EXTREMELY INTERESTING ARE
OF SAMUAL [sic] NEWBERGER
ONE OF THE PIONEER OIL MEN OF CITY
RELATES INCIDENTS IN
CONNECTIONWITH DRILLING IN THE EARLY SIXTIES.
DRILLED IN 150-BARREL WELLAT BURNING SPRINGS
ATDEPTH OF 127 FEET.
MR. NEWBERGER NOW IN HISEIGHTY-FIRST YEAR
ANDIS HALE AND HEARTY.
Retrieved andtranscribed by Nanci Headley Kotowskifrom
The September 29,1915, edition of
The Parkersburg Sentinel, Parkersburg, W. Va.
One of ourpioneer oil men is Samuel Newberger, of Parkersburg, WestVirginia.
Mr. Newberger came to Parkersburgfrom Baltimore by way of the Baltimore &Ohio railroad to Wheeling, there being norailroad into Parkersburg, thence by boat from Wheeling, arriving in Parkersburg on July 18th, 1853—62years ago. Parkersburg was then a city of about 1200people and the entire business of the place was done at the “Point,” thepresent location of the court house being considered as being too far up town.
He was inthe clothing and dry goods business, giving his time to these lines until about1860, when reports of the finding of a peculiar spring came from the CaliforniaHouse in Wirt county, and a peculiar smellingsubstance was brought down and peddled in Parkersburg,from the spring, and sold as “horse medicine.” Believing it had more qualities than horse medicine, Mr. Newberger and P. D. Gambrillconcluded to sink a well at Burning Springs. This was about the same time that General Carnes and C. H. Shattuck hadthe same idea. A half-acre lease wasobtained by Mr. Newberger and Mr. Gambrillon the Rathbone oil tract at Burning Springs, andafter much hard work drilling with a spring pole, in February, 1861, theysucceeded in bringing in a well at 127 feet of depth, which produced 140 to 150barrels of “medicine” per day. This wasnot far from the time that Colonel Drake drilled in his well in Pennsylvania. Not having any way of saving the oil it wasrun into Burning Springs Run and a dam built to hold it, and salt and porkbarrels were sent from Parkersburgand it was baled with buckets into “iron-bound barrels” as the requirements ofthe day called for. This oil was soldfor $30 per barrels [sic]. As there wereno locks or dams on the Little Kanawha riverand the first barrels had to be floated down the river when a rise came, andlater in barges. It was exceedinglyhazardous and much of the oil was lost. Then when it came to selling there were no pipe lines and no ways ofdisposing of the fluid except through agents, and the best market was generallyLouisville or Cincinnati. The barrels were then shipped by barge to those cities and theconsequent loss by leakage and shrinkage was enormous. On one occasion Mr. Newbergershipped a thousand barrels to Louisville,and not getting a return for reasonable length of time, took the agent to task,only to be confronted with a bill by return mail for the difference between theagent’s sale prices and his expenses: so after paying the loss on the 600barrels sold, Mr. Newberger shipped the remaining 400barrels to Boston. This took severalmonths, as it had to go by way of the OhioCanal and GreatLakes. After a long andtedious wait the oil was finally sold at Bostonfor fifty-five cents per gallon. Therewere few railroads and no pipe lines at all.
It Was a Gusher
In thesecond well drilled Mr. Edward Braiden and Paul Nealbecame interested. This well was drilleddeeper and was drilled with an engine to a depth of 224 feet, at which point itproved to be a “gusher.” It produced 20,000barrels in thirty days and literally swamped all facilities to care forit. Dams were built again on BurningSpring Run and after a great fight to save the oil an employe[sic] fell off the dam with a lantern in his hand and practically burned up thecountry for miles. Old residents of Parkersburg rememberdistinctly seeing the light caused by this blaze from the “Point.” The river burned for seven miles. This well was owned by Mr. Newberger, Mr. Gambrill, PaulNeal and Edward Braiden. Paul Neal, however, enlisted in the southernarmy before the well was completed, and his interest was taken care of byDaniel R. Neal.
In 1863,Mr. Newberger says, “We had tankagefor not less than 1,000 barrels. We hadbarrels to the extent of 2500 which had cost us $2.50 to $2.60 each at Cincinnati, besides thefreight, and we had all regular equipment such as engines, tubing, casing rods,cables, buildings, etc., when times were getting pretty lively, as we werepaying George A. Leonard who was the collector of taxes for the United Statesgovernment, from one to two dollars a barrel for war protection when the JonesRaiders were sent into Burning Springs from the south to lay the countrywaste.” This they did most effectuallyby setting fire into everything in sight. Mr. Newberger’s wells and property were burnedat a loss of about $450,000, based on $3,000 per barrel for production, themarket at that time. “Royalties at thetime were one-third and the leases were seldom over one or two acres and mostlyone-half acre.”
ProfessorStahl, who is still living, was one of Leonard’s deputies in the collection ofthe government tax. George A. Wells wasa government gauger.
The greatgusher never produced more than 10 to 11 barrels per day after the fire, whilethe other well never produced at all. Theyfought with George Rice, of Marietta,for a long time, who secured a lease on which he located a well right inBurning Springs Run, and when he finally drilled in to the “crevice” it was acase of watching each other continuously. When Newberger pumped Rice could get no oil,and when Rice pumped Newberger could get no oil. Finally Rice thought he’d drown Newberger out and he pumped water down his well, and in sodoing spoiled both wells. Mr. Newberger afterward got his well to pumping and sold it toRice for twenty-five thousand dollars. The gusher was sold to three congressmen, Blair, Nuckolls and Bennett,at a rate of $3,000 per barrel, and a two-acre lease was thrown in on the deal.
These wellswere all on the Rathbone oil tract lands and one ofthem is still producing, now belonging, we understand, to the Mellons of Pittsburg [sic], and we believe it holds therecord, as it has pumped continuously for 55 years.
In Other Fields
Mr. Newberger, associated with Senator J. N. Camden and others,drilled around Belmont and Eureka also during the war, but as 500 feetwas considered a deep well, and the drilling was done to about that depth, theyfailed to develop anything of value. These fields afterward produced many thousands of barrels of oil.
Mr. Newberger also owned 3500 acres of land on Archer’s Fork ofFishing Creek, Wetzel county, and after fighting thetimber thieves and title in the courts for fifteen years, was found to sell itat a ridiculous price in 1887, only to be opened as oil territory and leased tothe South Penn the following year. Thisis the Wells-Blackshire-Beatty tract that has turnedout to be one of the best pieces of oil and coal land in Wetzel county, W. Va., and nodoubt has produced millions of dollars for its owners.
Mr. Newberger, or “Uncle Sam,” as he is familiarly known, isnow in his eighty-first year and is hale and hearty as a boy and looks afterbusiness every day.
He wasrecently the recipient of a silver-handled cane as a present. The cane not having any card, he suspectedthe Masonic lodge, of which he and Captain James Montgomery are the last livingoriginators in Parkersburg. He called upon James A. Bryan and asked himabout it and Mr. Bryan stated, “Yes, the lodge had sent it.” Uncle Sam replied “that in his eighty yearshe had never yet had to carry a cane.” Mr. Bryan’s reply was very pretty. He said: “We didn’t give you that cane, Uncle Sam, because you are old,but to use when you get to be an old man.”
Mr. Newberger assisted in organizing the Little KanawhaNavigation Company, the company that constructed the locks and dams on theriver, and is now the only living director of that organization except for W.V. Vernon, of Wirt county. The other members of the “old board,” SenatorJ. N. Camden, Judge J. J. Jackson, Judge J. M. Jackson, Governor Jacob B.Jackson, W. N. Chancellor and L. B. Dellicker, haveall passed away.
Mr. Newberger and P. D. Gambrill werethe two men who, by personal solicitation with a subscription list, secured thefifty thousand dollars necessary to organize the First National Bank of Parkersburg, the OldNorthwestern Virginia Bank then being the only bank in this section. General J. J. Jackson was the first presidentand Samuel Newberger was on the board of directorsfor years.
He was alsoon the school board and a member of council several times before the war, andwas a lieutenant in the military company organized to prevent the “rebels” fromtaking Parkersburgat the beginning of the war, and went with his company below the Kanawha whenit was reported. [sic] “They are coming,” while othercompanies took stands on the Northwestern and Staunton Pikes. The raiders flanked, however, and crossed theOhio,somewhere about Ravenswood, and went up on the Little Kanawha from there.
Mr. Newberger is the oldest living member of the JewishFraternity in Parkersburgand is highly respected by everyone.