Look Back: Notes from across the river

Until the bridge connecting Parkersburg and Belpre was completed in 1917, a ferry or boat was the only means of crossing the Ohio. In 1951 the bridge was closed to pedestrian and vehicular traffic after a faulty suspension cable was detected. The 1951 photo above shows the “emergency ferry” at the Point in Parkersburg. (Photo Provided)

Our next neighbor; notes of much interest gathered in Belpre

Belpre, March 9 — The spring birds are already singing in the branches of the old trees, at Belpre; the soft winds are, daily at morn, coming with cheerfulness and warmth, and the much abused “flowers that bloom in the spring, tra la,” are trying to get there too, but as yet they have not succeeded; although the sandy soil about our New England-like neighbor is doing all it can to help bring them along. Slowly and gradually is Belpre rising from the destruction and desolation of the great flood [of 1887]; but it will be long — many, many days, before that period of terror will be forgotten, and its terrible effects fully overcome. The fifty-three houses and stores which were crushed and washed away in the wild rush of the great waters, will perhaps, never be rebuilt, and the fortunes which crumbled away with them never recovered; but still the people are not utterly discouraged nor wholly without hope. Nature has done great things for them, in giving them a pleasant and fruitful land. Pluck, industry, courage, and above all hard work is required of them, that they may be equal to the occasion and opportunity that is before them.

A neater, cleaner, pleasanter town than Belpre is rarely met with. Fine roomy residences, splendid stores, and magnificent farms attest to the wealth of the surrounding country, which is a purely farming and fruit raising section, and has built up Belpre to its present importance, and sustained it through all its hardships and struggles. The present town was laid out by A.H. Browning in the year 1856, or thereabouts, but the first settling of the country dates away back to the close of the Revolutionary war.

In the year 1789, the original settlers, the Danas, Putnams, Lorings, Stones and others came into the wilderness of this part of the Ohio Valley, and setting to work with a right good will, little by little changed it into a garden spot. Others came in time. Blennerhassett and his family, then the celebrated and unfortunate Aaron Burr, in 1806, and the settlement prospered and grew strong. The soil being sandy and filled with warmth, ripened its products rapidly, and yielded abundant returns to the husbandman.

Among the relics of that old New England colony, there can still be seen the tavern or hotel built and kept by the son of General Putnam — he of the wolf’s den episode, and the celebrated ride. It is an old, roomy, much dilapidated house, standing on the river bank at the outskirts of the town. It is patched up, and rheumatic, but still it is an object of interest. The oldest inhabitants of Belpre can relate incidents, handed down to them of stirring times in that old hostelry. The upper story was so arranged that the partitions could be removed and the whole floor turned into a ball-room. Often on that floor, tripped the gallant and lady-loving Burr. And Blennerhassett and his wife having been seen mixing among the dames and damosels [sic] of those by-gone days. Peace be to their ashes.

Excerpt from The Parkersburg Daily State Journal

March 11, 1886


NOTE: To be continued …


Bob Enoch is president of the Wood County Historical and Preservation Society. If you have comments or questions about Look Back items, please contact him at: roberteenoch@gmail.com, or by mail at WCHPS, PO Box 565, Parkersburg, WV 26102.


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