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Mt. Pleasant Field Proves that the Entire State is "Oil Hunting Country"

During the 1920s, nine more fields were discovered after the Saginaw and Muskegon fields. The largest and most important of these new fields was the Mt. Pleasant Field located on either side of the Isabella, Midland County line, largely in Chippewa and Greendale Townships. The Mt. Pleasant Field was critical in that it proved that oil discoveries in Saginaw and Muskegon counties were not Basin-flank flukes. Returning to the stacked bowls and raisin bran analogy, if the raisins containing oil are all found at the point where two bowls come together, leaving only bran in the center of the bowl, a basin flank anomaly or fluke has occurred. Saginaw and Muskegon are on the edge of a basin. Finding oil in the Mt. Pleasant Field was critical because it demonstrated the presence of oil raisins throughout the Michigan Geological Basin rather than just on the Basin's periphery.

A newspaper account printed in the Mt. Pleasant Times in January of 1930 tells how Fred Sias of Midland leased 10,000 acres of Midland County after checking oil shows found in Dow's #57 brine well in Section 7 of Greendale Township. Sias was quoted as having obtained samples of the oil and sending them for analysis to Imperial Refining Co. of Sarnia Ontario Canada. Sias said "scouts soon were swarming the area and Pure Oil Company acquired leases to 12,000 acres. Pure Oil was indeed acquiring leases. In 1927, Pure Oil Company started a well on the Laura Root farm in Section 18, Greendale Township of Midland County.

The Mt. Pleasant Times of February 27, 1928 reported the discovery of oil in the Pure Root #1 well under a headline reading "CLAIM BEST OIL STRIKE IN THE STATE". The story said that "the drill bit broke through into the oil sand at 3,554 feet", and reported that the strike involved "50 to 60 feet of oil sand." The story said that Pure at the time had about 80,000 acres under lease in the vicinity of the well and others had leased 25,000 acres. In point of fact the strike was the richest of the decade and the fourth largest in the history of the Michigan oilpatch. Eventually 29 million barrels of oil would be pumped from the ground.

For the next several weeks Pure went about the task of getting the well ready for production, while continuing to drill in the area. Ultimately, the company would build their own drilling-housing-office complex just south of M-20 so workers would not have to deal with weather and dirt roads to get to the fields that grew up on the company's vast Central Michigan lease holding. Retail operations to serve those workers began nearby and led to establishment of the town of Oil City in Midland County. The name still appears today on Michigan highway maps long after the complex that started the settlement has gone.

The Mt. Pleasant newspaper noted May 29, 1928 that "Walter Russell and Fred Stilgenbauer helped Pure obtain pipeline right of way to Mt. Pleasant." Pure built a pipeline to the Mt. Pleasant railhead and on July 3, 1928 the firm started to sell oil to Imperial Refining, Sarnia, Ontario via rail shipment from Mt. Pleasant.

Several local Mt. Pleasant businessmen became directly involved in the oil industry. In addition to Russell and Stilgenbauer, Virgil McClintic, a Mt. Pleasant attorney, was retained by Pure early to check titles and handle other legal matters. McClintic was later directly involved in the discovery of a natural gas field west of Mt. Pleasant and starting Consumers Power Company (later NOMECO) in the natural gas business. Local butcher Dan Johnson quit selling meat to deal in oil leases. Mt. Pleasant became a boomtown where oilmen were very welcome. In 1929 the Mt. Pleasant Rotary Club hosted a welcome banquet with 40 oilmen as their guests. The city became known as the "Oil Capital of Michigan." The town flourished with new residents, new housing, new businesses and best of all, new money

Mt. Pleasant became a hub of Michigan petroleum activity, first as an accident of geology and later as a convenience of geography. The community lies close to the geographical center of the "mitten", thus located equal distance from anywhere in the Lower Peninsula. Primary oil and gas explorationists, petroleum supply and service companies, geologists (and later geophysicists), drilling contractors all headquartered in Mt. Pleasant.

Though later years have seen the intensity of field activity shift elsewhere in the state, Mt. Pleasant remains a viable center of petroleum industry activity with 98 business entities with Mt. Pleasant addresses listed as doing business with the industry in whole or in part in the 2004 edition of the Michigan Petroleum Directory.