The Drake Well

Drake Well is a 69.5-foot-deep (21.2 m.) oil well in Cherrytree Township, Venago County in the U.S. state of Pennsylvania.

It was drilled by Edwin Drake in 1859, along the banks of Oil Creek and is the first commercial oil well in the United States. Petroleum found along Oil Creek was known to Native Americans for hundreds of years through natural seeps. Europeans became aware of its existence in the 1600s. At that time, the “mineral-oil” was used primarily for medicinal purposes and was thought to cure many ailments, including rheumatism and arthritis. Around 1848, Samuel Kier recognised the potential of the medicinal oil as an illuminant. Kier distilled the oil to make it more suitable for lamps by removing the impurities that created soot when burned.

People began to understand this potential but only a few of them had taken into the consideration the possibility to drill for it by using the same system as they, at that time, did for water.

Edwin Drake was the first man who tried to do it.

Edwin Drake (Greenville 1819 – Bethlehem 1880) a former conductor for the New York and New Haven Railroad, invested $ 200, his entire savings, in the Pennsylvania Rock Oil Company. He became more and more interested in this field and was put in charge of producing petroleum by the Seneca Oil Company in Connecticut in 1858. After many attempts to drill for oil, Seneca Oil Company’s financers, exasperated by an ongoing loss of money, had just decided to make Drake stop drilling when, suddenly, the first drop of oil came out of the 20-metre hole.

In 1859 the first oil well was born. It stopped producing in 1861 and the Seneca Oil Company sold the property in 1864.

Drake Well was listed on National Register of Historic Places and designated a National Historic Landmark in 1966.