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Wheeling, West Virginia

HistoryEdit Arrival of early EuropeansEdit The origins of the name "Wheeling" are disputed. One of the more credible explanations is that the word comes from the Lenni-Lenape phrase wih link, which meant "place of the head." This supposedly referred to a white settler who was scalped and decapitated. His severed head was displayed at the confluence of Wheeling Creek and the Ohio River.[6] The area had been inhabited by Native Americans for thousands of years. In the 17th century, the Iroquois from present-day New York state conquered the upper Ohio Valley, pushing out other tribes and maintaining the area as their hunting ground. Originally explored by the French, Wheeling still has a lead plate remnant buried by the explorer Céloron de Blainville in 1749 at the mouth of Wheeling Creek to mark their claim. Later, Christopher Gist and George Washington surveyed the land, in 1751 and 1770, respectively.[7] Establishment of European settlementEdit During the fall of 1769, Ebenezer Zane explored the Wheeling area and established claim to the land via "tomahawk rights." (This process meant to deaden a few trees near the head of a spring, and mark the bark with the initials of the name of the person who made the claim). He returned the following spring with his wife Elizabeth and his younger brothers, Jonathan and Silas; they established the first permanent European settlement in the Wheeling area, naming it Zanesburg. Other families joined the settlement, including the Shepherds (see Monument Place), the Wetzels, and the McCollochs (see McColloch's Leap). In 1787, the United States gave Virginia this portion of lands west of the Appalachians, and some to Pennsylvania at its western edge, to settle their claims. By the Northwest Ordinance that year, it established the Northwest Territory to cover other lands north of the Ohio River and west to the Mississippi River. Settlers began to move into new areas along the Ohio. In 1793, Ebenezer Zane divided the town into lots, and Wheeling was officially established as a town in 1795 by legislative enactment. The town was incorporated January 16, 1805. On March 11, 1836, the town of Wheeling was incorporated into the city of Wheeling. By an act of the Virginia General Assembly on December 27, 1797, Wheeling was named the county seat of Ohio County.[8] Fort HenryEdit Originally dubbed Fort Fincastle in 1774, the fort was later renamed Fort Henry in honor of Virginia's American governor, Patrick Henry. In 1777, Native Americans of the Shawnee,Wyandot and Mingo tribes joined to attack pioneer settlements along the upper Ohio River, which were illegal according to the Crown's Proclamation of 1763. They hoped an alliance with the British would drive the colonial settlers out of their territory. Local men, later joined by recruits from Fort Shepherd (in Elm Grove) and Fort Holliday, defended the fort. The native force burned the surrounding cabins and destroyed livestock. "McColloch's Leap" During the first attack of the year, Major Samuel McColloch led a small force of men from Fort Vanmetre along Short Creek to assist the besieged Fort Henry. Separated from his men, McColloch was chased by attacking Indians. Upon his horse, McColloch charged up Wheeling Hill and made what is known as McColloch's Leap 300 feet (91 m) down its eastern side. In 1782, a native army along with British soldiers attempted to take Fort Henry. During this siege, Fort Henry's supply of ammunition was exhausted. The defenders decided to dispatch a man to secure more ammunition from the Zane homestead. Betty Zanevolunteered for the dangerous task. During her departing run, she was heckled by both native and British soldiers. After reaching the Zane homestead, she gathered a tablecloth and filled it with gunpowder. During her return, she was fired upon but was uninjured. As a result of her heroism, Fort Henry remained in American control.[8] Role as transportation hubEdit Wheeling Suspension Bridge The National Road arrived in Wheeling in 1818, linking the Ohio River to the Potomac River, and allowing goods from the Ohio Valley to flow through Wheeling and on to points east. As the endpoint of National Road, Wheeling became a gateway to early western expansion. In 1849 the Wheeling Suspension Bridge crossed the Ohio River and allowed the city to expand onto Wheeling Island. Lessons learned constructing the bridge were used in the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge. Rail transportation reached Wheeling in 1853 when the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad connected Wheeling to Pennsylvania, Maryland and markets in the Northeast. A bridge over the river connected it to Bellaire, Ohio and western areas. Anti-slavery sentimentEdit Much of this area had been settled by yeomen farmers, few of whom owned slaves. With the railroad, a larger industrial or mercantile middle-class developed that depended on free labor; it either felt disinterest or hostility to slavery. The Wheeling Intelligencer newspaper expressed the area's anti-secession sentiment as tensions rose over slavery and national issues. The city became part of the movement of western areas to secede from Virginia after the beginning of the Civil War. It was the location of the aforementioned Wheeling Convention.[9] It served as the provisional capital of the Restored Government of Virginiafrom 1861 to 1863, and became the first capital of West Virginia after it seceded from Virginia and was admitted to the Union in its own right in 1863. The growing German population, which included immigrants after the 1848 Revolutions, was firmly anti-slavery. The Germans of Wheeling organized the "First West Virginia Artillery" to oppose the Confederacy and played a role in the initial movement to separate from Virginia.[10] The Germans' culture influenced the city, such as their "German Singing Societies," the first of which began in 1855.[11] Post-Civil War growthEdit Although Wheeling lost its position as capital in 1865, it continued to grow. In the late nineteenth century, it served as a prime industrial center for the state. Noted businesses of the era included the Bloch Brothers Tobacco Company and steel concerns.[12] As it grew, prosperous residents built an area of fine housing around Wheeling Island, but slums also grew.[13] With industry, Wheeling reached its peak of population in 1930. The Great Depression, and later changes and restructuring in heavy industry following World War II, led to a loss of working-class jobs and population. Capitalizing on its rich architectural heritage, Wheeling has worked to revive its main street and heritage tourism activities near the Ohio River. In addition, West Virginia has constructed fiber optics networks for advanced communication. Wheeling is becoming a center in health services and education as well.

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