Not so fast on Wheeling being the B&O's first choice to the Ohio River

Cohen Bob

Not so fast on Wheeling being B&O's first choice for reaching its namesake destination, the Ohio River.

The truth is a bit more complicated and I have this on primary research uncovered.

When the B&O was created or shortly thereafter, it got charters in Maryland, DC and Virginia. That was all fine and well and good as it planned to built to the Ohio River. All that changed when it and the C&O Canal got into a r-o-w spat and when that got sorted out, the RR reached across from Harper's Ferry and didn't know what to do next.

It tried to purchase outright first portions and later the entire Winchester & Potomac RR but since the B&O had failed to act on its original charter in Virginia, VA had made other plans and was building its Northwestern Turnpike to Parkersburg, and that was where the B&O really wanted to go. VA said No to Parkersburg as this was competition and from out of state at that so after lengthy discussion and perhaps some litigation, the deal was struck that the B&O MUST go to Wheeling, NOT Parkersburg, and had to stay IN Virginia all the way from Harper's Ferry until within 5 miles of Cumberland.

All of these negotiations and discussions took place between 1836 and 1838 during Louis McLaine's tenure as B&O friend. Once the where was settled, that also included Virginia agreeing to at least partially fund thru stock purchases, then came the real fun of engineering and that with the actual construction took from 1839 to late 1842 as far as Cumberland. It was another 10-11 years before the less desirous and more circuitous route of Wheeling was achieved.

The P&C and PRR and Penna legislature info is basically correct as previously stated.

Meanwhile, a separate charter for a railroad to Parkersburg came into being and was built and met the Ohio & Mississippi at Parkersburg and the rest is history as the B&O had stock control of the line to Parkersburg and that circumvented Virginia's whining of the 1830's.

That the B&O was in Virginia from Harper's Ferry until close to Cumberland gets into another can of worms as those counties broke away to form the eastern portion of WVa but at least 2 or 3 counties were really p'o-ed and didn't want to be placed in WV and it went to the US Supreme Court. A fair number of residents in those counties still harbored grudges 30 years later, but by then their ranks were thinning. But the B&O was largely responsible for that and I have only read parts of those stories.

Bob Cohen

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