John P. Herrick, Pioneer Oilman Here, Dies at 93
John Pierce Herrick, 93, formerly of Olean, NY newspaper publisher, oil producer and philanthropist, died in Lost Angeles, Calif. last Friday. The funeral was conducted Thursday in Hillside, Calif.
Mr. Herrick, who had resided in Los Angeles since moving from Olean 10 years ago, was one of Alfred, N .Y., University's major benefactors. D.H. Phillips of 700 Minard Run, a business associate in the oil industry, had just received a letter from him prior to the day of his death. Mr. Herrick indicated he was successfully recovering from surgery and expected to leave the hospital in a few days.
Born in Muskegon, Mich., Jan. 27, he moved to this oil field region with his family as a young man. He taught school at 17 to support his younger brothers and sisters when his parents died. A year later he became the editor of the Sharon Leader, the Ceres Courant, and the Oswayo Valley Mail, all weekly newspapers in Western New York.
Five years later he founded the Bolivar, N.Y., Breeze in the heart of the Allegany oil fields. He only recently sold his interests in that paper. "As rapidly as I made a dollar with my newspapers I invested it in oil leases and royalties in the Pennsylvania oil fields," he said once. Records today indicate he was one of the largest individual royalty owners in the Allegany field and was an active producer in the Allentown area. He an interest in about 150 wells at one time.
Mr. Herrick was one of the organizers of the Pennsylvania Grade Crude Oil Association, and its first president. He was also a founder and president emeritus of the New York State Oil Producers Association. His oil interests took him to every oil producing section of this country and he twice made surveys of the European fields.
In 1950 he wrote and published "Empire Oil" - the story of the New York producing industry, and in 1952 published "Bolivar, New York- Pioneer Oil Town." He also wrote and published "Founding a Country Newspaper." Mr. Herrick was also equally prominent in banking as president of an Olean bank, in real estate and in insurance.
He established 30 to 40 scholarships at Alfred University,, whose value ranges from $20,000 to $30,000. His wife, the late Margaret Brown Herrick, made a $525,000 bequest which made the Herrick Memorial Library on the campus possible.
In 1945 he received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Alfred University for his many contributions. He personally gave the funds to endow the Col. Edwin L. Drake scholarships at the Pennsylvania State University at a time when the major oil companies apparently forgot to memorialize in tangible form the founder of their industry. He also endowed a scholarship at St. Bonaventure University in memory of the Rev. Joseph De La D'Allion, the French missionary who visited the oil springs near Cuba, N.Y., in 1627, and reported his discovery by letter to his superior in Quebec City. Mr. Herrick also created several scholarships at the University of Missouri.
He established the first commercial oil producing well in New York State, known as the Job Moses Well. which was completed at Limestone in November, 1865. He provided a marker and held memorial services there a few years ago in honor of this pioneer. A similar plaque is located at Foster Brook.
Through his personal efforts, two World War II ships were of Col. Drake and Lewis Emery Jr. of Bradford, another oil pioneer.
Mr. Herrick, who at one time was postmaster of Bolivar, was a steady contributor of oil and gas industry articles to newspapers and magazines. He was considered as a top level personal and professional consultant to many major oil producing company executives. A few years ago he addressed the board of directors of the Standard Oil Company of California.
An active member of the Masonic Order, he belonged to the Buffalo Consistory and Knights Templar.
He is survived by a son, John of Beverly Hills; two daughters, Mrs. Marjorie Vernon of Newton, Iowa, and Mrs. Virginia Deknagel of Cambridge, Mass., and several grandchildren.
Researched and Submitted by Richard F. Palmer; McKean County Democrat. Thursday, Feb. 9, 1961