August 31, 2022
(Photos and Memories of August 27, 2009)
Moundsville is a small city incorporated in 1830 and built along the banks of the Ohio River in West Virginia’s “Panhandle.” Settlers named the town for an ancient Indian burial mound they found nearby. The mound rises over fifty feet from the surrounding countryside and is located just a block away from the riverbank.
The historical sign at the site provides the basic information.
The mounds at Moundsville were not built by the local native American tribes at the time of white settlement. They were built by tribes that had left the area long before the settlement of the Ohio valley by other Native American tribes, such as the Shawnee.
A West Virginia state park and museum provides the essential background and history of the site.
I wanted to climb the path to the top of the mound. However, the museum caretaker would not allow this, as she explained that they had a “yellow jacket problem” up there.
Moundsville is the seat of Marshall County, West Virginia; the county was named for Virginian John Marshall, first Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.
The county courthouse is currently undergoing renovation, but beyond the fencing, the front grounds are filled with Civil War memorials. Notably, a Union Civil War statue occupies the place of honor at the corner of the courthouse grounds, facing the town’s main downtown intersection.
What is now West Virginia was part of the state of Virginia when the Civil War began in 1861, and Virginia was one of 11 states to secede from the Union to form the Confederate States of America. However, the western counties of Virginia were still mostly pro-Union, so these western counties seceded from the state of Virginia. In 1863 the seceded portion was admitted to the United States as the new state of West Virginia.
Moundsville was once a thriving stop on the Ohio River – that water highway to the West. In the mid-20th century, the West Virginia panhandle was a bustling part of the steel industry. Today, the old steel valley has mostly closed, and its best young people have moved elsewhere.
Country music superstar Brad Paisley grew up in little Glen Dale, just on the northern edge of Moundsville. The town of Glen Dale has marked the 8th Avenue street sign “Brad Paisley Boulevard” based on a line in one of his songs referring to “Tomlinson and 8th” in his hometown.
West Virginia is so mountainous that a wall of a forested mountainside looms over the horizon in any direction you care to look.
When in a West Virginia town, it’s always fun to separate its “West” features from its “Virginia” features. The county courthouse is “Virginia” because of its white and silver Colonial-style cupola. The county was named for Virginian John Marshall, the first U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice. That’s another “Virginia.” The locals speak with a Southern accent (although not as pronounced as their down-river neighbors in Kentucky), which is also “Virginia.” For “West,” there’s the fact that every building in town is red brick construction due to the many old brick factories just upriver north of Wheeling. There are no colonial mansions here. Add to that the “West” countenance of the folks on the street. They are a sort of cross between denim-clad hillbilly mountaineer and rough-hewn industrial worker; none seem to belong inside or outside a tobacco plantation.
It was a sad day for Moundsville. The only coffee shop on Jefferson had no customers. The lone waitress stood behind the counter, bent over a newspaper spread out over the countertop where local older men should be sitting to chat about the old days over a cup of joe or a glass of sweet tea. Few of the other storefronts on Jefferson had anyone inside at all.
However, I may have seen an old Virginian sitting near me at lunch in Wendy’s (the only busy restaurant in town). He was an elderly gentleman who was probably old enough to have seen the Depression. Most patrons were quickly gobbling whatever form of cheeseburger ordered at the counter. This man, however, sat at a table with his wife as if they were expecting wait service. He had neatly combed full head of gray hair and wore sharp gray suspenders over a plaid shirt and gray slacks. He sat upright at his table, perfectly erect, next to his wife, eating his meal. As I watched him furtively, I saw a genuinely comfortable demeanor that seemed to say, “I am a dignified person, here or wherever I am, in any company, because of how I carry myself today and how I have lived my long life.”
A list of all photo posts from the American County Seats series in TimManBlog can be found here.
All photos were taken by the author on August 27, 2009
My lifetime hobby is traveling to all of America’s county courthouses, and each month I post about a visit to a scenic or interesting county seat. It’s a hobby, and donations are greatly appreciated to help cover my costs.
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