By Staff
1 / 2
Sketch of oil well with derrick and supporting buildings.
2 / 2
The 'shooter's' job was to 'blow' the bottom of the well with nitroglycerine when it became clogged by waxes from the oil. At times more than a hundred quarts were used.

1615 Brick Kiln Lane Louisville, Kentucky 40216

Sounds too good to be true? Don’t you believe it!

The good people of West Virginia think that this sounds just
about right when describing how they feel about their beautiful
state. They show it by displaying bumper stickers that proclaim it
and they show it in their enthusiasm for the popular song that
contains these words. Today many West Virginians consider
‘Country Roads’ as sort of a state anthem, and one need
only be in the audience when it’s played to see what I

Of course the ‘Mountaineer State’ is most beautiful and
its people have every right to be proud of her.

West Virginia is also steeped in an abundance of history, not
the least of which concerns its oil and gas industry, and is still
today a big part of the state’s economy.

And this brings me to the reason for writing this article namely
the annual West Virginia Oil and Gas Festival which is held each
year in the middle of September. A more interesting and
entertaining festival will not be found anywhere. There are so many
stories to be heard about the early days of oil and gas
exploration, discovery and operation, whether it be about the
‘nitro-man’ and his rig or Gib Morgan, the legendary oil
field worker whose exploits rival those of ‘Big John’ of
coal mine fame, or a hundred more fascinating stories.

By the way, the Festival has an original and authentic
nitro-glycerine wagon which it puts on display each year and you
can readily see for yourself how dangerous a job this could be. The
‘nitro-man’ or ‘shooter’, as he was also called,
rode on this specially sprung wagon on a seat, underneath of which
was transported perhaps two dozen quarts of nitroglycerine. While
undoubtedly this job was necessary and paid well, the phrase
‘living dangerously,’ was a gross understatement. What the
relatively unstable nature of the compound and the necessarily
rough roads of the time, it is not surprising that occasionally one
of these rigs exploded, leaving little remaining, save a tremendous
blast echoing off the surrounding mountains and a huge hole in the

Along with the Oil and Gas Festival and its many activities is
the Old Gas Engine Show which my wife and I have been privileged to
attend for seeral years now. Nowhere will you find more friendly
and accommodating group of people and we have certainly enjoyed
ourselves to the fullest.

The gas engine portion of the show has been sponsored for
several years by one of the foremost oil companies in the nation,
the Quaker State Oil Co. While Stewart Bradfield is the very
capable executive director and a guiding force behind the Festival,
a friendly man by the name of Arthur Shreves, along with the rest
of his gang do a bang up job managing the gas engine display.

We always look forward to show time in Sistersville and the
activities at City Park in the heart of town. This quanit little
city nestled on the banks of the beautiful Ohio River some 50 miles
south of Wheeling also abounds in history and nostalgia which
rival, in my opinion, any other location in the country.

The ‘Little Sister’ working oil well, the ferry crossing
the river, the many historic buildings, the nearby town of Paden
City, famous for its glass and china ware for well over a centyr
and many, many other unforgettable sights and sounds of the
surrounding area.

You could not go wrong by visiting the Festival or for that
matter, at any other time a visit to the area would be well worth
your while.

If everything goes well, we’ll be there again this year the
13th through the 16th of September and looking forward to meeting
the many friends we’ve made, such as the Festival blacksmith,
Rick an hart and Harry and Millie Horner and many, many others, and
all the fine dedicated people who work so hard to make the Festival
come true.

Hope to see you there!

Gas Engine Magazine
Gas Engine Magazine
Preserving the History of Internal Combustion Engines