Pictures Needed

(Transcribed by Mary Rhodes-from "Writings of Emma Lou King", Town of Alma Historian, 1969; Submitted by Sidney & Sandra Cleveland)

Monument of the "Alma Wildcat Well" placed by Dewey Pinney.  Well was located on Lot 26 about 1/2 mile west of Alma and a few rods from Stoney Lonesome Road on the hillside.  Below is the story as told by Emma Lou King.

By Emma Lou King

The first showing of oil in Alma Township was in 1878, in a well completed on the Jared Elliott farm lot #26; a well which was literally a “Wildcat” in that the top of the derrick was adorned with a stuffed wildcat crouched for a spring.  For luck as well as humor, the animal had been killed and fastened into place by Samuel Wyvell, a local hunter.  The well was located on a hillside half a mile west of Alma, and several rods east of Stoney Lonesome Creek.

The original lease in the township was granted Feb. 25, 1877 to Elliott, Doty, and Elliott, and assigned to the Wellsville and Alma Oil Company which was incorporated Sept. 1, 1877 for $5,000.  Adophus Howard was elected President, Henry N. Lewis, Secretary, and several Trustees were named to manage the company. The certificates were printed by the Wellsville Democrat.  Among the stockholders was Orville P. Taylor, a Wellsville Tobacconist.

The contractor was Benjamin J. Thomas, an energetic pioneer with drilling experience in Pennsylvania, who later drilled so many dry holes in search of oil in Allegany County, that he earned the unenviable nickname of “Dry Hole Ben”.

Drilling began in early October 1877.  The Potter Co. Journal reported on October 25 that the bit had passed through a vein of stone coat 10 feet thick, and that silver in paying quantities had been found in the corings.  In November, at 615 feet, the gas roared, followed by a spray of oil.  The fire in the derrick forge ignited the gas and oil and destroyed the rig.  Ittai J. Elliott, a Trustee was sitting on a bench near the red hot stove.   He ran, hat in hand from the derrick minus eyebrows, most of his hair, and with a badly burned face.

The report of oil and gas at such a shallow depth caused such great excitement in Wellsville that the shares of the company doubled over night.  A new derrick was erected, the tools were recovered from the bottom of the hole, and drilling resumed in December.  Early in January 1878, at 1015 feet, they drilled through six feet of third sand that showed some oil and gas.  Another wave of excitement swept over the countryside and the last 140 shares were sold to the highest bidder with the shares being limited to five per buyer.

Nearly seven months were spent completing the well and the cost absorbed all the proceeds of the stock sales.  The well was rated as a failure as an oil producer but the showing of oil and gas in the second and third sands showed that paying oil wells would later be found not far from the “Wildcat” well.