The Karns City and Petrolia area smells like oil even today. The first well was drilled in 1872, and within three years, both Karns City and Petrolia were thriving towns with telegraphs, post offices, and hotels. Today, the landscape is intensely industrial, with storage tanks, metal and brick utilitarian buildings, and pipelines for the three major plants spreading up the western side of the valley for two-and-one-half miles. Penreco on Main Street (PA 268) in Karns City and Sonneborn Refined Products and Indspec of Petrolia form a nearly unbroken chain of heavy industry, with only small patches of residences nearby. Penreco, producing mineral oils and petrolatum (Vaseline and baby oil) products, is the oldest of the three and in its original nineteenth-century location. Sonneborn, originally known as W. H. Daugherty and Sons and later Witco, also produces petrolatum products. Both companies formerly used local oil, but today import oil by pipeline, railroad, and truck. Indspec is a chemical plant that produces an additive for the manufacture of tires, dyes, and medicine.
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