It can be justly said that few men lived a more exciting and eventful life than Alfred Thomas Gurd, a pioneer oil man, refiner, explosives manufacturer, and noted Lambton County politician.
Gurd was born on a farm in Moore Township, Lambton County, on March 30, 1846, the son of Irish immigrants and early settlers to the Moore Township area (now St. Clair Township). According to Beers Commemorative Biographies, at the tender age of 15 years Gurd left the family farm and “began the battle of life on his own account.”
Through a twist of fate he was attracted to the oil fields and, while he did dabbled in other pursuits, was thusly engaged in this industry for the rest of his life. It should also be noted here that, like most oil men, Gurd experienced a full share fortune's reversals that are particularly incidental to the petroleum industry.
Nevertheless, after drilling in several locations in Southwestern, Ontario, he came to Petrolia in 1870 and quickly established himself as a major producer of crude oil. In addition, he was also engaged in the manufacture of nitro glycerin, an explosive used extensively in the oil fields of that era.
Among his peers he was widely regarded as one of the most aggressive and “nervy” drillers in the Canadian oil fields and, as a consequence, brought in some of the most productive wells in the country.
In 1902, he drilled the celebrated “Gurd Gusher” in RaleighTownship (near Tilbury, Ontario) which, for a time, flowed 1,000 barrels per day and made his name legendary in the oil industry across two continents.
active in public affairs. After serving for a number of years as a municipal councilor and deputy-reeve, he was elected the town's mayor in 1890 and served in that capacity for four years.
During his years in Petrolia he was also
In the provincial election of 1894 he contested the electoral riding of Lambton West for the Conservative Party. Although the riding had been a Liberal stronghold for 40 years, Gurd handily defeated the sitting Liberal member, Charles MacKenzie, brother of Canada's second prime minister, the Hon. Alexander MacKenzie of Sarnia.
Gurd served in the provincial legislature until 1898 where he was said to have discharged his duties in a distinguished and statesmanlike manner.
Alfred Gurd married Miss Dell Shaw in 1879 and this union produced five children: Dell, Kathleen, Jessie, Marian and William.
In religion, Gurd was a staunch adherent of the Church of England and fraternally was a member of the Masonic Order, being a past master of Washington Masonic Lodge in Petrolia and past first-principal of Petrolia’s Bruce Chapter Royal Arch Masons.
Alfred T. Gurd eventually followed the oil industry to Tulsa, Oklahoma where he died in 1910.