In 1899, natural gas service was introduced in Huntington - then a bustling town of 10,000 - by the Triple State Natural Gas Co. In his "Huntington Through Seventy-Five Years," local historian George S. Wallace writes that as a promotional stunt a huge flare was lighted high on top of the company's building. Apparently the flare was an awesome sight, visible for miles.
"At first," says Wallace, "some citizens were rather hesitant about using the new fuel - thinking it might be dangerous." But demand for natural gas grew quickly. In 1905, the Triple State Natural Gas Co. was acquired by the United States Natural Gas Co. In 1909, the company was taken over by the United Fuel Gas Co., which originally had been organized to supply West Virginia gas to out-of-state customers.
The following year, 1910, United Fuel was the talk of the town when it acquired what was said to be the first motor truck in Huntington.
After electricity replaced natural gas for lighting, United Fuel continued to supply gas to Huntingtonians to heat and cook with. The company's Huntington operations were headquartered in a two-story building it built on the corner of 6th Avenue and 12th Street.
In 1959, W.M. Reeser, then United Fuel's district manager in Huntington, said the district had 200 employees and an annual payroll of more than $940,000. It operated compressor stations in Ceredo and Kenova and a propane plant at Kenova capable of furnishing an extra supply of gas in severe winter weather.
United Fuel operations in West Virginia were part of a regional corporate entity known as Columbia Gas. In 1973, the company restructured itself with all its subsidiaries taking the Columbia name. In 1983, Columbia's retail operations were sold to become Mountaineer Gas Co. Today, Mountaineer Gas operates a Huntington office on the same corner where United Fuel's Huntington office once stood.
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"Lost Huntington: Volume 1" is a hardcover, full-color book of some of the city's lost landmarks. The book is likely to be of interest to anyone who enjoys history and loves Huntington.
Books are $29.95 plus tax, shipping and handling. To order, visit media.herald-dispatch.com/ecom/ or call 304-526-2720.