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Oil Heritage in Titusville, Pennsylvania


While most people think of Texas when you mention oil, the modern oil industry actually traces its roots to Titusville, Pennsylvania, north of Pittsburgh. It was 1859 when Col. Edwin L. Drake successfully drilled the first oil well there.

Why did Drake choose quiet farm country in northwestern Pennsylvania as the site for his first drilling venture? Believe it or not, the region was already well known for its active oil seeps. Native Americans had been soaking oil from water with linen cloth and using it as a source for lamp fuel for hundreds of years. European settlers often found the oil by accident when drilling wells for drinking water.

Almost overnight, the quiet farming region boomed in much the same manner as the gold rush towns of the Wild West. Dozens of wells were drilled and towns sprang up around them literally overnight. Early during the boom, Titusville pumped out 25 barrels a day, a small number compared to the millions of barrels produced today. Within the first year, some wells were producing as many as 3,000 barrels per day. Because of the project known as "Drake's Folly," Pennsylvania was actually responsible for almost half of the world's oil production until the 1901 oil boom in Texas.

Oil Attractions

Located in Titusville, the Drake Well Museum and Park, with its full-size replica of Edwin Drake's first successful oil well, tells a vivid story of Pennsylvania’s oil boomtown.

All aboard! The Oil Creek & Titusville Railroad runs passengers along scenic Oil Creek, while guides tell the tale of the oil boom which once swept the valley. The railroad features the only US Postal Service rail car still operating in the country.

Adjoining the Drake Well Museum and Titusville, the clean trout streams and forested hillsides of Oil Creek State Park present a stark contrast tot he petroleum industry's oil boom towns and wells. Multiple sites within the park help tell the story of the region's oil history. For a break from the past, you can enjoy the beautiful northwestern Pennsylvania countryside while picnicking, hiking, biking, canoeing or fishing.

How to Get There

Titusville is located along Route 8, about midway between Interstate 80 and Route 6, and can also be accessed off Interstate 79. Most attractions in the area are within a few miles of these highways.

Along the Way

David Mead arrived in the area in 1788. His log cabin on the banks of French Creek marked the first permanent settlement in all of Northwestern Pennsylvania. Today, you can tour a replica of the Mead cabin. Decidedly more opulent, but equally historic is the Baldwin-Reynolds House Museum. The stately four-story mansion was home to a US Supreme Court Justice and two former mayors of MeadvilleThe Meadville Market House is the oldest continuously operating market house in the state.

Oil City
Titusuville’s neighboring community, this oil town’s primitive settlers were finding and collecting oil about the time Columbus discovered America. Now the Victorian homes and antique shops represent the memories of the era, and unique museums offer something for everyone. Most unique is the Tyred Wheels Museum, which features more than 5,000 die-cast cars, old toys and bikes and a collection of cars. Oil City is also home to the Venango Museum of Art, Science and Industry.

Called the Victorian City, Franklin is a picturesque small town with many elegant homes. Every major architectural style used in western Pennsylvania from 1830 to 1930 can be found in the Franklin Historic District, from Federal Hill to the stately homes in Miller Park. Also in Franklin, the beautifully renovated Barrow-Civic Theatre was originally built as a vaudeville house in 1913. DeBence Antique Music World, known for its unique collection of over 100 old-fashioned automated music machines, was recognized as one of the Top Ten Travel Destinations in Pennsylvania.

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