“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Petroleum in Wood County, West Virginia — The American South (Appalachia)

Thornhill Mansion

Thornhill Mansion Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By J. J. Prats, April 10, 2021
1. Thornhill Mansion Marker
William Cooper Stiles, Jr. July 27, 1939 – December 17, 1896.
William Cooper Stiles, Jr., born in Philadelphia on July 27, 1839, was one of the earliest operators in the West Virginia and Ohio oil fields.

In 1863 Mr. Stiles invested a considerable sum of money to drill test wells near Fifteen Mile Creek in Ohio, but found no oil, and returned to Philadelphia a wiser and poorer man. Not to be deterred, Mr. Stiles traveled to the White Oak region of WV in 1864 where he purchased several thousand acres and began drilling.

After an ominous start, Mr. Stiles made a major strike and later revolutionized the oil industry through the introduction of the endless cable pumping system—an application conceived from the cable system powering streetcars in Philadelphia.

Mr. Stiles built the Volcanic Oil and Coal Company into a major force in the local oil industry. In 1866 at a cost of $160,000, he was the driving force in the building of the Laurel Fork and Sand Hill Railroad, a standard gauge rail system for transporting oil to refineries in Parkersburg.

For his major contributions to Volcano,
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Mr. Stiles was known as the “father of Volcano.” He also served as a county commissioner from 1881 to 1885.

W. C. Stiles, Jr., died at his beloved Thornhill on December 17, 1896. After his death, in 1896 Robert and Samuel, his sons, assumed operation of the entire estate and split their time between Volcano and Parkersburg.

Ella Magill Stiles, July 7, 1839 – March 8, 1875.
Ella Magill married William Cooper Stiles, Jr., on September 4, 1861 in Philadelphia, PA just a few months after the start of the Civil War. Mrs. Stiles died unexpectedly in March of 1875 at Thornhill after living there for less than a year. She died of hydrothorax, a buildup of fluid around the lungs. Mrs. Styles was buried at Laurel Hill Cemetery in Philadelphia, PA. Ella gave William six children with four living to adulthood.

Edward Magill — September 6, 1862 — December 12, 1865
Robert Gratz — August 20, 1863 – February 10, 1926
Charlotte McKaraher — December 30, 1864 – July 27, 1879
Ella Virginia — May 2, 1967 – September 14, 1937
Albert Magill — November 28, 1870 – September 18, 1938
Samuel Brown — April 7, 1873 – Ausust 27, 1953.

Thornhill Agricultural Production for 1879.
Acreage. Tilled acres includding fallow & grass in rotation: 66 • Permanent meadow, pasture, orchard or vineyard: 20 • Wooded & forest:
Thornhill Mansion Sign, right image. Click for full size.
Photographed By J. J. Prats, April 10, 2021
2. Thornhill Mansion Sign, right
Value. Farm, including land, fence & buildings: $25,000 • Implements & machinery: $1,000 • Livestock: $2,500 • Cost of building & repairing fences in 1979: $100 • Cost of fertilizer purchased in 1979: $200 • Amount paid for labor in 1879 to include boarding: $3,600 • Estimated value of farm production in 1879: $4,000
Grasslands. Mown acres in 1979: 20 • Not mown acres in 1879: 30 • Hay: 20
Animals. Horses: 10 • Working oxen: 2 • Milk cows: 8 • Calves dropped: 7 • Cows purchased: 100; Cows slaughtered: 100.
Miscellaneous. Butter made on the farm in 1879: 600 • Sheep and lambs on hand: 250 • Lambs dropped: 32 • Lambs purchased: 50 • Sold living: 1 • Slaughtered: 50 • Killed by Dogs: 1 • Died from disease: 2 • Sheep clipped spring of 1880: 1,000 • Swine: 12

(A 1941 article by Richard Sutter in the Parkersburg News titled “Mosses on the Old Manse at Volcano” is reprinted on the left side of this sign. See photograph No. 3)
Erected by Anne Stiles Sinskey, great granddaughter of W. C. Stiles, Jr., and the Friends of Mountwood Park.
Topics. This historical marker is listed in this topic list: Industry & Commerce. A significant historical year for this entry is 1875.
Location. 39° 14.595′ N, 81° 18.082′ W. Marker is in
“Mosses on the Old Manse at Volcano” image. Click for full size.
3. “Mosses on the Old Manse at Volcano”
This 1941 article from the Parkersburg News by Richard Sutter is reprinted on the left side of the sign. It is a tour and contemplation of the ruined mansion.
Petroleum, West Virginia, in Wood County. Marker is on Volcano Road (County Route 5) near the east end of the boat dock parking lot. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 34 Co Rte 5, Walker WV 26180, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 8 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. Endless Cable System (about 400 feet away, measured in a direct line); Early Oil Wells (about 500 feet away); William Cooper Stiles, Jr. (approx. ¼ mile away); Walker Creek Recreation Impoundment (approx. half a mile away); U.S.S. Cisco Memorial (approx. half a mile away); Volcano, West Virginia (approx. one mile away); Camp Kootaga (approx. 7.4 miles away); Dunmore’s Camp (approx. 7.6 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Petroleum.
More about this marker. The sign has four photographs of Thornhill Mansion dated 1875, 1910, 1930, and its ruin in 1950.
Regarding Thornhill Mansion. The ruins have completely collapsed and are no longer visible. A hiking path takes you to the site of the mansion.
Also see . . .  History of Volcano WV. This web page includes numerous photographs of the town of Vocano before it burned down in 1879. Excerpt:
... The fire originated in the Thompson and Barnes dry goods and grocery store, in the basement. From there it went to Graham and Smith’s store, then across the street to Wade Farrow’s residence and the Nicholis hotel, then to the Walking Beam printing office. By this time the fire had gotten such head way as to make it impossible to try stopping it, and
W. C. Stiles and Ella Magill Stiles image. Click for full size.
Close up of portraits reproduced on marker
4. W. C. Stiles and Ella Magill Stiles
on it went, It went taking both sides of the street (jay-walking) making a clean sweep of everything until it reached the Silcott’s hotel. where there was a break in the buildings of about 50 feet and by the hardest work the fire was checked on· the upper end of the street.

On the hill above the town Warner and Co.’s derrick was cut down to stop the fire going up the hill and getting into several tanks of oil. on the opposite hill one of Whitman’s derricks was cut down to save the oil houses on Marietta run. A crowd off faithful workers stay ed at O’Brien’s machine shop, saving it and the whole upper portion of the town. Along the railroad it swept everything from the Volcanic engine house on down to Mr. Stiles’ old store house and the upper pumping station of the Transportation Co. ...
(Submitted on May 23, 2021.) 
Thornhill Mansion, 1975 image. Click for full size.
Photograph by Mike Naylor via, 1875
5. Thornhill Mansion, 1975
This is one of the photographs reproduced on this sign.
Credits. This page was last revised on May 23, 2021. It was originally submitted on May 23, 2021, by J. J. Prats of Powell, Ohio. This page has been viewed 436 times since then and 187 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4, 5. submitted on May 23, 2021, by J. J. Prats of Powell, Ohio.

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Sep. 30, 2023