Parkersburg Oil and Gas Museum displays the history of the industry

Published: Sep. 20, 2019 at 5:51 PM EDT
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The Oil and Gas Museum located on Third Street in Parkersburg was started back in the late 1980s by Museum President Paul Hoblitzell and the now deceased David McKain. McKain owned an oil field tools company called Acme Fishing Tool Company.

“He and I been friends all our life. He came to me and we talked a while and he wanted to start the museum and this happened in 1989,” said Hoblitzell.

Though McKain had the greater interest in starting the museum, Hoblitzell stuck with his friend for several years they gathered items for the museum.

“Ten years earlier, there’d have been a lot more stuff come out of the attics that we could have had,” said Hoblitzell.

McKain passed away in 2014, so Hoblitzell has been running the museum ever since. He says much of the history of oil is part of West Virginia’s own history.

“In Wirt County was the first oil field. Across the river in Little Kanawha I think we had the first refinery that we can depict. And it helped West Virginia grow, it helped the nation grow,” said Hoblitzell.

“The oil industry here in the 1860s was the driving force, the money and the influence that actually formed the state of West Virginia,” said Larry Wiseman, a volunteer with the museum.

Wiseman says an oil man from Parkersburg named Peter Van Winkle paid the bills of the first convention in Wheeling where officials from western Virginia were discussing splitting into another state.

“Parts of the country have their own unique history, and we have a very unique history here,” said Wiseman.

All that history is kept alive inside the Oil and Gas Museum, where three stories are nearly filled with displays.

Hoblitzell says its important to know about the oil industry because of how much it impacts everyone.

“We can’t live without them. Oil and the plastic industry, almost everything we use is touched by oil. A 12 ounce plastic bottle for water, if you fill that up one third with crude oil, that’s how much it takes to make a bottle,” said Hoblitzell.