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100-Years-Ago

Thursday,
March 11, 1915

Pocahontas County is in need of a millionaire of an adventurous disposition to explore for oil. We all know that oil is here, but to bust through the crust is a rich man’s game and there is nobody here who is rich enough to set in a game where ten thousand dollars buys only one white chip.
The main difficulty in getting capital interested, according to a deep seated suspicion, is that the overlords of the oil business have such a job on their hands taking care of the immense amount of oil that is daily flowing from the earth, that they do not welcome the suggestion that they should tap other fields.
In this county there are to be found all the signs of an oil field. Petroleum can be gathered from a number of places where it issues from the ground on top of the water of some trickling spring. There are places where the gas is constantly escaping from the earth. And salt water is to be found here.
The most pronounced sign is to be found in the well drilled eight years ago by the town water company at Marlinton. This well was put down 900 feet and a strong flow of very salty water now flows from the top with a steady supply of gas. This gas has been forcing itself to the top in a uniform quantity for eight years. It may have something to do with lifting the water, or the water may be holding the gas back. There is some talk of pumping the well hard to ascertain what has been struck deep in the earth.
Last week we went with the owner of the well to the line that has been put in from this salt-sulphur well to the baths at the hospital and saw him open a valve and apply a match to the escaping gas. The result was as startling as if a shotgun had been fired without notice. A great flame of fire spurted and burned with a steady roar.
Since this line has been put in, at times the well has been pumped hard for a short time, and the result has been that after a short time the water gets black with petroleum, so that no one would care to drink the water while this condition exists. With the pumps off, the well resumes its accustomed flow of clear water strongly impregnated with salt and sulphur and other nauseous ingredients. In fact it is about the strongest medicine which ever gushed forth from the earth.
Go back fifty years and this condition of having brine wells spoiled by petroleum was one of the risks of the salt business in the Pennsylvania salt fields where afterwards oil was the principle product.
In the fifties, a few gallons of “American Oil” was put on the market as a liniment in bottles. This was petroleum gathered from a farmer’s well near Titusville, Pennsylvania. As petroleum was a common nuisance in the salt well business, the persons vending the liniment had a cut made of a derrick such as was common at salt wells and pasted the picture on the bottles. This was the first use of the derrick as an emblem of the oil trade.
It was one of these bottles of oil which was submitted to Professor Silliman, of Yale College, and he made a report on petroleum which is regarded as a classic. This was in the fifties. Though oil had been known since Biblical times, up to that time no commercial use had been found for it. 484 years B.C., Herodotus wrote of the springs Zacynthus, and the fountains of Hit are referred to in the oldest Persian writings. The prophet Elijah poured water on the altar until it filled the trench around about it and the fire consumed the altar “and licked up the water that was in the trench.”
The result of Silliman’s report was that in 1859 a well was bored for oil on Ol Creek, near Titusville, and at the depth of 99 feet the drill fell six inches into a crevice and this filled with oil. It is a remarkable thing that this drill struck the only shallow spot in that great field, and for it, deep drilling would have been indefinitely postponed. This was the beginning of the great oil business though it was years before it became general throughout the world.
After a time it became pretty well established that oil and salt water were found together. That oil was the result of distillation caused by heat. That it was mostly of vegetable fermation. That there was little oil, compared to the whole supply, to be found in crevices, and what was found in hollow places in the rock was mostly of animal origin. That oil was contained in un-cemented sandstone like water in a sponge, and that the “sand-bars” are held down under great pressure by an impervious shell of slate containing much silica. That these sand bars extend over wide areas and nothing but the drill can determine the contours of the oil bearing sand. That the sand-bars run north-east and south-west in the Alleghany regions, parallel to the main Alleghany, and on the west. That generally in an oil bed the southwest corner has salt water, the middle portion oil, and the north-east corner gas. That no oil is to be found east of the main Alleghany, indicating that when the oil was formed that the country east of the main top was still underwater.
The general oil field in which we are interested extends from Canada to Chattanooga, with a general trend of south 15 degrees west, and Pocahontas county is in this field. A line run on that bearing from Little Valley, New York, will run through Bradford, McKean county, Elk county, Jefferson county, Indiana county, Westmoreland county, Fayette county, Pennsylvania, and Preston, Barbour, Randolph and Pocahontas counties in West Virginia.
The Bradford field was the best that had been found up to the eighties. It had been tested and abandoned and was finally developed by reason of a north-east line run from the central part of the State. It proved to be about 100 miles square and for a time produced most of the oil of the world…
However burdensome a new oil field might be to the oil magnates, we would like to see the county developed for oil. We can now supply crude oil by the bottle full. We hope to see the time when it will be measured by the barrel.
We talked about a railroad for years but it did not materialize until the mules came, and that will be the way with the oil – we will have to wait for the coming of the drill.

KILLING IN GREENBRIER
Frankford, W.Va. – After a dispute over a line fence, a man named Griffith shot and killed his neighbor by the name of Bennett. The shot took effect in his side and ranged forward. Griffith is in the Lewisburg jail.

OAK GROVE
March came in like one of Teddy’s speeches and since Friday the fifth, has been giving us some snowstorms.
J. F. Ashford is erecting an up-to-date poultry house. He contemplates rising chickens on an extensive scale.
Quite a lot of talk is going on about a district high school and where it ought to be. It looks to me that if built, that between Liberty church and Mrs. Nannie Moomau’s would be about the center of the district and also one of the most beautiful locations in the district.
If the allied fleet succeeds in founding its way through the strait of Dardanelles and releases the 300,000,000 bushels of wheat in Russia, some of the food gamblers of America will do some tall swearing while the poorer classes will shout hallelujah.

EAST THORNY CREEK
This has been a hard winter on feed and stock. We have a lot of cold weather, snow and rain.
Stock is doing fine and feed is scarce.
The European War is still going on and nothing but starvation will stop it.

ONOTO
The funeral of Mrs. Martha Gay was conducted at Hamlin Chapel Tuesday afternoon, after which her body was laid to rest in the family burying ground on the old home place.
Born, to Harry Gum and wife, March 6, a daughter.
Andy Hefner is here breaking some horses for E. R. Sharp.
A. C. Barlow has installed a phone on the Arbogast line.
Wash Hill is preparing to move to his farm at Lobelia as soon as the weather will permit.

DUNMORE
We are glad to see so much plowing done in the Levels. Some people are turning up the soil an others are waiting for something to turn up.
Jacob Bussard, of Frost, was very seriously injured last Saturday night. in dismounting from his horse his foot hung in the stirrup, and the horse jumped and dragged him some distance, and jumped over a fence with him. Besides other injuries, the horse kicked him on the knee joint, mangling and tearing it terribly. Amputation will probably be necessary. His knee was stiff from an attack of rheumatism. Mr. Bussard is the son of S. H. Bussard and is about twenty-two years old.

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