Parkersburg, West Virginia

and its

Oil & Gas Museum


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   Don't forget to check out the video at the end!


Parkersburg, located at the confluence of the Ohio and Little Kanawha Rivers, is the third largest city in the State of West Virginia. Parkersburg has been the seat of Wood County (first Virginia, later West Virginia) since the early 1800s.

Parkersburg was originally named Newport when it was laid out in the late 18th century. A section of the land in the town was laid out over land granted to Alexander Parker for his Revolutionary War service. The title conflicts between Parker and the city planners of Newport were settled in 1809 in favor of Alexander Parker's heirs. The town was renamed Parkersburg in 1810. It was chartered by the Virginia General Assembly in 1820 and re-chartered as a city in 1860.

The town was the terminus of the Staunton-Parkersburg Turnpike and the Northwestern Turnpike. In 1857 the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad built a branch line to the town. The town was important as a transportation and medical center during the American Civil War. It then became a transportation hub in the gas and oil boom following that war, and is arguably the home of the first documented commercial use of oil in the US.

The Bureau of the Public Debt, an agency of the U.S. Treasury Department, is headquartered in Parkersburg.

Parkersburg is full of interesting things to see.

The current Wood County Courthouse, designed as a smaller version of the Romanesque Revival Allegheny County courthouse in Pittsburgh, was built in 1899.

Blennerhasset Island, an island on the Ohio River below the mouth of the Little Kanawha River, was an Indian settlement, first known as Backus Island for Elijah Backus who purchased it in 1792. Now it is named for Harman Blennerhassett, a figure in the Aaron Burr treason conspiracy, who purchased the east end of the island in 1798. The island is the site of Blennerhassett Island Historical State Park, the location of Blennerhassett House, where Burr and Blennerhassett are alleged to have plotted treason against the United States, the so-called Burr Conspiracy. I found this interesting because ex vice president Aaron Burr was captured in McIntosh, Alabama, in 1807. McIntosh is just a few miles north of where I currently live. He was temporarily jailed in Fort Stoddart and transported to Richmond where he was put on trial and acquitted of treason.

Museums in the area include the Blennerhassett Museum of Regional History, the Henry Cooper Log Cabin Museum, the Sumnerite African-American History Museum, the Artcraft Studio, the Veterans Museum of Mid-Ohio Valley and the Oil and Gas Museum. 

The Oil and Gas Museum is a nationally recognized museum presenting the intriguing history of the oil and gas industry, including how the accumulation of wealth from oil impacted West Virginia statehood. Also expanded displays on the Civil War and local industries. The Museum covers the history of the oil and gas industry in West Virginia and Ohio with videos, pictures, interactive displays and artifacts - from manufacturing and transportation, to its effects on local wealth and culture, and the resulting impact on state founding and the Civil War.

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 $30.00 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 lead 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 fifty 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.

I enjoyed my stay in Parkersburg. I plan to return, as soon as possible, to explore more attractions. Don't forget to view the video of Parkersburg at the bottom of page

Museum Operations:
Mon - Sat  10am - 5pm
Sun 12pm - 5pm

Oil and Gas Museum
119 3rd St
Parkersburg, WV


Check out more pictures of the Oil and Gas Museum



 A Tour of the Oil and Gas Museum




tourist attractions Parkersburg West Virginia  railroad line transportation hub natural gas oil boom oil wells Bureau of the Public Debt Romanesque Revival Allegheny Indian settlement Elijah Backus Island Historical State Park Museum of Regional History Henry Cooper African-American History Artcraft Studio America United States tourist attraction