VOLCANO - A new committee hopes to highlight the rich history of Mountwood Park, located on the site of the once-thriving town of Volcano.
The Friends of Mountwood, a volunteer group, recently formed the history committee, a small group that wants to play up the historical aspects of the park, such as the oil town of Volcano and Thornhill mansion.
"I think the historical elements of Mountwood Park have been very much overlooked," said Mike Naylor, chairman of the history committee. "The town of Volcano was the basis for building the park. We're hoping to play a bigger role in the Volcano Days Festival held every September."
W.C. Stiles Jr. built Thornhill mansion for his family in 1874. The ruins of the structure are a short hike from the center of Mountwood Park.
Volcano, located about 20 miles east of Parkersburg, was a thriving oil town in the 1860s. The town introduced the first standard gauge railroad built within the state and was the first oil field to employ the "endless cable pumping system," which allowed one engine to power multiple oil sites.
Many people flocked to the town in search of oil, and Volcano quickly reached a population of nearly 10,000 by the late 1870s.
W.C. Stiles, the inventor of the endless cable pump system, built Thornhill mansion in 1874. The 25-room house overlooked the town of Volcano and was surrounded by a wine cellar, barn, stables and tennis court.
"Thornhill was the first residence in Wood County to have a bathtub," said Naylor. "All that remains of the estate is the stone foundation and the ruins of the barn, wine cellar and caretaker's home. They are just a short hike from inside the park."
A fire in 1879 burned the majority of Volcano, leading to its demise.
"The town was destroyed by fire," said Naylor. "The original town is gone, but a few outlying buildings remain."
The history committee plans to spruce up the mansion site and clean the stone steps leading to the house from Volcano Road. Eventually, Naylor would like to erect signs in front of the ruins.
During the Volcano Days Festival, Naylor said the group plans to focus on more historical elements of the town, such as the demonstration of arts and crafts pursued during the post-Civil War era.
"We really want to show people what it was like to live back then, during the turn of the century," he said.
The group hopes to resurrect The Battle For Volcano, a Civil War reenactment held in 2008 and 2009 inside the park.
"There is a panoramic view of the battle unfolding. The park is so open a wonderful place for a cavalry charge. It takes a lot of work, but it's well worth the effort."
The committee would like to bring the local history of Volcano to public schools through field trips and presentations.
"We are looking for good ideas on how we can expand the history of such an amazing place," he said. "Hopefully, we can conjure up enough imagination to do things that are relatively inexpensive."
The committee invites volunteers to help clean the Thornhill mansion site Monday at 9 a.m.