Today in Wheeling History: May 23--Tenth anniversary of Right Reverend John J. Kain as Bishop of Wheeling (1885). (https://rb.gy/bh28t)
Today in Wheeling History: May 21--Following the passage of a legislative act temporarily relocating the state capital to Wheeling, Governor John Jacob and several other state officials departed Charleston aboard the steamer “Emma Graham” bound for Wheeling (1875). (https://rb.gy/2yrn8)
Today in Wheeling History: May 21--James Maxwell, President, National Bank of West Virginia, dies at age of 65 years (1885).
James Maxwell, the president of the National Bank of West Virginia, passed away suddenly from heart disease at 9:00 pm on Thursday, May 21, 1885. Despite experiencing chest pains, his death came as a shock to his family and friends. He had complained of discomfort during a Board of Education meeting before stepping into Shellhase’s grocery store at the corner of Market and Eleventh streets, where he collapsed. Mr. Shcellhase called for help, and ex-Mayor Egerter and Mr. CharlesTieman came running over. Dr. McMasters was called, but Maxwell could not be revived. Dr. Hupp arrived shortly thereafter. Both Dr. McMasters and Dr. Hupp felt n inquest was not necessary as heart disease was determined to be the cause of death. James Maxwell, a prominent figure in the city and a respected individual, had dedicated his life to various institutions. He leaves behind a wife and two children. Maxwell is buried in Greenwood Cemetery. (https://rb.gy/mpxj7) (https://rb.gy/55dgj)
Today in Wheeling History: May 18--B&O engine and cars plunge through bridge near city station (1881). (https://rb.gy/cgoao)
A catastrophic accident occurred on the B. & O. railroad when an engine and two loaded cars plunged into Wheeling Creek. The noise of the collapse attracted a crowd, and immediate rescue efforts were initiated. The engineer, Thomas Clark, was trapped underwater but miraculously survived with minor injuries. The bridge collapse caused significant damage to the surrounding area, with broken barrels of flour and wreckage scattered. The engine and its cars fell into the creek. Remarkably, no fireman was present on the engine, and a brakeman on the rear car narrowly escaped death. The demolished had been in service for almost 20 years and is now beyond repair. Repairs and inspections are underway, while the loss to the railroad and freight are estimated to be substantial. Engineer Clark, around 40 years old with a wife and three children, is expected to make a full recovery.
Today in Wheeling History: May 17--A strong windstorm destroyed the deck of the Wheeling Suspension Bridge through continuous twisting and up and down movements that rose up almost as high as the towers (1854). The bridge was rebuilt and reopened in 1856. (https://rb.gy/masz4) (https://rb.gy/jgrog)
Today in Wheeling History: May 17--Wheeling policeman Harry Downs accidentally shoots and kills his wife (1905). While cleaning his 38-caliber revolver at their home on Chapline and Twenty-seventh streets, the weapon discharged, fatally injuring Mrs. Downs. Their eldest child, a 12-year-old boy, witnessed the heartbreaking event and ran out in distress, alerting the neighbors. Medical assistance arrived promptly, but the bullet had already claimed Mrs. Downs' life. Devastated, Harry clung to his wife's lifeless body, desperately hoping for her return. The kitchen, where the accident occurred, remained untouched as the family was about to have dinner. Mrs. Downs, formerly known as Laura Friend, hailed from a rural area near New Martinsville. Officer Downs had recently joined the police force under Chief Clemans. Mrs. Downs, 34 years old at the time, left behind three children: Harry (12), Lola (7), and Hulda (4). The couple had been married for thirteen years. (https://rb.gy/bmyv2)
Today in Wheeling History: May 16--Contracts awarded for the E.B. Potts Building, 1145-1147 Market Street (1898). (https://rb.gy/bqntu) (https://rb.gy/csxl8)
Edwin Bruce Potts, Sr., hailed from Dover, a village west of Powhatan in the Captina Valley, Ohio. Initially involved in the mercantile trade in Belmont County, Ohio, he later achieved great success in steamboats and river floating stores. In the late 1880s, he established the E.B. Potts grocery store, which occupied the entire ground floor of Wheeling’s Hawley Building.
His interests shifted towards the hotel industry, starting with his involvement in the construction of the seven-story Grand Central Hotel (also known as the Potts Building) at 1145-1147 Market Street. Managing the hotel for years, E.B. Potts, Sr., relocated his grocery store to the first floor. The Security Trust Co. temporarily occupied the hotel’s first floor until they moved into a new building nearby.
After selling the Grand Central Hotel in 1922 for a record price, E.B. Potts, Sr., remodeled a building at Tenth and Main streets and added an extension, resulting in the creation of the Hotel Wheeling. He eventually relocated to Miami, Florida, eight years before his passing. His son, Edwin Bruce, Jr., carried on the family business and served as the Manager of the Wheeling Hotel until his death on October 6, 1950.
Today in Wheeling History: May 15--West Virginia's first telephone exchange started in Wheeling with around 25 subscribers (1880). The Central District and Printing Telegraph Company installed a telephone switchboard in the basement of the Peoples Bank of Wheeling Building located at 12th and Main streets. Harry Drummond and Mattie Miner were among the initial telephone operators.
The state's primary phone line had been established a year earlier between two Behrens brothers' grocery stores in the city, allowing only local calls initially. In 1883, long-distance service started between Wheeling and Pittsburgh, and other cities such as Parkersburg, Charleston, and Huntington followed suit with telephone exchanges in the subsequent years. By 1889, toll lines linked all the exchanges in northern West Virginia. In 1897, AT&T bridged the state's north and south through long-distance calls, and the entire state became interconnected by the early 1900s. Key developments included dial service in Huntington in 1925 and direct-distance dialing in Wheeling and Moundsville in 1956. Charleston was the first city in the country to have long-distance carrier options beyond AT&T in 1984. (https://rb.gy/8vt2a) (https://rb.gy/w6pwh)
Today in Wheeling History: May 15--At the First Wheeling Convention, resolutions were presented stating that the Virginia Ordinance of Secession was unconstitutional, null, and void (1861). (https://rb.gy/gfyri) (https://rb.gy/l3qt1)
Today in Wheeling History: May 11—Wheeling Nailers play first home Game 7 in team history; 4-3 overtime victory vs. Reading Royals (2016) (https://rb.gy/xt73q)
Mike Minder was born and raised in Wheeling, West Virginia. He is the author of Wheeling's Gambling History to 1976.