to the Monroe County History
and Genealogy Website
here for more about this website
Click here to go to the MCHS
Click here to go to the MCC
of OGS website
CDs of important Monroe County
record books are now available. Each page
of dozens of Monroe
County record books
have been photographed and made into CDs.
For a current list of available CDs click here.
This article on the Monroe
County Oil Industry was
written nearly 100 years ago. This
industry has seen many changes over the past century. Yet, this article is probably one of the best
pictures that we have of the industry at the turn of the 20th
Century. In addition to the article by
John G. Devaul, several links have been added to the end of this article. They are not related to the article except
that they are examples of oil wells and activities in Monroe County.
MONROE COUNTY’S OIL INDUSTRY
By John G. Devaul
No history of souvenir book of Woodsfield and Monroe County
would be complete without at least a short story of that industry, which more
than any other has been instructional in bringing about the exceptional
prosperity with which Monroe
county is blessed. Her rough and rugged
surface, her hills rising several hundred feet above the level of the sea, her
narrow valleys, combined with a light soil for man decades did not furnish to
her people, except to a limited extent, the avenues leading to wealth and
prosperity, and the country embraced within her borders had long come to be
known as “The Dark Hills of Old Monroe.”
Her peaceful and law abiding citizens had seldom wandered from the
primitive pursuits of life taught them by that hardy yeomanry that felled the
forest and laid the foundations for her present greatness.. True, some of the more adventurous, learning
of the fortunes made by “boring” for oil during the Cow Run excitement in
Washington county, Ohio, had in the early sixties attempted to find oil, but
after worry and labor with rude appliances gave up the attempt in disgust and
betook themselves to their former occupations.
The wells drilled by these pioneers seldom reached a depth of more than
200 feet and many wooden conductors with which the wells were cased bear silent
witness to the many disappointments which attended them and to hopes long since
In the fall of the year 1890, the Woodland Oil
Company, a Pittsburg corporation, with T.J. Vandergrift as President, Cryus
Underwood as Vice President, and Harry Gracie, General Manager, became
interested in the prospective outlook for Monroe county and soon had many thousands
of acres under lease. A location was
made on the James Stephens farm about a quarter of a mile south of New Castle and they soon
had a rig completed and ready for drilling.
Much interest was taken in this first well and people for miles came to
see what they regarded as a visionary undertaking. Much time was lost in getting the necessary
material on the ground, many days being required in bringing the boiler from
the river to the location. Considering
the ease and facility with which the heaviest material and appliances are now
transported from place to place and the expedition and dispatch whit which huge
undertakings are prosecuted, the almost super-human task of getting the boiler
from the river to the Stephens location, forms the basis for interesting
speculation in Monroe county, that represents millions of capital invested,
that furnishes employment to many hundreds of employees and that has been the
means of bringing much wealth to the county.
Nothing was discovered in this well until the Berea formation was
reached, when a strong gas pressure was found and when the well was drilled in,
the oil spouted over the derrick. The
wildest excitement prevailed and many who had looked upon the undertaking with
ridicule now fancied themselves reaping a rich harvest from the discovery. Other wells were drilled by the Woodland Oil
Co., but they were not successful ventures and after spending more than $50.000
the Woodland Oil Company withdrew from the county.
About the same time oil was found in West Virginia, near Sistersville, and that field proved
more prolific and of greater extend at that time, little interest was
manifested in the possibilities of Monroe county
except in the country opposite Sistersville on the Ohio side which soon became noted for its
excellent wells. These wells were found
in the Injun sand and many were quite large.
From opposite Sistersville, the field spread to Dogskin, Trail Run,
Deists, Calebaugh and almost to Antioch. Then came Benwood with an Injun pool of
exceptionally large wells. The Fisher
Oil Company, the Pittsburg
corporation, at this point began to figure conspicuously in the development and
continued to do so for many years.
Little attention had yet been paid to any sand other
than the Big Injun. Not long after the
drilling of the Stephens well, a company was organized at Woodsfield, the
county seat, for the purpose of drilling for oil and gas. A location was made on the George Norris farm
on Crane Nest creek. When this well was
completed it showed some oil in the Keener sand, but little attention was paid
to the strike. Later, in the year 1896,
Galey Bros. completed a well on the Albert Jackson farm at Jackson Ridge but
when the well came in, the oil being found in Keener sand, which was regarded
as of little value at that time, the well was allowed to stand for a year, when
it was shot and put to pumping and responded by making 15 barrels per day. By slow and gradual steps, the Jackson Ridge oil field, located in Center
township, four miles south of Woodsfield, was developed and became one of he
largest and best fields in the county.
Ridge the field extended
to the southwest for eight or nine miles.
Northwest of Jackson Ridge
was found the Moose Ridge oil field, also in Keener formation. The Keener sand now having gained quite a
reputation because of the staying qualities of the wells and the great extent
of territory underlaid by it was now eagerly sought for. Then came the Lime sand. Later the Berea and later still the Cow Run sands with
long list of excellent producers.
no county in the state can furnish good producers in so many different
sands. If the operator does not get a
paying oil or gas well in the first or second Cow Run sands, he may in the
Maxon. If not in Maxon perhaps in the
Lime, and if not in the Lime, the Keener may respond; if the Keener is barren
perhaps in Injun may surprise him with a large producer; or else the Squaw sand
may be prolific; and last but not least, he may find a nice producer in the Berea. For many years the producing area was
confined to the southern part of the county, but now oil may be expected in
most any part of the northern part has furnished some of the finest
producers. One of the best fields yet found
in the northern part of the county is the Jerusalem of Keener formation, opened
by the Unity Oil Company.
The producing wells in Monroe
county vary in depth from 800 feet to 2235 feet, the first paying sand being
the Cow Run and the last one or deepest one yet found productive, being the Berea. The wells vary greatly in size, the Injun
sand furnishing the largest producers.
The largest well yet drilled in Monroe
county, was J.R. Diest No. 4, south of Antioch. This well produced 2400 barrels the first 24
hours after being drilled in.
The fields of note already developed are Jackson
Ridge, Jackson Township, Dog Skin, Trail Run, Deists, Calebaugh, Benwood,
Piatt, Round Bottom, New Castle, Cameron, Bellsville, Ozark, Jerusalem, Malaga,
Lewisville or Speary pool, Grays, Sycamore, Moose Ridge, Graysville, Stafford,
Woodsfield, or McDonald, Rinard’s Mills, Rich Fork, Lebanon, and other minor
Some of the compalnies operating in Monroe are Pure
Oil Company, Pure Oil Producing Company, Unity Oil Company, Imperial Oil & Gas
Company, Carter Oil Company, National Production Company, Central Gas Company,
Troutman Drilling Company, Keener Oil & Gas Company, Carter Oil Company,
Southern Oil Company, Ann Oil Co., American Oil Company, American Oil
Development Co., Florance Oil Co., Goetman & Pulley, Emery Oil Co., Mooney,
Longfellow & Barnesdale, Nonnemaker & Shear, Urquhart and Co., North
and South Securities Co., H.S. Shaffer & Co, Mars Oil Co., The Parker and
Edwards Oil Company, Eugene Liebel & Co., Federal Oil Co., J.H. Kuntz &
Co., Fisher Oil Co., Tide Oil and Gas Co., Berea Oil Co., Shell Oil and Gas
Co., Berea Oil and Gas Company, Franschot Bros., Traders Oil Company. Some of the private individuals, many of whom
we are proud to claim as citizens of the county, who are operating here are,
W.C. McBride, W.C. Mooney, F.L. Mooney, J.W. Alderton, Frank Ritzert, A.L.
Johnston, Hugh McGillis, Charles E. Soliday, Jacob Cohart, J.W. Norris, John
Roy, James Roy, N.T. Staudt, Charles Burkhart, Aaron Goldstein, Henry
Dougherty, Charles Norris, W.N. Loar, W. F. Boercher, Peter M. Smith, W.G.
Decker, W.B. Decker, Pat Biggins and many others.
Woodsfield has two purchasing agencies, The Buckeye
Pipe Line Co., and Producers and Refiners Oil
Co., Limited. Three Supply stores, Oil
Well Supply, National and Jerecki. Two
Machine shops, Loffland Bros., and Oil Well Supply. And all these as a direct result of the oil
The Torpedo business is represented by
the Producers Torpedo Co., L.S. Albee, General Manager; Marietta Torpedo Co.,
E.E. Wolley, General manager; The French Torpedo Co.,
and J. H. Hanks and Eba.
and then, one hears the statement that the oil business in the county is dying
out. In answer to this statement it is
sufficient to say that in the past two years fully 500 wells have been
completed and the end is not yet. The
property value of these wells will run into the millions. It is safe to say that 3000 wells have been
drilled in the county and the incomes to the producers are enormous. The royalty paid for operating these wells
and which benefits the land owner directly is not a small item and there are
many such land owners whose incomes per month range from $100 to $2500. The rental paid out for leases is no small
item and a single company has been known to pay as much as $35,000 in one year
for rentals. A number of oil operators
now regard this county as their home county and many employees of the various
branches of the industry are here to stay.
They are among our best and most progressive citizens and they have come
to realize that “it is good to be here;” and we are glad to have them for in
the light of that combined industry, intelligence and honest effort, the people
have just cause to congratulate themselves on what has so far been accomplished
and to look forward to continued and well deserved prosperity.
Source: The story, “Monroe
County’s Oil Industry,” was written by
John C. Devaul and published in a book entitled Souvenir of Woodsfield and Monroe County
1906. The book was issued by the newspaper,
The Monroe County Republican, Woodsfield,
Ohio, in 1906.
Spiry # 1 – Located on a farm then owned by W. Spiry
(sometimes spelled Sperry), this well is still producing.
Lewis (or Levi) Hehr # 1 – at Owl Hollow, Monroe County, Ohio
Wise Rig # 1 – was located near the bridge on Ohio Route # 78 that is about one mile
east of Lewisville
Rig “unknown” – typical oil low-cost drilling rig used by speculators
Oil wells in Lewisville – Oil wells drilled east of
The Wise Rig #1 is just off the right side of the photo.
Feldner # 7 – photo of well after being shot
“Back-arrow” at the top of this web-page to return to the “Previous
CDs of important
Monroe County record books are now
available. Each page of dozens of Monroe County record books have been
photographed and made into CDs. For a
current list of available CDs click