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  • Craig Baird

Vermilion Becomes Little Turner Valley

In the days before Leduc No. 1 was hit in 1947, the centre of the Alberta oil industry was Turner Valley. It was there that Alberta had its first major oil boom in the 1910s, and it was that location that fueled the oil industry of the province until everything moved north with Leduc No. 1.

I actually looked at the history of Alberta’s oil boom at Leduc No. 1 on my podcast Canadian History Ehx, so check it out.

It was in this environment when Vermilion suddenly became Little Turner Valley in the early 1940s as oil companies started to arrive and drill into the ground, hoping to strike it rich.

By August of 1940, as the world was at war, Vermilion saw no less than four oil derricks pop up, 90 feet high, just outside the community. Before the end of the month, another one would be built. The first oil well was Battleview No. 2, which was pumping out 250 barrels of crude oil every day through the summer. Vermilata No. 1 was the other well, which was dug to a depth of 2,200 feet to hit the oil. Three more wells would be dug, two by Western Drilling Company, which had brought in $100,000 in equipment to the area. The third well would be dug by J.L. Wilson, who had drilled other wells over the years in the district.

These wells were successful and one year later, it was announced, in the National Post no less, that Vermilion was about to see an uptick in oil drilling. Imperial Oil was now looking in the area with the expectation of pulling out one million barrels of oil a year from their wells. At the time, oil was priced at $1.15 per barrel and the oil needed no refining, just simple cleaning, in order to make it ready for use.

By November 1941, 14 wells had been dug in the area and it was believed there was room enough for another 50 drill sites. General Petroleums also planned to come in with a new unitized drilling rig. Which was mounted on the back of a truck. This type of setup eliminated 90 per cent of the setup costs of drilling, allowing a well to be dug for only $8,000, with the total cost of the well being $20,000 or $365,000 today.

General Petroleums had arranged for a three-well program in the area, with work beginning quickly.

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