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I thought I had heard almost every story about Oil as I grew up as a kid in Allentown.  I never heard a story about Short Tract Oil during those years....

Then, I received a very nice letter from Virginia Jermain who lives in the Buffalo area, formerly of the Towns of Allen and Granger when she was growing up.  Virginia included a number of family photos (seen on this website under "Town of Granger" pages) and many were of the "family oil rig" which her family members helped to drill in the Van Nostrand well.

The Van Nostrand Farm was the apparent "test drill" area for the region and had shown some promise of oil sand in the area.

According to the photo sent by Virginia, her grandfather had written, "Grapevine well #1, VanNostrand farm drilled in Oct 24, 1906.  Flowed natural without shot 10 bbls (barrels) a day."  It does not say how long the well flowed, however, and it is believed to be short period of time.

John P. Herrick in his book, "Empire Oil" covers the summary history better than I and it is, therefore, printed below to give the history of the "Short Tract Oil"...............Ron Taylor 2007
 

“The most disappointing oil pool in the state was developed in Granger and Allen townships in northern Allegany County in 1906 and 1907. It was known as the Short Tract pool, named for a hamlet a mile away that had been an important station on the underground railroad that housed, fed, and transported escaping negro slaves on their way to Canada.

The discovery well was drilled on the Van Nostrand farm in Granger Township, in September, 1906. The derrick stood on the bank of Rush Creek, a stream that flowed from the Granger hills to the Genesee River. The well was located by George Raymond, a geologist and mining engineer from Fitchburg, Massachusetts, who drove stakes for two productive wells and three dry holes. When the bit was ten feet in the sand, the well made three flows over the top of the derrick, and put 40 barrels of a light amber, 44-gravity oil in the tank on the first day. The sand was the gray-green Nunda formation, and the elevation of the casing head was 1450 feet above sea level.

The Van Nostrand farm lease and discovery well were owned by William Crandall and Charles Ricker of Fillmore, Leonard Bennett of Short Tract, and John Fay of Wellsville. The sand was tapped at 518 feet, and drilling ceased when the bit was 11 feet in the sand. Six more wells were drilled on the farm, and the deepest was bottomed at 775 feet.

Newspaper reports of the strike attracted many oil scouts, producers, and speculators; and the hotels in surrounding towns were crowded with strangers. One chemist brought a microscope and a bottle of acid in which he dissolved two ounces of the sand. In a period of a few months, 45 wells were drilled - 25 producers and 20 dry holes. As fast as the oil wells were completed, they were shut in to await the building of a pipe line. The discovery well was pumped for a short time and the oil shipped in tank cars from Fill­more.

In the spring of 1907, the outlook appeared to warrant the building of a pipe line, and three producers formed a partnership and laid 13 miles of two-inch wrought-iron pipe from a field pump station to a loading rack on the Buffalo & Susquehanna Railroad at Belfast. The oil was shipped in tank cars to a refinery at Wellsville. The Producers Pipe Line Company was incorporated November 25, 1907, for $20,000, to own and operate the completed line. With a market for the oil, the shut-in oil wells were rigged up for pumping, new locations were staked, and the land owners looked forward to receiving royalty checks for oil. Within a fortnight, however, one well after another began to pump salt water instead of oil, and the gas pres­sure faded away. It suddenly dawned on the operators that Short Tract was not an oil pool, but a reservoir of salt water -the first salt water oil pool in the state.

During the winter of 1907, John S. Minard, a pioneer surveyor, was employed to make and publish a map of the newly discovered oil area which was designated as the Northern Allegany Oil Field. The map embraced Allen, Granger, Hume, and Caneadea townships, and showed farm boundaries, highways, villages, streams, railroads, the abandoned Genesee Valley canal, the oil wells completed, the wells drilling, and the dry holes.

Before the wells and pipe line were abandoned, a test well was drilled to a depth of 2000 feet in search of a lower oil sand. Following completion of the well, which was a dry hole, the pipe line and wells were junked. Due to the difficulty and expense of pulling the drive pipe, much of it was abandoned in many of the holes.

The Producers Pipe Line transported 2,999.35 barrels of the oil, and 500 barrels of it were shipped by tank car, making a total of 3,499.53 barrels of oil produced from the Short Tract wells. The oil was sold at an average price of $1.78 a barrel, making a total return of $5,338.82 to the well owners. In other words, every barrel of oil marketed cost the producer more than thirty dollars!

The discovery well was neither drilled through the sand nor shot until after it was decided to abandon it. Careful tests made when the lower ten feet of sand was drilled, showed only one foot of productive oil sand. The other 19 feet were saturated with a heavy, gummy grease. One of the drillers described the sand as "sticky, like light brown sugar." A geologist who examined the formation, expressed the opinion that ages ago the Short Tract sand may have been heavily impregnated with oil and gas from top to bot­tom, but he could not explain its migration.

The leading operators in the pool were Crandall, Ricker & Co.; the Gibson Oil Co.; Argue, Hall & Stearns; the Van Nostrand Farm Oil Co.; Tait & Thornton; Morian & Co.; Erie J. Wilson; Bellamy & Ricker; John Fay; and the Cuba Oil Co.  This was neither the first nor last attempt to find oil in Granger and Allen townships. In 1880, Charles Snyder of Fillmore drilled the first two test wells along Rush Creek, a mile northeast of the Van Nostrand discovery well. The first well had a light showing of oil and gas-the second was dry. In 1901-2, William Crandall of Fillmore and his asso­ciates incorporated the Short Tract Oil & Gas Company, and drilled three wells on the Holliday farm and one well on the Bennett farm, in Granger Township. There was a light show of oil and gas in two of the Holliday wells. A 250-­barrel tank was filled with oil but it was not marketed. Farmers carried the oil away in pails to light wood fires and to lubricate machinery. The Bennett farm well was drilled to a depth of 1400 feet and had a light showing of oil and gas. Some years after the Short Tract pool was aban­doned, Pennsylvania operators drilled two wells on the Luzon Van Nostrand farm and found just one foot of pay sand nine feet from the top, just as they had been told they would. The contractor bailed 50 barrels of oil, stored it in a tank, and presented the oil and tank to the farm owner when the wells were abandoned. The thrifty farmer retailed the oil at $4.20 a barrel, and was the only man to make a profit in Short Tract oil.”

(From “Empire Oil” by John P. Herrick, 1949-Dodd, Mead & Co.)

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