Wellsburg, one among the oldest towns on the Ohio river, takes her name in honor of Bazaleel or Alexander Wells. Previous to 1816, the town was known as Charlestown, but its name was changed by an act of Legislature, dated December 16, 1816. This change in name was made on account of there being a Charlestown elsewhere in the State. Wellsburg, in the days of her incipiency, was one of the most noted shipping points on the river, her exports of flour and whisky, previous to and about 1820, exceeding those of Wheeling and almost equaling those of Pittsburgh. But since this ancient date the town has changed her industries, and is now one of the most flourishing and prosperous of her size in West Virginia.
The first boom that contributed more than anything else to Wellsburg's prosperity was the completion of the Pittsburgh, Wheeling & Kentucky Railroad from Wheeling Junction, opposite Steubenville, to Wheeling, the formal opening of which occurred on Monday, February 25, 1878. The telegraph line was completed and ready for business on the 1st of May, the same year.
About September, 1879, glass making having a boom in this section, Messrs. Charles Brady, Henry Gassmire, John Dornan, Jay Ratcliff and others, who were then interested in similar business at Wheeling, made a proposition to the effect that if they were donated certain low lying grounds in the town they would proceed to erect a glass factory of large capacity for the manufacture of general glassware. Mr. John Blankensop, sr., an old time glass house man, went zealously to work soliciting funds and in a short time the purchase money, about $900, was raised by a subscription from citizens who were eager to encourage an establishment of this character, and have it located in the town.
An act incorporating the Riverside Glass Works Company, of Wellsburg, was at once procured and active operation commenced about October 1, and being favored with good luck, the large establishment, with its ovens, kilns and chimneys, consuming over 800 perch of stone and 230,000 brick was completed and fire started in the furnace on the following 24th of December. Steam was raised in the engine January 20, 1880, and Wednesday, the 26th, may be recorded as the regular opening of the works.
For a long time after that date the works was the great centre of attraction for all interested in the process of glass-making, and outsiders manifested as much pride as the projectors and those directly interested. Since that date annex after annex, improvements, one after another, have been made until the Riverside Glass Works establishment is one of the most extensive concerns in the Ohio Valley, with a trade exceeded by few similar works hereabout. When natural gas was first obtained at Wellsburg, the Riverside was the first manufacturing establishment to utilize it, and they have continued so to do ever since. To-day they are using exclusively the production of one well, that known as the George Given well, below Buffalo creek, and pay therefor $500 yer month. The specialities of the Riverside are bar-room and table ware, and the varied and unique designs of the many styles of ware are worthy of notice, but space will not allow. The number employed in the works is about 160 persons. This factory was burned last week, but will be reconstructed at once.
The next glass works enterprise was the erection at the northend of the town of the Pan-handle Window glass Works which was soon completed and put into operation.
These works shared the general depression in window glass and have not been so successful as some other enterprises, and today are idle and have been more or less since the flood of '84. A good many Wheeling parties have stock in the window factory, and are largely represented in its Board of Directors. There is some likelihood that operations will be resumed ere long at these works.
The Dalzell Brothers & Gilmore's glass works, located at Midway, was completed in 1883, and for some time afterwards lay idle, but for the past year have been running night and day, turning out a fine line of bar room and table ware with all the orders they can handle. Natural gas is used also but this concern,and for a long time the production of their own well, located near the works, was used by them and they had plenty to spare for other purposes. For quite a period these works furnished the globes for the famous Nail City Buckeye lantern, made in Wheeling.
The Venture Glass Works is an enterprise inaugurated a little more than a year ago by practical and skilled workmen, with Arthur P. Ayling and John Lobmiller as its projectors and officers. Their speciality is brown flint glassware and private mould work. These works are operated with natural gas, and while the establishment is not quite so large as some others, the work turned out is equal to those of more metropolitan pretensions. Quite a number of men receive employment at these works at good salaries.
The last and most recent addition to the glass industry of Brooke county is the Lazear Glass Company, located at Lazearville, about one mile north of Wellsburg, on the line of the P. W. & Ky. railroad. The ground for this new enterprise was broken on the 27th of July, and as completed it stands one of the neatest ten-pot prescription factories in the Ohio Valley. Natural gas from the Royal Gas Company is used, and the first fires were ignited on the 9th inst. The specialty at these works is prescription ware and private moulds. The company derives its name from the father of the enterprising town of Lazearville, H. G. Lazear, who laid out the village some twelve years ago, and through his energy, go-aheaditiveness and liberality the town to-day is one of the most prosperous on the line of the P.,W.& Ky. road. In addition to its modern dwellings and business houses, it can boast of a fine new church and school building.
The S. George paper mill and flour sack manufactoy is in fact the largest concern of this character in this section of the country. Attached to the large paper mill is the sack manufactory, where some twenty to thirty women are employed, and the capacity of the factory is about 30,000 sacks per day, embracing in size one-fourths, one-eighths and one-sixteenths. These sacks are used principally for flour and by wholesale grocers for packing purposes. To brand these sacks in the various designs and styles are employed three cylinder power presses of the latest improvement which are kept running constantly. W. B. Shaeffer, the Superintendent of the sack department, is an experienced engraver of wood and a practical job printer who supervises all work turned out, which is conceded to be equal, if not superior, to any in the market. The trade of this concern is not confined to its own State, but reaches all over the country, particularly in the Western States. It is safe to say that at least two-thirds of the sacks of the character used by wholesale merchants in Wheeling are the product of this mill. Natural gas is used in all departments of the mill.
In this connection it will not be out of place to say that the proprietor, Mr. S. George, has done more to build up Wellsburg than any other citizen located there. In the gloomy panic days of 1874-8 he ercted the Hudson House, the largest and finest building in the town, which derives its name from the late Rev. T. H. Hudson, who was one the pioneer ministers at the Methodist Conference of the Pittsburgh district. Nor does Mr. George's enterprise stop here. There has never been anything projected or undertaken that had a tendency to entrance Wellsburg's interests that Mr. George was not among the first to take hold, and it has always been the case that when he exerted a helping hand the work was successful.
The manufacture of paper was started in Wellsburg as far back as 1835,and was continued successfully until July, 1848, when it was destroyed by fire. In 1851 Harvey, Manser & Co., erected a building on the same site for the manufacture of straw wrapping paper, which business has been steadily and successfully conducted since that date. During the period between that date and 1876 several changes in the name of the firm occurred, but the mill was operated all the same. Subsequently, after the death of W. H. Harvey, Sr., the entire business finally came into the hands of the Harvey Brothers, who successfully conducted the paper-making trade until aabout a year ago, when a change in the proprietorship occured. While the same concern is yet successfully operated, under the name of the Harvey Paper Company, its members represent the Harvey Bros., G. W. Rine, S. George, J. C. Palmer and W. S. Abrams. Recently vast improvements have been made in the establishment - in fact it has been rebuilt, and the most modern machinery for paper-making added.
The Stove foundry conducted by Blankensop Bros. & Co., is one of the leading industries of the town. Their speciality includes stoves, castings and ploughs. This old concern, under different management, has been operated continuously and satisfactorily since 1834-5.
The City Water Works, just completed at a cost of $22,500, was an addition to Wellsburg hailed with joy by the citizens. Heretofore the town has realized the need of such works in cases of fire, and now every citizen, since the work has been completed, can rest somewhat easier, knowing that with the facilities of the new works all the water necessary canbe supplied.
An important adjunct to the business of the Wheeling Natural Gas Company has been added by the purchase of the agency for the Siemens-Lungren regenerative gas lamp for a considerable territory, including Wheeling. This branch of the business is operated, it is true, under the name of the Natural Gas Illuminating Company, but this corporation is organized under the laws of West Virginia, the principal office is in Wheeling, and the capital stock is $50,000 which may be increased to $250,000. The Illuminating Company manufactures and sells the regenerative gas lamp.
The chief advantages claimed for the Siemens-Lungren lamp are increased illuminating power at greatly reduce cost. One of the lamps is in use in the Intelligencer editorial rooms and gives complete saisfaction. The light is soft though powerful. It consumes eight cubic feet an hour, gives a hundred candle power, has taken the place of four eight-foot burners and performs a service which never was expected of the four combined.
A committee of the Franklin Institute of Philadelphia, a scientific society of high repute, made a very complimentary report in awarding a medal to this lamp. The committee said: "The Lungren Inverted Gas Lamp owes it efficiency to the heating of the air and gas which enter the flame, by means of the waste heat which is leaving the lamp. Resembling in this respect the Siemens lamps it has peculiarities which render it noticeable and increases its value to a marked degree.
"The flame and the illumination is all below the structure of the lamp itself; there are no shadows; and the light thrown down from the suspended lamp is entirely unobstructed. The lamp is also of a form and structure which admits of its use in a variety of places, where the Siemens lamps could not be used so conveniently. Finally, its efficiency is much higher than that of the Siemens lamp in small and medium lamps, such as are used in the lighing of offices, stores and apartments of moderate dimensions, Its value for general illumination is, for this reason greater. "In measuring the light of the lamp, your committee found it necessary to construct a photometer for the angular measurements. Horizontal measurements were made on the bar photometer used in testing the Siemens lamp, however, the horizontal rays do not present its efficiency in actual use."
The lamps vary in size and finish. They produce as high as 225 candle power, with a consumption of eighteen cubic feet an hour. They vary in style from plainest for factory and other like business uses to a highly ornamented chandelier for library, hall, or parlor. They are equally adapted to the use of artificial and natural gas, with the latter producing as good results as with the former. In Wheeling, the city owning and operating an extensive gas plant, does not permitt the use of natural gas for illuminating purposes; but outside of the city limits, in the numerous towns on both sides of the river, there is a wide field for this excellent lamp to add to the value of natural gas.
The Wheeling Daily Intelligencer, Sept. 14, 1886 (Special Natural Gas edition)
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