Find this Story

Print, a form you can hold

Wireless download to your Amazon Kindle

Look for a summary or analysis of this Story.

Enjoy this? Share it!

Incidents And Characteristics
by [?]

Nearly all the Ohio stories since 1812 have been stories of business enterprise and industrial adventure. I dare say that if these could be fully told, we should have tales as exciting, as romantic and pathetic as any I have set down concerning the Indian wars. But such stories are usually forgotten in the material interest of the affairs, and it is only when some tragedy or comedy arising from them finds chance record that we realize how full of human interest they are. The decay of steamboating and the rise of railroading is in itself a romance if it could be rightly seen, and if the facts could be clearly set before us, the story of commercial triumph by a great monopoly would not be less fascinating than that of any war of conquest.

The greatest monopoly of ancient or modern times, the Standard Oil Company, had its rise in Ohio, and there is no more impressive chapter in the annals of our country than its history forms. In fact, everything concerning the discovery of the great underground lakes of petroleum, and subterranean spaces of natural gas, which suddenly enriched certain sections of the state, and then with their exhaustion left them to lapse into ruin, is picturesque and dramatic. Many tales are told of poor farmers who struck oil on their lands, and sold them for sums greater than they had ever dreamed of, and then went out into the world to waste their wealth in a few years of wild riot, or sank down and led idle and useless lives in sight of the fields they had once tilled. Similar stories are told of the regions where natural gas has been found, and some day, when the chronicles of Findlay, in Hancock County are fully written we shall know all these romantic episodes in their grotesqueness and their pathos. It had been known from the earliest settlement of the country that the natural gas underlay the town, and fifty years ago two small wells were sunk. But it was not until after the discovery of the natural gas at Pittsburg that the people of Findlay began to think of turning their treasure to account. Then, in the year 1884, the first great well was bored, and sent into the startled air a shaft of flame sixty feet high. Other wells were sunk, and the greatest of all, the famous Karg well, shook its flag of fire against the sky with a roar like that of Niagara, and made its voice heard fifteen miles away. It was winter when it was first lighted, but it made summer for two hundred yards around. The snow melted, the grass and wild flowers sprang up, and the crickets came and trilled in the grateful warmth. By a sad irony this source of future wealth became the refuge of homeless men, and within its genial circuit many tramps slept sweetly, secure from the winter beyond.

Findlay grew from five thousand to fifteen thousand inhabitants in a year. The municipality wisely possessed itself of the most important wells, and supplied the gas so cheaply and abundantly to the people that no company could rival it. In June, 1887, it celebrated the anniversary of the first use of the natural gas in the industrial arts, and for three days the town was given over to rejoicing in its glory and prosperity. The streets were arched with flame, the great wells flaunted their banners night and day, and the gas flared from innumerable pipes and jets through sun and rain in every part of the town.

No such festival has commemorated the introduction of the grape culture in Ohio, though this is one of the most poetic facts of our history. When the changes of climate along the Ohio River rendered it unprofitable in the region of Cincinnati, where the imaginative genius of Longworth had first invented the Catawba wine which the poetic genius of Longfellow celebrated in graceful song, the vine found home and welcome along the shores of Lake Erie. There thousands upon thousands of acres now spread interminable vineyards, and the grapes of every American variety purple in autumn to an almost unfailing harvest.