GHOSTS OF PAST BOOMS
HAND IN HAND with all pioneer development there stalks Old Romance.
For all that read as they run there are many human life stories to be gleaned in the wake of every boom; gripping stories of super-human achievement, glorious triumph over tremendous difficulties, and, none the less interesting, stories of splendid failures.
There have been booms that loomed up suddenly to collapse almost as quickly, booms that have endured through many years, and booms, which, like wandering stars, have risen on the horizon of activities, gone strong for a period and then faded out only to return again in another given number of years.
In a country so vast as this great Dominion, which has been aptly called the “land of continual surprise,” most so-called booms are but a seven-days’ wonder. They have their little day, produce or fail to produce as their actual merits happen to be. When a boom collapsifes the human exodus is rapid. The strivers for sudden and easy riches move on to new fields of adventure and the last boom, like its predecessors, is gathered to the nebulae of forgotten things.
After the pioneers have set their faces in the wake of a new gleam, the ghost of their past endeavors remains long on their former haunt. Time finally crumbles the buildings, the suckers grow up to be trees that obliterate the trails once proudly designated as “roads” and “streets” and the forest gathers as another of her hidden things, the little plot in a remote corner where scattered wooden crosses once told their own story of the operations of the Grim Prospector.
Travelers to the out-of-the-way corners of Canada may stumble upon the site of a one-time boom quite unexpectedly. It may be only a few odd rotting relics of oil-derricks along some picturesque beach in Gaspé, a collection of shacks on a lonely island of Lake Superior’s wild North Shore, sighing under an off-shore breeze in windowdess and broken-roofed old age, an abandoned “townsite” with street walks and foundations for buildings partially laid on some far reach of the prairies, or a mass of rusting machinery and deserted cabins in some mountain fastness of British Columbia. No matter which, the stories within the actual story of the boom are ever rich in incident, humor, romance and pathos.
Oil booms great and small, have been, since the discovery of the rich fields in the southwestern Ontario peninsula, the cause of great excitement at one time and another in • nearly every province in the Dominion. And of all the hard-boiled chasers after the fabled wealth beneath the dream-rainbow, hope dies hardest in the breast of the true oil man. But the true oil man sees clear through the oil game and understands the great basic misconception that prevails regarding it— the misconception of oil as a sure road to. millions. This misconception still deludes a public which sees in every tiny seepage a producing oil well, and in every momentarily productive oil well the beginnings of a field that will outlast Pet-
A Big Oil Boom in Canada’s Youth
OUR Canadian Petrolia was, and is, not merely the greatest of Canadian oil fields; it has been one of the world’s greatest.
It began producing in the early 60 s; and after fully sixty years it is still productive. Outside Pennsylvania, nothing in the world can beat its record.
Petrolia’s history goes back to days when oil was a poor man’s game. It has seen oil develop from a haphazard trade into a singularly exact science, in which geology provides dependable guidance to securing production, and chemistry teaches the refiner to profitably utilize every component part of the crude petroleum except the smell. All this the Petrolia field has witnessed in sixty years of patient waiting for Canada to produce its
Petrolia in its sixty years has produced oil worth millions; and in the same long period, other millions have been spent in Canada outside Petrolia in vain efforts to
duplicate its greatness. In return for those expended millions, oil operators have little to show except rotting derricks, rusty machinery, broken fortunes and a trail of lost endeavor.
The Petrolia and Oil Springs discoveries sixty years ago resulted In an epidemic of shallow' drilling throughout eastern Canada. To the amateur fortune-seeker, one back yard or meadow was as good a prospect as another and a “deer-lick” made it look better; any light drilling outfit was sufficient to put down a hole; and at the bottom of that hole, fortune surely waited in the shape of raucous-scented crude oil.
Costly experience and long geological research taught a rainbow-chasing world the necessary pre-requisites of an oil field. They are few, simple, yet tremendously signif-
There are three great essentials. The oil field may not exist even where these essentials are all present, but unless all three are present, the chances of a commercial field are practically nil.
The essentials are: first, the presence of a formation known to be petroliferous; second, the presence of an overlying formation sufficiently impervious to retain the oil in its natural reservoir; and, third, the folding of the strata in such structural form as to facilitate the collection of oil in quantity.
Given these three essentials—the petroliferous formation, the impervious “cap” rock and the anticlinal structure—there may be oil. And there may not.
The petroleum geologist can determine w'ith fair accuracy the presence or absence of these three essentials in a given area. But, given the initial encouragement of their presence, only the drill can answer whether or not oil exists in commercial quantities.
Thus, the geologist’s functions are rather negative. To the extent that he can warn the prospector away from hopeless fields, petroleum development has become an exact science. To the extent that even the most hopeful field embodies a huge element of chance, petroleum development still is, and always will be, a tremendous gamble.
Petroleum geology was, how'ever, still in its infancy when in the early sixties the huge oil discoveries at Petrolia and Oil Springs inspired a surge of shallow drilling activity that washed into even the remotest corners of eastern
Canada, and inspired the hopes of numerous people.
No corner more remote could be imagined than the rugged peninsula of Gaspe. Around the tidal waters of York River, a mile wide where it enters the Gulf.
Sir William Logan, many years before, had noted oil seepages. The country was rugged and broken, piled
up into low hills covered with a dense growth of black spruce, with a sprinkling of white spruce, birch and cedar; wild, unpeopled and utterly desolate. There was not even a wagon road; and the transportation was chiefly by canoe up the rapidly narrowing reaches of York River.
To bring in drillers and drilling equipment—even the light drilling equipment of those days was a titanictask. Yet, in the face of difficulties almost insuperable, fortune-seekers whose names have been long since forgotten did, in the early sixties, drill three-tests, at Silver Brook, Sandy Beach and Douglastown.
In one of these tests they struck oil. There was not enough oil to give the rainbow-chasers their money back, or to encourage them to spend more. But the tradition of oil in Gaspé lingered, to inspire, a quarter century later, an epic venture that deserves immortality.
Gaspé in 1889 was little changed from what it had been in 1862. There was still the same wide York River, rapidly narrowing in its upper reaches; the same low hills and rugged country; the same dense and pathless growth of black spruce, birch and cedar; and the same necessity or pretext for deferred elections. A little lumbering was carried on, a little fishing, there were a few farms on the lower reaches of the streams; but in the uplands, where early frosts periled the crops, the thrifty French-Canadian farmer found no prospect to tempt him. Gaspé was still, after a quarter century, the far corner of the world it had been when the first prospectors drilled there.
Into this corner came the British investor, to launch a systematic campaign of oil development. British thoroughness and determination characterized the enterprise of the Petroleum Oil Trust, from its inception.
In 1889 the first well was drilled at Lobster Cove. Between that year and 1899 some thirty-two wells were drilled, some in a group eight miles west of Gaspé, and others still further west, at the mouth of Mississippi Brook. Oil showings were met in many wells: some yielded oil from four different horizons. ' Beyond question, there wa? oil in Gaspé, and only determined and intelligent effort was required to prove it.
In 1897 the Petroleum Oil Trust No. 27, one of the group of wells at Mississippi Brook, struck a gusher.
The Gaspé oil strike stirred scarcely a ripple in Canada. Even Quebec, more concerned in the recent changes of government at Ottawa and at the provincial capital, gave it little heed. But in Old London it began a boom in Gaspé oil. Twm new companies, the Canada Petroleum Company and the International Oil Company, entered the field. The Petroleum Oil Trust, hugely encouraged by its gusher and a series of pumping wells besides, went ahead aggressively ' to commercialize the results. In-1901 a refinery was built at York River. A 15-mile pipe line was laid to the producing field, and oil accumulated in huge storage tanks.
Then disaster hit ihe British enterprises. Petroleum Oil Trust No. 27. after a briefly glorious career of flush production. began to peter out.£ In all it probably produced 2,000 barrels of oil; in 1902 it still pumped two gallons a day, but at a crucial stage in the history of the venture, the storage tanks and the barely completed refinery were wiped out by fire, and the entire accumulated production billow-ed skyward in clouds of black smoke.
Those fourteen years of fruitless drilling by the Englishmen in Gaspé resulted in fifty-three wells being drilled, of which the Petroleum Oil Trust put down forty. None were shallow; most were over 2,000 feet in depth. One, near the mouth of Merlin Brook, was carried to 3,640 feet, in its day the deepest drill hole in Canada. The w'ork of those fourteen years totaled 117,943 lineal feet— over 22 miles—of drilling, carried on in a wild and isolated country, under circumstances of exceeding difficulty, with no encouragement beyond an elusive show'ing of oil. Close to half a million dollars must have been spent. The Gaspé episode represents a record of tenacity truly British. One can pay it no higher compliment than that.
To-day, Gaspé is wild, wooded, isolated, little changed from 1860—an oil prospect, and nothing more.
Another Ghost at Calgary
'T'ILL A FEW years ago there could still be seen, on a vacant lot on Second Street East, in busy Calgary, the wreckage of a diamond drilling outfit. Mute memorial, that wreckage, of the year 1883 when the “cow camp” in the shadow of the Rockies had grown into a cluster of frame shacks and white tents waiting hopefully for the railroad still 200 miles away. Calgary tradition has it that W. H. Cushing, the “good old Cush” of later Alberta politics, hopefully brought that diamond drilling outfit into the west and with it drilled the first "duster” in the history of Western Canada.
In those days there lived, far up among the foothills óf southwestern Alberta, an old trapper named Aldridge. “Old Bill” Aldridge as he was late: known, held squatter’s title to a tract of land on the shore of Waterton Lake. He roamed the mountains, living by hunting and trapping, cultivating a bit of land, and raising a few horses and cattle.
One day on a trip up one of the creeks of South Kootenay Pass,
Old Bill noticed a thin film of oil on the water. He patiently traced the oil film upstream to its source, a seepage from the rock. Later he brought buckets from his cabin at Waterton Lake, and filled them with the crude oil. In an improvised refinery he ultimately produced an oil fit to burn in a lamp, and for years this oil, from what was later known as Oil Creek, was the sole illuminant in the Aldridge cabin.
Aldridge, between spells of hunting and trapping, found ample time to develop his discovery. He dug pits in the gravel to collect the seepage oil, and skimmed it off the surface of the water. Then he carried it down to the prairies, where the farmers and ranchers paid him a dollar a gallon and demanded more.
In time, Old Bill’s plant expanded, till it included a wooden oil pump, a considerable stock of 5-gallon cans, and a sure-footed cayuse that could handle heavy loads on the treacherous mountain trails. For nine years, with this equipment,
Aldridge refined his oil and peddled in Cardston, the Mormon metropolis of Southern Alberta, and throughout the surrounding territory.
Independent enterprise developed, the sack method of oil-production being employed by settlers who needed oil but objected to Old Bil’V grinding monopoly. By this method, a sack is spread on the surface of a seepage pool or stream. The sack absorbs the overlying film of oil and refuses the water. Then the •oil is wrung from the sack into a pail, a fair illuminant and a medicine guaranteed good, though somewhat drastic, for man and beast.
It probably never occurred to Old Bill Aldridgethat he had developed the first commercial oil production in the Canadian West. Yet in the strict sense of the word, he had a commercial field, a field that produced oil at a profit to its operator. The accumulated profit, after nine or ten years, was represented by horses and cattle to the extent of several hundred head. Old Bill with his cayuse and his oil cans was the Standard Oil Company of Alberta in his day and generation.
Into this peaceful scene of patient industry, as yet untapped by the railroad, there penetrated, in the latter ’80’s, the wise figure of a rock hound—to wit, Doctor Selwyn, of the geological survey of Canada. Selwyn, it would seem, came primarily to investigate the results of a resultless drilling test put down by Bill Fernie at Pincher Creek; and remained to take cognizance of the Oil Creek seepage, and to refer to it in a learned report that after due deliberation was interred in a blue book at Ottawa. Out of that report grew the Pincher Creek oil boom.
About the time the Petroleum Oil Trust was building its refinery in Gaspé, John Lineham, of Okotoks, and a few other men prominent in southern Alberta formed the Rocky Mountain Development Company. Like the Britishers on the eastern fringe of the Dominion, Lineham and his associates were undaunted by diffi-
culties. It meant nothing in their optimistic lives that the potential oil field lay far from railroad communication, far from even the prairie trails of that day, in a country that even now, twenty years later, presents almost insurmountable obstacles to oil development.
Whatever the outcome of the tragic venture, this much can be said: the men who launched it were as thoroughly, tenaciously British in the face of difficulties as were the born Britishers who struggled against the difficulties of Gaspé.
The Seekers Find a Gusher
THE Rocky Mountain Development Company struck oil—a gusher. It was the first producing well in Alberta, or, in fact, in the Canadian west. Optimistic estimates rated the flush production at 1,000 barrels a
day. It does seem to have flowed at that huge rate— for a few hours. Later it dwindled to a modest pumper; and after years of neglect, followed by years of effort to revive it, “the old Lineham well” as it is known, still has some pretensions as a producer.
The report of the oil strike started a stampede for South Kootenay Pass. The townsite of Oil City was laid out. Claims were staked by prospectors and speculators, new companies were organized, and development went ahead with feverish haste.
Though the mother of the field, the Rocky Mountain Development Company seems to have resented the brood of baby companies it reluctantly hatched. Nor were the latter grateful to the parent venture. The working crews were as antagonistic as the management. Time and again the mounted police had to intervene, till eventually a constable was posted at the entrance to the pass with instructions to make a daily patrol of the oil camps.
Before that happened, however, the flint and steel of oil-field rivalries came cloFe to striking fire. The Pinch-
er Creek Development Company, organized by Pincher Creek men, securedjdrilling rights on the height of land in the pass, south and west of Oil City townsite, and sent in a temporary outfit to hold the leases.
To reach their holdings, the Pincher Creek gang had to cross the leases of the Rocky Mountain Development Company. The Rocky Mountain officers objected. The Rocky Mountain drilling crews took up the fight, promising a red-hot scrap. The Rocky Mountain camp shut down work and for days the men stood on guard with rifles, while the Pincher Creek outfit slept on the trail under canvas. Neither side would budge.
In the American southwest, the situation would have ended in battle and sudden death. But the ways of western Canada were not, even in those days, the ways of Bill S. Hart. A messenger was sent to the nearest me unted police headquarters. He returned with an escort.
The invaders mounted their wagons and, with derisive hoots, drove their mules past the office window of the Rocky Mountain Development Company and on up the trail.
The difficulties to be overcome in bringing in drilling equipment were prodigious. The Pincher Creek men hauled their heavy machinery by teams from MacLeod to the end of the prairie: after that they cut a road through wooded, mountainous country to the seepage at Oil Creek. The Southeastern British Columbia Land and Oil Company brought its tools and machinery from Kalispel, Montana, by pack horse, over a narrow mountain trail. Then gangs were put to work cutting a wagon road clear through to Kalispel. The Western Oil and Coal Company, a Vancouver venture, used block and tackle in places to hoist its machinery over sections of the mountain trail.
This company did its first work at Camp 4, just where the first climb ' up the mountains is made at the entrance to South Kootenay Pass. The well ran into difficulties owing to broken or faulted structure; and in the hope of better luck the equipment was hauled to the mouth of Cameron Creek. There, at Camp 23, within sight of Cameron 'Falls, several wells were drilled.
R. M. Yeager was in charge. He was a practical driller, and a firm believer in the field. He found difficulties innumerable to test his mettle. The formations again proved broken and faulted, crooked holes resulted, fishing jobs recurred time and again, and delays and drilling difficulties seemed interminable. But the indomitable Yeager kept on.
The Collapse of Oil City
VENTUALLY a wire from Vancouver instructed him to stop work—“temporarily.” The men were laid off, and left Pincher Creek. They never came back. For years the abandoned drilling outfit and deserted shacks, blistered by sun and rusted and weathered by rain, occupied the site where the workers had left them. Waterton Lakes Park came into existence eventually. The superintendent had no use for ugly relics of a lost cause, and the wreckage was moved outside the park limits.
Hundreds of thousands of dollars were spent in much honest development work—and much crooked work in the way of empty promotion and flagrant fraud engulfed hundreds of thousands more. The sky was the limit to the claims of some promotions. One enterprise that never even drilled, advertised that crude oil was flowing like gas and had blown its drill and pumping machinery far down the pass. Another company staged pumping demonstrations at which oil gushed from the well; and the hopeful purchasers of gilt-edged stocks never noticed that the oil was promptly run back into the hole; nor did they discover—what developed long afterward that the original “production” had been hauled in tanks from the one real producing well at Oil City.
Far-off investors sank their money in hopeless ventures. One woman who had put hundreds of dollars into an Oil City town lot, came in 1913, ten years later, to have a look at the derricks, refineries, pipe lines and community of teeming thousands. She found a wilderness. Continued on page 54
Ghosts of Past Booms
Continued from. page 21
Summer campers at Waterton Lakes gently broke the news to her that there was nothing to Oil City, and never had been.
That incident was typical. Old Bill Aldridge’s experience vas also typical. He sold his accumulated horses and cattle, put the proceeds into oil, dreamed millions and. ten years later had only the pittance he could make as a moving picture operator in a little theatre at Cardston.
The faith of most of the speculators died after a year or two of failure. But a couple of years ago one old chap in a Southern Alberta town revealed in a brief flash of comment the tenacity of the true oil man. He was still pegging away at a Pincher Creek well he hoped some day to complete. “I work and save a bit of money,” he said, “and then I do a little drilling down there. Then I come back here and make some more money, so I can drill some more.” So, shabby but hopeful, he poured his patient earnings down a sinkhole from which, now and then, he baled a few pints of petroleum and a great many hogsheads of hope.
Years after the boom was dead, John Lineham visited the field, and surveyed with sorrowful eyes its wreckage and desolation. The busy activities of the earlier years had given place to silence. The slashings, painfully cut through the forests, were covered with new undergrowth. At Waterton Lakes summer hotel, one of the old drill-holes supported a flag-staff. On the mountain side the cabins of the workers were gray and weather-beaten. At Oil City the great tanks were rusted and empty, and packers through the mountains lounged in the leather upholstered chairs and propped their feet on the quarter-cut-oak office furniture left from the Rocky Mountain Development Company’s palmy days.
Lineham stood over one of the abandoned wells. “That hole cost $10,000,” he murmured, tragically. “We put $10,000 down each of those wells.”
The Advent of A. H. Dingman
COME thirty-five miles southwest of ^ Calgary lies a basin amid the foothills. A tiny stream trickles through it. In summer it is a pretty place, abloom with wild roses; and it was rose-starred when, in the summer of 1912, rough workmen invaded its peaceful solitude and put up a
derrick near a gas seepage on Sheep Creek.
The head of this new enterprise was Archibald Wayne Dingman, once a Torontonian, but fora quarter century and more identified with the Canadian west. Dingman had drilled for gas at Calgary, had held and disposed of a franchise to supply the city, and now, clear of these earlier enterprises, was venturing into new fields.
A little further west, that same summer, Ira E. Segur started a drilling test on the McDougall ranch; and Bill Livingtson and Jim Pugh of Calgary made a location, though they did not drill till later.
For over a year drilling went steadily ahead, practically unknown to the outside world. Then, on October 7,1913, the Dingman well, at 1,560 feet,spat gasoline all over the derrick timbers.
All day Saturday, and throughout the night and the ensuing Sunday, a long line of men stood in front of the Dominion land office at Calgary, waiting a chance to file on leases.
One man edged in ahead of the crowd that besieged the land office for weeks. This man had been working for a concern that w ent broke. Jobless, with his hands and $40 cash in his pockets, he was loafing on a Calgary street corner the afternoon of the Dingmanstrike,whenafriend, a newspaper reporter, accosted him.
“How’re you fixed?” demanded the reporter.
The down-and-outer explained his predicament.
“Forty dollars!” exclaimed thereporter. “You lucky devil! I wish I was in your shoes.” Then, dropping his voice to a cautious whisper: “Are you game to take a chance? Yes? Well, there’s something big due to break at the Dingman well. I’ve got the tip plus twenty cents, and the land office closes in a few minutes. Come on, you stake me, and we’ll file on every acre we can tie up.”
They “beat it” to the land office. Asked his occupation, the down-and-outer smiled whimsically: “Retired business man,” he vouchsafed.
They tied up eight sections, 5,120 acres, close to the Dingman well. Less than three hours later,, the “retired business man” had sold a half interest in his four sections for $3,000; while the reporter had $350 cash and still held the bulk of his leases.
With hundreds of thousands of acres leased for oil, scores of companies floated and perhaps a dozen ventures actually drilling, the boom simmered through the ensuing winter. The Dingman people were too honest to help the promoter fraternity; they conservatively pronounced the light oil a freak. It was, they declared, only a pocket, and they had to go deeper for commercial production. In fact, they did what honest men could be expected to do, told the sheer truth, shamed the devil, and annoyed the getrich-quick fraternity who were more interested in easy money than in oil. i The deeper drilling went on and on. [Tradition has it that one day in May, 1914, a director of the Calgary Petroleum Products Company, the Dingman enterprise, visited the well.
Í “I’ll bet you a box of cigars,” remarked Driller Hovis, “the baler brings up crude pil this time.”
Sends Up Geyser of Oil
THE director took the bet. The sand .
pump was run; and the director lost Jhe cigars. Next day, at 2,718 feet, the Mngman well spouted oil sixty feet in the ir. For days it gushed spasmodically; ad those days brought the real boom— he exuberant, ecstatic, enthusiastic boom algary still remembers with regret for ;s losses and with pride in its greatness.
For it was a magnificent boom. Never jt the history of oil was so vast a bubble lown from such tiny beginnings. The fingman management, after the strike May, 1914, made no large claims. In Üturn for $100,000 already spent, they ad a well that for years averaged only a arrel or two a day, with occasional irger spurts of oil under accumulated as pressure. But they had to reluctantly ïher the mightiest boom in the history -petroleum.
Where the first boom had created Imparties by dozens, the second brought fern into existence by hundreds. By the lUrth of August, when the war gave oil peculation its first check, some 450 'mpanies had been incorporated with a al capitalization of nearly half a billion ailars. Ultimately, the incorporations tgregated more than 700. To develop Kir leases even on a modest scale would tve cost $20,000,000 in actual cash. Of g huge capitalization, only a very small ;Tr cent age was actually paid in. At that, Igary backed the boom to the limit. In rew weeks upwards of $1,000,000 was ihdrawn from the savings banks and put ;o oil.
And money was made—real money. It. Piped many individuals who needed help, radition has it that one man, with a ore he could not rent, in a desperate iraient bethought himself of a hopeful pedient. He organized a new oil exan ge—there were already several— Id seats for $50 each, and left the exange to run itself. It was one of many fchanges that thrived for a few stirring tks.
'he scenes on these marts of worthless stocks vied with Wall Street in its ost frenzied days. On the strength of e veriest rumors, quotations bounded y high; and men cool-headed enough to load with prices at the peak made
They still tell in Calgary the tale of other down-and-outer, jobless, with íe wolf growling menacingly on the her side of the door. In his luckier days , had bought 150 shares of Monarch Oil : jmpany stock at $1 a share. Now he burned his money.
jOne day a rumor came that “wet gas” $|d been struck in the Monarch well.
e stock went kiting. The hard-up chap .
; ted to sell, but there was the wolf; he ¡d to sell his oil stock in order to live. He uctantly let a financial pirate rob him of 150 shares in exchange for a paltry ,750 and grumbled at the evil luck that rvented him hanging on till actual oil iduction boosted the Monarch quotans to $1,000 a share. /
ÍÍ Iwo years later the Monarch Oil Conr ny went into liquidation. It was a "an-managed, decent, honest venture, d it went broke drilling, at a cost apjximating $75,000, the deepest and est hole in western Canada. At the ttom of 3,800 feet and its resources, it d nothing to show. And the “financial Ríe” who had compelled the poor untunate to give him Monarch shares at Í each, used them to paper his bed-
From the very outset the Calgary boom carried within itself the seeds of destruction. The pre-warfinancialstringency and the war itself were only contributary influences. Despite these handicaps, the money “invested” would have been ample in the hands of practical men like Ira Segur, William Livingston and A. W. Dingman to thoroughly test the field many times over.
But these funds were thinly spread over more than seven hundred companies. Only the early ventures secured funds enough to drill; the host of later enterprises hadn’t enough money even to keep their advertising and their palatial offices going. They had to sit back inactive, waiting for the real oil strike that came more than a year too late. By the time Livingston and Pugh brought in their Southern Alberta flowing well, the bloom was off the boom; speculators, fed up on rumored oil strikes, would not believe in real oil, and the practical development of the field was once more, where it should have been from the first, in the hands of a few bona-fide oil operators.
The New and Substantial Field
AT THE end of more than nine years after the first drilling venture, Calgary has an oil field—the only field in the Canadian west actually shipping commercial oil. The field includes the best proven well in Canada, for we cannot regard the Imperial Oil well at Fort Norman as yet proven. It has nearly a dozen wells producing oil or gas and several modest refining plants have been operating on the product more or less steadily since 1916. The oil produced is the highest grade oil in Canada, probably the highest grade oil in the world., and is reputed to be fully worth the $5.95 a barrel at which it was lately quoted.
These activities have developed in the peaceful Turner valley in ni ne years; have made it in spots a trifle grimy, have scented it a little with the fumes of gas and oil, have studded it with derricks and weather beaten shacks, but have still left room for the wild roses to blossom and for Sheep Creek to trickle along its winding course.
But these results were the work, not of fly-by-night speculators out to make a killing, but of a few patient men whose objective was commercial oil; who, after the easy-money crowd of promoters and speculators had quit in crass despair, went on wrestling resolutely with the big problem of drilling and the bigger problem of financing; who spent their cash and staked their credit to the limit in backing their certitude that oil was there—and most of whom, to-day, are still waiting for their money to come back.
But for real men the fight has been worth while, even if it has profited them little; for it has proven that, after all the hearty damning the Calgary field suffered from the disappointed speculators of years ago, there was justification for the honest belief and clean purpose that prompted the early, legitimate drilling. The Calgary field—more variously, and in some instances more accurately, known as the Turner Valley, Black Diamond, Okotoks, Sheep Creek or Dingman field—has, since Livingston and Pugh’s Southern Alberta No. 1 commenced to flow in 1915, produced, all told, something like 60,000 barrels of oil. That entire production would be worth, at a fair estimate, close to $400,000.
But in the brief period of the boom Calgarians alone drew from their savings banks and stockings $1,000,000 or more to put into oil, and outside speculators probably sank many times that sum. Little of that money went to help the actual honest development; most of it went to companies that never did anything with their leases except advertise them. Those 60,000 barrels of oil have been high-grade stuff, worth a top notch price, $5.95 a barrel or more'; but they cost speculative Calgary fully $16.50 each; and the outlay of speculative Jack Canuck will probably triple or quadruple that figure. That Calgary oil production stands the “investor” fifty dollars a barrel, if it stands him a cent.
Such is the toll of the oil field that comes in with a huge hurrah and amodest production. How much heavier the toll of the field that leaves in its wake, as so many have done, nothing but dry holes, rusty machinery, derricks tottering towards the prairie wood pile, and a trail of lost endeavor.