The Historic National Road in West Virginia begins in the floodplain of Little Wheeling Creek, as it passes through the rural communities of Valley Grove, Roney’s Point and Triadelphia. At Roney’s Point, the Heimberger House was one of the first and most famous stagecoach stops that served the travelers along the National Road.
Elm Grove, a section of the city of Wheeling, is a bustling service center and the site of several outstanding qualities of the Historic National Road. One of the most significant is Monument Place, also known as Shepherd Hall, the stately home to Lynda Boggs Shepherd. Lydia and her husband Moses, with the help of Henry Clay, are credited with bringing the National Road to Wheeling and taking its path past their home.
Near Elm Grove at Wheeling Park is one of the twelve Madonna of the Trail monuments built along the National Road route. A gift from the DAR, the Madonna of the Trail was created by sculptor August Leimbach and funded by contributions. They were intended to provide a symbol of the courage and faith of the women whose strength and love aided so greatly in conquering the wilderness and establishing permanent homes in the western frontier.
At the top of Wheeling Hill is a bronze statue of a Mingo Indian, an homage to the original inhabitants of the Ohio River Valley, erected by the Wheeling Kiwanis in 1918-23. The Mingo are an Iroquoian group of Native Americans made up of peoples who migrated west to the Ohio Country in the mid-eighteenth century. Most Mingos were relocated to Kansas and later Oklahoma under Indian Removal programs of the late 1800’s, following the US Civil War.
Wheeling, West Virginia was founded by Ebenezer Zane in 1793. The National Road reached Wheeling, (then western Virginia) and transformed this Ohio River town into an area of large and diverse industry. Wheeling made an excellent choice of the Ohio River terminus as it avoided rapids and seasonally low water, thereby providing a better jumping off point for navigation down the Ohio.
The natural resources surrounding Wheeling enabled the development of the glass and steel industries. It also became a boat-building center and home to several tobacco plants including Marsh and Bloch Brothers. The latter produced the well-known Mail Pouch tobacco.
Wheeling is also home to the Wheeling Suspension Bridge. Still in use today, the 1849 Wheeling Suspension Bridge crosses the Ohio River and forms the connection of the National Road with Wheeling Island. It was the first bridge to cross the Ohio River. At the time of its construction, the bridge was the longest single span bridge ever built, with a length of 1010 feet.
Just a few blocks from the bridge is West Virginia Independence Hall. Constructed as a federal post office, custom house and courthouse in 1858-59, the sandstone building served the city of Wheeling until 1912. The courtroom was the scene of several conventions in 1861-1862, when the Restored Government of Virginia was established and is considered the birthplace of West Virginia.
There are many other sites to enjoy along the Historic National Road in West Virginia. It is a significant cultural landscape. Today stone bridges, beautiful Victorian architecture, and numerous museums provide travelers with authentic experiences. By driving the Historic National Road, the traveler can rediscover America and explore our nation’s culture and history from a new perspective.