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Abstract: Burning Springs Firsts

WOODFORK, LARRY D.
West Virginia Geological & Economic Survey

In 1860 the second Rathbone well struck oil at a depth of 303 ft in the Dunkard or Cow Run sand along Burning Springs Run in Wirt County becoming the first successful well drilled intentionally for oil in western Virginia (now West Virginia).

In 1861, Ebinezer B. Andrews, a professor at nearby Marietta College in Ohio, published his seminal investigation of the nature of the oil occurrence there along the Burning Springs anticline in the American Journal of Science - the earliest scientific publication on the geology of an American oil field.

Andrew's clearly recognized the vertical segregation of subsurface fluids by specific gravity, (gas, oil, and water), discussed the role of fractures and their relationship to the uplift and producing wells. His ideas, along with those of others - both earlier and later investigators - were later synthesized most cogently and comprehensively by I.C. White, (1885) as the anticlinal theory of oil and gas accumulation.

The Burning Springs oil field has yet a third claim to fame - the site of the first military action against a producing oil field. The wells, production, holding and shipping facilities were attacked and burnt by Confederate raiders on 9 May 1863.

AAPG Search and Discovery Article #90930©1998 AAPG Eastern Section, Columbus, Ohio