Muskingum chamber banquet May 8

A unique perspective on the history of southeast Ohio’s oil and gas industry will be presented during Thursday’s 12th annual Muskingum Valley Area Chamber of Commerce dinner banquet.

“We wanted to provide people with more of a history lesson on the oil and gas development in this area of Ohio. There was a big oil boom here in the late 1800s that spread to other areas of the nation,” said Rick Walters, president of the Muskingum Valley Area Chamber of Commerce.

He said Thursday’s banquet will be held at St. Bernard’s Catholic Church Social Hall in Beverly.

“And it’s open to the public,” Walters said. “Tickets are still available, and reservations can be made through Tuesday by contacting the chamber.”

It was 200 years ago that North America’s first oil well was inadvertently drilled along a creek south of Caldwell, said Jerry James, co-owner with Gene Huck of Artex Oil Company in Marietta.

James, of Lowell, is the keynote speaker for Thursday’s chamber banquet.

“The first well for commercial use was drilled in Pennsylvania in 1859, but 200 years ago, just south of Caldwell, two men were drilling for salt and found oil,” he said. “But they had no need for oil, which was just a byproduct at that time.”

That well site, drilled by Silas Thorla and Robert McKee in 1814, can still be seen in a small park along Ohio 78 in Noble County.

“Many people may not know that by the late 1800s Ohio was the world’s largest oil producer, before the industry began growing in Texas,” James said. “Standard Oil was headquartered in Cleveland, and many of those involved in the early petroleum industry had attended Marietta College.”

He hopes his presentation during Thursday’s banquet will help people better understand Ohio’s role in development of the nation’s oil and gas industry which led to establishment of other major industries like glass manufacturing, which was able to grow due to a stable source of natural gas in this area.

“People’s Bank was started by oil and gas industry interests, and many of the Victorian Era homes in Marietta were built as a result of the oil boom in this area,” James said.

He said the industry has had a major impact on the local economy as well as on the history of Ohio. And with the advent of horizontal hydraulic fracturing of the state’s Utica and Marcellus shale beds, the state is experiencing an even greater economic boost.

“Sometimes in order to appreciate what’s happening, we have to take a step back and look at where all of this originated,” James said.

James and Huck, president and vice president, respectively, of Artex Oil, one of Ohio’s largest oil and gas producers, were recipients of the 2013 Marietta Area Chamber of Commerce Business Leader of the Year award.

James has also served as president of the Ohio Oil and Gas Association (OOGA), and has been honored as recipient of the 2012 Workhorse Award by the Southeastern Ohio Oil and Gas Association, as well as OOGA’s Oilfield Patriot Award, recognizing efforts to protect, promote and advance the common interests of Ohio’s crude oil and natural gas producing industry.

Walters said the chamber is hoping for a good turnout for Thursday’s banquet which will also include a lot of good food and entertainment.