On his next round checking the trapline, Blaine carried with him a small bottle and a teaspoon, along with his regular trapping supplies. Arriving at the place where the seepage was still evident, he filled the bottle with the black liquid and brought it home with him to show his wife and wee daughter.
Along in January when the furs had lost their prime, Blaine and his family started the long journey back to their homeland in the United States, stopping on the way to sell his fur catch in Edmonton. Many days of travel by team and sleigh brought them to High Prairie, the end of the steel and from there they took the train to Edmonton. Finding poor prices for their furs in that Alberta City, they traveled by train on to Minnesota where Tracy’s parents lived. From there Blaine went on alone to Chicago where, after disposing of his furs, he took the oil sample he carried with him to the University of Chicago to have it analyzed. He was told that the sample was a specimen of fine crude oil and was well worth investigating.
Returning to Minnesota to pick up his wife and family, which by this time had increased by twin boys, Blaine and Tracy started the long journey back to their new home in the Peace River Country in what is now the Rolla area. On their return trip, they traveled from Edmonton to Reno, Alberta, by train, then by team and wagon to Peace River Crossing. From there they hired a gas launch to take upriver to Rolla Landing.
It was, as usual, a busy summer in 1915, clearing land, building a house and all the other tasks involved in building a home in a wild new country. Not having time to pursue his interests in his oil discovery, Blaine took into his confidence, a good friend and neighbour homesteader, Jack Allerton. Mr. Allerton volunteered to take the sample to Edmonton to try to interest an oil exploration company there in the sample.
Mr. Allerton first took the sample to the University of Alberta for further analysis and was told there that it was the finest sample coming out of Alberta. Encouraged by the results of this analysis, Mr. Allerton contracted oil exploration Companies in the prospect of an unlimited supply of fine quality of oil on the Pouce Coupe River. Many were interested. The Lipsett Bros., The Alliance Power Company Ltd. and others in Edmonton were very interested in development of the site, but many obstacles stood in the way. The shortage of steel in Canada at that time was serious. Every available piece of steel in the country, even existing railroads in the east, were torn up and sent overseas to be used for war purposes. This brought a halt to most construction and new development in the oil industry. The distance from a railhead was also a discouraging factor in the development of the Pouce Coupe oilfield. The equipment would have to be hauled in by horses from the nearest railhead.
By 1918, Imperial Oil Company of Edmonton had confirmed their interest. But with an early winter setting in they postponed their exploration until the next spring when they sent Mr. R.W. Jones of Edmonton — a Civil engineer — to the site to make a preliminary survey and prepare a contour map of the area. He was followed that summer by Mr. George Sheppard, a Geologist, who spent many weeks there taking samples and filing his findings for his company.
Early in the spring of 1920, a crew arrived to build a camp and prepare for the rig being hauled in from Spirit River by horses by Mr. John Taylor. Drilling began in the fall of 1920 with Mr. Applegate of Edmonton as manager and Mr. Bradley of the City as Tool Push. They soon struck a large flow of gas. This was soon controlled and drilling continued, using the gas for fuel to heat the boilers. The gas was also used for fuel for cooking and heating in the cookhouse, causing a near fatal accident for the entire crew. They had just sat down to their Christmas dinner on December 25th, 1920, when the stove exploded and many of the men were burned badly.
The well was capped some days later but the pressure caused a seepage from around the casing. In January, the gas seepage caught fire and burned for several weeks. Mr. Draper of Imperial Oil in Edmonton was notified and a dynamite crew was sent in to extinguish the fire and plug the gas flow. Further operations at the well site were abandoned and the crews returned to Edmonton. To my knowledge, development of the well site, which was abandoned in January of 1921, has never been continued, and the site remains today as it was at the time of abandonment.