Herschel C. Porterfield. Thirty-five years in the oil fields and thirty years as a contractor and producer constitute the record of this veteran of an industry which has brought Kansas untold wealth. Like hundreds of men of this class, he has found Independence as the most satisfactory city for residence and business headquarters.
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In another respect he is typical of perhaps a majority of the oil men of the country–his native state is Pennsylvania. Born in Butler County, August 10, 1856, he was one of several brothers to become identified with the oil industry in one way or another. Up to the age of eighteen he lived at home and attended the public schools of his native county. Then after six years more spent assisting in the work of his father’s farm, he began regular employment as a worker in the oil district, first in Butler, then in Venango County, afterwards in Cattaraugus County, New York, Washington County and Toledo, Ohio, and from the East came to Kansas on April 1, 1903. He spent a time in Chanute, then went to Peru, but since 1904 has had his home and headquarters in Independence.
It was in Venango County, Pennsylvania, in 1886, that Mr. Porterfield did his first contracting. He bought a string of tools, and since then has worn out many sets and is now interested in five strings, which in recent years he has had at work in the oil districts of Kansas and Oklahoma.
He and M. D. Mitchell are the constituent members of the Amherst Oil Company, which has sixty-five producing oil and two gas wells, he being manager, foreman and director of the company. He is manager and has a fourth interest, besides what his sons own, in the Skinner Oil Company, that has seven producing oil wells. Nearly a half interest is owned by Mr. Porterfield in the Argue-Porterfield Company with its eight producing wells.
In the twelve years since he came to Independence Mr. Porterfield and family have resided at 1114 West Main Street. In politics he is independent with strong leanings toward prohibition, and is a member of the Methodist Church.
He comes of excellent family stock, largely Irish and Scotch, and has good reason to be proud of his own children. His Grandfather William Porterfield, of Irish descent, was born in Pennsylvania in 1784, was a farmer, and died in Butler County in 1864. He married Jane Lowry, who was of Scotch family, and she was born in 1791 and died in Butler County in 1866. The Lowrys were very prominent in Pennsylvania early affairs, and her two brothers, Mathew and Walter, were especially men of note.
Mr. Porterfield’s father, Pliny F. Porterfield, was born in Butler County in 1826, spent nearly all his life there, and died in 1908 in the house where his son Herschel was born and on the place which has been in the family since the pioneers drove back the Indians and took possession of the land. Though a farmer, he was well educated, had taught school, and studied to be a physician. He was elected and served a long time as justice of the peace, and was a loyal worker and trustee of the Presbyterian Church. He was a republican, and a member of the Ancient Order of United Workmen. The maiden name of his wife was Amy A. Boomer, who was of Irish descent. She was born in 1833, and died at MacDonald, Pennsylvania, in 1912. This is a brief record of their children: Amelia Jane married Jonathan Hartman, and they reside at Lima, Ohio, Mr. Hartman having been connected with the Standard Oil Company until he was retired on a pension; Herschel C. is the second in age; Pliny Fisk died at the age of twelve; Carrie May, residing in Butler County, is the widow of Harry Gates, who was an oil producer; Amy Luella, deceased, married U. S. Rhodabarger, now an oil producer in Cleveland, Oklahoma; Harry B., resident of MacDonald, Pennsylvania, among other business interests is an assistant superintendent of the Standard Oil Company; William K. is an oil contractor and producer at Emlenton, Pennsylvania; P. F. is a foreman for the Standard Oil Company and lives in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania; Mary J. married Joseph McQuiston, of MacDonald, Pennsylvania, who has been a foreman for the Standard Oil; and B. L. is a foreman for the Standard Oil at Oakdale, Pennsylvania.
Most of Mr. Porterfield’s own children are grown and established in business or homes of their own. In Venango County, Pennsylvania, in 1880, he married Miss Lydia A. Ogden, a daughter of J. N. and Priscilla Ogden. Her father is still living, a retired farmer and music teacher, at Oil City, Pennsylvania. Five children were born to Mr. and Mrs. Porterfield: Garnette Luella is the wife of Frank McKenna, a boiler maker by trade and a resident of Marietta, Ohio; H. M. is an oil producer and oil worker and lives at Wayside, Kansas; C. E. has followed in the same line as his father and brother and lives at Sedan, Kansas; Twila Annetta, living with her parents, is stenographer with Tomlinson & Shukers, attorneys; Virgil Lowry died December 2, 1915, at the age of eight years.