In wood working Wheeling is no less busy than in iron, steel and glass. She has five saw and planing mills, which turn out rough or finished lumber, make doors, sashes, shutters and blinds, do contract wood-working from the turning of a newel post to the erection of the largest house, and work in both hard and soft wood. These five establishments employ an average of thirty men each, not including carpenters working on contracts elsewhere than in the factories.
No place in the country is more favorably situated for the carrying on of lumber working enterprises than Wheeling. Her railroad and river facilities give her command of all the sources of lumber supply, and her proximity to the whole counties of virgin timber lands in the mountains of West Virginia places at her door an inexhaustible supply of the finest timber of every workable sort. A considerable business is also done here in the purchase of black walnut, cherry and other hard woods for export. These valuable woods are abundant and cheap within sight of the Wheeling hills, together with oak, poplar, beech, hickory, sycamore, chestnut, locust and almost every desirable variety of wood. A few miles haul places hemlock, pine and the commoner woods in the lumber yards of the city. Much of the supply comes from the Pennsylvania and West Virginia forests in the form of immense rafts, which are floated down to the city with their millions of feet, costing nothing at all for transportation.
In addition to the planing mill industry, the product of which is largely, though not exclusively, for local consumption, Wheeling has a productive industry which gives employment to no inconsiderable share of her population in her furniture factories. Of these the Wheeling Furniture Factory of F.C. Arbenz & Co., on Twentieth street and the creek bank, is now the leading factory. This firm makes fine furniture, such as dressing cases, washstands, book cases, sideboards, wardrobes and all articles made from fine woods, and their trade is in the large cities, mainly west and south. The raw material is convenient, including glass, and the only heavy transportation involved is that of marble, which is cheaply brought to Wheeling by boats.
Beneke, Hubach & Co., have a factory for similar grades of furniture on the corner of Water and Twenty-second streets. Though of less extent, employing about fourteen men, this factory has built up as good a trade as its capacity can accommodate, by the care and skill which it exercises in its work.
G. Ed. Mendel has an extensive factory on Eoff street, between Twelfth and Thirteenth, fitted up with the most improved machinery for wood working, and having a larger capacity than any other factory in town. At present, however, he is only operating it upon work ordered in connection with his local trade, making the highest grade of furniture much superior to that usually found in the market.
Richard Schaeppner also has a less extensive factory on Seventeenth street.
Another department of wood work which has long been actively engaged in Wheeling is the manufacture of kegs, barrels, casks, tierces, etc. The demand for such product to hold the oil, beer, ale, wine, lard, nails, glassware and other products which are packed in cooper's work, and the fruit and other products of the rich agricultural region surrounding, combining with the abundant and cheap raw material to stimulate the business. Millions of kegs are required every year to hold the nails alone produced here. Hundreds of thousands of barrels and half-barrels are used annually by the brewers. the flour mills use thousands, the glass houses as many barrels and hogsheads. All these and the others required for various uses are made here, and a portion of the product of the shops is sent to other cities. Several of the nail mills make their own kegs. The North Wheeling keg and barrel factory of Wilson & Dunlevy, at the foot of Sixth street does perhaps the largest business. Their product is nail kegs and flour or fruit barrels. Alexander Beltz has a "tight" cooperage shop at 22 Seventeenth street, making lard tierces, beer barrels, etc. There are several other prosperous shops in the same line.
Shingles and lath are produced only to a small extent. Axe and pick handles, hatchet helves and the like are also made in a small way. Ralph R. Spears, in the South End, operates an axle manufactory and the Sixth ward boasts a bent wood works.
The peculiar advantages of Wheeling as a manufacturing locality are demonstrated beyond dispute by the fact that with a large portion of the convicts in the State Penitentiary engaged upon wagon making at low contract wages, Wheeling has not only maintained a considerable industry in the direction of wagon building, but has met competition in many favored localities, and to-day has an extensive concern in this line, which actually produces a large percentage of the wagons used in the cotton fields of the Gulf States, as well as many other styles of wagons which are employed in all uses nearer home.
This concern is the great wagon works of the Bodley Brothers, on Eoff and Eighteenth streets. The establishment is a monster brick building extending from Eoff to Chapline streets and having a frontage of a quarter of a square on each of these streets. Half of the building is four stories in height and the remainder three, and two offices and other small buildings are also occupied on the opposite side of Eighteenth street. The works are supplied with the latest machinery for turning spokes, axles and hubs and forming all the parts of a wagon, iron or wood, from the raw material.
The firm makes a speciality of wagons for the use of cotton planters, having wheels six or eight feet in diameter with extra wide tires, fitted for hauling their heavy burdens over soft ground. These are made here and shipped to New Orleans, where the firm owns warehouses occupying one entire square. They employ a large number of skilled workmen at good wages. The freight on their wagons, which are largely shipped in the piece by river steamers, is so low that the great facilities here more than compensate for the transportation such a long distance. The firm consists of James W. Bodley, who resides in New Orleans, and John Bodley, who has charge of the works here.
There are nine less extensive wagonbuilding houses in the city.
In carriage building Wheeling has achieved scarcely less distinction than in wagon manufactures. The firm of Donaldson, Lewis & Co., whose works are located at 1500 to 1506 Market street, have established a reputation for carriages of their build from Kansas City and Chicago to Pennsylvania, and vehicles turned out by them compare favorably in style and workmanship with the most costly products of the most famous builders. Their buggies, carriages and light road wagons are scattered all over the country.
D. Kull, jr., & Co., have a factory at 2110 Main street, where carriages, phaetons, buggies, delivery wagons and all sorts of wheeled vehicles from a road cart or a surrey to an ice wagon or an omnibus are turned out. The firm's work compares with that of any city.
Lotz & Elig, at 937 Market street, have an extensive and convenient factory which produces equally creditable work in the same lines.
A year ago Messrs. J.C. Hale and J. Ran Stalnaker, formerly Secretary of State of West Virginia, associated themselves under the firm name of Hale & Stalnaker, for the manufacture of box timber, bungs and barrel heads. They leased the old Hubbard saw mill property and fitted it up for their purposes. In the meantime they had secured the most improved machinery for producing their wares with the greatest rapidity, economy and finish. They were hardly fairly started before their facilities were taxed to supply orders. It literally rained bungs, dropping from the stamping machine perfectly shaped and highly polished. Barrel heads come out by the thousands to be packed in bulk. No Wheeling industry has jumped sooner into success. The firm has the great advantage of Mr. Hale's large timber interests in Wirt and adjoining counties, the cheapness with which the best poplar is delivered in Wheeling, good business management and first rate shipping facilities by rail and water.
The first year has been so prosperous that the firm is now contemplating the erection of a large four-story factory to accomodate the growing business, which is likely to be vastly increased through the current year.
The Wheeling Daily Intelligencer, September 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.