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Early History of Wellsburg

In 1669, while traveling through our area, the French saw the beauty of the Ohio River and called it “La Bele Riviere” (the beautiful river). History does not tell us, but surely these early visitors also saw the beauty of the hills and surrounding county.

In 1747, a company of Virginian gentlemen conceived the idea of securing from the King of England 500,000 acres of land in the Ohio River basin. As soon as news of this petition leaked out, the governor of Canada ordered a group of men to set out to re-establish their claim. Thus, the contention for this fertile basin was not really determined until the end of the Revolutionary War in 1781.

In 1773, Virginia claimed title to the territory around the headwaters of Ohio as being Augusta County by a charter under James I in 1606. Pennsylvania claimed title under a charter issued by Charles II in 1861.

About 1770 or 1772 Jonathan, Israel and Friend Cox arrived in what is now Wellsburg. They built a cabin and spent the winter here. The brothers staked a “Tomahawk right”, which entitled a settler to 400 acres.Thus the total for the Cox brothers would have been 1,200 acres.

The first land entries in our area were made in 1771 for lands situated between Bethany and West Liberty. The first court was held in Black’s cabin at West Liberty on January 16, 1777. West Liberty was the county seat for the northern panhandle district. The Revolutionary War halted the further arrival of settlers, but immediately following the war, they started the long trek over the mountains to our area.

As early as 1778, there was a small settlement here with stores, mills and people trading and selling goods. Early settlers heading into the “Ohio Territory” stopped here to replenish their supplies before resuming their travels.

Among the earliest settlers was Charles Prather, who purchased 481 acres of land from John Cox on March 6, 1788. Around 1790 he had the ground surveyed, a plat made and at the January term of court in 1791, in Ohio County, the town of Charlestown, Virginia was incorporated.

In 1797, we became a separate county and were named in honor of Robert Brooks of Virginia. On December 27, 1816, the legislature of the State of Virginia passed an act changing the name from Charlestown to Wellsburg. It was named for Charles Wells, who married Elizabeth, the only daughter of Charles Prather.

Between 1791 and 1794, craftsmen such as tailors, carpenters, tanners, shoemakers, and even a hatter settled here. The first teacher was recorded in 1791. Even in those days our forefathers wanted to assure their children an education.

Travel was by boat or on foot. Supplies were transported over the mountains by packhorse or floated down the river on flatboats.As far back as 1780, these boats stopped here and picked up goods to take the southern markets.

Industries were many and varied. We had boat yards and warehouses located along our riverbanks. The glass industry was started in 1815. Mills of all kinds were located along Cross Creek and Buffalo Creek, as well as in Wellsburg. We had excellent cabinetmakers in our area at a very early time and examples of the work of these men may be seen in many of the homes in our area

18th Century Military Strategy and Brooke County was in no small way a result of the French and Indian  War which in today's terminology could be called "global Strategy of  the Great Powers."  Virginia, as one of the British Colonies, had obtained a sea to sea  grant from the British crown.  The French, in their attempt to claim a sizable portion of the New  World, claimed not only Canada but also the Louisianan territory with settlements at New Orleans and further up the Mississippi Valley at  St. Louis. A quick glance at a map of North America will indicate  the strategy undertaken by the French. An advance southward from the  Great Lakes region along the watersheds of the Ohio River and the  upper Mississippi, which could be effectively linked with settlements  in the lower Mississippi Valley, would keep the British hemmed in  along the eastern seaboard, certainly not beyond the eastern slope of  the Allegheny Mountains.  The expedition commanded by Captain Celoron de Bienville in 1749  proceeded down the Allegheny River into the Ohio planting, lead  plates along the way which were aimed to take possession "of the said  river Ohio, and of all those which empty into it, and of all the  lands on both sides as far as the sources of said rivers." The  earlier explorations of La Salle had shown the way to linking up  Canada with the mouth of the great Mississippi.  When these efforts by the French were impeding the movement of  British colonists and land speculators conflict became inevitable. During this conflict, the young George Washington made several  expeditions into the area, and in his diary noted the Indian  campfires opposite Mingo Bottom, the present site of Follansbee.  The Peace of Paris in 1763 removed the French claims to the western  lands along the Ohio River and signaled the beginning of the larger  movement of people into western Virginia.  The British by proclamation, endeavored to prohibit the western  movement of settlers by forbidding patents for lands beyond the  sources of the rivers which flowed into the Atlantic Ocean, outlawing  private purchases of land from the Indians and placing trade with the Indians under royal control.  In spite of these British attempts to regulate the westward movement,  pioneers of every description were filtering into the broad rich  bottom lands of the Ohio River Valley and the numerous creeks which  flowed into the river.  During the decade from 1770-1780, the first permanent settlements were made in what is now Brooke County. Following the valleys of Harmon  Creek, Cross Creek, and Buffalo Creek, these settlements were made in  the vicinity of Hollidays Cove, Follansbee and Wellsburg.    This historical page was done by Brooke County Historical Review in  October 1974.

Sgt Patrick Gass   The longest survivor of the Corps of Discovery, his journals were the first to be published, appearing in print in 1807 in Pittsburgh, PA. Gass settled in Wellsburg, WV.  He outlived all other members of the expedition, dying at the age of 99 and is buried in Brooke County Cemetery at Wellsburg, WV.  Among the possessions Gass left to his children was a razor box carved by sacagawea, the hatchet and the family bible he carried on the expedition.  All are on display at the Interpretive Museum in Fort Canby, Washington. Recent pictures of the Lewis and Clark Expedition here in Wellsburg, WV 2003

Lewis & Clark Festival – Merriweather Lewis has come and gone.  He described our town as “this has the appearance of a handsome little village”.  The festival was a big success and history truly did come alive.  Many thanks go out to Ruby Greathouse, who quarterbacked the event, and to the Applefest committee for their support and hard work.

Captain Oliver Brown   is buried at the Brooke County Cemetery Lot #27 Sect C.  His tomb stone reads the following. Captain Oliver Brown Born at Lexington, Mass 1752 Died February 17, 1846 at age 94 Captain Oliver Brown of the Massachusetts Line, Rev. War.  -- He stood in front of the first cannon fired by the British on the Americans in the affray at Lexington; witnessed the tea pary in Boston Harbor; was at the battle of Bunker Hill; Commissioned by Congress January 16, 1776; commanded the volunteer pary that bore off the leaden statue of King George from the Battery of New York and made it into bullets for the American army; bore a conspicuous part in the command of artillery at The baattle of White Plains, Harlan Heights, Princeton, Trenton, Brandywine, Germantown, and Manmouth. After serving his country he enlisted in the armies of the Son of God, and surrendered to the last enemy of on the 17th day of Feb. 1846 in full assurance of a never ending peace.

Patrick Gass Visit Patrick Gass’s gravestone in Wellsburg’s Brooke Cemetery. Head East on 23rd Street off of Route 2 and make a left onto Pleasant Avenue. The cemetery is on the right. A bust of Patrick Gass has been placed near the Wellsburg Wharf across from the Brooke County Courthouse on Main Street. Head West on 9th Street and South on Main until you come to the wharf area.   Have you watched the Documentary on Public Broadcast TV "The Lewis and Clark Expedition" The Patrick Gass mentioned on here is from BROOKE COUNTY, WV....Here is a bit of information on him: (From Brooke County Historical Society records) Patrick Gass...In 1790, according to Patrick Gass (whose life and history was so well written by the late John G. Jacob ) the bottom land above Buffalo Creek was a narrow ridge along the river and back of it, next to the hill, was a morass overgrown with wild plum trees and bushes. The very ground described them by the late Mr. Gass, now naturally embraces Wellsburg, and the very opine, takes in our Main Street. On this narrow ridge, or Main Street, Patrick Gasseven in the recollection of the writer hereof, Indian bodies and relics have been frequently dug up and it appears to have been a place of some ancient day of very general Indian resort. The historian says there were very few signs of occupation beyond that as a trading post, at that date on the site where now is located Wellsburg. Patrick Gass in 1790 was a young man of about 19, and was perfectly able to have a vivid recollection of occurrences. His diary which he had taken pride in keeping, contained much information and from which, together with personal interviews, Mr. Jacob was able to glean many facts. The book entitled "The Life and Times of Patrick Gass" was issued in 1952, but in these antecedent days it seems that our early history was not appreciated or looked after as it is at this late day. Some of these books are still in existence and command a high price, but they are very scarce; those so fortunate as to have a copy are reluctant to part with it. Although Mr. Gass, it would seem, was a man of limited education, no doubt due to the lack of opportunities afforded, he certainly had varied and extraordinary acquirements, and judging from his life, as it is written, his forecast was wonderful to say the least. He died in the year 1869, and his remains were interred in a field on Pierce's Run, about a mile from Waugh's tunnel, the ground now belongs to Mr. Louis Bauer, who recently purchased the farm from L. Shrimplin. His last resting spot was not even distinguished by a stone or mark of any description. Patrick Gass cast his last presidential vote for U.S. Grant in 1868, and at the time of his death he had reached almost the five score mark. Patrick Gass burial site has been moved to the Brooke Cemetery in Wellsburg (in Section H.). He was born 12 June 1771 d 3 Apr 1869. Born at Falling Springs, PA. Member of PA Pvt 1 US Inf. War of 1812. A member of the Overland Expedition, under Lewis and Clark in 1804-5-6 ..also soldier in the war with Great Britian from 1812-1815 and a participant in the Battle of Lundy's Lane. Lost an eye in storming of Toronto. He was the last survivor of the Lewis and Clark Expedition.   ADDITIONAL INFORMATION From THE DAILY HERALD, Brooke Co. WV-Tuesday Jan 25,1927, LIFE AND TIMES OF PATRICK GASS The history of the pension laws of the United States is one of interest, and not withstanding the fact that all has not been done that gratitude perhaps demanded, she has been more liberal in this respect, than any other country in the world. It has been the rule in all countries to grant pensions in some shape for meritorious services, to acknowledge or stimulate merit, and to raise those who have served their country faithfully above the caprices of fortune. In England the king has been regarded as the sole judge of desert, and following out the theory of sovereignty, in America, the people have exercised the grateful prerogative. As the gratitude of the country toward the veterans of the revolution was great, so their liberality in the early history of the republic was generous beyond precedent, the more especially as the public lands furnished an apparently inexhaustible magazine of largess whence to draw. Pension acts were passed during the war of the Revolution, providing adequate support to those who might be disabled in the discharge of duty. Subsequently, these laws were enlarged and experienced. In 1818, those "who served in the war of the Revolution until the end thereof or for the term of nine months, or longer, at any period of the war on the continental establishment and by reason of reduced circumstances in life" were in need "of assistance from the country for support" were provided for....In 1828 pensions were given, without any qualification as to property, to all officers and soldiers who served in the continental line of the army to the close of the war. Finally in 1832 the terms were enlarged, and pensions were granted to all who served in a military capacity, during the war of the Revolution, for a period not less than six months. First, those disabled in the military and naval service received pensions; then the indigent and necessitious; and lastly all were embraced. The act of 1832, was very comprehensive in its provisions, yet in some respects it was unjust - for instance: The rate of pension was graduated by the length of service and the grade or rank in which it was rendered. Two years service entitles the party to the full pay of his rank in the line, not to exceed however the pay of a captain. For shorter periods the pension was proportionally less; but no pension was provided for merely being in a battle, or for any length of service in a battle, or for any length of service less than six months. This of course cut off a large class of soldiers equally meritorious but whose service perhaps only extended to s single campaign or to a single battle, although that campaign of six weeks or single battle may have been equally arduous and dangerous to the individual, as in other cases might have been the fall period of the war to other individuals. Many persons were called suddenly into active service during the war of 1812 as at New Orleans and other places, and actually engaged in active battle, perhaps been wounded and disabled, yet those men, under the provision of the act of 1832, were entitled only to a pittance proportioned to the excess of service over six months. This was manifestly unjust and to remedy the injustice and in some manner equalize the public bounty was the object of the old soldiers meeting on the 8th of January 1855, in which Mr. Gass with many others, figured at Washington City, as hereafter narrated In the spring of 1829 he commenced boarding with John Hamilton, better known among our younger readers as the Judge whose bowed frame will be well remembered as he sat about the stores and street corners a wreck of a powerful and once influential man. At this time Hamilton lived on a piece of land, and had to cheer him a pretty daughter whom he called Maria. She was just blooming into womanhood and thrown into the constant society of our hero, a mutual feeling sprang up between the two, and gradually June melted into December. Of the process of their courtship we have no date other than what probability suggests. He doubtless wooed her with the "tales of hair breath scrapes, and of perils by sea and land." and as she listened, she doubtless breathed the wish as maidens often do, "that heaven had made her such a man." Whether she did or not, they made each other understood by some subtle alchemy to lovers known; and not to theorize too far on so delicate a subject, they were married in 1831. Patrick immediately rented a house from a certain crickett who resided on the Crawford farm in the vicinity of Wellsburg and commenced house-keeping-Maria made him a good and loyal wife and in testimony thereof, presented him with seven children, during the fifteen years of their married life, from 1831 to 1846, when she died. It was customary to joke the old soldier on his rapid increase of family. Such pokes were always good natured and he would characteristically remark that as all his life long he had striven to do his duty, he would not neglect it now, but by industry make amends for his delay. In his married life he was kind and affectionate- a good husband and father. Five of his children are still living.(1859), one having died in infancy and another, a well grown lad dying in London county Va. of the small pox in 1855. After various changes and removes, he finally purchased a piece of hill-side land on Pierce's Run in Brooke county and sat down with his increasing family to cultivate the soil. This happy retirement was interrupted in 1846. At this time the measles appeared in his family-all of the children were prostrated, and in the February succeeding, came the severest blow he had ever experienced. At this time his wife having taken with the measles died and he was left with a large family of young children dependant upon for support in his old age. In consideration of his services he received from the Government, in addition to his pay as a soldier, 160 acres of land in 1816, and a pension of $96.00 per year to date from that period. The land he suffered to lie until eaten up and forfeited from non payment of taxes, and the pittance of $96.00 per year is all that he has actually received from the Government in exchange for the services of the best years of his life, from 1804 to 1815 over and above his pay and rations as a soldier.

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