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Rich History on Display in Sistersville

March 28, 2013
By J.W. JOHNSON JR. - Marshall County Bureau Chief , The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register

SISTERSVILLE - No matter where a person goes in Sistersville, be it the historic Wells Inn, the diner in downtown or any of the other local gathering places, the sense of community pride is evident.

A town filled with history, Sistersville seems like a place stuck in a different era - in the best way possible.

The town's main drag, Wells Street, looks like something from a painting, with a diner, theater and art gallery, locally owned businesses and historic buildings. Just around the corner is the Wells Inn, named for the city's founder, Charles Wells.

Article Photos

The Sistersville
City Building is
located in the
center of the
historic city on Diamond Street. The city’s history includes the Sistersville ferry,
the Wells Inn and a background in the oil and gas industry.

Photo by J.W. Johnson Jr.

Wells named the city for his two daughters, Sarah and Delilah. The land for the city was willed to the family by their father, who purchased it in 1802. Wells also founded and named the Northern Panhandle cities of Wellsville and Wellsburg.

By the end of the 1800s, Sistersville was being referred to as the oil and gas capital of the world, according to historic markers in the town's park. Similar to today's Marcellus Shale natural gas rush but on a much larger scale, thousands of workers came to the community in an attempt to make money from the oil industry. The city's riverfront park area features several large wells and displays commemorating its history.

To accommodate the rush, Wells opened the Wells Inn in 1895. The hotel recently re-opened with new owners to accommodate the individuals in the area due to the new natural gas industry boom.

Just down the road from the Wells Inn is the Sistersville Ferry, which has served as the city's main tourist attraction and link to Ohio since 1817. The ferry operates from April through November, and is one of only four ferries on the Ohio River and the only in West Virginia.

The city's history and small town atmosphere was what brought Charles Winslow and his wife to purchase the Wells Inn in an effort to fill the needs of the city.

"If these streets could talk, the stories they could tell," Winslow said of the downtown area.

Winslow, who was living in New York, said in searching for a hotel to buy he found the Wells Inn online. He said the architecture, as well as the city's history, made the building attractive.

When he purchased the hotel in 2010, Winslow said he was unaware of the pending natural gas boom, which has breathed new life into the city and county. He said it has helped not only fill rooms at the hotel, but has helped his neighbors and community members.

"There is more disposable income, and there is more money being invested in the community," he said. "We are happy to have been here at the start, and it's only going to get better."

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