Friday, February 26, 2016

Oil on the Mountain

Jackson Citizen  April 12, 1887
Struck Oil in Tennessee
Associated Press Dispatch
Chattanooga, Tenn, April 7- A brief dispatch in the papers, announcing that oil had been found in James county, twenty miles from Chattanooga, threw this city into a good deal of excitement, and at Ooltewah, where the well was drilled, the people are fairly wild. Two months ago James Laman & Co, of Pennsylvania, began to bore for oil in the White mountains, but they attracted no especial attention until yesterday, when the oil began to flow. There is no doubt that oil has been struck. Two companies were formed here a few months ago to bore for oil and gas, and the discovery has had a very stimulating effect, as they will begin work at once.

I found this newspaper article that stated that an oil company from Pennsylvania was drilling in James County and had actually found the black gold. Immediately, I have this vision of the iconic picture of oil pouring out of the top of the well and and everyone dancing around in their new found wealth, similar to the television show "Dallas" or the movie "Giant" with James Dean and Rock Hudson.

As, we have already learned, James County was a poor and underdeveloped portion of East Tennessee. So in reality, oil on the mountain was more similar to "Beverly Hillbillies" (without the riches). The well most likely looked like these rather than the large oil derricks from Pennsylvania.

circa 1880
Library of Congress

The Drake Well from the
Library of Congress

At this time, the oil companies were pushed by the demand for kerosene and oil lamps. These companies were looking for oil everywhere, even in the mountains of East Tennessee. The video below tells of the history of oil.

I wonder where this oil was found. Who owned the property and what became of it? How much oil did this well bring to the property owner? I would guess that there was not an abundance of oil, since Ooltewah did not become the boom town surrounding this find, as other oil well locations had. Does anyone have any information concerning this? If so, please contact me.

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