Man Who First Found Oil…Texas Tea…Was no Jed Clampett


Jed Fared Better than Ed

Jed Fared Better than Ed

Drake Visits What Should Have Been

Drake (in top hat) Visits What Should Have Been His

On This Date In History: Edwin Laurentine Drake retired as a railroad conductor in 1858 due to a bad back. He lived at the Tontine Hotel in New Haven, Connecticut with his wife and child. Some retirement, huh? Well, that’s why a fellow boarder named James Townsend talked him into investing in the Seneca Oil Company. See, it was widely known that the Indians in Pennsylvania had used crude oil that bubbled to the surface as an ointment for aching joints. Townsend thought that the stuff could be used as a substitute for whale oil and as a lubricant. Trouble was, no one knew how to produce it in large quantities.

So, Townsend talked Drake into investing his life savings of $200, gave him a large stake of stock and promised him a salary of $1000 a year for expenses. Drake took him up on it and moved to Titusville, Pa. Well, Townsend and his partners took back their stock from Drake, but that didn’t stop him. After finding out that having men digging with picks and shovels didn’t work, he came up with a new idea. He turned to drilling. He hired Uncle Billy Smith, who was a blacksmith who had salt-boring experience. By 1859, the directors of the company, including Townsend, had lost interest but Drake persisted. They built a derrick and bought a small nautical engine. Sand and clay clogged their drill hole but they persisted. Drake had a brainstorm….he decided to use a pipe to form a shaft for the drill. On this date in 1859 Drake looked down the hole and saw something glistening. When he inquired as to what it was, Uncle Billy said, “it’s your fortune.”

Well, it would have been if he had patented his drilling apparatus and scheme. It would have been had he been able to hold on to his stock. Others rushed in and became overnight millionaires while Drake made a total of $16,000 over four years serving as an agent and justice of the peace. Then he lost it all on Wall Street. Later, he and his family were found living destitute and the state of Pennsylvania granted him a $1500 annual pension. After he died, a monument was erected in Titusville to the man who started the oil industry. That monument is about all there is to show for it.  This is a common tale. There are many stories of how the man who makes a fortune possible gets nothing.  That was certainly the case for the man who discovered gold in California, as well as other tales of yore found on these here pages.

Weather Bottom Line:  No real change in the general thinking.  A front is easing down our way.  We may see some scattered afternoon t’storms in the heating of the day.  This first front is slow to move through and the best chance for rain/t’storms will be in the evening and overnight.  The boundary is kinda stuck in the region for much of Saturday but the main cold front comes down and kicks out everything.  There may be a few showers or maybe even a t’storm on Saturday.  The most remarkable thing about this front is its vitatlity for this time of year.  Look for highs through the middle of the week to be in the mid 70’s…maybe even low 70’s for some folks, especially Sunday and Monday.  I still think that there may be some clouds on Sunday with a shortwave rotating around the base of the trof.

One Response

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