I will try to bring to my mind some early oil drilling development in the Peace River Block. This was brought about some 48 years ago by the discovery of gas seepage in the Pouce Coupe River by one of our old timers, Mr. Blaine Pierce of Rolla. He then interested Imperial Oil who shipped in a cable tool rig to Spirit River. There it was unloaded and freighted over the Spirit River Trail to a site in the bottom of the Pouce Coupe River some 30 miles northeast of there. The hauling was done by the well-known horse freighting contractors such as the Yaeger Brothers, John Taylor and “Bull Dog Red”. Yaeger Brothers accomplished a feat on this move which some people doubted their ability to do. They moved the only power plant of this rig — a 12 ton boiler — on 2 wagons pulled by 10 to 16 horses, taking two weeks for this 60 mile trip.
After drilling approximately 3 years a gas well was brought in at a depth of 1700 feet — about 3 days’ drilling for today’s rotary rigs. It was reported at that time to be the third largest gas well on the North American continent.
The gas was piped to the bunkhouses and cookhouse of the oil camp. In the winter of 1922 a disastrous explosion occurred in the cookhouse while the men were eating dinner, resulting in serious burns to 12 men.
Being 30 miles from Doctor and hospital, the weather about 30 below zero and the snow on the trail two feet deep. It was felt that the horses and sleds at the site could never get these men to a doctor in time with the weather conditions. One of these burned men rode horseback 8 miles to Braden Brothers’ place. There they took a sleigh and fresh horses to go back and meet the injured and managed to get to Pouce Coupe without any loss of life.
The well was then capped, but some years later the cap blew off. It burned 8 million cubic feet of gas a day for about two months. At that early date there were no professional well-fire fighters like Red Adair. Mr. Bird of Imperial Oil flew in, landed in a hay field at Rolla then along with the late Pete Olinger, myself and other local residents proceeded to the well site with dynamite. On the second try we were lucky enough to blow out the fire.
Two other wells were drilled in the early 1920’s in Pouce Coupe field; one at Bear Creek near Bonanza, the other at Landry Crossing. The latter I believe to be the first well drilled in B.C.
There was no further drilling activity until years later when an oil pioneer, Mr. John Lund, drilled a well in Bonanza striking gas and oil. He was later responsible for drilling near the first Imperial gas well. He struck gas which was later piped to Dawson Creek, resulting in that village having the first natural gas in the Peace River Block and in BC — long before Vancouver and the lower mainland.
This then is the summary of the start of the great gas and oil activity in the North today. [Courtesy of Mrs. Vi Braden and Mrs. John Lund]