"Energy & Light in Nineteenth Century Western New York," a book by Douglas Houck, was recently released by the History Press of Charleston, South Carolina. The book tells the story of the people and events that occurred in Western New York that changed the world. Up until the early 1800s, people had to rely on light from a fireplace or a candle for illumination. That started to change when William Austin Hart from Fredonia noticed bubbles of natural gas rising to the surface of Canadaway Creek.
Dr. Francis Brewer of Westfield was responsible for collecting samples of a black substance that oozed from the ground near his father's sawmill in Northwestern Pennsylvania. He had it analyzed by a chemist at Dartmouth College. The chemist suggested, "it could be useful if enough could be found." We call it petroleum.
Charles Brush demonstrated his dynamo at the Chautauqua Institution in 1877. This led to lighting the amphitheater, grounds, and new Athenaeum Hotel at Chautauqua with electricity. It was one of the first places in the world to be so equipped. These stories and more are told in the book.
The book is available at the Chautauqua County Historical Society at the McClurg Museum in Westfield or can be obtained from Amazon.com or other on-line sources. Douglas Houck, the author, has a home in Westfield and another in Punta Gorda, Fla. He currently teaches at Edison State College and Barry University in Southwest Florida.