Weekly Features

Historically Speaking–The 1960 Oil and Gas Boom

Smith-Seobert Well–1960

This week I wanted to reveal just a one of the many interesting local historic events that can be found documented in these rare undigitized newspapers we are in the process of raising the funds to digitize.  But what story should I share?

   With all the Marcellus Shale Gas energy exploration that has both excited, and angered the people of this area, and all the pipeline rights-of-ways that have cut into the landscape and changed it forever as we know it, we are reminded of another time-same place that both excited and angered another group of people… our parents and grandparents.  So that is the subject of this week’s article.  

   It was the great oil and gas boom of the 1960s, and it appeared to the people of West Union that they had been sitting on top of an enormous pocket of gas and oil for many years and did not know it.

   The newly discovered West Union field was attracting attention far and wide and men and women were coming in from many states seeking to “get a finger in the pie” by leasing, apparently, any plot of ground large enough to erect a drilling machine on.  Everyone seemed to be wanting to lease his property to someone- no matter who, just so it was leased, with a promise of having a well drilled within a short time.

   Just how wide and long the paying Injun Sand in the area was remained to be seen, but new locations were being made every day, it seemed, farther and farther away from the Smith-Sibert wells which were the first tidings of the underground treasures of natural gas and oil.

   There were three new producers in the area.  West Union Drilling Co., Charles Michels, and Hugh “Bud” Spencer.

   Pictured are two big oil and gas producing wells drilled by Smith-Sibert near West Union.  The well was said to be producing more than 1 ½ million feet of gas and over 200 barrels of oil each 24 hours.  It was considered a great success. In the photo, you can see the lines leading from the well to the separator in the background.  I hope the photo prints clear enough to make it visible.  From the separator, the gas went into the meter house and on into the lines of the then known as Hope Natural Gas Company.  The second photo is of the meter house revealing 3 100-barrel tanks into which the oil flows after leaving the separator.  

   After Smith-Sibert’s #2 well came in as productive as the first one, interest in drilling operations in and near West Union.  The drilling stepped up.  They drilled #4 well on the former Porter Summers lot near the Rt. 50 bridge over Doe Run. 

   Shortly after, Skyline Contractors set up a drilling machine to drill #5    well of the Smith-Sibert series.  This well was on the portion of the farm formerly owned by Claude Smith, who retained a portion of the royalty.   It was known as #1 in that section.

   The Valvoline Oil Company, who had been trucking oil from the Smith-Sibert #1 well to their Pennsboro plant, was scheduled to set up 2 500-barrel oil storage tanks on the Harry Wallace Jr. property between Middle Island Creek and Rt. 18 in Wabash.  It was assumed that the heavy oil production of the Smith-Sibert field and the anticipated oil production of the other wells being drilled in the vicinity were the deciding factor for the Valvoline Company to place the tanks in that location.

   After fracturing their #2 well on the Henderson farm next and getting a 2,000,000-foot “gasser”, Henderson and Holland planned to move a drilling machine into the local scene to try their own luck, according to Attorney Robert Holland.  They planned to drill a well along Rt. 18 below the Glenn Maxon home.

   The West Union Drilling Company got an 890,000’ gas well on the Harry Cline property in Wabash early on a Sunday morning at about 1,500’ in the Maxon Sand.  The gas flowed freely while the well was drilled into the Big Lime at about 1,700’ and the 5” casing was “run” and cemented 3 days later, on Wednesday night.  The gas was then capped in between the 5” and 7” pipe and awaited an outlet to some gas company.  Drilling then resumed in the 5” pipe and the well was drilled into the Injun Sand. 

Soon after Henderson and Holland got into the industry, Hugh “Bud” Spencer drilled a well on the Everett Scott Property in Wabash (residence is in the background) which was drilled into the Injun Sand at the depth of 1815’ and which came in at about 2,000,000’ of gas.  It was later tested at 1 ¼ million with a rock pressure of 750 pounds. Beale Drilling Company of Marietta, OH was using a Star Spudding machine drilled the well in a little over 3 weeks’ time.

   Mr. Spencer said the drilling equipment on the Scott place would be moved to Lulu Longstreth’s property, Wabash, as soon as the Scott Well is finished.  He added that the Spencer drilling Equipment on the George Bland farm at Blandville would be moved that week to the Frank Ash farm near Tonkin Station on Rt. 18N.

   Then, another Wabash well on the Smith-Haught property, drilled by Charles Michels was drilled.  It was tested at 3,000,000 feet of gas with a rock pressure of 400 pounds.  This well also took about 3 weeks to drill with the Star Spudder drill.  This well was also in the Injun Sand and was about 1500’ west of the Spencer well on the Everett Scott property.

   At the time of the publication (March 10, 1960) no oil had shown up in any of the above 3 wells.

   Charles Michels leased the property of Isa Stutler near the Baltimore and Ohio cut west of town and planned to begin drilling there in April.  

   Paul McCutchan leased the Molly Stevens property in Wabash and planned to begin drilling operations as soon as arrangements could be made.

 Mrs. Josie Vanscoy of Neely Avenue leased her property near the Wabash Bridge to Homer Myers of St. Marys.  He planned to begin drilling the following month of April.

   The Junior Leggett property below the Harry Cline land in Wabash was leased by a Parkersburg drilling Company which planned to start a well soon.

   A location was made on the Beulah Smith property between Front St. and   Middle Island Creek.  It was just across the street from the W.B. Huffman home.  The Tower Oil and Gas Company (Mrs. Aileen M. Carlson owner) planned to drill as soon as possible.  The well site was already done at the time, and another location was made near the Bridge Chevrolet Company building by the Tower Oil and Gas Company. 

   Next a Mr. Baker (drilling contractor from VA) made definite plans for drilling a well on the property of Mrs. Harry Willis below the McKinney Planning Mill in Wabash with plans to begin drilling in about 10 days.

   The Twin-J Drilling Company (headquartered in Ellenboro) leased 137 acres of the Robert Maxwell farm across Middle Island from the athletic field.  He planned to drill that April.

   Soon after, the Tower Drilling Company of Parkersburg drilled a well on Lily Weekley property across the street from the Molly Stevens home in Wabash.  They began drilling on location which is halfway between the Michels and Spencer wells.

   Paul Heaster had a well which was drilled on the Jas. Foley lot near the mouth of Doe Run.  The well was drilled into the Big Injun Sand by Crane and Summers.  The well did not come in as great as Mr. Heaster had hoped, but he said that it was still a paying well, producing both oil and gas.

   An out of state drilling company called the Glen Sturm Drilling Company of Bremen, OH moved a rig onto the Junior Wallace property between Rt. 18 and Middle Island Creek, near the Valvoline oil tanks just below West Union in the first week of April 1960.

   Mr. Sturm had drilled in OH for at least 20 years (1940) for the Ohio Field  Gas Company.  His father, Perry Sturm, was a drilling contractor in the Doddridge County fields more than 60 years earlier, during the 1st gas and oil boom at the turn of the century.

   A Parkersburg group of businessmen drilled a well on the Gordon Kinney property on Nutters Fork, then occupied by Leo Knight and his family.

   A well was to be drilled on the E.B. Gum property on Doe Run near the Auction House.

   As you can see, the boom was all the rage and Doddridge County was the hot spot for energy in the 1960s.  This article only touches the surface of this drilling saga.  Many families were made quite wealthy.  Many of the landowners, however, saw little benefit.

God Bless!

Stay well.

Patricia Richards Harris

Smith-Seibert Well
Hugh Spencer Well
Paul A. Heaster Well