HOPE MEN 2013- Front (L to R) Mitch Nicholas, Okey Stalnaker,
Eli Tingler; Second Row (L to R) Bill McHenry, Cleston
Nicholas, Jim Bell, Jim McCormick, Charles Nicholas; Third
Row (L to R) Lonnie Garvin, Jim Furr, Bill Gherke, Jim Sullivan
The "old" Hope men and family members attended the annual fish fry at Calhoun Park Thursday evening, an event promoted for years by retiree Jim Bell.
At one time there were lots of "Hope men" in Calhoun and the region.
During the fish fry, those attending recalled stories of Calhoun's gas history.
Hope man Cleston Nicholas, 87, was the oldest attending, having worked for the company for 42 years
Calhoun's oil and gas history is well-connected with the Hope operation.
In 1898 John D. Rockefeller's Standard Oil of New Jersey formed the Hope Natural Gas Company, the predecessor of CNG Transmission Corporation and Dominion.
The natural gas industry In West Virginia traces its history back to 1770, when George Washington visited the area and took title to 250 acres surrounding a burning gas and oil spring near Malden.
In the book "Where It All Began," David McKain and Bernard Allen write that almost simultaneous with Washington's discovery, a wilderness scout discovered a similar spring just east of Parkersburg on the Little Kanawha River, long before the discovery at Burning Springs.
In 1806, the Ruffner brothers discovered oil and gas when they were drilling for salt in the Great Kanawha River valley near Washington's site and William Tompkins began producing natural gas at his salt works near Charleston in 1841.
By 1860 came the oil and gas boom at Burning Springs in Wirt County. John D. Rockefeller's Standard Oil began buying oil and gas interests in West Virginia in 1875 and eventually had an industry monopoly.
In 1898, five men affiliated with Rockefeller's Standard Oil formed Hope Natural Gas.
Hope Gas became Calhoun's largest employer during the 1900s. Many young men yearned to "get on steady with the Hope."
While the local booms have faded into history, lingering deep under the earth is what many consider to be a priceless new field of gas, to eventually be tapped by deep well drilling.
Hope's history says, "It's been stated that one of those present remarked, 'Now that we have made a lot of hopeful plans, hoping to acquire great volumes of gas and a growing market and hoping the company will be a success, let's name it the Hope Natural Gas Company.' "
Standard Oil divested its holdings with Hope in 1943.
The gas companies were combined into Consolidated Natural Gas Co. based in Pittsburgh and later sold to Dominion Resources in Richmond, Virginia.