Pennsylvania: Venango County

Venango County (pop. 54,984), west of Forest County, is the only Venango County. The name “Venango” came from the Native American word for the region (“Onenge,” meaning “otter”).

Venango County in 1895

Venango County was the site of an oil boom in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The first commercial oil well in the U.S. was the Drake Well (1859), in northern Venango County.

Drake Well Museum

The county seat of Venango County is the city of Franklin (pop. 6,545). Franklin reached its peak population of 10,254 in 1930.

Venango County Courthouse (1867)

The Barrow-Civic Theatre dates from 1946. It now has a variety of plays, concerts, and other events.

The DeBence Antique Music World is a museum with a collection of more than 100 antique mechanical musical instruments, located in a former “five and dime” store.

The Dairy Queen on the southwest side of town has an Apollo spacecraft in front.

John Wilkes Booth (1838-1865) spent much of 1864 in Franklin, trying to make a living with oil-drilling.

He formed the Dramatic Oil Company.

Eight miles east of Franklin is Oil City (pop. 10,557), largest city in Venango County. It had a population of 21,247 in 1930.

Latonia Theater (1928)

The four-story National Transit Building in Oil City dates from 1890. John D. Rockefeller had a Standard Oil Co. office there.

It now has spaces for artists.

The community of Rouseville (pop. 472) has the oldest producing oil well in the world. McClintock Well No. 1 has been pumping oil since 1861.

Pithole City is a ghost town, northeast of Oil City. An early oil boomtown, it had a population of 20,000 in 1865, but was unincorporated by 1877. A visitor center was opened in 1972.

The Methodist church was here.