Natural Gas: Wheeling, WV — As Others See Us, 1886
- from The Wheeling Daily Intelligencer, September 14, 1886
AS OTHERS SEE US
WHEELING ON THE BOUND
Her Great Natural Advantages. What the New Fuel is going to do for Her — Present Manufacturing Importance and the Reasonable Certainty of the Future.
"Cold Short" in The Age of Steel.
Wheeling is going to have natural gas certain sure — abandoned holes are being reopened and the bowels of the earth are to be prodded indefinitely until she gives forth the coveted fuel. The opinion gains ground that it exists anywhere in the proximity of small streams, in valleys of sudden and sharp declivities in these mountainous regions if one drills deep enough after it; the belief is also being strengthened that there is very little known about it, and that its area is but vaguely defined. Meantime investments are being made with the nearly certain experience to be reaped, as that quaintly expressed by the rustic, "that he had invested $5,000 in one of the blamed holes, and he had the hole yet." Pittsburgh is squirming under prospective competition in the advantages derived from the possession of the great element, and they are preparing to do less blustering. With the advent of natural gas Wheeling will be on equal footing with Pittsburg, so far as facilities are concerned, and her people should prove equal to the opportunity. They have the grit, mental, physical and financial.
Pittsburgh and Wheeling are sisters in commercial possibilities and Probabilities; a consonance of ways and means, and their proximity will prevent hostile rivalry; the more powerful and advanced sister has nothing but words and actions of encouragement and good cheer for the smaller and weaker one. In coke Wheeling is likely to have a very great advantage, discounting the Connelsville coke merits, which have been so advantageous to Pittsburgh.
Wheeling is preparing to utilize natural gas fuel; the formation of companies with plethoric capital, and their struggles to gain advantages, are already in progress. Wheeling, not being so puissant, either in fact or presumption, as Pittsburgh, ought to present more than ordinary favorable inducements to those seeking locations, with the view of participating in the advantages derivable from this fuel and reaping some of the profits. Available sites in the neighborhood abound; the situations, with regard to facilities for transportation, are equal to those of any sister city, both by river and rail; taxation is very moderate. The city debt is a mere bagatelle in a population approximating 40,000 - about $629,236; her credit is good; the country proximate as productive as any in the land; living is cheap with a splendid market; the people are genial, courteous and clever; the women are proverbially graceful and beautiful, and the business men are enterprising, honest and affable, and, as I remarked in my last letter, rather conservative, but natural gas is a great modernizer. The climate is equable, neither of the extremes of heat or cold prevail, and the death rate is among the lowest in the country. As an iron and steel and glass producing centre it is inferior to Pittsburgh in diversity and number only; in several specialties it has forged ahead. Wheeling has one of the two largest steel and iron concerns in the Ohio Valley, the Riverside. And should the natural gas fail in supply, and coal gas fuel be the only profitable alternative, Wheeling has coal enough in her environs to supply two Pittsburghs.
Wheeling should come forward under all these advantageous factors, which are making Pittsburgh a synonym for progress; she has all but natural gas, and that she will have in the near future. Then she will have been given the five talents; what answer will she be prepared to give when called on to account for them? There has been a still hunt for months past by agents of large eastern and western establishments for available sites to which they could remove their works that they might secure the use of this natural gas. Wheeling's chance is coming. She possesses, as I have remarked before, the same geographical advantages as Pittsburgh, with this superiority; she is one hundred miles lower down the river, which in seasons of low water should give her temporary advantages. Then there need be no crowding; available sites are nearly as thick as leaves in Vallambrosa. But procrastination is an obsolete quantity in these days of progress when nature is supplying man with potent agencies ready prepared for use; when business transactions and manufacturing accomplishments and manufacturing accomplishments crowd upon each other so closely that what is theoretic or problematical to-day is developed or disproven and accepted or rejected tomorrow and part of history the day after. Hesitating, cautious old fogyism has no part in the drama now being enacted, but alert, resolute, nervy, audacious, if it better expresses it, spirits, are the select and successful actors. Wheeling cannot assume to be a rival of Pittsburgh. She will do well if she proves herself a successful and not too aspiring imitator.
In the Gogobic range, in northern Wisconsin and Michigan, there is enough high-grade Bessemer ore to furnish a supply for fifty years to come. Wheeling capital and enterprise are largely interested in the Gogobic range, and it is being rapidly developed by them with direct reference to the requirements of the Wheeling market.
The Economite community, a religious organization, which owns a very large and valuable tract of land on the Ohio river between Pittsburgh and Wheeling, and whose teachings heretofore have been decidedly averse to modern progress, have awakened to the vast possibilities of natural gas, and they are inviting manufacturers to take long leases of sites on their lands. So the idea I advanced some weeks ago that the upper Ohio Valley from Wheeling to Pittsburgh would by the exercise of enlightened progressive enterprise become one great continuous manufacturing center is materializing. Wheeling has the bit between her teeth, too; she is not going to be left. She has plenty of superb sites, the best and cheapest coal in this country, three energetic, wide-awake pipe lines, with more to come, systems of transportation the peers of any in the land, and an abundance of freshly aroused, vigorous, self-reliant enterprise and progressive spirit. Give her a little time; she has the chance, and her place, in the near future, will be among the foremost, acknowledging no equal but her more mature, stronger equipped sister, Pittsburgh.
Pittsburgh is not booming in the ordinary acceptation of the term, she is but realizing the results of well-timed and well-applied enterprise. She bids fair to double her present population and resources during the next five years; and Wheeling will prove no laggard; she had entered the lists, thrown down her gauntlet, and history has never yet had occasion to record her recreant - I have been exploiting and formulating the unequaled advantages and claims of this city, not idly or hypothetically, but because they are in material existence, just as I have been publishing them. They have only been waiting an opportunity to be developed and utilized, and that opportunity is at hand.
There is not a scintilla of difference between Pittsburgh's present and prospective advantages and those which Wheeling is developing and will have in the fruition by the first of September next.
There is a very stable foundation to build on in Wheeling; in fact there are but very few as solidly substantial cities as Wheeling. With natural gas she will make as splendid an exhibit as Pittsburgh. While it may not run so high in the figures, taking the conditions into consideration, I believe the comparison will be favorable to Wheeling. She has more room for expansion within reasonable limits if it is properly utilized, there are features connected with the condition, financial and otherwise, which should have strong weight in influencing the investment of capital and the ???tion of enterprise. So far as metropolitan improvements, advance possibilities and certainties of progress are concerned, she can seem as attractive and veracious an ex any of them. She has been backward, but there have been factors and incidents in her career which have compelled her to be cautious and to make haste slowly. She is now well rid of the restraining influences and too well by experience to be bamboozled by tricksters again. She is modest, not given to ballooning, but the stuff of honest, simon-pure grit is there, and the course henceforward will be upward and onward; all the more certain because it will be without flimsy presumption of apothetical claims to distinctively permanent advantages. There is so much and bluster given off in the present vaporings of our American cities.