Look Back: Courthouse center of Parkersburg activity

Historical newspaper excerpts from the Wood County Historical Society

Image Provided This pen drawing, by J.H. Diss Debar, depicts the third Wood County courthouse. Erected in 1817, it was the first located at what we know today as court-square. The first courthouse was at Hugh Phelps’ house and the second courthouse was a two-story log building near the Point.

Buildings and scenes of court square are described below, taken from a work of Alvaro F. Gibbens, titled “A Century’s Progress, From Pine Knots to Electric Lights.” The book was written as part of the 1899 Wood County Centennial:

“Upon either side of the court edifice (courthouse) were one-story brick buildings, used respectively for the Court and Circuit clerks. The space between the Court House building and the clerk’s offices was about twelve or fifteen feet. Just back of these buildings , extending along Market Street, was located the market house with its brick pillars and low roof, eaves extending out beyond the pillars, furnishing a shelter many feet outside of the house proper. The space surrounding the court house was enclosed by a chain fence, consisting of posts from which drooped one single line of chain, and here and there a turn-stile, that allowed egress and ingress to the then up-to-date lawn, and served to prevent the cows from making it a trysting place, although the hogs that were loose in the town could pass under with ease, but at the risk of being cornered by some of the idle boys who were ever ready to mount their backs and ride at break neck speed to the chain fence, where rider and hog would part company, the hog passing under the chain and out into the domain of liberty and the boy sliding off onto the ground with a heavy thud. As the warm days of summer came on and work in the clerks’ offices grew slim or the clerks grew tired and weary of indoor life, the shady space between the buildings became a place of recreation and games, and the clerks, lawyers, editor, and other prominent men of the village could often be found engaged in the game of marbles, their voices could be heard using the boyish phrases: ‘Knuckle down,’ ‘No hunching,’ ‘Who picked up my taw?,’ ‘Get back to the line.’ In the rear of this scene, upon the dirt floor of the old market house, could be heard the voices of the younger set as they played ‘Rolla Bola,’ or Four hole marble.’ Back of the old court house and near the market house stood the whipping post, and the writer of this has pictured in his mind to this day, the appearance of a thief, one Bodine, who was sentenced to be publicly whipped for robbing the clothesline of one of our citizens, L.P. Neal. As the Sheriff, Uncle Till Cook, with a good strong whip, began the execution of the sentence, and as the red streak appeared after each stroke of the whip, we were convinced that it was an awful bad job to be caught stealing from a clothesline.”


Marble complaint

Much complaint is made that small boys in squads of fifteen or twenty are permitted to take possession of the streets for playing marbles. As long as they stay in the unused alleys they are not in the way, but on the public streets they are a positive nuisance and ought to be suppressed. Some bones will be broken under carriage wheels some of these days.

The Parkersburg

Daily State Journal

March 29, 1889


Bob Enoch is the president of the Wood County Historical Society. The group meets at 7p.m. on the last Monday of each month in the Summers Auditorium at the Wood County Public Library on Emerson Avenue. They do not meet in December. For more information, contact P.O. Box 565, Parkersburg, WV 26102