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


Welcome to Fairbank Oil Fields

Oil Springs, Ontario

Before oil was developed in Pennsylvania, Texas, the Middle East or Alberta, the Canadian boom town of Oil Springs, Ontario burst into existence.

In 1858, James Miller Williams carved his name in history when he dug a well, produced oil, crudely refined it, barreled it and marketed it as “illuminating oil” for lamps. Prior to 1858, he was distilling the bitumen of Oil Springs for lamp oil. A surveyor named John Henry Fairbank stumbled onto the fevered scene and in 1861 dug his first well.

That was 158 years ago and the family has been continuously pumping oil here through four generations. Fairbank Oil Fields is much more than just the site of Canada’s first gusher of the Shaw Well in 1862.

Today, it still operates a complete system of pumping oil using the authentic technology of the 1860s. This is unique in the world, and we believe Oil Springs meets all the criteria to become a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

History happened here. Ingenious technologies developed here and the International Drillers (Foreign Drillers) took their expertise, tools and technology to 86 countries around the globe to open new oil fields. The significance of Oil Spring, Canada spread far and wide.

Though most drilling was done here more than 100 years ago, Fairbank Oil Fields produces about 24,000 barrels of oil annually has been supplying Imperial Oil with crude for nearly 140 years.

We have stories!

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

Summer 2020 Touring of Fairbank Oil Fields

Despite the ongoing pandemic, you can still tour Fairbank Oil Fields in two ways. Although the Oil Museum of Canada is not yet opening, you can still tour Fairbank Oil. Together, Fairbank Oil Fields and the adjacent Oil Museum of Canada, form one National Historic Site.

The coronavirus has upended so many summer plans and here at Fairbank Oil Fields, we’re unable to offer our Horse-drawn Wagon Tours of the our oil field. It’s impossible to social distance on a wagon ride!

But the good news is that you can still take our Driving Tour (see Driving Tour section on this website) or hike through our Oil History Nature Trail at any time (See Nature section on this website). The Driving Tour’s audio narrative can be heard in your vehicle by tuning into the radio.

For news on when the County of will the Oil Museum of Canada, the archives, and its other museums will open to the public, stay tuned to local media.

Our much anticipated international conference in Oil Springs on oil heritage technology in has been moved to May 2021, due to covid-19. The conference will bring experts from several countries. It is being organizes with The International Committee for the Conservation of Industrial Heritage (TICCIH) and The International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMCO) which provide expertise to UNESCO World Heritage.

Anytime Tours


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


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.

What’s New?

July 10, 2020

Getting Greener Fairbank Oil to Plant 6,650 Trees

Charlie Fairbank visits the 8-acre field on Fairbank Oil where 6,650 trees are being planted to increase biodiversity and reduce the carbon footprint. The planting of several species of oak…
April 22, 2020

Fairbank Oil and Imperial Oil, Partners for 140 Years!

Happy 140th anniversary Imperial Oil! This year, Fairbank Oil is also celebrating a special anniversary. It has been selling its crude to Imperial Oil for refining for 140 years. It…
March 3, 2020

A Sneak Peak at Using Age- Old Skills for Historic Oilfields

Making a Packer – In 6,000 Easy Steps When people see the oilfield technology at work at Fairbank Oil Fields, they see wooden pumpjacks, cast iron field wheels, the jerker…