The Oil Strike on Music Mountain - August 24, 1937
No one expected it. Not the Niagara Oil Company, which drilled it; not the Pennsylvania Bureau of Mines, which did not believe oil of that quality existed in that location; and certainly not the oil field workers who thought they were drilling a routine exploratory well. But like the oil strikes of the early days in the Bradford oil field, Music Mountain proved to be a gusher – the first such free flowing oil well drilled in this area in nearly 40 years. And more importantly, perhaps, it was one of the few oil discoveries developed with regard to measured production and conservation.
Music Mountain was well known to the oil producing community. Located on the Sliverville Lease, three miles south of Lewis Run near Kennedy Springs Park, it had been drilled before, but had produced typical oil wells – steady, but not spectacular. All that changed on August 24, 1937 when drilling contractor E.A. Williams & Son struck oil. The Music Mountain well gushed with such force that it was not capped until the next day, and immediately every available employee rushed to the new field to build a pipeline, storage tanks, and improve roads.
Gushing forth at tremendous pressure at the rate of 44 barrels per hour, it must have seemed like the old days of oil excitement in Bradford. The strike was made at 1,629 feet, at the bottom of the second sand; starting with a flow of between 25 and 30 barrels at 20 minute intervals the gusher gradually increased its output until 6:45 p.m., when workmen were finally successful in removing the drilling tools from the holes by means of a crane, operated manually. Danger of fire from a spark igniting the natural gas flow which accompanied the oil precluded the use of an engine to draw out the tools.
The heaviest flow occurred at 10 p.m., when a stream of oil, estimated at about 50 barrels, poured forth in a six-minute period. A rush of gas, which caused the group of men about the well to seek safety a distance of 200 feet away, accompanied it.
The Bradford Era wrote of the scene: “With the oil flowing within bounds after approximately 1000 barrels of the precious liquid had been lost in the first 16 hours of flow after noon Tuesday when the well came in, the air was still blue with natural gas. The gas, which furnishes pressure by accumulating over half-hour periods to send up the periodic spurts (or flows) of oil that last seven or eight minutes, escapes in profusion. No effort has been made to capture the gas. Two 100-barrel metal tanks, snaked up the steep wooded hill to the well Tuesday evening by contractors, were being used temporarily last night, each flow providing enough to fill half of one of the containers. Plans were hastily forwarded by the Niagara firm, a subsidiary of the Forest Oil Corporation, to lay a pipe 3,000 feet through the wood to the National Transit lines near the old narrow railroad gauge…Definite drilling plans could not be learned last night, although it is understood from accurate authority that a rig will soon be set up about 1000 feet south of the flowing well.”
The Sliverville sand, the producing formation in the Music Mountain field, is defined as“shoestring” sand, meaning that it is long and narrow. The field is only 800 feet to 2000 feet wide at its widest point, but nearly 4 miles long, stretching northeast to southwest. It lies beneath the Bradford second sand, and about 250 feet above the Bradford third sand, but is unlike either of those two sands in composition, being white, coarse-grained sand. The area around Music Mountain had been drilled during the early 1900s, but was relatively unproductive, and previous drilling had missed the narrow Sliverville area.
Other well producers watched with envy as the Niagara Oil Company struck oil in this seemingly barren sand, and other oil companies, such as the Minard Run Oil Company, and Healey Petroleum, soon made plans to drill on their adjacent leases. They, too, were successful.
Just as important, though, was the manner in which the new oil wells were managed. The oil operators controlled the production of the wells, only allowing their wells to flow at a conservative rate. Watching the price of barrels of oil, they managed to regulate the price of their crude oil, and did not swamp the market with excess oil production, thus controlling the market price.
More importantly, they used far sighted conservation measures, marketing very little of their natural gas; building their own gas recycling plants to maintain the field’s reserve pressure as long as possible.
By the end of 1940, 292 wells had been drilled, hoping to hit the Sliverville sand. Of these, 220 were productive, 14 produced gas, and 68 missed the mark. Niagara Oil and Minard Run Oil were the most successful, each with several of the largest flowing wells ever drilled in the area.
Music Mountain had made her claim in history. And as her name suggests, the sweetest music ever heard on those hills was the unexpected sound of oil, rushing from the earth.
Reproduced to the right are two of the few pictures taken Monday when the Niagara Oil Company struck a gusher on its Sliverville lease, nine miles south of this site near Lewis Run. The rich Bradford Grade Crude is shown flying high over the top of the 64-foot drilling mast as it roared out of the well shortly before the tools were removed from the hole. Oil men stated it was the first gusher in this field in almost 40 years – The Bradford Era, Thursday, August 26, 1937