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Murrysville's gas well site denied historic status

Renatta Signorini
| Saturday, July 14, 2012, 12:01 a.m.

The first commercial natural gas well in Murrysville has been deemed ineligible for the National Register of Historic Places.

Murrysville Historical and Preservation Society learned of the denial on Tuesday in a letter from the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission.

“It's very disappointing,” said Carl Patty, president of the society.

In a small, grassy lot along Turtle Creek, gas once roared from the ground.

The society had hoped to preserve the area as the “first commercial gas derrick in the world,” known as Haymaker No. 1, which no longer stands there.

The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission recognizes the well's significance with a blue and yellow marker, yet the commission's Bureau for Historic Preservation deemed the site ineligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places.

In a letter, the commission stated that gas was piped from wells to homes in Venango County in 1867 and Crawford County in 1872.

“Based on that information, it is difficult to see how (the Murrysville) site represents the first commercial gas well,” the letter states.

In 1878, brothers Michael and Obediah Haymaker found gas 1,460 feet below the ground. Gas roared from the ground for nearly three years as the brothers didn't know how to control it.

In 1882, the Haymakers used a 45-foot smokestack to control the well and sold it to Keystone Gas Co.

The commission stated that the site “lacks integrity” because the exact well location is unknown.

“In other words, they felt that it could not convey its significance since it is, essentially, a mowed lawn now,” the letter states. “The historical marker program was designed to recognize resources of this type; however, the National Register, a separate and unrelated program, was not.”

Murrysville society Secretary Jackie Stempfer said the group will appeal the decision. She questioned the dates of wells in the other counties.

“We already have documentation that ours was way before that,” Stempfer said.

A small derrick replica and a historical marker stand at the Murrysville site.

A house once stood on the property, but now it is a grassy space flanked on either side by homes.

Renatta Signorini is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-837-5374 or rsignorini@tribweb.com.

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