Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Olean, New York

Location:   The Southern Tier
Year:   1643

Olean is a small, but once-bustling, town along the New York-Pennsylvania latitudinal border, located in western central New York State.

Once part of the territory of the Wenro Indians, the area was later occupied by the Seneca who essentially exterminated the Wenro. French fur trappers were the first Europeans to visit the area of Olean, where they discovered the first oil reserves in North America. The town was originally called "Ischue," an Iroquois word meaning "Greasy Springs." In 1808, the name "Olean" was invented from the Latin word "oleum" meaning oil (as in "petroleum").  

Olean's location on the Allegheny River made it a transportation hub in the early 1800s. Railroad depots were built there in the mid-1800s to move local timber.  The town was also infamous for rumrunning during Prohibition. 

Although the original settlers were farsighted, understanding that fossil fuels had a future, that future was way off in the future. It wasn't until the early 1900s that Standard Oil based its New York operations (Socony) in Olean, which immediately became the world's largest tank farm, a collection point for petroleum from New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio and New Jersey. 

Socony closed its operations in Olean in 1954, as the eastern oil fields petered out. As Socony withdrew so did many of the 25,000 residents. Today, Olean is a half-deserted Rust Belt town, very modestly important as the largest town and County Seat of  Cattaraugus County.

No comments:

Post a Comment