Clipped From The Bradford Era
was 38, at skilled the Colonel $2.50 a make t an t hi .It ou ant to Uncle was had the tools ready and sent wor to. Drake. After the long trek to Titusyill by wagon. Uncle Billy and Sam went the next morning to the o spring on Watson's Plats, near th Upper Mill on Oil .Creek. The mi was owned,by Brewer, Watson an Co. which had leased the oil.'sprin site-to the Seneca Oil Co. Uncle Billy, delighted at the sigh of the trickle of oil from the spring set to work. The date, hie said Ion afterwards, was May 20, 1859. Colonel Drake during the pre ceding summer' had obtained an installed an engine and six horsepower' horsepower' Long John stationary tubu lar boiler, like those used on rive steamboats, to provide power fo drilling. Men from the Upper Mi: had helped raise a 30-foot ? hig 1 timber derrick from which thi drilling tools would hang. But n driller had been induced to comi and Drake had housed the machin ery and impatiently waited out thi winter. ' Drake had already put a crew o men to work digging and cribbing a well hole, but water from nearby Oil Creek at a higher level than the bottom of the well seeped in freely. Uncle Billy rigged up a pump. but it was unable to keep pace with the incoming water. The water and subsequent cave-in created a stalemate. What to do Out of the brain-cudgeling tha ensued came an idea that entitle the team of Drake and Smith to a permanent niche in the world hall of. fame. Oil historians attribute the idea to Drake. Smith, 20 years later told a reporter he had advocated ,4 from the start. The drilling me thods they were using undoubtedlj had originated generations "before in China; the same methods hat been employed in the early 1800's 'to the West Virginia' salt wells. Bu here was a distinctly new contribu tion. The idea, like most grea ones, was simple: Why hot sink an iron pipe to the rock, thus mak ing the, .hole impervious to encroaching encroaching water and cave-ins? The drill could operate inside the drive pipe! Drake hastily set about procuring procuring the pipe. He'obtained cast iron pipe in sections 10 feet long from Erie. With a white oak battering ram and a hand-powered windlass they drove the pipe 32 feet to bedrock. bedrock. Then, drilling with Â· steam lower Â·'commenced in earnest. By ;hat time the summer had worn Into.-August. Under Uncle 'Billy's '-sensitive guidance, the drill gouged deeper at the rate of about three feet a day. ' . . Â· Meanwhile, Colonel Drake was encountering difficulties In. the administrative administrative end of the entrprises. Be had been in Titusville more than a year and still had nothing substantial to show his company's stockholders back in New Haven. Drake finally, 'to ease his own financial situation, had to borrow $500 from a Meadville bank on a The Famous Drake Oil Well rushed one of his sons to Titusville to tell Colonel Drake. When Drake who. was dining" at the American Hotel, heard the news, he smiled and remarked softly. "Well, they won't think we're crazy now, wil they?" Â· - . ' Â· * By Monday morning, the small .umbering community was cracking cracking with the excitement of the discovery. discovery. Men shouted as they mel one another, "The Yankee ha struck'oil." Drake and Smith obtained a ength of pipe, which later came to be known as tubing, put it in'the well and.attached it to'a common hand pump which was connected to the walking beam. The steam 'Dgine was started and now, instead instead of drilling, it pumped oil. Mrs. Smith and. Margaret loaned heir wash tubs and boiler as temporary temporary receptacles for the oil. while Drake and Smith hurriedly rounded up alt_the empty whiskey barrels they could find in TihiSvllle and nearby. One night early in October, while Drake was in Erie, ; Uncle Billy thought he detected a slowness in I than its previous rate of 20 a day. The well, all told, possibly 3,000 barrels of oil. ; In the spring of. 1862, after years on Oil Creek, Smith decided to return to ' : his farm in Butler County which : he had purchased ten'years before. Neither he rior Drake hitched their-careers to ; the rising star of the "oil industry. Drake had left'the oil region in 1863, with a capital $15.000 to $20,000 earned as a jus tice of the peaces and as an oil buyer for a New York firm. it all as a partner-of'a New broker in oil stocks. Ill and destitute., destitute., he was voted a $1500 annual pension by the Pennsylvania legislature legislature in 1873. He died Nov. 8, .Four years after Uncle Billy returned returned to his Butler 'County farm, he lost his wife. She had borne seven children and experienced rigors of life on Oil Cneek. Subsequently, Subsequently, he was martried twice again, his second wife having 'died six weeks "after the maritiage. grandchildren of Uncie \Billy are living in western Pennsylvania today. today. " .