How Oil City Came to Be

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Source:
The History of Pennsylvania By William H. Egle, M.D., M.A. Published 1883.

[As of 1883] Oil City, [PA] is comparatively a modern town, and is based on the rise and progress of the petroleum business. It is now a grand railroad center, and a place of great commercial importance. It is situated on both sides of Oil creek, and at the same time on both sides of the Allegheny river, seven miles above Franklin.

The land on the western side of Oil creek was purchased from the State in 1803, by Francis Holliday, descending to his son James Holliday. He sold it to Dr. John Nevins, and by them laid out in lots. Previous to 1859 there were but two or three houses on that side of the creek. Two of these were hotels. One kept by Thomas Moran was an old landmark. They were designed for the accommodation of raftsmen. The eddy above and below was often lined with rafts for miles in extent. East of the creek, and along it, the land belonged to the old Indian chief Cornplanter. The United States government had presented him with three hundred acres of land in return for services rendered the country during the Revolutionary war. By him it was given to his son and by him sold for a small consideration.

In 1861 the town began to grow rapidly, and in 1862 it was incorporated into a borough. In 1863, William L. Lay purchased the Bastion farm on the south side of the river, and laid out a town by the name of Laytonia. Afterwards James Bleakley, of Franklin, purchased the Downing farm, and laid out a town adjoining this by the name of Imperial City. In January, 1866, these two towns were consolidated by an act of court, under the name of Venango City. On March 11, 1871, the two towns, Oil City and Venango City, were consolidated with a city charter by the Legislature.