Well known as the birthplace of the oil industry, Titusville had a prosperous lumber industry even before Drake successfully drilled for oil in 1859. In the nineteenth century, fortunes in Titusville were made pursuing a variety of pioneering industrial activities. Lumber, tanning, chemicals, metals, as well as oil production and refining were all part of Titusville’s industrial mix. Situated along the banks of Oil Creek, the early Titusville lumber mills could float their rough hewn logs south fifteen miles to the Allegheny River. A good road to Meadville led to the west and a road to the east went to Warren. The Oil Creek Railroad was completed to Titusville in 1862; it connected with the Philadelphia and Erie Railroad, leased by the Pennsylvania, at Corry. The Oil Creek Railroad was the only direct rail line out of the early Venango Oil Region until 1866. For some four years, most of the oil moved by rail came north along Oil Creek to Titusville, and then to the world.
Titusville’s great wealth in the nineteenth century was spectacularly manifested in block after block of fine Victorian homes, many of which are still standing along Titusville’s tree-lined streets. David Emery built a fine Italianate home at 213 E. Main. He was a local oil producer and also active in the Bradford fields. He was an organizer and president of the Octave Oil Company. He became the owner of the property where Edwin Drake drilled the first successful oil well. Eventually, Emery’s wife and family transferred the Drake Well site to the Daughters of the American Revolution and additional adjacent land to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
John Fertig built his Italianate style home at 602 E. Main Street in 1873. Three months after moving in, the house was severely damaged by fire. Fertig, undaunted, immediately rebuilt the home you see today. A school teacher by training, Fertig early on began drilling for oil. In 1861, he hit a 1000 barrel a day gusher at the McElheney Farm along Oil Creek, only the second flowing well discovered to that date. Fertig invested heavily in various industrial enterprises in Titusville including the National Refining Company and the Titusville Ironworks.
Arriving in Titusville in 1869, Joseph Seep worked for Jabez Bostwick of New York City as a buyer of crude oil. Seep was a buyer in the original Venango field along Oil Creek, at Parker along the lower Allegheny and in the Bradford field. Eventually, Seep succeeded Jabez Bostwick as the Purchasing Agent for the Standard Oil Trust. Unlike most other Standard executives, Joseph Seep did not move to New York City, but chose to remain in Titusville where he remained active until his death in 1928. Like a number of other prominent Titusville residents, Joseph Seep worked in Oil City. He would ride the train south to Oil City where the Joseph Seep Agency offices were located in the National Transit Building on Seneca Street. From this site, Seep would announce to the country what the daily purchase price of oil would be.
Seep had many children. His oldest daughter, Lillian, married Dr. Edgar Quinby in 1889. At this time, Joseph Seep and his wife had a fine Queen Anne residence built at 332 W. Main Street. This house was given to Dr. Quinby and Lillian Seep as a wedding gift. Joseph Seep’s very large Romanesque house at 304 W. Main was taken down in 1937.
William Scheide attended the Pennsylvania Polytechnic in Philadelphia. In the late 1860′s he came to the oil region to find work as an engineer. He was hired by the Tidioute Pipeline Company, a firm owned in the early 1870′s by Adna Neyhart and Samuel Grandin of Tidioute. In time Scheide became an independent producer and dealer. In 1880 he became the general manager of the United Pipeline Company, a Standard Oil Division and predecessor to the National Transit Company. In 1884, Scheide built a fine Queen Anne in Titusville at 214 W. Main Street. He retired from the National Transit in 1889.
Calvin Payne succeeded William Scheide as general manager of the National Transit Company. In 1896 Payne built an impressive Victorian mass at 227 E. Main Street. The classical details in favor at the time can be seen on this home, but all-in-all it remains a restrained, very sober design. Payne was like many others in the region; he succeeded by working his way up through the ranks of one of America’s largest pioneering corporations, the Standard Oil.
In 1890 a very large tannery, the Queen City Tannery, was built along West Central Avenue in Titusville by the Boston firm of Lucius Beebe & Sons. Samuel Maxwell was named Superintendent of this Titusville enterprise. The tannery is gone, but Samuel Maxwell’s unique Victorian home remains standing at 402 W. Main. Maxwell bought an existing structure in 1895 and extensively remodeled it to look like the very unusual house you see today.
You can still ride the old Oil Creek & Titusville Railroad down along Oil Creek as far south as the Rynd Farm. The Oil Creek & Titusville Railroad will take you from Titusville to the Drake Well Memorial Park just down the creek. This is a very well developed historical park with a wide variety of outdoor and indoor exhibits and displays depicting the early days of the oil industry.
“Titusville Of Yesterday”,Richard Foy and Thomas Carney, 1984.
Comfort Inn, 511 W. Central Avenue, 814-827-0041
Caboose Motel, 407 S. Perry Street, 800-827-0690
Numerous regional and national chain restaurants
Drake Well 202 Museum Lane, Titusville, Pa. 16354; (“Birthplace of the Oil Industry” – Museum, Outside Exhibits, Picnic Areas, Gift Shop) (814) 827-2797
Oil Creek & Titusville Railroad, 409 S. Perry Street, Titusville, Pa. 16354: (27 1/2 Mile,3 Hour Trip through the “Valley That Changed the World”). (814) 676-1733
For Information on the Titusville Area
Titusville Area Chamber of Commerce 202 West Central Avenue, Titusville, Pa. 16354 (814) 827-2941
Oil Region Alliance of Business, Industry & Tourism 217 Elm Street, Oil City, Pa. 16301-1412 (814) 677-3152
North on Route 8 from Oil City or west on Route 36 and Route 27 from Tionesta
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