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West Virginia walking beam. : (Volcano, W. Va.) 1879-188?
Place of publication:
Volcano, W. Va.
Geographic coverage:
  • Volcano, Wood, West Virginia  |  View more titles from this: City County, State
Van. A. Zevely
Dates of publication:
  • Began in 1879.
  • Ceased in the 1880's?
  • English
  • Volcano (W. Va.)--Newspapers.
  • Archived issues are available in digital format from the Library of Congress Chronicling America online collection.
  • Description based on: Vol. 1, no. 32 (Aug. 13, 1879).
  • Publishing moved to Parkersburg, W. Va. in late 1879 after the town burned.
sn 86092476
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West Virginia walking beam. August 13, 1879 , Image 1


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West Virginia walking beam

Named in reference to the pumping mechanism used within oil wells, the West Virginia Walking Beam hailed itself as the "Official Organ of the Oil Producers of West Virginia," promising to deliver news on "everything and anything that is to the interest of the oil region." Despite its relatively short tenure, the Walking Beam offers insights into West Virginia's 19th-century oil boom.

In the waning years of the Civil War, business interests began to tap into the oil reserves around Wood County, West Virginia. In 1864, William Stiles, Jr. founded the Volcano Oil and Coal Company, and the little community of Volcano blossomed with the prosperity of a newfound oil town. As the number of oil wells increased and the population grew into the thousands, several newspapers popped up around Volcano and Wood County, including the West Virginia Walking Beam.

Established in 1879 by Van A. Zevely, the Walking Beam offered its readers literature, poems, local and national news, community gossip, and advice and self-help columns. It also kept readers abreast of items relating to the local oil industry: new wells, pipelines, industry court cases, insurance, railroad schedules, and more. The paper thus catered to both ordinary citizens and the many newcomers to the region who worked within the oil industry. The paper also benefitted from the experiences of its editor. Zevely's family was in the printing business; his father, Edmund Zevely, managed the Ritchie Democrat in nearby Ritchie County.

Unfortunately for Van Zevely, he could hardly have chosen a worse moment to launch a newspaper in Volcano. Shortly after he began publishing the Walking Beam, Volcano suffered a disastrous fire on August 4, 1879, that reduced much of the young town to ashes. The offices of the Walking Beam were destroyed, along with those of its rival publication, the Volcano Lubricator. With the total loss of its press and no insurance, the Walking Beam ceased publication for several months.

The town of Volcano never recovered from the fire. Zevely moved the paper to nearby Parkersburg, where he resumed publication of the Walking Beam for another year, but like the town of Volcano itself, the newspaper simply could not recover from the fire. After the closure of the Walking Beam's presses, Zevely managed the Ritchie Democrat and Beacon Light upon his father's death in 1884.

Provided by: West Virginia University