Pursuit of History

PARKERSBURG – The Wood County Historical and Preservation Society is sponsoring a raffle to raise funds to purchase the historic Phelps-Tavenner house.

The all-volunteer nonprofit group is raffling off a Parkersburg Heritage American Legacy fully functional .30-30 rifle and French-fitted carrying case. Only 300 raffle tickets will be sold for the gun. Only 100 24-caret gold plate rifles are available with an American woodstock and this carrying case, according to the manufacturer.

Raffle tickets are $20 and can be purchased at the Parkersburg Antique Mall at 4001 Emerson Ave. or by contacting Bob Enoch, president of the historical society, at 304-483-9863 or 304-485-8655. Ticket buyers do not need to be present to win, the drawing will be held in September, with the date and time to be announced later.

Enoch said the raffle is part of the ongoing fundraising efforts of the society to raise $55,000 for the purchase of the house. The group has until end of the year to come up with the money for the property.

The structure, located on Camden Avenue, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The original home was built by Hugh Phelps around 1810. The most recent property owners, Lawrence and Bonnie Life, died in December and the house was left to their heirs.

If the historical society is able to raise the funds to buy the house, it will be turned into a repository, research center with family histories and a library. The society is a nonprofit, tax-exempt organization so any donations would be tax exempt. Donations or ideas for fundraisers can be submitted to Enoch or mailed to the society at P.O. Box 565, Parkersburg, W.Va. 26102.

Enoch said the group is also planning to sponsor a movie night during the Parkersburg Homecoming in August that will include film of the old street cars, the Wig Bickel Estate, DeSales Heights Academy and the former Parkersburg City Hall. The movies will last about two hours. Tickets for movie night will be $10, with the date, time and location to be announced at a later date, Enoch said.

“These movies are real treasures and I think people will find them very interesting,” Enoch said.

Buying the Phelps-Tavenner house has been an ongoing project of the society.

“The current property owners have just been wonderful, and I know this will work out,” Enoch said.

Enoch said the preservation of the house is very important to the community.

“Col. Hugh Phelps was like the glue that held the new settlement together. His original home served as the first Wood County Courthouse. His father-in-law Capt. James Neal, Wood County Sheriff William Lowther and other historically significant persons were most definitely in that home over the years,” Enoch said. “It needs to be saved and I really believe the people in this community are tired of seeing our historic landmarks lost and they will support us in this project.”

John House, local historian/genealogist, described Phelps as the “master mind of the Little Kanawha colony, master spirit of the new county.”

“We need to preserve this very important piece of history,” Enoch said.

The Tavenner home on Camden Avenue is one of the oldest residences in the area.

Phelps was an early pioneer in Wood County, serving as sheriff and a Colonel in the Virginia Militia. Phelps’ earlier home at Neal Station was the county’s first courthouse. He also served as one of the early justices for the newly formed Wood County.