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

Orville Parks Taylor

By Emma Lou King

Orville Parks Taylor was born at Leesburg, Virginia, on September 15, 1838, the son of a well to do plantation owner, John Osborne Taylor.  From birth he was steeped in the traditions and courtesies of the deep south.  This environment left an indelible mark on young Taylor, and all his life he retained the soft-spoken gallantry of a true southern gentleman.  In keeping with his station in life, he was taught to ride, shoot, and become proficient in all forms of outdoor activities.  In 1856, at the age of fifteen, he left the south to live with an aunt in Attica, NY, and entered the Genesee Seminary at Alexandria.  He graduated from the seminary in 1858.

His first job took him to far off Brazil.  There, for a Virginia firm, he supervised the construction of a section of the Dom Pedro Railroad and became the life long friend of the genial emperor, Dom Pedro.

His successful job in Brazil was cut short by the impending Civil War.  This news, together with his love for Cornelia Clark, whom he had met at Canaseraga, NY in 1857, caused him to sail from South America in 1860.  Being a loyal Southerner, he was greatly concerned over his fiancée’s reaction to his enlistment in a Confederate regiment.  However, his fears vanished at their first meeting, when she told him, “though my parents are strong Unionists, I am going with you”.  They were married at Canaseraga January 15, 1861 and left immediately for Virginia.

On May 15, 1861 he enlisted in Troup B of the Second Virginia Cavalry, whose troopers were resplendent in gray, gold-bedecked blouses, light blue trousers, and dark gray hats sporting gold horns and yellow pom-poms.  He was wounded in action in the first battle of Manassas, and after leaving the hospital, was detailed as a telegraph operator at Central Depot, a junction point on the Tennessee & Virginia Railroad.  There his son Charles O., and daughter Anna B. were born.

The surrender of Lee and the subsequent deflation of Confederate currency left the Taylor family so impoverished that their last mule was sold for $50 to supply funds for their transportation to Canaseraga, NY around 1865.  There, overcoming post war prejudices of this small community, with his affability and natural charm, he began the manufacture of cigars, and within two years had a thriving business.  Five years later the Taylor’s moved to Wellsville where he established a cigar factory and purchased a home.  There were now five members of the Taylor family.  William, his second son, was born in Canaseraga the year following the close of the war.

Mr. Taylor’s first venture in oil was as a stockholder in the Wellsville and Alma Oil Company in 1877.  During the next two years, he drilled a number of dry holes with undiminished zeal and enthusiasm.  These failures, however, soon caused his neighbors to interpret his zeal as a blind and unreasoning fanaticism and their mockery brought him social as well as financial embarrassment.  To further complicate matters, thieves broke into his cigar factory and stole $1000 worth of cigars and revenue stamps - a dishonest employee subjected him to a $2,000 fine by the I.R.S.   These losses only increased his incentive to work.

His first commercial well, The Triangle #1 was brought in on June 12, 1879, when he was at the limit of his resources.  A grateful and forgetful public hailed him as the discoverer of a new and promising oil field.  Within three years, he was a member of eight oil partnerships, and had been elected Mayor of Wellsville.

In appearance, Mr. Taylor was a handsome man of medium height, military in bearing, and genteel in manner.  An expert horseman from childhood, he made many of his journeys to the oil field on OLD MAJOR, his favorite saddle horse.  His only diversion was trout fishing along the wooded streams of Potter County, Pennsylvania.

Due to his too strenuous activities in the oil field and his delicate health, his physician ordered him to bed.  He died November 17, 1883, less than five years after the completion of Triangle #1 well.

His passing cast deep sorrow over the hearts of all who knew him, and the newspapers paid just tribute to his busy and eventful life.  The services were held in Olean in keeping with his request.  Members of the Civic organizations, friends and oil producers from the various districts joined in making it one of the largest funeral processions to enter the gates of Woodlawn Cemetery at Wellsville.

Mr. Taylor deserves the title “FATHER OF THE ALLEGANY OIL FIELD”.  It was his steadfastness, patience under disappointments and discouragements and his faith in the existence of oil under the rugged hills of Allegany County that led to it discovery and developments.

A tribute is in order to Cornelia Clark Taylor (d 9/15/1913).  She sold her jewelry to further her husband’s dreams.

Of their three children: Anna B. married Grant Duke of Wellsville.  They had    children.  Charles O. (b 1/28/1866, d 10/12/1926) married Mabel N.  They had    children.  William O. (b 12/19/1866, d 6/11/195 married Mary M. Applebee (1868).  They had four children.