WHEELING’S “FORT RANDOLPH” U.S. Troop Garrison 1794-1815 Wheeling’s Other Fort

WHEELING’S “FORT RANDOLPH” U.S. Troop Garrison 1794 – 1815 drawing by John Bowman

by John Bowman

Wheeling’s “Fort Randolph” was named for Edmund Jennings Randolph, a highly respected Virginian who served as an aide-de-camp to General George Washington in 1775 and was elected to the Virginia Convention of 1776. He was Virginia’s first Attorney General and Mayor of the town of Williamsburg. He was a Delegate to the Continental Congress in 1779 and 1781. In 1786, Randolph was elected Governor of Virginia. He was a member of the committee charged with framing the first draft of the Constitution. President Washington appointed him as the first Attorney General of the United States in 1789. He was named Secretary of State in 1794 replacing Thomas Jefferson.

Wheeling’s FlatIron Building. This building is at the 1794 site of Wheeling’s “Fort Randolph” U.S. Troop Garrison. The Parking Lot south of Wheeling’s WesBanco Arena, the site on the north bank of Wheeling Creek where Henry Miller Shreve’s 1815 Steamboat Washington was built. Photo by John Bowman March 19, 2017

“Fort Randolph” erected in 1794 stood at the point of land formed by the junction of Wheeling Creek and the Ohio River.” This site is now the parking lot south of the WesBanco Arena, west of Main Street along Wheeling Creek. The building sat parallel to the creek, and one can imagine that it sat where Wheeling’s “FlatIron” building is today, and at its same angle. The two-story, oblong log building was over one-hundred feet long with ten rooms. It stood east and west with two gabled ends, the logs being chunked, and mud-dobbed.
So, why and what was the need for Wheeling’s “Fort Randolph”?
For a few years following the battle and “Siege of 1782”, the Wheeling settlement itself had remained rather quiet. Except that in 1788, Lewis Wetzel late of Wheeling was accused of, and admitted to murdering several peaceful Indians. In November 1788, Ebenezer Zane fearing retaliation from this unwonted killing, made a request to Maj. Gen. Arthur St. Clair, Governor of the Western Territories for one thousand Virginia Militia troops to be sent to protect Wheeling.
November 13, 1788 from Fort Harmar, St. Clair replies and notes: “It has been a long time since Virginia called up one thousand militia and inquires as to whether this is practicable.” This was the last Indian scare Wheeling itself faced and last official request for militia. Wetzel was arrested and held by General Josiah Harmar in Marietta but escaped before trial. Wetzel made it to Gallipolis, where he hired out on a keelboat crew bound for New Orleans.
However, in the early 1790s, several local Indian attacks were taking place by marauding bands of Indians. In an attempt to crush these Indians attacks, President George Washington ordered military expeditions into the Northwest Ohio Territory.
In October 1790, Brigadier General Josiah Harmar led the first of these expeditions with a force of 1,453 men and failed horribly. It was the worst defeat ever of U.S. forces by Indians up to that time, and only served to embolden the Indians even more.
In the need for Wheeling’s “Fort Randolph”, we now name some of the participants involved. Henry Knox (Major General) appointed Secretary of War in President Washington’s Administration (1789-1794). Knox had served under Washington in the Continental Army, and he would succeed Washington as commander of the army in 1783. Alexander Hamilton was President Washington’s Secretary of the Treasury. Major Isaac Craig, a War Department official in Pittsburgh, Deputy Quarter Master and Military Stores Keeper at Pittsburgh. Colonel Beard was a commander at Fort Pitt. In 1792, President Washington appointed Major General Anthony Wayne to take over army operations in the Western Region. Major General Arthur St. Clair was the Governor of the Northwest Territory, and Brigadier General Josiah Harmar was stationed at Fort Harmar, Marietta, Ohio. Lieutenant Colonel George Rogers Clark supervised the building of Wheeling’s “Fort Randolph”.
Some of the unrest on the ‘Western Frontier’ beginning in 1791 is related in the following “Official Government” correspondence of Secretary of War Henry Knox. This was obtained from the Viewing of “War Department documents: Wheeling” April 1791 – October 1797.
April 19, 1791, from the ‘Western Frontier’ Governor Arthur St. Clair writes in his report to Henry Knox, “on the actions of the local militia who have been called up to provide protection for the inhabitants, and the attempts to pacify the friendly Indians after acts of violence against them by an unscrupulous frontier settler, namely Lewis Wetzel.”
May 27, 1791, Henry Knox writes to Isaac Craig “I urgently request the transport and delivery of arms, bayonets, powder and lead to Colonel Zane at Wheeling.” Knox informs Craig on the lawless villains at Wheeling who threaten to waylay friendly Indians and impede the surveyors’ efforts. Knox thinks they could “use a taste of Federal law”.
July 27, 1791, Henry Knox writes to David Shepherd on the ‘Need for Arms and Ammunition’ “Col. Shepherd, I have ordered delivery of necessary supplies with loan from U.S. I will notify the Governor of Virginia of my action.”
August 12, 1791, Major General Richard Butler reports from the ‘Frontier Campaign’ to Arthur St. Clair “on the events taking place near Wheeling” as he makes preparations for the campaign to defend the frontier.
November 1791, under President Washington’s orders, Major General Arthur St. Clair, the Governor of the Northwest Territory led a second expedition into battle against the Indians with 1,000 officers and men. The Indians slaughtered over 600 of St. Clair’s army, and a large number of civilians that accompanied the expedition. St. Clair’s shocking defeat surpassed Harmar’s October 1790 defeat, and demonstrated in fact that major reforms were required if there was any hope of making the United States Army an effective fighting force against the Indians.
In February 1792, Colonel David Shepherd reported to Colonel Beard at Fort Pitt of a recent attack about a mile from his home. “Two Indians shot a man and took two boys, sons of James Behanis living on Middle Wheeling Creek, one of which they killed. The other surviving boy had been scalped; Shepherd added that many atrocities were taking place on the Ohio Side of the River”, and Feb 25, 1792, Knox writes, and advises Colonel Shepherd. “As there cannot be the least doubt of the intentions of the Indians to make all possible inroads on the ‘Frontier’, and as early as the season will admit, there ought not to be the least omission or delay in placing out scouts, and putting the frontier inhabitants in the best posture of defense.”
March 24, 1792, Major Craig sends a status report from Fort Pitt to the Secretary at War: Major Craig informs Knox “of the deployment of scouting parties in response to stolen horses.” Craig infers that Indians stole the horses and took them across the Ohio River.
In 1792, President Washington appointed Major General ‘Mad’ Anthony Wayne to take over operations in the Western Region. Wayne, a talented military tactician, instilled in his army much needed troop training and discipline, and he instructed them on the art of battle in the field. Wayne’s forces were much better trained than those that had fought the Indians in years past. He provided all of his officers down to company-level with copies of von Steuben’s “Blue Book” drill manual and instructed them to use it until they were familiar with close-order drill.
March 30, 1793, Major General Wayne made his ‘Assessment of Strength at All Posts and Garrisons, Disposition of Spies, and Details of Officer Shortage’: Anthony Wayne writes to Secretary of War Knox, and “provides his assessment of troop and officer strength at each of the posts and garrisons under his command. He laments the shortage of qualified officers which has required the posting of sergeants in positions normally reserved for officers.”

Site chosen for Wheeling’s “Fort Randolph” U.S. Troop Garrison

General Wayne had recently built a series of frontier forts to protect his supply lines and the settlers in his rear. Wayne had scouted out a site for a fort in Wheeling and recommended to Knox: “The best site in Wheeling with ample acreage is the vacant meadow on the north bank of Wheeling Creek. This is below the Sprigg House and John McCortney’s warehouse and wagon yard, and south of the Patton and Palmer boat yards.” The point of land at the mouth of Wheeling Creek that Wayne had chosen has some interesting history.
The 1749 Céloron map, “Carte Dun Voyage Dans La Belle Rivere” showed where at Wheeling, August 13, 1749 the Céloron expedition buried the third Leaden Plate at the entrance of the River Kanououara (the original Indian name for Wheeling Creek) to the River Oyo (Ohio). We ourselves know only by translated text, that the plate was buried at the mouth of, and on the north bank of Wheeling Creek. On page 40, “History of the Pan-Handle”, we are told the following: “It would be impossible at this day (1879) to definitely describe the exact resting place of this hidden treasure, but it is fair to presume that it lies somewhere under the Baltimore & Ohio Rail Road depot, where there once stood the old barracks, ‘Fort Randolph’. The ruins of the old barracks are within the recollection of many old citizens of Wheeling, and the ground, on which it stood at the time of the expedition, was a feasible spot to bury one of the ‘Plates’.” The ‘Plate’ to our knowledge has never been found.
June 7, 1793, Henry Knox orders Lieutenant Colonel Clark under General Wayne’s orders: “Erect a ‘Fort’ at Wheeling to deal with growing unrest in the western frontier.” By 1793, the old frontier fort “Fort Henry” no longer existed. Much of the usable logs had been salvaged for use in other buildings, and other than piles of rotted logs, hardly a trace of the old stockade remained. Clark’s specific orders were “Proceed to Wheeling to supervise work in erecting a blockade, a stockade, and store house, and the block house is to be built at the mouth of Wheeling Creek.” Other orders for General Wayne were sent via Craig. “Estimate for cost of horses by Quartermaster General is enclosed,” and he requests from Wayne, “information on hostile Indians at near locations.”
June 10, 1793, Col. Clark reached Wheeling, and met with Col. Zane concerning the new Wheeling fortification. With the area surveyed, and the amount of compensation agreed upon, Clark informed Zane the work would begin within the next few weeks.
June 22, 1793, Henry Knox writes to Isaac Craig “As requested I am forwarding money $5,000.00 for the post at Wheeling.” Knox also “Laments late arrival Indian baggage.”? Craig to Knox: “I request a temporary suspension of the erection of a post at Wheeling because of the state of waters, (Ohio River).” The Ohio River was at flood stage, unusual for this time of year.
June 28, 1793, Henry Knox writes to Lt. Col. Clark in a letter titled: ‘Acquisition of Materials for Building a Post at Wheeling’ Knox reconsidered his order to halt the building of a post at Wheeling, and suggested, “Materials (Logs) for blockade, stockade, and barracks (garrison) could be obtained from Wheeling Creek or along the Ohio River for trivial costs.” Knox included additional orders to obtain boats and necessary materials, and discussed the “safety of traveling by river or by road to Wheeling”. Here we know of Lieutenant Colonel George Rogers Clark’s involvement in the building of “Fort Randolph”.
June 29, 1793, John Stagg writes to Samuel Hodgdon: “Hodgdon, you are directed to send 110 complete suits of infantry clothing to Pittsburgh to be put in charge of Major Craig and issued to the troops stationed at Fort Franklin, Pittsburgh, Big Beaver, and Wheeling, and the men directed to man the boats that ply between Pittsburgh and Fort Washington. The clothing should be proportioned for eight sergeants, two music, and 100 privates.”
August 30, 1793, Isaac Craig writes to Henry Knox on the ‘Construction at Wheeling’ “The Garrison building at Wheeling is going up with all possible expedition.” Craig’s optimism that Lt. Col. George Rogers Clark would have “Fort Randolph” soon finished was proved wrong. Obtaining the necessary materials was taking longer than expected. There were no forested areas near the building site forcing Clark’s timber cutters to forage miles east of the site.
In late November of 1793, General Wayne floated his army forces down the Ohio River to Cincinnati and Fort Washington, where he would winter and train his troops in anticipation of a spring move against the Indians in northwestern Ohio. Wayne noted “Fort Randolph’s” barracks seems near completion.
December 30, 1793, Hamilton’s plan ‘Supplying the Army with whiskey’, Treasurer Secretary Alexander Hamilton to Henry Knox: “The places of deposit will be Forts Washington, Steuben (Steubenville, Ohio) and “Fort Randolph” at the mouth of Wheeling from which the spirits will be delivered to the Quartermaster General to be issued by him to the troops as needed.”
January 3, 1794, Doctor Wallace’s Account ‘Pay and Muster Rolls,’ Isaac Craig writes to Joseph Howell: Craig Encloses Doctor Wallace’s account, and included in his letter “I ask for examination and instructions. I have already advanced a part of the sum. The Garrison at Fort Franklin is paid. Muster and payrolls of Beaver Block House will be sent in the next post. No muster rolls from Wheeling (Fort Randolph)? The garrison at Fort Fayette is paid. It is not possible to obtain authentic muster rolls in Captain Crawford’s absence. I need more blank muster rolls.”
February 1, 1794, Major Craig sends a status report from Fort Pitt to the Secretary at War, Henry Knox: Major Craig acknowledges to Secretary Knox “the receipt of War Department correspondence intended for other officers on the frontier.” Craig also informs Knox that he has “settled the accounts of the “Fort Randolph” building site at Wheeling, and “Fort Randolph” is now housing campaigning troops.” Soldiers with the rank of Major and below were housed in the “Fort Randolph” garrison, the higher-ranking Officers, Lt. Col. and above were boarded at the “Gooding Inn” (Sprigg House / United States Hotel / St. James House / Windsor Hotel).
In April of 1794, General Wayne had his army on the move. From Cincinnati’s Fort Washington, Wayne advanced north, stopping at forts he had formerly establish including Fort Defiance, Fort Adams, and Fort Deposit.
April 19, 1794, Joseph Howell writes to Isaac Craig “I need an ‘Estimate of Subsistence’ for Officers at Wheeling for 1793.” The highest-ranking Officers, Lt. Col. and above were boarded at the “Gooding Inn” (Sprigg House).
May 10, 1794, General Bookkeeping, Henry Knox writes to James O’Hara on ‘General accounting, supply information’. “I (Knox) want the system of delivering the whiskey to be examined; I think there is something defective in the arrangements at Forts Steuben, Washington, and Knox. The revenue officer at Wheeling needs a boat.”
May 10, 1794, Whiskey Distribution, Henry Knox writes to James O’Hara “I (Secretary Knox) would like Quartermaster General James O’Hara to address the issue of the receipt and delivery of whiskey, which some suggest is defective. I want the quartermasters of Forts Washington, Steuben, Wheeling, and Knox to receive and distribute spirits according to my direction.” He also requests that “a boat be provided to the Revenue officer at Wheeling, and that the commanding officer of…”
May 10, 1794, Receipt and delivery of whiskey, Henry Knox to Commanding Officer at Fort Randolph Wheeling: “The Secretary of War orders the Quarter Master General to examine into the receipt and delivery of whiskey at Forts Washington, Steuben and Wheeling.”
June 7, 1794, Col. John Finley was appointed the first Postmaster at Wheeling, and opened the first Wheeling Post “Office” in a room inside “Fort Randolph’s” garrison.
In 1786, Congress established the first mail route over the Allegheny Mountains to run weekly from Alexandria, Virginia to Pittsburgh, and Post Riders brought U.S. Mail weekly to Wheeling on horseback from Pittsburgh via Washington, Pennsylvania. A bag of mail was left at either the Virginia House or the Gooding Inn, (Sprigg House) and they in-turn notified Wheeling residents that they had mail.
In July 1794, Col. James O’Hara established a line of U.S. mail packet boats between Wheeling and Limestone, Kentucky. The mail was sorted at the Wheeling Post Office by Col. Finley, and relayed in bateauxs, (rowboats) built in Wheeling, sent on to Marietta, Cincinnati and Limestone, Kentucky. The first boat carried mail to Marietta, a second boat took the mail to Gallipolis and the third delivered the mail to Limestone, Kentucky. Each boat made one round trip weekly. Elijah Martin was appointed boat master of Mail Boat No. 1, July 5, 1794, and Charles Mills was appointed boat master of Mail Boat No. 2 July 12, 1794. Each crew consisted of four rowers and a well-armed captain. They stowed their muskets in a weatherproof box alongside their seats. Mail Boat crews were garrisoned in “Fort Randolph”. These boats could make sixty miles a day down-stream and thirty up-stream. The mail would be held up for weeks in the winter due to ice.

Green Bateaux U.S. Mail Boat Model by John Bowman

The James Palmer and James Patton boat yards had built three green bateaux for Major Isaac Craig, who was experienced in river navigation and Colonel James O’Hara, the army contractor, in charge of arrangements. Bateaux, 22 to 25 feet long, were provided with tarpaulins for protection in rainy weather. Bateaux were propelled by oars and were sometimes called skiffs; they were keel less, flat-bottomed boats with ends tapering to points. The boats were treated with a wood preservative, “Arsenic, ‘Paris Green’ thus the green colour.
July 28, 1794, “Mail Robbery”, Isaac Craig at Wheeling writes to Henry Knox “Package from Head Quarters delivered by boatman, now sent forward in the care of Ensign Sample under safe guard due to the robbing of mail at Pittsburgh recently.” Craig enclosed duplicates of letter, returns, and abstracts that were lost in the robbery.
August 8, 1794, “Paying McIntire for Forage, Etc.”, Isaac Craig writes to Samuel Craig “I (Craig) am drawing on Hodgdon $633.00 for John McIntire who furnished a quantity of forage sent to Fort Washington and sundry articles for the post at Wheeling.”
August 15, 1794, Wayne reached northwestern Ohio and the Maumee River, the stronghold of Indian forces that was close to Fort Miamis, a British held fort. Unlawfully, the British had still occupied several forts in the Northwest Territory they deemed essential to the fur trade, in violation of the ‘Treaty of Paris’ that had officially ended the war with Britain.
Near present-day Toledo, Ohio at a site known as “Fallen Timbers”, the Indians including Miamis, Shawnees, and warriors from other tribes, under the command of Shawnee Chief Blue Jacket, laid in wait and hoped to ambush Wayne’s forces and inflict another devastating defeat on these invading U.S. troops. This site, “Fallen Timbers” was a clearing formed years before when a tornado had toppled hundreds of trees.
On the morning of August 20, 1794, Wayne’s army approached Fallen Timbers and came under heavy fire; he immediately ordered his infantry to charge with bayonets to flush the Indians out of their positions, where they could be cut down by musket fire. The Indians, unused to a disciplined enemy, and expecting that they (Indians) would be the ones charging, broke and ran towards Fort Miamis. The battle lasted less than an hour and proved decisive. Wayne losses were 40 killed and 100 wounded. Wayne then destroyed the Indian villages and crops nearby.
The British at Fort Miamis made all efforts not to provoke a war with the Americans, and within three months, the United States signed another treaty with Britain that pledged their evacuation from the Northwest Territory forts by 1796.
With all this said, Secretary of War, Henry Knox writes, “None of this would have been possible without Wayne’s victory at “Fallen Timbers”. Never has such a brief battle proved as decisive in American military history.” Wayne had achieved success where two other American generals had been soundly defeated.
Other than, the rare few retaliatory Indian attacks in the western part of the Ohio Territory, no one in Virginia were at all worried about any further Indian attacks. With this in mind, and “Fort Randolph’s” Garrison (barracks) completed, continued work on the building of “Fort Randolph’s” blockade and stockade was suspended.
October 30, 1794, Isaac Craig writes to Henry Knox with concerns about the interception of U.S. Mail by traitors, and his hopes to overcome the “Whiskey Rebellion”. Craig writes, “A letter has been intercepted by a traitor, and they now search for him. Although the insurrection has desisted from burning houses, we seek to put down the Whiskey Rebellion and enforce submission to the laws of the United States.” Western Pennsylvania’s Whiskey Rebellion was due to an excise tax placed on distilled spirits. Spirit producers west of the Appalachian and Allegheny Mountains, opposed the “Whiskey” tax.
January 16, 1795, Timothy Pickering writes to Rufus Putman making postal recommendations; “I am sending a canoe to meet Mail Boat No. 3 from Gallipolis. I am seeking to provide constant employment for mail carriers and the punctual delivery of mail. My recommendations are made in lieu of the Postmaster General.”
February 20, 1795, Plan for Efficient Mail Delivery, Rusus Putnam writes to Timothy Pickering: “Enclosed, my plan contained in this letter promises the fairest to ensure a regular and efficient carriage of the mail between Wheeling and Preston…detail for mail delivery.”
April 28, 1795, Indian Hostilities, Timothy Pickering writes to Robert Brooke, and Pickering gives his “Opinion on Indian hostilities and the white hunters invading Indian hunting grounds on the North West side of the Ohio River.”
May 1, 1795, Cox encloses in a letter to Timothy Pickering: “Letters from agents to purchase spirits for the western military, and the amount needed.”
August 3, 1795, the “Treaty of Greenville”, a treaty of peace between the United States of America, and the tribes of Indians called the Wyandots, Delawares, Shawanese, Ottawas, Chippewas, Pattawatimas, Miamis, Eel Rivers, Weas, Kickapoos, Piankeshaws, and Kaskaskias was signed by the Chiefs of these tribes, and by Major General Anthony Wayne, commanding the Army of the United States. This treaty put an end to conflict and removed Native American claims to Ohio and the surrounding lands, effectively opening Ohio to American settlers.
August 28, 1795, Isaac Craig writes to Timothy Pickering, Pittsburgh: “Cash and provisions delivered by Charles Anderson for the pay and forage of troops stationed at the upper posts of the Ohio River to be forwarded by mail boat.” Craig believed the transport by boat was the safest option.
October 23, 1795, Isaac Craig writes to Samuel Hodgdon “Enclosed is an abstract of expenditures of Quartermasters Department and expenses at Wheeling.” Craig breaks down expenses and who is accountable by department.
Colonel Ebenezer Zane of Wheeling applied for, and was granted a contract by the United States Congress on May 17, 1796 to establish a path between Wheeling, Virginia and Limestone, (Maysville) Kentucky and the requirements imposed in the contract would have Zane complete the path by January 1, 1797. In the spring of 1797, with the advertised opening of Zane’s Trace to Kentucky, things changed. Wheeling was gaining in stature, the beginnings of a population center were taking shape and the Virginia legislature moved the county seat of government from West Liberty to Wheeling. With Zanes Trace now opened, U.S. Mail service to Marietta, Cincinnati and Limestone, Kentucky by boat was discontinued, post riders now carried the mail over Zane’s new path. Zane’s Trace that started on the west bank of the Ohio River at Wheeling became the first road in Ohio and the then shortest route to Kentucky.
May 1, 1797, a new Wheeling Post Office building is opened, a log building built on the west side of Main Street, south of Jefferson (Ninth) Street, next to the tavern of George Knox.
May 19, 1797, Isaac Craig writes to James McHenry on the value of ‘Buildings and Forwarded Supplies’, and recounted the construction of buildings at Fort Pitt. “Fort Pitt’s buildings were made of logs and are decayed; in addition they were built on private land which was recently sold to private citizens.” Craig awaiting instructions on disposal of building materials, requests assistance from the Attorney General in processing his request, and noted, “A similar situation exists at “Fort Randolph” in Wheeling.”
May 19, 1797 “Fort Randolph” U.S. Troop Garrison was sold to Wheelingites, boat carpenter George White and lumber merchant George Pannell who turned the building into rented sleeping rooms. George Pannell, busy in his construction business, soon sold his interest to George Vennum of Wheeling. The next accounting of “Fort Randolph” takes place in 1815.
June 16, 1797, Delivery of Dispatches, Isaac Craig writes to James McHenry: “Dispatches to be sent via confidential hand to Fort Washington.” Craig estimates “mail will now take less time by land (over Zanes Trace) than by boat on the Ohio River, and Craig, not yet privy on the sale of “Fort Randolph”, “asks about the abandoned building (Fort Randolph) located at Wheeling.”
October 25, 1797, ‘Accounts and Receipts Enclosed’ Peter Grayson writes to William Simmons “Grayson replies to Simmons’ request for an account of payments made at Wheeling. He owes the United States $51.80 and has it on hand to pay to whomever Simmons designates.”
September 1, 1815, an experienced boat Captain, Henry Miller Shreve, a Brownsville, Pennsylvania native came to Wheeling and took up residence. Shreve, conferring with two master ship carpenters, Anthony Dunlevy and George White, laid down his plans for the steamboat Washington, a wholly new design concept in boat building. Shreve began building his Washington on the north bank of Wheeling Creek, where he laid the keel September 10, 1815.
Wheeling’s old “Fort Randolph” in 1815 was still owned by George Vennum and George White. An unruly Ox had recently destroyed much of the building’s exterior and White would utilize the best of what remained in the building of Shreve’s steamboat Washington. The wood hull and superstructure came from the timbers of this old “Fort Randolph”. Trenches (pits) were dug, and timbers from the old fort were dragged over the pits, and two men using a crosscut saw (one in the pit and one standing on the log), sawed the timbers into boards.

Wheeling’s Main Street Covered Bridge 1816 -1832

In the winter of 1815-1816, while the Washington awaited its steam machinery from Brownsville, Shreve had George White, White’s Lead Carpenter Samuel Wait, and their carpenters build a covered bridge. This was Wheeling’s first bridge, likely financed by Peter Yarnall, Noah Linsly and Noah Zane. The covered bridge, built across Wheeling Creek to the south bank was a great convenience to the patrons of Jackson’s Grain mill. Before the bridge, a Lea-board ferry operated occasionally to transport large wagons filled with grain. This Main Street Covered bridge served Wheeling until it was carried away by an ice gorge in the winter of 1832. In 1832-1833, Messers Rummel and Bummell (their names were on the eastern wall of the bridge about midway from the end) constructed the first “stone bridge” over the creek at a cost of over twenty-thousand dollars. The present day Main Street Bridge begun in 1891, replaced the 1833 Main Street Bridge.

Following the building of the steamboat Washington, this site had quite a further history. Hans Wilson, a storekeeper, removed the final remains (rotted logs) of the old “Fort Randolph” and put up a warehouse that was subsequently turned into a cotton mill ran by his son, Marcus Wilson. It was in turn in 1837, made into the Point Paper Mill of A. & R. Fisher at 10 South Street, which they ran into the mid-1840s. George White, chief carpenter on the steamboat Washington, witnessed the introduction of steam-power to Wheeling when Daniel French’s steam engine was set on the steamboat Washington, the steamboat he had helped build. White accompanied Henry Miller Shreve on the Steamboat Washington on its maiden voyage to New Orleans. Returning to Wheeling, White ordered a steam engine from French of Brownsville, Pennsylvania with plans in mind for a steam-powered grain mill. In 1817, White built a flouring mill on the north bank of Wheeling Creek using steam-power, not water, to turn the grinding stones. This was the first steam-powered industry in Wheeling and the first in Virginia’s Northern Panhandle. This mill was on the north bank of Wheeling Creek just east of the Main Street Covered Bridge.

Photo of an 1830 drawing made from the Main Street Bridge of Dana Hubbard’s steam-powered saw mill, George White’s steam flouring mill and Levi & J. Prescott’s steam-powered wool carding mill. This is on the north bank of Wheeling Creek. Photo from the Herb Bierkortte collection.

Steam-power allowed mills to be placed anywhere without the need of water for power. In 1827, Dana Hubbard built a sawmill and attached it to White’s steam flouring mill. This was the first steam-powered sawmill in the northern Panhandle.
In 1829, Levi & J. Prescott inaugurated the process of wool carding and pulling and attached it to Dana Hubbard’s steam-powered sawmill.

1 Allman, Clarence Brent, Lewis Wetzel Indian Fighter: The Life and Times of a Frontier Hero. New York, NY: Devin-Adair Co., 1961. Lewis Wetzel was the great-uncle of Clarence B. Allman.
2 Baldwin, Leland D., The Keelboat Age on Western Waters, University of Pittsburgh Press 1949, 1961, 1976.
3 Bowman, John, Wheeling The Birthplace of the American Steamboat Wheeling National Heritage Area Corporation, Wheeling, WV, 2008.
4 Celeron, Pierre Joseph Céloron de Blainville: Expedition of Celeron to the Ohio Country in 1749.
5 Cranmer, Hon. Gibson Lamb, History of Wheeling City and Ohio County, West Virginia and Representative Citizens, Biographical Publishing Co., Chicago, Ill.1902 Reprint of 1994.
6 Newton, J.H. Editor, Nichols, G.G., Sprankle, A.G. History of the Pan-Handle, Being Historical Collections of the Counties of Ohio, Brooke, Marshall and Hancock, West Virginia J.A. Caldwell, Wheeling, W.Va. 1879 Reprint Heritage Books, Inc. Bowie, MD 1990.
7 Seelinger, Matthew, Chief Historian U.S. Army Center of Military History https://armyhistory.org/ The Battle of Fallen Timbers August 20, 1794
8 Schneider, Norris F. and Stebbins, Clair C. ZANES TRACE THE FIRST ROAD IN OHIO 1947 Zanesville, Ohio Zanesville Chamber of Commerce 1973.
9 Wilde, Joseph L. Esq., History of Wheeling During the Past Forty Years Wheeling, W.Va. 1879
10 Wingerter, Charles A., History of Greater Wheeling and Vicinity, Vols. I and II. The Lewis Publishing Co., Chicago and New York 1912

1 “Fort Randolph” U.S. Troop Garrison drawing by John Bowman
2 Wheeling’s FlatIron building
3 Site Chosen for Wheeling’s “Fort Randolph” Troop Garrison drawing by John Bowman
4 Green Bateaux U.S. Mail Boat photo and Model by John Bowman
5 Wheeling’s Main Street Covered Bridge drawing by John Bowman
6 Washington Steamboat Model by John Bowman
7 Photo of an 1830 drawing made from the Main Street Bridge of Dana Hubbard’s steam-powered sawmill, George White’s steam flouring mill and Levi & J. Prescott’s steam-powered wool carding mill. 1830 drawing by an unknown artist. Photo from the Herb Bierkortte collection.

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