Wheeling Slated for More Historical Markers
Many to focus on Civil-War era figures and events
WHEELING — History-rich Wheeling is slated to receive five additional historical markers downtown in the coming months.
Matt McGrew, coordinator for the Highway Historical Markers Program within the West Virginia Division of Culture and History, said the state has received federal funding to place 162 new markers in the state. Many of these are slated to focus on notable Civil War-era persons and events and the creation of West Virginia as a state. At least six are coming to Wheeling.
“The program originally started in 1937 during the (Great) Depression to promote tourism, and it still does,” he said. “But the markers also serve to remind us of our history, so we can better interpret our present.”
He isn’t certain when the markers will be placed. State Department of Highways workers will perform the installation when their schedule permits, he said.
“But they should be going up between now and the fall,” McGrew said. “People will start seeing some go up. Each county is getting at least two, and Ohio County is getting more because of its historical importance during the Civil War.
“These markers will fill in the missing gaps, and cover events and people that haven’t been covered before.”
Markers set to be installed will tell and commemorate the stories of the following:
∫ Gordon Battelle — A Methodist minister, Battelle was involved in Wheeling’s anti-slavery movement. He served as a delegate to the first Constitutional Convention in 1861, and was instrumental in including a provision in the proposed constitution to support free public education.
∫ Archibald Campbell and The Intelligencer — Campbell’s editorials in the newspaper promoting the abolition of slavery and preservation of the Union led to Virginia’s western counties seceding from Virginia during the Civil War.
∫ Athenaeum Prison — Located at the southeast corner of 16th and Market streets, the building often was called “Lincoln’s Bastille” and used to house captured Confederate prisoners during the Civil War.
∫ Rebecca Harding Davis — Wheeling resident who anonymously penned “Life In The Steel Mill” in 1961.
∫ Sara Lucy Bagby Johnson– A slave who escaped from her owner in Wheeling and was found in Cleveland, Johnson was the last person prosecuted under the Fugitive Slave Act. She was returned to the owner in Wheeling in 1861. After the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863, Johnson walked from Wheeling to Pittsburgh where she married George Johnson, according to Ohio County Public Library information.
The exact locations as to where these will be placed have yet to be determined, according to McGrew.
“If you look around West Virginia Independence Hall, it’s getting pretty crowded,” he said.
Other markers in the future could note the importance of the 1st and 2nd constitutional conventions in Wheeling.
Each marker costs about $1,400, and McGrew said there are over 1,000 in West Virginia’s 55 counties.
The DOH also is responsible for maintaining the markers, and the State Division of Culture “appreciates notice” when any need rehabilitating.
McGrew credited local historian Margaret Brennan for organizing the needed research and information needed for the markers, calling her “a great asset to us in that regard.”
“It’s wonderful the state is gifting Wheeling with these important historical markers,” she said. “It is so important to tourism.”