|New derrick over the Rathbone Well.|
BURNING SPRINGS PARK TO OPEN
Plans are to have the park open for visitors this spring (by Memorial Day) on weekends, and possibly one day during the week, probably Friday. However, we need to get a lot done to get there in time, but I'm sure we will make it.
While we have made steady progress with the park the bureaucracy and the weather have been our enemies. Our $96,000 grant was finally re-approved in March and we got started again. And then the rains came, and the rains came, and the rains came. It was really bad, so we did as much inside as we could. Most of the inside displays in the museum (we had planned on doing this last) at the park have been completed because we couldn't work outside in the rain and subsequent mud. We have built a decent mini-museum with several rare and distinctive Burning Springs artifacts. We also got the engine house built over the newly rebuilt gas engine that is to run the pumping apparatus for the Rathbone Well.
When it finally stopped raining, we engaged a bulldozer to give us some level land on the north side of Route 5. In 8 hours we were able to clear and grade four level areas. The main one is about 150 feet long and 25' wide and is to be used to build the shed for the pumping system that we moved from Petroleum several years ago. The others will have sheds erected on them for outdoor type displays of various well pumping setups and power equipment, the necessary ingredient for oilfield operations. With new grass, it looks pretty good. One must remember that we didn't pick a beautiful park site and then build a park - the well location dictated where the park had to be, and the well happened to be located at the foot of an steep anticline. So almost all the land goes straight up from the Little Kanawha River. To get level land, then, we have to either fill ravines or cut out hillside. We have done both! To get the parking lot on the highway took 500 truckloads of imported fill.
|Background in parking lot. Bandwheel from Burning Springs, wooden oil tanks and old Spence pump jack, made by Spence Machine in Parkersburg.|
We also built a small 26' wooden derrick on the Rathbone Well much like the original would have been. We wanted 30', but 26' beams were the longest that we could get sawed. The side porch on the museum is almost completed and by spring it will be screened. While everything will not be finished for an opening, I have learned that in the museum business, one is never finished, but it will be presentable. We will keep building even though we will be open, so if anyone wants to help, they can find the park.
We already get visitors, a few each weekend, and they can walk around but when open there will be a video, historic descriptions and labels explaining the displays.
|Mini museum for Burning Springs artifacts, papers and pictures.|
As a matter to note, we have had two floods at Burning Springs in the last year and both came just to the top of our retaining wall. I have learned that if the water reads 35' at Elizabeth (gauge is actually at Palestine), it is at the top of our retaining wall. Fortunately that eliminated the damage to any of our actual display items. Deciding on the height of the wall was only an educated guess, but in this case we got lucky.
GEORGE C. GROW Jr.
George passed away last spring at age 87. His wife Ruth notified us of his passing with a brief note but wanted to make sure that we knew how proud George was to be able to donate the Rathbone well and land at Burning Springs.
|New engine house for rebuilt 16 HP gas engine to power pumping apparatus.|
George was a well known and highly respected Petroleum Geologist who had worked all over the United States, but mainly in the Appalachian region. He was active in the geology fraternity nationally and won many awards in his long career. He maintained his connection to West Virginia and Burning Springs all his life. It was his grandfather who assembled the Rathbone tract of over 1,000 acres at Burning Springs. While never actually living here, George maintained an office in Marietta until the last few years and made a point of visiting frequently.
George was one of the charter Board members when we started, and on his first visit after we started, he took me to Burning Springs and made a donation of many wonderful items used in that field. It should be pointed out that we never asked George for anything, he willingly gave these items and that includes the Rathbone well. He also gave us the four acres at California, including the foundation for the California House. This location on Route 47 three miles east of Freeport, is significant as it is where Creel and Lemon operated the original oil works, starting back in the early 1800s.
George also donated a large part of his library, magazines and maps to the museum, which included several truckloads of material. I know that he kept a great deal of material way beyond its usefulness because he wanted it preserved. He was a wonderful friend to the museum and will be sorely missed - we owe George a huge debt of gratitude.
One of the less publicized elements of the oil and gas community are the landmen, who do the work involved in acquiring the leases on which the wells are drilled or pipelines laid. It is an extensive community and the local name for their organization is the Michael Late Benedum Chapter of the American Landmen's Association, so named because West Virginia's famous oilman Michael Benedum's first job in the oil & gas business was a landman for Standard Oil in Cameron, WV.
|Parking lot with antique equipment and 1948 GMC oilfield truck.|
Well, I have spoken to them on several occasions and they have graciously donated to the museum over the years. Last year I was invited to one of their meetings was pleasantly surprised that we were made a life member of their organization and presented with a donation of $1500.00. This kind of support helps make all our effort worthwhile. We thank them again!
|Picnic shelter adjoining parking lot.|
Glen was the premier oil and gas man in Wirt County and West Virginia for many years. He was active and highly respected for many years. Back in 1960 he purchased a wonderful scale model oil derrick which had been made back in the 1940' by another well known man in the industry by the name of Richard Burdette. This year Glen's son Thorn donated the model to the museum to be installed at the park at Burning Springs. Glen had bought the model just for this purpose back in 1970, even though at the time there wasn't any park. He knew there would have to be sometime, I guess knowing of the importance of Burning Springs to oil and gas history. Thanks Thorn, we really appreciate this gift.
I am sure that you have read over the years about the donations of books and magazines and wondered where we put them all. Well, except for selected books that went immediately to the library, they went in boxes to the third and fourth floor for storage.
One of our volunteers, Larry Nutter, a retired Petroleum Geologist from Belpre, Ohio, agreed to undertake the job of organizing the collection. So we built a room on the third floor and Larry spent months and months cleaning, sorting and organizing. I don't know how many thousands of books, pamphlets and magazines are involved, but the room they are in is completely full and it is about 25' square with shelves floor to ceiling. It is now available for use but arrangements have to be made with the docent in charge to use this resource. We will eventually prepare a list of what is available and put it on the website. This is truly a significant resource. The major collections and donors were:
There have been numerous other smaller collections donated. Kudos to Larry for this wonderful job in organizing this material well done.
PARKERSBURG/WOOD COUNTY VICTORIAN GALLERY
This month we are opening a new gallery (room) with a completely redone display of pictures and artifacts from the local area from the 1850s to 1910. The Victorian era. Included are over 150 prints, lithographs and real photographs with several important pieces. First, we have what we believe is the only known original lithograph of Parkersburg in 1860. This was donated by James Vaughan. It hung in the office of West Virginia's first Governor, A. I. Boreman. Also included, donated by Paul Hoblitzell III is an original real-photograph of the first Governor and his wife in his later years. I am not aware of another copy of this photograph.
The major collection in the room is a set of prints published in 1897, titled "Artwork of Wood County", which includes prints of the major buildings, homes and other scenes in the area, including numerous scenes on both the Ohio and Little Kanawha River.
It is truly a wonderful period collection, and it clearly shows how good the oil and gas business was to the local area. We welcome your visit.
This fall we hosted a traveling exhibit called "Riverboatin", which was a picture and narrative display of the history of the Little Kanawha River, showing scenes from Parkersburg up-river across the state. Included were many wonderful pictures, which were enhanced by a well done power point presentation and other videos. The presenter was Gary Coberly from Glenville, and he did a great job.
In addition to having to worry about floods at Burning Springs, we had almost tornado conditions in downtown Parkersburg this summer, and it blew our 16' band wheel over. The fall and the subsequent move, almost destroyed it. So, we have a new project of rebuilding it. Anyone know how to build a 16' bandwheel. The ferocious wind also blew out several windows on the 3rd and 4th floor.
Earlier I mentioned the support we get from the landmen's association. We should not omit that the Independent Oil and Gas Association (IOGA) has been a supporter since our inception. We hosted several of the board meetings over the years, but I think the last one discouraged them when the heat so low to save gas that they gave up on us. Well maybe we can get them to come back in warmer weather.
It is not unusual for me to get a note asking what a walking beam is and since it is the name of our bulletin, it deserves periodic explanation. The walking beam is the long horizontal beam that sets on a center post and goes up and down when pumping the well. I don't know why they call it a walking beam except that it might appear to be walking. Whatever, one of Parkersburg's and Volcano's newspapers name back in the 1880's was the Walking Beam. We are lucky to have two or three copies of this paper in our collection.
As we go to press, we are drilling the holes in our walking beam for the Rathbone Well ready for mounting. It is 20' long and the beam is oak and came from our own property. Robert Lowe, Wirt County Commissioner, brought his portable saw mill to the park to cut the beam for us.
We consider ourselves fortunate to have met so many old timers in the Oil & Gas Fraternity and Walter is one of the oldest and best. Walter is a lifelong resident of Volcano where the oilfield was first developed during the Civil War. Walter reached the grand old age of 100 years this past summer. He still lives alone at Volcano and he was given a wonderful write-up in the West Virginia magazine this summer.
My personal relationship goes back to when he was a young man in his 80s. I would travel to Petroleum and Volcano gathering up artifacts for the museum in my trusty black truck, and I would stop to get a drink of water and reminisce with Walter. He was always interested in what I was retrieving and enjoyed coming out to the truck, and then telling me a story that the object reminded him of. Walter started working in the Volcano oilfield when he was 13 years old during W.W. I. He has many wonderful stories. It was Walter who told me about one of our greatest treasures. I found an old half buried tank at Petroleum, but a very distinctive one with rivets and interesting valves and openings. I ask Walter about this and he said he couldn't remember. The tank also had its original manufacturers plate saying "A. W. DENMEAD, BALT. MD. 1866". Several weeks later on another trip he remembered what it was and told me that it was an antique railroad tank car with the trucks removed, used to store oil when it wore out for track usage. We looked it up on the internet, and he was right. The company only made the cars for five years after the Civil War before being bought out by the Baldwin Works in Baltimore.
We are blessed to know Walter, and wish him good health for many years. By the way, we retrieved two of these tanks and have them in storage in Parkersburg. At 5' diameter and 15' long, they are a bit cumbersome to display. Someday we will figure out what to do with these very rare treasures.
S. P. WELLS
In the last issue I mentioned that we had located a relative of this gentleman who came to Burning Springs and Parkersburg back in 1865 with the Rathbone Oil Co. Being an engineer, he was also involved in building the Little Kanawha locks and dams. He then came to Parkersburg and built the S. P. Wells oil refinery, which later became part of Standard Oil And Jay Rockefeller doesn't know the connection of his family to West Virginia oil!
Wells was from Rhode Island and his ancestors reached me via the internet. Seems he went back there to be buried. But we now learn that his son Edward became famous in his own right, becoming president of Babcock-Wilcox, the well known boilermaker. He was president from 1891 to 1927, a long period. Babcock-Wilcox still exists I think in Canton or Akron. Ohio, and are still very active. One of their specialties is nuclear power equipment.
BURKE, PARSONS & BOWLBY
This is the timber company in Spencer that bought the Rathbone tract from George Grow and are our neighbors. To date we want to report that they have been good neighbors and have helped us with several projects when they can. We hope that good relations can continue as they have in the past.
If you have not been to the museum since June, you haven't seen the paint job on the front of the museum. Pam Porter, who painted the mural, earned some extra money by painting all the trim on the first floor. Looks great. Someday, we hope to get all the front windows repaired and painted, but that will have to wait for another day.
We finally got this 1830's house at Davisville, WV tom down and the material moved to Burning Springs (wood and stones) to help with many projects. It was donated by Larry Border, a member of the WV House of Delegates. It had been a way station on the Staunton to Parkersburg Turnpike.
Thanks for your support!
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year
Designed and maintained by
Hi-Tech Design Internet Publishing
Design of this site ©1999-2004
Contents ©1999-2004 Oil & Gas Museum