Titusville is a city in Crawford County, Pennsylvania, United States. Titusville was a slow-growing community until the 1850s, when petroleum was discovered in the region.
Before petroleum was put to use as a popular fuel, oil was still highly used. In Pennsylvania, the Native American tribes had been using oil found in seeps dating back several centuries. Early European explorers discovered evidence of troughs dug along the side of the creek where Native American tribes had collected oil for use as ointment, insect repellant, skin coloring and in religious ceremonies. These oil seeps, which are areas where oil spontaneously escapes the earth in either gas or liquid form, were common across the northern Pennsylvania landscape. As the frontier expanded into Western Pennsylvania during the 18th century, the region came to be known for the oil that flowed beneath its surface, and maps from the time period displayed the label “Petroleum.” But with few known uses for crude oil, the label served primarily to deter farmers who found the black soil inhospitable to their crops. As time passed, alternative uses came into play. Crude oil began to be used as an alternative to whale oil as a lighting source for lamps and inventors and scientists began to test oil for other possible uses, including energy.
In the late 1850s Seneca Oil Company (formerly the Pennsylvania Rock Oil Company) sent Col. Edwin L. Drake, to start drilling on a piece of leased land just south of Titusville near what is now Oil Creek State Park. Drake hired a salt well driller, William A. Smith, in the summer of 1859. They had many difficulties, but on August 27 at the site of an oil spring just south of Titusville, they finally drilled a well that could be commercially successful.
Teamsters were needed immediately to transport the oil to markets. Transporting methods improved and in 1862 the Oil Creek & Titusville Railroad was built between Titusville and Corry where it was transferred to other, larger east-west lines. In 1865 pipelines were laid directly to the rail line and the demand for teamsters practically ended. The next year the railroad line was extended south to Petroleum Centre and Oil City. The Union City & Titusville Railroad was built in 1865. That line became part of the Philadelphia & Erie Railroad in 1871. That fall, President U. S. Grant visited Titusville to view this important region.
Other oil-related businesses quickly exploded on the scene. Eight refineries were built between 1862 and 1868. Drilling tools were needed and several iron works were built. Titusville grew from 250 residents to 10,000 almost overnight and in 1866 it incorporated as a city. In 1871, the first oil exchange in the United States was established here. The exchange moved from the city, but returned in 1881 in a new, brick building before being dissolved in 1897.
The first oil millionaire was Jonathan Watson, a resident of Titusville. He owned the land where Drake's well was drilled. He had been a partner in a lumber business prior to the success of the Drake well. At one time it was said that Titusville had more millionaires per 1,000 population than anywhere else in the world.