From the Moundsville Echo, Weekly Edition, February 5, 1909
Submitted by Joseph D. Parriott.
Just fifty nine years ago this month Moundsville had for a part of a day as her guest a president-elect of the United States, under remarkable circumstances.
The story of the visit of General Zachary Taylor, for he it was to whom reference is made, is one of those bits of history preserved by the patriarchal fathers of the community.
Much of this history is, and much more will be lost through neglect on the part of these old men to tell it and on the part of others to gather up and preserve it and oft-times it is by the merest accident that the thread of the story is uncovered and followed to its end.
And this is the case in the story of the visit of General Taylor.
An Echo reporter was walking down Jefferson avenue a few days ago in the company with Dr. Thomas and when opposite the store of G. S. Snodgrass some one remarked that it had been a hotel for a long time.
"Yes," said Dr. Thomas, "that was a hotel for seventy-five years and General Taylor took dinner there at one time."
The pursuit of more information was taken up, but the doctor knew no more but said: "See Captain Israel, he can tell you all about it."
Captain Jacob Israel was accordingly spoken to on the subject and said promptly that he knew all about the affair amd that he had hauled the general in his sleigh from Captina to this place. The story is a good one.
General Taylor accompanied Bailey Payton and his niece and Dr. McCormick and his niece were on board a steamboat enroute from his southern home to Washington. Their way was to Wheeling and from there by stage by way of Cumberland to the capital, but the river was full of ice and the boat, the name which was forgotten by Captain Israel, could go no further and was soon tightly locked in a field of ice, which, while strong enough to stop the boats progress was still too dangerously thin to make walking over it safe.
In Wheeling all was in readinesss for a big reception to the General, but when the condition of the river was seen it was soon pretty generally thought that the boat would be frozen up. The same idea prevailed here and the Captain hitched his two fine horses to his big double seated sleigh and was soon enroute for Captina.
Arriving there he found his surmises correct and communiction was established with the boat and General Taylor requested that he be taken off. How this was to be done was a question but Israel was resourceful and fastening several planks together he pushed them over the ice to the boat.
When he approached and told the General his name he was at once recognized him for Israel has spent some time in the south directly across the river from the Taylor plantation and had become acquainted with the General at that time.
After a hearty greeting the distinguished party gingerly boarded the ice raft and Captain Israel pushed it across the frozen surface of the river to the shore and soon had his fares aboard the sleigh and started for this city at a clipping pace.
Along the way was a school house and when the presidential party came past the boys and girls were out to catch a glimpse of them and they sent up a hearty cheer. A number of boys gave chase to the sleigh but soon all dropped behind but one little chap and he ran after the party, for a full half mile.
Some one espied the lad coming full tilt after the sleigh and the president-elect ordered the driver stop. The panting boy came up and was kindly asked what he wanted.
"I want to see General Taylor," was the reply.
"I am General Taylor," remarked the soldier-president;, as he gave the boy a hearty shake of the hand. "Now hurry back to school." The boy, his eyes sparkling with pride started back and the sleigh proceeded on its way.
The boy was Bernard Duffy, for many years a resident of Bowman's ridge and well known all over this section.
Arriving here the party stopped at the Latrobe House then conducted by Garrison Jones and now occupied by the Seamon cigar factory. After a sumptuous dinner, to which all done justice, the party was ready to proceed when a funny incident occurred. Captain Israel was ready with his team, when who should drive up but George Wickham, of Wheeling in a fine sleigh drawn by four fine horses. He was chairman of the reception committee and had made haste to meet his guest but was too late.
Not to be beaten, he approached Israel and asked what he would take for the rental of his team. "One hunded dollars" was the reply.
"I'll give you $87.50" was the answer and it was accepted and the distinguished party boarded Wickham's sleigh and were whirled off to Wheeling where they were given a reception befitting the dignity of a president-elect.
But the captain made his mistake. General Taylor had engaged him to take them to Wheeling and he would have gone on had not Israel allowed himself to be dazzled by the big offer of Wickham.
More than likely, the captain would have taken the president on to the capital and he would have fared well had he done so, but he only laughs at the telling of the story.
As he was relating this incident Samuel Riggs, another Marshall county octogenarian dropped in as is his wont and was soon an interested listener to the conversation. He laughingly remarked at its conclusion:
"Yes, I remember the occasion well. I was a boy in the country then and when I heard the news I got on my horse and rode to town but I was too late, for General Taylor had gone."
Thus is another chapter of the history of Moundsville snatched from the fast passing old timers and reserved for the generations yet to come.