The West Virginia. Cyclopedia

West Virginia Oil & Gas Heritage District

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The first oilfield developed in the United States was located in western West Virginia, among the hills along the lower valley of Little Kanawha River then often known as "Ol' Greasy." Its early development was largely influenced by the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, which had been completed through the region in in 1860.

The district includes a number of unincorporated towns, or villages, and several ghost towns. Several of these lost communities were boom towns, inhabited by as many as 1,000 residents before the Civil War; however, operations were destroyed by Union forces in the conflict, and the field never recovered. Many historical sites within the field have been restored, preserved, interpreted, and developed by the WV Oil & Gas Museum, the organization that established the district. Rural parts of the West Virginia counties of Wirt, Wood, Ritchie, and Calhoun are included within.

The Rathbone Well, located at Burning Spring, is the oldest producing oil well in the world, according to museum director David McKain, who contends that it may be older than the Drake Well of Pennsylvania, popularly believed to be the first U.S. oil well. A museum, which includes many exhibits of early drilling equipment, has been established at the site of the well.

Though early oil-drilling may be associated with an industrialized landscape, the region today is regarded for its scenic value of its woodlands.

Communities within the district include:

Volcano, WV
Petroleum, WV
Elizabeth, WV
Parkersburg, WV

Other important sites concerned with oil are located at:

North Bend State Park
Ritchie Mines Wildlife Management Area