Development of Natural Gas in Fairmount Township

  • On March 4, 1887, the Fairmount Mining Company was organized for the purpose of making explorations for natural gas. Other communities in Grant and adjoining counties had formed similar companies for this purpose, and the results were such as to encourage local men to believe that the Fairmount field offered as good prospects for developing this fuel as others that had been successfully opened up. J.P. Winslow, T.J. Nixon, C.R. Small, Levi Scott, Dr. W.H. Hubbard, M. Marks, John Flanagan, Kimbrough Bros, and Dr. A. Henley were the original stockholders. The Board of Directors consisted of Dr. A. Henley, President; T.J. Nixon, Secretary; C.R. Small, Treasurer; J.P. Winslow, W.C. Winslow and Levi Scott.On March 9th the SEcreatry was directed to contract for the work of putting down a well.

  • Pursuant to instructions, Mr. Nixon contracted with W.A. Walley, of the firm of O'Neill & Walley, of Muncie. Mr. Walley    placed Steve A. Irwin in personal charge of the work. The big derrick was speedily erected, equipment secured and operations commenced.

  • On Tuesday, April 26, the drill penetrated Trenton rock at a depth of 965 feet. The well yielded an abundance of gas. Professor Orton, Ohio State Geologist, after much difficulty, succeeded in making a test of the pressure. He found that its flow was eleven million five hundred thousand cubic feet every twenty-four hours, or, in the language of Professor Orton at the time "nearly sufficient gas to supply the three largest cities in Ohio." The well was located on the south side of East Washington Street, near the old brick elevator formerly owned by Winslow & Beals.

  • In the fall of 1888 a special train bearing James G. Blaine and  party of friends stopped nearby. The pressure was turned on and the distinguished Maine statesman expressed astonishment and admiration as the well roared thunderously and the gigantic flames leaped skyward. The pressure was so great that it was with considerable difficulty the flow of gas was harnessed and gotten ready for use. Excursion trains came loaded with passengers from every direction to see the well. In a few weeks, because of its enormous capacity, which was said to be greater than that of any other well in Indiana, it was given the name of Jumbo, so called after Barnum's elephant.

  • The gas was finally put under control and piped, and the expense of light and fuel for many years did not exceed twelve dollars per year for each family for domestic purposes. Walker Winslow was the first man in Fairmount who introduced natural gas for cooking purposes, and it was not many months before its use was general among Fairmount people.

  • Attracted by the cheapness, cleanliness and convenience of the new fuel, several glass factories located in Fairmount. By the year 1890 the town began to increase in population and grow in industrial importance. In 1894 the census showed approximately five thousand inhabitants.

  • Foreign corporations, seeing the opportunity presented, began to lease land in the neighborhood. Lines were laid and gas was transported into Chicago by means of great pumping stations erected for the purpose. These stations pulled strongly upon the entire field, diminishing the supply, and finally exhausting the entire territory.

  • Far-seeing men wisely discouraged people from leasing land to outside syndicates, but the advice went unheeded and the pressure began to weaken and then gradually to disappear.

  • The discovery which promised at the outset to dot the gas belt with connecting cities eventually came to naught. There are now (1917) few scattered families in this part of the State using natural gas.

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