Navy Oilers derived their names from Cities, Mountains and the Rivers shown in yellow.

     Oil wells were drilled in China up to 800 feet deep using bits attached to bamboo poles in 347 A.D. The mining of seep oil in medieval Persia witnessed by Marco Polo on his travels through Baku in 1264. The First modern oil well is drilled in Asia, on the Aspheron Peninsula north-east of Baku, by Russian engineer F.N. Semyenov in 1848. Distillation of kerosene from oil by Canadian geologist Dr. Abraham Gesner. Kerosene eventually replaces whale oil as the illuminate of choice and creates a new market for crude oil in 1849 which perhaps saved the whales from extinction.

     Oil Creek in western Pennsylvania abounded in oil seeps that oozed thick black crude into the stream. These seeps were well known to the Seneca Indians, one of the Iroquois Nation tribes, who used the oil as a salve, mosquito repellent, purge and tonic. Many settlers also believed that these oils were medicinal, and "hawkers" sold bottles of it, as early as 1792, as a cure-all called "Seneca Oil". The nearby Allegheny and Kiskiminetas river valleys had oil also, but beneath the ground, where as early as 1815 it was contaminating several of the brine wells that supplied a booming salt industry in the Pittsburgh area.

     In 1859 The Pennsylvania Rock Oil Company (Later "Seneca Oil Co.") sent Col. Edwin L. Drake, to acquire oil. Drake observed the natives skimming small amounts of it from Oil Creek and found the process ineffective and invented the derrick. He drilled on a piece of leased land just south of Titusville. On August 27 they finally drilled a well that could be commercially successful.

     The world's first successful oil tanker was Nobel's 1878 Zoroaster. He designed this ship in Lindholmen-Motala, Sweden. It made its first run later that year from Baku to Astrakhan on the Caspian Sea. Perhaps Zoroaster was similar to Falls of Clyde, also built in 1878. In 1903, the Nobel brothers built two oil tankers which ran on internal combustion engines, as opposed to the older steam engines.

     The fleet oiler USS Maumee, launched on April 17, 1915, pioneered the technique of underway replenishment. A large ship at the time, at 14,500 deadweight tons, Maumee began refueling destroyers en route to Britain at the outset of World War I. This technique enabled the Navy to keep its fleets at sea for extended periods, with a far greater range independent of the availability of a friendly port.
Reference: Wikipedia and a wonderful History of Indians in the North East.

A shipmate of this web page author lived in Pennsylvania. He has these words to add.

When I was a boy in Pennsylvania there were many old-timer relatives who had worked in the early oil fields of PA. My great aunt lived with us for a long time (this was from 1955-65) and she told me many stories about her family and their adventures as her father worked as a driller. Aunt Pearl was born in 1878 and died in 1965. She told me that there are many places in western PA, at least then, that in some areas oil slicks were common on the little creeks. The Indians skimmed the oil and used it for many things and the settlers learned from them. Example: Vaseline was is a natural byproduct of oil and the Indians first used it. Aunt Pearl was a woods doctor using the kinds of things she found such as plants, lard, coal tar, and oil skimmed from a creek to treat all kinds of ills. She treated herself with her woods medicine and she died from breast cancer at 88 (which she had treated herself with her herbs, potions and salves & for how long no one knows). I wish I had written half of what she told me down. Andy July 28, 2008

This list starts in Maine and works it's way south. View ship details through link on ship number
AO = Fleet Oiler Ship.       AOE = Fast Support Ship.      AOT = Oil Transporter.
Ship Name

Ship Number
NavSource Link


River Name

USS Saranac AO-74 Launched, 21 December 1942 The Saranac River is a river in the state of New York. The river has more than three dozen source lakes and ponds north of Upper Saranac Lake. The river empties into Lake Champlain at the City of Plattsburgh. The first ship was USS Saranac (1848)
USNS Hudson
TAO-184 Launched, 1972 The Hudson River. called Muh-he-kun-ne-tuk in Mohican, the Great Mohegan by the Iroquios, or as the Lenape Native Americans called it in Unami, Muhheakantuck, Okahnehtati in Tuscarora, is a river that runs through the eastern portian of New York State and along its southern terminus, demarcates the border between New Jersey and New York. Reclassified Transport Oiler AOT-184. The first ship was USS Hudson (1826)
USS Ramapo AO-12 Launched, 11 September 1919

The Ramapo River is a tributary of the Pompton River, approximately 30 mi long, in southern New York and northern New Jersey. During the American Revolutionary War, Commander-in-Chief George Washington is said to have climbed the Ramapo Torne (near Ramapo hamlet) with a telescope to watch the movement of British ships off Sandy Hook.

USNS Susquehanna
Launched in 1972
The Susquehanna River is a river 444 mi long, the longest river on the American east coast and the 16th longest in the United States.It's meaning is thought to be "The Long Crooked River". It rises in upstate New York often regarded as an extension of the main branch. The shorter West Branch, rises in western Pennsylvania. Cutting through water gaps in the lateral mountain ridges in southeastern Pennsylvania and northeastern Maryland, the river empties into the northern end of the Chesapeake Bay, providing half of the freshwater inflow for the entire Chesapeake Bay. Susquehanna. A shortened form of Susquehannock, meaning unknown. Susquehanna. A town and a tribe of the Iroquoian stock, situated in 1608 on the lower portion of the Susquehanna river and its effluents. The ship was reclassified Transport Oiler AOT-185.
USS Chenango
AO-31 Launched, 1 April 1939
The Chenango River is a tributary of the Susquehanna River, approximately 90 miles (145 km) long, in central New York. The word is said to have come from an Iroquios word, "O chenang" meaninng "region of the bull thistle". The ship was reclassified ACV-28. The first USS Chenango (1863) was a side-wheel steamer
USS Chumung
AO-30 Launched, 9 September 1939 The Chemung River is a tributary of the Susquehanna River, approximately 45 mi long, in south central New York and northern Pennsylvania. The river name comes from an Iroquois language word meaning "big horn" or "horn-in-the-water", possibly dating from the discovery of large mammoth tusks in the river bed. The Lenape called the river Cononogue, which had a similar meaning. There was also a USS Chumung AT-18.
USS Cohocton
AO-101 Launched, 28 July 1945
The Cohocton River is a tributary of the Chumung River, approximately 55 miles , in western New York. The name is a native term ("Ga-ha-to"), reportedly meaning "log floating in the water."
USS Canisteo
AO-99 Launched, 6 July 1945 The Canisteo River is a tributary of the Tioga River, approximately 55 mi long, in western New York. The name of the river comes from a Native American word meaning either "pickerel" or "head of water".
USS Soubarissen AO-93 Launched, 12 August 1944 Soubarissen was a chief of the "Neutral" Indian Nations which, although a part of the Iroquois confederation, were called "neutral" by the French because they took no part in the wars of the Iroquios and Hurons. The area he governed included the oilfields of northwestern Pennsylvania and western New York. The knowledge of the oil seepage's there was well know among the indians and it was declared neutral ground so all Indians could obtain oil for medical and domestic purposes without danger or interference.
USNS French Creek
TAO-159 Launched, 8 December 1944
French Creek is a tributary of the Allegheny River in northwestern Pennsylvania and western New York. George Washington was sent to deliver a message to these forts in 1752. Not knowing the stream's name, he gave it the present name of French Creek because of the nearby French forts. Another French Creek exists in the S. E. part of the state, a tributary of the Schuylkill River. Yet another French Creek exists in Iowa.
USS Cowanesque AO-79 Launched, 11 March 1943
The Cowanesque River is a tributary of the Tioga River in north central Pennsylvania.
The river name is Native American for "overrun with briars".
USS Shikellamy AO-76 Launched, 16 February 1943
Shikellamy State Park is named in honor of Shikellamy, an Iroquois chief. Chief Shikellamy played a major role in the history of the frontier in Pennsylvania. He was a friend of the Native Americans and the American Colonists of the 18th century. Shikellamy's village was located near where the overlook section of the park is today. This area is were Vern's great grandparents grew up. See his web page: Union County.
USS Lackawanna AO-40 Launched, 16 May 1942
The Lackawanna River is a tributary of the Susquehanna River, approximately 35 mi long, in northeastern Pennsylvania. Its name "Lackawanna" comes from a Lenni Lenape word meaning "stream that forks." There is also USS Lackawanna (1862) which was a screw sloop-of-war.
USS Schuylkill AO-90 Acquired, 26 March 1943 The Schuylkill River is a river in Pennsylvania about 130 miles long. The Delaware Indians were the original settlers of the area around this river, which they called Ganshohawanee, meaning "rushing and roaring waters," or "Manaiunk". The river was later named Schuylkill  that translates to "hidden river" or more properly "hideout creek". The ship was converted to AOG-47
USNS Paoli
TAO-157 Laid down in November 1944
Renamed in 1977
The name "Paoli"is synonymous with the 1777 Paoli Massacre which occurred in Malvern, Pennsylvania. The town of Paoli grew around 1769 inn which was named after General Pasquale Paoli. Converted to S.S. Marine Floridian.
USS Neshanic AO-71 Launched, 31 October 1942

The Neshanic River is an 11 mile long tributary of the South Branch Raritan River in central New Jersey. The name comes from a tribe of the Raritan tribe of Lenape Native Americans who lived along the river.

USS Camden
AOE-2 Launched, 29 May 1965 The Camden is named after the city of across from Philadelphia, Camden, New Jersey which lies on the Delaware River. This is home of a large ship building company that built many Oilers such as USS Kawishiwi AO-146. The Scottish name Camden means  "winding valley". An English meaning is "Freedom".
USS Mispillion AO-105 Launched, 10 August 1945

The Mispillion River is a river flowing to Delaware Bay in southern Delaware. It is approximately 15 miles long. Mispillon may mean "side saddle" as Mis = opposite and pillon = ride pillow or saddle. Read Historic Review REQUEST.

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