Town owes history to oil

Posted April 9, 2013 at 11:00 pm

By MICHAEL BUSHNELL
Northeast News
April 10, 2013 

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This early postcard shows the Sugar Creek Refinery, Standard Oil Co., near Kansas City, Mo. The Missouri River and the operations of the refinery can easily be seen on this postcard published by the Southwest news Company of Kansas City, Mo.

The land the refinery sat on was located some eight miles east of downtown Kansas City and was purchased from James Mallinson. The refinery began processing oil in 1904 and was staffed by Standard Oil employees from the Whiting, Ind., operation. One of the first residents of the area was Mike Onka who came from Indiana and worked at the refinery for many years.

Sugar Creek was officially chartered as a city in November of 1920, consisting of roughly 550 acres and 1,800 residents. For most of the 20th Century, the refinery played a huge role in the development of Sugar Creek as a city. Many of the refinery’s employees lived there and were involved in civic activities in the surrounding areas.

After the refinery closed in 1982, a number of lawsuits were filed against Standard Oil for wrongful death and extreme pollution of the Sugar Creek site. BP America settled the suits in 2009 paying out millions of dollars in damages to affected families. The refinery may have ceased operations, but the site is still used as a fuel depot by BP. Every June, residents host the annual Slavic Festival in Mike Onka Park. The event draws thousands and is a celebration of the town’s rich eastern European heritage.