History of Belpre, Washington Co., Ohio
By C. E. Dickinson, D. D.
Formerly Pastor of Congregational Church
Author of the History of First Congregational Church
Published for the Author by
Globe Printing & Binding Company
Parkersburg, West Virginia
CHAPTER XV -
AFTER THE CIVIL WAR
THE era of Railroad building in this
country commenced about the year 1835 and proceeded slowly at
first. Most of the lines built during the next two decades
were in the Atlantic States and were what would not be called
short lines and these lines were extended a few miles at a time.
Railroads multiplied as the people learned their advantages and
the means could be secured for their construction. The
Baltimore & Ohio was one of the first roads to extend its lines
to the west. This road advanced gradually from year to year
until 1857 when it reached the Ohio river at Parkersburg,
opposite Belpre. This road followed substantially the route of
the extensive stage road which was laid out by the State of
Virginia within two or three years after the settlement at
Marietta and, before the Railroad was built, was one of the best
patronized stage and freight routes between the Atlantic States
and the west. The completion of this road gave the people
at Belpre a direct and rapid communication with the east, and
greatly facilitated the movement of soldiers and supplies during
the Civil War. During the time, before West Virginia
became a separate state it was disputed territory. During
this period several battles were fought along the line of this
road and the daily papers often recorded the tearing up of rails
of this road by Confederate soldiers and a few days later in
another portion by Union soldiers. The importance of this
road for the movement of soldiers and supplies was probably one
of the causes of the separation of West Virginia from the parent
state and her continuance in the Union.
In April 1857, the same year that the Baltimore and
Ohio Road was completed to Parkersburg, the Marietta and
Cincinnati Road was completed and commenced its business.
By this means direct communication by Railroad was completed
between Baltimore and Cincinnati, with the
VILLAGE SCHOOL HOUSE BUILT 1876
JUDGE OLIVER RICE LORING
exception of nine miles between Scotts Landing and Parkersburg in
which gap the Ohio river furnished the means of transfer by
steamboats and barges.
The costs and inconveniences of this transfer were so
great that it was impossible to secure through business and the
local business was little more than enough to keep trains running.
The business men of Washington County saw that a direct connection
between these two roads was of vital importance to both roads and to
the public. The English bond-holders who were interested in
the B. & O. Road were unwilling to make farther advance of money,
and the Directors of the B. & O. refused to aid, and the Marietta
and Cincinnati Road was placed in the hands of a receiver in 1858.
Every one acknowledged that a road from Scott's Landing to
Belpre was a necessity but how it could be built was an important
question. It made that matter more embarassing because
the country at that time (1857-58) was in the midst of one of the
worst financial panics in our history. By the transfer of the
M. & C. Road to a receiver Hon. Wm. P. Cutler was. released
from his position as president of that road, and gave his attention
to the organization of the Union Railroad Company, and the
construction of this line of nine miles of road.
W. P. Cutler, John Mills, and Douglas Putnam
undertook this work and the road was completed in 1859, so that
it was ready for use at the beginning of the Civil War. Tracks
were laid to the river bank on each side so as to connect with large
transports furnished with tracks, which ferried both passenger and
freight cars across the river. This method of transfer was
reasonably successful but there were times when it was difficult and
even impossible to make the connections, especially in a very low
stage of water, a time of flood, or when the navigation was hindered
by floating ice. As business increased after the close of the
war it became evident that it was necessary to make better provision
for crossing the river at Belpre.
In 1868 what had been known as the Marietta and
Cincinnati Railway came under control of the B. & O. road and was
given the name of Baltimore and Ohio Southwestern Railway.
A little later it was decided to construct a short line
from Athens to Belpre and bridge the river here. The
road was completed in 1874 and the bridge about the same time which
made Belpre only a way station on a through line of railway but it
was an important station, for the Railway Company purchased of
George Dana, Esq. twelve acres on "the plain," built suitable
buildings and established stock yards for unloading, feeding and
watering animals transported in cattle cars, as the law directs.
From that time to the present thousands of cattle,
sheep and hogs have here been rested and refreshed every month.
A large hotel was built by the Railroad near the station which for a
number of years was patronized by cattle men and others. This
business was finally suspended and after being unoccupied for a
number of years the building was demolished in 1915.
Previous to the completion
of the road from Marietta to Belpre, the history of Belpre referred
to the township. In 1852 A. H. Browning Esq., secured
the laying out of a village plat by S. H. Chamberlain,
Surveyor. In this plat were eighteen building lots. A
considerable number of additions were made to this plat until it
reached its present dimensions. After the completion of the
road just mentioned the village began to assume importance.
Dwellings were erected, also a store in which the Post Office was
located. Soon religious services were held here and within a
few years a school house and two houses for worship were built.
In 1870 there were about one thousand persons in the
village and a little later a petition, signed by one hundred and ten
citizens, was presented to the County Commissioners asking for the
incorporation of a village; a remonstrance was presented, signed by
seventy leading citizens, which delayed action on the petition, and
it was finally decided not to authorize the incorporation because
the boundaries proposed included farm lands which should not be
embraced in the village. In 1901 a majority of citizens voted to
incorporate the village and the charter was received January 9th,
1902. The first election of village officers was held a little
later. The citizens of Belpre have not attempted to make this
a manufacturing center very much beyond the necessities of local
trade. A ship was built
here a little above the Little Hocking by Martin Roberts.
Commenced in 1860, though not completed until after the close of the
Civil War, when it was sent down the river to the Gulf of Mexico for
About this time the oil business began to assume
importance in Southern Ohio and adjacent parts of West Virginia;
this fact and the growth of Parkersburg made the village a more
desirable locality for residences and caused a steady increase both
in population and business. In 1865 a drug store was
established by C. H. Johnson, also a flouring mill was
operated near the ferry by Leseur Hadley and Stone
and a little later a planing mill and lumber yard by Stone
In 1868 or 69 Barkley and Downer
established a Tannery in the north part of the village. This
firm was succeeded by Kuhn Brothers who continued the
business and furnished good leather for the foot wear of the
citizens of Belpre and vicinity.
For several years a pump factory was operated near the
river by Marsh, Crandal and Co.
These factories near the river were very seriously
injured by the flood of 1884. The flouring mill and lumber
yard were abandoned and the pump factory was reorganized by
Glazier, Potter & Rathbone who continued the business for
several years. Some years later a flouring mill was
established here by Pearcy and Son of Parkersburg
which manufactured a considerable amount of good flour until the
building was consumed by fire in 1908.
Vinegar works were established in 1834 on the farm of
George Dana. This business was continued for
many years by his son George Dana, Junior.
Many thousand gallons of good cider vinegar were manufactured here
which greatly aided the neighboring farmers by furnishing a sale for
their second grade apples, and the name George Dana on
a package was considered a guarantee of purity.
George Dana commenced the evaporation of
apples in 1880 and continued the business for several years.
The Dana Canning Company built a large factory near the
Railway Station in 1885 and introduced the canning of fruit.
For several years this company manufactured a large
number of cans, introducing improved machinery for that purpose.
In 1901 they disposed of this branch of the business but have
continued the canning of tomatoes, berries, pumpkins, and apples,
distributing thousands of dollars among the farmers, and furnishing
employment to a considerable number of persons during the active
During the decade after
Belpre Village began to assume importance three different attempts
were made to establish a newspaper here. In 1875 J. B.
Kinkead began publishing "The Courier" which continued but a
short time. "The News" was published by Mrs. Mary J. Adams
in 1878. Dana Goshen published "The Herald" in
1879-80. Neither of these enterprises proved successful and
they were soon abandoned. The connection of Belpre with
Parkersburg and the facility of communication really make a separate
newspaper unnecessary. The Parkersburg dailies make
commendable efforts to collect Belpre news and a Belpre directory is
published with that of Parkersburg, so that the people of Belpre are
well served in these respects.
The farmers have experimented with various crops to
learn which can be most profitably raised in their soil and climate;
they have tested various kinds of fertilizers in order to know which
are best for their use; they have also supplied themselves with the
most approved farming utensils with which to perform their work.
It has been proved by various trials that the land on the second
bottom, or terrace, is specially adapted to market gardening, also
that while Parkersburg furnishes a limited home market, the surplus
can be transported within twenty-four hours to the markets of
Pittsburg, Cleveland and other northern cities, and this two or
three weeks earlier than they can be raised in the vicinity of these
cities. For these reasons the business of market gardening has
increased during the last twenty years and will probably continue to
Manure is easily secured from the stables of
Parkersburg and commercial fertilizers can also be easily provided
and by careful adjustment two annual crops can be raised on much of
At a gathering of farmers
July 19, 1879 several members of the Muskingum farmers Club were
present who gave an account of their organization. As a result
it was resolved to organize a similar club in Belpre.
This plan was consummated at a gathering on the lawn of
Cyrus Ames, Esq., one week later when the Belpre Farmers Club
was organized with Hon. A. L. Curtis as President.
The object of the Club was improvement in farming, gardening, and
fruit raising, and also social and intellectual culture. Monthly
meetings were held at the homes of members for several years and all
who desired to attend were made welcome. The exercises
consisted of essays and discussions on farming, gardening and fruit
raising, also declamation and music by the young people. These
meetings were finally superceded by other neighborhood gatherings.
A suspension bridge across the Ohio river connecting
Belpre with Parkersburg was commenced March 15, 1915, and the first
toll was collected April 22, 1916. This bridge is 2845 feet in
length, central span 775 feet and the towers 175 feet high above low
water. This bridge brings Belpre and Parkersburg into very
close connection, and when trolley cars cross the bridge (for which
tracks are already laid) the two will be substantially united for
all business and social relations. In addition to this connection
with Parkersburg there are many reasons why Belpre is a speially
favorable place for residences. In religion there are two well
sustained churches with easy access to churches in Parkersburg. The
schools are equal to those in any village in the country culminating
in a High School of the first grade and nearly every scholar can go
to the school house on concrete walks. A person can attend an
evening entertainment, in Marietta or Parkersburg and reach home the
same evening either by trolley or steam cars. In the village or
vicinity a family may have virtually a country home with sufficient
ground for flowers and vegetable garden, with educational, social,
and religious advantages of a city. At the same time the
children are at least partially removed from the temptations and
evil associations of a city.
Another fact is worthy of attention. There has been no
saloon in the village or township for twenty years and
in all votes on the question for several years the dry vote has been
two-thirds of the whole. The citizens of Belpre are human and
there are some who use intoxicating liquors but the sentiment for
temperance and good order is so far in the ascendancy that it is
more likely to increase than decrease. From these
considerations it is evident that conditions in Belpre are such as
to invite good citizens to make their homes there. When the
trolley cars shall cross the bridge, for which tracks are already
laid, the line will doubtless be continued westward until there is a
continuous connection between Pittsburg and Cincinnati and
intercommunication between the cities and villages in the valley.
This convenience of travel and traffic together with the growth of
the enterprising City of Parkersburg will invite families to
establish homes along the plain extending west from Congress Creek.
This land is so much elevated above the highest ambition of the Ohio
river that it must always remain dry. The land between the
bluff and the hills is all fertile and arable and as well adapted to
beautiful country homes as to market gardening. Those who look
upon this region a half a century hence will doubtless see fruit
orchards, vegetable and flower gardens, and well trimmed lawns
interspersed with attractive and costly homes making one of the most
attractive suburban regious in the valley.
- END OF CHAPTER XV -