Think quickly. When the idea of oil wells, natural gas production, and innovations when it comes to fossil fuels, what part of the map comes to mind? Is it Texas? Perhaps the oil well fields of Saudi Arabia envelope your mind’s vision. Or maybe even the cold tundra of Alaska is the first place you consider.
The truth is there is another place that should be on your radar. That place is the state of Ohio. For those who live there, the idea of Ohio playing an integral part in the history of oil and fossil fuel exploration isn’t that far fetched at all. But to those unfamiliar with the state’s long and storied history might be surprised to find out how much the concepts of coal, oil, gas, and Ohio have been intertwined, and played a part in the history of this country.
It began, as it usually did, not with a dream, but instead with pragmatism. It was 1860, and the country was teetering on the edge of either becoming something greater than the sum of its parts, or plunging into chaos. It was a time when inventions came and went with alarming speed, and the latest and greatest things thirsted for energy to do what they did best. Homes needed to be heated streets needed to be lit, and the churning parts of the new industrial age needed to be lubricated. It was a very tall order, and frankly steam and animal fats, the old war horses of the previous generations weren’t making the grade any more.
So the ever-practical people of Ohio turned to idea of the earth for a source of the oil that they needed.
It is hard to say, exactly where it first began. An argument is often made that the first modern oil well is actually one state to the east in Titusville Pennsylvania. However, if we focus only on Ohio, the first real oil producing well in the state was drilled in 1814 in Noble County. By 1891, a mere eighty years later, Ohio had become one of the top producers of oil and other petroleum products, with oil wells and make shift refineries dotting nearly every horizon.
The oil industry in the Ohio was the grandfather, financially speaking, of the first billionaire, and it provided for the foundation of many of the companies and industries that we take for granted today. In fact, on average the oil and gas industry has an average total sales of at least $3.1 dollars per year.
According to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, over 275,000 oil wells have been drilled in the state of Ohio since that first in Noble County. And that’s just the official count. Chances are there are plenty more, unofficial ones, long forgotten by the books, but remembered by the stories that the old timers tell.
So in truth, the start of the search for energy in Ohio didn’t start with the search for oil. It only continued as the people searched for new, practical ways to fuel the ideas, technologies, and passions of the nation around them.