train hands and laborers, steamboats with their demands for "roustabouts," and other workers, street paving and other public works, there is at all times plenty of work at fair wages for those who really wish to earn bread by the sweat of their brows.
Recently the stimulus given to the local labor market by the laying of natural gas pipes, the incidental work of repaving, piping mills and factories and private houses, made such demand for laborers that the town could not supply the requisite number, and scores of workers had to be imported from Pittsburgh and across the river.
These works are still in progress, in many parts of town, and the demand for labor, skilled and unskilled, promises to remain brisk throughout the season and for several successive seasons.
Wheeling's hospitality and her ability to shelter and feed crowds of strangers has been severely tested on one or two occasions, and always stood the test. She has had the annual conventions of such bodies as the American Protestant Association, the Roman Catholic Knights of America, the General Conference of the M.E. Church, the Amalgamated Association or Iron and Steel Workers, the United Nailers, Rollers and Heaters of America, the High Tent of Rechabites; State meetings with almost annual regularity of the Grand Lodges of Masons, Odd Fellows, Knights of Pythias, Knights of Honor and all the other secret and beneficial orders; the State Medical Society, State Pharmaceutical Association, State Press Association; Presbyteries and Conferences and Synods and Church and Sabbath School Societies without number; the State Fair, with its thousands of visitors, and nearly all the State conventions of the political parties.
Nobody has ever had reason to complain of their treatment, but on the contrary visitors all go home more than pleased with their entertainment, and glad to return. Last week one restaurant fed over 3,000 strangers. The coming tri-State reunion will tax the city's capacity severely, but with the admirably complete arrangements made for the event there is no reason to feat that Wheeling's reputation will be injuriously affected. The city can care for a number of strangers equal to her own population.
Capt. Chas. W. Batchelor, President of the Natural Gas Company of West Virginia, said to a reporter of the INTELLIGENCER:
"I tell you natural gas is the best, the cheapest, the cleanest and the safest fuel that has ever been discovered. That it is the best fuel, the increased quantity and improved quality of the output of iron and steel where it is used as a fuel demonstrates. That it is the cheapest, everybody knows who knows anything about it. If you doubt that it is the cleanest, just come up to Pittsburgh and compare the place now with what it used to be; and that it is the safest, the insurance men in Pittsburgh, where the requisite experience has been enjoyed to judge it, say the risk by fire is much reduced. There are none of those old defective flues which used to cause fires frequently.
"With natural gas you say, good bye smoke and soot; good bye to the advantages others have had in fuel over your manufacturers, and good bye to a great extent to labor troubles, for mechanics and others who do the work in the mills are intelligent people, and will take advantage of this good fuel and go where it is. Men will come from where there is no gas, to your mills, and solicit work. And manufacturers will be looking over Wheeling for sites, of which you have still many eligible ones."
Mr. J.M. Guffy, who is closely identified with natural gas development, said" "Natural gas puts Wheeling on an equality with Pittsburgh, and since Wheeling has room for more great industrial establishments and Pittsburgh has not, Wheeling is ahead in opportunities for growth. You can't realize yet what natural gas is to be to you. You have a solid foundation to build on, and if your people are wise they will not wait for outsiders to come in. But you will see them come, and you will see your city grow. You needn't be afraid of any other place, because you have everything to attract manufacturers."
President Flinn, of the Wheeling Natural gas company, said:"Wheeling now offers to manufacturers greater inducements than Pittsburgh or any other place with anything like the same shipping facilities. Wheeling has the room to grow, and her future is assured. We believed enough in Wheeling to put a great deal of money here, and we are not uneasy about it."
Mr. Frank Wilcox, Chief Engineer of the Philadelphia Company, Pittsburgh, came down to see what Wheeling has been doing in a natural gas way.
"I am prepared to say this," remarked Mr. Wilcox, "you have splendid natural gas plants - all that money can buy, and the way that your people take hold shows that they intend to put it to the best use; of course you will have new industrial establishments added to the great concerns you already have. But you don't begin to realize what natural gas will do for you."
The existence in the hills around Wheeling of an inexhaustible abundance of limestone of all the varying shades of composition, together with the refuse from the extensive tanneries and the glue factory, offers unusual advantages for the manufacture of fertilizers. The offal of the slaughter houses, the tanneries and glue factory are sold to parties at a distance for use in making fertilizers. Much material equally rich annually goes to waste for want of a market. While a fertilizer works in not a desirable sort of a neighbor there are numerous sites for the location of such a concern where it would not be offensive. The ash from the city garbage crematory will add materially to the material for such a product.
An immense supply of cement clay of the most valuable character can be found in the Wheeling hills which is not now utilized. A cement works at Bellaire is a profitable enterprise and one here would doubtless prove equally so.
As of old all roads led to Rome, so now all the excellent highways of the Pan Handle and the adjoining counties of Pennsylvania and Ohio converge at Wheeling. The old National road, now maintained by the State, is still a valuable feeder of Wheeling retail business. Up, down and across the river and over the hills in all directions good roads give the farmers and residents of inland towns easy access to the city. These roads are worth thousands of dollars to Wheeling in the course of a year.
The facility with which Wheeling can be reached from adjoining sections and cities practically doubles her population. Her retail merchants carry on their books the names of the best buyers in all the towns within fifty miles of Wheeling. Her places of amusement draw largely from the three cities over the river and other neighboring towns. Her markets are supplied with fresh fruits and vegetables. In fact the city's influence and business extends over from five to eight counties. The growing population over the river stands in the same relation to her as does Allegheny to Pittsburgh, only more closely bound and more interdependent. The city caters to and derives her patronage from 100,000 people.
Some idea of the large amount of manufacturing and industrial business carried on in Wheeling can be obtained from the fact that there are employed in the different factories, mills and shops of the city, over 140 steam engines, over a dozen water motors and several gas engines, over a dozen water motors and several gas engines. These do not include steam heating boilers or motors for the operation of elevators, and probably excludes a number of small ones used in plumbers' shops, cutlers shops and other repair works. The engines range in size from small Baxters of half a horse power to the largest Corliss made, and some of those in blast furnaces and rolling mills cost enough alone to equip an entire factory in some lines of manufacture with machinery.
The Wheeling Daily Intelligencer, Sept. 14, 1886
Service provided by the staff of the Ohio County Public Library in partnership with and partially funded by the Wheeling National Heritage Area Corporation.