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A Tank of Gas and $20
Stretching Your Vacation Dollars
by Maricia Mlynek


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Burning Springs Park

“There are no uninteresting things, only uninterested people.” --G.K. Chesterton.

I begin today’s travel with a quote that is suitable to my journey. I have spent several days investigating Wirt County and trying to decipher exactly what it is that I should see in this neighbor to our west. I was determined to find some fun stops and interesting places. Inspired by Chesterton, I took to the road.

Originally from a coal mining town, I am new to the oil and gas industry of West Virginia. During my years of teaching science, my students were proficient in the different types of mines in our area, the ways each mine worked, and the bountiful uses of the natural resource. Now, I have become the student. As Andy and I pulled into Burning Springs Park, I wished we had a brief tutorial before this trip.

It seems to me that this industry, that employs many and sustains countless, is more than just business. This oil and gas industry is a part of the foundation of our state. As I read the information and walked around the site, I began to wonder more and more about the history of places like Burning Springs. Is this a place you take your children and spend some time walking them through the past? Are the fuel sources like the ones found at Burning Springs studied, respected, and appreciated as the beginning of the oil and gas industry of today? I don’t know the answers to these questions, but I wanted to find out more. My research led me to some amazing discoveries.

Burning Springs, it seems, was the center of an early oil boom in the U.S. The boom helped develop several oil-dependent communities, some of which attained over 1,000 residents. The wooded grounds of 31-acre Burning Springs Park includes Burning Springs Museum and site of the restored Rathbone Well.

The Rathbone brothers, who bored a salt well near Burning Springs, hit petroleum at a depth of 200 feet. By boring deeper, they were able to produce 200 barrels per day in 1859. They drilled a second well which yielded 1,200 barrels of petroleum daily. Their discovery created tremendous excitement. By 1861, a town with several thousand inhabitants had sprung up. The widespread use of gas in this town marked the beginning of the era of gas development in West Virginia. The Burning Springs Oil Field was one of only two oil fields in America prior to the Civil War.

We walked through the park wondering mostly what we were looking upon. It seems that the history of such a site is at risk of being forgotten. Don’t let that happen. Take a brief drive out to the park and educate your children, yourself, and maybe even a reporter looking for answers. Remember, we need to understand where we came from to know where we are going. Burning Springs Park is a piece of West Virginia history that is being overlooked and perhaps forgotten. Respect your heritage fellow Mountaineers, and teach your children to do the same.

Sometimes, we go looking for salt and God gives us oil. That is an occurrence we can truly hope for. At Burning Springs Park, we found a new curiosity and a new hunger for information. My own drilling for information continues, perhaps yours will begin.


Area Events:

Aug. 6-9, Wirt County Fair, Camp Barbe.

Aug. 8, Avian Program/Birds of Prey, North Bend, 7 p.m.

Aug. 13, Bucky Covington, Mountain Lake Amphitheater, 7 p.m.

Aug. 16, Lizemores Day, 10 a.m.

Aug. 17, Extreme Dirt Series, Starvation Point, Elizabeth, 8 a.m.

This Week's Editorial:

By Helen Morris:

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