Natural gas was first introduced to Clarksburg from Wetzel county in 1890. This date marks the beginning of the city’s transition from an agricultural to an industrial economy. Before the century ended, Harrison County’s oil and gas development was in full sway and a semmingly inexhaustible supply of cheap natural gas attracted industry as honey attracts flies. Glass plants were the first to come and by World War I days the number of hand window glass plants had reached eight; Adamston, Lafayette, Peerless, Liberty, Tuna, West Fork, Pittsburgh Plate, and Norwood. Three bottle plants; Hazel Atlas, (combination bottle and Press ware), Owens Eastern, and Travis, Akro agate Company, glass marbles and novelties. Clarksburg Opalesent Glass, rolled flat glass for stained windows and Eagle Convex Glass Company, processors of window glass.
Other industries attracted by cheap fuel were the Philips Sheet and Tin plate (later Weirton Steel), McNichol Pottery, makers of sanitary potery ware, National Carbon (now Union Carbide), and zinc smelting, Graselli Chemical Company at Annmore and Perlman
Corporation at North View.
The surrounding oil and gas fields brought much business to Clarksburg directly by companies locating their shops and offices there. They included the South Penn Oil Company, The Eureka Pipe Line Company, Goff Oil Company, Hope Natureal Gas Company as well as several local, independent companies. Like the oil fields, coal mining was not part of the city proper but it served the people as a main shopping center and headquarters for mining and engineering companies serving both industries.
This industrialization had an enormous effect on the city’s population growth, both in rate and complexity. Thousands of Belgian French, Spanish and Italian immigrants become workers and residents within a few short years. Skilled workers manning the window glass houses were mainly Belgian, French or of that ancestry. Italians adapted themselves to coal mining and without them, the rapid development of the fields would have been impossible. Poisonous fumes from zinc smelters completely denuded all vegetation from thousands of acres in their vicinity, which fifty years after cessation of operation has just begun to stage a comeback. But this damage has been repaid many times over by the solid contribution its Spanish workers have made to our citizenry.
Each of these nationalities brought with them and practiced for a long time, many customs of their homelands. In the fall, French familes would make barrels of wine, from grapes shipped from California, to be used as a table beverage throughout the year. On the fourteenth of July, Bastile Day would be celebrated and the neighborhood ids, who had celebrated the Fourth of July ten days earlier, had the added bonus of second holiday. Italian homes could be identified by the large, bee hive shaped, outside ovens for baking bread, sometimes used by several families in turn, and the frequent presence of milk goats for family dairy products. It was an unforgettable moment when you had the opportunity to set down to a home cooked lasagna dinner with red wind (affectionately called dago red). Spanish abodes were recognizable by the sound of Fandango music, colorful attire of the people as worn and hung out in the sun and the almost constant air of festivity. The simplest event was an occasion for celebration. Strumming guitars accompanied singing, dancing, and laughter were commonplace and likely to occur at any time around the clock. The men of all these nationalities were superb gardeners and the women excellent cooks. Affording the inquisitive gourmet a with choice of cuisine.
Among the first merchants within the city’s environs were the names of Adler, Davidson, and Nusbaum, proving that from the ealiest days was benefited through Jewis wisdom and enterprise. Years passed and the list of names grew; Caplan, Evnitz, Perlman, Burka, and many others. Never overwhelming but always a leavening, stabilizing influence on the ocmmunity’s growth. Only cities of far larger population could boast the cosmopolitan character of Clarks burg and because of their size they were denied the rewarding experience of Clarksburgers through more intimate association of the various groups.
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