Oil Wells in Moon Township

Petroleum Ages

From our President’s March 2017 Newsletter






Petroleum has been important for a lot of our township’s recoded history.  For Samuel Kier, in 1845, petroleum  was an irritation. Kier’s salt wells in Saltsburg, Pa, produced valuable salt brine in those days.  But some salt wells, while being pumped for brine, started producing a waste product: smelly liquid petroleum.  It was ditched away, sometimes burned, but the smoke was an even worse smell.   Kier bottled the stuff and sold it as a patent medicine.  You can still find the bottles in collections.


But the medicine used very little of the goopy mess at the salt wells.  Kier had some sent to be distilled and found that the distilled liquid petroleum made a much better fuel for burning.   Petroleum, Latin for “rock oil”  could be refined and sold.  Initially sold as “Rock Oil”, then as Kerosene.  Suddenly  crude oil from salt wells and seeps became valuable and more was demanded.


A group of investors decided to drill for petroleum.  They hired Drake to drill at Titusville.  Drake did, using drilling technology from the salt well industry, and found crude at a depth of 69 feet in 1858.  Barrels of the stuff were floated to Kier’s refinery in Pittsburgh.  By the 1890s, the drilling boom made it to Moon Township.


Drake’s oil formations were much deeper here, about 2000 feet down.  Oil and gas here lies in pools, usually found by wildcatting.


Back in the 1960s, I lived on Smallwood Drive, behind where Kmart is now.  In the field out my back window were several wells and oil tanks.  They were covered by construction.  The wells were drilled into a pool known as the Coraopolis-Moon pool.  This pool ran under the Ohio up to the airport. Most wells are gone now, buried by airports, roads and developments. A few still produce oil from the Coraopolis Moon pool. Historical Society member John Kennedy tells about  it on page 2.






Where Meeks Run discharges into Montour Run, by Hassam Road, oil and gas was found in smaller pools. The Moon Historical Society is working with the Hollow Oak Land Trust to research  a well there.  The well is unique in that a lot of machinery was left in place. We will help prepare an informational sign for hikers on the “Oil Well Trail”.  The machines are vintage 1890s but no record of the well has been found.


It you have any information, or old photos, let us know.







A Bessemer oil field engine is in the foreground. Back by the well is the Spang  oil field engine.  Both were powered by natural gas.  The derrick is long gone.


My Oil Well Story


by John Kennedy  March 2017


Growing up in Moon and Carnot area, oil well derricks were part of our landscape.  Half the wells were sitting idle, pumped out, the others still producing with declining yield.


We played on the rig’s platforms, climbing the derricks, waving from the top.  The pumpers would let us hang out, explain the process, and relate “tales” of happenings.


When production slowed, a well owner offered a teamster $ 100 for trip to Pgh to pick up Nitro Glycerin to “Shoot” the well. “Shooting” would loosen up the shale for more flow.  Never made it. On the return there was an explosion: teamster, horses, wagon, Nitro, all were lost.


Our now generation is still trying for more oil but they call it Fracking.


Land under the Flight zone of the Airport had wells. My friend bought 14 wells from Waverly Oil; half on Airport, others in Moon Tszp.  Runway expansion, well in the way.  We just tore it down and moved it to another well site.


A year later the Airport wanted that site; another move. Finally all equipment was off Airport and we turned our attention to the producing wells.


The Sharon Road well could be a book in itself.  Kenny Hanks had the drilling rights to the Hyde Park.


An oil well usually had many owners.   U S Steel wanted to develop the land, they bought out the other owners, giving Kenny sole ownership of remaining wells and drilling rights.


Drillers are looking for oil but wells also make gas.  The gas runs the big Put Put engine, extra gas is piped to other wells.  They just laid 2” pipes along the road to other sites to power the Nimick well and Office Park well.   I converted the Parkway well  to a large electric motor. This well is now gone.


Remember the gasoline shortage ‘ 73 era??  The trucks quit picking up the oil, and the wells had to be shut down.


Went down to Robert Morris Kaufman Estate then), bought the tanks from abandoned wells and hooked them up behind Nimicks. Took about 6 months to fill the storage tank.


Sic months later we needed another tank. Behind Nimicks, a new upright tank was installed by the well, with earthen dyke to contain overflow/leak.


Beyond Nimicks way back in the woods off Thorn there is another well.


Each Fall I would pile up the dirt to make a firebreak.   Oh yes, the tanks are good memories.


After a lifetime of work Kenny was getting tired, and he found a younger, just retired person who wasn’t ready to sit down.  He bought the remaining wells and got involved. Being highly educated, he studied the maps and decided to drill for well where Moon overlooks Coraopolis.


As drilling neared the pay depth, anticipation grew. Any day now, the well will be coming on line.  Monday for sure, a house party is planned.


Tuesday came and went. Same for Wednesday.  It was a dry hole, quite an investment. I was involved  in capping the well.  It gets to you. I helped Scotts dismantle their well, the big metal drive wheel is in my front yard.  Memories now, fun happenings then. This narrative only scratched the surface.


With my KNOW IT ALL attitude, I just got showed up by Earl who found these two engines off Hassam, awesome pictures, Those wells were made with horse power.  I have machinery but those old guys were smart and determined—that’s all—John Kennedy-


–P.S. Sawmills next—don’t tell Earl