DRILLING ALONG OIL CREEK IN THE 1860’s

The adventure of the modern oil industry started along Oil Creek, a tributary of the Allegheny River in Verango County in the U.S. state of Pennsylvania when the Colonel Drake hit oil at a depth of 70 ft in August 1859. The Drake well flowed 25 barrels per day and was nothing compared to the first great flowing well, the Empire well on Funk Farm that started flowing up to 3,000 barrels a day in September 1861. Unable to secure enough barrels, the owners tried to build a dam around the well, but the oil could not be contained and ran off into Oil Creek. A few weeks later the Empire was eclipsed by the Phillips well drilled on the Tarr farm at the lower end of the Oil Creek. In October 1861 the Phillips well began flowing 4,000 barrels a day before settling down to 2,500 barrels and continuing at this rate for months. However the very best single strike happened in 1862: the Sherman well on Foster Farm. J. W. Sherman of Cleveland was a man of limited means. He came to the oil region and managed to secure a lease. He sank a well using the basic spring pole method. In March 1862 his tool hit a vein of oil which flowed 1,500 barrels a day. The well averaged about 900 barrels per day for a period of two years bringing Sherman $1,700,000.
Renowned for the Phillips success, the Tarr farm of 200 acres remained for a time one of the best producing along Oil Creek. The amazing output created a terrific demand for leases. The owner James Tarr sold his interests in 1865 for $2,000,000.
At the end of 1860, there were about 74 producing wells along Oil Creek yielding daily 1,200 barrels a day. In 1864 the daily production had jumped to 6,000 barrels.
The entire Oil Creek valley had been leased or purchased within a relatively short period of time and scores of wells were being drilled.
(Image: the Sherman well on Foster Farm)

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