Friday, March 16, 2007


An extinct community in Wood County, West Virginia, Volcano

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

well there.

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.

************Early History***********

1810- South of Volcano, oil was found in gravel beds of the

Hughes River.

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.
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Tags:oil gas volcano days antique engine history historical parkersburg wood county wv west virginia boom town

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