Discover Petrolia, Ontario: Canada's Victorian Oil Town
Petrolia, a charming town nestled in southwestern Ontario, Canada, is a part of Lambton County and is enveloped by the scenic Enniskillen Township. Known as "Canada's Victorian Oil Town," Petrolia is often recognized as the birthplace of the oil industry in North America, a title it shares with the neighboring town of Oil Springs. The town is also home to the Lambton Central Collegiate & Vocicational Institute (LCCVI).
The Rich History of Petrolia, Ontario
The history of Petrolia dates back to 1857 when James Miller Williams of Hamilton began distilling the "tar" found in Oil Springs, located a few kilometers south of Petrolia. After purchasing the property rights from Charles Nelson Tripp, Williams struck an oil deposit in Oil Springs in mid-1858, igniting the oil drilling industry.
In 2008, Canada Post issued a stamp commemorating the 150th anniversary of this first commercial oil well, featuring portraits of Charles Tripp and Williams. However, these early wells led to significant wastage from gushers, estimated at 5 million barrels of oil in 1862 alone.
Petrolia's inception as a town occurred in 1866 following the discovery of a major gas well. This oil boom led many to abandon Oil Springs in favor of this new settlement. Petrolia separated from Enniskillen Township and was incorporated as a town on December 25 of the same year.
Petrolia experienced several oil production boom periods, notably in 1898 and 1938. Some wells drilled in 1938 initially produced 100 barrels per day at a price of $2 per barrel. However, this output often lasted only a few weeks, falling to less than a barrel a day.
Oil men from Petrolia traveled to the far reaches of the world, including the Gobi Desert, Arctic, Iran, Indonesia, United States, Australia, Russia, and over 80 other countries, teaching others how to find and extract crude oil. Locals born and raised in Petrolia are referred to as "Hard Oilers," a tribute to the resilience of their ancestors. Petrolia is also home to the Petrolia Discovery museum, and some oil fields in the area are still operational.
Petrolia, Ontario: A Snapshot of the Demographics
According to the 2021 Census of Population conducted by Statistics Canada, Petrolia had a population of 6,013 living in 2,460 of its 2,524 total private dwellings. This represents a change of 4.7% from its 2016 population of 5,742. With a land area of 12.46 km2 (4.81 sq mi), Petrolia had a population density of 482.6/km2 (1,249.9/sq mi) in 2021.