Oil Springs, Ontario Canada

Discover Oil Springs, Ontario: The Birthplace of North America's First Commercial Oil Well

Oil Springs, a quaint village nestled in Lambton County, Ontario, Canada, is a hidden gem with a rich history. Located along the former Provincial Highway 21, south of Oil City, this enclave within Enniskillen Township is the site of North America's first commercial oil well. Today, it houses the Oil Museum of Canada, a testament to its significant contribution to the continent's oil industry.

The Historical Journey of Oil Springs, Ontario

Before Oil Springs was officially formed, the indigenous people were already aware of the gum beds in the area. They utilized the sticky oil to waterproof their canoes. Originally known as Black Creek, the village became the site of North America's first commercial oil well in September 1858. This happened when James Miller Williams, an asphalt producer, set out to dig a water well and discovered free oil instead.

Williams' discovery triggered North America's first oil rush, prompting the village to change its name to Oil Springs that same year. Within a few years, Oil Springs transformed into a bustling town with four thousand residents. It boasted paved roads, horse-drawn buses, and street lamps during its peak days.

John Henry Fairbank, a surveyor turned oil man, arrived in Oil Springs in 1861. Despite facing debts and family tragedies, Fairbank struck it rich by founding the successful Fairbank Oil Company, now the oldest petroleum company in the world. He also invented the jerker line, a method still used today in Oil Springs to pump oil to the surface from multiple wells using a shared steam engine.

On January 16, 1862, John Shaw created Canada's first oil gusher, located on Gypsie Flats Road. It shot oil from over 60 meters below ground to above the treetops at a rate of 3000 barrels per day. A year later, a plank road was built from Oil Springs to the Wyoming rail station.

In 1865, Oil Springs separated from Enniskillen Township and was incorporated as a village. However, a year later, Bernard King struck oil at Petrolia, 11 kilometers north of Oil Springs. Petrolia quickly replaced Oil Springs as Canada's oil capital, leaving Oil Springs almost abandoned.

In 1881, more oil was discovered at a deeper level, resulting in another oil boom for Oil Springs. Two oil pipelines were built to Petrolia, and in 1886, a spur line of the Canada Southern Railway connected the village to Oil City, operating until 1960.

In 1914, Charles Fairbank, son of John Henry, found a gas gusher in Oil Springs that was deemed the biggest gusher in Canada. However, in the 1930s, a fire destroyed all of the original oil rigs on William's property, and by 1974, the last receiving station of Imperial Oil closed.

In 2008, on the 150th anniversary of Williams' discovery, Canada Post issued a stamp commemorating this first commercial oil well, featuring portraits of Charles Tripp and Williams.

Demographics of Oil Springs, Ontario

According to the 2021 Census of Population conducted by Statistics Canada, Oil Springs had a population of 647 living in 267 of its 283 total private dwellings. This represented a slight decrease of -0.2% from its 2016 population of 648. With a land area of 8.14 km2 (3.14 sq mi), it had a population density of 79.5/km2 (205.9/sq mi) in 2021.

Oil Springs, Ontario, with its rich history and significant contribution to the oil industry, is a must-visit for history buffs and those interested in the evolution of the oil industry.