Gas, Natural


STORY OF LAKEWOOD, E.G. Lindstrom (From the Cleveland Leader of July 14, 1885) Pg. 131

In addition to the gas development by Henry A. Mastick at Rocky River, J.M. Gasser, the florist near Phinney's store, has struck gas, which he proposes to utilize for lighting and warming purposes in his greenhouse. W.H. Lawrence of Dover Bay has also succeeded in getting gas at a depth of 600 feet. The time is not far distant when natural gas will be used for all purposes thereabouts, and when the streets of this desirable suburb will be lighted by it.

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STORY OF LAKEWOOD -- E.G. Lindstrom Pg. 53-54

Events in the modern history of Lakewood follow upon one another with such bewildering rapidity, overlapping much of the time, that one can catch only the main outline of the picture. The details are blurred.

Out of that confusion of events rises one fact transcending importance--Lakewood became "a city of homes". That was no accident; it was a planned ideal.

Back in 1913-14, a million-foot-a-day gas well was struck on a farm in Rocky River. Gas known to exist in that district away back in the 80's but the comparatively sparse settlement of that day gave it no market which would warrant exploitation. Where there is gas there may be oil gushers and a fortune. Success in Rocky River inspired tests in Lakewood. On January 24, 1913, the Lakewood Gas Company was organized and a well was brought in on the old Nicholson farm. At about the same time two wells were sunk on Giel Avenue. A year later there were 34 wells in various places, of which 23 were producing.

All were brought in at around 2,700 feet, and some produced at the start as high as 6,000,000 cubic feet a day. Dreams of sudden wealth blinded many persons to the ruin of the city as a residential place. Drilling continued unrestricted.

The first organized, articulate opposition came June 27, appealed to the courts to stop drilling in that neighborhood. They argued that brine from the wells was ruining trees and shrubbery, that property was being depreciated and that noise of the machinery prevented sleep.

A protest also was made to the Lakewood city council, and on February 9, 1915, an ordinance was passed prohibiting operations within 100 feet of dwellings, compelling cessation of work at night, and requiring drillers to obtain permits. The ordinance was the first of the sort passed by any Cuyahoga County municipality.

Shortly after these regulations were passed the need for them diminished. The field was being exhausted. Gas pressure was becoming less and less. Many of the approximately 200 wells sunk in and near Lakewood failed to pay the cost of drilling. Nature had given beauty the final victory, but at least the citizens had helped.

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While we consider Lakewood the city of homes, it is hard to compare it with an oil or gas field. Nevertheless, oil and gas have been found in all parts of the world and nearly all the states in the union.

Oil and gas is nothing new. In the Bible, in various chapters, we find reports that Persian wells produced oil liberally for ages under the name of naptha. Where there is oil, there is gas, and we would not be surprised that there are oil deposits in Lakewood, because we are sure there is gas.

June 19, 1911, we find that a gas well has struck in the village of Rocky River on the farm of Leonard Schlather, which will give a combined capacity of 30 million feet daily (!).

A Carnegie gas company struck two wells in this vicinity of Avon Point. The Schlather well was 20 hundred feet deep and showed a capacity of one million feet per day (!).

On January 21, 1913, five Lakewood men incorporated the Lakewood Gas Company with the view of marketing gas found on the old Nicholson farm on the corner of Nicholson Avenue. It is estimated that the gas produced there would supply 150 to 200 residents with heat and light. The gas was struck in depths of 2740 feet, and had a pressure of 750 pounds per inch.

A company was incorporated for $3000. The company leased 75 acres for the gas rights on the Ezra Nicholson farm. The land extends from Clifton Boulevard to Madison.

On December 11, 1913, we found workmen drilling on the second gas well on Giel Avenue, the property of Theodore Kundts. The first well drilled paid for the drilling. A flow of one million feet of gas a day began when the first well reached 2650 feet. It is not surprising that the East Ohio Gas Company made an immediate preparation for the purchase of this Lakewood gas and a main was run to the East Ohio Mains, and many thousand feet at six cents a thousand were sold.

According to R.W. Gallagher, general manager of the East Ohio Gas Company, between 10 million and 15 million feet of gas were taken daily from the Lakewood field. Officers of the East Ohio Gas Company made the statement that the wells in Lakewood were being drilled too closely together. At that time eighteen wells were drilled. Just outside of Lakewood on the National Carbon Company's property they have the largest number of wells and are the biggest producers.

Whether the present gas wells are indicative of a larger field, or whether they are yielding their capacity, is a matter of conjecture.

On January 28, 1914, there were 34 gas wells in Lakewood, only about 23 of which are producing a monthly rate of ten to twelve million cubic feet daily.

In the midst of the excitement of drilling well almost anywhere in Lakewood, some residents are always ready to consider it a nuisance but there are always complaining when there is an insufficient flow of gas during the winter months. We note that on June 27, 1914, residents near Clifton Boulevard, and Thoreau Road were planning an appeal to the courts in an effort to stop drilling gas wells in that neighborhood, arguing that the machinery prevented sleep, the brine from the wells ruining trees and shrubbery, and that the gas activity is depreciating the property. They made protests to the Lakewood Council with a view of stopping gas grants. Injunction proceedings were to restrain drillers from working more than 12 hours a day and to regulate the drilling campaigns.

Charges were made the the Lakewood gas was inferior to the West Virginia gas, being lower in heat units.

On September 9, 1914, drilling operations in Lakewood were resumed. Four big wells, each producing 4 million cubic feet of gas a day, were struck. The biggest of the four is owned by the Highland Development Company, in which J.A. Saunders and E.R. Edison are interested. This is on the Brown property near West 116th Street. M.F. Branley's well of four million feet and Mrs. Catherine S. Gasser, west of the Branley well, came in strong. Mr. Gallagher intimated that the gas troubles in Lakewood would soon be over.

A flow of ten new gas wells in Lakewood and West Park totaled over 27 million feet and none of these wells were deeper than 2700 feet.

On February 9, 1915, Lakewood Council took initial steps in the county toward the regulation of gas wells and an ordinance was passed prohibiting operations within one hundred feet of dwellings, and compelling a cessation of operations at night.

The ordinance also provided that a permit must be obtained from the municipality before drilling can be started. The ordinance will provide only two wells begun in the future, and Director of Law, Wren, rules that the ordinance cannot be retroacted. The ordinance is the first of its kind. A deposit of $100 must be made to insure the municipality against loss by damage to trees, sidewalks, and pavements.

Mary Taylor failed to find anything in a well on the corner of Nicholson Avenue and Clifton Boulevard which also looked favorable as a location for a good gas well. The Lakewood Fuel Company's well on the Barber lots on Warren Road was an average well.

R.E. Gammel drilled a nice well on the Schlather lots on Madison, Lakeland and Madison Avenues. The Highland Development Company's well on the Lether lots on Thrush and Highland Avenues is a fair gas well.

One of the later contributions to the list of profitably conducted wells was the Charles L. Wiber well, a speculation of a small syndicate of Lakewood, of which he was the head. It is situated north of Irene Street, across the Nickel Plate Railroad tracks on the east side Thoreau Road.

Within 120 yards of the Wiber well was one being drilled by another syndicate of Lakewood residents, the Clifton Oil and Gas Company, while across the railroad tracks, one hundred feet away, a third rig had recently been reared.

The Lakewood field was divided into three sections, one of which being the long narrow strip between Detroit Avenue and the lake front; the second, the crowded area between Berea Road and the Lake Shore Railway tracks; and third, the newly developed field in West Park.

Already residents had complained about the devastation caused by the salt water that had ruined lawns, trees, and shrubbery. The pastoral beauty of years ago surrounding these operations had been transformed into the centers of animated activity--an unlovely medley of mature Eldorados and graves of unrealized expectations where a few months back were verdant pastures--these operations turned them into muddy oil morasses where staid citizens and speculators from afar, caught up a light in the fire of the boom, expending both energy and capital in the frenzied prodigality, in the hope that one day Mother Earth would open to them to the flood tides of wealth as she had done to other pioneers in other fields of exploitations.

The pick (!) lot of the East Ohio Gas Company is 150 million feet a day, and the normal about 100 million a day (!).

Statistics carefully compiled by experts show that a total open flow combined oil and gas wells in the Cleveland field has reached 160 million a day.

In the midst of this excitement, when men woke up in the morning millionaires, this dream was not for long; for in a comparatively short time the gas pressure began to diminish and these inflated dreams broke as bubbles. The wells that had produced an enormous pressure soon dwindled down to normal and some became dry.

In one instance where one man expected to sell millions of feet of gas to the gas company, it was not long before the gas company was putting in meters at his plant, and in return supplied his institution as before.

Investors in the gas developments soon commenced to realize that it would be a long time before they were able to play even the game of hunting for natural gas.

There are over 500 gas wells in area covering but a few miles, and these are the wells that spurred the citizens into the game, as they figured that a gas well starting off at a million feet of gas daily, would maintain its volume for a long time. But regardless of conditions being formed from day to day to take the place of those that drilled and learned their lesson (!).

If many of the well owners would sell their gas at their well in the heart of Lakewood at $.50 per thousand cubic feet, they would never be able to get out with a profit.

When the boom started, most of our operators embarked in the gas game having visions of a pot of money ahead of them, but the income was not what was expected. These same parties agreed later that the public awakened to the fact that speculating in drilling wells is hazardous and that in a crowded area, like that of Lakewood, the prospect of even getting back the cost of drilling became more and more remote.

There were many rigs in the field and plenty of strings of tools at hand; but the rig owners were not late in becoming skeptical in their speculations of the stability of the field.

The excitement lasted a few years and then died away. Some profited by their experience, while the smaller investor who cast his lot with the larger speculator lost heavily.

As we roam about Lakewood we still see the evidences of this excitement and these capped wells, some of which are still producing for gas for private use, no effort being made to drill new wells, no endeavors to sell the product.

On many of the farms surrounding Lakewood, wells have been drilled for gas and are supplying the farmers with gas for light and fuel.

As we drive over the highways we very often come in contact with escaping gas fumes that again remind us of the time when the gas builder expected to become a millionaire over night.



There's still gold under the Lakewood Gold Coast, partner.

Along Lake Erie, a short distance from the string of swanky apartment buildings that give the Gold Coast its name, eight natural gas wells continue to operate as they have for half a century.

A ninth is on Westlake Avenue, just south of Clifton Boulevard.

At one time 104 wells were producing in the area bounded by the Rocky River, W. 104th Street, and the Nickel Plate Road.

MOST OF THEM, drilled in the boom years of 1914 and 1915, have been abandoned.

A co-owner of one well still producing is Dr. Robert M. Stecher, a physician, who lives at 12962 Lake Avenue, next to Winton Place.

The well, 2,600 feet into the earth, is behind Dr. Stecher's home. It was drilled in 1914.

"My father, Fred W. Stecher, and two neighbors financed the drilling," Dr. Stecher recalled. "They put in about 20 feet from the bluff overlooking the lake to avoid encroachment from other wells."

IN THE 1914-15 period, the area south of his present residence across Lake Road, looked like a "little Long Beach (Calif.) with all the drilling derricks," he said.

When one successful well was sunk, others were hurriedly drilled nearby. Some gas pockets were tapped several times shortening the first well's life.

All eight of the Gold Coast wells are tied into East Ohio Gas Co. lines. Some are also used to heat the owners' homes.

Dr. Stechner estimated the income from the well on his property at about $5,700 a year.

IN 1964 the City of Lakewood received a check from East Ohio for $1,400 payment for the suburb's well in the northeast corner of Lakewood Park.

The Stecher well is cleaned once a month by a field service man from the Ohio Pipe & Supply Co., Inc. Clear water is put into the pipe and a long wire is lowered into it with a series of rubber suction cups.

When the wire is pulled up, a vacuum is created underneath and the water comes shooting out of the hole in geyser-like fashion, forcing out mud and brine that has seeped into the pipe.

EAST OHIO speculates that the Gold Coast wells are tapping gas reserves off shore. There have been attempts in the past to open the off-shore area in the vicinity of Lakewood to gas exploration, but nothing was ever done, a gas company spokesman reported.

Of the nine producing wells, three are considered "exceptional," since each has produced over one billion cubic feet in its lifetime.

The locations of the other wells along Lake Erie are:

East Ohio Gas Well located on Nicholson Avenue near the lake; three George J. Ackerman wells, lake shore opposite Sylvan Avenue; L.R. Kundtz Well, lake shore at foot of Kirtland Lane and L.B. Ganoe Well at the foot of Estill Avenue on the lake shore.



Like to own a gas well? It's easy when you live in Lakewood!

Most Lakewood residents may not know it, but they've owned a gas well since 1915 and it has been producing a steady flow of natural gas for 51 years. Apparently there is a lot more gas to come.

The city's well is tucked away in a corner of Lakewood Park behind a neat chain link fence in the northwest section of the recreation area.

Gas from the wells travels in two different directions, according to Lakewood City Engineer Harlan F. Bartels.

"Although we're connected to East Ohio Gas Company line, our well is primarily used for heating various buildings in the park and for heating the pool during the summer," he explained.

ANY SURPLUS gas from the city well goes into the utility's distribution system. And when city needs are more than the well can meet, the gas company reverses roles and becomes a supplier instead of a buyer.

The Lakewood Park well, which has produced nearly 600 million cubic feet of natural gas to date, is one of about a dozen wells still operating in the city half a century after the big "gas strike" of 1914.

Although the Lakewood gas field put the area among the top natural gas production centers in the Midwest, most of the over 100 wells were relatively short-lived. Those surviving today have a record of producing nearly 9 billion cubic feet thus far.

IF 9 BILLION cubic feet of gas sounds like a lot, it is. On peak demand day, when temperatures stay right around zero and below for 24 hours, East Ohio Gas Company's nearly 900,000 customers use over 2 billion cubic feet of gas.

Most of the drilling activity in the 1914-1920 period was in the area north of the Nickel Plate tracks between West 104th St. and Rocky River.

A total of 114 wells were drilled and the score of successes was somewhat fantastic. Only 10 wells turned out to be non-productive "dry holes."

MOST of the wells were drilled in what geologists refer to as Clinton sandstone, located at a depth of about 2500 feet. A few drillers struck gas in the Newburgh sandstone formations at about 2200 feet.

Major producers, including the wells still active today, were concentrated along the lake shore and geologists believe that these wells are tapping gas reserves reserves which extend out under Lake Erie.

Canadians have been successfully drilling for some years for both gas and oil in the lake, but wells on the Ohio side have been restricted to the Ashtabula-Conneaut-Erie area.



A local supermarket doesn't have to worry much about soaring utility prices. It has a gold mine, of sorts, on its property.

So does a Clarence Avenue apartment building owner, plus six other lucky people.

They own the vestiges of the great Lakewood gas boom during the city's pre-World War I days, when more than 200 gas wells dotted the city as men sought to get rich quick.

Many lost their shirts when the boom turned to bust in a short period of time. But for some, the wells keep on producing as their owners read about the latest utility hike and cross their fingers that the well won't run dry.

When Kroger's Supermarket purchased property at Detroit Avenue and Bunts Road in 1952, they acquired a well at the southwest corner of the lot. It now saves the company at least $2300 a year by providing the fuel to heat the store, according to Kroger engineer David Edmonds.

BY STATE LAW, Kroger's must have the well-which on the surface is merely a tall pipe surrounded by a wire fence-inspected every year. The $400 inspection fee is not much of a price to pay for an inflation-proof supply of heat.

"As far as we know, the well will be good for the next 20 years" said Edmonds. "The way gas is right now, we hope we'll have it for a long time."

Further east on Detroit Avenue, 35 residents of a Clarence Avenue apartment have their heat and hot water supplied by a gas well sitting right under the building.

Seven of the eight remaining wells are owned by private individuals; the eighth belongs to East Ohio Gas Co., which contracts to purchase gas from the private wells.

A ninth well, still on the gas company books, belongs to the city. Located in Lakewood Park, it was once used to heat the swimming pool there. Now, the well is dry.

Lakewood's remaining gas wells produce from 50,000 to two million cubic feet per month, according to an East Ohio geologist.

WHEN THE GAS BOOM STRUCK Lakewood and other west suburbs, derricks similar to those found in the oil fields of the southwest lined the length of the city, concentrated mainly near the lake shore and the Berea Road area.

Reports have it that up until recently, the actress Shirley MacLaine owned a gas well along Lakewood's shoreline.

The boom in the city officially began in 1913, when five men formed the Lakewood Gas Co. with a hungry eye toward the corner of Nicholson Avenue and Clifton Boulevard.

At its peak, in 1914-15, about 10 to 15 million cubic feet of gas was siphoned off daily from Lakewood's gas fields.

But not without some complaints. Residents near Clifton and Thoreau Avenue were going to go to court to stop the drilling, which they claimed disrupted sleep, ruined their trees and depreciated the property.

Council later acted to prohibit night drilling and decreed that no drilling should occur within 100 feet of a house.

The ordinance was soon outdated, because the drill boom quickly died down. Some people ventured the guess that because the drill holes were too close together, production from the older wells rapidly decreased. Wells averaged a life span of only eight months.