West Virginia Department of Commerce Northern Panhandle

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Northern Panhandle

Brooke County
This county was created in 1797 from part of Ohio County and named in honor of Robert Brooke, governor of Virginia from 1794‑1796. The first Episcopal Church (St. John's) west of the Allegheny Mountains was erected in this county in 1793 on the Follansbee‑Eldersville Road. The leading industrial and agricultural products are sheet steel and tin plate, sheet metal, plastic containers, coal, paper bags, tar, chemicals, electric power, glass, dairying and fruit.

Wellsburg, the county seat, was once known as "The Marryin' Town." During the 1920s and 30s, an average of 20,000 people a year were wed here because there was no waiting period. Bethany, chartered in 1853 and named for the village of Bethany in Palestine, is noted as the home of Alexander Campbell, founder of the Disciples of Christ Church.

Hancock County
The smallest of West Virginia's 55 counties, Hancock covers 88.58 square miles and was originally chartered in 1848. Created from Brooke County and named for John Hancock, first signer of the Declaration of Independence. Cannon balls used by Commodore Perry at the Battle of Lake Erie were manufactured at the iron foundry of Peter Tarr on King's Creek. The leading agricultural and industrial products are iron, steel, chinaware, pottery, brick and fire clay, sheet metal, tin products, apples, dairying and livestock. The world's largest manufacturer of dinnerware (Fiestaware), Homer Laughlin China Company, is located in Newell at the northern most tip of West Virginia.

Marshall County
Named for John Marshall, United States supreme court chief justice for 34 years. The leading industrial and agricultural products are iron, steel, glass, chemicals, coal, clothing, natural gas, hay, grain, dairy products, fruit, vegetables and sheep. Moundsville, the county seat, was named for the Grave Creek Indian Mound, believed to be the largest in the world. At 69 feet high and 900 feet in circumference, it is home to Grave Creek Mound. The West Virginia State Penitentiary, built in 1866, was located here. After closing in 1995, it is now open for tours.

Ohio County
One of the first counties in Virginia organized west of the Allegheny Mountains was formed in 1776 from the District of West Augusta and given the Indian name for "great river," Ohio. Sheet metal, tin containers, iron, steel, coal, paints, axes, tools, plastic products, stogies, chewing tobacco, meat packing, bakery products, dairy farming, fruit, vegetables, hay, grain and poultry are the main industrial and agricultural products in this county of 109 square miles.

Wheeling, the birthplace of West Virginia, is the county seat. Wheeling was settled in 1769 by Ebenezer Zane and his followers, and was incorporated as a town in 1806. The name was derived from the Indian word, "whelan,” which was used for years to designate the creek which bisects the city. The last battle of the American Revolution was fought here at Fort Henry in September 1782. This battle formed the legend of Betty Zane, who braved a storm of gunfire to carry powder from the Zane cabin to the fort. 

Wheeling was the home of the restored government of Virginia in 1861 and state capital of West Virginia until 1870 and again from 1875 to 1880. Independence Hall
has been restored to its pre‑Civil War condition and houses the third floor courtroom where the structure of the new state of West Virginia was developed. The Wheeling Suspension Bridge, built in 1847, was at that time the longest single span bridge in the world. Oglebay, Wheeling's municipal park, is one of the largest resorts in the United States. It is home to the Festival of Lights, one of the East’s best known winter attractions.

Tyler County
Created in 1814 from Ohio County, this area was named for John Tyler, eighth governor of Virginia and father of John Tyler, 10th president of the United States. Glass, chinaware, pottery, petroleum, natural gas, chemicals, dairy farming and poultry are the significant industries in the county. The world's greatest gas well, "Big Moses” was drilled here in 1894 and produces 100,000,000 cubic feet of gas per day. The last commercial ferry boat on the Ohio River was the Sistersville Ferry, where passengers go back in time to when ferry boats were the common mode of travel.

Wetzel County
Created in 1846 from Tyler County, this area was named for Lewis Wetzel, famous frontiersman and Indian fighter. The leading industrial and agricultural products are petroleum, natural gas, glass, marbles, sand, gravel, cathedral glass, livestock, vegetables and fruit. New Martinsville, the county seat, was created in 1838.