The Cleopatra of The Oil Fields
Old Time Tales of Warren County


The Cleopatra of the Oil Fields

When Col. Drake's drill, shaped on the anvil of Andrew Hertzel in Warren, tapped the hidden treasury of petroleum near Titusville, there escaped from that hole in the earth a band of jinn that swarmed over the surrounding country, playing havoc with established customs, suddenly upsetting the course of men's lives and stimulating the whole drama of human existence beyond any dreams. Nothing like "the days of the oil excitement" ever happened before, it seems almost safe to say that nothing like it will ever happen again.

When Oil Creek was a hive of rushing industry, when Pithole was pandemonium, with lurid nights and roaring days, when a hundred wells were pounding down in the region of Tidioute, there bloomed and blossomed in the south-west corner of Warren County, characters that have known no counterpart, before or since. They were products of the teeming times, quite impossible before or since. They flared picturesquely in Warren County's early days of oil, and faded quickly when the gushers ceased to gush and the oil business settled down to more or less prosaic "production."

Because of her profession, which was a wicked one, the name of Kitty Bowers has been omitted from books written of the early oil days. Kitty Bowers would not mind this leaving out of her name, she would be as indifferent concerning it as she was to the pressing advances of men who vied for her doubtful favor, vied for it with proffered gifts which many women could not have refrained from accepting, but which Kitty disdained with a fine curl of a full red lip and a dismissing gesture of her white hand.

Kitty Bowers was the queen of Babylon on the high hilltop, overlooking Tidioute. Her palace was Ben Hogan's notorious house on Babylon Hill and her dominion extended to Pithole and Oil Creek and all the enchanted land of oil. Her courtiers consisted of kings and princes in the various kingdoms of Petroleum. Potentates of oil came by stealth to her court and she was agreeable to them or she was not, exactly as the mood prompted her.

Kitty Bowers was an undeniable beauty, not even the shortcomings of a very poor photograph, faded with its sixty-five years, can disguise it. When she came to the kingdom of oil from Pittsburgh to ply her terrible profession, from which a score of men were willing and ready to take her, Kitty was twenty-two. She was a girl of medium height, inclined to be plump. When she raised her long, dark lashes, large violet-blue eyes looked languidly out at a world usually ready to pay her homage. Kitty's eyes were the moist type, always looking as though she might have been crying a little, and the more beautiful for it. "As pretty as Kitty Bowers" was an expression men used in the oil fields, but many believed there was no one so pretty as she.

Kitty Bowers faded and was gone with the roseate glamour of the hectic days of oil. She was beyond the pale of society, almost, but not quite so bad as the men who consorted with her. And as the years passed by, the old derricks rotted and the rust grew red and deep on discarded cables, tools and boilers, certain memories of Kitty Bowers lingered long on the high hilltops where once she cantered on her bay horse.

SOURCE:  Page(s) 373-374: Old Time Tales of Warren County; Meadville, Pa.: Press of Tribune Pub. Co., 1932


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