Helping to preserve our past

Mastermind of the Little Kanawha colony; Master Spirit of the New County,” this was local historian and genealogist John House’s description of Col. Hugh Phelps.

Phelps was the son-in-law of Capt. James Neal who in 1785 established what became known as Neal’s Station, the first permanent settlement in the lands that in 1799 became Wood County.

In 1787, Neal and Phelps moved their families from Pennsylvania and settled near the blockhouse that Capt. Neal had previously built. Hugh Phelps named the cluster of log houses around the blockhouse, Monroe. It was here, in the home of Hugh Phelps, that the pioneering leaders met and laid the groundwork for the creation of Wood County; his home became the first official Wood County courthouse.

Little is known about Phelps, except that he was a man of large stature, very energetic, wise and benevolent.

Circa 1810 Phelps built his second house, this one of brick, on a rise overlooking Neal Station. It is this home (the oldest home in Wood County) that the Wood County Historical and Preservation Society has contracted to purchase for $55,000; we have until the end of the year to raise the money.

We’re submitting grant applications to foundations which we hope to obtain much of the purchase price. And, we expect to raise $12,000 from our membership.

We’re also contacting local businesses for assistance. We trust they will see this as a long-overdue preservation effort benefiting all Wood County.

Now we are appealing to the people of Parkersburg and Wood County. The historical society feels strongly that local folks are so tired of losing our historic structures that they will want to help preserve this important connection to our past.

Recently in The Parkersburg News and Sentinel, it was announced that the WCHPS is raffling The Parkersburg Heritage Rifle. The selling of just 300 tickets for this limited production, engraved, gold-plated, 30-30 caliber rifle will add greatly to our fundraising, and create a family heirloom for the lucky winner; chances are still available at just $20 each; remember, only 300 tickets will be sold.

We are also planning an “Afternoon of Historic Videos” on Sunday, Aug. 17 at 2:30 p.m., the last day of the Parkersburg Homecoming. We will be showing home movies, circa 1930s and 1940s of the Bickel Estate, including Wig, his Arabian horses and animals. Also shown will be a local streetcar and train video also from the 1930s and 1940s. And, the short video, “Torn Curtains”, which chronicles part of the razing of the Parkersburg City Building in 1980, will be shown. The venue for this event will be Council Chambers in the city building. Admittance by a $10 donation will benefit the purchase of the Phelps house.

As you can see, there are several ways to help us preserve this most important part of our past. Donations by check are best and may be tax deductible. They can be made out to WCHPS and mailed to P.O. Box 565, Parkersburg, WV 26102, or call 304-483-9863 or 304-485-8655 if you have questions or want more information.

Bob Enoch is president of the Wood County Historical and Preservation Society.