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The Oil-Wells of North America—

The Illustrated London News, vol.39, no. 1106, p. 237.

September 7,1861

Numerous letters confirm the great value of the oil-springs lately discovered in the United States and Canada. The question as to the duration of their yield remains to be settled, but it seems probable that, owing to the extent of the regions in which they are found, the supply will last many years, and that a proper organisation of railway facilities will alone be needed to cause the production to be among the most important in modern commerce. In the United States the principal deposits are understood to be close to a station on a new railway—the Atlantic and Great Western—which will render their conveyance to New York comparatively inexpensive. In Canada they are about twelve miles from the Wyoming Station of the Great Western of Canada Railway, and some arrangements will be necessary for the transit over that distance, the existing roads being of the worst description. At the site of the principal wells the ground was two years ago covered by an almost unbroken forest. Now there is a resident and constantly-increasing population of upwards of five hundred. During the last winter the coaches took an average of fifty people daily to the spot from Wyoming, and many bought land and remained. There are several inns filled to overflowing. Two good hotels are in course of erection. Houses and shanties are rising on all sides, and the greatest activity is everywhere apparent. At present there are about one hundred wells in full operation, all yielding oil. The land is held in large blocks, the owner leasing acres and half acres for ninety-nine years. The terms usually are 300 dollars for the privilege and one-third of the oil drawn from the wells. The wells are sunk and cribbed to a depth of from 40 to 60 feet till the rock is reached. In many cases surface-oil is found before reaching the rock, but it is of rather inferior quality and doubtful yield. After arriving at the rock, the wells through the earth being from 4 to 7 feet square, they drill to a depth of from 40 to 70 feet, between which distances oil is almost sure to be discovered. Wooden tanks, varying from 500 to 2000 gallons capacity, are constructed close to each well. The oil is pumped into these, and afterwards drawn off into barrels to be sent to market. A moderate average yield for all the wells now in operation (one hundred) is fifteen barrels or or 600 gallons per day.

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