First Oil: How innovation made Ontario the birthplace of North American oil

Southwestern Ontario communities remain proud of their historic role in ushering in new energy era

By Dave Chidley and Mario Toneguzzi
Douglas Munro cuts his lawn around operating pump jacks on the lawn of his Petrolia, Ontario home. Canadian Energy Centre photo by Dave Chidley

For many Canadians it can come as a surprise to learn the earliest roots of North America’s oil industry doesn’t lead back to Alberta or Texas. The story actually begins in southwestern Ontario’s Lambton county where innovation and ambition helped usher in a new era of energy that remains dominant in today’s energy mix. Photographer Dave Chidley, whose long career included two-and-a-half years working in Petrolia, recently returned to the region where the ties to its rich oil industry history remain proud and strong today.

First Oil