Thursday, July 10, 2014

Traveling West Virginia: Benwood and McMechen

I have presented programs at the library here for several years, but usually didn't have time to look around. Located just outside of Wheeling, West Virginia, the homes in these adjoining towns were mostly homes for workingmen's families. Wheeling was an industrial hub, right on the Ohio River with busy railroads, and home of Mail Pouch Tobacco, Wheeling cigars, cut nails, steel-making, pottery-decorating and many other industries. Industries spread south and the towns of Benwood and McMechen thrived during those years of expansion. Like many other towns, the departure of the steel and other industries caused depopulation and an economic downturn in the region. Today there seems to be some growth as new industries are opening their doors in the area, most notably an area of large stores and shopping developing on the east side of Wheeling. The Marcellus shale drilling activity is also bringing many jobs and new business to the area.

We happened up one street and found the McMechen cemetery, located near where the original settler Captain William McMechen's cabin stood.

As I looked around, I could see why he would choose this spot: it was far enough away from the Ohio river to avoid flooding and provided an excellent view of the opening of the hollow so that anyone approaching could be seen immediately. In those early days (1771) threat of attack by the Native Americans in the area was very real and there are several accounts of massacres along the river, including one near here, known as the Foreman Massacre. (The men killed in that attack are buried at the Mount Rose cemetery in nearby Moundsville--another cemetery I need to visit).
photo from Find a Grave

I learned at the library that McMechen was named after Captain McMechen, and neighboring Benwood was named after his son Benjamin, and is an abbreviation of Ben's Wood, the property Benjamin owned.
This stone intrigued me. Who was Grandma Williams? She lived a long life certainly.

The plant I know as Spanish Dagger protects an old stone.

There were several graves here with a cast iron cover like this one. I do not believe I have seen any like this, although I have seen some cast iron gravestones before. I suppose the opening was for planting flowers?

There is a certain charm in little towns like this one. Close-built houses, narrow streets, and empty storefronts that offer an opportunity to speculate on what businesses once operated within.  Town was quiet the day we were there. It was hot and rain threatened.

In McMechen, the fire department houses a vintage firetruck and a memorial to a longtime fire chief.

Some memorials have an eternal flame; this one is continually running water, and what could be more fitting for a firefighter?

We found three buildings painted with the Mail Pouch logo:

Copyright Susanna Holstein. All rights reserved. No Republication or Redistribution Allowed without attribution to Susanna Holstein.

1 comment:

Janet, said...

Neat post, Susanna! Old towns, old cemeteries and history intrigues me.

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