Oil Field Engine News

The West Virginia Oil and Gas Museum

| February 2007

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    'Top: The Star drilling and service rig used in the Burning Springs oil field, circa 1924. '
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    Above: John Burns (left) and Lee Howell with a 20 HP South Penn engine-compressor at the museum.
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  • TheStardrilling.jpg
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  • WhereItAllBegan.jpg

My recent travels have yielded an abundance of information that I look forward to being able to share with our readers. I hope to be able to cover some history of the life of Samuel Milton Jones, founder of the S.M. Jones company, which built the ACME and Rathburn gas engines, and also the ACME sucker rod and Jones and Hammond pump jacks, along with a line of other oil field-related tools and supplies.

I also hope to be able to offer some history into the "JC" Gas engines built by the Titusville Iron Co.

Lastly, I have been thinking of doing a compendium of information in either book or CD form of all the information that we have available for the Joseph Reid Gas Engine Co.

There is still much work to be done though compiling all the photocopies and other papers of information, which so many have been so kind to share with me. If by chance you feel you may have further information to share, please don't hesitate to contact me. I am finding that much of this information is up to us as collectors and oil field engine enthusiasts to preserve for the future and save from the ravages of time. Oftentimes the old papers sitting in the file drawer may be the only one of their kind left.

On that note, of preserving the oil field history, I recently had the opportunity to travel with a group to the West Virginia Oil & Gas Museum in Parkersburg, W.Va. Stored there is an impressive collection of oil field memorabilia with an interest to West Virginia's part in the development of the world's first oil fields. The museum has an impressive library that I regret is not closer to me because I could spend hours there researching it. Also to be seen there are old photographs of the West Virginia oil fields, several engines and parts and pieces, and an extensive collection of yellow dogs with names on them I had not seen before. There are many other artifacts too numerous to list that relate to oil field engines and equipment.

The following is from the West Virginia Oil & Gas Museum website: www.little-mountain.com/oilandgasmuseum:

Both oil and natural gas were discovered in western Virginia by the first explorers in the mid-1700s. George Washington acquired 250 acres in what is now West Virginia because it contained an oil and gas spring. This was in 1771, making the father of our country the first petroleum industry speculator.

A thriving commercial oil industry was in process as early as 1819 with the first major wells drilled at Petroleum, West Virginia, outside Parkersburg, early in 1859; California, West Virginia in the summer of 1859; and Burning Springs, West Virginia a year later in 1860. Natural gas was moved in wooden pipes from wells to be used as a manufacturing heat source by the Kanawha salt manufacturers as early as 1831. These events truly mark the beginnings of the oil and gas industry in the United States.

With oil selling for $30 a barrel in 1860 and natural gushers being drilled at only 100 feet, the West Virginia oil field quickly made local millionaires. The wealth of the first oil barons was used politically in bringing about statehood for West Virginia during the Civil War. Many of the founders and early politicians were oil men - governor, senator and congressman - who had made their fortunes at Burning Springs in 1860-1861.

On May 9, 1863 the important Burning Springs oil field was destroyed by Confederate raiders led by General Jones, making it the first of many oil fields destroyed in war. After the Civil War the industry was revived, and over the next 50 years, the booms spread over almost all the counties of the state. Drilling and producing of both oil and natural gas continues throughout the state to this day.

This exciting history is portrayed at the West Virginia Oil & Gas Museum, and documented in a recently published book Where It All Began by David McKain and Bernard L. Allen, Ph.D.

I would recommend a trip to this museum to any oil field engine enthusiast or anyone who has an interest in oil field history.

Contact Oil Field Engine Society at: 1231 Banta's Creek Road, Eaton, OH 45320-9701;

Excerpted from the Oil and Gas Museum website: http://oilandgasmuseum.com

Where it all Began challenges Pennsylvania's long-standing claim as the birthplace of the oil industry. It chronicles the discovery of oil and gas and the development of the oil and gas industry in West Virginia and Southeastern Ohio from the mid-Eighteenth Century.

It delves into the powerful political influence that the industry leaders had on the creation of the state of West Virginia in the midst of the turmoil of the Civil War. It shows the importance of the Parkersburg area and West Virginia in the development of the world's most powerful and significant industries.

It is fully illustrated with over 270 pictures and maps (many never before published) and contains much original historical material with analysis covering political, social and economic events from the early 1800s to the present. Original material from newspapers, deeds and personal diaries provide a portrait of the early days of the area.

This is a particularly important oilfield and local West Virginia history reference work containing many carefully researched facts which revise long accepted views of historical, political, social and economic events. Much of this new information has national implications.

To order, send $43 to: David L. McKain, 1225 Ann St., Parkersburg, WV 26101. (Please write for correct shipping amount on foreign orders.)


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