Oil in Brandy Station, are you kidding? Not according to dozens of landowners and the Keystone Drilling and Leasing Co. of Washington, D.C. In the early 1920s, the siren of the deep-seated black gold sang the sweet song of riches for many an investor. Culpeper County’s own little hamlet of Brandy Station offered up the pungent odor of coal oil from far beneath the cropland and the wildcatters were not far behind.

It started about 1916 when local resident Frank Kyle noticed the smell of oil emanating from the water in his well. According to local lore, a newspaper was soaked in the water from Kyle’s well then set on fire. Expecting the paper not to burn, those involved were surprised that it caught fire immediately and burned thoroughly.

Geologists were consulted and on June 3, 1920 the Culpeper Exponent reported the news on the front page. “Brandy Neighborhood Interested in Oil Development” read the headline. Under the business name of The Brandy Oil Corp., Mr. J.W. Travers, of Washington, D.C., had leased the drilling rights for more than 3,000 acres.

The local newspaper kept up with the exploration and drilling during the next several years and posted it, not on the front page but in the column entitled News from Brandy. Progress reports for the Brandy Oil Co. were generally included after the news about visits from out-of-towners and before notes of who had come down with the whooping cough.

By 1922 another two dozen land owners had joined the excitement and signed lease agreements with the Keystone Drilling and Leasing Co. of Washington, D.C. It is unclear whether The Brandy Oil Corp. and the Keystone Co. were now one and the same or two separate companies, but the leases recorded in the deed books make for interesting reading.

There was to be no drilling within 200 feet of a dwelling without written consent of the owner, and any pipeline running under cultivated land must be buried below plow depth.

In the September 14, 1922 edition of the Culpeper Exponent, the News from Brandy reported, “Prospects continue to ripen for the oil seekers at Brandy Station. The first well is over 300 feet deep, the quality of oil is fine and the quantity is so assured that the value of oil stock has doubled in the past few days.”

Sad to say, there are no oil wells in Brandy Station, Virginia in 2017. I have no doubt that they found oil, so what happened?

Did they pump them dry? Did the wildcatters run out of money? Maybe there wasn’t enough oil to justify the expense or maybe they just didn’t have the right technology.

Who knows...there just might be more to Brandy Station than meets the eye? If I discover the rest of the story, you will be the first to know.

Note: When this story ran nearly ten years ago a resident of Brandy called me to come and see a stock issue he had for a Brandy Station Oil Company. So, yes, Culpeper, there really was oil in the little village.

Until next week, be well.

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Zann Nelson is an award -winning freelance writer specializing in historical investigations and is currently serving as Director of Montpelier’s African American Descendants’ Project. She can be reached at M16439@aol.com.

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