A refurbished oil pump originally used in the Wainwright Field represents the feverish excitement during the 1920s when the Alberta community became the centre of worldwide attention.
Heavy crude had been discovered, and investors and financers imagined that great wealth would come from vast pools of oil beneath the soil of the district.
“The greatest subterranean reservoir of petroleum in the world is in the Wainwright oil field in Alberta,” wrote the Montana Oil Journal. The Financial Times gushed that immense fortunes would be made.
In 1927, Canadian National Railways became interested in this heavy crude because it had been importing its diesel from foreign sources as far away as Peru.
This led to the construction of an oil refinery in 1929 capable of meeting the rail line’s needs in Western Canada.
The cause of this excitement and the developments that followed stemmed from British Petroleum discovering oil after 26 days of drilling on LSD 4 Section 29 Township 45 range 6 west of the fourth meridian.
The wooden pump in Wainwright’s Petroleum Park, known as the Hargol Number 4B29, was installed on this well in 1925, and production began.
The pump is typical of the first pumps installed in Alberta during the 1920s and early 1930s. It operated for about 30 years and is believed to be the oldest pump jack in Alberta still in existence.
In the 1960s, the Battle River Historical Society decided that this pump should be preserved due to the role it played in the development of the community and province.
Husky Oil moved it in the 1970s from the original British Petroleum 3B well six kilometres north of Wainwright.
Individuals, Husky Oil, the Provincial Museum and Archives of Alberta and the Town of Wainwright all came together to move it to Wainwright, where it sat in a state of disrepair for many years.
Local business owner Don Kinghorn could see from his office across the highway that the pump jack was falling apart and that someone needed to do something before it was too late so established and chaired the Pump Jack Restoration Committee.
“I’ve always been around the oil patch. My dad used to service oil wells,” he said.
The committee started with a snowmobile rally and after about five years of fundraising had the finances to restore and preserve Hargol Number 4B29. Much of the wood had to be replaced, but all of the metal is original.
“The pump jack should stand for another 100 years,” said Kinghorn.