Volcano Lubricator

Title: Volcano Lubricator
Available online: 26 October 1871 - 19 March 1874 (27 issues)

Place of publication: Volcano, W. Va.

One of the more uniquely named newspapers in West Virginia's history, the Volcano Lubricator owed its moniker to the burgeoning oil industry that emerged around the town of Volcano, Wood County, during the mid-19th century. As new oilfields were developed and the population of the region began to grow, newspapers popped up. Established in April 1871 by George P. Sargent, the Volcano Lubricator was "Devoted to the Oil Interests of West Virginia, Home News, and General Intelligence."

Prior to 1860, central Wood County was a quiet district consisting primarily of small farms. By the first years of the Civil War, however, oil speculators began purchasing land there, including in the area that would become the small town of Volcano. The story goes that the area's first successful well sprang forth oil "like a volcano." Oil speculators, engineers, and workers rushed to the locale and gave the new boomtown its name. As the oil fields grew, so too did Volcano's population: by the 1870s, the town numbered 900 citizens and would eventually hit a peak of 4,000. Among the many newcomers was English-born engineer George Perry Sargent, who worked in Volcano's oil fields and enjoyed a prominent place within local society. In April 1871, Sargent established the Volcano Lubricator with Warren Bowen as a co-owner. Sargent served as the newspaper's editor.

Published weekly out of its offices on Raymond Street, the four-page Lubricator offered its readers poetry and short stories, local news, and notices. Its columns offer insight into the rapid development of a rough-hewn boom town, and George Sargent often penned editorials to counter the popular depictions of Volcano as an unsanitary, immoral place. Besides local news, however, the Lubricator also paid especial attention the latest developments in the oil industry. Oil prices, fluctuations in the market, and U.S. oil exports were reported in detail, and the Lubricator's pages were heavily laden with oil-related advertisements.

Unfortunately, however, Volcano's boom was quickly followed by a bust. In the early morning hours of August 4, 1879, a fire broke out, and flames engulfed the town's business district and part of Main Street. The offices of the Lubricator were completely destroyed, along with the offices of its main competitor the West Virginia Walking Beam. Although the papers attempted to reconstitute themselves in nearby Parkersburg, the disaster marked the final end of Volcano Lubricator. The fire also marked a pivotal moment for the town of Volcano, as well. Although the oil wells would continue to pump for nearly another 70 years, oil production slowly declined and the town eventually faded away, its last vestiges gone by 1953.

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