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Charles Lockhart and the Brilliant Refinery

The Brilliant Oil Refinery was opened by Charles Lockhart and his partners in 1861 at the outflow of Negley's Run into the Allegheny River, now Washington Blvd at Allegheny River Blvd. The location was a convenient and logical choice for Lockhart. His former employer, and later partner, James McCully owned the land. The Negley Run valley broadened sufficiently at its base near the river and provided an easy slope all the way to East Liberty -- the prosperous "suburb" on the Pennsylvania Railroad where Lockhart lived. The important refinery works are now completely gone, but the name "Brilliant" survived.

After its first efforts beginning in 1802 were outpaced by growth, the city of Pittsburgh began a major plan to create a modern water supply system in 1871. The Brilliant Water Works pumping station was built to send water from the Allegheny River to the Highland Park reservoir. When it was found that the pumps were insufficient to raise the water to that elevation, a lower basin, the Brilliant Reservoir was begun. Before the latter basin was completed, pumps became available which made the Brilliant Reservoir unnecessary. After the establishment of Highland Park around the new reservoir in 1889, the abandoned lower basin was converted into the recreational Lake Carnegie.

On the opposite side of the Negley's Run valley, the Pennsylvania Railroad built the Brilliant Cutoff in 1904. The line was an important bypass for freight traffic around the congestion of downtown Pittsburgh. The Brilliant Cutoff connected the PRR mainline at Homewood with the Conemaugh Division on the north shore of the Allegheny River. The portion of the former Allegheny Valley Railroad on the left descending bank -- passing adjacent to the site of the former refinery -- was known as the Brilliant Branch.

Biographical review; v. 24, containing life sketches of leading citizens of Pittsburg and the vicinity, Pennsylvania. Boston : Biographical review publishing co., 1897.

CHARLES LOCKHART, who has been for a number of years president of the Standard Oil Company and of the Pittsburg Bank of Commerce, is one of the oil kings of Pennsylvania. Among the first to buy the crude product of petroleum, he was the first to introduce the oil into England, carrying it himself in cans. He was born at Cairn Heads, Wigtonshire, Scotland, August 2, 1818. His parents, John and Sarah (Walker) Lockhart, were natives of the same shire, the home of both families for many generations. John Lockhart, son of Charles Lockhart, a farmer living near Cairn Heads, was the eldest of his father's family. When he grew up, a farm was taken for him. He married a daughter of James Walker, who was a damask manufacturer of Wigton. In 1836, with his wife and six children, he emigrated to America, was in the grocery business in Allegheny for a number of years, and died in that city in 1861. His wife survived him about ten years. They were members of the Second United Presbyterian Church of Allegheny.

Charles Lockhart was educated in Scotland. There also he obtained his first ideas of business from an uncle with whom he lived for a while. For nineteen years after his arrival in Pittsburg he worked as clerk for James McCully, a wholesale grocer and a dealer in produce and flour on Wood Street. In 1855 he and William Frew, who also had been clerk in this establishment for a number of years, were taken into partnership by the proprietor, and the firm name was changed to James McCully & Co. This firm, which was in existence until 1865, had an extensive business, the trade in the war time being especially profitable.

In December, 1832, Isaac Huff brought down the river in a skiff three barrels of oil that were taken out of a salt well. After several ineffectual attempts to sell the commodity he found Mr. Lockhart at the warehouse of the grocery company, and disposed of it to him for thirty-one and one-fourth cents per gallon, agreeing at the same time to let him have all the well produced for five years at the same price. It seemed a doubtful speculation, for the purchaser did not know how or where it would sell; but he eventually made a bargain with Samuel M. Kier, the partner of the Hon. R. F. Jones, who agreed to purchase all the oil he would bring him in five years at sixty-two and one-half cents per gallon. Mr. Lockhart was the first to buy and sell oil ahead of its production. The oil well which yielded him such profit was one mile below Tarentum, on the south side. It was one of the first in the State. In 1853, with Mr. Kipp, who was his partner until September, 1896, he bought the well, Mr. Kipp paying for one quarter only; and until 1865 they continued to manufacture salt, selling the oil as fast as produced. In 1859, the year oil was discovered at Titusville, Messrs. Lockhart, Kipp, William Frew, John Vanausdall, and William Phillips joined interests under the firm name of Phillips, Frew & Co., and, leasing land on Oil Creek, set up machinery, and soon had a thriving plant in operation, their first well yielding forty-five barrels a day. The oil was distilled, not refined; and crude oil brought thirty-four cents a gallon. Samuel M. Kier was the first to distill oil.

Their product was the first Oil Creek oil to come down the Allegheny River. In May, 1860, Mr. Lockhart began to carry samples of crude and refined oil to Europe. He had a friend in Liverpool who introduced him to leading chemists, and by the following winter the oil was shipped in large quantities to coal oil distillers in Great Britain. In the fall of 1860 the company struck some very productive wells.

In 1861 Messrs. Lockhart and Frew bought out their partners, and built the Brilliant Refinery, the first important refinery erected. It had a capacity of seventy-eight thousand barrels of oil per week, all produced from their own wells. The supply seems inexhaustible, for the land, which was first opened in 1853, is still yielding oil. During all this time it bas belonged to Mr. Lockhart, who is the oldest oil producer living to-day. In 1865 Messrs. Lockhart and Frew and William G. Warden built the large Atlantic Refinery in Philadelphia, which now produces thirty-six thousand barrels per day. At first they did business under the firm name of Warden, Frew & Co. Afterward a stock company was formed, Mr. Lockhart added little by little to his holdings until he was the largest owner in this vicinity.

One of his early purchases was a large share in Clark & Sumner's refinery, now known as Standard No. 1. In 1874 the supply exceeded the demand, and rival companies by competition lowered the price. A meeting of the Cleveland, Ohio, and Pennsylvania men, to adjust matters on a more satisfactory basis, was held at Saratoga, the delegates being John D. Rockefeller, William G. Warden, Henry M. Flagler, and Charles Lockhart. The four combined laid the foundation of the Standard Oil Company, which was eventually incorporated under the laws of Ohio. The Atlantic Refinery, of which Mr. Lockhart had been President, was merged into the Standard Oil Company, and he was made of the first directors of this now famous corporation. When the Ohio law compelled them to divide their business, the Pennsylvania section was merged in the Atlantic Refinery of Philadelphia, in which Mr. Lockhart is still the largest Pennsylvania shareholder.

Mr. Lockhart is interested in a number of other financial enterprises. About twenty years ago he became a member of tbe firm of Hubbard, Bakewell & Co., saw, axe, and shovel manufacturers. When he became connected with them, they had two factories. Later they erected a large plant on Railroad Street, Pittsburg, which was subsequently burned. Messrs. Hubbard and Lockhart, after this catastrophe, purchased a nutmber of smaller plants of the same kind, and established an axe manufactory at Beaver Falls, moving the shovel department to Sharpsburg Bridge. The axe department was finally merged in the American Axe and Tool Company, which had the largest factory in the county. The shovel factory, which was burned in January, 1896, is again in operation, under a stock company, Mr. Lockhart owning within one share of half the capital stock. He is a director of the Pittsburg Locomotive Works; a stockholder of the Pittsburg Plate Glass Company; of the Jackson Lumber Company, which owns one hundred and thirty thousand acres of land in Alabama; and of a number of smaller enterprises. He is president of the Lockhart Iron and Steel Company, which gives employment to four hundred men; was one of the original directors of the Pittsburg Bank of Commerce, of which he is now president; and he is a director in several large silver and gold mining cmnpanies of Colorado and Idaho, having bought his first mining stock in 1865 in Idaho. A guiding rule of his life, fron the days of his clerkship in the grocery store, has been never to contract a debt; and though the accumulation of his millions is, of course, due in a large degree to natural sagacity and forethought, his unvarying success is without doubt attributable to this principle.

On June 24, 1862, Mr. Lockhart was married to Miss Jane Walker, also a native of Scotland. They have five children, namely: James Henry and John Marshall, who are in business with their father; Janet W., the wife of John R. McCune, of Pittsburg; Martha Frew, the wife of Lee Mason, of Pittsburg; and Sarah Eleanor, who is yet with her parents. Mr. Lockhart cast his first vote with the Whigs in 1840, and has been a Republican since 1856. He belongs to one social organization, the Duquesne Club. He is a church member, connected for a great many years with the United Presbyterian Church of this city. Mr. Lockhart's family home for the past twenty years has been a palatial residence at the East End. [Highland Ave across from Hays St, East Liberty]

Standard history of Pittsburg, Pennsylvania / edited by Erasmus Wilson. Chicago : H.R. Cornell & Co., 1898.

Charles Lockhart. This prominent man was born at the Cairn Heads, near Whithorn, in Wigtownshire, Scotland, August 2, 1818. His father, John Lockhart, was the son of Charles Lockhart, of Ersock, a prosperous farmer and a prominent and influential man in his shire. His mother, Sarah Walker, was the daughter of James Walker, a linen manufacturer of Sorbie, a man of rare business and intellectual qualities. From this ancestry Mr. Lockhart inherited the abilities which have made him a prominent factor in the business world. When seven years of age he went to live with an uncle, John Marshall, a merchant at Garliestown, a seaport on Wigtown Bay. He remained with him, with the exception of one year, until he was sixteen years of age, attending school and assisting in the store. Early in 1836 his parents decided to come to America, and, with their family of seven children, reached New York after a voyage of fifty-six days. They came direct to Pittsburg, but shortly after moved to a farm in Trumbull County, Ohio, where, however, they remained but a short time, returning to Pittsburg.

Charles Lockhart did not go with his parents to Ohio, but remained in Pittsburg, where he found employment with James McCully, with whom he remained for nineteen years, and in 1855 he became one of the firm of James McCully & Co., the other partner, besides Mr. McCully, being the late Mr. William Frew, who was a nephew of Mr. McCully. This partnership was continued until April T, 1865, when it was dissolved. It was while a clerk in the store of Mr. McCully that Mr. Lockhart made his first venture in the oil business, in which he afterward became so largely interested, and one of the chief factors in the development of that great industry. His first deal in oil was the purchase of three barrels, in 1852, from Isaac Huff, who was part owner in a salt well in Westmoreland County, from which well Mr. McCully obtained a large amount of the salt in which he dealt. Disposing of this oil at a considerable profit, Mr. Lockhart conceived the idea that there was a great future in the business, and, against the advice of Mr. McCully, purchased a controlling interest in the salt well from which this oil was taken, and from that time, April, 1853, until the present, he has been an oil producer . Associated with him in this venture was Mr. A. V. Kipp, who was the active partner -- Mr. Lockhart remaining with Mr. McCully -- and this partnership was only dissolved by the death of Mr. Kipp, in 1896. After the discovery of oil at Oil Creek in 1859, by Colonel Drake, Mr. Lockhart sent a representative to investigate the field, and the report being favorable, a company was organized under the firm name of Phillips, Frew & Co., Mr. Lockhart being a member of the firm. Land was bought and leased, and active operations begun at once on the Major Downing Farm, where, in March, 1860, the first oil was struck, and sixty-four barrels of the fluid were shipped by the steamboat "Venango" to Pittsburg, being the first oil, in quantity, to reach this market. In May, 1860, Mr. Lockhart, with samples of crude and refined oil, went to Europe, and was the first person to bring to the attention of the commercial world of Europe the value of this, to them, unknown product, and the result has been of incalculable value to the oil producers of this country.

In 1860 Mr. Lockhart and Mr. Frew began the building of a refinery at Brilliant Station, which they completed in 1861. In 1862 Lockhart & Frew bought the producing interest of the firm of Phillips, Frew & Co., and, in partnership with Mr. William G. Warden, in 1865 established a commission house in Philadelphia, and this firm, Warden, Frew & Co., built the Atlantic Refinery there. Upon the organization of the Standard Oil Company in 1874, all the refineries with which Mr. Lockhart was connected were merged into that great corporation. With this corporation and its successor, the Standard Oil Trust, he has been identified. Also with many other interests, covering a wide field. Iron and glass manufacturing, timber lands in the South, mining in Colorado and other States, owning and operating two large wheat farms in the Red River Valley in Minnesota, a director for many years in the Pittsburg National Bank of Commerce, and president of the same for the past three years, besides being connected with various other financial institutions of Pittsburg. He is also interested in the International Navigation Company, which controls the American and Red Star lines of steamships. Mr. Lockhart has led a busy life, and yet amid the care and attention his many enterprises have required, he has found time to cultivate his love of Art, and to make a collection of paintings which ranks among the finest in Pittsburg, and which contains works of many of the most celebrated artists. In the pursuits of business the dominant qualities of his mind have been developed along those lines that have placed him in the foremost rank of successful men; but not less has been the development of the qualities of his heart, kindliness, generosity, and love of that which is good and true. He has given liberally in many directions in the fields of philanthropy and charity, without ostentation or display, in keeping with the modest and unassuming character of the man. A member of the United Presbyterian Church all his life, he has made it the recipient of many generous gifts. Mr. Lockhart was married June 24, 1862, to Miss Jane Walker, of Scotland, and is the father of two sons and three daughters.

Source documents: cited above; Gay and Evert, "Discovering Pittsburgh's Sculpture"

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Last modified: 4-Sep-2002