There is probably no city in this country more favored with a good and cheap market than Wheeling. Being situated in a rich and fertile valley with miles of river bottom lands not excelled for fertility anywhere in the world, and surrounded by hills favorable for good pasturage, the facilities thus afforded for the cultivation of garden truck and the grazing of fine cattle are taken advantage of by a large and well informed body of market gardeners. In addition the numerous railroad lines and boats, the enterprises of commerce that make the products of every clime the common property of all, afford a market which for quantity, quality and cheapness, will compare favorably with that of any city in the Union and is equalled by few.
West Virginia is noted for its fine cattle and sheep, and with the fertile fields of Ohio, Western Pennsylvania and Kentucky to draw upon, meat is furnished in abundance and of superior quality. The finest roasts can be bought for 15 cents a pound and the choicest cuts of steaks from 15 to 12 1/2 cents; veal at 10 and 12 1/2 cents, mutton in quality not excelled by any and equaled by few places can be had at 10, 12 1/2 and 15 cents; pork from corn-fed hogs at 10 and 12 1/2 cents, with smoked and cured meats from 8 cents for the low grades to 12 1/2 and 15 cents for the finest sugar cured hams.
Fish are furnished by local fishermen in abundance, caught in the Ohio river and delivered at houses "alive, all alive," for 25 cents a string, which is a quantity sufficient for a good meal for a family of considerable size. Being in close proximity to the great lakes and having rapid transit from Baltimore, all of the finer lake fish and all the products of the ocean and Chesapeake Bay are daily brought to Wheeling's doors at prices but slightly in advance of the home market. Oysters can be bought at 20 to 30 cents a quart and fine lake and salt water fish at 10 to 20 cents a pound.
Easy and quick communication with the Southern markets brings a supply of early spring vegetables in advance of nearly all of the Northern cities. As soon as anyone gets them, the Wheeling market is full of greens in the shape of kale, spinach, water cresses and lettuce. Next come early peas and tomatoes, while new and sweet potatoes follow soon after. These vegetables are of course higher in prices at this time than a few weeks later, but are not excessive at any time or out of proportion for freshness and early production. About this time the luscious strawberry makes its appearance, and here is where Wheeling challenges the world. The Barnesville berry, which is the standard for comparison everywhere, is supplied here in its greatest perfection and almost unlimited quantity, commencing at from 25 cents per basket, they soon fall to three for a quarter, and in a very short time to five and six cents a basket. By the time strawberries are all gone, blackberries come in, and soon get as low as 30 cents a bucket. Fine cultivated raspberries soon follow and are sold at eight and ten cents a basket of a quart size.
About this time our gardeners bring in string beans and green peas at 25 to 35 cents a peck, and new potatoes at 40 to 50 cents; new home raised tomatoes and green corn, in great abundance, and sweet apples in profusion Every year, somewhere in the Ohio valley within easy reach of Wheeling, there is sure to be a peach crop, and this fruit has been in market this summer as low as $1 25 per bushel, while plums, best quality, were in market at 40, 50 and 60 cents a bucket. Cherries in the early spring were furnished in great quantities at 10 and 12 cents a gallon. The good housewife could get currants and gooseberries for jelly at 20 a 30 cents a gallon. Peas are just coming in of fine quality and low price.
The rich, sandy soil of Marshall county, which adjoins us, yields melons of a quality not excelled anywhere, and of a quantity that makes the price so low that no one can afford to be without them. Think of fine watermelons for 5 and 10 cents, and well flavored nutmegs and cantaloups at six for a quarter.
Cauliflowers are 5 and 10 cents and a cabbage 3 to 5 cents a head; celery, 5 and 10 cents a bunch; egg plants, 10 cents each; beets, 5 cents a bunch; carrots, 20 cents a peck; parsnips, 15 cents; cranberries, 15 cents a quart; marrow squashes, 10 cents, and summer squashes, 5 cents; Turnips, 15 cents a peck; cucumbers, 3 for 5 cents.
As a sample of the prevailing low prices, the writer one day last week took home from market one dozen sweet corn, one-quarter peck of fine tomatoes, one-half peck of sweet potatoes, one quart of lima beans, one-half peck of elegant grapes, one large water melon, six nutmeg melons, two pounds of butter, one chicken, two slices of sugar cured ham and one pound of dried beef, and only expended $1.25. The writer also saw nine fine chickens sold for 15 cents apiece and good table butter at 25 cents, while a few weeks ago butter was 12 1/2 cents a pound. In winter butter goes to 35 and 40 cents, eggs to 25 cents, though they are now 15 cents and have been as low as 8 cents a dozen.
Grapes are now as fine as at any time and can be bought for 30 cents a peck. Table apples and good cooking apples are 15 cents a half peck, and good winter apples can be bought this fall at $1.00 per barrel. Potatoes will probably not go above 60 cents per bushel this fall or winter.
Game is plentiful in our market in the season, and is reasonably cheap, particularly venison and wild turkeys, which are sent in from the neighboring mountains. Squirrels are plentiful and partridges in fair quantities.
Tropical fruits are always as cheap here as in any northern city and generally of a superior quality.
All of the vegetables found in our market are generally home raised and are furnished fresh, being prepared only a few hours before the purchaser gets them.
Poultry always commands a fair price, dressed chickens are 25, 35 and 40 cents a piece; turkeys, 12 1/2 and 15 cents a pound; geese, 30 to 50 cents a piece.
Having Reference to Booming the Old Town, Something to Boom On.
To the Editor of the Intelligencer,
Sir: - Now that natural gas is an absolute indispensable fact and not the outcome of some future time, Wheeling should trim her sails for a breeze that will quicken the pulse of trade and bring about the general improvement everybody desires to see. Cities and towns east and west of us are advertising and publishing themselves into public notice and are using every legitimate endeavor to increase their manufacturing interests and build up their respective places. They never cease day or night, to push claims to public notice. Everybody takes a hand and talks about their prospects, how busy they are, what a boom their town is enjoying, how their place is growing and what an advantage it is to be located in their midst, etc., etc. These efforts always bring good results if properly directed, and there are many flourishing cities throughout the country that owe their prominence and importance solely to just such energy on the part of their citizens. Most of these places are inferior to Wheeling as to shipping facilities and natural advantages. They have been built up solely through energy, push, enterprise, the progressive spirit of their citizens, coupled with a determination to lead instead of follow. With every possible natural advantage, unrivalled shipping facilities by rail and water, good climate, a well-improved city, with a reputation established, with numerous manufacturing sites, and most important of all natural gas in unlimited quantity, is Wheeling not going to enlarge herself and build up her industries? I mistake the signs of the times if there is not going to be a shaking up of dry bones.
Already the citizens step out brisker, their faces are brighter and the looked-for improvement seems ready to develop at once. Busines is better already. The manufacturer, merchant and workingman all seem brighter and speak encouragingly of the outlook. We have the opposition on the hip and are bound to overcome it and make the city of an importance greater than ever. Let every man get his shoulder to the wheel and do his share of pushing, no matter how small he may consider himself.
The outpouring of the people to see the gas lighted shows that they are all interested, and the desire is universal to pull the city out of the rut she ran into several years ago and start it along the smooth highway of commercial prosperity. Let everybody do what he can and the result is bound to come.
It is but necessary to advertise the city far and wide to attract attention to it, and there is not a man in the city who cannot help to do this. What we want is to "whoop her up!" The city officials, the Chamber of Commerce, manufacturers, merchants, professional men, workingmen, and all join in the work and the old town can be made to fairly hum.
Wheeling Daily Intelligencer, September 14, 1886
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