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 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.

3 Ways to Tour Fairbank Oil Fields

Together, Fairbank Oil Fields and the adjacent Oil Museum of Canada, are one National Historic Site. We highly recommend all visitors to Fairbank Oil Fields first visit the oil museum. More information on our tours can be obtained at the museum.

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

Summer Sunday Tours

HORSE-DRAWN WAGON TOURS

For something totally different, hop on the horse-drawn wagon for a 45-minute tour with a guide happily explaining all you see, in the meadows and woods, including inside one of our powerhouses with the huge bullwheel. The tours on Sundays in July and August are free with your admission to the Oil Museum of Canada.

Hold This Date!

Sept. 28, 2019

Doors Open At Fairbank Oil Fields

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?

News
July 4, 2019

Is This the Most Photographed Barn in Ontario?

Is our barn with oilman mural the most photographed barn in Ontario? We’re not sure, but it easily could be. Visitors and media have been snapping photos of the unique…
News
May 24, 2019

SPRING COMES TO FAIRBANK OIL FIELDS!

Spring is undoubtedly the most beautiful time of the year here. There are bursts of blossoms, vivid green leaves are unfurling, and the brightly feathered Baltimore Orioles have returned from…
News
May 23, 2019

NEW YORK TIMES STORY ON OIL SPRINGS, 1866

A fascinating New York Times 1866 story on amazing flowing wells of Oil Springs appears on Martin Dillon’s Petrolia Heritage website https://petroliaheritage.com/ and fortunately, he was willing to share it…