Site Visit: Oil Springs

We hit the ground running for our first week of class, and on September 6th the 2019-2020 cohort of Western Public History grad students took a trip to Oil Springs, Ontario to visit the Oil Museum of Canada and the Fairbank Oil Fields. Being from Northern Ontario, I didn't really know much about about oil in general (we don't have much up there), let alone the history of oil production in Lambton County!

Our first stop was at the Oil Museum of Canada to meet Charlie Fairbank and go on a personal driving tour of the Fairbank oil properties. Charlie was an absolute delight and a wealth of knowledge about not only his properties, but the entire region as a whole. Part of the Fairbank Oil Fields driving tour experience is the metal sculptures of oilworkers and their tools. Each time we passed one, Charlie told us a bit about the real people each sculpture was designed after (including some interesting anecdotes about their personal lives). He was also able to show us first hand how all of the oil pumping mechanisms worked (including the jerker line systems - the Fairbank properites still use some of the original ones). We also stopped at the Fairbank farm and met Charlie's wife Pat, who gave us a detailed rundown of what archival information they held (in their loft space in the garage) and of the bid they put forward to become a UNESCO World Heritage site.

The barn at the Fairbank farm, toted as the most photographed barn in Lambton County!

Jerker lines at one of the Fairbank properties.

After a quick stop for lunch, we headed back to the Oil Museum of Canada where we watched a short video on the history of oil in Lambton County, and then had the chance to walk through the museum and take it all in for ourselves. We were even given the chance to look through the museum's newly allocated storage space, and though it's still in progress it was really neat to see.

All in all, the visit to oil country was really informative and interesting, and I can't wait to see where else our site visits take us!

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