Oil City Cemetery once known as Keating Cemetery

Cemetery donated by village’s founding father


Oil City Cemetery was formerly known as the Keating Cemetery and was owned and maintained by Mr. James Keating until about 1894 when the Keating family donated the cemetery to the Township of Enniskillen.

James Keating was a surveyor, pioneer oil man, grocer, mill owner, postmaster, former Reeve of Oil Springs and, with some justification, could be considered the founding father of Oil City.

He was born in 1834 in Simcoe County where he grew to manhood, attended the Barry Grammar School,  and was later educated as a civil engineer.  As a young man he was employed as a surveyor with the Great Western and Grand Trunk Railroad but following the discovery of “Black Gold” at Oil Springs decided greater prospects beckoned from the oil fields of central Lambton County.

Consequently, in 1861 he relocated to Oil Springs and began prospecting for oil where he met with financial success.  For a number of years he was among the area’s top oil producers and one of Oil Spring’s leading merchants. He became the village’s postmaster and also served two terms as Oil Spring’s reeve (mayor).

In 1874, he joined forces with Sarnia banker R.S. Gurd and Petrolia refinery operator John McMillian and bought the property known as Lot 16, Concession 5 of Enniskillen Township, the tract of land which is today, the hamlet of Oil City. Being speculators and business men, the three men were apparently aware that the St. Clair branch of the Canada Southern railway was to be built later that year and would extend through their newly-purchased property.

Mr. Keating surveyed the lot, laying out streets for what he and his partners thought would one day become a substantial city. While their dream of a metropolis may not have materialized, Oil City did prosper and grew to become a general trading centre for the surrounding farm community. By the mid-1880s, the settlement could boast a substantial saw mill, a cooperage, two general stores, and a hotel. It remains today a pleasant residential community, much loved by its inhabitants.   

Mr. Keating also provided the land for what would become Oil City United Church. Built in 1881, it continues to function today as a community centre. James Keating died Dec. 14, 1894 and is interred in the family plot at Oil City cemetery.





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Latest comments

17.08 | 00:02

My name is Patricia Mcilwain , Kate Newton was a second cousin,. My mothers first cousin, Florence( Chambers) Young. Interesting story.

22.01 | 13:44

William Hay, my uncle, served on Petrolia as cook. My picture dressed in a navel uniform with an H.M.C.S. hat band, I was told was the " JACK" (Mascot)

19.08 | 12:32

I was Raised to the sublime Degree of a Master Mason on September 6, 1975 in a Masonic ??? Lodge #503 Ontario Canada.
My lodge Ira A. Beck #503 Battle Creek MI

05.06 | 03:34


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