Old Virginians and Wildcatters: Voices of the Staunton-Parkersburg Turnpike
Tidewater Virginians made up the ruling class of early western Virginia. They clashed with hillside farmers in a tug that erupted with the Civil War. Tensions of war and class broke the state in two and founded the new state of West Virginia. Fasten your seatbelt as you hear local people unveil the truth about such little known entities as the Constitutional Union Party. This political party, favored by West Virginia’s ruling elite, supported slavery while remaining tied to the Union for the sake of finances.
The Civil War in most of north central West Virginia was less dramatic than it was incessant, horrifying in its unpredictability as Bushwackers terrorized travelers and residents along the Pike and families and neighbors raged. Towns were taken and retaken by Union and Confederate troops.
With the bitter taste of the Civil War still in the air, the rush to harvest West Virginia’s giant trees was on. River rafters and sawmills turned timber into towns. The oil and gas industry took up where it had left off before the War. Speculators bet everything they had on the oozing black gold. Working men along the Pike wildcatted in newly developing oilfields and risked their lives on high derricks while women cooked and cleaned for boarders. Coal, oil, gas and timbering fueled lively economies in the great river city of Parkersburg and in rollicking small towns along the Pike.