West Virginia Oil Wells

January 03, 2010

WVA oil well
Oil wells Wallace

Photographer: Bradley Goshen
Summary Authors: Bradley Goshen; Jim Foster; Stu Witmer

The photo at top shows one of the few remaining abandoned oil well derricks in Wetzel County, West Virginia. It stands 85 ft (26 m) and is surrounded by a mature clump of conifers. The boom era for these wells was from the late 1800s until about 1930. This part of northern West Virginia was loaded with them. The bottom photo shows a field of derricks amid the town of Wallace, West Virginia, circa 1910. None of the wells pictured are active now, but deep wells are still being drilled in Wetzel County.

According to most accounts, the first oil well ever drilled in the U.S. was in northwestern Pennsylvania in 1859 – the so called Drake Well. However, there are claims that small wells were previously dug in what is now West Virginia. West Virginia didn’t enter the Union until 1863. Supposedly, oil used to lubricate the Drake drilling rigs was obtained from these wells. The well shown here in Manion Run, West Virginia was still spewing natural gas when this picture was taken in September of 2009.

Manion Run, West Virginia coordinates: 39.462778, -80.515556