Looking for at-your-fingertips information on Wheeling's unique Civil War heritage, from West Virginia's birthplace to the clergyman who fled town and refused to return because he didn't want to pray for Abraham Lincoln?
There's now an app for that.
The Wheeling National Heritage Area Corp. launched the application about a month ago, funded through a grant from the West Virginia Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission.
Photo by Ian Hicks
The Church of God and Saints of Christ at 12th and Byron streets in Wheeling once was home to St. Matthew Episcopal Church. When the Civil War broke out in 1861, the Confederate-leaning rector fled with his family to Richmond, leaving behind many of their possessions.
Available for the iPhone, iPad and Android platforms, the free application is designed for visitors taking a walking tour of the city and uses GPS technology to map 22 sites of historic significance, providing video and audio information about each.
Jeanne Finstein, chairwoman of WNHAC's board of directors and president of the Friends of Wheeling organization, discussed the new feature and gave a brief overview of the highlighted locations at the Wheeling Rotary Club's meeting Tuesday at WesBanco Arena. For those who don't own a smartphone or iPad, Finstein said WNHAC also has produced a brochure mapping all 22 locations with a brief history of each.
Among the points of interest on the tour are West Virginia Independence Hall, where leaders of Virginia's western counties chose to remain loyal to the Union and eventually separate from the Old Dominion; the McLure House Hotel, which once served as headquarters for Union Gen. William Rosecrans and counted Union Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman among its guests; and the LaBelle Nail Works in South Wheeling, where workers labored furiously to meet the huge demand for nails used to build new factories, ships and barracks as hostilities began.
Another "stop" is the Church of God and Saints of Christ at 12th and Byron streets, which was home to St. Matthew Episcopal Church when war broke out. Wheeling wasn't the safest place for Confederate sympathizers, and the Rev. E.T. Perkins - a Virginia loyalist - suddenly fled with his family to Richmond in 1861, leaving behind many of their belongings.
"He agreed to come back if he was permitted to omit prayers for the president of the United States," Finstein said, noting the parish vestry declined the offer and found a new rector.
Another prominent Wheeling figure who left due to Southern leanings was attorney Charles Wells Russell, who argued before the U.S. Supreme Court to save the Wheeling Suspension Bridge from demolition and was instrumental in bringing the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad to town. Finstein said after Russell left, the Union army possessed his 75 12th St. home, which still stands, and used it as headquarters for Rosecrans and Gen. John C. Fremont.
Finstein said Wheeling was a microcosm of conflicting loyalties at the time - though heavily pro-Union, there were 100-200 slaves in Wheeling in 1860 and the city was a transportation hub for the slave market.
Within a day of Lincoln's call for 75,000 volunteers following the fall of Fort Sumter, 30 Wheeling men had volunteered for service, with many more to follow, but a month later Daniel Shriver had organized a group of 80 men to serve in the Confederate army, commonly known as the "Shriver Grays."
"It must have been a very interesting time," said Finstein.