The Latest Strike!

150 Years Ago Today

On the morning of Nov. 30, 1866, the residents of St. Catharines woke to another account of the extraordinary “King Well”.

Of course, as you can see in the byline, the residents of Petrolia woke up to this article in the Petrolia Sentinel three days earlier, on Nov. 27th.

And while this account retells many of the details we got from the earlier London Free Press account, there are many new details added to the story, that would eventually become part of the King Well mythology.

But, the real treat here, is that this is the first detailed account we have of the well from a Petrolia newspaper and therefore, a truly local perspective and this is well portrayed in the telling.

The micro-film of this paper was poor, so I’ve transcribed the article below.

If you have any questions about anything in the article, don’t hesitate to ask.

King well discovery_004_Nov 30, 1866_Daily Journal_m.jpg




(From the Petrolia Sentinel, Nov. 27th.)

On Friday last, at 4 p. m., the largest flowing well yet struck in or near Petrolia commenced to flow, at the rate of about – we think we are safe in saying – 800 barrels per day!

The well is situated on Lot 11, in the 11th Concession of this township, about one mile and a half from this village. [It] is 380 feet from the surface, 290 being in the rock, which is not, by about 100 feet, the depth of the majority of the wells in this vicinity and is owned by the North Eastern Oil Company, of St. Catharines.

When the vein was struck from which the flow proceeds, there was no means at hand to save the precious fluid, and of course a considerable quantity was lost, as it ran all over the ground in the neighborhood, until at last it formed a perfect creek of oil, about one hundred yards in length by about 12 in width, and from 1 ½ to 2 feet deep, where, on Sunday last, it still lay, and was inspected by hundreds from our village, who were eager to see this last proof of the oil producing qualities of the Petrolia region.

There has been so much talk of big flowing wells lately, which, on being examined, turned out so much less than at first stated, we had some doubt about the truth of the above until we had seen for ourselves. We have seen, and believed, as the tank, which was constructed as soon after the strike as possible, and is a 250 barrel one, was filled in the short space of seven hours, thus giving a flow of over 800 barrels in the twenty-four hours!

To give our readers a proper idea of what the well really is we consider almost impossible, as it is so far beyond anything of the kind ever seen in this neighborhood. The amount of gas that continually pours forth from the well is scarcely conceivable, and the force with which is comes out is prodigious.

To show that such is the fact, we have merely to mention that a set of tools, weighing 1,000 lbs., were lifted completely up and thrown some distance from the pipe by the force with which the gas comes up!

It has been calculated by those who are experienced in such matters, that the power with which the gas comes out of the pipe is capable of raising, at the very lowest estimate, 75 lbs. to every square inch!

Another fact from which our readers might form some opinion of it is the noise which the gas makes on issuing from the pipe. To compare it, we should say that it has the sound, with which most all are familiar, of one of our large steamers blowing off her steam through the exhaust pipe. It can be distinctly heard by a person standing on the railway track, which is about half a mile distant.

Experienced oil men from Pennsylvania say that they have never seen anything like it before in connection with oil. They also have the opinion that when the gas has exhausted itself, the flow of pure oil will be correspondingly increased, which is a most gratifying anticipation, and one which we hope will be fully realized.

What lends interest to the fact, [is] that the well is situated on what is called outside territory, i.e., outside of the oil producing territory of Petrolia, clearly showing that this is the district where the largest quantity of oil is to be found in Canada, which has been already so well established.

We congratulate the North Eastern Oil Company on success, and hope the flow may continue, although that is hardly to be expected, notwithstanding predictions to the contrary, when we take into consideration the experience of the past flowing wells; still, there is no doubt that they have, if not the largest, one of the largest wells ever struck in this or any other neighborhood.

Since writing the above, we have been informed, just before going to press, by a gentlemen who had just then came from the well, that it was flowing more than ever this morning, and the lowest estimate now put upon its producing qualities is 1,000 barrels per day!

He also stated that the “roaring” of the gas can be heard quite distinctly at the Railway Station, at a distance of a mile from the well. The first tank being filled in such a short time, the Company are now building another, which is expected to be finished by 3 p. m. today.

Source: St. Catharines Daily Journal – Nov. 30, 1866



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