Program on Coal Oil Johnny slated Dec. 12

From staff reports

A public celebration of the 174th birthday of John Washington Steele, who is better known as Coal Oil Johnny, will be held at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 12, at the Venango Museum in downtown Oil City.

In addition to typical birthday refreshments, guests will be treated to a presentation titled “Coal Oil Johnny’s Times,” delivered by oil historian Neil McElwee of Oil City.

An admission of $5 per adult will be collected at the door. Students accompanied by an adult may attend without charge.

Attendees at this and other related programs during the next 12 months will also receive complimentary keepsakes depicting some of the stories often repeated about this prodigal prince of petroleum. Several descendants of his adopted family will be in attendance for this festive occasion.

John Steele was born in 1843 in Mercer County, the son of James David Steele and Maria Foulk. Steele and his sister Permelia were adopted by Culbertson McClintock and his wife Sarah McKnight McClintock who built their saltbox-style farmhouse on the west bank of Oil Creek. Their basic farm became a strong-producing oil farm after oil wells were drilled there following Drake’s initial successful well approximately 11 miles upstream.

While advance reservations are not required, those planning on attending are asked to reply to Marilyn Black at the Oil Region Alliance office, at (814) 677-3152, Ext. 105, or

Such notifications will ensure that sufficient seating and tasty treats are available on site, Black said.

This program kicks off a year-long series of public programs and activities focused on this flamboyant and famous true character from the early oil boom along Oil Creek.

The series is being coordinated by the nonprofit Oil Region Alliance, which owns and operates the Coal Oil Johnny House located today in Rynd Farm at the south tip of Oil Creek State Park, just east of Route 8 north of Rouseville, Pennsylvania. Proceeds are being earmarked for the ongoing maintenance and operation of this circa 1850 farmhouse.

People may also contact Black at the ORA for more information about the McClintock family or to schedule a private tour of the Coal Oil Johnny house.