03 January 2011

"Fill er Up" Indian Oil Company

compiled by Teresa Martin Klaiber
January 2011

In today's "modern" world, with the click of the mouse, a search for Indian Oil Company gets you thousands of hits and wiki descriptions of a large corporation based in India.

But in the early years of "modern" gasoline stations in the United States Indian Oil Company was well known in the Midwest and Eastern Kentucky.

Indian Oil Company started out as Indian Asphalt Company and in 1905 set up operations in Georgetown, Kentucky. One of their products was Bluegrass axle grease. A year later they changed their name to Indian Oil Company and built a Refining company based out of Lawrenceburg, Illinois. In 1909 they purchased Havoline Oil Company and the Havoline name quickly became a well known name throughout our area.

An excellent web site developed by Jim Hinds gives a detailed time line of the company. He should be commended for his efforts to fetter out the details and history for this company.

The company growth was in leaps and bounds. One of the many traveling salesmen for Indian Oil Company was John Shouse Martin who resided in Ashland, Kentucky. He joined the company during World War I and continued to work for Indian Oil Company until it was purchased by Texaco in early 1931. Texaco received all rights to the manufacturing process of Havoline motor oil at that time.

The company maintained an office on East Front and 28th Street in Ashland as well as a plant [shown in picture above] with J. W. Johnson as manager.

Besides Martin, L. F. Carmine of Lexington and C. F. Leslie of Huntington all were let go by Texaco in 1931 and quickly announced in the Ashland newspaper that they were now working for Valvoline Oil Company of Cincinnati. Lawrence M. Kelly took over the southern Ohio territory for Texaco that had been held by J. S. Martin.

Martin took many photographs in his travels and his collection includes this picture of the first Indian Station in Ashland, Kentucky. This may be the station listed in the 1924 city directory at 1000 East Winchester. The station was operated by J. W. Johnson.

The first gasoline stations in the United States were built between 1905 and 1907. They were known as "filling stations", a term I heard even in the mid 1950's. By 1929 there were two Indian gasoline stations in Ashland, Kentucky. One at 2500 Winchester Avenue operated by R. D. Gardner and another at 13th and Lexington operated by Curtis Murphy.

From horse and buggy to the gasoline age we are now moving into yet another "modern" world and I am sure we will hear much more about it in 2011. The price of gasoline is skyrocketing. But let me savor for just a moment more, full service fill ups with my windows wiped to a sparkle.


  1. I love local history! This is great stuff!

  2. Now and then I still call it a filling station. :-D And I do wish the service had never ended. How I long to pull in and have some nice young man put gas in my tank and buff my windows.