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Pithole, Pennsylvania: Petroleum Boomtown

Quick: where can you find a ghost town?  You probably imagined a dusty old town in the American west, probably in or near a desert, the decrepit façades of a once-thriving boomtown looming over an abandoned main street.  You can imagine the cowboys and the stagecoaches and other signs of Old West civilization, all of which pulled stake and moved on when the nearby gold mines played out.  Ghost towns aren’t restricted to the American west.  They occur anywhere that people have picked up and moved along for whatever reason.  There’s more of a romance with Old West ghost town, thanks mostly to Hollywood, but there are plenty of others. 

One ghost town not found in the Old West is Pithole \pɪtˈ hoʊl\, Pennsylvania.  Pithole didn’t exist before 1865, following the oil boom in western Pennsylvania that started in the wake of the construction of the Drake Well in Titusville in 1859.  For a brief period in the 1860s, western Pennsylvania was producing most of the world’s crude oil.  This might seem incredible, but it really isn’t.  At the time, oil well technology hadn’t been exported to anywhere else.  Also, the world just didn’t need nearly as much oil then as it does now.  The oil reserves of western Pennsylvania have never approached those of places like Texas or Saudi Arabia or Siberia and, barring an unexpected discovery of massive oil reserves, it never will (though arguably, a lot of potential oil can be extracted through fracking).