COBWEB CORNERS: Not-so-big oil

By Mel McFarland

       Here is something to think about. Down in the area of Canon City and Florence, oil was discovered as early as the 1870s. At the time there was little use for the goo, except greasing axle bearings on wagons. After the turn of the century and the increasing number of horseless carriages, there was a growing market. There was even a large oil refinery built near Pinion (north of Pueblo) in the late teens.
       The idea of oil wells in our area brought a number of exploratory wells. A well in Old Colorado City produced enough natural gas that pipes were laid, and the gas was sold commercially for nearly five years before the well gave out. That well was located under where the Midland Expressway (US-24) is now located. Colorado City was one of the first in the area to have homes heated by Natural Gas. There was even a stove and furnace factory here that had conversions from coal to gas for sale.
       Close to Fountain, wells along the hills on either side of Fountain Creek usually found water. South of town at Wigwam, people did not give up so easy. After water was found, they "cased" the well (used concrete and installed heavy pipe) and kept on drilling. At about 2,500 feet down they struck oil.
       The oil ran out after a few days, however. The refinery survived for a few years. A pipeline ran along US 50 between Canon City and Pinion, but in 1922, the refinery, which had closed, was severely damaged again. It had suffered in the disastrous 1921 flood on Fountain Creek, and the May 1922 repeat only sealed its fate.
       This was not the end of the search for oil in the area. In the 1950s, with the advent of better seismic equipment, literally all of eastern Colorado was mapped for oil potential. Some of the oil companies even bought leases on some of the promising areas. There was talk of looking around Colorado City again, but some of the spots suggested were pretty popular for various reasons and nothing was done. One of those was Garden of the Gods!