William Oliver Gillespie, His home 'Fairview'
And His Very Interesting Travels

This is a portfolio of pictures from the Gillespie family. This is a great house that was sadly destroyed in the early ca1970s. Obviously William had a very interesting life and I have included only a fraction of what there is. Special thanx to Kathleen Gillespie for allowing me to use these pics from the family archives. I have included all of the pics from the album. Some are postcards from Borneo, Persia, and Egypt. These are all places that Gilespie had travelled to discovering and starting oil production with Petrolia technology.

The Gillespie Mansion {Fairview} as seen on the hill just North  East of the Fairbank Mansion {Sunnyside}
This is a pic showing the Gillespie girls in a cutter that was used for delivering mail in the winter

William Oliver Gillespie with daughter Kathleen 
 on oil transport wagon tanker.

Oil Drillers from Petrolia in Egypt  ca.1900
from left -James McCrie,James Polley, Ellmer Kirby,William
Campbell, James Samson, James Candlish, William Gillespie
front -Egyptian servants no names

The caption for this pic says "some kind of fish that 
the Egyptians have caught". William Gillespie right with
flat Italian hat.

William Gillespie with his rig on Jubal Island ca.1910

The back of this pic says: William Gillespie with white hat
English Gent with his wife and the hotel owner. On a tour
to view the Sphinx and Pyramids. ca.1910

Moving oil rig parts to next site on Jubal Island. ca.1900

Moving boiler to next rig site on Jubal Island. ca.1900

The caption on this pic reads Egyptian beauty as far as one 
can see. {WOG}The front says "Femme Arabe du Caire" ca.1900

This is William Gillespie in Australia setting out to look for drinking water while setting up camp for oil drilling. ca.1900

This is a small refinery that was set up in Borneo where William
Gillespie and his partners operated for a few years. The site was purchased and they moved on to the next spot where oil was 
purported to be by geological calculations. 

ca.1907 Egyptian postcard

ca.1907 Egyptian postcard

ca.early 1900s Borneo postcad

ca.early 1900s Borneo postcad

ca. early 1900s Egyptian postcard

ca. early 1900s Egyptian postcard

Mrs Gilespie

The Gilespie mansion early ca. 1970s before it was demolished

A very ealy 1900s or late 1800s pic of the mansion and the flooded eastend flats

The last pics are CDVs of family friends from France. These are included because they were with all the above pics in the album

Recently I had the pleasure of purchasing 3 paintings from local Impressionist artist Katarina Gillespie. These paintings are presented here below for your pleasure. They now hang in Lancey Hall. The water color and the winter scene now hang with the others.

                                                                                           editor's collection

This is a view from the South East of Crescent Park ca.1960s looking past today's Tully's B&B towards Lancey Hall

                                                                                                  editor's collection
This is a view from the West looking towards Victoria Hall ca.1960 with Jimmy Rowe's service station and early gas pumps in the picture

                                                                                             editor's collection
A similar view as above but rendered in the winter. Also in oil.

                                                                                              editor's collection
This is another winter scene from the South East corner of Crescent Park. However this painting is water color. We really like this one.

This is a view from the West of the Edwards Mansion situated at the extreme South end of Crescent Park

Fairview Mansion by Kathleen Gillespie

     Fairview was built by Thomas Hopwood who came to Petrolia from Port Hope at the start of the oil boom and struck one of the largest wells in the area.  He and his wife. Sarah Ann had ten children, seven girls and three boys. all of whom survived into adulthood although one daughter predeceased her parents. In ca.1877 Mr. Hopwood acquired a tract of land fronting on  Petrolia Street and extending to Pithole. The house was situated on the brow of the hill overlooking Bear Creek and the main street. It was of yellow brick with a slate roof surmounted by an ornamental iron cresting. Upstairs five bedrooms opened off a wide hall divided towards the north end by a doorway and two steps.  Beyond this came the back stairs, back bedroom and bathroom. 
       An extra long bathtub was ordered and installed as Thomas Hopwood was exceptionally tall. Downstairs, behind the front door, an almost square hall reached to the top of the house.  On the left the staircase rose to a landing with a window high above then angled up to the second storey where the railing continued along the hall.  Opposite the stairs a door led to the south reception room and under the stairs a door enclosed a deep closet.  At the end of the hall were doors to the sitting room and dining room.  The large doors which formed the wall between these two rooms could be recessed to combine the space.  Ceilings were 12' high. The dining room looked east with a bay window. Its north door led to a back hall where the basement stairs started down and  then to the kitchen which had a pantry and a door to the back stairs.  A Verandah ran along its east side. There was a solid basement divided into three rooms and a coal cellar. A flight of ten steps covered by a wooden lean to gave entry from the north side of the house. Thomas and Sarah Hopwood leased parts of the property from time to time to others to drill a specified number of wells. If a well produced oil, a percentage of the profit went to the Hopwoods. 
          They eventually sold part of the property to John D. Noble and the rest  including the house, to Edward E. Grant, a one-time mayor of Petrolia and Vice- President of the 1908 Old Boys Association.  A newspaper item of December 1969 states that Harry Hopwood son of Thomas and Chief- Engineer of Reid Wrecking Company, was the second owner after his father died.  However, it appears that after his father died.  However, it appears that he was never actually the owner and was living in Quebec City when his father died .
           The Pearson family is also said to have lived there. Thomas and Sarah Hopwood left Petrolia in 1897 but returned to the area in ca.1911 when they retired in Sarnia. Thomas Hopwood died in 1915 in his 82nd year.  Sarah died in ca.1923. Mr. Hopwood's obituary stated that "he was a man of brilliant mind and sterling honesty, a great reader and student and well-versed in public matters", Edward and Anna Grant sold the house and property ca.1917 to Peter Jamieson Watt and on his death it went to his son Robert . Watt operated the Watt Letter Service in London.  The Watts did not  live in the house and it remained Vacant

      In ca.1929 William 0. Gillespie, a former foreign driller then living in Sarnia, approached Robert Watt about buying the property.  The pumping rig had just burned down and Mr. Watt was undecided about replacing it so had put the place up for sale.  He did start to rebuild the rig.  Nevertheless the sale was concluded the following year. William Gillespie said that although the house had been vacant for 20 years not a window was broken.  Despite the lack of vandalism, the house had suffered from the effects of time, weather and neglect and needed major work.  Restoration went on for years. In the 1930's a vegetable garden and an old apple orchard separated the house and stable.  East of the stable sat the rig with a cherry orchard behind.  In front was a little hut for the vacuum pump and then a large henhouse. Part of Hillside Street had at one time run below the hill.  Remains of gardens indicated the location of some former dwellings.  There were apple, pear and plum trees and one quince, also lilacs, forsythia. honeysuckle, poppies, irises, horseradish, garlic, mint and other plants.              There were 26 wells on the property.  All had names - Taylor. Collins, Canneff, etc.  More drilling was done on the Hopwood well in the 1930s The house was usually approached by a right-of-way from Tank Street. Only a narrow path and footbridge led to the main street.  William Gillespie replaced this arrangement with a boardwalk and a gravel road down the hill.  Across Bear Creek, as it then ran, he built a bridge capable of carrying horses and wagons or cars.  Beyond the bridge the walk continued as two wide planks high above the road.  Streetlights on telephone poles lit the way. To stabilize the swampy area around the creek, people wishing to dispose of their old cars were invited to bring them along.  Many car bodies accumulated and were later filled in. The road and bridge proved useful as a detour to Tank Street on a couple of occasions when the Petrolia Street hill was blocked due to traffic . In the spring, however, the road was liable to become soft and sometimes the horses had to be called upon to extricate a car from the mud. In 1945 a local landowner bought the property through the offices of a Toronto lawyer, J.J. Gray, who arranged for title to be held in the name of his sister, Mabel Gray,  Milton J. Williamson came to manage property and he and his wife, Hulda  lived in the house.  In December 1950  Mr. Williamson died of a heart attack.  Mrs.   Williamson left Petrolia. The house was abandoned and eventually torn down.  The property  now forms part of Bridgeview Park.

  Editors Note: There were many men like Mr Gillespie who plyed their trade of discovering oil wells around the world with the technology learned and patented in Petrolia.They pioneered the oil industry as we know it today. And yet after this amazing odyssey that each one partook of , they settled into obscurity in retirement living out their lives . The ones that I knew personally Fred Beach and Earnest Kells all had amazing stories that novels are written for but as each generation passes these stories become more and more obscure and fade away. Hopefully on this website we can grasp and salvage these stories for this and future generations. Petrolia has a rich history in oil and the men that uncovered the geological frontiers of the world.

All of the pics on this page were loaned to me by Kathleen Gillespie.I only needed them for a few minutes.
Email Martin of Petrolia Ontario Canada at martyd@ebtech.net