There was no such process as hydraulic fracturing. New York didn’t have a Department of Environmental Conservation. Lawn signs for or against it weren’t seen anywhere. Yet natural gas drilling efforts were going on in our region more 125 years ago. It was an industry still in its infancy. Numerous reports were published in local newspapers during the late 1880s and beyond.
“The little town of Morrisville, Madison county, is in a hubbub of excitement over the discovery there on Thursday evening last of a vein of natural gas, which, getting the best of the drillers and igniting from the lamps, sent out a stream of fire forty feet high, that burned for an hour, when finally extinguished by the united power of water and steam,” came the news in The Oneonta Herald of May 13, 1887.
This drilling had been going on for 10 days and the well had reached a depth of 600 feet. A company had been formed to conduct the drilling.
The Herald continued, “Of course the wiseacres of Morrisville had pooh-poohed the attempt. Indeed they were excusable. For who could have had much faith that gas would be found so far north of Pennsylvania? Indeed we remember when the discoveries were made in Allegany county in 1881-82, it was argued by experts and scientists generally that that must be the northern limit of the gas and oil fields. But Mr. Hague had faith, he backed it with his money and now as the Leader puts it, ‘Morrisville after taking a back seat for a century or so, at last emerges from its obscurity, and startles the country by opening a new field of oil and gas.’”
On June 29, 1887, it was reported in The Morris Chronicle, “The Morrisville gas wells are reported to have run out.”
Morrisville wasn’t alone in being explored for natural gas. From the Oneonta Daily News of May 19, 1887, “A gentleman who has had considerable experience with natural gas in Allegany county, has been in town within a few days. After examining carefully the rocks in the vicinity of Oneonta, he expressed the opinion that the indications for gas are fully as favorable here as in Madison county. Encouraged by his statement and by the favorable opinion of Prof. Wurtz of New York, published last week, it is deemed probable that a company will ere long be formed for the purpose of pursuing the investigations further, several gentlemen having signified their willingness to defray a share of the expense of sinking a well.”