Did you know that in the 1920s (100 years ago) when most of the country was suffering from the “Great Depression”, that the McPherson County area experienced an economic boom? Canton, Kansas shared in this boost.
Oil lease villages were common around the area in the 20’s, as “Black Gold” was discovered and derricks were constructed to drill for oil. These derricks were constructed in one day during the oil boom days, once pumping began the fields produced 64,000 barrels of oil every 24 hours; today they only pump 200 barrels a day. That oilfield was called “The Ritz” after a gusher went over the top of the derrick. The owner at that time was Oren Ritz. The community of Canton and elsewhere was abuzz with the news of the “Black Gold” gushing from the ground. The was the beginning of the 50-year boom oil boom for Canton and Galva. The oil industry is, still, part of this area’s history. It brought people from all over the Midwest after the first well was drilled in 1929. Nearly every family in Canton is somehow associated with the oil business.
Oil Producers Co., of Tulsa, Oklahoma, owner of the well, hired Sunflower Well Service to work on the well to correct a leak, in 1993. The derrick had to be removed, for the work to be completed. Because it was one of the last derricks used in the drilling of oil in the Canton area, Bud Davis, owner Sunflower Well Service, contacted Terry Bandy, Te-Pe Oil and Gas Co. owner and Cheryl Everhart, former Cheryl’s Café owner, about securing the derrick for the Canton Tourism Committee.
Oil Producers Co offered to donate the derrick, but the cost of moving the derrick was up to the Canton Tourism Committee an arm of the Canton Chamber of Commerce to find a way to get it moved. Donations poured in and Bandy Trucking Supply, J & M Machine and Welding provided men and time to take the derrick down and transport it to its current location. In April of 1999, the last derrick still in existence in McPherson County was taken down and subsequently moved to the McPherson County Fairgrounds, where in the future the Canton Tourism organization hopes to build an oil museum about the area.
If you have ever been to the community of Canton and driven north to the Maxwell Game Preserve, you have passed by the McPherson County Fairgrounds on which stands the oil derrick that was erected in the 1920’s to drill for “Black Gold”. This was not the original location of the derrick as it was moved to the present location in April of 1994. There is a kiosk located at the base of the derrick on the fairgrounds which gives information about this derrick and other areas of interest.