Blood is Thicker Than Water
Sistersville was founded in 1802 by the Wells family – a family who floated down the mighty Ohio River from Wellsburg. They were out-of-towners, newbies, what have you – the point is they weren’t from around here and yet they settled here, made this area their home and brought new blood and new ideas.
In 1891, the first oil well of the once-great Sistersville oil field was drilled. Although the Pole Cat well pumped water for the first year, when drillers finally hit pay dirt, the oil brought an influx of oil men, leasers, speculators, followers, floaters, wild-catters and hangers-on. Sistersville quickly went from a rural village of 300 people to a rip-roaring metropolis 15,000 strong almost overnight. Again, new blood and new ideas poured into the area.
Imagine, if you can, the entire countryside covered with 2,500 oil derricks. Trees were cut down for wood and houses were torn down to make room for more derricks. At the same time, shacks and tents were thrown up to help house the citizens. In the days of the great oil boom, fields and orchards were filled with people living under trees with the barest of coverings against the elements. Houseboats lined the riverbanks on both sides of the river for more than a mile. They were moored so closely together that one could travel from one end to the other without going ashore. Can you see it?
Because there was conspicuously little in the way of proper temporary housing for the “genteel” and important guests of the town in those days, another member of the founding family, Ephraim Wells, came to the town’s rescue with a marvelous hotel in 1895. With the opening of the Wells Inn, Sistersville became not only a boomtown but a place of importance on the social circuit. Once again an out-of-towner saved the day.
In more recent history, another savior came to town in the form of Walker Boyd. He bought property, used his own money to renovate and restore several buildings in town, but more importantly, he and his wife made Sistersville their home. But in the end, few people showed appreciation for his hard work and he moved on.
At what point do you become a part of the Sistersville community? At what cost are you accepted into the inner sanctum of society? Since Sistersville General Hospital no longer delivers babies, is the new generation now approaching adulthood held hostage to a technicality? As a result, no one is “born” and raised in Sistersville anymore. We are all outsiders.
Throughout Sistersville’s history people have moved here and staked their name and reputation on the town. They have given their all to revive and preserve the history that literally seeps from its pores. Though the oil may be long gone and only one derrick remains from the early days of the oil era, the memories and historical relevance remain in tact.
Don’t be too quick to judge an out-of-towner who wants to breathe new life into our tired town. His or her ideas may be what we need to come back from the dead.