Who knew that there was a little taste of Texas way up in Ontario? Yup, oil that is, black gold, Texas tea, a Canadian story ripped right from the antics of the Beverly Hillbillies.
Like Jed Clampett, the locals thought the greasy goo oozing out of the ground was just a nuisance until some city slickers came along and wanted to pay for it, that is.
|The whole story is told at The Oil Museum of Canada in Oil Springs, just South of Oil City and Petrolia, on the corner of Oil Heritage Road and Gum Bed Line. By way things are named around here, we started to get the idea that oil's big in these parts.|
|So big in fact, that it's been immortalized in the stained-glass windows at the Christ Anglican Church in Petrolia. Yup, those panes next to Jesus, usually reserved for the saints and such, are all filled with scenes from the nearby oil fields. Under his feet reads "And The Rock Poured Me Out Rivers Of Oil." We had no idea that Jesus was so into fossil fuels.|
This digging of gum revealed an unexpected surprise, underneath the tar there was oil! Back then oil was used for lamps, lubrication, paraffin, medicines and other necessities but not so much as a fuel. The gasoline that was left over in the refining process was burned off as waste since there were not yet any internal combustion engines to use it. All of that "waste" would come in quite handy about now, wouldn't it?
An Oil Rush commenced and this
the Mother of Invention stepped in, an ingenious device called
a jerker system was invented
to pump oil from numerous wells at the same time using just one
steam engine. Remarkable in its complex simplicity, a maze of
cables, connectors and wooden rods harnesses the power from the
large engine and sends it to pumps all over the field some
of them thousands of yards away. In fact, a working example is
still in use, pumping away on the Oil Museum grounds.
The Oil Museum sits right on the site of the first well and the smell of oil literally hangs in the air. Inside the main building there are two floors of exhibits. The first housing displays of interesting oil business and technology memorabilia. Antique oil cans, service station signs, advertisements are mixed in with diagrams and discriptions of the geology and machinery that make up the history of the oil business.
|One display seemed a bit too excited about what it called the world's first oil spill! The flow from this gusher decimated the area with 100,000 barrels of crude fouling the fields and water all the way to Lake St. Clair. Now that's something to celebrate! Not.|
|The basement is another story (no pun intended). A strange conglomeration of artifacts with nothing whatsoever to do with oil, or even Canada for that matter, are laid out for perusal. Bugs and guns, a collection of eggs, scarves and clocks, knives and spears from around the world are all displayed in glass cases and along the walls. But, wait, there's more -- what arrangement is complete|
|For us, the most entertaining part of the museum was the Oil Springs Heritage District Driving Tour. We drove the two mile loop on the nearby roads and found goofy life-sized dioramas of odd metal sculpted men and beasts of burden in old-timey oil production scenes. Each spot has its own radio frequency, so we tuned into narrations from Angus but you can call me Slick (get it--like "Oil Slick") in his Texas drawl over a|
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