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Wallace City Oil Boom Pictures

Milestones Vol 25 No. 3

By Charles Townsend

While collecting pictures for Rivers of Destiny I was constantly on the lookout for some unique photos of the Wallace City oil boom. Basically all I could find were three or four commonly reproduced pictures of this period when oil production was one of the most important county industries.

Finally I got in touch with Norm Amsler, a retired history teacher and uncommon expert on the once plentiful oil fields of the county. He gave me several pictures from the Wallace City area. Also George Peters contributed several photos. Unfortunately these were received too late for inclusion in the book. However, one picture did make it into the March 12 Bicentennial souvenir pamphlet.

Between 1885 and 1910 more than 100 wells were drilled in Economy and New Sewickley on the Wallace, Stewart, Reed, Bock, and Whipple farms. This oil field was about six miles long and two miles wide and produced as much as 45,000 barrels of crude oil a day. Wallace City at the intersection of Route 989 and Freedom-Crider Road was the epicenter of this activity.

These pictures are from the Aaron Stewart farm and Concord Presbyterian Church area which boasted over 30 wells at the peak around 1910.

After viewing thousands of pictures of Beaver County, I believe that the photograph of Nora Stewart, sitting on a sand reel, is one of the top ten pictures ever taken here. It is beautifully composed, combining a simple, agrarian elegance set against a backdrop of a frenzied industry at the zenith of its power, epitomized by the derrick erected in an apple orchard.

It is good to have some fresh pictures of this vital chapter in Beaver County's history.