Development of Natural Gas in Fairmount
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
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.