Sep 22, 2008 | Posted in Essays, Technology


David L. Weber, 1989, Revised, 2008

William (Wilhelm) Teege, a native of Mecklenburg, Germany, emigrated to America, 1861. Teege settled in Titusville, where he supposedly knew Edwin L. Drake.

William Teege became an employee of the Titusville Pipe Company, 1866. This firm operated a 3000 BOPD (barrels per day) oil pipe line between Pithole and Titusville. Titusville Pipe Company’s lines were later extended to the nearby Shamburg and Pleasantville oil fields. Jay Gould and Jim Fisk, notorious New York financiers, owned this operation for several years.

Teege left the Titusville Pipe Company and entered the oil refining business. He was a partner in Pickering, Chambers & Company; and Bennett, Warner & Company, 1869 - 1875. Both firms operated large refineries on Titusville’s South Side (Bennett, Warner & Company’s plant was nearly opposite the Drake Well site, Bloss and Allen Streets). John D. Rockefeller acquired these refineries and consolidated them into the famous Acme Oil Company affiliate of Standard Oil (Acme’s Titusville operations were later moved to Olean, NY, and evolved into the Socony - Vacuum / Mobil Oil Company).

William Teege moved to Batavia, NY where he farmed for nearly a decade.

The Teege family returned to Titusville, 1885. William Teege, Louis Walz (a brother - in - law), Frank Von Tacky and several others (mostly German immigrants) formed a partnership. The shareholders constructed and operated the American Oil Works, Limited, on South Brown Street, (near the banks of Oil Creek).

Early American Oil Works stockholders’ meeting minutes were written in broken English (the German dialect resembled the “Katzenjammer Kids” comic strip or “Dutch” vaudeville routines). German dialect evolved into standard English by the late 1890s.

William Teege became Chairman, April 14, 1888. Michael Heisman, father of college football coach John Heisman (Heisman Trophy), entered the American Oil Works partnership, July 1, 1888. Heisman and George Stephens operated a barrel factory on South Kerr Street, Titusville. Michael Heisman remained one of the American Oil Works owners until 1890.

American Oil Works primarily produced illuminating oils, naphtha and gasoline. Crude was received by pipeline from a Standard Oil Company (National Transit Pipe Lines) tank farm. The refinery was slightly damaged in the June 5, 1892, Fire and Flood, but was soon repaired.

Standard Oil Company shut off crude oil shipments to the independent refineries, 1891. Lewis Emery, a Bradford oil producer, organized the United States Pipe Line Company (to compete with Standard Oil’s National Transit pipe line system). A line was laid from the Oil Region to the East Coast, which carried both crude oil and refined products (the first successful kerosene and naphtha pipe line). Producers’ & Refiners’ Oil Company, affiliated with United States Pipe Line (Pure Oil Company), laid a similar line through the Oil Regions with connections to the East Coast. These systems served the American Oil Works.

William Teege died at his East Walnut Street home, Titusville, 1894. His widow and three children inherited the American Oil Works stock. William Earl Teege, the son, returned to Titusville from Rochester, NY, where he had been in charge of the sales office.

Theodore Westgate, the American Oil Works bookkeeper, also became a partner. Louis Walz, Frank Von Tacky and the other shareholders had sold out their interests. Louis Walz became involved with the Penn Oil Company and Germania Refining Company, Frank Von Tacky founded the Titusville Oil Works.

Theodore Westgate was Treasurer and General Manager, William Earl Teege, Secretary.

The Titusville Evening Courier contained biographical data on Theodore Westgate (1906):

“Theodore B. Westgate, the son of Reuben B. and Huldah (Ferry) Westgate, was born at Riceville, Crawford county, Pa., July 13, 1858. He was educated at the common schools and at a commercial college in Denver, Col., where he visited when quite a young man. After his return to Riceville he engaged in the manufacture there of sash and blinds, in works which had been founded by his grandfather, to which management his father had succeeded, and afterwards had been carried on by Theodore and his brothers….
Theodore Westgate, by his forceful energy and splendid executive ability, began 15 years ago to assist in the organization of independent oil associations, in all cases taking a leading and active part in their work. He helped found the Producers and Refiners’ Oil Company, Limited - a transportation company, entering the oil fields of Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia; he is secretary and one of the managers of the above company; one of the organizers of the United States Pipe Line Company, which transports through its pipes both crude and refined oil from Oil City, Titusville, Warren and Bradford to Marcus Hook, Pa., on Delaware Bay; one of the organizers of the Pure Oil Producing Company, which owns large productions in Ohio and West Virginia, and a director in the Pure Oil Company, which has large producing interests, extensive pipe line business and interest in the above companies, extensive oil stations throughout Europe, and one of the largest and best equipped up - to - date oil refineries in the world, at Marcus Hook, Pa., the terminal of the United States Pipe Line Company, where its bulk steamers are loaded. Of all those four formidable companies, organized and operated in the interests of the independent oil producers and refiners, Mr. Westgate was one of the important founders, and he is now one of the efficient managers. They collect crude oil at the wells, supply independent refineries, carry the illuminating [kerosene] product by hydraulic pressure in pipes to the sea, or carry the crude material to the shore of the ocean and then refine it, and in bulk steamers deliver it to all their stations in foreign countries.”

This publication also featured a description of the American Oil Works facilities:

“The maximum capacity of this plant is 24,000 barrels per month of refined oils, gasolines and residuums…. The plant of the American Oil Works, which is located at the foot of Brown St., covers over four acres, and comprises a pump house 20 × 40, barrel house 120 × 150, boiler house 30 × 40, together with large and small tanks for storage of crude and manufactured products to the extent of 50,000 barrels. The company also have 24 tank cars which they use for shipping their manufactured product.”

Three “cheese box” stills were used for the refining process.

William E. Teege died of heart disease at the family home, October 30, 1908. His American Oil Works shares were inherited by surviving family members.

The American Oil Works prospered when automobiles became popular. Natural gasoline, purchased from area oil leases, was blended with naphtha and raw refined gasoline before it was sold to motorists. One property which supplied natural (casing head) gasoline to the Brown Street refinery was the Emery lease, located southeast of Titusville. This was the Titusville area’s first casing head gasoline plant. Gasoline was also purchased from the Preston and Wilson oil lease, located on the present site of Drake Well Museum and Park.

Lubricating oils for automobiles and gas engines were also produced by Westgate and Teege’s refinery.

American Oil Works stockholders (1913) were: Theodore Westgate, Mr. and Mrs. A.F. Mason, Mrs. Ella Miner, Cora Teege (widow of W.E. Teege) and Anthony Cooley (guardian of Robert Teege). The firm’s name was officially shortened to “American Oil Works” that same year.

George Horne, a Titusville banker, became a partner of Robert Teege in the refinery, 1916. Theodore Westgate was still Treasurer and General Manager. He received a salary of $6,000 which was later increased to $15,000. Demands for lubricants during World War I helped the refinery’s business, hence the salary increase.

Semi - finished lube stocks, kerosene and raw gasoline were piped from the American Oil Works and Titusville Oil Works refineries to the Pure Oil Company’s plant at Marcus Hook. These products were then refined into lubricating oils and gasoline shipped to France (and used by the American and French armed forces) during World War I

A.F. Mason was the American Oil Works Chairman of the Board, 1921. Lizzie Teege Mason, Ella Teege Miner, Cora Teege, George Horne and Theodore Westgate were the other stockholders. Theodore Westgate died, 1922. Charles Westgate inherited his father’s stock and also became the firm’s Treasurer.

A major expansion program was started by the American Oil Works, 1922 - 1923. Two tracts of land were purchased for a new Office, Oil Tank Farm and Gasoline Cracking Unit. This project was detailed in The Titusville Herald, July 4, 1923:

“The plant which is being erected for the American Oil Works is known as the Richard Fleming Cracking plant and is manufactured by the M.W. Kellogg company of Jersey City, N.J. John Blood is the superintendent of construction in charge of the erection of the plant and he stated yesterday that he hoped to have the plant in readiness for operation at the latest by Aug. 1.

“…. The steel tower, the jackets and the tanks are being built by the Odin Construction company, who have several experts from the shops on the job.

“…. This cracking system is said to be the latest and best manufactured and the Titusville Oil Works on South Monroe street is to install one immediately at the completion of the plant for the American Oil Works. In fact Mr. Blood stated yesterday that he expected to build the foundations for the Von Tacky plant and that it would be completed and ready for operation early in September.”

Disaster struck the American Oil Works less than six months later, according to The Titusville Herald, October 30, 1923:

“Two deaths occurred and three were seriously injured, one of them probably fatally, as the result of the explosion of a tank car of light [casing head] gasoline [from the Brundred Oil Corporation’s Columbia Farm lease] at the plant of the American Oil Works at 4 o’clock yesterday afternoon. The exploded gasoline set fire to the barrel house of the refinery, entirely destroying it, causing an estimated monetary loss of $25,000.”

Four people, including a granddaughter of Drake Well driller William “Uncle Billy” Smith, died as a result of the explosion and fire. A new Barrel House and Laboratory were erected shortly after the 1923 blaze.

Expansion of the American Oil Works was partly financed by the sale of several properties owned by the firm, including a producing oil lease north of Titusville.

The Consolidated Service Station Company was operated as a partnership of the American Oil Works and Titusville Oil Works. Gasoline from both refineries was retailed by a chain of northwest Pennsylvania stations. Over extension of the expansion program (including the erection and operation of gasoline stations) and mismanagement of funds caused the American Oil Works’ bankruptcy. George Horne, A.F. Mason and C.R. Westgate sold the plant to the Pennsylvania Refining Company of Butler, PA, 1925.
The following appeared in The Titusville Herald, December 16, 1925:

“Announcement was made yesterday that a deal had been consummated whereby the stock of the American Oil Works company has been take over by Oil City and Butler interests and it is expected that within a few weeks a new organization will be effected to take over the business.”

New boiler, wax and filter houses were added to the refinery, 1925 - 1926. Cities Service Company purchased the Consolidated gasoline stations from the American Oil Works - Titusville Oil Works partnership, 1929. The Fleming cracking unit was sold and removed.

Pennsylvania Refining Company had operated a refinery at Karns City, PA since 1878. Both the Karns City and Titusville refineries were merged, January 1, 1930:

“Announcement is made today of the merger of the business of the American Oil Works company of Titusville with that of the Pennsylvania Refining company of Karns City, Butler county, which is effective from January 1, 1930. The new organization will be known as the Pennsylvania Refining company …. Although under the merger the Titusville refinery will be operated the same as heretofore.

“…. While the American Oil Works, which has been operated for over forty years, loses its identity in the merger, the name of PENN - DRAKE, which originated with the Titusville concern, will be used to distribute all products of the newly merged company

“…. This company built a number of new service stations and acquired others through purchase. The company now owns ten service stations, seven bulk [distribution] stations and owns a fleet of eleven tank trucks.”

Pennsylvania Refining Company subsequently added a new distillation tower (1933) and wax processing plant; with distillation / filtration, blending and barreling houses (1939), to the Titusville refinery. A petrolatum barrel house was also operated at the 1500 BOPD plant. Base oils used in the manufacture of “Burma Shave” came from the Pennsylvania Refining Company’s Titusville operation. Fuel and quenching oils from the Pennsylvania Refining Company were delivered via pipeline to the adjacent Titusville Forge Company (Struthers Wells Corporation) plant for use in the forging and annealing / heat treating operations. Pennsylvania Refining Company swapped gasoline, kerosene and fuel oil with the nearby Cities Service Refinery; in exchange for bright stock, neutral oils and semi - finished waxes / wax distillates.

Shortages of Penn Grade crude oil caused the Pennsylvania Refining Company to shut down its Titusville distillation unit, 1946. Semi - finished lube stocks and wax distillates / raw petroleum waxes were processed until September, 1948, according to The Titusville Herald:

“The Pennsylvania Refining Company’s plant on South Brown Street, last of the small independents which once dotted the city, will ‘cease operations at the earliest possible date.’

John A. Beck, Jr., Pennsylvania Refining Company secretary - treasurer, posted the following notice:

“The operation of our Titusville plant has now reached a point where it is no longer economically possible to continue, and we are, therefore, making plans to cease operations at the earliest possible date.

“At the present time we do not know if the equipment will be disposed of by dismantling or whether it will be possible to sell it as an operating plant. As soon as a decision on this point is reached, you will be notified.”

The refinery was soon dismantled (although some buildings stood into the 1970s and later). Part of the
site is now occupied by the Titusville Middle School. Warren W. “Shorty” Tarr, Pennsylvania Refining
Company’s last Titusville plant superintendent / manager, went on to co - found Trans Penn Oil / Trans
Penn Wax Company at the former Cities Service refinery site (present International Waxes, Ltd.), 1950.