Native Americans inhabited the Ohio Valley for thousands of
years before the first white man laid eyes on it in 1669. Ancient
inhabitants known as Adena people, or Mound Builders, dotted the
landscape with burial mounds and other earthworks during the
Woodland Period, 2000-3000 years ago. Nearby Grave Creek Mound was
the center of late Adena culture and is the largest conical burial
mound in the U.S.
A French explorer, Robert Chevalier de LaSalle, opened the
area for exploration in 1669 when he sailed down the Ohio River
from the north. The heavily forested area was inhabited by native
tribes whose wigwam villages were scattered along the waterways.
Edward Dulin, the first settler in New Martinsville in 1773, was
killed in an Indian raid ten yours later in the ongoing Border Wars
between settlers and tribes that continued until 1795.
Treaty of Paris bought peace and more settlers to the area known as
western Virginia. In 1846, local inhabitants voted to form Wetzel
County (named for Lewis Wetzel, a colorful frontiersman) with New
Martinsville as its seat, from northern Tyler County.
rugged terrian of western Virginia was unsuitable for tobacco
farming. Unlike eastern Virginia farmers, local farmers had
different problems and few, if any, slaves. As a result, they were
underrepresented and overtaxed. When Virginia seceded from the
Union, western Virginia voted against secession.
there were a handful of Confederate sympathizers in the area, the
vast majority of residents supported the Union army. No major
battles were fought in Wetzel County even though troops regularly
moved through the area.Tradition has it that there were many local
links to the Underground Railroad.
1863, Abraham Lincoln decreed statehood on the land known as
western Virginia. The 35th state, known as West Virginia, is the
only state ever created by presidential decree.
Ohio River forms the western border of Wetzel County and played an
important role in its development. Originally the western border of
the new American nation, the river later became a dividing line
between the North and South. Known today as the First Frontier
Trail, the drive along the river links a series of historically
important sites along the river.
The river provides scenic vistas for residents of riverside
towns and for travelers along Routes 2 and 7, which parallel the
river in WV and Ohio. As a mode of transport for commercial
traffic, the Ohio River is second only to the mighty Mississippi.
The Hannibal Lock and Dam, just above the bridge that spans the
river from New Martinsville to Hannibal, OH, produces clean, green,
hydroelectric power. In the summer, riverboats ply the waters
between Pittsburgh and Cincinnati making stops along the
Wetzel County Today
the railroad came to Wetzel County in 1884, it brought with it
prosperity. Oil and gas were discovered and the region became a
boomtown. Many of the historic homes and buildings around Routes 2
and 250 were built with the wealth of the Victorian era. Along the
Ohio River glassmaking became an important industry. Chemical
companies and utility plants came later and also located along the
river. The oil and gas did not last, and glassware has lost its
importance, but renewed interest in natural gas formations as a
source of clean energy is once again bringing prosperity to Wetzel
the area is experiencing a natural gas boom with the discovery and
development of the Marcellus shale deposits. These formations are a
plentiful source of natural gas, which can provide a supply of
clean energy to the nation.
Wetzel County offers plentiful natural resources., scenic
beauty, heritage tourism,