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Every Picture Tells a Story

They say that every picture tells a story and this photo tells of many stories. It was taken at the entrance to Fairbank Oil possibly in 1905 or earlier. The more we look at this photo, the more we see.

Much that is shown in the photo still exists today. The curve in the lane and the curve of Black Creek are unchanged. The bridge is in the same spot. The 1888 house still is used today, and the oil well on the right is still pumping oil. Black Creek continues to flood its banks in heavy rain and the boardwalk still allows us to walk over the flood if needed.

Looking closely, to the left of the house, we can make out the three-pole derricks over each well. Those would have existed until the 1950s. The jerker line is shown going up the hill, but is now rerouted under the lane. The barn appears much the same but that barn burned down. The barn we use now is slightly different and it was built in 1913.

And who is that well-dressed man in a hat on the bridge? We have no idea.

At the top of the lane near the house, a team of horses can be seen. Horses were still used until the 1950s here, not for carriages but to work in the oil field. The trees are much different than they were in the early 1900s. The apple orchards are gone, the front hill has towering black walnut trees, and tall white pine grow along the creek.

We’ve just had this photo reproduced and plan to mount it at our entrance in a spot where visitors can compare today to this photo.

The photographer is believed to be Louis James Pesha. Born just south of here in Edys Mills, he took many photographs in the oil fields and surrounding area starting in 1895. Many of his photos became postcards.

He was so successful, he had studios in Oil Springs, Inwood, Alvinston and Brigden until 1901 when he moved to Marine City, Michigan and became quite famous. He was known to come back to his Canadian family home for visits. He was on such a visit in 1912, when his steam-powered auto overturned and he died at age of 44. Though he has been gone for more than 100 years, his photos still have things to tell us about our past.

This is a postcard he had made of Fairbank Oil from one of his photos. The date is believed to be between 1895 and 1901.

Photo of postcard of Fairbank Oil by Pesha.
Courtesy of the Lambton County Archives