Historical Details

C & H Refinery earns historic recognition

Courtesy of The Lusk Herald, 06/21/2000

C & H Refinery earns historic recognition
The Lusk Herald, June 21, 2000
By Sharlyn Peterson

The 67-year-old C&H Oil Refinery located on Highway 20 at the west edge of Lusk earned historic recognition Thursday.
The refinery’s Pakistani owner, Zahir Khalid, held a meeting with state officials Thursday in Douglas.

Representatives from the State Historical Preservation Office and the state Department of Environmental Quality joined Khalid to finalize the site’s historic status. The State Historic Preservation Office unanimously accepted the refinery’s application to the National Register of Historic Places. Now the state office will forward the application to the national office for final approval of placement on the register.

Friday, Khalid hosted a tour of the oil refinery in Lusk. After six months of cleaning and refurbishing the relic, it has resumed its original working capacity of 190 barrels of oil a day. In its working years, the refinery produced heating oil for homes in the area, according to Don Wilson. The refinery was issued a certificate of operations by the Department of Environmental Quality.

Following the tour, Khalid hosted an authentic Pakistani dinner for 30 guests at the Fireside Restaurant, Khalid’s wife and daughter used the facility to prepare Pakistani dishes for the meal. Don Wilson, a friend of Khalid’s from Wilson’s days as mayor, attended the dinner. He was impressed with the beef and rice dishes.

Khalid has no plans to operate the refinery on a regular basis; now that he has met the challenge of restoring the site, he will open it to visitors.

When Khalid researched the history of the refinery before purchasing it in 1998, he realized its significance as “the smallest refinery ever built on the planet Earth.” He said his motivation for investing his efforts and money in the project was to preserve this “unique national oil industry heritage for the generations to come.”

Khalid sees in the primitive refinery a piece of 20th century history, a century in which oil played a key role, a role which may diminish during the 21st century.

C & H Refinery earns international recognition
The Lusk Herald, September 5, 2001
By Sharlyn Peterson

Zahir Khalid, of Pakistan, visited Lusk Aug. 28 and shared news that C & H Refinery has received recognition from two sources: Guinness World Records, and the State Historic Preservation Office.

In a letter dated July 11, 200, Khalid received congratulations from Guinness World Records on the acceptance of the world’s “smallest oil refinery” in their database. A letter from Sheila Bicher-Wade of the State Historical Preservation Office dated Jan. 29, 2001, informed Khalid that C & H Refinery District was enrolled in the National Register of Historic Places.

Khalid said recognition of the refinery’s historic value confirms his estimation of the refinery’s true value. He calls the refinery “a crown jewel,” referring to its significance in industrial history. It represents the basic fundamental process of refining oil—consisting of boiling and distilling crude oil.

Khalid said Americans should work to preserve their industrial history, which includes the first oil well, the first oil refinery and the first combustion engine. He explained that the refinery is the “only remaining relic of that great history!”

Khalid explained that the oil industry began in the United States, with the first oil well at Titusville, Penn., in 1854, followed by the first oil refinery, Donner Oil, established in the last half of the 19th century in Pennsylvania.

The equipment used in the C & H Refinery had its start at the Donner Oil Refinery; it was specially made by Erie City Ironworks. In 1895 the equipment was purchased secondhand from Donner Oil by Mark B. Shannon, of Casper, where it was established until it became obsolete and was closed sometime before the 1930’s. During the 1930’s Depression two Lance Creek oil workers- Roy Chamberlain and Jim Hoblit- were asked to work at half wages.

They decided instead to combine their savings, $500, and purchase the vacant Casper Refinery equipment. With the help of Roy’s brother, Leon Chamberlain, who worked as a superintendent of the Glenrock oil refinery, the two resurrected the refinery and established C & H Refinery in 1933.

Chamberlain sold his shares in the refinery to his partner Hoblit in 1936. The Hoblit family operated the refinery until 1974, when it was sold to Joseph Chamberlain (no relation to Roy).

The Lance Creek oil fields supplied crude oil to C & H Refinery. The refinery distilled the crude into a variety of fuels, including fuel oil, which Khalid said “changed the lifestyle of Lusk/Niobrara County” who had been burning coal and coal oil to heat their homes and schools.

The fuel oil was lighter, easier to use and produced less pollution. C & H Refinery supplied Holly Sugar in Torrington, and many other regional operations with fuel into the 1970’s.

Khalid said it is the only refining equipment of its era anywhere in the world. “If I had not saved it, it would have been lost as scrap metal,” he stated.

Khalid said he discovered the “world’s smallest” refinery in an article published in the Jan. 12, 1981, issue of “Fortune” magazine. The article featured three refineries, “the smallest, the biggest, and the oldest” in “Refineries Refined: a Fortune Portfolio.” Now, Khalid exults in proving that the C & H Refinery is not only the world’s smallest refinery, but also the world’s oldest. The Pennsylvania refinery featured as the oldest in the Fortune portfolio was “rebuilt many times since” its establishment in 1869 and no longer contains equipment dating back to the earliest days of oil refining.

Khalid has sometimes been frustrated with the lack of interest and support he has found in Lusk. "I am disappointed that so far nobody has come forward in any manner. Rather I found obstacles in the process.”

He credits Tom Bleming as the only community member who has offered him any support as he worked to save the historic site. Bleming acts as caretaker during Khalid’s absence. Khalid also appreciated Jack and Kathy McConaughey, of Lusk, who offered some help with his household needs.

Khalid feels he has reached a goal with the National Register of Historic Places listing and the entry in the Guinness World Records. “The name of Lusk is in the book of the world!” he pronounced.

C&H Refinery dedicated
The Lusk Herald, July 20, 2011
By Adam Louis, Contributing Writer

A rare, very small oil refinery gets its time in the sun.

The Wyoming State Historic Preservation Office, town officials and residents gathered to honor C&H Refinery by dedicating an interpretive sign explaining the illustrious history of the small refinery Friday morning.

C&H began operations in 1933 and closed in the late 1970’s. In 1999, the Guinness Book of World Records, listed the refinery as the smallest functioning refinery in the world, and two years later, it was listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

“It is my hope that this sign dedication ceremony will spur a broader interest in determining how the story of the C&H Refinery can be told through the interpretation of the site (for the future), said Jenny Budenborg of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Refinery owner Zahir Khalid said the refinery is in the hands of Lusk residents now to continue to restore and preserve.

“I need, other than the help of God, a little bit of help,” Khalid said. “I’m not looking for money; I just need help in stabilizing the site. It would be a very good and important thing for the generations of tomorrow. I have done my job until this moment. I hope to get more hands and complete the program and open it to the public.”

“Because of this refinery, the world will know the name of the town of Lusk.” He added.

“Thank you for this very important sign,” said Lusk Mayor Pat Smith to Historic Preservation Office representatives. “We will do our best to take care of it."

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Related/Linked Records

Record Type Name
Obituary Chamberlain, Roy (06/04/1905 - 09/19/1979) View Record
Historical Chamberlain, Roy Edwin View Record
Business Refineries: C and H Refinery View Record
Historical Quilt Squares - C & H Refinery View Record