A Tale of Three Cities

It was the beginning of times, it was the end of times, and somewhere in between a rabbit stole the mayor’s parking space.

City One: Oil City, Ontario

Oil City, Ontario

Oil City, Ontario

Oil Springs, Ontario. America's first oil well

Oil Springs, Ontario. America’s first oil well

Or rather, the trio of adjacent towns: Oil Spring, Oil City and Petrolia. The first American oil rush took place here from 1858 and onwards, after an asphalt producer set out to dig a water well but found free oil instead, sparking what was to become the oil industry.

Population:
Oil Springs – 704
Oil City – 2930
Petrolia – 5528

City Two: Flint, Michigan

Flint, Michigan

Flint, Michigan

Flint, Michigan. The gospel

Flint, Michigan. The gospel

Flint was the center of the Michigan lumber industry. Lumber money funded the establishment of a carriage-making industry. Horse carriages gave way to automobiles. Flint became the birthplace of General Motors and a major player in the nascent auto industry. At its height GM employed 80,000 workers. Then the industry collapsed. NPR describes Flint as ground zero for the decline of American manufacturing. For the past decades Flint has suffered from disinvestment, deindustrialization, depopulation, urban decay and high rates of crime. FBI recently ranked Flint the most violent city per capita in America for the third consecutive year. According to FBI’s statistics, Flint had more than 2,774 violent crimes in 2012. They included 63 murders, 108 rapes, 673 robberies and 1,930 aggravated assaults.

Population: 102,434 (down from 200,000 in 1960)

City Three: Sarnia, Ontario

Sarnia, Ontario

Sarnia, Ontario

Back across the border to Canada, midways between Flint and Oil City, in the city of Sarnia, a rabbit sat on the mayor’s parking space on a summer evening.

Population: 72,366

This is America part three. Read part two here, part one here.