Throwback Thursday by Matson Insurance: The History of Natural Gas in Brookville

Matson Insurance has partnered with Jefferson County History Center to offer readers a look into Jefferson County’s past. Today, the history of natural gas in Jefferson County are highlighted.

(The gaslights of the Marlin Opera House are still in place, a remnant of lighting a century ago.)

(Article submitted by Carole Briggs, Jefferson County Historical Society.)


In this day and age of appliances that do almost everything for us, it is hard to imagine the long ago day when man and woman power did it all. Then rooms were not illuminated by incandescent, fluorescent, and coiled energy-saving bulbs. Streets were dark and a good light was hard to find.

Prior to the discovery of oil and gas, the sources for early lighting and cooking were the fire in the fireplace, the pitch-pine faggot, meat fat poured into a saucer with a rag for a wick, and candles. According to McKnight, Harrison Matson introduced him to camphene in 1852 and coal oil was available soon after.

Drake had discovered oil before the Civil War, and eventually drilling for both oil and natural gas occurred in our county. Punxsutawney was using natural gas in 1884, and the next year natural gas was piped along Brookville’s Main Street.

An October issue of the 1885 Jeffersonian Democrat tells us, “Natural gas is now being introduced in some of our business houses for heating purposes. It will be used in the store of H. Matson, the Jefferson County National Bank, Verstine & Sandt’s drug store, and in Jack Heber’s restaurant, and probably in other places. Squire Carroll and T. L. Templeton use it in their residences.”

Historian William J. McKnight wrote later that the first buildings to receive piped gas were those numbered 123 to 209 on the south side of the street, or in today’s terms, from Brookville Dental to the Courthouse Grill.

Those lucky enough to have viewed the Marlin Opera House, completed in 1885, may have noted the gas chandelier, gas footlights, and the remains of gas lighting fixtures along the balcony railing. So evidently the gas lines quickly extended further east and west.

[email protected] County Historical Society, Inc.

Throwback Thursday is brought to you by Matson Insurance in Brookville.

Submitted by the Jefferson County History Center.

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