Through an existence of over a century, first as an isolated settlement far beyond the frontier; then as a fort for the posession of which wass fought the last battle of the Revolution; later a trading village whose position on the Ohio river gave her prominence and prosperity; a town on the great National road; after after that ceased to be the great thoroughfare between the East and the West, a thriving city of the western terminus of the Baltimore Ohio railroad, and since a growing community with the world at large - in this varied existence as village, town and city, Wheeling has taken no progresive step and seen no transformation as promising and important as that which lies just before her.
The construction of the National road gave to her an importance she had not possesed before. Her position as the pot of transfer for the people of the whole western country from the palatial steamers which piled the Ohio to the swinging stages which climbed and decended the slopes of the Alleghenies, gave her advantages among towns of the country envied by many a larger sister. The laying of the Baltimore & Ohio track to the river assured the continuance and increase of those advantages, and the city gradually changed from a trading and shipping post to a considerable manufacturing and mercantile community, and the little town on the bluff spread out into a goodly city with neighboring towns above and below and across the river.
Gradually she assumed the position of the metropolis of Western Virginia; and when from the throes of civil war, a new State wa born she was its only city, and she has remained among the increasing list of thriving towns of the Mountain State, in manufacturing and commercial interests as well as population, far in advance of all her rivals. She has cities grow up in her suburbs rivaling in importance the Wheeling of less than a generation ago, and when her citizens look back over the record of enterprise and progress increasing with the years, no era stands distinct in beginning or ending from the years which preceded or those which followed.
To-day Wheeling stand on the threshold of a new era. In former years she ha taken steps forward; now she leaps to the front at one bound. The substitution of natural gas for coal as the prevailing fuel can but work a transformation. The smoky, sooty town of the recent past and present will ggive way to a clear sky, and her inhabitant will breathe the free, fresh air of heaven instead of the sulphur and soot-polluted atmosphere they have been wont to inhale. It is well, while the changed condition of things is yet in its infancy, to take, as it were, a farewell look at the older Wheeling.
For some reason Wheelingites are always attached to their home; yet but few of them know that good reasons exist to be proud of the old place. A conservative community, much more metropolitan in its ways of life than the average city of 35,000 population, it has the faults, not serious, of a town of slow but steady growth, and with them the advantages, which are considerable - olidity, permanence, the confidence of sister communities.
Wheeling starts on her new era of prosperity well-equipped for reaping the greatest results from increased advantages. A solid, substantial city, of gradual growth, with a population of some 35,000 and as great a population tributary to her and lying at her doors, with unusual facilities for business and enjoyment for a city of her size, she yet has numerous unoccupied desirable sites for manufactories and room for an increase in all that makes a city great to thrice her present size. Her equipments for the safety and comfort of her people are likewise sufficient for a much greater population. Her water works is modern and adequate to supply a community of 100,000 souls. Her fire department is efficient and its record unsurpassed in any city of the country. Her schools compare in results and in methods and equipments with those of older and larger cities, and her churches are live and active, performing with the numerous benevolent, religious and educational societies, a great work in the interests of public morality, charity and temperance. Her public library can only be improved by enlarging the number of volumes on itss shelves, and this improvement is continually made, while the patronage it receives at the hands of the public speakss forcibly of the intelligence of the people.
The courts are modeled after the most approved judicial system modern civilization has devised, and nowhere is the peace and safety of the citizen or the rights of property more carefully guarded or more secure.
Her commercial importance is shown by her long rows of warehouses and wholessale stores, and her metropolitan character is mirrored in retail establishments unurpassed in style or extent outside (Rest of sentence illegible.)
As a manufacturing centre Wheeling is well known. As a nail making point she long ago assumed such pre-eminence as to win for her the soubriquet of "the Nail City." For years the superiority of her coal for fuel in nail making placed her safely above competition, and in this time her artisans acquired such special skill and her manufacturers achieved such a mastery of the markets that her place as the Nail City is still secure. Here steel was substituted for iron in nail making - a change to which all other localities have been compelled to follow this city's lead. Sheet iron, bar iron and almost all the forms and kinds of iron and steel , are also made in Wheeling to be ssent with her nails all over the world.
In glass the community has an interest only second to that in nails. Here wares are turned out from more than half a dozen furnaces, exclusive of the score or so in the neighborhood owned and operated by Wheeling capital, enterprise and skill, which challenges comparison, for rare beauty, artistic style and excellent quality, with the wares of Bohemia itself, whose glassworkers won their ancient fame with work not half so creditable as that with which Wheeling is delighting the world. Hundreds of men, adepts in the most advanced modern processes, find employment in her glass houses. Her lanterns, her calico, her furniture, are known and used far and wide. Her iron and steel is fashioned into thousands of shapes thousands of miles away. The queensware from her pottery has won for the city new laurelss as a manufacturing centre. The skill, the experience, the tact, the genius of Europe and America are united in its managers, its artists and its workmen.
Her leather, like her calico, her iron and glass and chinaware, has an enviable name in all the great marts of the country, and wherever it sold advertises to the world continually the sill and industry of Wheeling toilers and the enterprise and honesty of Wheeling manufacturers.
The beer from her breweries is quaffed by the votaries of Gambrinus far and near, and Bacchus himself might smack his lips to taste the wines here pressed from the fruit of the vines which crown these sunny hills. Her cigars and tobacco soothe the tired brain of the western worker and stimulate the fancy of the eastern dreamer.
From her workshops and her schools have gone thousands of artisans and scholars to compete with the sons of the busy West and the learned East, and in mill or shop or forum, they win their way in spite of competition.
She sends to the North and South and East and West long trains burdened with the products of her shops and forges; the fruits of the industry and skill of her workers float on many a might craft. No station on all the vast system of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Company east or west - not even Locust Point itself, the great importing station - furnished more freight to that company from year to year than Wheeling; and this is but one of the half dozen roads bringing and taking freight, while the Ohio river, not navigable above Wheeling through half the year, floats almost half as much as is carried by all the railroads centering or touching here.
It is on this foundation, then, that the ssuperstructure of a new and greater Wheeling is to be built. All the advanages which make a location eligible for new industries are possesed by the city in an eminent degree. The established business brings all the benefits of competition, of advertising abroad, of attractions to buyers. The shipping facilities are unsurpassed, and the rates are as reasonable as competition and heavy traffic can make them. The risk by fire is notably small, strikingly in contrast with ordinary records elsewhere. The community is peaceful, conervative and law-abiding. In all the agitations and troubles between labor and capital in 1877 and in 1884-5-6, Wheeling witnessed no disturbance. Her banks are secure, having withstood the effects of panics and periods of depression, and shown a balance on the right side of the sheet when elsewhere the financial fabric-seemed tottering to ruin, and crash followed crash.
Wheeling is the centre and metropolis not only of a vast and populous anufacturing section, but as well of one of the richest agricultural region on the face of the glove, and her markets are nowhere surpased in abundance, variety, quality and cheapness of all the necessaries of life. The poor man's dollar will go as far, the rich man's purse command as numerous as rare luxuries here as in any of the favored centres of population.
For recreation the facilities are beyond what could reasonably be demanded. Wheeling's park has won fame to far corners of civilization, without any of the artificial celebration in vogue in many places. her annual State fails rival those of the largest and wealthiest States, the drama is well patronized, and the city has the name of being one of the best show town of its size anywhere; securing in sonsequence the best clas of stars and combinations at ther two theatres. Her musical societies have won high honors in competition with those of cities famous for their culture in the arts. Her social, political and other societies are open to those of kindred minds, and in entertaining guests or mutual benefit and enjoyment are active and liberal.
The town is built in one of the most charming sections of the Ohio Valley, a valley whose beauty early won for its river the poetic name of La Belle Riviere - whose lovely and varied scenery so moved the stoical Red Man that he called the stream "Ohio" - "the Beautiful.' Wheeling, hemmed in by lofty and picturesque hills, is urrounded within reach of an evening's drive by pastoral scenery which might well animate the poet's fancy or exercise the artist's skill, and all about her lie historic and legendary spots, associated with heroic and romantic incidents of the early history of the nation.
Even in the city's borders her paved streets - already adopted elsewhere and known as "the Wheeling pavement" - offer enjoyable drives. The conveniences of street cars and telephones, cheap illuminating gas and the electric light, an abundance of water at low rates, a hospitable, enterprising and liberal population, refined society, good newspapers - in short all that makes modern civilization admirable and life in this generation to be desired, Wheeling has. The advanages of natural gas, the latest beneficient gift of Providence to the human race, she enjoys with the favored section, about her. It is with reason that her people anticipate a great and glorious future, when the honorable achievements of her past will be outdone, her usefulness and fame increased, and her position among the first cities of the continent secured.
In view of the great commercial importance which natural gas has lately assumed, a glance at its history will be of interest. Whether it is true, or merely a poetic fancy, that the Persian followers of Zoroaster were wont to gather on the shores of the Caspian ea, and there pour out their pagan prayers in the light of the burning gas wells, matters very little to the nineteenth century manufacturer or the equally favored housewife whose lot has been cast in the natural gas region of the beautiful and rich Ohio Valley. However this may be, the use of natural gas dates back to remote antiquity. For centuries it has been utilized in China, where the first pipe lines of which there is any record were laid, the abundant and easily manipulated bamboo serving the purpose in its way. Clay burners were fitted on the bamboo pipes. These Chinese wells ae 3,000 feet deep. Julius Caesar found a burning well near what is now Grenoble, France, and if it hasn't been put out it is burning still, as indeed it is said to be.
In this country, reference to "burning springs," which in many cases, were evidently springs yielding gas in large quantities are found in the records of early observant Jesuit fathers. In 1775, Washington, during a visit to the Kanawha Valley, set apart and deeded to the public forever a square mile of land some three miles above Salt Lick, on which was a "burning spring." Washington's purpose in making this "public park' was thwarted through an informality in the deed of conveyance. The burning springs of the Little kanawha, in West Virginia, and the escaping gas of Big Sandy, in Kentucky, are types of the evidences of the existence of natural gas that have been observed for many years, and are common to many parts of the country.
Possibly the earliest use of natural gas for any economic purpose was in lighting the village of Fredonia, New York. In 1821 a gas spring or well wa discovered on the banks of Canadaway creek, near Main street bridge. The gas was collected by excavating and covering the spring, and was conveyed into a small copper holder and thence conducted through pipe to the place where need. Enough gas was obtained to light 30 burners. The inn of the village was illuminated by this gas when General Lafayette passed through this section in 1824. A well 30 feet was sunk for gas in 1858 which supplied 200 burners.
Shortly after gas was found at Fredonia, Judge Campbell, of Westfield, N.Y., lit the light house at Barcelona ( a small harbor on Lake Erie) from a spring of natural gas. The contract was only abandoned in 1856. An attempt was also made to light the lighthouse at Dunkirt, N.Y., with gas from Fredonia, and 1/2 inch lead pipe was laid from the Maddern gas spring, but this early attempt to pipe the gas was a failure.
In 1841 gas was struck in boring a salt well in the Kanawha Valley, in West Va. Thi was used n "boiling the furnace," possibly the first use of natural gas in manufacturing. Two years after this a strong gas and salt well was struck near by and utilized in the same way. These, though the first gas wells utilized in the Kanawha Valley, were not the first struck, a well yielding gas having been bored in 1815, within the present limits of the city of Charleston. For more than a quarter of a century natural gas has been used at New Cumberland, W.Va., above Wheeling, for making lamp black and burning fire brick, though its use attracted little attention.
At an early date in the development of the Pennsylvania oil fields, a portion of the gas which generally accompanies oil was used in heating and lighting the towns and villages in the vicinity of the wells. It was also used for raising steam with which to run the drilling engines, and even the pressure of the gas has been utilized instead of the steam in the cylinders of the engines. Lamp black was early made from it, and for twenty years at least in some cases it has been used for domestic purposes, but these purposes have demanded only a small proportion of the gas produced in the Pennsylvanian oil fields, most of it wasting, until recently.
Its first use in iron-making was at the Leechburg, Pa., works of Messrs. Rogers & Burchfield, about 1874. In glass making, the Rocheter Tumbler Works, at Rochester, Pa., were probably the pioneers, and in plate-glass Mr. J.B. Ford, at the Pittsburgh Plate Glass Works, at Creighton, Pa., in 1883. Salt was boiled with it at East Liverpool, ohio, in 1860, and it was tried later in burning pottery in the same village. In 1873, or earlier, Mr. Peter Neff began the manufacture of lamp-black from gas at Gambier, Ohio.
In 1875 gas was piped to Spang, Chalfant & Co.'s iron works, at Sharpsburg, near Pittsburgh, and has been used ever since, but it was not until 1883, with the piping of the Murraysville gas, and its introduction into the industrial establishments of Pittsburgh, that its use as a fuel asumed any importance.
What this now important product is, how it became what it is, whether it is still accumulating, whether it is to last forever or for only a thouand years or therabouts, are questions concerning which the doctors disagree. The fact that the great and permanent flows of gas are found in the rich fields of bituminous coal, with petroleum for a next door neighbor, has suggested the theory that whatever the creative source, the three are of similar origin, and possible oil and coal products of the gas, under greater or less evaporations or solidifications. The retreative processes from coal to oil, from oil to gas, are demonstrable and practically done. It is not possible that gas is primary coal, so to speak? That as coal is accepted as of a vegetable origin, so is this gas the result of the decay and distillation of plants, its analysis showing its greater properties, about 65 to 70 percent, to be marsh gas, which is a formation from decaying vegetable matter. As exploration shows that the traces of coal, petroleum and gas are stratified in a homogenous belt, the deductions are in favor of their kinship, and the solution of the supply of natural gas rests on certain geologically accepted facts.
If gas, oil and coal are of kin, it is to be assumed they have a vegetable origin, as coal is geologically accepted to be vegetable in its basis. If coal can, as is the fact, be retreated into oil, and oil into gas, it is reasonable to suppose the ascending process is similar. Geology claims that with the close of the Silurian era the earth began to bring forth its vegetation. In that period great salt seas are geologically claimed to have existed from the slope of the Appalachian chain, westward. At advanced years of that period these seas - under the (geologically claimed) gradual uprising of that section of the earth - drained off, leaving huge basins of salt water, which may be called Devonian Lakes, the Devonian era succeeding, not unlike our present system of great lakes. These Devonian basins gradually filling with silt and mud, began to form marshy flats, with a rank vegetation. uch vegetation is geologically claimed from fossil remains formed in the metamorphic rocks and the coal strata. Omitting, for the sake of brevity, the various botanical name and descriptions of those vegetations, it is sufficient to say that they were of a similar family to the resinous pines of the present day, but more probably of a spongy, soft, fern-like consistency, and grew to enormous size, some fossils showing a length of from 80 to 100 feet.
At that date one theory is tht the earth was a vast hot house, enveloped in a dense atmosphere of carbonic gas; and the great internal heat of the earth at that time created a more than tropical climate, which stimulated the vegetable growth to gigantic proportions, and under the intense heat they absorbed from the atmosphere great quantities of carbon, which, combining with the saline nutriment of their roots, cause the secretion of rich, oily juices. Under such an atmosphere animal life was impossible; and, unbroken by aught, this vegetation, which was probably the most enormous that the earth ever produced, must have filled the huge marshy basins in which it grew to an almost solid mass. It is geologically claimed that in the Devonian period there were submergencies of the Appalachian region, and successive periods of vegetable formations of similar character, thus forming many layers of this resinous vegetable matter, from which a distillation through internal heat was consequent. It is not difficult to believe such an enormous bulk of oily plants, submerged and covered with great depth, and weights of silt, and thus compressed between the heated rocks beneath and the sand and silt above, would be practically in a retort, and their oils distilled. Prof. Lesley, in a paper read before the American institute of Mining Engineers at the Pittsburgh meeting of 1886, says: "Twenty years ago I showed that the petroleum of the conglomerate formation of eastern Kentucky was produced by the decomposition of fossil plants," and also, "that the gas is undoubtedly evolved from petroleum."
The oils, in the long period of submerging, would be superheated - if the term may be used- into a gas, the undistilled and charred portions of these gigantic Sigillisra remaining as interpreters n future ages of the process of coal formation, and the distilled juices secreted in the earth for man's future use. Under the pressure its own sublimation would cause, these gases would penetrate into the superincumbent sand, which would form reservoirs, and are to-day the tanks, so to speak, in which it is found. This seems probable, as it is in various strata of pebble, sand and honey-comb rock, at immense depths, that the vapor is reached.
It is a property of all vapor to ascend, and the expansion of gases under heat and continued formation is productive of great penetrating force. This penetrative characteristic of so-called natural gas is one of its peculiarities, as well as its habit of following "earthy leads," which has been demonstrated in investigations of explosions, occurring at points distant from the leak in the pipes from which it has escaped, arising only to the surface where some vertical crevices give freer egress to the atmosphere. As so-far the reachable tankage of this vapor is found in pebbly sands and honey-combed rocks, as previously cited, it is reasonable to suppose, as there are no indications in these sands of formative proceses, that the gas has, in its natural habit, ascended from the creative source and become stored, penetrating under the force of the creative pressure every interstice, however minute, of the ands or rocks above, and being held back therein from further ascension by a lifting of very hard rock whcich is always just above the sand.
What beds of sand or gas holding rock lie beneath the sands from which the present supply of gas escapes, and their depth, nothing as yet determines; and that it is found in the so called Venango sand is because under the enormous pressure it has been forced upwards through rifts and followed from one sand to another. If there is any force in the theory that from the distillation of the vegetation of the Devonian era, this vapor was created, judging from the volumes stored in the present producing sand, it is presumable that, even admitting the generating has ceased, the existing bulk must be immense. For, from the pressures created under its distillation, the packing would be enormous, and naturally evolves as it escapes from pressure a greater bulk than in its packed form. While any stored quantity would necessarily find exhaustion under sufficient consumption, it is evident, on this theory, that while in one sense exhaustible, it may be spoken of as inexhaustible in the same sense as coal beds, the more especially when there are record of wells that have burned for 2,000 years.
The more important question is as to the continuation of this gaseous fuel for the next two or three generations, and where it is to be most profitably made use of. Whether it is the result of distillation of Devonian ferns or Sigillaria, under which it is probable the formation has ceased; or, as other theories hold, produced by the percolations of water through shales and other carboniferous formations, and this hydro-carbonized moisture vaporized by heat, in which case the formation is continous; or whether it is by action of salt water on limestone that the carbon gas is thus produced, - are interesting questions, which at some future day may be settled, but to-day its existence is the fact that is the most practically interesting; and also, that so far as records go, its supply seems to be mainly in the sections where it is now found.
If the theory of the vegetable origin of coal is a correct one, and it seems to have been widely accepted by geological schools, then Wheeling is fortunately situated where she may confidently depend upon a full and steady supply for all the industries she can find room for.
As the earth arose from its submergencies these gases would escape, the heat on the uprising mass would decrease, and under lessening heat and weight the gas condense to oil, and in the long geological periods, by evaporation of the volatile qualities, the oil thicken to a soft viscid, tarry condition, which, under the continued pressure and the invisible evaporation of the volatile qualities, change to coal. A similar process is apparent on the bitumen lake at Trinidad, which seems to be passing by gradual transitions into bituminous coal. Near the same island is a sub-oceanic volcano, which occasionally boils up and discharges petroleum, and in hot weather, the bitumen of Lake Trinidad liquifies to the depth of an inch or more. Another oceanic volcano on the east side of the island at times throws upon the shore masses of bitumen black and brilliant as jet, apparently formed by some natural process at the depths from whence it is ejected. It would appear that under the island are veins of petroleum and gas, the former of which is ejected to the surface by the explosive force of the letter, and the bitumen lake referred to is constantly evaporating carbutetted hydrogen. The approaching process of petroleum to coal is indicated by a barrel of the oil being left undisturbed and exposed to the sun, when, after a certain time of evaporation from heat of the volatile qualities, the residium becomes tarry and bituminous in its consistency; and it is quite evident that under immense weight for a long period, a substance similar to coal would be found, if not absolute coal, were such conditions carried on in the earth, where possibly other influences besides heat, evaporation, weight and pressure are exerted. Bischoff says that the inflammable gases, always escaping from mineral coals, invariably contain carbonic or natural gas. Lesley says that every kind of vegetable matter, when buried in the earth, exposed to moisture and excluded from the air, evokes carbonic gas, being a similar condition to the dense vegetable growth of the Devonian era. These facts are not brought together as conclusive that natural gas is of vegetable origin, but to show that possibly its source is the distillation of the dense vegetation of resinous ferns, Sigillaria, and all the fatty plants mentioned in the Devonian era.
At that period the North American Continent, it is geologically claimed, contained a series of basins similar to our present system of lakes. The largest of these basins was along the course of the Allegheny mountains, lying in the State of Alabama and running with the course of the mountains through West Virginia, Kentucky, Maryland and Pennsylvania, which is the trend of the Appalachian bituminous coal field, and oil and gas where they have been found. it is suggested that possibly the geologically claimed submergence of the enormous vegetation of the Paleozoic age, and its distillation in the retorts is formed by the igneous rock, and the immense weight of superincumbent deposit during long periods, is the original called natural gas as development has gone it supports the theory, then the duration of the supply is an interesting speculation to be handed down to remote posterity; and furthermore, Wheeling and its vicinity will be using natural gas after the Intelligencer has celebrated two or three centennial anniversaries. And as the mountain will not come to Mohamed, Mohamed, who is in this day a clear-headed, enterprising manufacturer, will have to come to the great natural gas mountainand bring along his followers. From Pittsburgh to some point on the Ohio river below Wheeling will be almost a continous manufacturing community, in which natural gas will be the only fuel.
The economies of the use of gas are as yet but crudely understood. Issuing from the wells in apparently unusable quantities, the most wasteful extravagance in its use has obtained; but, as it is now used, the citing of two facts will indicate possibilities when such results are attained under the present unscientific and wasteful methods of use. under its use in a steel plant it was found that where it had formerly taken $96,000 worth of coal to produce 12,000 tons of steel, with gas it required but $40,000 for the fuel cost, and a further saving was made of $12,000 in the cost of hauling the ashes and coal. A close observation demonstrated also that there was a saving of about 25 percent in the wear and tear of the furnace in the use of gas instead of coal fuel.
A further fact was demonstratedin the workings of a glass factory, using some 2,000 tons of material a year, that the savings as against coal with gas was equal to $6,700 a year in fuel expenses. in December of 1885, as the result of one investigation, made by a manufacturer of iron from another city, as to the result at Pittsburgh in the use of gas instead of coal, it was stated that in the outpur of nineteen heating furnaces the saving was, in fuel cost, $6,531; in moving ashes, $2,612; in repairs, $4,180; and further, that the saving in a heating furnace using gas was, in reduced waste by oxidation, in twelve weeks time, $1.200.
The value of natural gas in manufacturing lies not only in the first obvious saving, but in the greater quantity and improved quality of the output. The manufacture of window-glass is a striking case in point.
In a comparison of a sample of what was claimed as a most excellent window glass as to color, clearness, freedom from specks, etc., made of coal fuel with one of gas, the result was, that while ordinary print could not be read through four thicjnesses of the coal fuel glass, a newspaper could be read with ease through a box of 8x10, as the glass comes from the ordinary cutting table. The natural polish of a cylinder of glass is equal to a polished plate; in the manufacture of window glass by coal fuel, that polish is destroyed by the sulphur accumulating in blowing and in the annealing, during which the sulphur, film, or stain, is burned in. In the use of gas fuel there are no sulphurous fumes, and the glass retains its natural brilliant polish, with the increase of transparency as well as the reading test cited above. In addition the factories are able to make six batches a day instead of five.
In the manufacture of glass hollow ware the advantages are not less. There is no breakage by reason of unequal temperature, and the high polish has at once given the product a preference in the market. Evenness of temperature makes natural gas a great boon to the potter, who was among the earliest to perceive and avail himself of its good qualities.
The general estimate of the results so far is, that the saving in fuel cost is possibly over 50 percent; the increased yield from 15 to 25 percent; the improved quality, though hardly to be estimated in percents, may be, as illustrative, stated at from 10 to 20 percent, as is demonstrated in the facts cited as to its use in the manufacture of window glass; while in table ware the same improvements are attained. In the treatment of metals where regularity of heat and freedom from sulphur are the superiority of the product of gas fuel. That this is true is apparent from the fact that workers of iron are already beginning to make a difference in the purchase of "gas iron" over "coal iron."
Service provided by the staff of the Ohio County Public Library in partnership with and partially funded by the Wheeling National Heritage Area Corporation.