Henderson County, Kentucky


Major successful strike hit near Highland Creek

Oil's presence in Union County had been suspected for a long time before 1922, when the first producing well was brought in.

In 1866, the Henderson and Union Petroleum Co. struck oil at their well on the headwaters of Highland Creek, near the Henderson-Union county line, according to Edmund L. Starling's 1887 book, "History of Henderson County."

But the well was not particularly successful, according to Starling" "From the best information to be had, the unloosed gas rushed out with such force, it blew all of the oil out of the well, and the company collapsed."

It was another 66 years before a successful oil strike was made in Union County, although oil leases were recorded in the county as early as 1917. Again, the Highland Creek area was the focus. Here is what the Sunday Gleaner and Journal had to say in a banner headline on January 8, 1922: "Believe Union County Oil Well Will Be Gusher."

That belief was expressed by Joseph EYERS and William EPPERSON, who had struck oil four days earlier.

"Starting their development for the fluid on the George PROCTOR farm, bordering on Highland Creek in Union County, with a test well termed by oil men as a "Wild Cat" well, these men struck oil at a depth of 620 feet which is said to be the finest quality of oil ever found in Kentucky.

"The oil was struck Wednesday and on Friday it had risen 500 feet in the well. Two barrels were dipped out Saturday with the use of an oil driller's dipper. Mr. EYERS said last night that the oil was of a green color and would probably test AA-1, which he said was the best quality of oil now produced in the United States.

"Mr. EYERS said that the oil when poured on the ground would burn from a lighted match and that it contained a high percentage of gasoline. He estimates that the well on the pump will produce from 25 to 50 barrels a day, but he said the pool they wanted to penetrate was several feet deeper and it would not surprise he and EPPERSON that when this pool is struck the well will produce several hundred barrels daily."

EYERS said, "There is every indication that the well will be a paying. We have gone only two feet in the oil sand and it is our intention to go through this sand and below a strata of rock before the well is shot with nitroglycerine. We will not shoot the well until we have drilled through the rock, and below this strata we hope to bring in a real gusher; one that will rival anything ever seen in Kentucky."

EYERS said that about 1912 the Illinois Central Railroad drilled a well in its right-of-way in Union County and found a trace of oil. When he learned of that, he said, he obtained leases on a mile-wide swath in Union County, totaling 5,000 acres and running from Highland Creek to Waverly.

Reprinted with permission.
Progress Edition, The Gleaner, Saturday, March 30, 1996
Written by Frank Boyett

Contributed by Netta Mullin, HCH&GS
Copyright 2002 HCH&GS