Big Moses

• September 6, 1894 —One of the biggest gas wells ever drilled was completed on Moses Spencer’s farm on Indian Creek, Tyler County. Drilled on the Moses Spencer farm along Indian Creek, between Blue and Alvy, the “Big Moses” gas well was the most productive gas well in the world, producing more than 100 million cubic feet of gas daily. When it was drilled, the pressure and volume was beyond expectations and the mining company couldn’t control the gas for the first few months of drilling blowing the structure twice, once in November of 1894 and again in August of 1895 and catching fire when lightning struck the pluming gasses in July of 1985, with “The flame, leaping and twisting to a height of many feet, lights up the country, at night, for miles around. Crowds of curiosity seekers are flocking to the scene to witness an almost unprecedented sight… [and seeming] equally impossible to shut off the gas or extinguish the flames and the only course left to take is to let it burn.” Which, according to reports of the time, took about two to three hours. The previous winter, the owners of the well sent to Pittsburg and had a large casting weighing several tons made, and had a well known oil and gas well driller of that city come down to place the “cap,” as it was called, over the well. The cap was finally gotten on the well after much difficulty, and for a short time it appeared that the great gasser had finally been gotten under control, but they had reckoned without their host, for in a few days the immense casting was cut in two by the pebbles and sand thrown up by the gas pressure and the well was again free. Although the original well site was burned to the ground, it was successfully capped in the late 1980s.

• September 7, 1989 — WV Senate President Larry Tucker resigned from office after pleading guilty to extortion charges. Tucker resigned his seat as part of a federal plea agreement resulting from taking $10,000 from legislative lobbyist Sam D’Annunzio, a Clarksburg beer distributor, in 1987. Tucker had admitted accepting $10,000 to support a bill that gave dog track owners a larger cut of the amount wagered at their tracks. Tucker was Senate judiciary chairman at the time. Federal officials had previously filed documents alleging that former Senate President Dan Tonkovich, also on trial for extortion and racketeering charges, also supported the dog track bill in exchange for $10,000 from Tri-State Greyhound Park owner Bill Ellis. Tucker was one of several Democratic officeholders who have resigned or pleaded guilty during that year. Tucker served time in prison for extortion and died in 2016.

• September 8, 1798 — Frontiersman Daniel Boone ran his last survey in the Kanawha Valley. This early pioneer of America was a resident of the Kanawha Valley for 12 years. From an early deed recorded in the court house of Fayette County, Ky., dated April 28, 1786, it is found that the paper was signed by Boone and his wife at Point Pleasant, where they were residing. From Point Pleasant, Boone and his family moved up the Kanawha River in 1789 and settled on the south side of the river almost opposite the mouth of Campbell’s creek, where they lived until 1799. After Boone left for Missouri, his son, Jesse Boone, lived in it until 1816. Daniel Boone spent most of his time, while living in this vicinity, at surveying. His party was composed of George Arnold, Edmund Price, Thomas Upton and Andrew Hatfield. In 1795 they ran two surveys of one hundred thousand acres each from the site of Madison, the county seat of Boone County, to the Kentucky line. In 1791 he made the report of the survey accompanying this story, the original of which is still preserved in the department of archives and history in the capitol annex. Boone’s last survey, before leaving the Kanawha valley, was made on September 8, 1798 with Daniel Boone, Jr., as marker and Mathias Van Bibber as chainman. Shortly after the county of Kanawha was formed by the legislature of Virginia, Boone was elected in 1789 as lieutenant-colonel of the Kanawha militia and made numerous reports through Colonel George Clendennin to the governor of Virginia. The next year he was elected to succeed Andrew Donnally as the county’s delegate to the Virginia legislature. He shouldered his pack, took his gun, and made the entire trip to Richmond and return on foot. Boone served in the legislature with George Clendennin, the founder of Charleston. 

• September 9, 1803 — Meriwether Lewis departed from Wheeling on the first leg of the Corps of Discovery’s expedition to explore western lands purchased from France. This special unit of the Army formed the base of the Lewis and Clark expedition that travelled along the Louisiana Purchase for a total of 3,700 miles from the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean. President Thomas Jefferson commissioned the party in 1803 to map the land and to study the area’s plants, animal life, and geography, and to learn how the Louisiana Purchase could be exploited economically. Upon arriving in the town of Wheeling, a common point of departure along the Ohio River at the time. Lewis and company arrived in Wheeling on Sept. 7 in order to give the crew some rest and to take on cargo that was shipped over the Braddock Road from Pittsburg. Thomas Rodney, one of the men traveling with the expedition described Wheeling as, “This little town is the Court of Ohio County in Virginia. The town appears to contain about a hundred houses, some pretty good-framed houses, and a few of brick chiefly in one street and about half a mile long. It stands on the bank of the Ohio above Wheeling Creek and under a lofty hill or mountain. There is two or three boat yards here for building river boats and a number of taverns and mercantile shops and a variety of mechanics.” On the morning of the 8th, Lewis was compelled to purchase another canoe in order to transport the extra baggage from Pittsburg and to be able to navigate the more shallow areas of the Ohio. The party then awaited the arrival of a doctor for the party, unfortunately, the doctor was delayed and Lewis and company set out that evening under a heavy downpour.

• September 10, 1861 — The Battle of Carnifex Ferry was fought. In the opening days of the Civil War, the Battle of Carifex Ferry may be said to have had a profound influence upon subsequent political and military history in West Virginia. The little town of Summersville, resting on the old Weston and Gauley Turnpike, was then, as now, the county capital of Nicholas County. This ferry operated eight miles southwest of Summersville. Together with Hughes and Brock’s ferry, it was, for many miles, practically the only crossing along this rugged stream, which in its lower reaches plunges down from 1,558 feet at Hughes ferry to 677 feet at Gauley Bridge. At the time of the Civil War it was 370 feet in width, and was crossed by means of two flatboats. On August 12, 1861, General John B. Floyd, former Secretary of War, rode into Lewisburg with troops raised largely in southwestern Virginia, called “Floyd’s Brigade.” He issued “General Order No. 12,” and assumed command of the Army of the Kanawha. He then outranked General Wise, the former commander. Wise urged Floyd to hold Carnifex Ferry by all means, but to be sure to stay on the south bank of the river, where he could hold the place with “250 men.” Floyd ignored the suggestion and proceeded across the bank of the Gauley losing four men and a ferry boat. However, his position untenable and forces coming in from Charleson, and on the recommendation of General Robert E. Lee he recrossed the river to hold Carnifex Ferry. Again ignoring the advise of Wise, he began to fortify the plateau on the north bank with a parapet battery some 350 feet long flanked by breastworks and trench.

According to Colonel A. W. Reynolds, of the Fiftieth Infantry, “On the morning of the 10th, in obedience to orders from Brigadier General Floyd, I moved my regiment from our temporary camp, which was about one mile in advance of the main camp at Gauley, and took post in the center of the line of log breastworks, and on the left of the earthworks and the battery of four guns. The regiment formed in line behind the breastworks at 2:30 P.M. Within a few minutes after I was informed of the rapid approach of the enemy. At 3:00 P.M. a heavy column moved forward to attack us, which was gallantly repulsed by the right wing after a sharp exchange of fire lasting about twenty-five minutes, the enemy then taking shelter behind some houses and haystacks beyond the range of our fire, and from which position they continued to fire on us with the Enfield rifles. At 3:30 P.M. the enemy, having placed their artillery in position, opened upon my line a terrific fire of shells, grape, shrapnel, round shot. and with a rifle cannon, which was continued with little intermission until 5 P.M. At about 5 P.M. a heavy column (supposed to be an entire brigade) advanced to assault our center. Our fire was reserved until the enemy approached to within one hundred yards, when a well- directed fire from our whole line checked their advance. After a contest of forty-five minutes the enemy (notwithstanding the efforts of the officers to rally them) broke and ran. About 6:00 P.M. a third attempt was made to force our center, which met with the same result as the preceding, our regiment awaiting the approach coolly and routing them completely. In the early part of the battle the fire of the enemy’s artillery was high. They attempted to enfilade my line, which they failed to do in consequence of their guns being disabled, by the fire from the battery in the earthwork. At 7:10 the firing ceased and the enemy retired from the field. “

In the night Floyd reconsidered his expressed view of holding “Camp Gauley.” He complained bitterly over the failure of the Fourteenth North Carolina and Third and Thirteenth Georgia regiments to arrive, and decided not to wait for any help from Wise. His retreat was really remarkable. The artillery was moved down to the ferry, a distance of more than a mile, over the most wretched of roads, cliffs on all sides, and in darkness. Pine flares spread a feeble light here and there; commands became separated; horses slipped and fell on the rocks. A log pontoon bridge had previously been constructed, about four feet wide, and across this part of his troops were moved. One gun and a caisson fell into the river. 

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