Submitted by Barbara Johnson.

 

 

WEST WHEELING,

 AN ACCOUNT BY W. F. FORTNEY, ABT 1938

 

 

The village of West Wheeling must not be overlooked, for the site of the original West Wheeling can boast truthfully and authentically of a history antedating the viewing of the land upon which was built Fort Henry.

 

From prehistoric times a trail formed by Indian braves had been down what became known as Caldwell's Run, across the river and up what we know as the Thomas road, just south of Whiskey run, on the Ohio side, striking on over High Ridge and being joined by a later laid out route by the pioneer Zane.

 

Fifty three years ago I accompanied by my grandfather followed this older trail, which left the present road near the Thomas homestead, veered to the right and struck the road again at the top of the hill. Near this road were the remains of a log cabin where my grandfather, Joseph F. Tuttle had spent much of his earlier life.

 

How can we claim the distinction of being a little closer to an almost forgotten past for West Wheeling above that of our neighboring cities of Bridgeport, Martins Ferry, Bellaire or Wheeling? For this definite, and logical reason: The river at this point, being much narrower, caused by the "bars" formed by the two creeks, or runs, on opposite sides of the river and the current less than on either side of the Island, it made it safer for raft and canoe transportation and easier for the swimming of horses across the river.  Being densely wooded in earlier days, this location made an ideal camping place for the Shawnee, Seneca, Mingo and Wyandot Indians was the first settlement of West Wheeling.

 

Probably the Mertz (orginally the Cilles and where H. C. Cilles, Bridgeport business man was born), a two story brick which was destroyed by encroachment of the river and the old stone school house where among the first houses built and the Wise and Coss homesteads are the remains of a very early settlement. 

 

Across the road from the Coss home was scattered stones a reminder of past days. It was here that began the courtship of Elijah James Stone, who at that time was the teacher and Elizabeth Thomas, a direct descendant of Betty Zane.

 

It is probable that under the sycamore and maple trees that stood, even in the author's memory, about the mouth of Whiskey run and along the river bank, is the place referred to By Rev J. B. Finley (1854)  in his book about West Wheeling Circuit, is the place when he says "We held many camp meetings and between times met at homes of members of the society."

 

In 1787, at the first sale of land by the Unites States government, Andrew Woods purchased part of sections 19, 20, 21 on the eastern boundary of Belmont County. Much of this land later became the property of T. H. Gennin. From 1800 to 1838 the town extended from Whiskey run to the southern line of the town proper as surveyed by Martin S. Todd, July 30, 1838, consisting of three rows of lots lying parallel with the river. Before this time (1838) the town supported a woolen mill, a grist mill, distillery, saw mill, public school and coal mining and a boat building were in flourishing condition.

 

The first ferry was established at Whiskey run and managed by a man named Reynolds. In 1826, after the National Road had been built, it was moved to just below the point of the Island and it came into the possession of the Woods family and at a later date it was operated by various parties as McKee, Turner, Clilles and Wolfe. During the 70s and 80s West Wheeling reached its peak and throughout the winter months it was no unusual sight to see two horse teams of coal and lime crossing the river on the ice. This was true in Jan. 1885, when the ice froze 25 inches thick on the level.

 

In 1879, West Wheeling had about 350 population. In 1884 it had about 25 houses out lying and 76 within the boundary as surveyed by Todd in 1838. Feb. 7, 1884, 18 of the 76 were entirely destroyed, with most of the household goods, by the memorable high water of that date.  New houses were built, but the coal and lime business finally failed, the paper mill burned down, several other houses were destroyed by fire.

 

The C. & P. railroad bought all the adjacent lots to the east of their right of way, taking 16 more homes.

 

The town has had several names, possible at first McKeesport, then Elizabeth Town and in 1885, it was called Poorman, in honor of Col. C. L. Poorman of Bellaire, who was instrumental in having a Postoffice established there. For the past few years it has been carrying on with the advantage of free mail delivery and gas filling stations.

 

THE WEST WHEELING M.E. CHURCH

 

The Ohio district was formed in 1787, embracing Ohio county, Virginia, Washington County, PA and taking in both sides of the Ohio River from the mouth of the Muskingham river north to Pittsburgh. In 1801 the West Wheeling Circuit was formed in which Jefferson county, Ohio was included, with Rev. Thornton Flemming, presiding elder; Benjamin Essex and James Hall, preachers. In 1812 it was divided and the Cross Creek Circuit formed.

 

Prominetly mentioned in connection with this early association are Jesse Stoneman, Thomas Haymond, Joseph Rowen, John Cullian, Father Ellis and others.

 

The church building was erected in 1845, date on the front of the church.  The church was rebuilt in 1879. The work was done by J. D. Burtoft and the brothers James and David Lee. Minister was J. Q. A. Miller, who also assisted with manual labor, others mentioned were Wm A. Dieters, M. W. Tuttle and A. E. Fortney.

 

Ministers connected with the church: McCleary, Gledhill, Miller, Paregoy, Smith, Petty, Worthington, Secrest, Jackson, Baker, Henthorne, Pierce, Homes, Bourne, Swaney, Strahl, Holtz, Wirght, Church, Sparks, Lane, Long, Kirk, Sulllivan, Morton, Danford, Woods, Johnson, Gilbert, Cooper, Keene and Cordero.