Encyclopædia Britannica, Ninth Edition/Wheeling

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WHEELING, a city of Ohio county, West Virginia, U.S., the largest and most important in the State, stands on the eastern bank of the Ohio and on an island in the river, in what is popularly known as the “Pan-Handle.” The main portion of the city lies in the bottom land, 40 to 50 feet above low water in the river, and, on an average, about 650 feet above the sea. Immediately east of it the bluffs rise to a height of 400 feet above the river. The island portion is connected with the mainland by a fine suspension bridge, 1010 feet long. The surrounding country is quite open and well cultivated, being timbered only on the hillsides; cereals and tobacco are the principal crops, and wool is largely grown. Wheeling has railway connexions eastward by the Baltimore and Ohio line to Baltimore and Washington; westward by the same line and by the Pittsburg, Cincinnati and St Louis; northward by the Cleveland and Pittsburg; and southward by the Ohio River Railroad. The Ohio, which is navigable to Pittsburgh, furnishes another means of communication. The depth of water in front of the city ranges from 20 inches at the lowest stage to 30 or 40 feet during floods, while the width of the river varies from 100 to 1000 feet. The principal manufacturing industries are those of iron and steel, which employ some 2600 persons or about one-twelfth of the population. Wheeling is popularly known as the “nail city” from the large quantity of cut nails made in its workshops. It has also manufactories of glass and queensware, wine (from home-grown grapes), cigars and tobacco, lanterns, and leather, as well as breweries. The city has a large market for ginseng, which is exported almost exclusively to China. The population of Wheeling in 1880 amounted to 30,737, of whom one-fifth were foreign-born.

The first settlement (Fort Fincastle) on the present site of Wheeling was made in 1769. In 1776 its name was changed to Fort Henry; it was twice besieged by the British and Indians, in 1777 and 1782. It was incorporated as a village under its present name in 1806, and in 1836 it received a city charter. Upon the formation of the State of West Virginia in 1863 Wheeling was made the capital. In 1870 this dignity was conferred upon Charleston; in 1875 it was restored to Wheeling, but lost again in 1885 to Charleston. The following figures illustrate the growth of Wheeling:—population in 1810, 914; in 1820, 1567; in 1840, 7385; in 1860, 14,083; in 1870, 19,280; and in 1880, 30,737.