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3/1/2013 2:42:00 PM Email this articlePrint this article 
Early Illinois oilfield map discovered in Alaska, finds home in Crawford County
ROBINSON - An early Illinois oilfield map has traveled to Alaska and made its way back home to a Crawford County museum.

John Larrabee, Crawford County oil producer and supporter of the Illinois Oil Field Museum in Oblong, was recently contacted about a 1938 Illinois Basin oil field map that had been found in Alaska.

Larrabee said Alaska oilmen Mike Ross and Mark Atkins contacted him about the map Atkins had found in January while going through some old stuff of his grandfather's. Atkins also found an old drill-bit company catalog from the 1930s or '40s.

Both Ross and Atkins live and work on a man-made island owned and built by ENI Petroleum on the Nikaitchuq oil field, on the North Slope of Alaska. Ross and Atkins thought the old map and catalog were interesting, and that they should be on display in a museum, so they contacted Larrabee to see if he wanted them for the Illinois Oil Field Museum. Larrabee, of course, said "yes."

But how the map got to Alaska is unclear. Atkins was told by his mother that her grandfather, Tom Eilet, was born in Chicago in 1857. At an early age Eilet was given to a farmer, as his family could not take care of him. According to the story, the farmer was a cruel person and Eilet ran away at the age of eight, and nothing is known of that time in his life.

At one point he was a sheriff or deputy in Newkirk, Okla., during the Cherokee land grants. In 1913 he moved to Orcutt, Calf., where he lived and worked in the oil fields.

From there the story gets a little unclear, but Atkins remembers a reference to Crossville, Ill., being made, which prompted them to contact Larrabee.

In the early 1900s oil boom camps sprang up in Illinois, Oklahoma, California and later Alaska, and it was not unusual for oilmen to travel the country like gypsies, moving from one boom field to the next. It is most likely that someone associated with Eilet or his family made their way to California or Alaska, during the big oil push following World War II, and brought the Illinois map with them.

Atkins also said that his grandfather did work in the Illinois oil fields at some time. And said he remembers Crossville being mentioned as one of the places his grandfather may have worked.

The map depicts known oil deposits of the period in the lower half of Illinois and Indiana. Larrabee noted that the Centralia oil deposit is not on the map as it was not discovered until later.

The map also notes oil production capacities at the 10 refineries. In 1938 the Ohio Oil Co. refinery Robinson, now Marathon, had a capacity of 10,000 barrels daily. The now-closed Indian Refining Co., Lawrenceville, long owned by Texaco, had a capacity of 16,000 barrels per day. The current Marathon refinery has a daily capacity of around 206,000 barrels, more than double the capacity of all refineries in Illinois in 1938.

"It feels good to know this stuff has found a good home," Ross said in an email.


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