Three-pole derricks topped each well in the days of heavy horses.

photo: Lambton County Archives

 
 

Relics of an old pumping rig are kept.

Photo: Al Hayward

 
 

A robin's nest hides outside the blacksmith shop.

Photo: Al Hayward

 
 

An oilman greases the threads of a pipe collar.

Photo: Willy Waterton

 
 

An oilman tightens the collar on a scraping tool.

Photo: Willy Waterton

 
 

A curious deer stops to view the onlooker.

Photo: Larry Cornelis

 
 

This 5-horsepower rig pumps 20 wells.

Photo: Al Hayward

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Welcome to Fairbank Oil

Ever the optimists, we are hoping that this is the year we can actually return to something that looks like normal.

We have rescheduled our Heritage in Oil international conference for the end of August and we’re much looking forward to it. It’s based on the thematic study written by The International Committee for the Conservation of Industrial Heritage. (It’s ready to read on our Find Out More tab). The heritage experts will be arriving from Scotland, Spain, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Calgary, Montreal, Toronto and Ottawa. Our hope is that this study and conference will give us a leg up when we next apply to be designated as a World Heritage site. We were all set to have the conference in May 2020, but the arrival of Covid nixed that plan. So, we have been waiting – sometimes patiently, sometimes not – for Covid to lift.

Though many people have had to endure various work stoppages, here at Fairbank Oil Fields, our pumpjacks keep pumping oil 24 hours a day and the rigs thunder along day and night. Producing oil was declared an essential service by the government. During the past two years, we have not been able to have our horse-drawn wagon rides through our oilfield on summer Sundays and visitors have been few. But the good news is that the Oil Museum of Canada in Oil Springs is soon to reopen its doors to visitors. Its multi-million-dollar renovation has been underway for over a year and it will have a whole new look.

Certainly 2021 was a busy year for us in other ways. A number of our very old buildings, like the old summer kitchen and hen house, have been removed and all kinds of old oil tools were unearthed beneath them. These buildings were used and repurposed many times over many decades. Fortunately, Charlie Fairbank could identify the various tools and how they were once used. These buildings once held a sort of rustic charm but had deteriorated beyond saving. Removing them has opened up a whole new view of the oilfield from our doorstep!

In December, we finally finished the gigantic job of emptying the VanTuyl and Fairbank Hardware store in Petrolia that has been in the family since 1865 and closed in 2019. Stretching along Railway Street for more than half the block, it contained a lot. Along with the remaining merchandise geared to oil producers, farmers, electricians, plumbers and do-it-yourselfers, the three previous generations stored things. Historical files, photos, maps, books, and trunks in the attics of personal items. Organizing and finding the right archives and museums for donations will take considerable time. Already, Charlie donated a one-of-a-kind 1866 map of Enniskillen Township to the township. We certainly noticed the map showed the township office was adjacent to a tavern! The map had hung on the wall of an inner office for so many decades that it went virtually unnoticed. A portrait of Sir Wilfred Laurier hung on an office wall likely since 1896 when he became prime minister. The fun continues!

We have stories!

Navigate through our history, technology, nature pages above and info below.

What’s New?

News
January 19, 2022

Winter at Fairbank Oil Fields

Click on the images below to view the full size images.
Shaw Well at Fairbank OilNews
January 19, 2022

Canada’s First Gusher Struck in Oil Springs 160 Years Ago

Canada’s first oil gusher exploded with a roar in Oil Springs, Ontario 160 years ago in January. It was January 16, 1862 when John Shaw chiselled 52 metres into the…
Unearthed from the Vault
November 16, 2021

The Blacksmith Shop

Charlie Fairbank hammering the loop hole he made in the iron rod to make a hanging iron for the jerker line. To step into our blacksmith shop is to step…

Touring Fairbank Oil Fields

Normally, we offer three ways to tour here: The Driving Tour, our Horse-drawn Wagon Rides in summer, and for touring on foot, there is our Nature Trail.

The good news is that anyone can take our Driving Tour any time of year, even during the pandemic. This tour is narrated and you can tune in on your vehicle’s radio. (See FM Radio box at right.)

Our two other ways of touring Fairbank Oil are on hold at the moment. Our popular guided horse-drawn wagon rides through our oilfield may be offered this summer but we are not certain. It will depend on Covid-19 restrictions. Not only is this 45-minute ride fun to do but you also learn a lot from the Oil Museum of Canada guide onboard.

Our Nature Trail is currently closed for bridge repair. The trail’s walking bridge across Black Creek needs new foundations and they may be in place by summer. The foundations date back more than 100 years when the A.W. Parks and his family built the bridge to their house. It was built so that cars could drive across it. Many decades later the bridge was taken down and Fairbank Oil replaced it with a wooden walking bridge.

The Oil Museum of Canada here in Oil Springs is currently closed as extensive renovations are underway. It is expected that the museum will be able reopen in August to welcome visitors back and marvel at the changes.

Like everyone else, we are all hoping to return to Normal as soon as possible!

Anytime Tours

DRIVING TOUR

From the comfort of your car, see the oilfield in action and life-sized metal sculptures depicting oilmen as they worked in the 1800s. Pick up map and guidebook at the Oil Museum of Canada and from May to October, you can tune into a narrative on your car radio. You’ll also see our barn mural, the most photographed barn in Lambton County.

Driving Tour

OIL HISTORY NATURE TRAIL

Take the family on foot though woodlands wetlands and meadows to see oil history interpretive signs as well as the pumpjacks pumping oil. Highlights include the Foreign Driller art and the wonderful bridge over Black Creek is perfect for watching dragonflies. The diverse habitats draw deer, turtles, frogs and many species of birds and butterflies. Use the parking lot on Gypsie Flats Rd. and grab a trail map there.

Nature Trail

Fairbank Oil Fields by Numbers

What else is here?

Lots! In all of Lambton County, only Walpole Island has greater biodiversity than Fairbank Oil Fields.

As the county is farmed more intensively and urban development grows, the forests, wetlands and meadows have largely disappeared. This makes Fairbank Oil Fields very important to preserving these habitats.

There are two key reasons the biodiversity is so huge here. One is that Black Creek meanders through the northern and western sections of our land. The second reason is that our various landscapes are large enough to be brimming with life.

Within our 600 acres of woodlands, wetlands and grasslands, we have sheep, geese, deer, wild turkeys, owls, beavers, possums, turtles, frogs, butterflies, more than 80 species of birds, plus we have 500,000 Munro Honey bees and a donkey named Jack.

And in total, we have 315 species of plants. A number of the trees and plants here are rare for Ontario or rare for Lambton County.