This cache may contain one or more unactivated Oil Creek State Park/Kennerdell Tract, Clear Creek State Forest geocoin. This is a brand new coin, trackable on geocaching.com. Please only take one per cacher, and help us spread the word about these two great resources in the Oil Region!!
John Benninghoff’s Fortune
John Benninghoff was born in Lehigh County, Penn., December 25, 1801. He married Miss Elizabeth Heise in 1824. About 1831 John moved his wife and family to Venango County, where he rented farm land for several years. He finally purchased land at different times until he owned a farm of 235 acres, which later proved to be the most productive oil farm in the area.
In the fall of 1865, the “Ocean Well” came in pumping 300 barrels of oil a day, proving that wells could be drilled on hillsides, not only along the creekbeds. Benninghoff’s land suddenly became quite valuable. He rented small lots at boom prices, plus one quarter of the oil, and soon there were a dozen wells on his farmland. His income was estimated at $6,000 a day.
At first, John put his money in banks at Franklin, but when they failed, and he lost most of his money, he decided to buy safes, and keep his money in his farmhouse. On January 16th, 1868, some locals, led by one James Saeger, and assisted by a couple of professional safecrackers from Philadelphia and perhaps the Benninghoff's night watchman broke into the farm house. They tied up the occupants including John Benninghoff, got into one of the safes with Benninghoff’s keys, and absconded with a large amount of money, reported to be between 250,000, and one million dollars. The locals each received about $1500 for their efforts. The pros from Philadelphia were each paid $25,000 and escaped to Canada. James Saeger kept the rest, before getting out of Meadville. The minor gang members were eventually caught and convicted, but not the would-be safecrackers nor James Saeger, who ended up owning a lucrative cattle ranch in the west under an assumed name. He, too, was eventually caught, but was never brought back to Pennsylvania to stand trial. Mr Benninghoff never recovered the stolen money, but his wells and investments treated him well, as at his death, his net worth was estimated to be around $400,000.
John Benninghoff died on March 20, 1882. He was 81 years old. He was survived by his 8 sons and 4 daughters. At the time of his death he had sixty-one grandchildren and twenty one great-grandchildren.