Original Document
Original Document
Francis Brewer, on the discovery of oil in 1858.

The informal nature of the petroleum discovery is quite surprising. As one reads the following record, it becomes evident how easily petroleum might have gone unused for many more years. Dr. Francis Brewer describes his 1858 meeting with chemist Dixi Crosby:

"As we stood on the circle of rough logs, surrounding the spring, and saw the oil bubbling up, and spreading its bright and golden colors over the surface, Crosby at once proposed to purchase the whole [McClintock] farm, which we could have done for $7,000, but [there was] not enough money [sic.]. When I told Crosby that we [Brewer, Watson and Co.] did not want to take money from the lumber business to put into oil, Crosby said, "damn lumber, I would rather have McClintock's farm than all the timber in Western Pennsylvania...

On our return to Titusville an agreement was entered into with Crosby by myself, representing the firm of Brewer, Watson & Co., in which it was stipulated that if Crosby would find parties to take hold of the business and furnish capital to work the territory, we would sell the Hibbard farm, containing 100 acres of land and on which the original well was being worked, and on which the first, or Drake well, was cored and completed six years after. The conditions of the contract were $5,000 for this land in fee, and the oil right in our other lands, consisting of several thousand acres...

Nevertheless, on that spot, in that office, in that building, arrangements were perfected for introducing to the world a staple article of consumption which has carried more light and as much comfort to the people as any single article in existence. Here the Pennsylvania Rock Oil Company was organized in November, 1854, a considerable quantity of oil was sent to Prof. Silliman, of New Haven, the then most prominent chemist in the country. He gave it a most thorough analysis, and published the results of his experiments in a scientific paper and in pamphlet form for general distribution. This report called the attention of capitalists to the subject, but it seemed impossible to get men to take hold of it. In fact, so far as any real progress in development was concerned, very little was accomplished until the Penn Rock Oil Company of New York had passed into the Penn Rock Oil Company, of New Haven, September, 1855, of whom Colonel E.L. Drake with his associates, leased the lands in the fall of 1856. Several gentlemen from New Haven visited Titusville, and I always found them enthusiastic in their estimates of the value of the product, and its ultimate introduction as an illuminator."

Credit: Titusville Morning Herald, Jan. 28, 1881. Reprinted in Paul H. Giddens,Pennsylvania Petroleum 1750-1872, A Documentary History, Drake Well Memorial Park, Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, 1947.
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