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The First Mystery Well 

by John P. Herrick


     "After witnessing the shooting of Triangle No. 3, K. H. McBride, a Pennsylvania oil operator, secured a lease on Lot 18, Alma Township, and drilled the first mystery well in the field. With the bit a foot in the sand, drilling was suspended, the derrick was boarded up, guards were posted, and visitors were warned away.             

      On October 18, 1880, the well was drilled through 60 feet of rich sand and was finished at a depth of 1480 feet. It sprayed five barrels a day, and the gas pressure was so heavy that it furnished fuel for several drilling wells in the district and lighted up the woods at night with a blazing torch. The well was torpedoed May 2, 1881, and flowed 125 barrels of oil the first 24 hours. The prices of land in fee and leases in the vicinity of the well doubled overnight. Five more wells were drilled on the McBride leases.
     A Wellsville oil producer evaded the guards and hid under the derrick floor the night the mystery well was drilled through the sand. He listened to the talk of the crew, smelled fresh oil as the bailer was dumped, and became convinced that the well would be a big one. He again eluded the guards and stole away. At daylight he knocked on the door of Henry Clair, owner of a 55-acre farm on Lot 17, a short distance east of the McBride Well. An offer of $100 an acre in fee was accepted, subject to a lease of 15 acres held by Taylor. Every acre of the land proved to be underlaid with a deep, rich oil sand. It was on the leased part of this land that Taylor later completed a well that flowed 1250 barrels the first 15 days.
     While the Triangle No. 2 was being drilled, Charles Campbell fought one streak of bad luck after another in his attempt to complete a test well on the Sawyer farm, Lot 7, Bolivar Township. When funds were low, he sold a half interest in the well and leases to O. P. Taylor and Riley Allen, and formed the partnership of Campbell, Taylor and Allen. The well was completed at a depth of 1104 feet, and produced seven barrels a day with a heavy pressure of gas. The firm's second well was located on the Allen farm, half a mile west of Allentown, on the Bolivar Road, and was rated at eight barrels of oil daily with heavy gas pressure." 

 

*(Source: "Empire Oil" by John P. Herrick, published by Dodd, Mead & Company, New York, 1949.)

If you enjoyed this story, consider buying the book; available at the

Pioneer Oil Museum of New York - Bolivar

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