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Brief history

Most people don't think of New York when oil is mentioned, when actually the first recorded discovery of oil in North America was made right here in Allegany county. In 1627 a French missionary was led to the oil spring by local Seneca Indians. The spring is located in what is now Cuba, New York. The Senecas prized the oil for medicinal proposes. The oil spring in Cuba was not the only discovery of oil in New York before the 1881 boom. In 1832 farmers digging for coal in the town of Freedom noted oil seepage into the pit. A well drilled in 1857 near the Seneca Oil Spring, two years before Drake's well didn't produce any significant oil. A well drilled in Rushford in 1860 produces little oil yet substantial natural gas. In 1865 "Job Moses No. 1" located in Limestone becomes New York's first successful oil well at 7 barrels per day. A big strike at Rock City (S.W. of Olean) in 1877 marked the start of New York's first major oil field. The "Triangle No. 1" near Allentown drilled in 1879 causes the town of Petrolia to spring up. In 1881 on a geologist's advice an investor group drilled a well on the Reading Farm in Richburg, New York. The well came in at 70 barrels on its first day, this well sparked the oil boom of 1881. Within days, hundreds of people began to flood into the valley and within ten months there were between 4500 to 5000 people in Bolivar and 7000 in Richburg. Production that first year reached over 6 million barrels in Allegany County and over 1 million barrels in Cattaraugus County. At one time the village of Richburg employed five policemen and three justices of the peace. The two villages had gambling dens, bordellos, three dozen saloons and one dozen billiard parlors. The first recovery period ran untill the early 1920's. In this time the natural flow of oil slowly tapered off to less than 1 million barrels a year in Allegany County causing some of boom towns to turn into ghost towns. The 1920's introduced a new technology called water flooding. Water flooding utilized hydrostatic pressure to force more oil from the oil bearing rock strata. This new technology caused a "secondary recovery" in the area. The production increase caused by water flooding peaked in the 1940's. The peak was marked by the production of over 4 million barrels a year in Allegany County and close to 2 million in Cattaraugus County. The OPEC increase of oil prices in the 1970's caused new activity in the New York field using new drilling and production technology to improve production. With the collapse of oil prices in 1986, production in the region went back into decline. The New York oil fields await new technology to recover the remaining substantial oil reserves.