the magnitude of his business may be conveyed by the statement that during the year 1874, while the cross belt excitement was ranging, his expenses averaged over $35,000.
One of the most prolific spots in the Butler County oil territory is in the vicinity of Hayesville, Fairview Township, on the HAYS, BROWN, McCAFFERTY, ELLENBERGER, JENKIN, SUTTON, STOREY and BLANEY farms, extending in a direct line from Fairview to Troutman. These farms, with the exception of the ELLENBERGER and McCAFFERTY, are owned by Mr. HAYS, who laid out the village of Haysville. On this tract, the Union Oil Company (H. L. TAYLOR & Co.) formerly had ninety-seven producing wells. The number is now reduced to fifty-five. The supplies, both of oil and of gas, hold out remarkably well. The wells were mostly put down by H. L. TAYLOR & Co., the predecessors of the Union Oil Company, between the years 1872 and 1876. Their depth varies from 1,630 feet to nearly 1,700 feet. The wells usually started off with a production of from 300 to 1,000 barrels daily. One well, the "Matthew STOREY No. 2," on the STOREY farm, started at 1,200 barrels. The "Matthew BROWN No. 6," on the BROWN farm, was also a wonderfully prolific well, and perhaps the best ever struck in the vicinity. Another on the same farm produced 500 barrels per day a year after it was struck.
The McCLYMONDS and BANKS farms, Karns City, became noted in 1876 for a narrow east and west belt which was very prolific. It was named the "Rob Roy Streak," from the fact that that famous well was located in it. This little belt is probably not over fifty feet wide, but a dozen good wells have been located in it.
The "Sucker Rod Belt," so called from its extreme narrowness, extends from the SAY farm, near Martinsburg, in a direction west of south, nearly to Fairview, and north 22 degrees east, to "Glory Hole," at the mouth of Bear Creek. The subdivisions are sometimes called the "Eastern Belt" and "Western Belt." The development of the "Sucker Rod" was started by the striking of the "BRAWLEY No. 1," on the FLETCHER farm, late in 1874. On this belt in most places not over a hundred feet wide, about two hundred wells have been drilled.
What is known as the "Millerstown Eastern Belt," on the SCHUSTER, WOOLFORD and GROFF farms, one mile east of Millerstown, was developed in 1876 and 1877. The first well struck was the "Centennial No. 1," owned by H. L. WESTERMAN, G. F. FETZER and Dr. FREDERICK, which was a small producer. The "Centennial No. 2," struck in March, 1877, was good for forty barrels a day. It remained, however, for the "Great Leather," owned by RED & McBRIBE, struck upon July 12, 1877, to prove the richness of the pool. This well flowed 350 barrels, and the "Centennial No. 4," owned by H. L. WESTERMAN and others, came in soon after with an equal production. About twenty other wells were drilled in this belt.
A singular phenomenon in this neighborhood, though over the Armstrong County line, on Holder's Run, is a well which produces a natural refined oil, which stands a fire test of 120 degrees, and in all respects resembles the product of the refineries. The well is owned by H. L. WESTERMAN, and is used for illuminating purposes in his store at Millerstown and elsewhere.
There have been carried on from time to time in Butler County very extensive wild-cat operations, which have resulted unsuccessfully. The most remarkable was PHILLIPS Bros.' persistent and costly search for the outlet of the great bullion deposit, in which they expended a large amount of money in the drilling of about one hundred dry holes across the northern end of Butler County, in a direction generally conformable to the course of Slippery Rock Creek.
Drilling for Petroleum has, in several instances resulted in the striking of gas wells, which have proved as profitable for their owners as moderately productive oil wells would. One of the most notable was the Indian Spring gas well, a half-mile west of Fairview, owned by B. B. & C. L. CAMPBELL and the LAMBING Bros., and struck in 1873. There was a tremendous flow of gas from this well, and it did not diminish materially for six years. Pipes were laid to convey the gas to PARKER and to the principal pumping stations at a cost of $42,000. PARKER was lighted by it, and at the pumping stations it was used as fuel. A revenue of $500 per month was received from the Pipe Line Company alone.
Another remarkably good gas well was that known as the Givens, on the GIBSON farm, west of Argyle, by which Petrolia was lighted. The Saxon Station well, owned by the Carbon Black Company, has proved a valuable property.
The Bald Ridge* (Penn Township) development is still in its infancy, and does not demand an extended space in history, however much it may merit the attention of oil operators, or however great a production it may lead to.
*The ridges in this region are said to have been swept over by fire which denuded them of their timber some time during the early settlement of the country, and hence the application of the name Bald Ridge. At the present time the hills are covered with a thick second growth, composed principally of scrub oak.
The combination of circumstances which led to the pioneer operations at Bald Ridge were briefly as follows:*
*The facts concerning the Bald Ridge Company are chiefly collected from an article which appeared in the Butler Eagle.
Ferd REIBER and Squire John HUSELTON, of Butler, both owned lands near Bald Ridge, which some scattering and widely separated "wild-cat" operations led them to believe might prove good oil territory. It was when the Greece City oil excitement was at its height, in 1874, that the Dodds Mill Oil Company put down a well on the BARNHART farm, in the northwest corner of Butler Township. A small quantity of oil was obtained in this well in the second sand. In the same year, McKINNEY & NESBITT drilled a well on the Dick McCANDLESS farm, in Center Township. In this well a third sand was obtained, as well as a small quantity of oil, but not in paying quantities. About the same time, HART & CONKLE sunk a well on Sullivan's Run, about one and one-half miles northwest of Butler. In this well, a heavy vein of gas was reached, and three or four feet of third sand. Ferd REIBER came into possession of the records of these wells--the different strata and where located, etc. He set about to utilize them for his own benefit. While these wells were not, in any instance, remunerative, he thought it possible that somebody was "off the belt." He secured the services of James M. DENNY, then County Surveyor, to run a line from Greece City, or rather to extend the 40-degree line on which the Greece City territory had been located. This was done, the line passing a mile west of Butler and three-fourths of a mile west of the Sullivan Run well. At Bald Ridge, it passed near the location of Bald Ridge well No. 2. C. D. ANGELL had run a 22 1/2-degree line through that section some twelve or thirteen years before, which he thought might throw some light on the subject if retraced. The surveyor tapped the ANGELL line on Robert McKEE's farm, in Butler Township. He was enabled to do this from the information he got from Mr. McKEE, who knew the bearings and marks of the line. This line was run until it intersected the Greece City line. The intersection of these lines occurred near the well now known as Bald Ridge No. 2. In July, 1880, REIBER & HUSELTON set about taking oil leases. They procured in all some 780 acres. Then preparations were made to drill a well near the junction of these two lines. A company was organized, consisting of the following gentlemen, most of whom are lawyers and business men in Butler, viz., Ferd REIBER, W. H. HOFFMAN, C. A. SULLIVAN, Moses SULLIVAN, S. H. PEIRSAL, HECK & PATTERSON, BAUER & Bro., Martin REIBER, Sr., H. G. G. KRUGH, Henry EITENMILLER, Harvey COLBERT, J. S. CAMPBELL, Jacob REIBER & Bro., O. D. THOMPSON, J. D. McJUNKIN, W. D. BRANDON, R. P. SCOTT, George W. FLEEGER, W. H. RITLER, A. L. CRAIG, B. C. HUSELTON and W. C. NEELEY. A sort of an agreement was drafted by which any person who would agree to pay $50 would have a thirty-secondth in the well. Sufficient money was raised in this way for present needs, and the well was located near the intersection of the lines already alluded to. W. C. NEELEY had the contract for putting down the well. He was to furnish the machinery, get $1 a foot for the drilling and to carry one-fourth of the stock. When the rig was about to be erected, it was found that [p. 140] water was scarce at that point, and the location of the well was changed. The derrick was located about 1,100 feet south of the first location, near a spring on the SMITH farm. Drilling was commenced in this well about the 1st of September, 1880. It was soon discovered to be a hard place to drill a well. Salt water gave no little trouble, and when any break would occur considerable time was lost in getting repairs, as there were no machine shops nearer than Petrolia. After many vexatious delays, the well was drilled to a depth of 1,600 feet. At this point the contractor became discouraged, said he had lost money on the contract and was willing to abandon the enterprise. He accepted a proposition, however, to continue drilling at $5 per foot for whatever additional drilling there might be. At 1,620 feet, oil was obtained, but the well was drilled to a depth of 1,750 feet for the purpose of testing the rock. The well was afterward tubed and proved to be about a six-barrel well. This well was completed March 8, 1881. After consultation, it was agreed that operations should be continued. In April, 1881, a charter was granted to the "Bald Ridge Oil and Transportation Company," composed of most of the members of the original organization and having as new members H. L. WESTERMAN and Simon YETLER. W. D. BRANDON was elected President; M. REIBER, Sr., B. C. HUSELTON, G. W. FLEEGER and S. H. PIERSAL, Directors; John L. CAMPBELL, Treasurer; Harvey COLBERT, Secretary, and Ferdinand REIBER, Superintendent. (These with the exception of M. REIBER, Sr., deceased, are the present officers of the company. A. REIBER was elected Director after the death of his father.)
The capitol stock of this organization was fixed at $16,000. The Bald Ridge well No. 2 was begun in June, 1881, and completed in the latter part of September or 1st of October. It was drilled to a depth of 1,692 feet. This well when pumped only produced about two barrels per day. A shot was afterward put in and the well tubed with a Hoadley packer, when she began producing sixteen barrels per day, but finally subsided to a daily production of eleven barrels, and at the present time is producing eight barrels per day.
SIMCOX & MEYERS came down to this field with a view of operating at the time the Bald Ridge No. 2 was struck. The Bald Ridge Oil Company had offered 10 acres off the eastern part of their tract of leases to any person or persons who would put down a well. They finally gave SIMCOX & MEYERS 150 acres, and they commenced drilling a well on the HAMIL farm, about the lst of November, 1881. Soon after the Bald Ridge Company succeeded in leasing 160 acres southwest of SIMCOX & MEYER's well and commenced putting down a well on the David CROWE farm. In January, 1882, when they had got about fifteen feet in the sand, they temporarily abandoned the well, after having tubed it. The SIMCOX & MEYERS well was completed March 20, 1882, when it commenced flowing through the casing at the rate of 100 barrels per day. This production was kept up for some time, when it finally began declining, owing to the pressure of the salt water. After SIMCOX & MEYERS had succeeded with this well, the Bald Ridge Company concluded to drill the CROWE well deeper, and got through the sand which was reasonably promising and forty-six feet thick, without any oil, on the 10th of April. Next the Bald Ridge Company gave Herr McBRIDE 100 acres and he drilled a well 120 rods north of Bald Ridge Nos. 1 and 2, on the DUFFORD farm. He began in November, 1881, and completed it about the 1st of March, 1882. He drilled to a depth of 1,665 feet, and did not get enough oil to justify him in pumping it. The SIMCOX & MEYERS well, No. 1, was tubed recently, and a shot was put in it. After that it produced 240 barrels per day, but soon declined.
Such, in brief is the history of the work done by the Bald Ridge Company and some of those who leased from them or operated upon their lands. Their pioneer operations on the field led David RENFREW to lay out a village, in the summer of 1882, which is still in the embryotic stage, though what it may eventually become no man knows.
The great well of the Bald Ridge region--the famous SHIDEMANTEL, at this writing probably the best well in the State--drew general attention to the field. It was struck July 26, 1882, on the WEBER farm. Its highest production in one day was 750 barrels, but it gradually declined until at the 1st of November it was producing 200 barrels. The well was put down by Andrew SHIDEMANTLE, one of the most successful operators in the oil regions. In brief, the record of the well is as follows: Struck limestone at 348 feet; through limestone at 363 feet; cased at 630 feet; struck salt water at 1,120 feet; struck more salt water at 1,300 feet. (In all there is about five barrels of salt water per day.) Struck third sand and some oil at 1,547 feet; struck more oil and well began flowing at 1,575 feet; went through sand at 1,595 feet.
The drilling, except limestone, was through alternate sand and slate corresponding to the usual formation of the locality.
PHILLIPS Bros., of New Castle, than whom probably there are no more intelligent, energetic or extensive operators in the entire oil region, have no immense leases in Butler County, their lands lying in the vicinity of Bald Ridge and north and east of that locality, are carrying on "wild catting" in a very sys [p. 141]tematic way. Their prospecting will be watched with interest, there being a general belief that there is much virgin oil territory in Butler County, and that another great era of development lies not far distant in the future. The Messrs. PHILLIPS have the enormous amount of 11,000 acres of land under lease in Butler County, and, in company with Dr. EGBERT, of Franklin, own 1,100 acres more (the McCALMONT farm, in Butler Township) in fee simple.
It has been noted as a characteristic of the Butler County wells that they are more lasting than in other regions. The present production of the Butler oil territory is from 65,000 to 70,000 barrels per month, and the number of producing wells (most of them quite old ones) nearly or perhaps quite 1,000. The oil from these wells is pumped to the stations of the United Pipe Line, and thence to the great refineries. There are three main line stations of the United--one at Karns City, one at Millerstown and one at Troutman. The National Transit Company has huge pumping stations at Carbon Center and at Hilliard. The number of local pumps in the pipe line district, extending from Martinsburg to Bald Ridge, is 103, and there are a number more north of the point first named.
The distribution of the producing wells, as shown by the United Pipe Line Company's books, is as follows:
Martinsburg and CAMPBELL farm, 103; Petrolia, 83; Karns City and Central Point, 82; Karns City and Haysville, 74; Kaylor (12 are in Armstrong County), 42; Criswell and Queenstown (27 are in Armstrong County), 65; Greece City and Modoc, 56; Troutman, 55; Millerstown, 63; Great Leather and Eastern Belt, 68; Iron City and Millerstown, 80; St. Joe, Carbon Center, Hume's Station and Herman Station, 77; Bald Ridge, 7; in Butler County, north of Martinsburg, 96.
The number of producing wells will be brought quite up to 1,000, whenever the price of crude materials advances, by the cleaning out and pumping of old wells which have been neglected.
The area of the developed territory in Butler County is about 25,000 acres. According to the most trustworthy statistics, the total production in the county has, up to January 1, 1882, amounted to the enormous quantity of 33,750,000 barrels, more than one-sixth of the total production in Pennsylvania from 1859 to 1882, which was 186,502,798 barrels. A large amount of this was sold at $4 per barrel and some for only 40 cents.
It has been estimated that the development of the Butler oil region has brought in an immigration which has increased by 10,000 the population of the county, and it has added untold millions to its wealth.
Geologically, there is a difference between the lower oil region and the upper, which may be briefly exhibited. The first wells put down in the county, in the vicinity of Martinsburg, were all third sand wells and the character of the stratification through which they were drilled is in conformity with the Venango County drillings. Geologists conclude that this is "truly equivalent, or of contemporaneous origin, with the third sand of Oil Creek and bullion." No other locality on the Butler-Clarion belt shows such an agreement with the arrangement of the sands on the Venango belt as exits in the vicinity of Martinsburg. The first, second and third sands can all be recognized at their proper horizons, but at all other places in the Butler region these sands are so split up by shales, slates and red rocks that it is often impossible to tell where the first sand ends and the second begins, or where the latter ends and the third begins. At Bald ridge it is held by many that the third and fourth sands unite. "The names given to the different members of the group," says H. M. CHANCE, geologist, "are purely arbitrary and do not express any synchronism between the individual sandstones here and those in Oil Creek. In the Butler District, the group of sands is found intact, but shows a very different arrangement from the Oil Creek type." The following is a summary of the stratification in the nomenclature of the driller, the "first sand' being omitted, because it is not the true first, but the third mountain sand:
Second sand (Oil Creek "first sand").These sand rocks are separated by bands of shale slate and red rocks, which, like the oil-producing strata, are very variable, the total thickness of the group exhibits but slight variations, usually ranging from 275 to 325 feet, and occasionally reaching a thickness of 350 feet.
Fifty-foot rock (oil at Martinsburg).
Thirty-foot rock (oil at Martinsburg).
Stray third (locally oil bearing).
Third sand (main oil horizon).
Stray fourth (locally oil bearing).
Fourth sand (oil on "Cross Belt").*
*From Vol. V, Second Geological Survey, by H. M. CHANCE.
The ferriferous limestone is used as a "key [p. 142] rock" throughout the district, third sand being looked for at 1,160 to 1,200 feet beneath its top, and the fourth sand at a depth of from 1,250 to 1,275.
The following table shows the elevation above or below ocean level of the top of the third and fourth sands at a number of the best known locations within the limits of the 22-degree belt and the cross belt:
3d Sand. 4th Sand. Parker, above ocean . . . . . . . 60 Farrentown, above ocean . . . . . 10 Stonehouse, below ocean . . . . . 8 Martinsburg, below ocean. . . . . 30 Frousingerform, below ocean . . . 20 Argyle, below ocean . . . . . . . 70 Petrolia, below ocean . . . . . .100 Fairview, below ocean . . . . . . 90 175 Modoc, below ocean. . . . . . . .120 200 Greece City, below ocean. . . . .220 300 Criswell, below ocean . . . . . .105 190 Brady's Bend. . . . . . . . . . .130 215 Karns City, below ocean . . . . .160 250 Millerstown, below ocean. . . . .245 320 St. Joe, below ocean. . . . . . .260 335 Carbon Center, below ocean. . . .294 376 Humes Farm, below ocean . . . . .375 457 Herman Station, below ocean . . .418 500These figures show that the average dip south by west is about twenty-three feet per mile.
[End of Chapter 14--Butler County Oil Development: History of Butler County, Pennsylvania. With Illustrations and Biographical Sketches of some of its Prominent Men and Pioneers. Waterman, Watkins, & Co., Chicago, 1883.]
Chapter 13--Butler County During War of 1861-65, Cont'd
Chapter 15--County Societies
1883 Butler County History Contents
Butler County Pennsylvania USGenWeb Homepage
Edited 14 Dec 1999, 21:04