A series of articles, from the Allegany County Democrat, running November-December 1877.
Researched by Mary Rhodes/Transcribed by Stephen Sweet
(One of many drilled in the early years, this wildcat oil well was drilled in Alma region and was one of the very early wells.)
From the Allegany County Democrat, November 23, 1877
THE HONEOYE WELL
OIL STRUCK IN THE SECOND SAND!
FLOW OF GAS AND OIL
THE DERRICK DESTROYED BY FIRE!
Volume of Flame 75 Feet in Height
THE FLOW OF GAS FINALLY SUBSIDES!
THE HOLE RAPIDLY FILLING WITH OIL!
SKEPTICS AT A DISCOUNT!
YOUNG AMERICA TRIUMPHANT!
People Wild With Excitement!
DAILY ARRIVAL OF OIL SPECULATORS
NEW OIL FIELD A CERTAINTY
At last the abiding faith of a few of our citizens, of a new oil territory, within a few miles of Wellsville, has turned into a glorious realization, and the pluck and enterprise of the Young Americas, who were instrumental in forming the Wellsville and Alma Company have met with their just reward.
In the last issue of the Democrat we gave an account of the supposed oil region within this vicinity, the number of wells now going down, the territory soon to be developed and the leases of land that were being taken by experienced oil operators.
On Saturday last, we visited the Honeoye well. It was claimed that a stray sand had been struck and a small quantity of oil found. We did not place any credence in the story at the time, believing that some of Alma's mischievous boys had poured a little down the hole to create excitement.
It was evident that the drill had approached the [second] sand, as the rock being penetrated was found to be as hard as flint, battering the edge of the drill, badly, and the progress for hours, through this impervious formation, was scarcely perceptible.
Rumors of all kinds were rife, on Saturday, and it was loudly proclaimed on the street of Wellsville, that several barrels of slush oil had been take from the well. In Bradford it was currently reported and believed, that oil was flowing at the Honeoye well, at the rate of twenty-five barrels per day.
People, everywhere in the streets were wild with excitement, and the $10 shares of the company were readily sold for $20 and eagerly taken at that. A large number of people have visited Alma within the past week, and visions of wealth have haunted the slumbers of every citizen in our village.
On Monday last the 2d sand was reached at a depth of 615 feet. At 7 o'clock p.m. the drillers were at work as usual. In the derrick a stove had been placed and at this time was red-hot with heat. Ittai J. Elliot had just taken out his meerschaum pipe, and was quietly preparing to enjoy a smoke, and seek oil consolation in the last issue of the Democrat, when the drill stuck the second sand. The man at the rope heard a loud gurgling roar like the voice of a demon in the pit; and losing his self-control jumped from the stool on which he was standing, and shouted: " 'ITT!' IT'S COMING--THE GAS! GET OUT OF HERE!" and bounded out of the derrick as if he had been shot out from a Krupp cannon. Elliott struck for home, but the man in the engine house, shouted "put out the lights" and Ittai stepped back to find the derrick filling with gas. He blew out one of the lights, and used his hat to extinguish the other, when the volume of gas and oil caught fire, and he barely escaped form the door, the fire slightly burning his hair, eyebrows and face. In a moment the derrick was in a blaze, and , with a roar that was heard for half-a-mile, the gas and oil leaped up in a livid flame, 75 feet in height. The sight was wonderful in its grandeur. The derrick was soon destroyed. All night long the volume of flame lit up the heavens. The citizens of Alma gathered around it, viewing it in wonderment, and speculating upon the probabilities of the well as an oil producer. To say that they were excited, would but feebly express the state of their feelings. We have carefully hunted through Webster's Dictionary and can find no words strong enough to express their emotions.
On Tuesday morning the flame was but about 30 feet in height, and before night the flow of gas had so subsided, that the flame was easily extinguished, and the gas brought under control. At this time of writing but little gas comes to the surface, which furnishes strong proof that the well is not simply a gas one, but a good oil well.
On Wednesday, Mr. Thomas, the contractor, visited Bradford, procured the necessary pipes and [utensils] for securing oil, he not only believing, but knowing, that quite a large quantity of oil will be taken from the second sand. A tank is now being built, and all preparations made for storing it.
On Wednesday evening we had an interview with Mr. Thomas. He says that the hole is rapidly filling with oil, and that by Saturday, after the tools are fished out, oil will be flowing from the well. He has the greatest confidence that the well will be a remunerative one, and that the new territory will surpass in productiveness that of the Bradford district. He has promised to keep us posted in reference to the [developments] at the Honeoye well, and the readers of the Democrat, may rest assured that whatever new we publish will be reliable.
Oil speculators, representing large capital, are already in our village, and have visited the well, and the region of country about us. Every day brings fresh arrivals of this class of men.
Men who have looked upon the Stockholders of the Wellsville and Alma Oil Co., as visionary adventurers, have wiped their spectacles, and renounced their skepticism. The test well has wiped away the cobwebs that impaired their vision.
There is no longer a doubt that a large area of country, lying within and contiguous to this town, will soon be dotted with derricks, and producing immense quantities of the [oleaginous] fluid. The future prospects of this section are exceedingly bright, and the whirl and hum of a new industry will push us rapidly forward to the very acme of business life and [prosperity].
Our capitalists and business men must be on the alert to take advantage of the golden opportunities that will very soon present themselves. Be energetic, wide-awake ; look with a jealous eye upon the interest of our village, and encourage by your influence and means every movement and enterprise that will enhance her growth and general prosperity. Do this and the fruition of your fondest hopes will be realized.
There's a fount about to stream,
There's a light about to flame,
There's a warmth about to glow,
There are wells about to flow;
There are business wheels of industry soon to play,
Men of thought and men of action, clear the way.
From the Allegany County Democrat, December 7, 1877
THE HONEOYE WELL
"Making haste slowly," is apparently a favorite maxim with the managers of this well. A week has elapsed since the new derrick, and all appurtenances connected with it, have been placed in position, and yet no progress has been made toward getting the tools out of the well. Attempts, it is true, have on two different occasions, been made to take out the rope and drill, but all the proper fishing tools have not been procured to make the job, beyond peradventure a success. That the delay is the fault of Mr. Thomas we hardly believe, or if so it is a [necessary] delay, [occasioned] through a combination of circumstances beyond his control. A portion of the fishing tools borrowed from Canisteo were wanted before operations could be begun at the Honeoye. The spear has been thrust into the well, but without the aid of the "jars" sufficient grip could not be obtained of the rope to bring it to the top of the well. Mr. Thomas left for Canisteo on Thursday to procure a [set] of "jars," and whether he secured them or not we have not been informed.
We were at the well on Wednesday. There is no mistake about it there is oil in the hole. Mr. Jas. Thornton, who was there on the same day, and was Chairman of the Smelling Committee, is ready to give a re[?], he has but the least doubt but what in a few hours, the tools can be secured, and that the work of drilling will be at once commended, unless obliged to stop by the [accumulation] of oil in the second sand. He anticipates commencing work by the first of next week.
That there is much anxiety among the stock holders on account of the, to them, seeming dilatory proceeding, is not to be wondered at, or that various rumors should be circulated and gain credence that the delay is occasioned by a secret understanding between parties for speculative purposes. In our opinion, Mr. Thomas is too honorable a man to even listen to such overtures; and we are confident that no man is more anxious than he, to rush matters as speedily as safety and circumstance will permit.
On to the third sand.
Just as we go to press we learn that the drillers have been successful in fishing out the tools, and again the [drilling] has commenced at the Honeoye Well.
From the Allegany County Democrat, December 21, 1877
The HONEOYE WELL
The breaking of a portion of the "bit" in the above well, (instead of losing the whole of it as was reported last week,) did not cause much delay.
On Saturday last the tools, at a distance of about 65 feet from the bottom the hole, got stuck and caused a delay of a few hours only. It was thought by some that a "crooked hole" was next to be added to the list of accidents (?)[sic], but subsequent drilling dispelled this illusion.
On Tuesday morning a measurement was taken of the well, and Mr. Thomas informs us that the depth at that time was 775 feet. It was then discovered that the pins that held the bits were cracked, and it became necessary, it seems, to go to Bradford to have them repaired, causing a suspension of drilling for nearly the whole week. According to the statement of Mr. T. the second sand which was 30 feet in [thickness] and quite fine and of a dark slate color, has been passed. After the second sand was passed the drill struck into slate, and good progress was made. An oil operator from Bradford who visited the well last week, says the sand is an exact counterpart of that found on Foster Brook, and he was very sanguine that a good well would be struck, and the the Honeoye Valley would be as good territory as any around Bradford. There is considerable gas escaping and there has been ever since the second sand was reached.
Our oil article last week unnecessarily ruffled the feathers of some of the people of Alma, and it is said the derrick had a notion to "get up on its back." If the well had "spouted" we could have borne the chastisement with our usual christian fortitude. As it is we will take off our hat to the hole, and bow in humble reverence to the memory of Rip Van Winkle. The sharp end of the stick we intended for the Board of Directors and it surprised us to learn that Mr. T. considered himself pricked with the smooth end. We believe the drillers are going ahead as fast as they can, and are doing the best they can, but that is no excuse for the managers of the company to keep up on their high roosting place, and snooze all winter. So far as we, individually, are concerned, we don't care whether the 3d sand is reached next week or at 10 o'clock a.m. on the day of the final resurrection of the human family. But there are many of our citizens, who are stockholders, and very anxious that the well should go down rapidly, and who believe that three months is long enough to put down a well through a strata of flint rock. Many believe that the well, to use their familiar expression "is being monkeyed with;" that if it isn't, the drillers are green hands and if the well is put down it will be the result of an accident. A few pretend to believe that some of the Bradford operators have bought up the contractor. A hundred other rumors are current, and we have been importuned time after time to "shake things up." We place no credit in any stories implicating any Alma men in "ways that are dark and tricks that are vain." We know them too well for that. We thought it would be advisable if the Directors put on their goggles, got off from their altitudinal position as roosters, and examine matters; presuming, of course, that they would find things all right, but it would satisfy the malcontents, and close the mouths of the small army of grumblers.
If there were no other wells going down in this vicinity, we should, doubtless, feel more anxiety about the Alma well. The delay has wrought good results, so that other wells are now obliged [to] go down, and the whole territory in this region will be thoroughly tested. No wild-cat all is put down in less time than 3 months, for reasons that must be [obvious] to every sensible man.
On with the well; let oil be unconfined.