Tuesday, December 06, 2016
Black Gold: Back to Start
People Foreign Drillers Equiptment Oil Heritage Oil Museum Fun Stuff



page 2

The World's First Oil Gusher

The spring pole method of drilling led to the greatest oil find of the era. In July 1861, Hugh Nixon Shaw arrived in Oil Springs, short on money but long on determination. Near bankruptcy, after six months of back-breaking work Shaw was about to quit the oil business. On January 16, 1862, at a depth of 157 feet, a loud crack announced the world's first oil gusher. Drilling tools were flung sky-ward and oil shot above the treetops. Two thousand barrels of oil per day flowed from the well until it was brought under control in early February. Nixon's huge find set off a rush to drill additional deep wells. Many flowing wells were brought into production including the record-setting Black and Mathieson well, which initially produced 7,500 barrels per day.
A local innovation, the jerker line system for producing oil , pumped crude from a number of wells at one time using a single power source.

Original oil field
Original Oil Field.

Mr. Whitehead
Mr. Whitehead
and oil field

Horizontal wheel
Horizontal Wheel

Walking beam
Walking Beam

Refingin still
Refining Still

More than twenty refineries were erected at Oil Springs, but they could not keep pace with the abundant flow of oil. Therefore, crude was also shipped by waterway to Great Britain, by wagon along newly-built roads to Sarnia and Wyoming, and by rail to London and Hamilton. These were heady times for the busy centre, now that James M. Williams had put Oil Springs on the world map by winning awards at the 1862 International Exhibition in London, England. He received medals for his discovery of oil and for refining it into quality lamp oil.

Williams and his medals
Williams and his Medals

In Oil Springs, land prices had risen from $2 to $100 an acre, and by 1863, a telegraph service was installed. That same year, five blacksmith shops, five cooperages, and twenty- five carpenters worked overtime to service the needs of the oil producers. However, the boom did not last.
The Decline of Oil Springs
Oil Springs circa 1867
Oil Springs circa 1867

The great surge of oil from Oil Springs, coupled with increased U.S. production, helped to deflate the price of oil to less than one dollar per barrel. At the same time, production from the big flowing wells began to diminish, and worn-out refining equipment was not replaced. Many oil producers and merchants literally moved their homes and shops to Petrolia, eight miles to the northwest. Freshly drilled wells with steady oil flow were more attractive than Oil Springs' dried-up gushers. The population of Oil Springs fell to 550 and after 1865, the only new structure to be built was the Masonic Hall.
In the early 1880s, the price of oil rose and revived crude production in Oil Springs for a time. By 1898 production reached 133,000 barrels per year, but the size and grandeur of the original boom was never repeated.
The Significance of Oil Springs

Although the original boom at Oil Springs was short-lived, it had dramatic impact on the fledgling oil exploration, production and refining industries.
Oil Springs not only supplied the oil resource for the first commercial ventures, but its residents acquired the technical know-how and devised the innovative equipment to both produce and refine the crude.
Oil fields

Oil Fields

Drillers from Oil Springs and Petrolia traveled the globe from 1874 to the 1940s to discover and develop oil fields. The concentration of refining and chemical plants in Canada would not exist if not for the oil discovery at Oil Springs a century earlier. The vast complex stretches south from Sarnia for fifty kilometres, manufactures hundreds of different products, and employs thousands of people. Oil fields, Oil Spings

Oil fields, Oil Springs
Holding tanks

Holding Tanks

Thomas Burrowes

Thomas Burrowes
Kelly Road, 1909.
Oil Springs Today

The pride in accomplishments long-past and a sense of history have not been lost on late twentieth-century Oil Springs. Many of the population of 800 are still involved in oil, petrol-chemical, and related industries.

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