Thursday, February 28, 2013

Nature Heals

In the absence of Mankind wrecking the Earth, Mother Nature can move in and quickly hide the wounds. A classic example of the boom and bust of human greed and the reclamation by Her Graciousness is illustrated in the brief history of one horrible place called Volcano, West Virginia.

The town was founded on the abundant oil fields that once lay beneath the crust here. An enterprising capitalist bought up the land and began to drill for oil. Rail lines came in and soon the place was thriving. Of course the land was raped in the way that only the oil industry can commit such a crime. The town burned down not once, but twice. The first time it burned the community recovered, but the last time was it. There just wasn't enough oil remaining under the soil for any effort to be made to preserve and rebuild, and so Volcano was left to die. Which it quickly did.

Many people wring their hands over the destruction that Mankind has wrought on the natural world. And this worry is for good reason. But most of these people think that when we're done, and when we're gone, there will be no way for Nature to repair the damage.

But when we're done, and when we've killed ourselves off (which we assuredly will do), then the forests will move quickly in. Vegetation and rot and rust and rain and gravity and wind will soon scrub away all sign that we were even here.

If you don't believe me, walk the woods where once a thriving town and booming oil industry stood in a spot called Volcano, West Virginia.

Hotel, Volcano, WV.
Power Station, Volcano WV.
Interior of the power station.
Town Hall, Volcano
Residences and oil derricks.
Homes, including that of one physician.
Part of the old downtown Volcano.
This was once a thriving city. Unless you look for the hidden details, you can't tell that there were once rail stations, oil wells, opera houses, grocery stores, general stores, doctor's offices, banks, barber shops, schools, churches, mansions, and thriving neighborhoods on this land reclaimed now by the forests.

Here and there, you can see foundations and even the remains of rock-walled rooms.

To see what's left of this house, the mansion where the town's richest man once lived, see the photo below.
Here is just about all that remains of the mansion where the oil tycoon who founded the town once made his home. Later, it was sold to some suckers who were told they could make it into a hotel and turn a profit. That's hard to do when the railroad pulls out (taking even the rails with them) and 99%of the population vanishes into the hills. Later, hobos used it to take shelter, eventually burning it down (seemingly the fate of all buildings).


MarkGelbart said...

Volcano, W.V. would make a great episode of that History Channel series, "Life after People."

I bet there are places in Georgia like that.

James Robert Smith said...

One of my dad's books that was lost in various moves and which I would dearly love to have again was a thick volume called GHOST TOWNS OF GEORGIA. As I recall, it was published in the late 50s or earl 60s and was a record of all of the actual ghost towns left in Georgia at that time. The town my father was born in (El Dorado, GA) was in it. Some of the towns listed (it had glorious photo sections) were classic ghost towns with empty main streets and vast numbers of abandoned buildings and houses.

Georgia has a LOT of ghost towns.

Volcano was quite the place. Vast wealth ran through that town while the oil fields were producing. Hiking through the forests, you still come upon working wells. I saw a lot of what are called "trickle wells". They slowly pump the oil which flows down narrow pipes to big holding tanks at road access. It takes a while for the tanks to fill, and every couple of weeks or so a tanker truck will arrive to pump out the accumulated oil. I was told that a few of these wells don't even need pumps...internal pressure is still sufficient to bring up the oil (albeit very slowly).

We passed a few homes that had modern working oil pumps in their yards.

One nearby town to Volcano is called Cairo, WV. It's not quite a ghost town, but almost. One interesting building is the bank which is now some kind of office/residence. It's a very impressive little building.

Chris B. West Orange, NJ said...

was this the book?

James Robert Smith said...

Nope. But that does look like a pretty cool book!

Kirk G said...

Cairo, WV is just outside my city. Wow! So close to home...

James Robert Smith said...

It's a short hike into the woods, but an easy hike. No real roads left...just trails, and the rails are all gone, of course.