Converted from paper version of the Broad Ripple Gazette (v03n08)
First Meal Cooked With Natural Gas In Marion County Happened In Broad Ripple! - by Bob Alloway
posted: Apr. 21, 2006
Natural Gas Fever of 1887
Think of it - cooking without wood or coal! This new found source of fuel was front-page headlines in 1887. Every time a new well came in, people flocked to see it.
Omer Boardman of Broad Ripple had two wells dug on his property. When gas was struck on October 6, 1887, he rushed out to get pipe to run to his #8 cook stove. The first meal Mrs. Boardman cooked on this stove was reported in the newspaper; the next day you couldn't rent a buggy anywhere in the city because people were coming in droves to 6504 Cornell (now Westfield Blvd.) to see this amazing event. Why all the huff? It was the first operational gas well in Marion County! Eureka! The ladies who observed this new fuel firsthand wanted Mrs. Boardman to demonstrate cooking on the stove. The gents thought it was the finest thing they ever saw. They all agreed that it would make a new city of Indianapolis. They came as late as 10:00 and 11:00 P.M. wanting to see natural gas being used.
The Boardman's residence was on a hill on the Westfield Road, and Omer Boardman acquired this 80 acres in an unusual way. Omer was 17 years old and an orphan when the Civil War began. The draft called a neighbor to serve and that neighbor asked Omer to serve for him since he had a large family and a farm to take care of. A deal was worked out between Omer and his neighbor that if he served for him, Omer would get 80 acres of the neighbor's land. During his service, Omer sustained a serious wound just above his heart. A Confederate family cared for him in their home until he was well. Each day, neighbors would stop by and look in the window to see if he had survived another night. Many asked, "Isn't this damn Yankee dead yet?" Omer eventually came back home and received the 80 acres as promised. He built a beautiful Victorian home on a knoll surrounded by trees.
Mrs. Boardman gave reporters the details of the natural gas discovery while sitting in her rocking chair. A small open flame burned from one of the uncapped pipes in the front yard for all to see. What an economical way of heating the whole house. The News reported that cooking with this gas saved people 1/2 hour every day by not having to bring wood in and start a fire. That's 17 extra days a year that you can sleep! Mr. Boardman also ran a pipe to the fireplace only a day after he secured the pipe to run the natural gas. People game by the hundreds. Many folks expressed a fear of using natural gas, as they had heard stories of explosions and deaths.
Another well was dug on the Dawson Farm, two and a half miles northeast of Broad Ripple. This site seemed to have greater potential to produce enough gas to service all the homes in Broad Ripple. The rural areas, however, would need too much pipe to make it practical unless they could bring in a well of their own. Signing a contract with the newly formed Broad Ripple Natural Gas Company, whose secretary was Dr. Light, allowed the company to dig a well on ones property.
The first use of natural gas in Marian County occurred a year before, in the woods in Lawrence, where Hezekiah Smith confined it to heat a kettle.
An 1889 map of the Town of Broad Ripple showing the location of a gas well.
In Eaton, Indiana, a fire was started using natural gas in a little house on September 25,1886.
Two months after gas was struck at Broad Ripple, Mr. John C. Pierson lighted a fire in his house within the city limits at 14th and Meridian. Their carpets were ruined and furniture was damaged by all the curious people going through. By letting Broad Ripple Natural Gas Company bring two wells on the Boardman property, Omer saw potential profits from promoting this event.