MAY 1914 – TURNER VALLEY FIRST OIL BOOM OF WESTERN CANADA
If oil was found and commercially produced in Canada from half of the 19th century, Turner Valley became the site of Canada’s first oil boom in 1914.
Charles Nelson Tripp was the first Canadian to recover hydrocarbons for commercial use. In Enniskillen sear Sernia in southwestern Ontario. Tripp started dabbling in the mysterious gum beds near Black Creek. This led to incorporation of the first oil company in Canada in 1851. A few years later In 1857, Tipp sold his business to a former carriage builder, James Miller Williams. J.M. Williams & Company started to develop Tipp’s properties.
To secure better drinking water, Williams dug a well a few yards down an incline from his plant. In 1858 at a depth of 4.26 metres the well struck oil. It became the first commercial oil well in North America, remembered as the Williams No. 1 well at Oil Springs, Ontario.
However it was much later in Alberta, some 50 miles southwest of Calgary that Canada;s first oil boom happened. On May 14, 1914 that Turner Valley sprang into life. Herron, a miner from Ontario noticed an oil seepage on a farm near Turner Valley. He bought the farm, acquired the mineral rights, and formed a company called Calgary Petroleum Products Company. Heron and Archibal Dingman started drilling the Dingman no 1 well on the banks of the South Fork of Sheep River and struck wet gas and oil. The well was flowing copious quantities of crude gasoline. The news hit nearby Calgary like a bombshell, and within a few days, promoters formed more than 500 companies chasing dreams of fortune. Sensation-seeking tourists flocked to site 50 kilometers south west of Calgary. It was Canada’s first bona fide oil boom.
Drilling continued in Turner Valley, however, and in 1924 came another significant discovery. The Calgary Petroleum Products Company, reorganized as Royalite Oil Company, drilled into Paleozoic limestone and the well blew out at 3,870 ft. The blowout at Royalite No. 4 was one of the most spectacular in Alberta’s history.
Until oil was discovered at Leduc in 1947, the Turner Valley oilfields played a major part in the Alberta oil and gas industry. Not only did the oilfields produce oil and gas, they also produced highly trained people that would go on to work at oilfields in Alberta and around the world. Turner Valley’s final, period of development lasted from 1936 to 1946. This period saw Turner Valley reach its peak production following the discovery of a major oil reserve underneath the natural gas. (Image: Dingman No 1 and 2 wells in the Turner Valley / Petroleum History of Canada)