Reflections: Big boom made headlines


By Evelyn Long - Contributing Columnist

I moved with my parents and siblings to Cardington in 1941 and continued to make my home here following my marriage in 1955. Looking back there were many headline making events but the four that stick with me are the tornado in 1981, the flood in 1987, the train/car accident at the West Main Street crossing that killed six people in 1946 and the oil boom which hit its stride in 1964, some 55 years ago.

It’s the latter that I want to dwell on in the coming weeks. I will share what I believe are facts and statistics that may have been forgotten or even known.

The boom dominated the news in every way. There was even a Black Gold Festival when the high school band and boosters sold booklets and oil scene postcards as fund raisers.

Most people remember the first strike, made in 1959 by Bennington Township farmer and one-time oil field wildcatter Noel Monk on his farm. Soon word of the strike reached the rest of the oil industry and thousands of acres of southern Morrow County land were placed under oil and gas lease. That well became the catalyst for the oil frenzy to come.

A well on a farm in Canaan Township that produced 64,000 barrels of oil gave birth to the boom. More drilling in more townships resulted in gushers and the pace of drilling speeded up in 1963 and 1964. The arrival of more than a thousand oil men and their families had a significant economic impact on Morrow County, with some landowners and businesses making money and many failing.

Governor James Rhodes while attending the Morrow County Fair in 1964 proclaimed Morrow County as “The Oil Capital of Ohio,” and signs were posted ay the county’s boundaries boasting of that title. As the oil mania grew, neighbors sometimes stopped speaking to each other and lawns became muddy quagmires.

Derricks were placed in areas that today would be considered too small and drilling rigs could be located on the front lawn of one home and behind the house next door.

Ohio became known as the “outlaw state” because there were no laws regulating the spacing of drilling rigs or the amount of oil that could be taken from a well on a daily basis.

Then during the Christmas holiday of 1963, oil was found in Cardington itself and soon drilling rigs sprouted up in the town’s backyards. Former Mayor Robert Akron said in 1964: “I fought it for some time but when everybody else started leasing their yards, I resorted to the old philosophy that if you can’t lick ’em, join ’em.”

More unknown or forgotten facts about the oil boom next week.

80 years ago, 1939: Perry Burnell of east of Cardington saved the life of Mrs. Lucy Fleming of Fulton after he pulled her from her stalled car on the railroad crossing in Fulton as a fast-moving freight train approached.

70 years ago, 1949: Frank E (Pug) Smith, a 1911 Cardington High School graduate, spent a week in the village visiting old acquaintances. He was remembered by older Cardington folks as the youth during his high school years who lived with and drove for Dr. Florence Smith-White.

Harold N. Fate graduated from Ashland College with a Bachelor of Science degree in Business administration.

50 years ago, 1969: Final services at the Bethel United Methodist Church onCounty Road 28 in Cardington Township were held on June 2. The church closed after more than a century due to declining membership.

By Evelyn Long

Contributing Columnist

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