My third great grandfather Zuver had been an oil producer when crude oil barrel prices would rocket to $120.00 (today’s value) a barrel in the early 1860s. He would also experience the bottom dropping out of the value as it plummeted to $23.00 (today’s value) just 10 years later. By the time of his death, his obituary headline would read “Was Once Wealthy,” having had close to a million dollars of today’s money in value. The money was long gone before his death in 1911 and he was living off of the mother’s pension of the son he lost in the civil war.
About 1889 Jacob was venturing into oil production and got into a fight with Joseph E. Brownyear over ownership of oil property. By 1890 Jacob had leased land on the Mitchell and Van Vleck farm in Limestone, New York and was drilling wells.
When Jacob died, he left his wife with over $30,000 in debt. In the bills you can tell he had a taste for fine made clothing and lived well from his profits in oil. It would take her 5 years to settle all of the accounts and was taken to court to settle some of his oil production cost debts.
Money may have been in the family from time to time, but it didn’t seem to outlast the maker to be passed on to any family member.
Photos taken by Mary Melissa Zuver West, Jacob's wife.