Tunnel Made Boggs Run's History

By Harry Dean, Wheeling News-Register - *Circa 1948.

Submitted by Phyllis Dye Slater.

John N. Schmid & grandson, Freddy Hawk

     The shortest distance between two points is a straight line. This axiom is a proven fact, according to Boggs Run residents who, for the past 75 years, have been walking straight through Benwood hill instead of over it.
     Few people outside of the Boggs Run and Benwood districts know about the old tunnel which runs through Benwood hill from Fourth street, Benwood, to the old Koch residence two miles up Boggs Run. This tunnel, for three-quarters century, has daily served residents by providing them with a short cut to work and to street car transportation.
     Without the man-made passage Boggs Run residents would witness a transportation problem which during the course of many years may have discouraged many persons from buliding homes in the community. The tunnel actually saves a walk of two miles by road to the nearest means of transportation, or a muddy trek over the steep Benwood hill.
     The tunnel is not a natural earth formation but was drilled by the old Frank Hern Riverside Iron Works to obtain limestone which is used in the process of smelting iron. The tunnel is 200 yards through the base of the hill and the passageway is approximately 12 feet wide. Through the efforts of civic leaders, electric lights and a concrete wall are now installed through the passage for the safety and convenience of the many users.
     In 1916 donations were made by residents and the tunnel was repaired with additional braces and concrete walls were erected over the entrances to three large rooms which branched out from the main passageway. Within the next few months additional repairs will be needed due to the decayed condition of several wooden braces.
     The first known person to put the tunnel to practical use was Henry Koehler, life long Boggs Run resident, who over 75 years ago explored the limestone mine and found he could cut off 20 minutes time in his walk to work at a Benwood Iron plant. From that time Boggs Run residents have been using the tunnel daily as the main route of travel from the community to Benwood.
     Boggs Run old timers like Charles Koehler and John Schmid have a favorite story about the old tunnel. They tell about the old days when a barrel of beer could be sufficiently chilled on the warmest day of summer by placing it in one of the rooms in the limestone mine. After a short time, the torches glowing, a party would be in full swing.
     With the installation of electric lights and a concrete walk, the tunnel has been brought up to date in all details. Years ago, however, the passage was a place for the scare of your life. Without the aid of electric lights and the use of a narrow plank walk it was a common occurrence to hear a muffled scream deep in the passage which in most cases was caused from a hurrying pedestrian colliding with another in the middle of the dark gloomy passageway.
     By the estimate of old time Boggs Run residents the tunnel has been used daily by at least three hundred persons and by its use time and shoe leather saved are beyond calculation.
     By the use of one little tunnel through a hill it can be stated that the early progress of Boggs Run was measured.

*NOTE: The little boy in the picture, Freddy Hawk, appears to be about 4 or 5 years old when this photo was taken. He was from a family I knew on Boggs Run and Freddy was about 5 years older than I. I was born in 1948, so I think this story and photo can be dated to about that year, 1948.... Linda Cunningham Fluharty.

Progress Dooms Old Boggs Run Tunnel
New Highway Will Force Sealing

By Jim Cochran
Wheeling News- Register, April 16, 1966

Submitted by Tom Welsh

BENWOOD - Another of the city landmarks will soon give way to progress.
     The Boggs Run Tunnel which has served to connect the Boggs Run area with State Route 2 - near Fourth Street - will be sealed up within the next few weeks. Relocated State Route 2 will come within a few feet of the west entrance of the tunnel, thus forcing the abandonment of the tunnel.
     The tunnel wasn't constructed for pedestrian traffic, but after it ceased to serve the original purpose of existence it became a "short-cut" for foot travelers.
     Although the present "old-timers" cannot remember when the tunnel was built, they were told that its main purpose was to secure limestone for the Riverside plant of the National Tube Company.
     Before the automobile became the chief mode of transportation the tunnel was used by residents of the Boggs Run area to reach their places of employment , schools, churches and public transportation.
     The tunnel at one time had lights, the first ones placed there by the old Wheeling Traction Company. After these were damaged by Halloween pranksters, the Wheeling Steel Company installed better lights and also maintained them.
     In addition to the main passage way, which covers a distance of some 350 feet, there are a number of small rooms along both sides of the tunnel where the limestone was secured.
     Repairs have been made throughout recent years by the Boggs Run Improvement Association. Included have been a concrete walkway and the bracing of one of the entrances.
     Funds for the upkeep of the tunnel were the result of donations from the residents of the area.
     In recent years the flow of "traffic" through the tunnel has decreased, but some individuals who do not have automobiles still use the tunnel.
     One of the residents who hates to see the tunnel sealed up is Fred Koch, who used the tunnel daily for 48 years to reach his employment at the Benwood works for the Wheeling Steel plant.
     Koch, who retired last year, still walks through the tunnel once a week when he goes to Center Benwood.
     Koch, 66, pointed out that using the tunnel he could walk from his house to his place of employment in 13 minutes. However, traveling by the way of Boggs Run Road and State Route 2 it was a 45 minute walk.
     During the past years talk of converting the tunnel into an air shelter failed to materialize.
     Residents of the area have fought to maintain the tunnel throughout the years, and at different times census takers were stationed at the tunnel entrance to count the number of persons using the tunnel.
     The Boggs Run Improvement Association has a deed to the tunnel which was given to the organization. This deed covers the main passage way and five feet along the wall leading into both entrances. The deed now in the keeping of Louie Raymond a trustee of the improvement Association, will soon become just a useless piece of paper when the tunnel is sealed.

NOTE: Two pictures accompanied the article. One showed Fred Koch standing at the entrance of the tunnel. The other was shot from one entrance of the tunnel, allowing the reader to see the "light at the end of the tunnel."