Rarely has a group been more eager for a night out than the residents of Greenwood Cemetery who "visited" the Ohio County Public Library in Wheeling for a historical program Tuesday, Aug. 12.
Friends of Wheeling representatives re-created the group's most recent Greenwood Cemetery tour for an evening edition of Lunch With Books at the library. Appearing before a full house in the library's auditorium, 11 costumed actors portrayed inhabitants of the Wheeling graveyard. Short descriptions of three other characters were given on behalf of presenters who could not attend the session.
The June tour was the fifth such event conducted at local cemeteries by Friends of Wheeling members, said Jeanne Finstein, president of the nonprofit organization. The historic preservation group's main concern remains the community's built environment, but she explained, "As we toured different buildings, that interest has morphed into history of the people (who resided in those structures) and that's morphed into cemetery tours."
Offered in chronological order, the program began with the oldest resident of the evening, Dr. John Eoff (1788-1859), portrayed by Mike Medovic. Speaking to the audience of 100 people on behalf of "the remaining living dead," he quipped, "Thank you for getting us out of our tombs. We don't get too many opportunities so we do so whenever we can."
A physician and farmer, Eoff and William Chapline owned most of the land south of Wheeling Creek in the early 1800s. Eoff and his son, also a doctor, were among the first members of the Wheeling medical society which standardized fees for various services.
Eoff retired at age 52 to tend to his other interests. Among his pursuits, he collected black bass and sent them to the Smithsonian Institution to stock the Potomac River.
His wife, Helen Quarrier Eoff, was involved in the establishment of St. John's Episcopal Church, also known as Eoff's Chapel, in Center Wheeling. Their home became a gathering place for visiting bishops and clergy. Their son, Beverly, served as organist and choirmaster of the church.
Pete Holloway portrayed his great-great-grandfather, William F. Peterson Sr., who established an insurance business in Wheeling. His wife was a cousin of Ralph Waldo Emerson.
Peterson's older son, William Jr., operated a metal roof fabricating business and held a patent for corrugated roofing metal. His younger son, B. Walker Peterson, trained as an engineer and served as president of Dollar Bank (known today as WesBanco). Peterson Rehabilitation Hospital was built on the site of the family homestead.
Finstein said Michael Sweeney (1810-75) and his brother, Thomas, created a punch bowl believed to be the largest cut-lead glass item ever made. They presented one of the floating bowls to Sen. Henry Clay and reportedly sent another bowl to an exposition in London. The third bowl was placed on Michael's grave in Greenwood where it remained for many years before being moved to Oglebay Institute's Glass Museum.
Roger Micker portrayed Capt. George W. Norton (1815-68) who operated three ironworks in Wheeling: Virginia Mills, Belmont Works and Top Mills. His lead plates were used for Union ships during the Civil War; he supplied spikes and nails for the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. Norton was killed in a steamship explosion.
Jeremy Morris appeared as James W. Paxton (1821-96), a businessman who was a slave owner but also was an ardent Union supporter. He assisted Francis Pierpont in the creation of West Virginia and donated a fountain for the yard of the grand statehouse (located at the site of the present City-County Building). He and his first wife lived in the Paxton House on Chapline Street; he and his second wife built a house on National Road where the present Altenheim building is located.
Lola Miller portrayed Elizabeth Beck (1822-93), a German immigrant and wife of brewer Peter Paul Beck. Their sons-in-law were brewer Anton Reymann, businessman Alfred Egerter and dry goods merchant George E. Stifel.
Lindsey Davis appeared as Jane McClellan Adams (1830-1906), sister of Wheeling Mayor Samuel McClellan and an active volunteer for the Mount Vernon Association, which preserved George Washington's home.
Carson Cox portrayed journalist Dana L. Hubbard (1845-93) who worked for newspapers in Wheeling, Pittsburgh, Erie and Indianapolis and served as Washington correspondent for The Intelligencer. His father, Chester D. Hubbard, was a member of the Virginia House of Delegates and a founder of the new state.
Kate Quinn portrayed Virginia Wells, wife of Edgar W. Wells (1850-90), a prominent Wheeling architect who designed most of Chapline Street Row for the Klieves brothers and designed the lobby of the Rogers Hotel.
Gael Fincham represented Texana Arndt Wilson (1848-1935), wife of William A. Wilson, who sold building supplies and window glass. Oglebay's Wilson Lodge is named for their son, William Pannell Wilson, who served on city council, the board of education and the Wheeling Park Commission.
Finstein told of James Cummins (1852-1944), a glass manufacturer, owner of a retail glass store and partner in a brokerage firm. She also spoke of Gail Hamilton Holliday (1872-1969), a Wheeling High School biology teacher who became the state's first high school teacher to earn a doctorate.
Judi Hendrickson portrayed artist Edith Lake Wilkinson (1868-1957), who studied and pursued an artistic career in New York City until Wheeling lawyer George Rogers (who allegedly embezzled from her trust fund) had her committed to a mental institution. Many of her paintings were found in a Wheeling attic in the 1960s.
Finstein appeared as Rogers' wife, Clara (1887-1972), who worked a housemother at West Liberty State College after her husband was indicted on 10 counts of embezzlement, lost his law license and went bankrupt. A College of Wooster graduate, she rose in the ranks at West Liberty until she became dean of women. In 1959, West Liberty's Rogers Hall was named in her honor.