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History of Belpre, Washington Co., Ohio
By C. E. Dickinson, D. D.
Formerly Pastor of Congregational Church
Author of the History of First Congregational Church
Marietta, Ohio
Published for the Author by
Globe Printing & Binding Company
Parkersburg, West Virginia


Page 160

     THE era of Railroad building in this country commenced about the year 1835 and proceeded slowly at first.  Most of the lines built during the next two decades were in the Atlantic States and were what would not be called short lines and these lines were extended a few miles at a time.  Railroads multiplied as the people learned their advantages and the means could be secured for their construction.  The Baltimore & Ohio was one of the first roads to extend its lines to the west. This road advanced gradually from year to year until 1857 when it reached the Ohio river at Parkersburg, opposite Belpre. This road followed substantially the route of the extensive stage road which was laid out by the State of Virginia within two or three years after the settlement at Marietta and, before the Railroad was built, was one of the best patronized stage and freight routes between the Atlantic States and the west.  The completion of this road gave the people at Belpre a direct and rapid communication with the east, and greatly facilitated the movement of soldiers and supplies during the Civil War.  During the time, before West Virginia became a separate state it was disputed territory.  During this period several battles were fought along the line of this road and the daily papers often recorded the tearing up of rails of this road by Confederate soldiers and a few days later in another portion by Union soldiers.  The importance of this road for the movement of soldiers and supplies was probably one of the causes of the separation of West Virginia from the parent state and her continuance in the Union.
     In April 1857, the same year that the Baltimore and Ohio Road was completed to Parkersburg, the Marietta and Cincinnati Road was completed and commenced its business.  By this means direct communication by Railroad was completed between Baltimore and Cincinnati, with the



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exception of nine miles between Scotts Landing and Parkersburg in which gap the Ohio river furnished the means of transfer by steamboats and barges.
     The costs and inconveniences of this transfer were so great that it was impossible to secure through business and the local business was little more than enough to keep trains running.  The business men of Washington County saw that a direct connection between these two roads was of vital importance to both roads and to the public.  The English bond-holders who were interested in the B. & O. Road were unwilling to make farther advance of money, and the Directors of the B. & O. refused to aid, and the Marietta and Cincinnati Road was placed in the hands of a receiver in 1858.  Every one acknowledged that a road from Scott's Landing to Belpre was a necessity but how it could be built was an important question.  It made that matter more embarassing because the country at that time (1857-58) was in the midst of one of the worst financial panics in our history.  By the transfer of the M. & C. Road to a receiver Hon. Wm. P. Cutler was. released from his position as president of that road, and gave his attention to the organization of the Union Railroad Company, and the construction of this line of nine miles of road.
     W. P. Cutler, John Mills, and Douglas Putnam undertook this work and the road was completed in 1859, so that it was ready for use at the beginning of the Civil War.  Tracks were laid to the river bank on each side so as to connect with large transports furnished with tracks, which ferried both passenger and freight cars across the river.  This method of transfer was reasonably successful but there were times when it was difficult and even impossible to make the connections, especially in a very low stage of water, a time of flood, or when the navigation was hindered by floating ice.  As business increased after the close of the war it became evident that it was necessary to make better provision for crossing the river at Belpre.
     In 1868 what had been known as the Marietta and Cincinnati Railway came under control of the B. & O. road and was given the name of Baltimore and Ohio Southwestern Railway.
     A little later it was decided to construct a short line from Athens to Belpre and bridge the river here. The

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road was completed in 1874 and the bridge about the same time which made Belpre only a way station on a through line of railway but it was an important station, for the Railway Company purchased of George Dana, Esq. twelve acres on "the plain," built suitable buildings and established stock yards for unloading, feeding and watering animals transported in cattle cars, as the law directs.
     From that time to the present thousands of cattle, sheep and hogs have here been rested and refreshed every month.  A large hotel was built by the Railroad near the station which for a number of years was patronized by cattle men and others.  This business was finally suspended and after being unoccupied for a number of years the building was demolished in 1915.


     Previous to the completion of the road from Marietta to Belpre, the history of Belpre referred to the township.  In 1852 A. H. Browning Esq., secured the laying out of a village plat by S. H. Chamberlain, Surveyor. In this plat were eighteen building lots.  A considerable number of additions were made to this plat until it reached its present dimensions.  After the completion of the road just mentioned the village began to assume importance.  Dwellings were erected, also a store in which the Post Office was located.  Soon religious services were held here and within a few years a school house and two houses for worship were built.
     In 1870 there were about one thousand persons in the village and a little later a petition, signed by one hundred and ten citizens, was presented to the County Commissioners asking for the incorporation of a village; a remonstrance was presented, signed by seventy leading citizens, which delayed action on the petition, and it was finally decided not to authorize the incorporation because the boundaries proposed included farm lands which should not be embraced in the village. In 1901 a majority of citizens voted to incorporate the village and the charter was received January 9th, 1902.  The first election of village officers was held a little later.  The citizens of Belpre have not attempted to make this a manufacturing center very much beyond the necessities of local trade.  A ship was built

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here a little above the Little Hocking by Martin Roberts.  Commenced in 1860, though not completed until after the close of the Civil War, when it was sent down the river to the Gulf of Mexico for ocean trade.
     About this time the oil business began to assume importance in Southern Ohio and adjacent parts of West Virginia; this fact and the growth of Parkersburg made the village a more desirable locality for residences and caused a steady increase both in population and business.  In 1865 a drug store was established by C. H. Johnson, also a flouring mill was operated near the ferry by Leseur Hadley and Stone and a little later a planing mill and lumber yard by Stone and Marsh.
     In 1868 or 69 Barkley and Downer established a Tannery in the north part of the village.  This firm was succeeded by Kuhn Brothers who continued the business and furnished good leather for the foot wear of the citizens of Belpre and vicinity.
     For several years a pump factory was operated near the river by Marsh, Crandal and Co.
     These factories near the river were very seriously injured by the flood of 1884.  The flouring mill and lumber yard were abandoned and the pump factory was reorganized by Glazier, Potter & Rathbone who continued the business for several years.  Some years later a flouring mill was established here by Pearcy and Son of Parkersburg which manufactured a considerable amount of good flour until the building was consumed by fire in 1908.
     Vinegar works were established in 1834 on the farm of George Dana.  This business was continued for many years by his son George Dana, Junior.  Many thousand gallons of good cider vinegar were manufactured here which greatly aided the neighboring farmers by furnishing a sale for their second grade apples, and the name George Dana on a package was considered a guarantee of purity.
     George Dana commenced the evaporation of apples in 1880 and continued the business for several years.  The Dana Canning Company built a large factory near the Railway Station in 1885 and introduced the canning of fruit.  For several years this company manufactured a large

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number of cans, introducing improved machinery for that purpose.  In 1901 they disposed of this branch of the business but have continued the canning of tomatoes, berries, pumpkins, and apples, distributing thousands of dollars among the farmers, and furnishing employment to a considerable number of persons during the active season.


     During the decade after Belpre Village began to assume importance three different attempts were made to establish a newspaper here.  In 1875 J. B. Kinkead began publishing "The Courier" which continued but a short time.  "The News" was published by Mrs. Mary J. Adams in 1878.  Dana Goshen published "The Herald" in 1879-80.  Neither of these enterprises proved successful and they were soon abandoned.  The connection of Belpre with Parkersburg and the facility of communication really make a separate newspaper unnecessary.  The Parkersburg dailies make commendable efforts to collect Belpre news and a Belpre directory is published with that of Parkersburg, so that the people of Belpre are well served in these respects.
     The farmers have experimented with various crops to learn which can be most profitably raised in their soil and climate; they have tested various kinds of fertilizers in order to know which are best for their use; they have also supplied themselves with the most approved farming utensils with which to perform their work.  It has been proved by various trials that the land on the second bottom, or terrace, is specially adapted to market gardening, also that while Parkersburg furnishes a limited home market, the surplus can be transported within twenty-four hours to the markets of Pittsburg, Cleveland and other northern cities, and this two or three weeks earlier than they can be raised in the vicinity of these cities.  For these reasons the business of market gardening has increased during the last twenty years and will probably continue to grow.
     Manure is easily secured from the stables of Parkersburg and commercial fertilizers can also be easily provided and by careful adjustment two annual crops can be raised on much of the land.

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     At a gathering of farmers July 19, 1879 several members of the Muskingum farmers Club were present who gave an account of their organization.  As a result it was resolved to organize a similar club in Belpre.
     This plan was consummated at a gathering on the lawn of Cyrus Ames, Esq., one week later when the Belpre Farmers Club was organized with Hon. A. L. Curtis as President.  The object of the Club was improvement in farming, gardening, and fruit raising, and also social and intellectual culture. Monthly meetings were held at the homes of members for several years and all who desired to attend were made welcome.  The exercises consisted of essays and discussions on farming, gardening and fruit raising, also declamation and music by the young people.  These meetings were finally superceded by other neighborhood gatherings.
     A suspension bridge across the Ohio river connecting Belpre with Parkersburg was commenced March 15, 1915, and the first toll was collected April 22, 1916.  This bridge is 2845 feet in length, central span 775 feet and the towers 175 feet high above low water.  This bridge brings Belpre and Parkersburg into very close connection, and when trolley cars cross the bridge (for which tracks are already laid) the two will be substantially united for all business and social relations. In addition to this connection with Parkersburg there are many reasons why Belpre is a speially favorable place for residences.  In religion there are two well sustained churches with easy access to churches in Parkersburg. The schools are equal to those in any village in the country culminating in a High School of the first grade and nearly every scholar can go to the school house on concrete walks.  A person can attend an evening entertainment, in Marietta or Parkersburg and reach home the same evening either by trolley or steam cars. In the village or vicinity a family may have virtually a country home with sufficient ground for flowers and vegetable garden, with educational, social, and religious advantages of a city.  At the same time the children are at least partially removed from the temptations and evil associations of a city.
     Another fact is worthy of attention. There has been no saloon in the village or township for twenty years and

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in all votes on the question for several years the dry vote has been two-thirds of the whole.  The citizens of Belpre are human and there are some who use intoxicating liquors but the sentiment for temperance and good order is so far in the ascendancy that it is more likely to increase than decrease.  From these considerations it is evident that conditions in Belpre are such as to invite good citizens to make their homes there.  When the trolley cars shall cross the bridge, for which tracks are already laid, the line will doubtless be continued westward until there is a continuous connection between Pittsburg and Cincinnati and intercommunication between the cities and villages in the valley.  This convenience of travel and traffic together with the growth of the enterprising City of Parkersburg will invite families to establish homes along the plain extending west from Congress Creek.  This land is so much elevated above the highest ambition of the Ohio river that it must always remain dry.  The land between the bluff and the hills is all fertile and arable and as well adapted to beautiful country homes as to market gardening.  Those who look upon this region a half a century hence will doubtless see fruit orchards, vegetable and flower gardens, and well trimmed lawns interspersed with attractive and costly homes making one of the most attractive suburban regious in the valley.




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