Backtracking: The Early Years: Local hopes dashed for gold, oil wealth in April 1931

Mark SimonsonGold in those Roseboom hills? A recent view of the hills overlooking Roseboom, as there were rumors of gold deposits in the hills between here and Cherry Valley in 1931.

With the Great Depression in full swing in 1931, a little good economic news would be welcomed, rare as it was.

Locally, potential for wealth in the form of gold and oil, for a few possible lucky ones, kept interest high in April.


“Whether there is gold in the hills between Roseboom and Cherry Valley or not,” The Oneonta Herald reported on April 2, “a question which has been periodically exciting the residents of Otsego and adjacent counties for the past 50 or 60 years, seems to be on the way to an answer now, although it will probably require two or three weeks to definitely settle the question one way or the other.

“It was learned yesterday that Jakob Solar of Woodcliff, N.J., a manufacturer, has placed adequate financial resources behind the investigation and has engaged Colonel C.W. Steinman of Arizona, a licensed mining engineer, to direct the work.

“For about three weeks Colonel Steinman has been at Cherry Valley making preliminary plans for his investigation, but due to the heavy snow on the hills where the work must be done, he had not commenced activities until yesterday. Yesterday morning, a force of about a dozen men, residents of Roseboom and Cherry Valley, were started at the task of clearing several locations of the ledges overlooking Roseboom of soil so that intelligently selected samples of rock might be sent for assay.” Exact locations were not published.

Those soil samples were sent to Arizona. During the previous 50 to 60 years, other efforts to find gold had found nearly nothing, but hopes were still lingering that a glacier had brought a deposit to the area, and there was gold in “paying quantities.”

Nothing came of the investigation, except for bad news. A miner from Roseboom, working in the area on his land, killed himself following his land being taken over by the Solar Mining Co.


While hopes were high in northern Otsego County, to the south, Herald readers of April 2 learned, “E.S. Warner of Charleston, W.Va., who with a group of five men has been working in Oneonta and vicinity for the past six weeks securing royalty leases on land, planning to drill test wells for natural gas and oil, reports that very good progress is now being made and that several blocks of leases have been secured which are almost large enough to warrant the expense of a well. He expects that within the next few weeks he will have completed his work and hopes to assemble equipment shortly thereafter to do his first drilling. His leases now total about 20,000 acres in this section.” Again, no specific sites were published.

Those leasing their land were hoping for similar results in a region not far from here, near Elmira.

With that dateline, the Herald of April 9 reported, “Discovery of gas in two large fields during the past year has started one of the greatest booms southern New York and northern Pennsylvania have ever known.

“Today more than a score of wells are producing a vast supply of gas and hundreds of thousands of dollars have been spent in the development of the two fields. Thousands of acres of farm land, much of which could have been bought for taxes a year ago, have been placed under lease. On dozens of locations drills are being hammered into the earth and small towns near the wells are growing. Hotels are jammed and money is being spent in the gas areas with lavish hand.”

The largest gas fields were reported at that time in New York’s Schuyler County, and Pennsylvania’s Tioga County.

Back in Oneonta, “While Mr. Warner feels that the location of sizeable wells in the Oneonta territory is questionable, he is optimistic about the natural gas possibilities as the result of his long experience in the business and on of reports of eminent geologists.”

As with no wealth derived from gold, oil and gas proved mostly unproductive in our region as well.

On Wednesday: Our local life and times in April 1951.

Oneonta City Historian Mark Simonson’s column appears twice weekly. On Saturdays, his column focuses on the area before 1950. His Wednesday columns address local history 1950 and later. If you have feedback or ideas about the column, write to him at The Daily Star, or email him at His website is His columns can be found at

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Write to him at "Ask Mark," The Daily Star, 102 Chestnut St., Oneonta, NY 13820 or email him at

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