From: Olean Times Herald Sesqui-Centennial edition, 8/14/1954

(Transcribed by Amy Burgett)

Triangle Well Gave Birth to Western New York Industry

O.P.Taylor, Father of Allegany Field, Had Disappointments Before Successful Completion

Deep back in old Allegany’s hills in a setting rapturously picturesque and infinitely correct for the part it has played in the history of Allegany county – and in fact entire New York state – is Triangle well No. 1, unpresumptuous, yet champion of them all.

Even now, the old well on the Brimmer Brook, three and a half miles southwest of Wellsville, is not content to settle back in its rustic environs and be a lasting monument to the oil industry which it fostered in this field.

Just as faithful as it was back on that memorable date of June 12, 1879, when it gave birth to an industry that has established for all time the prosperity of the locality, golden oil still bubbles from the depths of old Triangle well.

Experts of oildom[sic] have marvelled[sic] over its amazing performance and now comes the declaration from authorities versed in the subject, that Triangle well, so far as it known, is the oldest producing oil well, in point of service, in the United States today.

What a history!

Just what the importance of Triangle well to this area probably never will be guessed. How far this part of New York state would have gone towards development of the great oil industry had there been no Triangle well, certainly no one can ever imagine.

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But there was an[sic] is a Triangle well, and the story of its inception and of the valiant struggles of its guardian angel, courageous, fiery O.P. Taylor, “ father of the Allegany field, “ never tires.

William A. Taylor of Wellsville often told his recollections of Triangle well No. 1. Mr Taylor, who was born in Canaseraga, was a lad of twelve and a half years when Triangle well was brought in.

Somehow, a busy father has neglected to tell him that the well would be shot, and Mr. Taylor was playing about his home, then at the intersection of Pleasant and State streets on June 12, 1879, unaware of the impending oil shooting which was to prove epic making.

But the steady stream of horses and buggy traffic moving hurriedly, and seemingly endlessly on past his home and up the Niles hill road held his attention. He caught on the rear of a buggy and stole a ride five miles to a scene of feverish activities. Here Triangle well was to be shot.

The small boy caught the spirit of the occasion. Here he was, one of a horde of breathless onlookers tensely awaiting – what?

But even as such he was soon noticed by his father and asked how he had gotten there. He rode back home with his father.

For O. P. Taylor, all hinged on success of this well. Previous ventures had brought nothing but sorrow, misunderstanding and difficulty. This one must bring something more intrinsic.

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These facts must have run through his mind as he went about directing preparations for the well’s shooting. He recalled why he had named this well Triangle No. 1 – because it, the Pikeville Bottom Dollar well on the Smith farm about three miles south, and the Wycoff well in Alma, about three miles east, made the three points of a triangle – and wondered if this , like its two predessors [sic] would end in failure.

It was in the year 1878 when B. J. Thomas, known throughout his business career as “Dry Hole Ben” because never in his life had he promoted a successful oil well, had banded together some backers for the well that became known as the Bottom Dollar well.

For furnishing the casing for the well, O. P. Taylor received a one sixth interest. He watched the well’s progress and not only had he observed the extensive preparations in McKean county, Pa. around Bradford, but he had studied the situation locally and was convinced that beneath Allegany’s soil was millions of dollars of oil.

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When “Dry Hole Ben” Thomas declared the hole a dry hole after a depth of 1,200 feet had been reached with only faint traces of gas and oil, Taylor insisted on drilling further.

The well was not deep enough, he said. Thomas would not be convinced, so he sold out his interest in the well and leases to Taylor for $500.

Fifty feet further, the bit penetrated another sand and there was a showing of oil. O.P. Taylor studied the well. He rated its production at three barrels daily and decided that it was not sufficient to warrant production. He issued orders that the casing of the well be pulled and the Bottom Dollar venture abandoned.

In the meantime, surface water seeping into the hole, forced oil which gathered in the casing to the surface giving the appearance of a flowing well.

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Staid residents were in a frenzy. Here, at last, was a tangible sign of the potential possibilities of the oil industry in Allegany.

But Taylor was not carried away by false emotions. He was certain the “flowing” oil was but the collection of crude in the hole forced to the surface by water. He ordered the casing pulled.

Then came burning criticism; even ominous threats. Newspapers caught up the spirit and began censoring Taylor bitterly. Ugly mobs gathered and forcibly prevented workmen from carrying out Taylor’s orders.

Taylor issued a statement to newspapers explaining his attitude in the matter. He told why it was impossible to put the well on production. He even went further. He offered to give anyone his interest in the well, if they would buy the tubing, rods, boiler and engine necessary to start the well pumping.

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While residents had been free with their criticism, they hung tightly to their money, and at the end of a thirty-day period, no one had offered to take up Taylor’s proposition. Again, he ordered the casing of the well pulled, this time engaging Constable Bill Spicer to safeguard his workmen.

The constable went to the well, but returned almost immediately, driving up to the Taylor home in his horse-drawn buggy and summoned the man whose orders he was taking.

“Why Taylor”, he cried, ”you’re crazy. You’ve got a flowing well. You can’t pull the casing out of the well.’

“Bill”, was the tired reply, “Did you ever notice when your wife is boiling a piece of meat how the grease collects at the top of the kettle?”

“But what has that got to do with it?”

“Think it over, Bill”, he was told.

Bill was pensive. Suddenly his face lighted up. A flash of understanding beamed from his eyes as he said:

“We’ll pull that casing tomorrow.”

Clucking to his horses, he was on his way. The Wycoff well was no better.

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Drilled in during the winter of 1878 and 79, one of the bitterest winters recalled by old timers in years, the second well had a showing of oil and gas but was far from a commercial success.

High snows isolated drillers and others working on the project and they were forced to camp near the well. Here the late Charles Taylor, older brother of William, served as cook and received his first experience in tool dressing.

Memory of the Wycoff well brings to mind a bad fishing job, which harassed completion of the well. A pin broke off and the bit was laid over against the side of the hole.

The problem was to straighten the bit in the hole so that a socket would fit over it.

O.P. Taylor studied the situation. He put a pencil in a narrow-necked bottle to produce a picture of what was actually wrong in his oil well. Taking a piece of snare wire, which his son William had used to great benefit in catching suckers from nearby streams, he fashioned a queer looking corkscrew arrangement, with which he succeeded in straightening a pencil, standing upright in the bottle.

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With the wire as a pattern, he had a heavy iron tool fashioned by black-smiths, and with the use of this tool, workmen were successful in getting the bit out of the hole.

Drilling continued, more as a test of various rock formations than in hopes of striking oil, until a depth of about 1800 feet was reached. There were streaks of gas and a little oil of a lighter grade than that struck in the Pikevile well, but the strike did not warrant further expenditures on the well. Since that time, no more wells have ever been drilled in the close vicinity of the Wycoff well.

Then came Triangle No. 1. Drillers on the well were the late William Bellamy, former sheriff of Allegany County, and the late Ferdinand Slawson. Tool dressers were Sam Mitchell and Charles O. Taylor. Walter Dickson was the rig-builder on the job.

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Curious crowds, the largest that a peaceful farming and lumbering community of 3000 could muster, saw a first shot placed in the well about noon, lowered to depth of 1,109 feet. Its explosion accompanied by a perceptible shaking of the earth, was followed by an eruption of oil, salt water and rock, which was hurled many feet over the top of the derrick.

There was 200 feet of oil in the hole, when a second shell was lowered into the well to shoot lower sands. But the expectant onlookers were disappointed in their hope for seeing a tremendous outburst of oil after the second blast.

The well was clogged with debris and only gas hissed from the aperture. The well was cleaned out and it was estimated 800 feet of oil had collected in the hold.

It was not until the next day, however, that workmen were startled when oil spouted high over the top of the derrick. Triangle No. 1 was a flowing well! It was “O.P Taylor’s Triumph”.

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After that the well settled down to serious business and production was about ten barrels a day. It was tubed with two-inch tubing with a packer at the bottom and its valuable out-pourings were caught and saved in ordinary kerosene barrels or other containers of similar size hurriedly available, and readily sold at the well at the rate of $1 per barrel.

It was the first commercially successful well ever to be brought in New York State.

In the meantime, steady stream of sightseers with teams, on horseback and afoot poured to the scene of this new phenomenon. And it wasn’t long before ambitious residents began to commercialize on the novelty of the well. Lunch cars and stands sprang up and beer flowed as regularly as water. With sandwiches, beer was the principal item on the lunch car menu.

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At Triangle well, he fished the pond from which water was taken for the well’s boilers. The main stream of Brimmer Brook followed near the well and was then one of the finest trout streams in this section.

O.P. Taylor came to Allegany county from Lynchburg, Va, where he had been in the tobacco manufacturing business. He had been an officer in the Confederate army during the Civil war.

In Wellsville, he continued his tobacco business with more or less success, at the same time keeping a close watch of developments in the oil field across the Pennsylvania state line. Then, about in 1871, came one of the most terrible conflagrations in the history of Wellsville’s Main street and together with a score of other merchants, Mr. Taylor was practically wiped out.

Mr. Taylor worked on the theory that in the Appalachian field, the oil “Belt” as he termed it, ran on a 45 degree line from northeast to southwest. With this as the principal basis for his computations, he drew up the first map of the Allegany oil field ever made, marking his conception of the direction and trend of the “oil belt”.