McMechen fire department
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Early History of McMechen VFD

What now encompasses better than one half a city block, was at one time a city building which housed one fire truck, council chambers, mayor’s office, jail, and club rooms.

T.J. Deegan moved from Benwood to McMechen in 1923 and engaged in the real estate business with William Hawkins. He realized the need for a fire department despite the protest of local business and professional men of the city.

On April 12, 1926 a mass town meeting was held and plans were made. An initial $3,000 was raised and the first modern fire truck was delivered. The balance of $2,000 was paid off in 1928 and the McMechen Fire Department was free of debt!

1930's? 1940's?
Fire Prevention Book


At the 1928 meeting, F.J. Deegan was elected the first Fire Chief. Chester Shields was elected Assistant Chief, Bert Cooey, Captain; Charles Wilson, Lieutenant; Charles Kincaid, Secretary; and William Stephen, Treasurer. In January 1929 W.R. Gallagher was elected Chief. “Tubby” was to remain the Chief of the McMechen Volunteer Department for the next fifty years! Since 1979 five men have held the position of Chief: George Bilich, John Jura, John W. Lowe, Jr., George Stewart, and John Eikleberry.

The McMechen Volunteer Fire Department has always counted on the citizens of the city to help support the department. In 1926 Deegan sold notes, twenty one of them, at a cost of $100 to business and professional men of the city. Along with minstrels and plays presented by the Fire Department they were able to pay off their debt including $500 for a siren.

In May of 1997 a new addition was completed. What was the former State Food Store and Capitol Radio and T.V. is now a community center. This is in addition to the fire station which houses all the fire equipment, club room, and the shelter and office complex. Once again with the support of the community the Fire Department was able to expand. Through numerous hours donated by the fire department members, two of the largest fund raisers include our annual street fair and Hall Rental of the new community center.

After the purchase of the first fire truck, at a cost of $5,000, delivered on October 25, 1926, the number of equip­ment has grown. The Fire Department now has Engine One, a 1996 Sutphen 1500 GPM, Engine Two, a 1964 Sutphen 750 GPM, Engine Three, a 1989 Sutphen 1500 GPM, Engine Seventeen, a 1948 GMC, Squad One, ALS 1995 Horton, Squad Two, ALS Horton 1985, Squad Three a 1985 Chevy Suburban, Squad Four, a 1985 Ford Bronco, and a sixteen foot rescue boat at an approximate cost of $575,000.

Membership in 1926 was approximately 150. The first women joined the department in 1980. There are now 50 members in good standing, including EMT’s, Paramedics, and Trained Firefighters. Each and every member not only donates (heir time for emergencies but also for training, fund raising, and maintaining all the equipment and buildings. The McMechen Fire Department has hosted the State Fire Convention every ten years since 1957. Since the beginning the members of the McMechen Volunteer Fire Department remain “ALWAYS READY, ALWAYS FAITHFUL.”

Boggs Run-Glendale, Included.

At that time, before the Revolutionary war, the McMechen farm included what is now Boggs Run and Glendale, including the City of Benwood. After the death of William McMechen, in 1797, the homestead and surrounding lands were inherited by his youngest son, Bentz. After his death, the younger son, Shepherd in turn inherited.

The town of McMechen owes its origin to Mrs. Shepherd McMechen. The original plot recorded in 1889 was named Mary Lynn, in honor of a daughter of the late Shepherd McMechen. Since that time the name has been changed to McMechen after the original founders.

Dispute Over Boundaries.

For several years there was much dispute and comment over the boundary line between Benwood and McMechen. After these disputes were settled a town government was organized at McMechen and since that time has been known as the town of McMechen.

McMechen was incorporated by the Ohio county court in 1865 which was then in the mother state of Virginia. The town was later incorporated by the act of the West Virginia Legislature of 1905. The city charter amended by the Legislature, January 28, 1919, with a population of 4500 made McMechen a city.

J. N. Robey, First Mayor.

J. N. Robey, was the first mayor of McMechen. The other city officials at that time were first marshal and treasurer.

First Church 1848.

The first church in McMechen was known as the “Little Burch Church” and was built before the year 1846. It was constructed under the direction of Benjamin McMechen, its founder.

The first public school was built in 1870 on what is now known as Marshall Street, near Fourth. The present school at Eighth and Marshall streets was erected in 1906. The first high school in Union district was built in McMechen, located on Seventh street. A newer structure was later built in Benwood. At the present time, plans are under way to construct a new senior high school, using the present school as a junior high school.

The Baltimore and Ohio railroad, which goes through the city, was connected at Rosby’s Rock, December 25, 1852, with elaborate ceremonies. The connecting of the rails opened up the state of West Virginia with Eastern Ohio and other points.

Thanksgiving day, 1895, a great service was presented to the communities of the district. At this time, the Wheeling Traction company, a present day concern, ran its first street car through the city streets. The car was pulled by a horse and caused considerable excitement and commotion.

Electricity In 1901.

Electric light service was installed in McMechen on January 10,
1901. The water company began to lay its lines on September 15,
1900. The first telephone was installed in July, 1895. The McMechen
city sanitary sewerage system was installed in 1908, by means of a
bond issue.

The McMechen dam, No. 13, was finished and opened for operation on November 10, 1910. The McMechen Bank, a present day state depository, was organized in April, 1906. J. L. McMechen was the first president of the bank and Charles R. Lowe its first cashier. They are still connected with the bank.

War Activities.

McMechen deserves special mention as it its World war activities by doing over the top in everything:

The boys who gave their service during the World war were 189, four of whom gave their lives while in the service of our country. Eight home boys received commissions In the United States army.

The population of McMechen in 1890 numbered 427; in 1920, over 5,000. Amount of taxable property in 1920, $1,872,510.

First Post office in McMechen In 1893.

The first post office was established in McMechen in 1893 and was located at 601 Marshall street, in the building now occupied by the Morris Barber shop. The first postmaster was W. A. Jeffers.

The local office was advanced to third grade in October, 1907, and was later moved to a modern building at Seventh and Marshall streets, which was erected in 1910; since then carrier service has been inaugurated here.

The office has been entered twice by holdup men. In 1910 the safe was drilled and bombed and over $5,000 in stamps and money was taken. In December, 1925, it was entered again but all that was taken was Is, and a pistol belonging to the clerk. Miss Ethel Zimmerman is the present postmistress.

“The Manitou Club.”

In June, 1928, a group of twelve boys of the Methodist Episcopal church of McMechen with Rev. Harry Hughes Wagner, banded themselves together and formed “The Manitou Club.” It is sponsored by the Methodist church of McMechen.

Smith McElroy was elected the first president of the club and was re-elected to serve for another year at the regular session held several weeks ago. The club at the present time has a membership of over 85 boys. Plans are under way to organize another club of this kind at Glendale, and who knows but some day this club which started at McMechen may be nationally known.

Only Industry.

The McMechen Manufacturing company which takes up the second floor of a large building located at Seventh and Marshall streets, is known as McMechen’s only industry. The local company was formed in 1895 with T. E. Jeffers as president; W. B. McMechen, secretary and treasurer, and F. A. Zimmerman, general manager. The company was incorporated under the state laws of West Virginia in 1905. At the present time after many years of service it is still in active service to this community. The old directors and officers still serve the company today.

The primitive line of business conducted by Charles Berry on the site of the present McMechen and the present location of Sixth street, was a rope manufacturing enterprise, the output of which was disposed to early rivermen plying the Ohio River. The power plant of which was supplied by the brawn of a gray horse.

Joseph Johns was the head rope maker. The business being later transferred to the Wheeling Wharf and is at present conducted by his grandson—Curtis Berry.

The present location of the B. & 0. shops was the site of the old original McMechen homestead, it being twice burned and twice by the Indians the McMechen resorted to Fort Henry at Wheeling.

One of the historic streets in McMechen being Sixth street business houses located there are Lineburger and Hunter, Shultz Meat Market and Stevens Drug Store.


The Community Health and Welfare League was organized in McMechen in 1918, and after a few years was discontinued by its offers. This work was started by Dr. Harriett B. Jones, assisted by Miss Mary Darrah, a nurse from the Tuberculosis Society, and Dr. A. B. Rinehart, of McMechen. They examined a number of school children of the McMechen schools. The examinations showed that a large percentage of children needed professional care and instruction. For this purpose the Community Health and Welfare League was organized.

First Officers.

The first officers of this organization were: Jesse D. Marple, president; Mrs. Alice Peterson, vice president; Mrs. A. B. Rinehart, secretary, and Mr. Charles Lowe, treasurer.

This organization was supported by means of private contributions of the above officers and members of the association. Proceeds from lyceum numbers and local entertainments helped to advance this work. A school nurse was hired and was under the supervision of this board of officers.

The following year the Union district board of education, realizing this as an asset to the school, agreed to pay half of the expenses of the nurse and the following year the board of education took over the project all together.

Library Organized.

Mrs. Anna Neilson, of Philadelphia, Pa., was hired by this organization in 1920 and immediately started to work to build an up-to-date library in this city. She secured permission from the Union district board of education to use a room in the library for this purpose.

Mrs. Neilson, at that time, solicited funds and books for the establishment of the McMechen public library from private citizens. This library has served the McMechen citizens and youngsters during the past nine years and is still going strong.

In 1925 the library was taken over by the city of McMechen by special election with a tax levy being placed for its support. Since then this fund has grown and a sum of $700 is now in the Bank of McMechen for the use of the library. The library is open for all people each Tuesday and Thursday. McMechen INCORPORATED IN OHIO COUNTY BY OLD VIRGINIA IN 1865; SCENE OF MASSACRE By EMIL BURSEE.

Two tired and weary frontiers men, in 1771, seeking their fortunes in a new locality, paused as they gained the top of a high hill. They looked below and saw a valley flooded with sunshine, the broad Ohio river and its banks lined with beautiful groves of finest trees. They decided to settle and make it their future home.

These two pioneers, William McMechen and his brother, James, had started with their modest equipment over the Blue Ridge mountains, coming by the way of Wills creek. They wended their way over almost trackless mountains to Stone Fort, now Brownsville, Pa., and into unbroken forest of what is now Ohio county.

All of this land was offered to the two hardy men if they would live upon it. William was so pleased he decided that he would stay here and make a home for himself and family. But his brother went down the river to Fish Creek and took up lands.

That William McMechen, the first settler and his brother located their four hundred acres of land on this spot is shown by a deed recorded in the Ohio county office of records, being surveyed for William McMechen in 1781. This deed was signed by Beverly Randolph, Lieutenant Governor of Virginia. This deed is held by this great-granddaughter Mary Lynn McMechen, daughter of the late Shepherd McMechen.

On this land William built a one-room cabin, and planted his crops which were necessary to make this claim to use lands valid. He then went back to Maryland and returned here with his family where he settled. His descendents live here today.

The McMechens were the first to settle on land sin the vicinity of what is now McMechen and aLso Benwood, better known as the “Woods.” They, like all men of those days, firs improved the level land, the hilly parts being considered worthless, and fit for timber and hunting grounds only. Henry and John Strupes came in 1790, and made a clearing and built a cabin on the farm now owned by Mrs. Allen, near Sherrard. Near to where this clearing was made and a block house, built some time previous to this settlement, but as it was about the close of the hostilities with the Indians, it was of but little use.

Henry Clark came soon after the Strupes and made a settlement near them. A man by the name of Burch was a pioneer in Union district and settled near the head of what was later called Burch’s Run. These men opened up the forest and others soon followed. The McHenrys, the McCombs, the Aliens, the Dowlers, the Blacks, the Barteaux, the Caidwells, are among the prominent who first settled here. But the first settlers have all passed away and their traditions are perishing with them; but history pages will bear testimony of their existence in early days.

Scene of Massacre.

The McMechen farm, just south of the homestead, was the scene of the defeat of Captain Forman and his twenty-one men who were slain by ruthless savages September 25, 1777. Forman was warned by Louis Wetzel to keep to the hills and high ridges where Indians were not found. Forman evidently disobeyed and as he was coming through the “Narrows” a band of Indians suddenly pounced upon him and his men; none of whom escaped to tell the tale. History says that Forman was on his way to a Fort located near Fish Creek to stave off an Indian attack only to arrive too late; finding the fort burned down and all the inhabitants gone.



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