by David S. Rotenstein
Monroeville, Pa.: Skelly and Loy, Inc. Report Prepared for the West Virginia Department of Transportation, Division of Highways. (1995)
Reprinted by the Moundsville Daily Echo (September 5 and
The historic resources survey was conducted in accordance with federal
and state laws and regulations requiring the identification and protection
of such cultural resources as historic buildings and archaeological sites.
Pertinent legislation includes: The National Historic Preservation Act
of 1966 (as amended in 1986); the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)
of 1969; the Federal Highway Act of 1966; Executive Order 11593; and, the
Archaeological and Historic Preservation Act of 1974. Skelly and Loy, Inc.
of Monroeville, Pennsylvania performed the historic resources survey under
contract with the West Virginia Division of Highways. Work was conducted
during December, 1994.
The field survey was conducted as a pedestrian survey of the project
area. Each building fifty years or more older was assigned an historic
resource number and photographed. Descriptive information was recorded
to complete West Virginia Historic Property forms. All buildings located
within the proposed project impact area were surveyed.
The portion of West Virginia in which Marshall County is situated is known as the "northern panhandle": an irregular extension of the former state of Virginia separating Pennsylvania from Ohio, north of the Mason-Dixon Line that was surveyed in 1767. The region became the subject of a boundary dispute between Pennsylvania and Virginia that carried-over into the independence of the American colonies. Both colonies granted land titles in the disputed region. In 1780, an arbitrary boundary for the state of Pennsylvania was established at five degrees of longitude west of the Delaware River: "The corner was carefully established, and the northward line surveyed to the Ohio River" (Hennen 1909:2). In 1785, the area in which present-day Marshall County is located officially became part of Virginia (Hennen 1909:2; Newton 1879).
Non-Native-American settlement in the region began during the last half of the eighteenth century. The earliest Europeans in the region appear to have been French fur traders and military explorers. The French had maintained a claim to the Ohio Valley since LaSalle's 1669 expedition (Marshall County Historical Society 1984). Only two years later, however, England staked a claim to the Ohio Valley with Robert Fallam's claim of discovery in 1671 (Marshall County Historical Society 1984:10). In 1749, the French dispatched Captain deBlainville to the Ohio Valley to bury lead plates at the mouth of Wheeling Creek in Marshall County and another at the mouth of the Kanawha River (Marshall County Historical Society 1984:10). This reinforced France's claim to the region.
Rising tensions between the French and English in the region sparked the outbreak of the French and Indian War in 1754. In 1753 and 1754, the French built a series of fortified outposts in Ohio; however, Britain was threatened the most by the founding of Fort Duquesne in 1754 at the confluence of the Monongahela and Allegheny rivers in what was to eventually become Pittsburgh (Hunter 1960). Hostilities erupted at Fort Necessity in Fayette County, Pennsylvania after numerous small skirmishes between British troops and the French and their Delaware Indian allies (see Hunter 1960).
Despite British and French engagements in southwestern Pennsylvania during the French and Indian War, there were no documented battles in Cameron District, Marshall County (see Marshall County Historical Society 1984; Newton 1879). The American Revolution brought limited engagements to Marshall County, mostly between Native Americans and settlers. One battle did occur at Fort Hunter in Wheeling in neighboring Ohio County in 1777 (Marshall County Historical Society 1984:10).
The Ohio River was the earliest transportation corridor in the region. Native American paths through Marshall County were adapted for travel by the Europeans that supplanted them in the region. One path -- the Nemacolin Path -- extended between Cumberland, Maryland and Brownsville, Pennsylvania and continued through Uniontown and Washington, Pennsylvania to Wheeling (Wallace 1987). The earliest formal roads in Marshall County were developed during the last decade of the eighteenth century. In 1796 Jonathan Zane was hired to make a trail between Wheeling and Limestone (then known as Maizeville); four years later, in 1800, Ebenezer Zane was commissioned to make a trail between Middlebourne and Wheeling (Marshall County Historical Society 1984:8).
Virginia, on February 7, 1817, passed an act regulating the incorporation of turnpikes in the state (Marshall County Historical Society 1984:8). Nineteen years passed, however, before the first turnpike within Marshall County was commisioned. The Grave Creek Turnpike Company was charged with building a road from Elizabethtown (Moundsville) to Wheeling in 1836; the company in 1848 was renamed the Marshall and Ohio Turnpike Company (Marshall County Historical Society 1984:8).
The most critical development in Marshall County transportation occurred with the completion of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad on December 28, 1852 (Newton 1879:379). The railroad "follows the meanderings of the river in Marshall from Benwood to Moundsville, where it takes a southeasterly course along the banks of Big Grave Creek, until it reaches the Welling Tunnel in the southeastern border of the county" (Newton 1879:379).
"It was a dark cloud that overhung old Virginia in 1860," wrote Marshall County historian J.H. Newton in 1879 of the outbreak of the Civil War (Newton 1879:383). "A portion of its people sought to and did withdraw from the Union." Marshall County was one of the mountainous western counties of Virginia that declined to join the rest of the state in seceding from the Union and formed the current state of West Virginia in June, 1861. The name of the new state was selected at a constitutional convention in Wheeling December 13, 1861 (Rice 1985:143). West Virginia was admitted to the Union as the thirty-fifth state June 20, 1863 (Rice 1985:152).
Although Marshall County contributed troops to the war, there were no documented Civil War engagements in Marshall County. The nearest Civil War activity occured in the vicinity of Morgantown, to the southeast, in 1863 when Confederate troops attempted to enter southwestern Pennsylvania (Cometti & Summers 1966:422).
Throughtout the nineteenth century Marshall County remained mostly
agricultural. By 1900, however, industry began to develop along the Ohio
River. The earliest industrial development complemented the county's agriculture:
"Industries brought a good demand for farm products, and farmers diversified
their crops. Cattle raising, dairy farming, and truck farming were practiced"
(Beverage and Patton 1960:2).
The Marshall County Historical Society (1984) reported that Daniel McConaughy platted the town in 1855. "The town was not regularly laid out with streets and alleys at first. Lots were sold by David McConaughy, the original owner of the land, in parcels and localities to suit purchasers... The first building was erected by Wm. McConaughy, for a store-room, in 1851" (Newton 1879:397).
Although there are conflicting accounts regarding the founding of Cameron, an 1850 Marshall County atlas shows the town of Cameron within the boundaries drawn for Cameron District (Armstrong 1850). Armstrong wrote that Grave Creek was the southernmost boundary for both the district and the town of Cameron: "... down said creek to Cameron thence with the southern boundaries of the burrow of Cameron to Grave Creek..." (Armstrong 1850). Until 1858, the town of Cameron had been limited to an area north of the B&O Railroad and Grave Creek. In 1858, Cameron was extended to the south by the 111-acre Jackson and Stidger Addition (Marshall County Historical Society 1984; Newton 1879:397). According to Newton (1879:398), "In 1851, all the land lying south of the south branch of Grave Creek was in woods." The southern extension of Cameron's limits was named for the town's first physician, S.B. Stidger and Oliver and Marshall Jackson (Anonymous 1894:12). Cameron was incorporated in 1861 and rapidly became "the best business center between Wheeling and Grafton" (Newton 1879:397). Newton added, "Its trade is extensive, reaching Wetzel County on the south and Pennsylvania on the east, being the most acceptable shipping point for Greene and Wetzel counties, east and west." The B&O Railroad remained a pivotal point in the economic development of Cameron throughout the nineteenth century.
According to Newton (1879:398), the earliest businesses in Cameron were mercantile. By 1857, though, light industry came to Cameron when Oliver and Marshall Jackson opened a steam grist mill (1879:398). A stave mill was opened in 1869: "They can manufacture staves sufficient for one thousand kegs per day" (Newton 1879:397). By the turn of the century, natural gas had been discovered in Cameron District; coal and oil extractive sites were distributed throughout Marshall County (Hennen 1909). Up until the twentieth century, however, Cameron's primary enterprise was shipping locally raised stock and grain. "It's geographical and physical situation is such as to render it a most desirable locality in which to reside and a promising field for capitalists," wrote one early Cameron hsitorian (Anonymous 1895:2).
During the last decade of the nineteenth century, many in Cameron pinned their economic future on the burgeoning oil and coal businesses developing throughout the region. Gas and oil extracted from the surrounding Cameron District were exported and used locally: "The streets are brilliantly illuminated at night by natural gas which is supplied by a well located about a mile and a half from the business center" (Anonymous 1894:2).
"In 1878, over one hundred and seventy-five cars loads of stock (principally hogs) were shipped from Cameron" (Newton 1879:398). Newton also noted that approximately fifty cars of grain also were shipped from Cameron at the end of each harvest. This reflects a later assessment by the West Virginia Geological Survey: "This county has long been a rich agricultural area... The farmers are engaged in raising of wheat, corn, oats, fine cattle, horses, sheep, and hogs" (Hennen 1909:6-7).
Two of the earliest churches in Cameron were the Methodist Episcopal and Presbyterian churches, founded in 1854 and 1867, respectively. The First Presbyterian Church, located at the corner of Church and Bridge Streets appears to be in its original location (Beers 1871). The existing church building, built in 1907, replaced the earlier one shown in nineteenth century maps of Cameron.
Newton summarized Cameron as the most important village in Cameron District during the 1870s:In 1894, a fire swept through Cameron destroying most of the central business district. "The fire spread quickly, destroying the railroad roadhouse and nearly 60 homes and businesses," wrote the Marshall County Historical Society (1984). The fire broke out at approximately 9:30 p.m. in a two-story wood building used to store livery supplies (Women's Club n.d.:76). The town quickly rebounded after the fire: "[I]t was rebuilt in more substantial form the following year" (Works Progress Administration 1941:512). Cameron's central business district now is occupied by brick buildings built immediately after the fire. Marshall County had been recognized early-on as a prime source for high quality bricks.
Cameron contains a population of about 600. It has four hotels, four dry goods stores, one clothing store, two tin shops, one drug store, two furniture stores, four saloons, two saddlers shops, three blacksmith shops, one steam mill, one stave factory, one hardware store, two tailor shops, one jewelry shop, two shoe shops, four physicians, three churches -- Methodist, Presbyterian and Catholic, three secret societies and post office with daily mails. [Newton 1879:400]
The clay that is so plentiful here is of an excellent quality for brick. The brick manufactured in Marshall are being sought after from various points, and are becoming quite noted for their superiority over a great many other counties. Many thousands lately have been shipped out of Marshall. [Newton 1879:379]In 1901, the Patterson Window Glass Company was founded. According to Hennen (1909:17), the company employed seventy-five men at the turn of the century. By 1921, the Patterson Window Glass Factory employed two hundred residents and had specialized in manufacturing automobile windshields . Cameron (as well as its surrounding vicinity) became a favorable location for glass manufacturing because of an abundance of natural gas, coal, limestone, and glass sand (Women's Club n.d.:24). Two years after the window glass factory was founded, in 1903, the Cameron Tool Company was founded as a blacksmith shop to outfit the growing oil and gas industry; it quickly grew to become an operation with twenty employees that shipped products as far away as the oil fields of Texas (Anonymous 1921; Marshall County Historical Society 1984); shortly thereafter, the Eljer Pottery was founded in the western part of the town (Hennen 1909:17; Marshall County Historical Society 1984; Sanborn Map Company 1912). According to Hennen (1909:17), the Eljer Pottery was a "four kiln pottery" manufacturing table and toilet ware with 150 employees -- seven percent of the town's estimated population in 1909 (ca. 2,100). The Eljer pottery operated until the 1930s when the Cameron Clay Products Company assumed control of the pottery and spcialized in toilet ware (Anonymous 1988; Lehner 1988:73). According to a captioned photo in the Cameron Public Library, the Cameron Clay Products Company was destroyed by fire November 11, 1964.
Other turn of the century industries established in Cameron include a second glass company, Cameron Glass, and the Cameron Light and Heat Company which operated ten wells in West Virginia and Greene County, Pennsylvania (Marshall County Historical Society 1984). Graduates of Cameron High School in 1921 could look forward to jobs in one of Cameron's two banks or the newly-built Spang and Company tool foundry (Anonymous 1921): "Farewell, Seniors, the day will come, when we must sound your funeral drum. You have won the race, by teachers' grace, The cruel world you now must face," wrote Dorothy Moulton in the 1921 Cameron High School year book (Anonymous 1921).
Between 1912 and 1925, the B&O Railroad remodelled its Cameron facilities. Prior to the production of the 1925 Sanborn Fire Insurance map, the railroad had operated a switch and roundhouse at the foot of Waynesburg Avenue (formerly Greene Avenue). Buildings constructed after the 1894 fire along the switch route were designed to accomodate the curve of the rail spur (Sanborn Map Company 1912; Sanborn Map Company 1925). After the 1894 fire, the railroad built two depots to replace its roundhouse: a freight depot south of the tracks and a passenger depot to the north. The B&O facilities became known as the "Y":
The B&O "Y" stood where the depot now stands. It employed several men, but hindered the growth of the town considerably, because it was situated in the center of the town. It was moved to the West end of Cameron and was destroyed by fire several years ago, and was not rebuilt. The citizens said that next to the fire of 1894, the moving of the "Y" has been the greatest help to Cameron. [Anonymous 1921]Because of its central location, the B&O "Y" spurred the construction of several idiosyncratically-shaped structures built to conform to its curve (see Historic Resources 10, 11 and 21). The brick building (Historic Resource 10) located at the intersection of Pennsylvania Avenue and Main Street came to be known locally as the "curved building" (Anonymous 1988).
During the early twentieth century, Cameron continued as a major transportation hub for the Northern Panhandle. During the 1930s, four passenger trains passed through Cameron on a daily basis: two to Wheeling and two to Grafton (Marshall County Historical Society 1984). Industries remained an important part of Cameron's economy. In 1927, the Cameron Glass Company employed 110 workers, the Eureka Company 100, the Eureka Tumbler Company 125, and the Patterson Glass Company 110 (Boyd 1927:285). Boyd does not mention the Eljer Pottery Company in his brief description of Cameron's industries. Lehner, however, notes that a later pottery (post Second World War) was located in Cameron known as the Cameron Clay Products Company (Lehner 1988:73). In 1927, Boyd estimated that Cameron had a population of 2,500 (Boyd 1927:233).
Since the town was rebuilt after the 1894 fire, several other catastrophic events have contributed toward shaping the contemporary cultural landscape. In 1938 another fire swept through the central business district gutting several buildings including one hotel (Creed Hotel) and a department store (Murphy's Five and Dime; Anonymous 1988). Two floods, one in 1948 and the second in 1954, destroyed buildings in the Grave Creek floodplain and deposited thick mud in the central business district (Anonymous 1988).
Since its founding in the 1850s, Cameron has has remained a rural
town with a relatively small population. 1880 marks the first census recorded
in the town of Cameron (Women's Club n.d.:33). According to the Marshall
County Historical Society (1984), Cameron's population peaked at the time
of the 1920 census at 2,404. Table 1 summarizes Cameron's population during
the twentieth century.
Cameron, since 1930, has experienced a steady decline in it population.
The greatest decrease occured between 1920 and 1960. Figure 5 illustrates
the decline in Cameron's population.
Cameron, according to the Works Progress Administration Guide to West
Virginia published during the Deperession, was "a propserous farm town...
[with] streets that climb the steep hillsides in stairlike fashion; houses
on the slanting lots are supported on one side by stilts (Works Progress
Administration 1941:512). By the mid-twentieth century, the shift from
an agricultural economic focus to industry in Marshall County impacted
small towns such as Cameron that relied upon shipping farm products and
supplying nearby farms. "Industry is now a very important part of the economy
of the county," wrote Beverage and Patton in the 1960 soil survey. "It
affects the demand for farm products and the amount of labor available
for farm work. As a result of the development of industries, some of the
best farmland has been removed from production" (Beverage and Patton:1960:2).
|Construction Date||Count||Mean||Percent of Survey|
|ca. 1850 - 1880||1||1865||3.13%|
|ca. 1890 -1910||4||1900||12.5%|
|ca. 1895 - 1900||1||1897.5||3.13%|
|ca. 1895 - 1906||7||1900.5||21.88%|
|ca. 1895 - 1910||8||1902.5||25.00%|
|ca. 1900 - 1906||1||1903||3.13%|
|ca. 1900 - 1910||2||1905||6.25%|
|ca. 1900 - 1925||1||1912.5||3.13%|
|ca. 1912 - 1925||1||1918.5||3.13%|
|Mean Date = 1901|
CRM & a tale of local involvement
(Posted to the ACRA-L discussion list September 23, 1997
reprinted in California History Action [California Council for the Promotion of History newsletter] vol. 15(2) Fall 1997: 7)
Three weeks ago a reporter from the Moundsville, West Virginia "Daily Echo" sent me an e-mail after finding a historic resource survey of nearby Cameron, West Virginia loaded at my WWW site. She wrote that she covered Cameron for the paper and she wanted to reprint my report as an article in her section. She explained, "The reason I am doing this is that we regularly run articles about the history of Cameron on Cameron's Friday page of the Echo newspaper. We have a high population of elderly in the town that like to remember the 'old days'.
"Also, our young people need to be exposed to our history. Sometimes the articles are reprints from books or people might send in family histories or diaries of ancestors. Your article contains very nice summaries of our history. We would appreciate it if you let us reproduce them."
The reporter (Anna Eagan) subsequently ran the report and received a
considerable amount of feedback, especially some concerning a possible
error in my research. My research -- the usual "hit and run" CRM -- identified
several published sources that indicated a fire swept through the town
of Cameron in 1894 destroying the entire central business district. After
Anna ran her article, Cameron residents began to send her information that
suggested the fire was actually one year later -- in 1895.
(of course, she also got some further contradictory information indicating the fire occurred in 1896!)
A few e-mails later and I admitted that a mistake had been made and
my CRM reportage of the fire was off by one year. In the grand scheme of
things, it's not much -- one year's difference did not affect the outcome
of the survey nor the determination of Cameron's rebuilt CBD as a district
eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places. But the
posting of the report on the WWW (other Cameron residents had found their
ways to the site prior to Anna Eagan and e-mailed me to thank me for
posting the report) allowed local residents the opportunity to review the report done in their community and with their tax dollars.
The dialog begun by Anna Eagan ultimately will result in the modification
of my report loaded on the WWW, along with reprints of local correspondence
generated by its publication in the Moundsville Daily Echo (if she and
the paper agree). All of us who work in CRM make mistakes -- some big and
some small. It's refreshing when some of our mistakes and facts help a
community rediscover some of its history and generate some involvement by people in a community we as CRM professionals visit briefly only because of a project and may never visit again.
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This Web Site created by David S. Rotenstein, February 1996.