Today I am taking a break from Nimrod Headington’s journal that details his journey to the California gold mines via sailing around South America. I will resume his journal in a week or two.
Instead, I am returning to the time of the turn of the century oil boom.
While going through some old photos the other day I came across this photo, which was obviously taken in an oil field. You can see some oil rigs in the distance.
This photo was with a group of Miller photos, so it could have been taken here in Mercer County years ago. There were oil wells near Chatt, but I have a hunch the photo was probably taken out west, where two Miller brothers worked and died in the early 1900s. Chris and Jacob Jr worked in the oil fields of California, Oklahoma, and Texas. 
I have looked at this photo before but I never really gave it much thought. This time, as I studied it, I wondered why in the world someone would have a photo of some debris and damaged oil equipment. The photo is mounted on heavy stock and there is absolutely no writing on. There is no photographer’s name nor any identification written on the back.
But the photo obviously meant something to somebody at one time.
I am not even sure what I am looking at, since I do not understand the steps taken after oil was pumped from the ground. This is just a guess, but perhaps these are crude oil distillation devices, heated by furnaces, that were used to heat and separate the crude oil into its different components. There are pipes, valves, and gauges situated above what looks like distillation devices.
There is a lot of wood and corrugated sheet metal debris around, which makes me wonder if all that debris wasn’t originally a building that housed the distillation tanks.
What caused all this damage?
Was there a tornado? An earthquake? An explosion?
Jacob Miller Jr was killed when an oil derrick fell on him near Cushing, Oklahoma, in 1913. This photo does not appear to be related to that accident. But, who knows?
Unfortunately, I will probably never know where or when this photo was taken.
I would love to hear from someone with knowledge about the oil drilling and distillery industry years ago, who may have more insight into this photo.
Below is a photo of one of the Miller brothers standing by some oil tanks out west.
 Half-brothers Chris Miller and Jacob Miller Jr were my great-uncles. Chris (1880-1911) was the son of Jacob Miller and his second wife Margaretha Strabel. Chris died in Texas, from typhoid fever. Jacob Jr (1885-1913) was the son of Jacob Miller and his third wife Christena Rueck. Jacob Jr was killed when an oil derrick fell on him in Oklahoma. My grandfather Carl Miller (1896-1973) was a full brother to Jacob Jr.