In a Logging camp, Scribner's Magazine, December 1897
"Early on Friday afternoon, October 9th, I set out from Williamsport, with Oil City as my next objective point."
[Evidently the chance to try out the logging
industry near English Center altered Walter's
plan a bit as he didn't reach here until about
a month later.]
We headed north from Hoytville/Morris
until we connected with our familiar US6,
heading west until it forked a few miles
outside of Warren, then followed US62
southwest to Oil City. Pennsylvania is
said to be the least settled state in the
Union but after being around the
Philadelphia area, I had my doubts.
However, in this part of the state, the hills
and forests seem to go on forever,
providing not only spectacular vistas but
proving that the state still had a lot of
The next time you fill up the gas tank, give a mental tip
'o the hat to Oil City, for it was here that the oil
industry began. Edwin Drake made his discovery
near here in 1859. and set up his first well. The city
was founded soon after, and remained a refining and
shipping center for the state until the oil companies
departed in the mid-1990s.
|Oil City Overview, ca 1908
|Walking about the downtown area we spotted a neat mosaic
that embodied Drake's strike,
embedded every so often in the sidewalks near Seneca Street --
a neat touch of civic pride.
|Seneca Street looking towards The Hogback
Here we go again. Before our trip, I picked up a postcard view of Oil City (top photo) that was taken from "The
Hogback", part of which appears in the far center in both photos. We went through the city, crossed the bridge to
PA428 and turned a sharp left up Dweyer Street, a steep, winding road, only to find the view area was now private
property. Intending to ask for permission to enter, we unsuccessfully searched for the owner and eventually headed
back downhill. This was our first experience in going down a STEEP hill in an overdrive transmission vehicle. We
might as well have been in neutral as the free-wheeling "advantage" had Phyllis pumping the brakes trying to slow
down without burning up the brakes -- even first gear didn't help much. We finally made a white-knuckle stop at
the bottom amid the acrid smell of overheated brake linings and smoking wheels. We decided to check out the
downtown area for a less nerve-wracking view of the city.
There were numerous streets that had old photogenic buildings scattered amongst the more modern ones but I
finally opted for Seneca Street because of the partial view of the hill that made our visit so memorable. Months
later, I found the period postcard with the same street scene, taken about a half-block further back. That was good
enough to label the modern photo a "Hand of Walter" shot.
Here begins some of Walter's gaps in place names and events. After leaving English Center, his last mention of any
town was Hoytville, about 180 miles east of Oil City. We next pick up on his journey in the 1898 issues of Scribner's
Magazine, from which his "The Workers, West" was drawn. It details the more strenuous westward leg of his trek
and begins one month and 400 miles later in Chicago, with no mention of any town in Ohio or Indiana and
mentioning only the sand dunes as he approached the city. Upon leaving Oil City, we assume that Walter ended up
back on US6, and since there were no stops for us on the agenda, we took the Ohio Turnpike and crossed the state
in six hours -- in marked contrast to the 10 days or so it must have taken Walter. We seamlessly entered the
Indiana turnpike and, not very enthusiastically, headed for Chicago where Walter received a Master's Degree in
Misery as an unemployed unskilled worker in the middle of winter.
|End of Walter's Eastern Leg