By Staff
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Courtesy of W. A. (Bill) Clegg, Jr., 523 S. Roberts St., Lima, Ohio 45804.
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Courtesy of Denis McCormack, 404 W. Timonium Road, Timonium, Maryland 21093.
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Courtesy of W. A. (Bill) Clegg, Jr., 523 S. Roberts St., Lima, Ohio 45804.

Jr., 523 S. Roberts St., Lima, Ohio 45804.

Here is a little story about a gas engine that had a part in the
PLAY ‘Lima’s First Oil Well In 1885 Was Accident’

To start with here are two pictures, the before and the after.
This engine is a 4 H. P. horizontal Famous International No. SA3699
E, 400 RPM, fly wheels 33?’ dia. 2?’ face, total weight
around 1,500 lbs.

Up until about four years ago this engine was used to pump the
oil from one of the few remaining oil wells in the once great Lima
oil field. This particular oil well was one of hundreds drilled in
this area from the time oil was first discovered around noon May 9,
1885, which touched off a boom which lasted 20 years and changed
Lima from a small country town to a thriving metropolis. Population
of Lima increased from 7,000 to 15,000 by 1890 and swelled to
21,700 by 1900. Within a few years there were 70 wells located in
Lima’s city limit and by 1900 there were 1,600 producing wells
in the ‘Lima field.’ Getting back to this ole 4 H. P.
Famous. Just what year the well, that this engine was on, was
drilled is not known, but we do know that it was drilled some time
during the boom. According to the owner of the farm where the well
is located his father had the well drilled. This Famous engine was
the second engine to be used on the well. The first engine, make
not known met its fate one cold winter day. As the well was pumped
winter and summer not enough salt had been added to the cooling
water to keep it from freezing. Yes, salt was used for anti-freeze
those days. These engines used on the oil wells were not like the
regular farm engine used around the barn yard where water was easy
to get. Just to show you, the well that this Famous was on was out
in the middle of field about a ? of a mile from the house and barn.
So this Famous has had its share of salt in its innards. One look
at the inside of the water jacket and you can see what I mean. It
is thin in places where the salt has eaten away at the metal.

We located this well and engine last July about 6 miles west of
Lima. As stated, this was the second engine used to pump the well.
This engine was purchased by the father of the man we got it from
after the first engine froze and busted. According to the son this
Famous engine was used for about 35 or 40 years on this one well.
In fact it was used up until about 4 years ago when the sucker-rod
in the well broke. At the time the rod broke, the well was
producing about 3 or 4 barrels a week (42 gal. per barrel). At one
time this well produced around 40 barrels a day according to its
present owner. Not only does this well still produce a small amount
of oil but is still producing a small amount of natural gas. In
fact this ‘Famous’ engine was fueled with natural gas from
the oil well it was pumping. We now run it on gasoline.

All it took to get this engine running again was a good clean up
job. The old oil and grease was about a half inch thick all over
it. We had to connect up the fuel pump because it had never been
used since they had run it on natural gas. The only change that has
been made to this engine is the ignition system. Sometime down
through the years someone put on a type E K Wico igniter which
gives this engine a block buster spark.

Just a little more about Lima oil. The first Lima oil sold for
around 40 cents a barrel back in 1885. By the end of the boom some
20 years later the price paid for Lima oil was down to 15 cents per
barrel. Today Lima oil is worth about $2.45 per barrel out of the
two dozen or so wells still operating in the county. These wells
will produce an average of three or four barrels each per day.

At left is Miss Nancy Walton beside flywheels of Superior Gas
Engine. In the middle is the two cylinder head of the same Superior
Engine, showing rocker arm. At right is my son, Duane, standing by
the St. Marys engine. Duane is 19 years old.

That first well back in 1885 was being drilled with the hope of
finding natural gas or good water. As at that time and yet to this
day most water wells in this area are high in sulphur. This well
was being drilled for a Benjamin C. Faurot, owner of The Lima Straw
Board Works. At a depth of 1,200 feet, the drillers thought that
they were approaching gas.

At 1,250 feet, two feet into Trenton rock, is where natural gas
is found. At this point work was stopped because the drill cable
was badly worn and a new one had to be found.

A few days later when the drillers went back to work, oil was
found at a depth of 1,200 feet. It was thought that since nothing
had been done for a few days that oil had collected and that a
couple of bailers would remove it, which they did. The well was
drilled about five feet further and soon the oil was rising on them
and in a few hours had attained a depth of 65 feet.

Since the well had failed as a gas or water well it was
‘shot’ and for the first six days yielded 200 barrels of
oil. The Lima oil boom had started. News of the oil discovery was
soon heard in every corner of the United States. Men came from
every direction to profit from the black gold.

”Skunk Grease’ the offensive odor of Lima crude,
caused by its high sulphuric content, gave it the name ‘SKUNK
GREASE’ among oil workers of the 19th century. Yet, to this day
what little crude that is pumped has a certain air about it.

The traditional welcome and friendly gathering of enthusiasts
took place at the annual Spring 1971 Engine Show at Zolfo Springs,
Florida, organized as in the past by Earl Nickerson (pictured above
with engine) in the ideal Florida sunshine. At right, Florida
Senior Citizens greatly enjoy the inspiration of the Florida engine

In talking to some of the older natives in this area, Lima and
the Lima oil field was a haven of single cylinder engines. Some of
which may be found yet on old abandoned wells. Some like the big 25
H. P. SWAN, SUPERIOR and St. Marys engines. These big engines were
used to pump as many as six or seven wells at one time through the
use of rods, that extended out across the fields from the engine
house to the wells. One such system is still in operation (part
time, not too much oil to be had) just outside Lima.

At left is Duane Clegg and Marion Leuenberger on the right
standing beside one oil well pumped by 25 HP St. Marys Engine. In
center photo is the 4 HP Famous engine as we found it and on the
right is the same Famous engine as it looks now after being

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