A Carpet-Bagger in Pennsylvania: Ii. The Oil Region

I LEFT Towanda on the morning after the election, and by running through to Dunkirk, on the Erie Railroad, and there taking a new “ crosscut ” road to the oil regions, reached Corry the same night.

If in this day’s ride I noticed any picturesque feature of the country which has not been often enough described, it was the root-fences. I am not aware that justice has ever been done to these by pen or pencil. What astonishing stereoscopic views they would make ! The farmers have a machine by which the stumps of demolished forests are drawn, like Titanic teeth, enormous prongs and all. These, hauled away, and turned up in grinning rows on the borders of fields and farms, make an enclosure of stupendous proportions. I can fancy the wild stag standing dismayed before their gnarled, contorted, and sprawling antlers, sunken in the earth, and yet loftily overtopping his own. I am not speaking here of the common root-fence, to be seen in almost any new country, built of the smaller and more easily handled forest roots, but of the grander sort,"— such as one sees only now and then, even on the line of the Erie Road, — to the construction of which the hugest roots have contributed. The ends of the prongs have been cut or broken off, in order to reduce their branching irregularities to some manageable shape ; but otherwise these Laocoon-suggcsting forms retain all the nodes and flexures and tremendous tortuosities which the great Artist gave them. I recommend them to the attention of the photographer.

Nov. 5, Corry. — A fungus of a town that has suddenly sprung up here in a clearing of the woods. Nine years ago there was not even a clearing. But two railroads — the Philadelphia and Erie and the Atlantic and Great Western — found it convenient to cross here ; petroleum was “developed” on Oil Creek, rendering necessary a third railroad, down thither, from this junction ; hence, Corry in the wilderness. A new “cross-cut” road (already alluded to) has recently been completed, connecting the oil regions more directly with Dunkirk and Buffalo ; so that now Corry lies in the woods, like a spider with six legs branching out in as many directions.

The town to-day claims a population of some thousands,— one man says five, another seven, and a third ten. As the last offers to support his figures by large bets of money, I distrust him, and incline towards the more modest estimates. Perhaps he counts the stumps with the inhabitants. Those make a large population by themselves. There are stumps in front yards, stumps on street corners, stump-lots all around. There is a pretty row of dwellinghouses on one side of a street, and on the other side a field of half-burnt columnar trunks and trees upturned by the roots. The plank sidewalks go charging bravely up the woody hill, as if they meant to carry it by storm, but become demoralized on the outskirts of the town, and show a tendency to fall back. I notice one that seems undecided in its mind whether to keep on, retreat, or climb a tree. Yet the business part of Corry looks very much like business ; and here is one of the largest oil-refineries (some say the largest) in the world.

A fresh and kindly morning, after a night’s rain. Nature seems pleased with the election returns: the mists drifting away over the hills, the sunlight striking on the pines, the crowing of cocks far and near (they must be good Republican cocks), invest even this rough, new place with an atmosphere of romance and beauty.

IO, A. M. — Leave Corry for Oil Creek. Train crowded with passengers of both sexes, mostly bound for the oil region, as I infer from the general sociability that prevails among them. In travelling, one finds that people invariably grow more and more talkative about him as some new scene of excitement is approached ; and last night on coming to Corry, and again this morning on quitting it, I have been constantly reminded that I am drawing near a region of extraordinary human interest and activity, by the way in which the usual barriers of reserve betwixt man and man are broken down.

Our route lies mostly through tangled woods, .— civilization cropping out only here and there in a stump-lot or corn and pumpkin field. Soon we come in sight of Oil Creek, flowing down through the frost-covered hills of the northwest. We strike its lett bank, and keep it, — the railroad line cutting across the base of precipitous cliffs, and, farther on, winding through the narrow valley ; — woods on all sides, in the midst of which patches of cultivated land appear, — very poor land, 1 should say. Yet this is the region over which the rage of speculation scattered fortunes a few years ago.

An inhabitant gets on at a way station, and takes a seat by my side. “ All this land along here,” he tells me, “ went up to two hundred dollars an acre, at one time. I have a mighty poor farm, and I was offered that for it. But I was going to have two hundred and ten ; — a hundred acres, twenty-one thousand dollars;—a handsome pile for a poor devil like me. But before I got it, the bubble burst; and the prices fell away from my Aggers so fast I never could overtake 'em. When I concluded to take two hundred, they had got down to a hundred and fifty ; and before I could open my mouth to say I would take that, they dropped to a hundred, to fifty, to nothing. I ’d be glad enough to sell for nine dollars an acre to-day.”

The appearance of lonely derricks, keeping ghostly guard over abandoned wells, shows that we are entering the great oil district. We are on its remote northern borders as yet ; it lies chiefly in Venango County, and we are still in Crawford. The derricks, tall, tapering, quadrangular frames, forty or fifty feet high, and perhaps ten feet broad at the base, are all weather-blackened and ancient, showing that it is long since the last of them was reared, and consequently long since the tide of oil speculation receded from these parts. Long, and yet it is not ten years since the first oil-well in the country was sunk. They count time here by pumpstrokes ; and the “ territory ” that ceases to “produce” becomes “old” in a fortnight.

The derricks increase in number as we approach Titusville. They loom up over the house-tops, they tower in gardens and backyards, they stand in the desolate fields, — hollow frames through which the wild winds whistle. They appear on both sides of the creek, and far down the valley as the eye can reach.

At Titusville, on the lower borders of Crawford County, a large number of passengers disembark, myself among them. A hurriedly built town, of the rough-and-ready sort ; a town abounding in oil-cars and oil-tanks, and redolent of oil; a town through which the creek flows with an interesting glistening scum of oil ; a town with a brief but eventful history.

Here the first oil-well was sunk. Before that time Titusville (named after a family of Tituses) was a small backwoods village, with a population of raftsmen and lumbermen numbering about two hundred. Oil flowed from that well, and in five years Titusville became the fourth post-office town in the State. It had forty hotels, and a fixed or floating population of I know not how many thousands, — speculators, shopkeepers, well-diggers, and teamsters. The army of teamsters alone numbered at one time not less than four thousand.

Very different is Titusville to-day. The brick blocks that sprang up in that period of excitement still remain ; and I am told that it has now a permanent population of seven thousand. But comparative quiet reigns here. The forty hotels have been reduced to four or five. This change has not been brought about simply by the failure of wells in this vicinity and the continuation of the railroad down the creek. Oil enough still comes here to keep up the old excitement, if teams were any longer of use in conveying it. Teamsters supported the hotels, the shops, the smithies, and kept various branches of business alive ; but the time came for a revolution in this cumbersome and costly method of transportation.

Teamsters were to be superseded. The right man stepped forward at the right moment, and spoke the word of common sense, — always a danger and a menace to old routine. “Instead of all this clatter and hubbub of wagons and whips and oaths, in carrying loads of barrels over land, why not,” said he, “send the oil silently flowing underground, through pipes, like so much Croton or Cochituate water ? ” The trouble was, that in many places it would have to run up hill ; moreover, being so much lighter, and at the same time less fluent than water, it might require help even in going down hill. These difficulties were to be overcome by means of force-pumps. The first transportation-pipe was laid in the summer of 1863, from Tarr Farm, on Oil Creek, to the Plumer refinery, on Cherry Run, a distance of three miles. Here the oil had to be driven up by steampumps over an elevation four hundred feet above the creek. The enterprise was only a partial success. In the following year the Harleys projected a general system of pipes for the entire oil region, and commenced operations in the fall. The reform was of course opposed — as all such reforms must be at the outset —by the class whose interests were assailed. Mobs of teamsters tore up the pipes, burned the tanks, and threatened the lives of the pipe-layers. This was done repeatedly; but it was striving against fate. In 1865 the system was fairly established, in spite of all opposition; and now almost the entire product of the oil region, amounting to ten thousand barrels a day, flows or is forced through pipes, from the scattered farms, to the railroad centres, and the army of teamsters has disappeared. A great saving in the expense of transportation, in whiskey and profanity, has been the result.

About a mile below Titusville, the first oil-well derrick that was ever built, in this or any other country, is still to be seen. In the light which petroleum has thrown upon the world since, the history of this primitive enterprise stands out like a romance, the interest of which is heightened not a little by the fact that the man who first bored.for oil, and by his pluck and perseverance, not only flooded a community with sudden riches, but increased the wealth of the world, is to-day himself a poor man.

That man is Mr. E. L. Drake, commonly called “ Colonel Drake ” in the oil region. He first made his appearance here in 1857. Previous to that time he had been a conductor on a railroad in Connecticut. He went to Oil Creek to obtain for another person an acknowledgment of a deed from one Squire Trowbridge, living in CherryTree township, a few miles below Titusville.

At Titusville he had occasion to call at the office of Messrs. Brewer and Watson, lumber merchants. On Dr. Brewer’s desk his eye fell upon a bottle with a strange label. “ What is this ? ” he asked.

“ This,” said the doctor, “ is mineral oil. It is what the druggists sell under the name of rock oil, or Seneca, or American oil. It flows from natural springs on our flats, a mile and a half below here.”

Drake’s curiosity was excited. If he had ever heard of the phenomenon of oil flowing out of the ground, he had never given it a thought before. He was curious to hear all the doctor had to tell of its history.

The oil was known to the Indians ; and the tribe of Senecas, who introduced it as a medicine or liniment to the white settlers, used it also in mixing their war-paints, and in anointing their hideous, glistening bodies for the midnight dance. But there is evidence that it was known to a superior race that occupied the country before the Indians, — probably the mound-builders of our Western valleys. Remains of what were undoubtedly ancient oilpits, walled in by well-jointed timbers kept from decay by the oil in the earth in which they were imbedded, have been discovered ; and their antiquity is shown by the fact that there were found in them, similarly preserved, the roots of large forest trees, which had once overgrown them but had passed away.

Oil had long been gathered from Brewer and Watson’s springs by the white settlers, who used it as a liniment, or sold it to the druggists. It was found covering the surface of the water and was absorbed by blankets. But Dr. Brewer having conceived the idea of using it in lighting the saw-mills of the firm, and also for lubricating purposes, an improved method of obtaining it was devised by his foreman. He pumped the water of the springs into tanks, and collected the oil from the surface in considerable quantities ; what was not used in the saw-mills was sold for the mutual benefit of the foreman and the firm. This, as far as I have been able to ascertain, was the first systematic attempt ever made to procure and utilize American rock oil ; and it was, so far as it went, a success.

The business had reached this primitive early stage, when, in 1854, a relative of Dr. Brewer’s, Mr. Albert H. Crosby, of Hanover N. H., visiting him at Titusville, carelessly asked his advice with regard to a promising enterprise for a young man. The doctor as carelessly replied, “ Go to gathering this oil and selling it.” The young man replied, after a moment’s thought, “ There is more in that idea than you are perhaps aware of.” He carried a bottle of the oil away with him, and soon succeeded, with the help of Mr. George H. Bissell and Mr. G. J, Eveleth, in forming what was known as the “ Pennsylvania Rock Oil Company.” This company was organized in the fall of 1854, with a nominal capital (entirely nominal, I suspect) of three hundred thousand dollars. It purchased of Dr. Brewer one hundred acres of land (which it did not pay for), caused the oil to be analyzed, exhibited, and puffed, and politely invited the public to take its stock. This, however, was generally regarded as " fancy,” and shrewd capitalists smilingly shook their heads. So the Pennsylvania Rock Oil Company went down, — if it can be said ever to have been up.

In 1855, interest in the subject was revived by an analysis of the oil, and a favorable report of it, made by Professor Silliman ; and a new company was organized at New Haven, which took the unpaid-for oil territory off the old company’s hands. Little, however, had been done by either of these companies towards developing the property, at the time of Drake’s visit. Narrow trenches had been dug, twelve or fifteen feet deep, and sixty or seventy feet long, converging at a point where the oil and water were pumped into tanks; and this was about all. Only a few barrels of oil were obtained in the course of a season. It was then worth, at retail, a dollar and a half a gallon.

Drake listened attentively to this account, and, borrowing a pair of waterproof boots of Dr. Brewer, went down on the Flat—“Watson’s Flat” it is called — to look at the oil-springs. Nothing had been doing there at that time ; but he thought something might be done. An idea struck him : “ Why not bore to the sources of the oil, and obtain it in large quantities?” And he returned to the East, his brain fermenting with that notion.

The result was that he returned, in the following year, as agent for the New Haven Company, with full authority (though with limited means) for developing the property by boring.

Drake may have got his idea from having heard that parties, sinking artesian wells for salt, down on the Alleghany, were sometimes annoyed and incommoded by meeting with a flow of oil. At all events, his first step was to visit the salt-works near Pittsburg, and engage experienced hands to go up and sink a well for him. A bargain was made ; but it was not kept, the honest drillers for salt concluding, after Drake’s departure, that the man must be a fool who thought of drilling for oil. A second trip to Pittsburg, in a buggy (there was no railroad from Oil Creek then), resulted in another contract, which was broken for similar reasons. Drake then made a third trip; and finding it idle to talk of oil to men who were accustomed to regard it only as a nuisance troubling their salt-water veins, he proposed to one of them to go with him and bore for salt. Salt seemed reasonable, and the man accepted his offer; and finally, in June, 1859, ground was broken for the first artesian oil-well.

The drillers wished to make a large cribbed opening to the rock, which seems to have been their usual method of starting a well. But Drake said he would drive down an iron tube instead. This plan, which his friends claim was original with him (if so, it is a pity he did n’t secure a patent for it, which would be worth a fortune to him now), was adopted, and it has been in use ever since, not only in sinking oil wells, but in artesian borings for other purposes. The pipe was driven thirty-two feet, to the first stratum of rock. The workmen then drilled thirty-seven feet and six inches farther, entering what is known as the first sand rock, and making a total depth of sixty-nine and a half feet. They were at this point, when, one day (August 28, 1859), as the tools were lifted out of the bore, a foaming, dingy fluid, resembling somewhat in appearance boiling maple sugar, rushed up, and stood within a few inches of the top of the pipe. It was oil.

In the meanwhile Drake had had great difficulties to overcome ; and greater were before him. There were still no railroads in that part of the country, and all his machinery and apparatus had to come in wagons from Erie,— a distance of forty miles. He had to send to Erie for everything, — once even for a couple of common shovels, the store at Titusville being unable to furnish them. He had soon spent the money advanced to him by the company, and it refused to advance him more. He had exhausted his credit, too, and could not get trusted for the value of an oak plank or a centre-bit. He was thought insane, and people called him “Crazy Drake.” His workmen were unpaid and discontented, and his enterprise must have failed when on the very verge of success, had not two gentlemen of Titusville, worthy of mention here, — Messrs. R. D. Fletcher and Peter Wilson, — having faith in the man and his work, come to his assistance. They indorsed his paper and loaned him money ; and with this timely aid he struck oil.

Yet even now, with his well in operation, pumping twenty-five barrels a day, he seemed to be getting deeper and deeper into difficulty. He found, as he afterwards said, that he had an elephant on his hands. There had been a demand for oil, at a good price, in small quantities ; but there was no demand for it in large quantities. Imitators followed him, other wells were sunk, and the market was flooded. Teamsters charged ten dollars for hauling a barrel to Erie, where it would not fetch ten dollars. The oil could not be generally used as an illuminating agent without being refined, and the coal-oil refiners refused to touch a rival production, whose success in the market would be likely to injure their interests. Drake’s health, if not his spirits, gave way under these complications, and he returned to the East about the time when petroleum — first refined by James McKeown and Samuel Kier of Pittsburg— was coming into general use. The great oil excitement came too late for poor Drake to profit by it. He is now, as I have said, a poor man, after having been the author of wealth to many and of comfort to millions. He may console himself with the reflection (if he is a good patriot) that petroleum, which he gave to the country, paid a government tax at one period (1864-65) of ten thousand dollars a day; but he would be better consoled, I doubt not, if now the country should do something for him.

To-day the banks of the Creek, all the way from Titusville to Oil City, bristle with interminable forests of derricks. Whichever way you look, there they lift their melancholy frames, like an army of gigantic, headless skeletons. It is a strange sight, when the red eye of sunset glows through their hollow ribs. Here they stand like stragglers along the flats and slopes, and there they rise in clusters, thick as masts in a harbor. A few scattered farms or solitary wells are enlivened by puffs of steam and the creaking of engines, which show that the land still yields oil in spots. But many of the wells never struck oil; many more have long since ceased to “ produce " ; so that the majority of the derricks are now abandoned wrecks, which their builders, departing in haste to fresh territory, could not take the time or trouble to tear down.

As the country bristles with derricks, so its annals, since Drake’s time, abound with personal romances. You seem to be travelling in a land of melodrama. Almost everybody you meet has been suddenly enriched or suddenly ruined (perhaps both within a short space of time), or knows plenty of people who have been. Writers of the thrilling-incident style of fiction should come here and replenish their wornout stock of ideas. Robberies, tragic deaths, bankruptcies, burning oil-wells ; fleets of oil-boats on fire, sweeping down stream in clouds of smoke and flame, destroying everything in their course ; the rich reduced to want; vulgar families, the millionnaires of a moment, tricked out in the unaccustomed trappings of wealth, like Sandwich-Islanders in civilized hats and trousers ; — walk up, gentlemen, and take your choice of subjects.

Some of these modern matters of fact contain the elements of antique tragedy. Take poor Widow McClintock’s history, — her famous farm spouting oleaginous wealth for her; sudden, splendid fortune leading to sudden, tragic doom. One day, kindling a fire in her house, she puts plentiful petroleum on it. Petroleum, faithful friend, that brought her affluence, seems wroth at such ingratitude, flashes back upon her, and, like an incensed Greek divinity, bestows his final fatal gift, a windingsheet of flame. Adieu, Mrs. McClintock! Too much of oil hadst thou, poor, lone widow !

Even more fearfully tragic was the fate of that well-known, successful oilman, who initiated the terrible fashion of burning wells. “Gentlemen,” he remarked, one day, having struck a vein which shot its dingy, wide-spattering jet to the top of the derrick, — “Gentlemen ” (puffing his cigar), “ I am fifty thousand dollars richer to-day than I was yesterday.” He stepped into the derrick to give directions for securing the oil, and was instantaneously enveloped in a pyramid of fire. His cigar must have ignited the gas escaping with the oil ; and the whole had burst into a vast volume of flame, putting a swift end to him and his dream of riches. Several lives were lost by this terrible accident. The fire raged like a volcanic eruption ; and it was two weeks before the roaring fountain of oil and gas could be extinguished.

Then there is the Benninghoff robbery, of quite recent date (January, 1868), and a very good thing in its way. Scene: Benninghoff farmhouse, near Petroleum Centre. Family sitting together at night, — Mr. Benninghoff, his wife and niece, and two hired men. Four robbers rush in, masked with handkerchiefs and comforters, present pistols, threaten lives, and proceed to bind and spoil. Hired men sit inane, making no resistance. Old man Benninghoff uses lungs and limbs to some purpose, till gagged and bound. The family secured, two of the bandits stand guard over them, while the other two open safes and ransack drawers, and relieve the old man (who, having come into possession of sudden riches, has unluckily chosen to be his own banker) of two hundred and ten thousand dollars in national bonds and greenbacks. (A still larger sum, In one of the safes, is overlooked.) Their booty secured, the visitors proceed to regale themselves with honest bread and milk. Then they slip-noose one of the non-resistant hired men, and conduct him to the barn, where he harnesses horses for them, with a halter round his own neck. He is rewarded by being led back into the house, and rebound. Exeunt robbers, with Benninghoff’s horses and sleigh. For this daring deed respectable citizens of Titusville (you will shake hands with them, if you go there) were snatched up by the law, but dropped again speedily, there being no proof that they had eaten the Benninghoff bread and milk in that irregular manner. The real robbers, having abandoned at their convenience the sleigh and horses (but not the money; that went with the irrecoverable bread and milk), disappear utterly, and are seen no more, except in the bad wood-cuts of the illustrated papers.

Then there is the story of the adopted son, once notorious in this region, whose revenue from inherited oil-lands was at one time so bewilderingly magnificent that it might well turn the head of one whom neither natural parts nor cultivation had fitted for such fortune. One hears amusing stories told of his extravagances, almost too absurd to be true, one would think. It is said that he delighted to walk the streets of one of the great cities with a crew of jovial companions, who lived upon his bounty and laughed at his folly, and indulge in such practical and expensive jests as this : If he saw before him a hat that didn’t just suit his fancy, he would step gayly up and knock it with swift stroke into the gutter ; then, when the wrathful stranger turned with revengeful eye and fist, he would adroitly escape retribution and disarm resentment by saying politely : “ Beg pardon ! I took you for a friend of mine. Walk right into this hat-store, and oblige me by suiting yourself to the handsomest beaver you can find, at my expense.”

This.vyouth indulged the fond delusion that he was a great man because he had money, and that the vulgar usages of life were beneath his notice. Once, when he was on a visit to Philadelphia, a cabman, who took him to a hotel, had the impudence then and there to ask for the customary fee. Young Petroleum was so incensed at this untimely importunity, which the hotel, through miserable ignorance of the character of its guest, had permitted (instead of paying the fee and putting it into his bill), that he immediately quitted the house, flinging indignant greenbacks at those who had so grievously misunderstood him, called another cab, and went to another hotel.

Some rumor of the princely youth’s temper must have reached the second cabman, for he said nothing of any fee. The next morning he was again before the hotel, waiting, whip in fist, and ready to open the cab-door, at the moment the prince appeared ; and drove him about town with cheerful alacrity, still with no hint in regard to pay. This happened every day for a week, and it pleased the prince; here was treatment befitting his rank. At the week’s end, he said, Cabby, I want you to do me a favor.” Cabby grinned, obsequious. “ I want you to go and help me pick out the finest pair of horses we can find, and a cab and harness to match. I think of going into the business a little, myself. Understand ? ”

“ It is a good business,” said Cabby, approvingly.

The purchase was accordingly made, and Cabby drove the prince about in the new cab, a few days longer. Then the prince said to Cabby : “ I guess you may as well sell your old turnout; for you see, Cabby, my boy, this new concern will suit you better ; and I beg you to accept it as a slight token of regard, from yours truly. ”

The munificent young fellow amused himself at one time by running a theatre. His latest extravagance was a troupe of negro minstrels, whom he hired, equipped, and presented with gold chains and diamond pins, — for he was a generous prince while his fortune lasted. No niggard, he spent all his revenue, and more. At last, the flowing wells stopped flowing; and, to pay his debts, or rather, because he did n’t find it easy to contract new ones, he was glad to sell his interest in the oil lands for a round sum. Then one morning he awoke and found himself a poor man. He was next heard of as the hired doorkeeper to his own minstrel troupe. I hope he had succeeded, better than spendthrifts generally do, in making unto himself friends of the mammon of unrighteousness, and that the gold chains and the diamonds were remembered to his advantage.

At Titusville I make diligent inquiries for flowing wells, and am told that they are obsolete. Not only have the times gone by when wells poured out, unsolicited by the pump, one, two, or even three thousand barrels of oil a day, but it is now some time since the last well ceased to flow at all. It is not probable that the phenomenon will ever again occur in this region, the compression of gas in subterranean reservoirs (which was, I suppose, the cause of it) having been relieved by numberless artesian tappings. Pumping is now the order of the day ; and if a well yields thirty or forty barrels, it is held in high esteem. The largest amount I can hear of any well producing is a hundred and seventy-five barrels, the daily tribute of a single well on CherryTree Run.

Many pumping wells, which produced only a paltry hundred or two hundred barrels at the time when the great flowing wells had brought down the price of oil to ten cents a barrel, and which were then abandoned because it did not pay to run machinery for so small a quantity, have since been reopened; and the owners are only too happy to work them for a return of twenty or thirty barrels, oil being now worth four dollars at the wells, instead of ten cents.

But such wells are not often worth reopening. If abandoned while yielding oil, they seem to resent the slight, and to dry up like a neglected milch cow.

“ A friend of mine,” says a table acquaintance, “ struck oil once, and got a splendid flowing well. He plugged it, to save the oil till he could build a tank ; when he opened it again, the oil was gone, and no coaxing would bring it back again.”

Similar occurrences have been common. Water getting into a well may have the effect of driving the oil back ; and sometimes the wells of a whole neighborhood have been ruined through the negligence or malice or despair of one man. But such loss in one locality may result in gain to another, the flooding of one set of wells having been known to force up the oil in exhausted or previously unproductive wells on other ground.

Wishing to see the oil district both in its liveliest and most desolate aspects, I am advised to visit first Pleasantville, and then Pithole. Pleasantville is the scene of the latest oil excitement. Accordingly, I accept an invitation from Mr. Hall, city clerk of Titusville, who offers to drive me over there in his buggy.

It is an auspicious morning in the heavens, though fearful under the wheels, when we start. Recent rains and heavy travel have softened and churned the deep soil of the highway into a river of mud, just thick enough not to flow; and we are thankful for a plank road on one side, which serves to keep us somewhere near the surface of the country. The planks are overflowed with the mud, of course; but they are there, like a partially submerged wharf lining the shore of a stream. As we keep the plank by keeping to the right, it is the teams we meet that are forced to give way to us, and drive off into the depths.

The country back from Oil Creek (Pleasantville lies on the high land east of it) is hilly, and the soil poor. We pass, on the outskirts of Titusville, two or three puffing and creaking engines, with their slowly seesawing walkingbeams, pumping their eight or ten barrels of oil a day from wayside wells ; then a few abandoned derricks ; and then for a time all indications that we are in an oil country disappear.

I must except, however, those unmistakable signs, the going and coming teams. There is no railroad to Pleasantville, and everything — except the oil, which flows through underground pipes — has to be hauled to and from the new territory in wagons. These go over loaded, and usually return empty. Here is a steam-engine on its way, going to drill and to pump. Here goes a curious machine, called a “ crevice-searcher.” Loads of coal, of iron tubing, of drillers’ tools, of long suction-rods, of lumber, of immense staves for tanks, follow at intervals, never suffering us to forget for a minute that we are in the realm of petroleum.

Some six miles from Titusville, a city of unfinished church steeples looms up over the hills. This is Pleasantville, the quietest of all inland villes a few months ago, known chiefly to speculators and teamsters, who used to make it a stopping-place on their way to Pithole. The unfinished steeples are the derricks of hundreds of new oil-wells.

The scene, as we enter the town, is sufficiently astonishing. It looks as if there had been a recent mighty upheaval of mud, and that heterogeneous portions of two or three villages had been hurled together here on its mighty waves. The tide is level with the frontdoors of many of the houses ; and it appears flowing into some. Occasionally there is a good bit of sidewalk, terminating generally in a ditch, which in the night-time looks too much like a continuation of the planks, and which, as I afterwards learn to my sorrow, strangers are invariably predestined to step off into.

The few respectable or old houses that stood here before the flood seem to be retiring in disgust from the fleet of strange shops and dwellings that have drifted in and stranded by their sides. What a motley host are these ! You can almost see them crowding and elbowing their way. Some are of the style called “portable houses,” built for a nomadic existence; they have been brought hither in a hurry from Pithole, or some other lately populous but now desolate encampment of King Petroleum, and have, perhaps, been jointed and unjointed two or three times before. Where the latest oil is struck, there these wooden tents are pitched.

Other houses, not of the portable class, have also been torn down elsewhere, and brought hither, to be rebuilt. The Chase House, at which we put up, is a notable example. A large, first-class hotel (for the oil region), built at Pithole, and completed just as the business of that famous ephemeral city began suddenly to fail, it soon found itself a banquet-hall deserted ; its guests had fled ; and as they would not return to it, it resolved to follow them. Its dislocated frame and immense shell have been stuck together again as well as could be expected ; but everywhere windows that won’t rise, and doors that refuse to close, betoken the period of pain and travel which the great hulk has passed through.

Then there is the still more numerous class of new buildings, mostly “board houses ” and shanties. They look as if they might nearly all have been built by the boss carpenter whom I hear extolled at a street-corner : “ He beats the devil, slingin’ houses together.”

Having disposed of our horse and carpet-bag, we tuck our trousers into our boots, and prepare for a muddy tramp. The scene from the summit of the main street commands a moment’s pause and consideration. Was the like ever witnessed anywhere else in the world, out of these oil regions ? Amidst this city of unfinished steeples is scattered another city of still more numerous shanties. The lately peaceful fields and pastures of what was once Pleasantville (now anything but pleasant) are covered with them. Some are shops or dwellings. Some are roofed oil-tanks, or the enclosed lower stages of derricks. But the majority of them appear to be hut-like shelters thrown over the engines. To all which a picturesque effect is given by countless puffing clouds of steam, rising over the roofs, and amid the tall derricks, and drifting off like soft, white plumes blown by a gentle wind.

I note the signs of business activity on all sides; coopers’ shops, carpenters’ shops, tool shops, “ rigs fitted ” here, “ wells fitted ” there, trenches digging for pipes, piles of lumber, piles of iron well-casing and pump-tubing, old boilers cast aside, new boilers getting into place, engines pumping, and little black streams, supposed to be oil, dripping, drizzling, or generously spouting, from long horizontal pipes running out from the derricks over the high tops of tanks. All this on a few acres of ground. Not a fence is visible anywhere around ; everything combustible of that sort having gone into the throats of boilers long ago.

The new derricks here are much more imposing than the old ones in Oil Creek. They are nearly sixty feet high, strong, well-braced, pyramidal frames. One end of the walking-beam is in the derrick, and plays up and down over the six-inch hole called a well, drilling or pumping, as the case may be.

I don’t know how many derricks can be counted from the high ground about Pleasantville. But my friends of the Titusville Herald (whose careful monthly petroleum report is quoted in New York and London) have slipped into my note-book a statement which credits the oil region with four hundred and thirty-five new wells now drilling, two hundred and thirteen of which —nearly half the entire number — are in the Pleasantville district. This district extends over two or three square miles, but its bustling nucleus is here. These two hundred and thirteen do not include the finished wells, which are a much smaller number, however, the territorybeing new.

To complete the picture, one must fancy the army of drillers, pumpers, engineers, contractors, landowners, and speculators. Prominent among these you will be sure to see the antique type of his class, — the tall, thin, sharpfeatured, long-bearded, shabby, elderly gentleman, in bad hat and boots mudded to the tops, who lies in wait for strangers, — the Ancient Mariner of the oil regions, who holds you with his glittering eye, while he tells you of fine oil territory for sale or to lease.

Still another characteristic feature of the place is the pale, flapping flag of flame unfurled from the perforated ends of a gas-pipe stuck up high in the air. This is the flambeau of gas, which lights up the scene at night, and which (so prodigal is nature’s supply, without metre and without tax) is often left burning, with pallid, ghastly glare by day. Then there is at all times the strong, pervading smell of petroleum.

Such is Pleasantville, quietest of villages a few months ago, and now the liveliest oil-pumping, hole-drilling place in the State, — that is to say, in the world. Whence the change ? Early in the days of speculation in oil lands, much of the country about here was bought up and held at high prices, until experience seemed to have demonstrated that accessible oil veins were confined to the low lands and the banks of streams. Pleasantville is high and hilly. So the farms thus secured soon slipped out of the hands of speculators, and fell back to their old prices. And there they remained, until a man named Abraham James, a spiritualist and a medium, passed this way. Here is what he says happened to him, as he was for the first time (October, 1866) riding through Pleasantville with some friends : —

“ I was violently influenced and controlled by a power outside myself. Forced from the buggy, over the fence, and becoming entirely unconscious, I was moved some distance across the field, and made to stop upon a certain location, where my controlling influences said to those present, pointing towards the earth, ‘ Here is an immense amount of petroleum !' ”

This assertion seems to have been corroborated by abundant dreams and visions; and in August, 1867, amidst the scoffs of unbelievers, work was commenced by the faithful on the spot indicated. In December a depth of seven hundred feet had been reached, and the third sand rock passed through. Still no oil. The faithful began to falter; and stock in the “ Harmonial Well ” — for so it had been named, in honor of the spiritual philosophy — became a laughing-stock throughout the oil region.

Still James and a small band of believers kept the drills going ; and people who reviled their creed began to admire their pluck. This certainly was real, whatever might be said of their powers of prophecy. In January the tools had gone down a hundred feet farther, and still there was “ no show.” When compared with Drake’s well, which struck oil at sixty-nine and a half feet, this eight-hundred-foot well of the Harmonials was certainly, as an enterprise, deserving of respect. When compared with the deepest wells that had yet found oil (beginning at Drake’s depth, they had finally got down to six hundred feet, on Pithole Creek), it looked to secular eyes like that most abhorred and derided thing, a “ dry hole.”

It was not “ Crazy Drake” now, who was the subject of derisive comment: it was “Crazy James.” People laughed louder than ever when he proceeded to build tanks for his oil, — a folly of which no sane man, in testing new territory, had ever yet been guilty. But James was so sure of his bird that he determined to have the cage ready. And, whether the man had really been guided by magnetic or clairvoyant or spiritual powers, or whether he had simply made a fortunate hit in a forlorn enterprise, it was not long before the cage came in use.

On the last day of January, the tools were well down in the fourth sand rock, at a depth of eight hundred and thirtyfive feet; and on the morning of the 1st of February, the little world of Pleasantville was astounded by the news that oil had been struck. The pumping apparatus was adjusted, and the amazed citizens saw a stream of black oil spout into the tanks. Everybody was in high glee; not the Harmonials alone, who were of course rejoiced at an event which seemed to justify their large outlay of faith and money, but the grim farmers of the neighborhood, who, though they did not believe in spiritual gifts, did believe most firmly in a flow of oil, rubbed their rough hands with satisfaction, well aware how this lucky chance, as they called it, would affect the value of their lands.

This happened only nine months ago, and now witness the result. James’s “ Harmonial Well, No. 1,” made known to all comers by the conspicuous sign nailed aloft on the derrick (all the wells are named and labelled in this way), is surrounded by a community of derricks thick as trees on a Southern “ deadning.”

I hardly know what effect this practical argument of the spiritualists may have had on the minds of unbelievers. I talk with some of these, who smile at it, saying that, although James’s enterprise succeeded, many similar attempts to find oil or treasure through spirit agencies have failed, and that consequently nothing is proved. Still I perceive that they speak of James with respect “There is one good thing, success.” Everybody appreciates that.

James has located many wells since, both for himself and others; all of which, that have gone deep enough, have found oil. It was this same Abraham James, by the way, who located the artesian wells at Chicago, one of which yields a large supply of pure water, and the other of which produced, in response to earnest pumping, a small quantity of petroleum.

I find a number of spiritualists, of the practical sort, at Pleasantville, and a still larger class of persons who do not believe in spiritual agencies, but who yet have faith in the location of wells through the indications of the hazel switch in sensitive hands. A goodly proportion of the wells now drilling are going down on spots where mediums have stuck their sticks or the hazel rod has turned.

Let us look at some of the wells. Here is one that is just starting. An iron tube, about six inches in diameter, is driven to the rock by a pile-driver. “ What do you do if you strike a boulder before you get to the rock ? ” I ask the workmen. “ Drill through it, ream it out, then drive again.” But this is a rare event compared with what occurs in some localities, where the driven tube takes on boulders like a string of beads. After the tube reaches the rock, its earthy contents are removed by means of water and a sandpump, and the drilling begins.

Close by, carpenters are building a derrick. Two rods farther on there is a derrick in operation. The lower stage is enclosed with rough boards, as a protection against the weather. We step in through a rude door, and are immediately greeted by a shower of muddy water. We are at the same time made aware of something whirling with furious rapidity and no small clatter on the opposite side of the derrick. This we discover to be a windlass. A drenched rope, hundreds of feet in length and very strong, uncoiling from it, passes over a pulley in the top of the derrick, and drops perpendicularly through a hole in the centre of a strong plank platform, on which we stand. This hole is the entrance to the well. Attached to the lower end of the rope arc the driller’s tools, which, having been drawn out for some purpose, are being let down into the well again. Descending by their own tremendous weight, they unwind the wet rope, which whirls the windlass, and envelopes itself and us in the before-mentioned profuse centrifugal shower.

At a depth of seven hundred feet, the tools approach the bottom, and their speed is checked by a brake applied to the windlass. They strike, and the windlass is stopped. The rope is then attached to a powerful walking-beam, by an apparatus which hangs from the latter directly over the hole in the floor. A bell is jingled ; the engine in an adjacent shanty is set in motion ; the great beam rises and falls ; the rope plays up and down through the hole in the platform, like a bell-rope through a belfry floor ; the tools are lifted and let fall with every stroke ; and this is the process of drilling.

The driller (there is but one in the derrick) thrusts a stick for a lever through a knot in the rope, and begins to walk round with it, first in one direction, and then in the other. With every stroke of the walking-beam, he gives the rope a little turn. This is necessary in order to prevent the centre-bit, or drill, from working all the while in one spot, and to force it to make a round hole. Then, every few minutes, he turns a screw in the apparatus which clasps the rope, and which lowers it by degrees, as the drill works its way down into the rock.

Holding an ear over the hole, we hear a rushing of water. It is a stream from veins fifty feet below us, falling into the well. “ We can't drill without water,” says the man. “ Before we strike a vein, we have to put water into the bore. It softens the rock, and helps the drill, and takes up the sediment so it can be pumped out.”

Noticing an intelligent face under the rough and mud-bespattered felt hat, we ask if he has worked long at the busines.

“ Longer than I ever shall again,” he answers with a grin. “ I was one of the first fellows on Oil Creek.”

“ Well, you have made some improvements in boring since then,” we observe.

“That’s so,” he responds, with emphasis. “ We used to kick wells down there. We had no steam-engines, you know,” he goes on to explain. “ We set a spring-pole, which took the place of a walking-beam. The rope and tools were fastened to it, and it lifted them, when we let up on it. The rope was furnished with a sort of double stirrup, which two of us put our feet into. Then, when the tools were up, we came down on the stirrup, and that bent the pole, and let ’em drop again. We called that kicking a well down. All the first wells were sunk in that way, except a few that were put down by horse-power. Now the walking-beam does it all.”

We suggest that one who has been so long in the business must have seen a few fortunes change hands.

“ I 'Ve seen one too many,” he says, significantly.

“ How so ? ”

“Why, when a man sees a fortune go out of his own hands into the next man’s, there ain’t much fun in it. I made a pile of money; and three years ago I was worth sixty thousand dollars. But I did n’t know enough to keep it. I went on speculating, when I ought to have stopped. It’s just like gambling; if a man wins, he wants to win more; and if he loses, he wants to win back what he has lost. So I speculated till I speculated my pockets out, then I went to work again.”

As the voung man seems confident that he is now going to make one more fortune, which he will know how to keep, we wish him success with wisdom, and pass on to the next derrick.

Here we witness the reverse of the process first seen. The windlass turned by the engine winds up the rope which draws up the tools. At last these appear, — an apparatus of astonishing length and strength and weight, twelve or fourteen hundred pounds, the driller tells us. First comes the “sinker-bar,” which does here on a grand scale what the sinker on a fishing-line does on a small scale. This is followed by the “jars,” — a pair of long, narrow links that play into each other, and prevent a too sudden strain on the rope. Then comes the great auger stem, into which the centre-bit is screwed. This is the drill,—an enormous tooth of steel, which at each stroke of the walking-beam gnaws and gnaws the rock.

The centre-bit is now unscrewed from the auger stem, and a “'reamer” screwed on. This is sent down to ream out the sides of the bore, which the drill has not left perfectly circular and smooth. In a few minutes its work is done, and it is drawn up again.

The rope is then detached from the tools and fastened to the sliding valve of a sand-pump. This is simply a copper tube, about five feet long, with a stationary valve in the lower end, besides the sliding valve that plays from top to bottom. This instrument the driller —a very good-looking, bright young fellow, in the usual muddy clothes — drops through the hole in the floor, and lowers to the bottom of the well. “The upper valve,” he says, “falls down on the fixed valve ; and then, as I begin to draw, it slides up to the top of the pump, sucking it up full of water and sediment, which the lower valve holds.”

He applies the engine-power to the windlass, and up comes — at the end of a few hundred feet of rope — the pump, well filled with a grayish fluid, which he empties into a bucket. Out of the bottom of the pump he knocks a thick, gray mud. The pump is then returned to the well. This operation is repeated a number of times, until scarcely any sediment comes up, as is shown by the bottom of the bucket, from which the water of each drawing, after being allowed to stand a little while, is poured off It is dirty work, and hard work too.

“ I’ve seen the time,” remarks the young man, emptying the sand-pump for the last time, “when I would n't do this.” And, with a little encouragement, he tells his story. He belongs to a wellknown family of Philadelphia, and was bred up in white-handed idleness. Inheriting a small fortune, he thought to make it a large one by investing it in oil stocks. He came out here, bought lands and shares, and sunk wells, and met with such success that in six months he could have sold out his investments for two hundred thousand dollars. “ But,” says he, “ I held on loo long. The bubble burst, and at the end of another six months I was n’t worth a cent. Then I went to work with my hands, and I 've been at work with my hands ever since. I guess some of my old chums would laugh to see me doing this ! ” And he himself laughs lugubriously, as he sends down the drill again.

But he thinks the experience has done him good, and is worth about all it has cost him.

“ Are you putting down this well for yourself? ”

“No, I’m at work by the day. But I have an eighth interest in another well.” It is plain to see that he has golden hopes of that eighth interest. He, like the other man, believes that, when a second fortune comes to him, he will know better how to keep it.

“How long does it take to sink a well here ? ”

“About thirty or forty days, according to luck.” And he tells us something of the driller’s troubles. “ Sometimes the centre-bit drops into a crevice, which prevents it from turning. Then maybe the reamer gets caught in it, and breaks or unscrews. Or perhaps a piece of rock falls down on the tools, and wedges them in so tight they can’t be got out. But the mud vein is the greatest nuisance. The tools are very apt to get stuck in that. Then they have to be cut out by this contrivance,”— showing a long-handled iron instrument, called a “ mud-spear,” with a long, narrow blade, in shape something between a chisel and a spoon. “ There are companies that make a business of fishing out broken or lost tools. But often,” he says, “ they can’t be got out at all, and the wells they are in have to be abandoned, perhaps when a few days’ more drilling would reach oil.”

“ What is the cost of sinking a well like this ? ”

“ Rig and all, — that includes engine, derrick, tools, and everything, — about six thousand dollars. We go deeper here than we ever did anywhere else. If it had been necessary to sink the first wells on Oil Creek seven or eight hundred feet, they never would have struck oil. Drake never could have got down even one hundred feet, in the way he went to work, and with the poor encouragement he had. We have been working down to this depth by degrees. Wells that did n’t find oil in the first sand rock kept on, and found it in the second, then down still lower in the third ; and it was thought for a long time there was no oil below that. But oil was found in the fourth sand rock at Pithole, and then again here.

“This Pleasantville oil,” the young man continues, “ is of a different color from what has generally been found in other places. This is almost black, as you notice, while the other kind is dark green.”

He asks us to look at the engine; and entering the little shanty that shelters it, we are shown at least one noteworthy thing.

“ See the fuel we use for the boiler,” says the engineer, throwing open the iron door. No fuel is visible, but the space is filled with a volume of bright flame. “That is gas,” he says. “We take it from another well, that supplies its own engine and ours, and nine more. We pay three dollars a day for it ; and it is the cheapest fuel we can get. The well gives out a steady supply, and makes a good income from its gas alone.”

The next well we visit is pumping. We climb a short ladder, and look over the side of the tank, but see no oil flowing from the pipe. “ She intermits,” says her proprietor, standing below, cigar in mouth and hands in pockets. “ It’s a way she has. She ’ll pump an hour or two right smart, then she’ll intermit twenty minutes. It’s about time for her to start up again,” — looking at his watch. We are interested in the phenomenon, but do not stay to study it.

A group gathered near another well close by indicates an event of some interest, and we proceed thither. “ Testin’ her,” is the explanation we get from one of the spectators ; which, being translated, signifies that, the well having been bored to a sufficient depth, a pump has been set at work, in order to exhaust the water, and get oil if possible. It is an anxious moment for the proprietors. Though all the wells around them may have struck veins, there is no certainty that they will have struck one here. The oil floweth where it listeth ; and many an enterprising man, after expending thousands of dollars in boring within a few feet of the most valuable producing-wells, has got nothing but a “dead beat.”

These men, however, are confident. The fourth sand rock here is so full of fissures, and Yankee ingenuity has devised such cunning methods of opening them, that absolute failures are rare. Still there is much solicitude depicted in the faces gathered around the overflowing bucket, at the end of the pipe. One man puts down his solemn nose and smells. Another dips his finger and tastes. A third thinks he perceives a slight filmy scum. The scene has something quite romantic about it. The longing of Moore’s lovers for a little isle of their own, in a blue summer ocean, far off and alone, was not greater than the longing of these men for a little “ile ” in the bucket.

“ What if you get no show, after pumping all day?” I inquire, tasting the water, which I find salt.

“ Then we send for the crevice-searcher. That’s a new invention, and very useful. It feels its way towards the bottom of the well, and when it finds a crevice, a little spring moves, and shows just where it is. Then we send down a torpedo, and explode it in the crevice. If we can knock a hole into a vein or reservoir, that ’s all we want. But sometimes,” adds the speaker, “the torpedo does harm ; if it is used where there is a small flow of oil, in order to get a larger flow, it may choke up the passage altogether, by filling it with rubbish.”

We go on to a well which a number of men are “casing,” where we learn something of that interesting operation. It is to keep the water out,” says the boss of the job. “ There are no waterveins below the first sand rock ; a little salt water trickles in, which we can’t help. So we case down to the first sand rock with these iron tubes. They have a three-and-a-half-inch bore. The well, as far down as we case, is five and a half inches ; below that, five and a quarter ; the point where the change is made, we call an offset. Around the lower end of the tube is a seed-bag, which is simply a leather covering, shaped something like a long boot-leg, with a lining. Between the lining and the outside it is stuffed with flax-seed. It is drawn on over the end of the tube ; and it goes down and rests on the offset. There is no casing below. The flax-seed swells when it is wet, and keeps the water above from getting through. Sometimes the seed-bag bursts, and makes a great deal of trouble,— perhaps ruins the well by deluging it with water,”

The workmen are screwing on section atter section of the casing, as this is let down into the well, until at last the seed-bag is in its place, three hundred and ninety-seven feet from the orifice.

“ So,” we observe, “in fitting a well, three different styles of iron tubes are required:—first, the pipe you drive through the soil to the rock ; then the casing, which extends below that to the first sand rock ; then the pumptube : that is a separate thing, altogether, is n’t it ? ”

“ Entirely. It extends from the pumpbox, at the bottom of the well, to the top, and it has a two-inch bore. It is divided into sections, like the casing, which are screwed together as they are let down. Then, inside the pump-tube, are the sucker-rods. So you see there is a good deal of toggery about one of these little wells.”

At another well, we witness the operation of drawing the sucker-rods ; “ So as to put in new valves,” one of the workmen explains. “ Water getting in has thickened the oil, so that they stick and don’t work, or else the sand has cut ’em to pieces ; anyhow, she ha’n’t produced for two days, and we are going to see what the matter is.”

The rods, which are of oak, slender and black and nasty with the saturating oil, are drawn up by rope and windlass, section after section, twenty-five feet in length, and are disjointed, and stood up in a corner of the derrick, to wait there until the pump-valves have been doctored.

Another well is pumping a steady black stream at the rate of forty or fifty barrels a day, the proprietor tells us. He invites us to walk into his derrick, and explains how the gas that runs his engine is separated from the oil. “ Gas used to have a trick of blowing the oil out with it; that made flowing wells. Now we pump the oil, and the gas rushes up between the pump-tube and the casing ; it is confined by a cap, and carried off where it is wanted in pipes.”

We notice that he has two pumps going within four feet of each other, both worked by the same walking-beam. One, he tells me, is the pump that supplies his engine with fresh water, from an artesian bore fifty feet deep. “ I furnish other wells with both water and gas,” he says.

As we wander about, our curiosity is excited by a new sign on a new derrick, “CHILDREN’S WELL.” We are fortunate enough to meet one of the “ children,” — a lad with a pipe in bis mouth, who talks freely of the family history. Four years ago his father, a poor man, came here to live on a poor farm, which was then mostly covered with wood. This he cut away and sold. He paid a dollar a cord for chopping, and sixty cents toll to the plank railroad company, and got two dollars for his wood in Titusville. This gave him forty cents a cord for hauling it. There was a prospect of his remaining a poor man all his days, at this rate. But nine months ago oil was struck in his neighborhood ; and now his income, from his own wells and his leases, is fifteen hundred dollars a day. There are eleven wells on his land. This one he named for his children, and they have the income from it, We are sorry to learn that he has fallen into habits of self-indulgence, since his good-fortune came to him, — if it can be called goodfortune. Surely, wealth has its perils ; and as the lad with the pipe shakes hands with us at parting, I hardly know whether he is most to be congratulated or commiserated for the luck of his family. “Children’s Well”—ah, if one could only hope that it would prove a source of culture and beneficence to them, and not of worse things !

The oil tanks of the wells are immense, iron-hooped, circular tubs, communicating through pipes with the still more capacious tanks of the pipe company. Two of these, which we visit, are of astonishing size. The capacity of each is twenty thousand barrels. They are sheltered by a shed roof. I climb a ladder, and look over into a still, black, shining lake of petroleum, which mirrors with calm, diabolical intensity the shed roof and my own peering face. The tank is about half full. Considered as a thing to fall into, it has n’t an inviting look. Across its edge lies a long measuring-rod, with which the oil is gauged before and after the contents of the well-tanks are taken in.

Such is Pleasantville to-day. What will it be six months hence ? The letters of correspondents, paid for puffing the territory in the newspapers, are bringing adventurers here in greater numbers than the actual condition of things will justify. I wish they might all be induced to study a little the Titusville Herald’s monthly petroleum reports, before making their investments. From these reports we learn that this district (including the wells on West Pithole Creek) produced, in the last two days of August last, an average amount of eleven hundred and fifty barrels a day ; on the last two days of September, an average of seventeen hundred and thirty barrels ; on the last two days of October, an average of nineteen hundred and sixty barrels. The increase of production during the month of September is thus shown to have been nearly six hundred barrels a day, while the increase in October was only a little over two hundred, — so decided a falling off, when compared with the steady and astonishing increase in the number of wells, that I doubt if the next two or three months’ reports indicate any increase at all in the gross amount of production. The more wells, the less oil is left for each. A little while ago hundred-barrel wells were not uncommon ; but to-day the best are not producing more than forty or fifty barrels, while perhaps twenty-five barrels a day is the average. So we see that the territory gives signs of exhaustion, even while new-comers are rushing in to occupy it.

After dark, I go out to view the wells by gas-light. The misty sky is all aglow with the glare of the great gas flames, which cast the strange scenes about me into wonderful light and shade. Brilliant gas-light shines through the boarded sides of derricks and engineshanties, and among these I go about, stepping high over shadows and stumbling over real obstacles, in my ignorance of the ground. J enter a derrick, and find a gloomy youth, wrapped in a brown cloak with a big cape, perched on a high stool, beside the walkingbeam, turning the drill-rope. The place is lighted and partially warmed by a rushing jet of gas ; but the driller looks cold and lonesome. He brightens up at sight of a stranger, and becomes sociable. I find that he, like nearly all these men, has been a good while in the business. He talks freely of his experience during what he calls the great excitement. “ It was just a dishonest game all through,” says he. “Preachers were in it the same as everybody else; one could n’t say anything to another. We bought territory when we knew it was n’t good for anything. If we could only sell leases, we didn’t care. The lessees did n’t care, neither, if they could only get up companies and sell the stock. It was the stock-buyers that got bit.” This young man, too, has made much money and lost it, — a common experience, 1 find.

He is doing tolerably well now, he says. “I sink wells for a living. There are four of us in the company. We all work at it, two at a time, — twelve hours on and twelve hours off, night and day, —one in the engine-room and one here. We get well paid, and it is better in the long run than speculating.”

He corroborates what I hear on every side, that the day of extravagant speculation is over ; that the thing has settled down into something like a regular business ; and that they who really make anything by it are the men who stick to it as to any other business, stay in the country, and watch the course of development.

“ A man,” he says, “ can get a lease of the best land here for a royalty of half the oil. That is different from what it used to be in Pithole, where I 've known half-acre leases to sell for sixteen thousand dollars, and half the oil besides.”

I step into the engine-shanty, where his companion for the first six hours of the night sits reading a newspaper under a bright gas-light. He is glad to offer a chair to a stranger, and have a chat with him. He knew nothing about an engine till he came to the oil regions five years ago; he did n’t know much of anything, in fact. Now he can run an engine, and keep it in repair. He has a little forge in a corner of the shanty, at which he does any common blacksmith’s work which the business requires.

As he opens the door for me going out, and we see the misty sky lighted up all around us with the gas flames, he tells of fires he has witnessed among the oil-wells, the last of which was here, not long ago.

“ The way it happened was curious. A tank had been leaking; and the oil floated off on the surface of a little run. A man living some distance below made a dam, to get the oil, which he soaked up in cloths laid on the water. But one night he goes out with a candle, and drops it while he is taking up the cloths. In an instant the oil on the water bursts into a blaze, runs up the stream, and fires the tank, which comes pretty near burning us all up.” I find but few foreigners at the wells. Proprietors and laborers are nearly all Americans ; and Pennsylvania, New York, and Ohio seem to be the States most largely represented.

Returning towards the hotel at a late hour, I look in at a bar-room. A rough crew crowds it almost to suffocation, indulging in much loud talk, tobacco, and whiskey. The proprietor and his aids calmly set out the decanters, and calmly sweep back dirty scrip and greenbacks into a drawer. This man too has struck oik

November 7. — Turn my face towards Pithole and a pelting hail-storm.

After two hours’ ride in an open stage-wagon, over a plank road, through a rough new country, I come in sight of Pithole,—a forlorn and shattered village high up on the west bank of Pithole Creek. Woods and bleak farms and stump-lots encompass its rear. Its front looks down on a narrow, ravinelike valley, bristling with abandoned derricks. Through the valley flows Pithole Creek, euphoniously named from gas-emitting caves on its banks. Down there too is the railroad with its long trains of oil-cars. A plank walk descends to it from the village, winding amid uncouth stumps and brush-heaps.

The derricks rise thickly along the creek-bottom and on the steep hill-side beyond, once a scene of activity and excitement, which seems almost a fable to the traveller visiting the spot for the first time to-day. Only around the railroad-station is any sign of life visible, excepting here and there a solitary puff of steam, which shows that still, at the solicitation of the pump, a little oil comes from the drainage of nature’s great but exhausted reservoir.

Seeing a well pumping at my right, as I go down the plank walk, I turn aside to it. A boy is stuffing wood under the engine’s boiler. He shows me the tank, which is merely a huge hogshead, into which a very large quantity of salt water and a very small quantity of oil are pumped in the course of a day. The salt water is let out by a plug near the bottom of the hogshead, while the oil is drawn off through a pipe higher up. In this way five or six barrels of oil a day are obtained.

The railroad and the large receivingtanks, built here when Pithole was in its glory, still keep a little life in the place, — Pleasantville pouring a part of its oil this way through underground pipes, and other places contributing small supplies. And now the great tanks on the hill-side, with their propsupported pipes leading to a long row of spouts ranged above the railroad track, from which twenty car-tanks can be filled at the same time ; and the loading cars themselves, each a platform on wheels, carrying a pair of round, black, greasy, leaky hundred-barrel tanks, — are about all that is left of Pithole worth seeing.

At the spouts I fall in with a big, greasy fellow, who talks with melancholy pride of the good old times when Pithole was in its prime, and he was a teamster here, making his twenty-five or even fifty dollars a day, hauling oil to the river and “bringing back lumber with the empties. I wouldn’t turn my team round for less than ten dollars,” says he. And when I ask what became of his earnings, I find that his lot has been the common lot of all: “ I bought territory, and held on too long.” Railroads and pipes abolished teaming, and he now earns a modest livelihood turning the stopcocks at the spouts.

From Pithole I go on by railroad to Oleopolis, — mellifluous classic name given to a little cluster of cheap board houses on a wind-swept hill-side overlooking the Alleghany. If here I see anything memorable, it is a flat-boat by the shore, imbibing its bellyful of oil from over-reaching pipes, that draw it from Pithole. Thence down the bluffembosomed river — sentinelled on both sides by lonely derricks, and showing here and there, along its low shores, shining blocks and natural platforms of white sandstone — we go to Oil City, romantically perched on a high bluff at the confluence of Oil Creek and the Alleghany, and confronted by superb mountainous bluffs opposite. Thence to smoky, clanging, picturesque Pittsburg, — of which I shall not venture to speak, after Mr. Parton. And so on homewards, through regions of soft coal, lumber, and anthracite, embarking at Scranton on the Lackawanna, for New York at last, after three weeks’ delightful Carpet-Bagging, with the conclusion strongly impressed upon my mind, that PENNSYLVANIA is A GREAT STATE.