foreword by kenneth yeasting>

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Something else that might be of some interest. Back about the time I was born, maybe a year or two before, just the end of World War I, oil was discovered in our area, and they drilled a lot of wells in the whole area, quite a few miles square. Our farm, for example, had twenty-three wells on it and a pump-house. And most of the other farms around it had ten, twelve, fifteen, twenty wells and a pump-house. Then there was a big line [pipeline] ran along what is now US 6. At that time it was Ohio 34, the main road through Rollersville. Everybody's line tapped into that. And then when your tank got full you called Toledo and they came out and measured it and let it flow into the main pipe, and that's how you got paid for it. But anyhow, those wells – it's called the "Newburg Field," as I recall.

[According to the History of the Gibsonburg Area oil was discovered in 1896 on the nearby John Phister farm. According to The Prize by Daniel Yergin, northwestern Ohio was the scene of the world’s second oil region after Pennsylvania. Flammable gas springs in the vicinity of Findlay, about twenty-five miles south of Rollersville, had been known since the earliest settlements. In the mid-1880s, oil was discovered there, igniting a great boom in the region, which straddled the border with Indiana and became known as the Lima-Indiana Fields].

They were around nineteen hundred, two thousand feet deep, which is quite shallow by today's standards, really. But they would drill the well down, and it was in. When they got down there, they were in a sandstone formation. Above that there's a lot of lime. Then they get down there and they get to where they find oil. Now it is not free-standing oil, it's in the rock. So what they do, they would drop down and they got everything down and take the drilling rig away. And by remote control to release it, they would drop down a quart bottle of nitroglycerin, and that was known as "blowing the well." And she would go up in the air, oh, a long ways. I can just remember seeing it done as a little kid when they were still drilling some.

But anyhow, they had to have the nitroglycerin for that. So there was a plant in – just outside of Bradner, Ohio, which was about five miles from our farm. Anyhow, I heard stories about that blowing up one time, and it broke a beam in our barn which was five miles away and did some other damages around. Well, they promptly rebuilt the plant. The plant is a two-man operation. I imagine it's long gone now. It was a two-man operation, and then they had a fellow with a team of horses and a wagon with partitions in it that were padded. And they would set the quart jars of nitroglycerin from the plant in there. As I say, it was a two-man operation, the plant, just a wooden shack, really.

Well, one time when I was a boy in school in Rollersville yet, I would say about maybe fifth grade, somewhere along in there, right at recess, all at once it was just like an earthquake. It just shook the ground a little. And we looked and here's this great big mushroom cloud heading up over Bradner. Well, everybody knew right away what it was. That was the nitroglycerin plant went up again. What had happened, they get cookin', get too hot or something, and it gets away from them. So the fellows would just try to run for safety. Well, this time they just didn't make it. There was a wagon and team there that distributed the stuff. He was there loading up at the time, and they don't know whether he dropped a bottle or whether it overheated or what, but anyhow, the whole thing went. Of the three men involved, the driver and the two guys at the plant, I remember someone saying – well, of course, this is hearsay and it's many years ago, but they found a hand and maybe a couple other pieces of body, and they also found a part of a horse's leg in a tree a few yards away. Even the trees were gone. And the building, of course, was just a hole in the ground, just disintegrated. Like a little atom bomb, it was. So, anyhow, they built it back up again, and in a few weeks they're back in business. They hired two more guys and away they go at it because they needed it. And, I imagine, it paid pretty good. Probably couldn't get life insurance, but probably paid pretty good for those days. Anyhow, that was another incident, as it were, I remember from our childhood.

Another thing I don't think I talked much about – I mentioned oil wells and the pump house. The pump house had a pumper that came, I think, twice a week. He pumped our wells. And we had two-hundred barrel tanks there and this pump house. And the engine in there was run by the natural gas, of course, from the wells. It was a one-cylinder engine. Have no idea who made those engines, but I would say the piston was about – oh, probably sixteen, eighteen inches in diameter. I don't know how long that thing would have been, probably close to two feet. And it had a tremendous flywheel on it. I remember this flywheel. There were two of them, one on each side, of course, the valves. That flywheel, if you were to set it in your living room, stand it up, I doubt if you could get it in there. It was at least eight feet high and maybe higher. And we had a big building that they were in, big open top – ceiling high enough at least, I should say. The way you started those things, you turned the gas on and then there was an ignition deal of some kind that – like a magneto, I suppose. Steve, you'd know more about that than I would, probably, but anyhow, I think it's called a "magneto." And then the pumper would walk the wheel, and I watched him do it many times. He would stand on the spoke of the wheel and pull downwards and get that wheel starting to turn and then he would just climb the wheel, and faster and faster that thing turned. And all at once it would take an explosion and he would jump off. Usually it started the first time. Not always. Sometimes they'd have to go back at it a little bit. I can't remember anything ever going wrong with those engines. It would be a hell of a job to have to grind the valves on one of those things, I suppose. But that – there was a belt then ran from that to a flat wooden wheel, which was about a foot thick and probably about – oh, I'd say at least about 20 feet in diameter. And then there were some gears in there somewhere or other that made that wheel go a quarter turn one way and then back, quarter turn same way and back. And then the rod lines were hooked to posts on that, and that pulled them back and forth the distance of a couple feet as it went around the circle or quarter circle, then back. And they would stretch clear across the farm, those steel rod lines, out to the wells. That's what pumped the wells. Then along by the rod lines there was the pipe, two-inch pipe, which draws the oil back up to the tanks. [I remember in the early 1950s there were still some working wells powered by rods that seem to run for several hundred yards. The oil was pumped into very large wooden tanks.-KY]

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