Thorla-McKee Park and Caboose #33
Date Visited: January 4, 2020
Address: 18448-18490 Frostyville Rd – Caldwell, OH 43724
Corner of State Route 78 and State Route 564, just outside Caldwell
GPS: 39.73956, -81.49838
The Thorla-McKee Park in Caldwell, Ohio is home to the first oil-producing well in North America. Although the Thorla-McKee Well is considered the first oil producing well in the country the Drake Well in Pennsylvania is generally recognized as the first oil drilling well in the United States.
In 1814 settlers Silas Thorla and Robert McKee dug a well in search of salt brine. They found the brine, but also discovered oil. Oil’s value was unknown to them so they used wool blankets to soak the oil off the surface to get the salt they needed. Eventually they bottled the oil and sold it as a cure-all called “Seneca Oil.” In 1831 a fire destroyed the works built on the site.
Today in the back of the park you can still see the well. It is surround by a wire fence and still houses the original log casing. The 34 inch hollow sycamore log goes down 18 feet to the bedrock. The well continues to give oil, gas and salt water in limited quantities.
Besides the well there is also an old train caboose in the park. Caboose #33 was part of the Bellaire, Zanesville, and Cincinnati Railroad and built in 1917 for $1,054. It is 24 feet long and 9 feet 4.5 incehs high. After it’s retirement the caboose has served as a barber shop, gas station and home and storage shed. It was donated to the Noble County Historical Society by Mr. and Mrs. Clarence Lowman.
This park is a real treat to visit. It has a lot of historical significance and educational displays. I just love trains too so whenever I see one I get excited. It is well kept and did I mention all the way in the back there’s a field neighboring the park you need to check out. It houses the cutest horses and donkeys!
The Noble County Department of Tourism and the Ohio Historical Society dedicated the park in 1992 with an Ohio Historical Marker.