Places to go and things to see by Gypsy Bev

Archive for April, 2022

Sistersville West Virginia Oil Well History

Sistersville’s rich history begins with George Washington really sleeping there in 1770 when he surveyed the Ohio Valley. In his journal, Washington called this stretch of the river “the Long Reach of the Ohio River.”  The river is broad and deep here with hills covered in trees for as far as the eye can see.

Charles Wells was the first to settle here permanently in 1802 naming his settlement Wells’ Landing. While Wells was primarily a farmer, he also served as a representative in the Virginia state legislature. He’s remembered for having fathered 22 children by two wives. Child 20 was named Twenty and 21 Enough. But Betsy came along as child 22.

When he died in 1815, Wells bequeathed the property that makes up much of the business district of the present town to two of his daughters, 17 and 18, named Sarah and Delilah. Each of the children received some property at this time.

The Wells sisters were good businesswomen and laid out the land into 96 lots with eight streets. The town is named for them, Sistersville.

The Sistersville / Fly Ferry still operates to this day across the Ohio River.

In 1817, the Sistersville Ferry was started to take passengers across the Ohio River to Fly, Ohio. It is the oldest ferry in West Virginia and continues to operate until this day.

Before the Civil War, a 51-man military unit, the Sisterville Blues was formed. However, when fighting began, some of these men joined the Confederate Army while others went to the Union Army.  The great-granddaughters of Charles Wells had to hide their Confederate flag behind the wallpaper in their dining room.

When the Civil War ended, Sistersville returned to its quiet farm community. Their first public school was built in 1869 at a cost of $4,000. School lasted only four months then with the teacher being paid  $30 a month.

Peace and quiet came to an end in 1892 when oil was discovered in Pole Cat Hollow just up the river from Sistersville. Quickly, the Sistersville Oil Field began producing over 16,000 barrels of oil a day at 55 cents a barrel. This meant an increase in oil field workers and Sistersville boomed from a town of 600 to one of 12,000. Money flowed in that town as well as the oil wells.

The Big Moses Well is often said to be West Virginia’s greatest oil strike.

Twenty-two miles east of Sistersville, The Big Moses Well drilled on the farm of Moses Spencer is attributed as being the greatest oil well in W.V. Drilled in September 1894, it had a daily capacity of 100 million cu.ft. This well blew until December 1895.

You can imagine all the businesses that opened for so many new residents. Banks, a newspaper, boarding houses and of course, saloons, gambling parlors and brothels, many of which were located on Sinner’s Boulevard. With this quick growth in population, many lived in houseboats called floating shanties along the riverbanks.  Others lived in oil field shacks, which cost about $500. The only inside plumbing was usually a cold water faucet in the kitchen with outdoor toilets on every property.

This is the Sistersville view from the other side of the Ohio River.

The well-to-do lived in beautiful homes and five of them are still in existence today in Sistersville on Main Street. As the city grew, new sections opened. Old Rough and Ready, Cow House, and Happy Hollow are a few of the descriptively named neighborhoods. A washerwoman’s house in Happy Hollow bore the sign “Men’s Working Clothes Laundered While You Wait.”

During the oil boom, Sistersville imposed heavy taxes on saloon keepers and gambling house owners. The city also offered bonds for sale to finance improvements. In 1890, water works and a sewer system were installed. All the streets and alleys were paved with brick. A trolley line was built to connect Sistersville with its neighbors, Paden City and New Martinsville to the north and Friendly to the south.

This shows the town of Sistersville during its boom days.

The boom days produced an interesting mix of residents. The original farmers, business people, oil field workers, hooligans, and prostitutes lived side by side among oil derricks and pumping wells. A city resident who was a child during these heady days reported that Madam Stoddard, proprietor of a “sporting house,” was loved by the town’s children. Every year when the circus came to town, Madam Stoddard had her butler round up all the neighborhood children and take them to see the show. The Madam also happened to be the sister of the chief of police.

More respectable forms of entertainment also grew. Private social clubs were formed such as the Americus Club, The Sistersville Music and Literary Club, and the “selective, exclusive” Sistersville Mandolin and Guitar Society.

In the 1890s, Sistersville had three thriving theaters: the Columbia, the Auditorium, and Olsen’s Opera House. The Columbia specialized in vaudeville, and the Auditorium could accommodate 1,000 patrons. For less than a dollar, a person could enjoy a performance by the Boston Lyric Opera Company. Silent film star Ben Turpin performed at the Comique, a nightclub.

The Wells Inn opened in 1895 to give food and lodging to the oil field workers.

The Wells Inn was built in 1895 by Charles Wells’ grandson, Ephraim. It had 35 rooms, a bar, and a dining room. During boom days, when there were several hotels in Sistersville, the Wells Inn was considered the most elegant. Today it is the only hotel in town, and it has been nicely renovated.

In 1911, the Little Sister well was drilled in the Big Injun Sand to a depth of 1481 feet and was in operation for many years. That derrick is being restored by Quaker State Oil Refining Corp. and The W.V. Oil and Gas Festival, Inc.

Today Sistersville has an excellent display of the Little Sister Well on the banks of the Ohio River. While visiting, you’ll want to be certain to take a ride on the Sistersville/Fly Ferry.

Explore Ohio Art Corridor in Southeastern Ohio

School of Fish along the Muskingum River was the first sculpture made especially for the Ohio Art Corridor.

Sunday drives are the perfect time to explore The Ohio Art Corridor in Southeastern Ohio. There are over 150 miles of road to follow at a leisurely pace so you can enjoy the unique local art. Why, it’s like a Drive-Thru Art Gallery!

This public art trail contains everything from murals to oversized sculptures as it winds through the Appalachian region. It’s open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

David is pictured under his Tree of Life, which can be found in Lancaster.

David and Rebekah Griesmyer are the masterminds behind the Ohio Art Corridor. David created School of Fish, the first piece of sculpture made just for the art trail. The fish swim through the air along the Muskingum River in McConnelsville across from the fairgrounds. Each fish measures 15- 20 feet in length.

His sister-in-law, Rebekah is the director of this non-profit organization. Their idea was to provide Appalachia access to culture, art, and educational experiences along a trail that would boost tourism in small towns and areas often overlooked.

This bronze statue of a soldier stands along the Muskingum River at Zane’s Landing.

The Ohio Art Corridor is working with welding and art programs throughout Southeastern Ohio to teach skills needed to create jobs. Interns are invited to help with creating the giant art sculptures along the corridor. They are hoping to partner with local schools in the future to involve students in designing the sculptures.

Flight of the Hawk Park in Lancaster has objects on the ground as well as in the air.

If you have an art piece you would like included on the trail, it has to meet certain criteria:

  1. The piece must be outdoors and free of charge.
  2. Stand-alone sculptures must be of a generous size.
  3. If the artwork is smaller than12 feet, there must be a collection of three or more sculptures in one location.
  4. Pieces must be accessible to everyone.

At this time the trail winds through Circleville, Lancaster, Athens, Portsmouth, McConnellsville, and Zanesville, and the list continues to grow daily as new pieces are added. These “micro parks” reflect the local history and beauty of that particular area.

This Circleville mural celebrates 100 years of the Pumpkin Festival there.

Ten large murals by Eric Henn can be found in downtown Circleville. One celebrates the bicentennial of Circleville while another depicts the many activities involved with their annual Pumpkin Festival, which has been celebrated for over 100 years.

A red-tailed hawk at Flight of the Hawk Park in Lancaster alights on its nest 42′ above the ground.

In Lancaster, Ric Leichliter has sculpted several metal vultures in the branches of a tree in the Flight of the Hawk sculpture park just outside of town on Highway 33.

This turkey sculpture joins other turkey and deer sculptures throughout the park.

Turkeys are scattered across the field. The main feature here is a 42-foot tall metal hawk with a wingspan of 14 feet. It’s even lit up at night!

Portsmouth has a Flood Wall over 2000 ‘ long covered with murals.
This section of the Flood Wall actually shows the flood of 1937.

Portsmouth has a floodwall, which is 2,200 feet long and covered with murals by Robert Dafford the entire length. It tells the history of Portsmouth during the last two centuries.

Locks of Love in McConnelsville is the newest addition to the corridor.

A recent addition in McConnelsville is Locks of Love “A Great Place to Fall in Love” created by David Griesmyer. Two large metal hearts are meant to have locks of love put on them just like the bridge in Paris, France. While the hearts have only been in place for a short time, locks are beginning to accumulate.

View the sidewalk art at any time at Alan Cottrill’s studio in downtown Zanesville.

Zanesville features Alan Cottrill’s bronze works in a sidewalk display outside his studio with an Indian atop his building to give recognition to his heritage. In Zane’s Landing Park, there are other bronze statues as well as murals that have recently been added.

This mural can be found in Zane’s Landing Park.

The Ohio Art Corridor will be the longest and largest outdoor art gallery in the world. It’s over 150 miles long! The other large outdoor gallery in Stockholm is 70 miles in length. Surrounded by parks, tables, and benches, The Ohio Art Corridor will be a place for generations to gather for years to come.

A bicentennial Legacy Monument depicts four notable people in the history of the Zanesville area.

You might want to take a long Sunday drive, or break the corridor up into sections and do several small day trips. That way you’ll be able to spend more time in the communities along the way. Whichever way you choose, if you enjoy art you are certain to find this an enjoyable trail to explore.

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