Nicholas Heinemann Builds a wood chemical plant in Crosby

photo credit:  Carolyn German Bausinger Collection

excerpt from Bradford EraAugust 6, 1985 by Waldo Pettenati:

"....One of the leading enterprenuers of the chemical industry was Nicholas W. Heinemann of Colegrove....Heinemann built his first large chemical plant in 1899 in Crosby.  He never operated the plant himself, leaving the task to others.  Martin Quinn drew up the plans for the new plant, and Fred Olds was named the general manager.  the first superintendent was Billy McDade.

Railroads carryiung logs and wood were built from Colegrove Brook, extending to Park Run, 11 miles from Crosby.  Branches of the railroad were built through 14,000 acres of the Heinemann Estate."

Heroic Fire Fighters Save Big Valley Plant Early Tuesday

McKean County Democrat, July 18, 1940

Fire at the Farmers Valley plan of the Quaker State Oil Refining Corporation at 4:00 o’clock Tuesday morning caused damage estimated yesterday at $30,000.
Destruction of a major portion of the big industry was averted by courageous efficient efforts of the Smethport, Eldred and Port Allegany fire departments, plant officials and workmen and volunteers.

Cause is Unknown
Exact cause of the blaze is unknown but it is believed that vapor escaped from tanks in the heat of the refinery and was ignited by a furnace.
Weather was ideal for accumulation of explosive vapor along the ground. The humidity was high in spite of thunderstorms earlier in the night and no was breeze blowing.
Plant Will Not Shut Down

It will be necessary to make extensive repairs before runs of crude oil to stills can be resumed but the refinery will continue to process large stocks on hand.
Repair Work Started

Men were immediately started on repair work as soon as the fire was extinguished Tuesday morning. Guy B. Hunter of Emlenton, Pa., superintendent of manufacturing of the Quaker State Corporation, came here on Tuesday to confer with W. H. Rockman, manager of the Farmers Valley refinery, and other officials.

Damage is Listed

Principal loss in the fire was four 500-barrel tanks of oil and naphtha, were badly damaged by the terrific heat and it will be necessary to either repair or replace them.
A large amount of pipe was destroyed.

Alarm Sounded Here

Leonard Lathrop of Crosby, still-man in charge on the midnight shift at the plant; his helper, Frank Petruzzi of Smethport; William Fox, night watchman and Richard Conn of Smethport, refinery pumper, discovered the fire shortly after 4:00 a.m. Tuesday.

John Orlandi, a refinery workman, called the Smethport Fire Department and plant employees took prompt action to start the refinery’s own extensive fire-fighting equipment.
A general alarm was sounded in Smethport and the first pumper left the hose house just two minutes later. The rapid response of the firemen was remarkable in view of the fact that it was just about the worst hour of the night for a call to come in.

Chief of Police James McCabe had the doors open and the truck engines running when the firemen arrived.

All three S. F. D. pumpers were rushed to Farmers Valley and were quickly placed in operation under the direction of Fire chief Roy O’Laughlin.

George Brown, refinery fire warden and a member of the Smethport Fire department, left on the first pumper.

Residents of the town, awakened by the alarm, observed a flickering glow in the sky over the North town hill and promptly identified the refinery as the source of the flames. The blaze could be plainly seen when several tanks exploded.

Calls for aid were sent later to the Eldred and Port Allegany fire departments, which responded quickly.

Wellsville, Warren, Kane and Bradford Fire Departments offered to send aid as soon as they learned of the fire, but their services were not needed.

At the height of the fire, five pumpers were supplying 19 streams of hose and the refinery’s own system of two 750-gallon-per-minute steam pumps.

It was estimated that ten tons of “foamite,” a powder which is injected into a fire hose along with water, was used. The “foamite” forms a heavy blanket of suds and is effective in smothering oil fires where water is not only useless but may actually spread the blaze.

P. J. Meglivern, Quaker State purchasing agent, sent calls for additional “foamite” to the Kendall refinery in Bradford, the Socony-Vacuum refinery in Olean, the Sinclair refinery in Wellsville and the United Refinery in Warren. Trucks from those plants were rushed to Farmers Valley. The additional material was requested when the fire threatened to spread to other portions of the plant.

The American-LaPrance Co. of Elmira, N. Y., sent two trucks, each loaded with 12.5 tons of “foamite,” to Farmers Valley. The trucks were rushed here by police escort.
Firemen did fine work in keeping streams of water on a number of tanks threatened by the intense heat. Refinery pumpers emptied nearby tanks as rapidly as possible.
There was an ample supply of water from the refinery’s lines and Coe Creek, which passes through the plant.

Suffer Minor Injuries

In spite of the dangerous nature of the blaze, only minor injuries were suffered by fire fighters.

Clair Griffin sustained a laceration of the leg when he fell while running to escape flames from an exploding tank and Fire Marshal George Brown’s hands were slightly burned by steam.

The fire was extinguished by 9:00 a. m.
Company is Grateful
Yesterday the Quaker State Oil Refining Corporation made an official statement to the Democrat, expressing its gratitude for the courageous and efficient work of the fire fighters. The company is also grateful for the speedy cooperation of those who sent supplies of “foamite” and appreciates the offers of assistance from fire departments, which were not needed.

Officers Direct Traffic
Patrolmen E. A. Ickes and Henry Gorski of the Smethport sub-station, Pennsylvania Motor Police, and local fire police directed traffic during the fire and did a fine job.
The Roosevelt Highway (U. S. Route 6) passes through the plant. Traffic was detoured via Bordell and Rew Highways.

Loss Covered By Insurance
The refinery’s loss is simply covered by insurance.
Vacation Next Week
The fire did not disrupt plans for a plant shutdown next week to permit refinery employees to enjoy a week’s vacation with pay.
• Only a skeleton crew will work during the annual vacation period. The men who work next week will receive their vacations at other times.

McKean County Democrat
August 31, 1933

Although the big Heinemann Chemical Co. plant in Crosby has been shutdown during the past several months the surprising fact was learned by this newspaper this week that more men have been employed since operations ceased than are regularly working when the industry is operating.

The unusual circumstance is due to the fact that the Crosby plant was entirely out of chemical wood and it was necessary to replenish the supply. Some repairs have also been made, requiring the services of workmen other than those cutting and hauling wood.

It is confidently expected that the Heinemann plant will resume operations with a full force in a few weeks time.
The big Crosby chemical factory will operate under the NRA code approved by President Roosevelt for the Destructive Distillation Industries.

McKean County Democrat
March 22, 1951

The big Heinemann Chemical factor at nearby Crosby, which has been shut down for the past several months, resumed full operations last week and a steady run is anticipated.
Resumption of the industry will be a boom to Crosby, since it is the town’s sole means of livelihood. Smethport is also greatly benefited indirectly, due to the fact that local stores attract many Crosby shoppers.
The chemical factory employs between 45 and 50 workmen, according to C. L. Burt, general manager.


click on photo to see HUGE panorama
Photo Credit:  Bradford EraAugust 6, 1985

Heinemann Wood Chemical Plant during 1940's


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