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Look Back: Looking ahead…Phelps-Tavenner Research Center open for business

The Resource Barn, part of the Phelps-Tavenner Research Center at 2401 Camden Ave. in South Parkersburg is owned and operated by the Wood County Historical and Preservation Society. Research hours were recently expanded to include Saturday. The small building to the right is the summer kitchen. It, and the stone and brick fireplace were rebuilt on the same foundation as the original. (Photo Provided)

If you have questions about local history, or your family’s history, the historical society is available to help you find answers. Over the years, historical society members and others have donated a large assortment of resources. The last six years have been spent sorting and cataloging books, newspaper clippings, pictures, atlases, scrapbooks, and family histories. We feel that we now have them sufficiently organized so that we can, hopefully, help you find the information you need. Saturday hours have been added for the convenience of those who wish to do research but are unable to come during our regular Wednesday hours (9 a.m. to 3 p.m.).

The Phelps-Tavenner Research Center collection has over 300 books of local interest, many of them rare. We have 400 family histories available — some with sizeable amounts of information. We have over 600 files of articles and pictures on such subjects as government, disasters, churches, schools, businesses, and all topics in between. Available for research purposes are maps, rare atlases, cemetery information, scrapbooks, etc. As a bonus, our Book Store has local history books and booklets for sale.

If you, or perhaps a student in your family, want to explore a local history topic, please visit the Phelps-Tavenner Research Center for research and/or a tour of our lovely Phelps-Tavenner House, on Wednesdays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. or Saturdays 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Can’t make these hours? Call Bob Enoch at 304-483-9863, Dottie Bibbee at 304-489-1629 or Diana Hill at 304-699-5231 for special arrangements.

About the Phelps-Tavenner House: The National Register nomination indicates that the home was built by Col. Hugh Phelps, circa 1810. The historical society feel it was closer to 1799, and that this is the very house in which the first county commissioners were selected and in which Wood County was created. Phelps was the son-in-law of Capt. James Neal, and accompanied him in 1785, establishing the first permanent settlement in what is now Parkersburg.

Col. Phelps, (1766-1823) was the second-High Sheriff of Wood County. Early Wood County historian and genealogist John A. House considered Phelps as being the “Master mind of the Little Kanawha Colony, Master Spirit of the New County.”

Following the death of Phelps in the “sickly season” of 1823 and his wife’s death (the daughter of Capt. Neal) in 1824, their brick home was purchased by Thomas Tavenner (1776-1857). Tavenner, Deputy Sheriff under Phelps, became High Sheriff in 1821. Of Tavenner, Wood County historian Stephen Chester Shaw writes, “Tavenner, during his residence in the county, filled a wide sphere in public life, possessing a strong vigorous constitution, and natural business habits. He was a man of quick sensibilities and strong feelings, sympathizing with the suffering in their distress.”

Members of the Tavenner family lived in the brick house built by Hugh Phelps until 1940.

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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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