Rick Darcy, Townsquare Media

When I first drove by the old cannon sitting on the banks of the North Platte River in Casper (across from NAPA Auto Parts near the Tate Pump House), I thought it might have been used by Fort Caspar to help defend the city.  Boy, was I WAY off on that assumption.  But now that I know it's real use and place in Casper History, this is a pretty cool cannon!

During the parade day festivities this year I got to talking with some folks who grew up in the oil city about Casper's history, parades, rodeos and of course - oil.

That's when one of the gentleman started telling me the story of how lightning almost ended one of Casper's first oil storage facilities as it was just getting started.  The only thing that saved the city and the huge tank farm was that little cannon that sits on the banks of the North Platte River.

After a short search into the oil legacy in Casper I discovered that the story I thought to good to be true, was indeed the truth.

Back in 1921, the Midwest Oil company had constructed a huge storage tank facility to store the near 7,000  to 10,000 barrels of oil that were being pumped each day.  That tank farm sat on the land where the 3 Crowns Golf Course now resides.  The oil was stored in the tank farm until it could be refined by the Midwest Refinery which sat on the north side of the river.

As the story is told, on the morning of June 17th, 1921 lightning struck and subsequently caused a conflagration damaging 7 tanks in the tank farm.  In those days, fire crews had now means of dealing with any fire of that size and there was no contingency plan in place.  It was suggested to fire crews to pierce the tanks below the fire line and release the oil in to fire dykes, which could then be pumped in to nearby storage tanks.

Rick Darcy, Townsquare Media

That small but mighty cannon that sits on the shore of the North Platte River might be the one that was actually used to shoot the holes into the burning oil tanks. Nine shots in all were fired from the cannon that day and the fire was later allowed to burn itself out.  The fire dyke's storage ponds were set up near the burning tanks and the drained oil was pumped from the makeshift ponds into near by tanks.

Over the next 12 months, 9 other tanks would be struck and destroyed by lightning.

By the way, the price of oil peaked at a $3 a barrel in the 1920's before falling to just $.19 cents a barrel during the Great Depression.

Rick Darcy, Townsquare Media

It's a cool piece of Casper History and if you get the chance, take a walk down the North Platte Trails heading East from the Tate Pump House and see it for yourself.  Then imagine crews battling a refinery fire back in 1921.

Source: WyoHistory.org