The First Oil Development in Mt. Morris

Oil was at first found issuing out of rock crevices and small holes were dug in the ground for its collection. At other places it was found on the water and was collected by laying woolen blankets on the water, then wringing them. It was first called ground oil and was used as a medicine.

There are many different theories as to its formation. One theory is that it was formed by decaying vegetation, then covered by shifting sands ages ago. Present vegetation forms little or no oil.

Gas has been found issuing from rock crevices also. It may come from lakes of oil and again from the cneter of the earth by following breaks in the rock formation.

Oil and gas both are found at different depths. More productive files are found at the base of the anticline.

All anti-clines do not run in a straight line but may go in curved lines. Some dry wells are drilled in a productive field. A hard place may be struck in the sand and no oil or gas can penetrate to that point. Not much oil or gas is found in mountainous regions as the upheaval in its formation released it ages ago. Pennsylvania Crude is the best oil in the world and command a price of over $200 per barrel.

The first operations for gas or oil are said to have been dug wells to the shallow sands. We have no record of these wells.

Next in order were the spring-pole. Several small wells were dug by this method.

The most unique one was started in the old Brown sugar camp, by Reuben Brown. It was near the old sugar house. He built a rig and a shed around it. It was operate by a horse pulling a sweep like a ground thresher. He never got below the grass roots. A story is told about this well The tools were lost and someone happened along the bank of Dunkard Creek and found them. It seems that they struck a slanting rock and followed it down to where it started out along the stream. One was drilled on the Perry Fox farm near the covered bridge. A few years ago it spouted water high in the air and ran into the creek like a small brook. This gas was lighted and burned for several days.

This foregoing history of the oil and gas development was about 1864-65. James H Barrick worked on some of these wells. He is still living and is in his 90th year.

During the oil excitement at Mt. Morris, a large tank was erected to store the oil from this field, then pumped on to Market. An oil pump-stations still in use here, but the large tank was dismantled years ago.

Without entering into a detailed account of the events that led up to the discovery and development of the Mt. Morris file, it may be briefly stated that in the early part of 1885, E.M. Hukill was engaged in prospecting for oil in the vicinity of Willow Tree, Greene County. Pennsylvania.

These operations were confined exclusively to the Dunkard sands, a strata of sands varying in thickness from 40 to 60 feet and at an average depth of 700 feet below the surface. Taking its name doubtlessly from the fact that it was in this formation that oil was found in the wells drilled on Dunkard Creek during the oil excitement of 1864-65. Th Dunkard sand proved to be a light sand and unprofitable to produce oil, and Mr. Hukill resolved to drill to deeper sands.

It was tat this critical period that John Kennedy of Mt. Morris, appeared on the scene. He had acquired by lease, a vast amount of territory. He had tried to induce capital to take these leases, but in vain. At last Mr. Hukill entered into an agreement and a test well was assured.

A series of wild cat wells followed. A line was surveyed and leases taken in the amount of 4,500 acres were acquired. Six test wells were drilled, one at Farmington, WV, one on the D.L. Donley farm, Mt. Morris, one at Davistown on the Hathaway farm, one on the Corbly Spragg farm, and one near Carmichaels. The Mt. Morris well was the only one that proved a success.

This well was commenced on March 15, 1886 and completed on October 19, 1886. Oil was struck in the Big Injun sand and a flow of beautiful amber colored oil shot to the top of the derrick. The wildest excitement prevailed. Mt. Morris became an oil town over night. People came from distant pints. They came on foot, on horseback, in wagons, any way possible to get to see the sight of liquid gold, shooting high into the air. This well was located east of the second iron bridge on Wades Run on the Morgantown road. This well was shot with glycerine, and the "go devil," a piece of iron run down a wire to explode the shot, went high in the air and came down near William H. Headlee of Shannon Run. Horses broke loose and ran away when the shot went off and the oil spurted.

Robert Shear and Peter Cameron came from Canada to the oil fields here and were instrumental in its further development. Mr. Shear organized the Dunkard Oil & Gas Company an the Home Gas Company. He was president of the Farmers & Merchants National Bank for 12 years. This bank was organized in 1903. W.J. Rogers was the first cashier. The new building was erected in 1923 at a cost of over $60,000. It was closed February 11, 1927 [editors note: the bank failed in the depression and many residents lost their money. The building served as the high school for several years but now it has been converted back into a Bank].

The oldest gas well now operated is known as the Wade well on the Morgantown road about two miles east of Mt. Morris. It was drilled in 1889 by Craig & Lawry. They were drilling for oil, but gas was found in large quantities. In 1890 it was struck by lightning and caught fires. All known methods were used to put it out. Steam pressure, sand and wet sacks were used to no avail. A reward of $1,000 was offered by the company. A man from Ohio came to try his hand. He used joints of pipe, shooting the flame two ways and had the fire out in 20 minutes. He employed 20 men to help him and gave them $5 each. They all said it was the easiest and quickest $5 they ever made in all their lives.

Later the gas was piped to Morgantown. A tall pipe 60 feet high was erected on the Bowlby hill and a light was kept burning on its top. The light could be seen for miles and looked like a star in the sky. This well is now owned by the West Penn Power Company.

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