28 February

Twenty-one crude stills at Petrolia refinery, 1893

Oil Deposits Found at Enniskillen (Petrolia)

In recent years oil development in Alberta and Saskatchewan has stolen the limelight from Canada's original "oil capital," Petrolia, Ontario. The first oil well bought into production on the whole North American continent was at Oil Springs, a few miles south of Petrolia, in 185'7. The United States disputes this, and claims that the first oil well was drilled at Titusville, Pennsylvania, in 1859. Both claims are correct. The oil well at Oil Springs, two years before the Pennsylvania discovery, was "dug." The oil well at Titusville was "drilled."

The pioneer of oil in Canada was Charles N. Tripp of Woodstock, Ontario. He contrived a method of making asphalt from what he called "gum beds" in the Oil Springs area. He sold his holdings to James Miller Williams of Hamilton, Ontario, who although only thirty-nine years of age, had already made a fortune building carriages and railway cars.

Tripp used to boil the "gum" from which he made ashpalt. Williams found that by digging he could obtain oil in liquid form and began operations in 1857 on the banks of the Thames River at Bothwell, Kent County.

When he got down to 27 feet, he found oil mixed with water. Operations were then shifted to Enniskillen where better oil was found at 65 feet. The first wells produced from five to one hundred barrels a day. This began the oil boom of the late 1850's. Hugh Nixon Shaw found the gusher at Enniskillen on February 28, 1860. The name of the community was changed to Petrolia, which it is still called today. By 1895 production reached 800,000 barrels a year. There were fifteen refineries operating and the oil was taken to markets in carts drawn by teams of oxen.

In the 1880's, Imperial Oil was organized, and it built the largest refinery in Canada. Canadian Oil Companies then followed and built a pipeline to Froomfield on the St. Clair River where the oil flowed directly into ships.


28 February

-1820    Mississauga Indians surrendered 2,000 acres, now part of Peel County, Ontario, to the Government.

-1825    A treaty between Britain and Russia defined the Alaska boundary.

-1952    Vincent Massey became Governor General of Canada; he was the first native-born Canadian to hold the position.