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.

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