From its founding as a frontier outpost through its role as the birthplace of a new state during the Civil War and its evolution into a manufacturing center, Wheeling has been home to a fascinating array of personalities. The old legends feature Betty Zane’s bold dash to save Fort Henry and Samuel McColloch’s daring leap on horseback from Wheeling Hill. Businessmen like Henry Schmulbach and Michael Owens contributed to Wheeling’s industrial rise, while Augustus Pollack and Walter Reuther earned fame as friends of labor. And even as notorious men like “Big Bill” Lias capitalized on Wheeling’s wide-open ways, community leaders like James “Doc” White worked quietly for racial justice. On local ball fields built in the shadows of steel mills, Wheeling’s gritty sports heroes, like Chuck Howley and Rose Gacioch, demonstrated their athletic prowess. Notoriety in the arts was earned through the music of Doc and Chickie Williams and opera star Eleanor Steber as well as the works of writers like Keith Maillard and Marc Harshman, the current West Virginia Poet Laureate.
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