Oil Creek State Park is one of twenty-one chosen by the Pennsylvania Bureau of Parks for its "Twenty Must-See Pennsylvania State Parks" list.
Titusville, to the north of Oil Creek State Park, was a slow-growing and peaceful community, lying along the banks of Oil Creek until the 1850s. Lumber was the principal industry with at least 17 sawmills in the area.
Oil was known to exist here, but there was no practical way to extract it. Its main use to that time had been as a medicine for both animals and humans. In the late 1850s Seneca Oil Company (formerly the Pennsylvania Rock Oil Company) sent its manager, Colonel Edwin L. Drake, to start drilling on a piece of leased land just south of Titusville, near what is now Oil Creek State Park. Drake hired a salt well driller, William A. Smith, in the summer of 1859. After many difficulties, they finally drilled a commercially successful well on August 27. It was an event that changed the world, beginning with the surrounding vicinity.
Teamsters were needed immediately to transport the oil to markets. Barges were filled with oil and sent down Oil Creek to Oil City on the Allegheny River. There the oil was transferred to steamships and sent onto Pittsburgh. Transportation methods improved, and in 1862 the Oil Creek & Titusville Railroad was built between Titusville and Corry, where freight was transferred to other, larger, east-west rail lines. In 1865, pipelines were laid directly next to the rail line and the demand for teamsters practically ended. The next year the railroad line was extended south to Petroleum Centre and Oil City. The Union City & Titusville Railroad was built in 1865, which became part of the Philadelphia & Erie Railroad in 1871. That fall President Ulysses S. Grant visited Titusville to view the booming oil industry.
Other oil-related businesses quickly were built in the area. Eight refineries were built between 1862 and 1868. Drilling tools were needed and several iron works were built. Titusville grew from 250 residents to 10,000 almost overnight and in 1866 it incorporated as a city. The first oil millionaire, a resident of Titusville, was Jonathan Watson who owned the land where Drake's well was drilled. The same land is now part of Oil Creek State Park and the Drake Well Museum.
Fire was always a concern around oil and one of the worst fires was on June 11, 1880. What came to be known as "Black Friday" happened when almost of oil burned after an oil tank was hit by lightning. The fire raged for three days until it finally was brought under control. Although the oil was valued at $2 million, there was no loss of life. Another fire occurred on June 5, 1892, when Oil Creek flooded and a tank of benzine overturned. The benzine ignited and in the ensuing explosions 60 men, women, and children died. Another lightning strike in 1894 resulted in lost in a fire. Oil production peaked the late 1880s and has declined greatly since, although a few operating wells are still located in the park.
With oil declining in importance, the Oil Creek area settled into an era of slower growth, with lumber eventually returning as its major industry until the hills and valleys were clear cut. Oil Creek State Park was part of a vast effort to reclaim the forests of Pennsylvania. The young men of the Civilian Conservation Corps established by President Franklin D. Roosevelt during the Great Depression worked to clear the forest and streams of dried brush, and replant the forests. They also built state roads, bridges and state park facilities. Through the efforts of the CCC and the later years of water and forest management, Oil Creek State Park is once again a wild area with a thriving wildlife population, diverse second growth forest, and crystal clean streams.
DEPARTMENT OF CONSERVATION AND NATURAL RESOURCES SEEKS COMMUNITY VOLUNTEERS TO CLEAN UP DUMP SITE IN OIL CREEK STATE PARK, APRIL 28
Apr 20, 2007; The Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources issued the following news release: Department of Conservation...