Historical Markers
Oldest Oil Producing Well Historical Marker
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Oldest Oil Producing Well

Lake Erie Region


Marker Location:
PA 8 just South of Rouseville

Dedication Date:
August 5, 1958

Behind the Marker

Over millions of years the forces of Geology and nature produce oil in the Earth. Human ingenuity makes it possible to tap an oil reservoir in a few months or less. Oil has been harvested for nearly 150 years. The McClintock No. 1 well has run continuously during this period.

McClintock No. 1 was originally drilled by J.D. Angier and owned by Brewer, Watson, and Co. Various owners kept the well in production until it was turned over to the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission in 1999. The famous well is tied to one of the region's most interesting characters: John W. Steele, known as Coal Oil Johnny, who lived near the well and enjoyed its spoils.

Steele was the adopted son of Culbertson McClintock and his wife. McClintock died before the oil rush began and it fell to his wife to open the land for speculation after Edwin Drake had struck oil nearby. She leased a portion of the farm for drilling, and No. 1 and other producing wells soon became the news of the Oil Creek valley. By 1862, McClintockville became the center of the oil region, located twelve miles from Titusville. Observers described the area as similar to gold rush settlements in California. Hundreds of rough-board shanties were quickly erected and carpenters constantly worked to build more. No thought was given to permanence.

Widow McClintock rapidly accumulated a fortune. Upon her death in 1864, Steele inherited the farm and $200,000. His income from the well was estimated at $2000 per day. Steele traveled extensively and squandered his inherited fortune. The tale of foolishly spent wealth became an archetype for oilmen. Since his wealth had derived from petroleum, the press referred to Steele as Coal Oil Johnny.

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