Oil Derrick Project Unveiled

ST. MARYS — A local lake organization kicked off a campaign today to help raise money to honor the rich history of Grand Lake St. Marys.

The Lake Improvement Association is in the early stage of a fundraising campaign to build an oil derrick at the site of what locally is believed to be the country’s first offshore oil derrick in Grand Lake St. Marys. LIA Secretary Kate Anderson said the project has been several months in the making.

“It’s at the site of the last oil derrick on the lake at the rock pile,” Anderson told The Evening Leader. “It’s to commemorate the historical significance of this lake.”

The Oil Derrick Memorial will be a replica of the wooden oil derricks used until the late 1800s on Grand Lake St. Marys. During the oil boom at that time, hundreds of oil wells dotted the lake’s landscape.

“There’s a national perspective that the first offshore rigs were in Louisiana,” Anderson said. “But these predate that and so we really are the site of the first offshore oil drilling rigs. We feel like this project is one people around the lake can be very proud of because there’s a huge significance of the historical nature of the lake.”

Once built, boaters will be able to pilot crafts up to the derrick, and a billboard will give a history of the derrick and the oil drilling that took place on the lake. The names of large donors also could be displayed on the billboard. Local companies Neeley-Clover Oil Co., Riley Oil Co. and Manhattan Oil Co. drilled on the lake.

The estimated cost of the of the project is $300,000. Anderson said the group plans to seek funding through fundraising, grants and any other donations.

“We’re looking at government and foundation grants,” Anderson said.

The derrick also could serve as a living history for local school children.

“It’s important to honor the history of the lake and remind people how significant this lake was to commerce in this area,” Anderson said. “Not only with the canal, but there were at least three oil companies pulling oil out of the lake.”

Donation cards will soon be available throughout the community. The LIA has set up an account for the oil derrick through the St. Marys Community Foundation under the account Grand Lake St. Marys Oil Derrick Fund.

“We’re asking people to donate whatever they can,” Anderson said. “We set it up with the foundation, so the donations are tax deductible.”

Construction will begin once all the necessary funding is in place. The project will be monitored by the Grand Lake St. Marys State Park Office.

Preliminary plans recommend the construction phase to be completed no later than the fall of 2013.

The project will be announced at today’s LIA meeting, which is scheduled for 10 a.m. at the Celina Moose Lodge.