[Back to Home Page]

 

Fort Henry was located in the area of Gerrero Music In Downtown Wheeling.

Ohio County was created by an act of the Virginia General Assembly in October 1776 from parts of the District of West Augusta (Virginia). It was named in honor of the Ohio River that forms the county's western boundary. The river's name was derived from the Indian word Ohionhiio, meaning great or beautiful river.

Robert Cavelier de La Salle was probably the first European to set foot in present Ohio County. He sailed down the Ohio River in 1669. In 1749, Louis Bienville de Celeron sailed down the Ohio River and buried a lead plate in present day Ohio County claiming all of the lands drained by the Ohio River for King Louis XV of France. He met several English fur traders on his journey and ordered them off of French soil and wrote strong letters of reprimand to the colonial governors protesting the English's presence on French soil. Ohio County was created by an act of the Virginia General Assembly in October 1776 from parts of the District of West Augusta (Virginia). It was named in honor of the Ohio River that forms the county's western boundary. The river's name was derived from the Indian word Ohionhiio, meaning great or beautiful river.

The first county court meeting was held on January 16, 1777 at Black's cabin near where West Liberty currently stands. West Liberty served as the county seat from 1776 to 1797, and was legally established on the lands of Reuben Foreman and Providence Mounce on November 29, 1787.

In 1790, Ohio County had the fifth largest population (5,212) of the nine counties that were then in existence and fell within the current boundaries of West Virginia. Berkeley County had the largest population (19,713), Randolph County had the smallest population (951), and there were a total of 55,873 people living within the present state's boundaries at that time.

Wheeling, the county seat since 1797, was originally settled by Colonel Ebenezer Zane and his brothers, Jonathan and Silas, in 1769. Fort Fincastle was built in 1774 to protect the settlers from Indians. The fort was later renamed Fort Henry, in honor of Patrick Henry, and was the site of a famous battle in September 27, 1777 between approximately 400 to 500 Indians, armed and supplied by the British, and the Fort's 42 men under the command of a Colonel Shepherd.

Ohio County Today

Ohio County Just a few miles from the City Limits is coming a Amusement Park to highlight the growing HIGHLANDS shopping complex. The Theme Park called Wild Escapes will feature a 100 acre theme park to which 11 acres will be under roof for all year round fun.A 900 room hotel complex with a entertainment complex costing 200 million dollars. :

In 1996 newly elected County Commissioner, David Sims and his former college professor, Stanley L. Klos were determined to reverse the job loss fortunes of Ohio County, West Virginia due to the decline of the Steel Industry. Realizing that Interstate 70 was an exceptional county resource, they took note of Southpointe , Pennsylvania, a successful economic development project only 30 miles to their north.  Together, they envisioned a similar project near the Pennsylvania border just off Interstate 70. Commissioner David Sims enlisted the resources, support and talent of County Administrator Greg Stewart and fellow Commissioners Timothy McCormick and Randy Wharton. The Ohio County Commission with the aid of key state and federal public servants, embraced the concept and at a huge risk to their political careers started negotiations on a 1000+ acres of property that had been stripped mined and abandoned adjacent to I-70. The site had only minimal utilities to a small section of the parcel. The topography was hill and dale, as most undeveloped land is in West Virginia. The few gentle sloping properties along Interstate 70 were either developed, too small or not available leaving this real estate as the only viable option for a Southpointe concept. The commissioners optioned the property and were publicly ridiculed as the Tridell and Rayle Coal companies left behind environmental challenges that seemed insurmountable by an untrained eye.  The location was also a point of contention as access, until an exchange or new access road was built, would be a narrow winding  country road to reach the developable portions of the property. The critics scorned the Commission claiming the venture was truly a waste of taxpayer money.

Despite the critics, the Ohio County Commission invested time and capital in planning and feasibility studies. Upon the completion of the initial plans. developed in conjunction with West Virginia University, Stanley Klos suggested and subsequently arranged a planning meeting with Southpointe  Developer Rod Piatt and the Commissioners. Piatt was impressed and made some sound recommendations. The Commissioners, reinvigorated, boldly moved forward on developing conceptual grading plans for the initial acreage. Engineering studies were also undertaken to determine how much level ground could be reclaimed to create build able sites for light industrial, office, retail and residential development.  Initially the I-70 development's most challenging hurdle was to convince WV State officials to improve initial access to the site. The existing road was a country lane  dangerously curved for 2.4 miles over and around hills until it reached the property. A new road needed to be constructed just off the north end of the Dallas Pike I-70 Interchange to commence initial site development. Ohio County state and local politicians began the process of obtaining state funding to construct a new road alongside the Interstate directly to the strip mine site. The proposed County Route 41/9, however, was almost scratched when several Wheeling critics convinced the West Virginia Governor's staff that I-70 Development was a pipe dream and a wanton waste of taxpayer's money. Upon discovering the scheme to undermine the project, Sims called on Klos to intervene with the state executive office as he was a respected political ally of Governor Cecil Underwood. Stan de-briefed the Governor, his chief-of-staff and other key members of his "cabinet" in Charleston on supposedly doomed project.  Klos aptly explained the history of the plan and expertly presented the true economic potential of a new I-70 Development located just over the PA/WV state border. The project received the Governor's full backing and the road was quickly approved.  In 2000 Governor Underwood personally opened and dedicated what appeared to be a road to nowhere. The crowd was sparse, maybe 50, and it included opponents not only to the I-70 Development but to David Sims' reelection efforts as County Commissioner. Despite their protest and scheming the road opened, Sims was re-elected and Rte 41/9 enabled development to move forward on the site.

Ohio County's next move was to form the Ohio County Development Authority (OCDA) made up of 12 members of the community including the Commissioners and Greg Stewart. This new government authority would be responsible for overseeing the development of the site.   A similar body had been established 10 years early by Washington County to successfully develop Southpointe.With the new road in place OCDA created a five acre pad called �Phase IB� which now houses the Cabela's WV retail store. OCDA thought this initial move would jump start development. It did as in the fall of 2001, OCDA was approached by a mall developer who envisioned launching the site with retail users. This opportunity for retail development, although not what OCDA had hoped for,  was quickly recognized as key to open federal and state approval for a new I-70 interchange envisioned by Sims and Klos back in 1997.  The local politicians and state representatives went to work along side the County and full-court pressed the WV Congressional delegation, Governor Bob Wise and the state legislature for the Interchange. By 2002 the Interchange, subject to the developer following through with his plans, was approved. The developer defaulted failing to make the required payment on their land option seeking to restructure their agreement. The pressure was on the OCDA to renegotiate or find another developer.  Klos quickly put together a team to develop the site but the commissioners decided to sign an option with another developer out of Parkersburg, WV.  Upon expiration of that developer's option OCDA decided to move forward as the "developer" as some interest in the site had materialized from the State's economic development offices.  OCDA, through the efforts of State�s Director of Economic Development David Satterfied, approached Cabela�s in Sidney, Nebraska. Cabela�s were working on the construction of their  ninth retail store which was to be located in central Pennsylvania.  Cabela's indicated they were interested in a I-70 store and distribution center as it touched three of their most robust outfitting markets, West Virginia, Eastern Ohio and Western Pennsylvania. The story goes that "Mr. Satterfield was driving 85 miles an hour in the dark between Denver and Nebraska with Greg Stewart, doing financing deals over the phone, racing to an 8 am meeting with the CEO of Cabela�s, while on empty and no gas stations or signs of life as far as the eye can see." The gas held out and they made it to the meeting which led-up to the massive State government effort to obtain legislation that eventually secured the anchor retailer and it 1 million square foot distribution center.

Today, The Highlands is growing like a wildfire and is the largest construction project in the tri-state area.  The Highlands is a true testament to the vision and tenacity of Commissioner David Sims as well as the hard work of Greg Stewart from the project's inception. Many elected officials, public servants and dedicated citizens have worked hard to make The Highlands a reality.  It proves that highly intelligent competent people working positively together can reverse, even in a rust belt economy that required nothing short of resurrection, the fortunes of a rural County in West "By God"  Virginia.

The Ohio County Seat

The first Ohio County court meeting was held on January 16, 1777 at Black's cabin near West Liberty. West Liberty, established on Reuben Foreman and Providence Mounce's land on November 29, 1787, served as Ohio County's seat from 1777 to 1797. At the first court session, Zachariah Sprigg, Thomas Waller, and Daniel McClain were sworn in as justices of the peace, John McColloch was named county sheriff, and James McMechen was named county clerk.

Wheeling became the county seat in 1797. At that time, Wheeling had about 500 residents. The town was platted in 1793 by Colonel Ebenezer Zane and was then known as Zanesburg. The town was officially established on December 25, 1795 by an act of the Virginia General Assembly. It was incorporated on January 16, 1806, and renamed Wheeling. The origin of the city's name is subject to much conjecture. According to John Brittle, who was held captive by Delaware Indians from 1791 to 1796, the town's name originated from the Indian word "Weeling" which means "place of the skull." He claimed that when the first white settlers entered Wheeling Creek they were killed by Delaware Indians. The Indians supposedly beheaded one of the men, placed his head on the end of a pole, and pointed the face toward the river to scare off any other whites that might make their way into the Delaware's territory. Others claim that the city may have been named after a Catholic missionary named "Wheelan."

Wheeling was the site of several firsts, both for the state and for the nation. The first bank in present-day West Virginia, The Northwestern Bank of Virginia, opened in Wheeling in 1817. The first telegraph line to West Virginia reached Wheeling in 1847. The Wheeling Suspension Bridge, completed in 1849 and then the longest in the world, was the first bridge to span the Ohio River. Wheeling was West Virginia's first state capitol until 1870, and regained that honor in 1875 and 1880. The first telephone in West Virginia was installed in Wheeling in 1880 and, in 1890, Wheeling's Bloch Brothers Tobacco Company originated outdoor advertising when they began painting Mail Pouch Tobacco signs on bridges and barns across the nation.