was an oil town, located in the third greatest oil field to
be discovered in the United States. Two Irishmen whose
names are lost to history brought in the first successful
At one time Volcano resembled a Klondike gold rush boom town
with a population of eight or ten thousand people. At it's
peak, the town consisted of several stores, hotels, saloons,
an opera house, warehouse, homes, churches, two schools, a
post office, and it's own newspaper, the Walking Beam.
It's downfall began in 1879 when a fire broke out and burned
almost every building in town. Some of the population
stayed on to continue to pump oil from the rich field, but
most left, to explore elsewhere in West Virginia or to join
the exodus of prospectors to the newly discovered Oklahoma
oil fields. Some oil is still pumped from the field at
Volcano, although nothing like the quantity formerly brought
to the surface by the old fashioned steam powered pumps.
Volcano hardly exists as a town today, just a few isolated
homes remain scattered over the hills.
1810- South of Volcano, oil was found in gravel beds of the
1836- Bushrod Creel sold 100 barrels of such oil as "bank
oil" for medicinal purposes.
1850 thru 1860- Oil seepages were discovered in the Volcano
area along Oil Spring Run between Volcano and the village of
Petroleum. When seepages were first discovered, oil was
collected by wringing out blankets which had been soaked in
the oil puddles. The first successful oil well was drilled
in this area by Messrs. Hazeltt and Co. of Wheeling, West
Virginia in 1860.
1857- The North Western Railroad extended it's main line
from Cumberland, Maryland to Parkersburg, West Virginia,
coming within a few miles of the Volcano field.
1873- By this date the increasing demand for oil had
brought about many new wells and employment of hundreds of
workers. Volcano had become the center of oil production in
West Virginia. The town had grown to a population of
several thousand and included schools, churches, stores,
restaurants, an opera house, a large hotel, a town hall, and
two newspapers (The Walking Beam and The Lubricator). Also,
there was a baseball team known as the "Greasy Nine" with a
professional circus clown as a pitcher.
1874- W.C. Stiles, Jr. devised a method of connecting
several wells by an endless cable and pumping them all from
one central point.
1879- The first pipeline in West Virginia was completed.
It ran fifteen miles from Volcano to Parkersburg. Prior to
this time it cost 25 cents per barrel to ship the oil to
Parkersburg, where it sold for $2.75 per barrel.
On August 4th, at about 4 a.m., the town of Volcano was
swept by fire. The many wooden structures burned like
kindling, and the fire literally cleared both sides of the
street. A few buildings were saved; the Silcott Hotel, the
upper end of town, and a number of oil derricks on the
hillside. The cause of the fire is still undetermined.
Tags:oil gas volcano days antique engine history historical parkersburg wood county wv west virginia boom town
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