Sunday, August 16, 2009

Titusville, Pennsylvania: Drake Well


A revolution of sorts started right here in 1859. It also made a bunch of guys in the Middle East really happy many, many years later.

This is the spot around Titusville, Pennsylvania (NW part of the state) where Colonel Edwin Drake established the first commercially successful oil well. The stuff was on the land and in the water in the region, and Drake decided it might be worthwhile to drill several dozen feet down to see if he could hit something. Drake was lucky -- another spot would have missed the reserve -- but he hit a gusher.

I supposed someone would have discovered the stuff somewhere eventually, but it's still fun to stand on that very spot. A park has been established on the property that runs by Oil Creek. There's a museum with a video that explains everything in 15 minutes, some history of the region, plenty of oil drilling devices from the past, even some picnic grounds.

The oil strike caused many people to move into the region in the 1860's, and millions of barrels were pulled from the ground and shipped to refineries in Pittsburgh. Once we figured out the internal combustion engine, well, America would have a whole different look in the 20th century.

Sometimes it's nice to take a look at where we came from, even if Titusville is a little out of the way for most.

(P.S. If you are in the area, you might have an interest in a nearby town called Pithole. A classic oil boomtown, it started from nothing around 1860, went to 15,000 in population within a few years, and then went back to zero as the oil ran out. There is a small museum there, so those that like ghost towns might want to made the sidetrip.)

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