Friday, December 20, 2013

Why are Mt. Pleasant High School teams called “The Oilers”?

The Laura Root #1 oil well, discovery well of the Mt. Pleasant oil field, was almost astraddle the Isabella/Midland county line. Being located almost equal distance from Mt. Pleasant and Midland, either could have become the place to live, commute to the field.

When the Mt. Pleasant field discovery well was reportedly looking good in mid 1928, Walter Russell sprung into action, spearheading a group of Mt. Pleasant businessmen who pratically overnight leased pipeline right-of-way from the discovery well to the railhead at Mt. Pleasant, securing an easy route to market for the crude oil from that field, when the discovery well came in August 29, 1928.

The oil, the equipment suppliers, the people and the resultant cashflow, went to Mt. Pleasant instead of Midland, just ahead of the Great Depression. Mt. Pleasant became the Oil Capital of Michigan,

Because the presence of an active oil and natural gas exploration and production industry presences, Mt. Pleasant felt little of the Depression’s financial chaos. In appreciation for the oil industry’s role in Mt. Pleasant’s comparative prosperity during the Great Depression, the name of Mt. Pleasant High School athletic teams was changed to the “Oilers”.


Monday, September 19, 2011


     Larger cities absorb the presence of the oil and gas exploration and production industry as part of their own economic diversity. Saginaw, where the discovery of the Saginaw Field in 1925 put Michigan into the ranks of ­commercially producing oil and gas states, was the site of some noted economic ­effect but made little to no change in the ­complexion of local life.

     So it was also with Muskegon in 1927.

The 1928 discovery of the Mt. Pleasant Field between Mt. Pleasant and Midland, which basically proved that oil discoveries in Saginaw and Muskegon counties were not Basin-flank flukes and that petroleum production was possible ­­in-Basin, led to establishment of the town of Oil City in Isabella County, the most obvious of local impact notice of the industry presence.

The Mt. Pleasant Field is credited with essentially shielding the town of Mt. ­Pleasant from the Great Depression. Overnight Mt. Pleasant became a boomtown with the arrival of a wave of humanity connected with every facet of finding and producing oil. The town flourished with new residents from all over the country, new housing, new businesses and best of all, new money. In 1929 the Mt. Pleasant Rotary Club hosted a welcome banquet with 40 oilmen as their guests. In 1935, at the opening of the first International Oil and Gas Exposition in Mt. Pleasant’s Island Park, a parade was held which featured a hearse bearing an effigy of “old man depression” for whom a mock funeral was held.

The city became known as the “Oil Capital of Michigan” and the Mt. Pleasant High School athletic teams are still known as “The Oilers.” It was at the Mt. Pleasant Field that in 1932 the first well was acidized, giving birth to the worldwide Dowell service company. It was at Mt. Pleasant that Franklin Oil Tool Company was born, later to expand worldwide in the 1970’s as Franklin Supply Company.

So Mt. Pleasant became a hub of Michigan petroleum activity, first as an accident of geology and later as a convenience of geography (since the community lies close to the geographical center of the “mitten”, thus located equal distance from anywhere in the Lower Peninsula). Primary oil and gas explorationists, petroleum supply and service companies, geologists (and later geophysicists), drilling contractors all headquartered in Mt. Pleasant to be accessible to the growing industry (now having seen oil and/or gas production from 64 of lower Michigan’s 68 counties) no matter where the next oil or gas discovery was made.

Though later years have seen the intensity of field activity shift elsewhere in the state, Mt. Pleasant remains a viable center of petroleum industry activity with 98 business entities with Mt. Pleasant addresses listed as doing business with the industry in whole or in part in the current edition of the Michigan Petroleum Directory.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Transcription of


Article as appeared in the

Isabella County Times-News September 8, 1938



Many tribes Represented At Conclave on Old Indian School Grounds

From more than a half dozen states and from a distance of approximately 400 miles, 600 Indians; braves, squaws and papooses invaded Mt. Pleasant Labor Day for an annual pow wow that is hoped will become a traditional custom in the future.  There were big athletic braves, young ones hanging to mother’s skirts, there were many whose memories could reveal the struggles of their people to hold ground against the rapidly advancing white man.  The oldest one present was said to be 111 years of age.

All had a specific purpose for coming here last Monday.  It was to renew old acquaintances and to view the site of the old government Indian School grounds where many of the Indians had spent childhood days learning the customs of the white man.  It has been four years since the institution was converted into a vocational branch for inmates of the Michigan Home and Training School but nearly 40 years ago it was it was one of the leading Indian schools in the mid-west.

Bradley T. Fowlkes, superintendent of the present institution together with Rev. Eltha Mayhew and D. W. Gabrnstak arranged for an all-day celebration for the returning Indians and judging from the tired and happy braves who piled into cars, trucks and trailers that evening after the ceremonies were over everyone had a good time.

Mr. Fowlkes, who was instrumental in sponsoring the affair, gave an address of welcome to the gathering as it first congregated in the gymnasium.  A varied program was then presented for the entertainment of the crowd consisting of music from the Training School band and the harmonica orchestra.   There was also singing and other speeches.

At noon a free meal was served to the visiting Indians 600 strong and from beans to ice cream all were partaken with much satisfaction.  Following this a tour of the grounds was made and one could see the pointing fingers of many people denoting this or that place that undoubtedly brought back some memory of the past four decades.

A baseball game between the Bradley Indians, State Redskin Champions, and the Braves of Isabella County wound up the ceremonies for the day.  Needless to say the Champions

had little trouble in scoring at this victory over the Central Michigan Braves.

One of the most interesting members of the visiting delegation here for the homecoming was Mrs. Sarah Isaac of Bradley.  Mrs. Isaac wrinkled and bent was said to be 111 years old but one would never guess the fact by following her during the day of activities.


Mrs. Isaac was born in Chatham Ontario Canada in 1827 a full blooded Pottawattomie.

At present she lives with a nephew residing near Grand Rapids.  Among her living relatives she boasts one grandchild and 10 great grandchildren.

In addition to the many states that were represented at the reunion Canada sent many representatives.  One group of Chippewas and Pottawattomies numbering 33 came from Walpole Island Indian Reservation in Canada 202 miles distant from Mt. Pleasant.  Two carloads came from the Sarnia Ontario reservation and four representatives came from Cape Croaker Canada a distance of 405 miles.

Both Rev. Mayhew and Mr. Fowlkes expressed extreme satisfaction with results of the homecoming and it was announced that it will undoubtedly become an annual Labor Day affair in the future.  This year’s plans were made for the expected attendance of about 300.


A few pictures snapped by the Times-News photographer as 600 Indians enjoyed their first annual Labor Day homecoming at the Michigan Home & Training school formerly the Indian school.

  In the upper left Rev. Elihu Mayhew (left) and Superintendent Bradley T. Fowlkes (right), have just finished “the pipe of peace” with two braves, Owen “Porcupine” Smith of Lansing with the pipe, and Elliott “Chief” Pomp of Battle Creek.

  Right, shows a part of the gathering in the bleachers watching the Bradley Indian ball team defend its state laurels against the Isabella Braves.

At bottom right is Miss Marie Pelcher, of Detroit, secretary of an Indian organization in the metropolitan city, comprised of 31 Indian tribes.  On her left is a friend, Mary Mullin of Lansing.

  Bottom right is a portion of the lineup being served ice cream after having finished the noonday meal.

In the center is Mrs. Sarah Isaac, 111 year old Indian, who led photographers a merry chase during the day.  Mrs. Isaac resented greatly the attention she received; refused aid in getting about and enjoyed herself as much as the youngest Brave present.    


Thursday, August 25, 2011

The old "Shepherd curve" where Mission Road meets Blanchard Road south of Mt. Pleasant

Above is a picture labeled "Tommy's Sandwich Shop - Shepherd curve". If this is the same place, I think it weas later Frank's Place where Mission Road ised to curve to the east before encountering Blanchar Road back when it was US-27.
I remember in the mad-1940w, my granddad Walter Scott Westbrook, picking me up to take an early Sunday morning ride (we used to do that a lot) and him stopping at Frank;s Place for (in the first time of my young life) a steak and egg brakfast. I think it stayed  a restaurant for awhile before the shift of US-27 to en expressway east of Shepherd and Mt. Pleasant made the eatery and the curve obsolete so they disappeared.
Note the old roadbed framed by the  snow in the photo below of the area in early 2011.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Pioneer Mt. Pleasant flight instructor Don Peltier celebrates 91st birthday at EAA Fly-in Breakfast August 14, 2011

The annual Experimental Aircraft Association Chapter 907 Fly-in, Drive-in Breakfast at the Woodruff Lake Airport Sunday August 14th had an added attraction this year. Legendary local pilot and flight instructor Don Peltier and his family celebrated Don's 91st birthday with the Breakfast attendee with a specially decorated cake to top off the meal of pancakes, ham, cheese potatoes, fruit cups, juice and coffee.     
     When the Central Michigan College’s Civilian Pilot Training Program began in 1939. 19 year-old Escanaba, Michigan, native Don Peltier, a pioneer pilot who had  received flight training through a United States Government program, came to Mt. Pleasant to train the students. Training took place  at the Mount Pleasant airport,  one of the few in Michigan adequate for the training.
    Peltier, recipient of the Department of Transportation Federal Aviation Administration Wright Brothers Master Pilot, recalls the students went to classes in the morning, below, and flight training in the afternoon. The first student in the program to solo, January 10, 1940, was Mount Pleasant's Lucille Davidson.
       Later, Navy V cadets were housed at Central from 1942 until 1944 while receiving basic military and Peltier-instructed flying techniques training. The V plan of enlistment was open to physically qualified 17 to 20 year old students, requiring those students to take courses directed by the Navy.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Isabella County received $1,854,862 in 6 Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund grants the past 35 years

In 1976, Michigan became the first state in the nation to earmark state revenue generated through mineral, including oil and gas, activity for acquisition and improvement of environmentally sensitive and/or public recreation lands. The Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund (MNRTF) was created by the Kammer Recreational Land Trust Fund Act, signed by Governor William G. Milliken on July 23, 1976. Through 2010, the Fund has awarded 1,601 MNRTF project grants either active or closed (completed) in each of Michigan's 83 counties totaling more than $816.6 million.

 From the tip of the Keweenaw Peninsula to a harbor park in downtown Detroit, more than 1,600 public recreation facilities from rail trails to parks to fishing piers statewide have benefited from the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund, born of a unique alliance of government, environmental groups and the Michigan oil and gas industry in the mid-1970s serving as a solution to a seeming impasse.

Now the history of the MNRTF has been brought to life by a new book from retired Michigan Oil & Gas News magazine Managing Editor Jack R. Westbrook, who covered the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund from embryo to adulthood. In his “Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund 1976-2011: A 35 year Michigan investment heritage in Michigan’s public recreation future”, Westbrook takes the reader on a tour  of the places to play in Michigan's great outdoors made possible by this historic Fund, listing the projects in each county with general, and oil and gas, histories of their county home venues..

According to the new book, with 574 square miles Isabella County is 38tth largest county and 28th largest in population with 70,311 residents.

The discovery of the Mt. Pleasant Field in 1928 brought an influx of people and equipment to the county, sheltering the area from the worst financial stress of the Great Depression. Since then, 1,678 holes have been drilled in the search for oil and gas. Isabella County has produced 46,209,912 barrels of oil and 38.146 billion cubic feet of natural gas, ranking 9th and 29th respectively among the 64 oil or gas producing Michigan counties. Isabella County has received $1,854,862 in 6 Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund grants, ranking  33rd  in number of grants received and 55th in grant dollars awarded.

Isabella County has received $1,854,862 in 6Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund grants, ranking 33rd in number of grants received and 55th th in grant dollars awarded.

The 222 page soft-cover book, Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund 1976-2011, published by Jack R. Westbrook ORSB Publishing and printed by, is available in bookstores now and at now. The book officially launched on the anniversary of Governor Milliken’s signing of the bill, with a book-based slide presentation by Westbrook at the Michigan Historical Museum and Library auditorium in Lansing on Saturday July 23, 2011

One of the last standing traditional oil derricks in the state with a sign declaring Mt. Pleasant – Oil Capital of Michigan” along US-127. The sign has now been converted to a Mt. Pleasant commercial promotional sign while the derricck still stands.
One of the last standing traditional oil derricks in the state with a sign declaring Mt. Pleasant – Oil Capital of Michigan” along US-127.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Have I got a book for you

In my retirement from 28 years with the Michigan Oil & Gas News magazine, I began writing photo history books and have aided others in doing thier own books.
They include:
Michigan Oil & Gas News (Arcadia Publishing -2006);
Mount Pleasant Then and Now (Arcadia Publishing-2006);
Central Michigan University (Arcadia Publishing-2007);
Isabella County 1859-2009 (Arcadia Publishing-2008);
Yesterday's School Kids of Isabella County (ORSB Publishing - 2009);
,Almost A Cattle Baron by William J. Strickler (Jack R. Westbrook ORSB Publishing-2009
Anointed with Oil, by C. John Miller (ORSB Publishing - 2010);
The Big Picture Book of Mt. Pleasant Michigan  (ORSB Publishing -2010);
and Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund 1976-2011 (ORSB Publishing- 2011),

All are available from or through your local bookstore or at