Benwood, West Virginia
|Benwood, West Virginia|
Location of Benwood, West Virginia
|• Total||1.86 sq mi (4.82 km2)|
|• Land||1.30 sq mi (3.37 km2)|
|• Water||0.56 sq mi (1.45 km2)|
|Elevation||646 ft (197 m)|
|• Estimate (2012)||1,396|
|• Density||1,092.3/sq mi (421.7/km2)|
|Time zone||Eastern (EST) (UTC-5)|
|• Summer (DST)||EDT (UTC-4)|
|GNIS feature ID||1553863|
Benwood is a city in Marshall County, West Virginia, United States, along the Ohio River. It is part of the Wheeling, West Virginia Metropolitan Statistical Area. The population was 1,420 at the 2010 census.
Benwood was chartered in 1853 and incorporated in 1895. The name of the city is derived from "Ben's Woods", as Benjamin McMechen (1777–1855) inherited that portion of land from the estate of his father, William McMechen (1724–1797), and built his homestead upon it. The neighboring city of McMechen is named after William McMechen and his family, who were among the earliest settlers of this area.
Benwood is located at (40.012748, -80.734008).
As of the census of 2010, there were 1,420 people, 654 households, and 357 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,092.3 inhabitants per square mile (421.7/km2). There were 761 housing units at an average density of 585.4 per square mile (226.0/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 95.8% White, 1.3% African American, 0.1% Asian, and 2.8% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.0% of the population.
There were 654 households of which 24.6% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 31.5% were married couples living together, 17.7% had a female householder with no husband present, 5.4% had a male householder with no wife present, and 45.4% were non-families. 39.8% of all households were made up of individuals and 16.7% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.17 and the average family size was 2.94.
The median age in the city was 40.5 years. 22.9% of residents were under the age of 18; 8.4% were between the ages of 18 and 24; 22.4% were from 25 to 44; 29.6% were from 45 to 64; and 16.5% were 65 years of age or older. The gender makeup of the city was 47.4% male and 52.6% female.
As of the census of 2000, there were 1,585 people, 706 households, and 429 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,268.7 people per square mile (489.6/km2). There were 811 housing units at an average density of 649.2 per square mile (250.5/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 98.23% White, 1.14% African American, 0.06% Native American, 0.06% Asian, 0.06% Pacific Islander, and 0.44% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 0.19% of the population.
There were 706 households out of which 25.9% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 39.7% were married couples living together, 17.3% had a female householder with no husband present, and 39.1% were non-families. 34.6% of all households were made up of individuals and 17.7% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.25 and the average family size was 2.90.
In the city the population was spread out with 22.0% under the age of 18, 8.6% from 18 to 24, 26.3% from 25 to 44, 22.0% from 45 to 64, and 21.0% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 40 years. For every 100 females there were 81.6 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 78.9 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $20,478, and the median income for a family was $27,232. Males had a median income of $23,906 versus $16,827 for females. The per capita income for the city was $15,543. About 19.5% of families and 21.5% of the population were below the poverty line, including 30.6% of those under age 18 and 16.2% of those age 65 or over.
Benwood is partitioned into 4 sections (North Benwood, Center Benwood, South Benwood and Boggs Run) each connected by either Marshall Street or West Virginia Route 2.
North Benwood is the primary commercial area of the small city and contains several businesses and fast food restaurants. While all of Benwood lies in a flood zone, North Benwood tends to be hit hardest by the floods of the Ohio River.
Slightly to the south lies Center Benwood, which is the primary residential section of the city and contains Saint John Roman Catholic Church, Benwood City Park (established in 1973), the Fourth Street Playground, the city building, the fire, water and police departments, the post office, the Blake Brothers Post No. 46 American Legion and the original Undo's Family Restaurant. Center Benwood is laid out in a rectangular grid, approximately 1 mile around divided 4 blocks long and 3 streets wide. Center Benwood used to be hit very hard by the devastating floods of the Ohio River, but a flood wall was constructed along Water Street (the street that runs along the banks of the Ohio River) in 1982, thus protecting that section of Benwood from the river floods seen in the last three decades (1990, 1991, 1996, 2004, 2005 and 2011).
South Benwood lies below Center Benwood and contains the majority of the city's industrial developments.
The Boggs Run area of Benwood contains the land extending from Marshall Street at the mouth of Boggs Run to Browns Run. That portion of land was annexed to the city of Benwood on November 7, 1944. Boggs Run (the creek that runs through the land) is named after John Boggs (1738–1826), who staked his claim to the land surrounding the creek in 1774 and settled there with his family along the creek. In 1798, he sold the land at Boggs Run and moved with most of his family to Pickaway County, Ohio where he lived the remainder of his life. He is buried in the Boggs Family Cemetery (Elmwood Farm) in Logan Elm Village, Pickaway County, Ohio.
Boggs Run has seen many devastating flash floods through the years, but one of the worst in recent history occurred August 31, 1975. Two other significant flash floods in the 20th Century occurred June 14, 1990 and September 17, 2004. In the event of an Ohio River Flood, the mouth of Boggs Run is flooded both by the river and the creek, as the river flood backs up the flow of the creek.
While the areas of Benwood Hill and a portion of Boggs Run beyond where Browns Run flows into Boggs Run are provided with some services from Benwood's public works, they fall outside the city limits and are not directly parts of the city.
Harmony Hill was a residential area of Benwood that was located on the hillside between the mouth of Boggs Run and Schad's Crossing (former entrance to the north end of Center Benwood at Fourth Street) along West Virginia Route 2. Kentucky Heights was another residential area located on the hillside along Route 2 between Schad's Crossing at Center Benwood and The Bellaire Bridge. The homes and businesses of both areas were all razed to make way for the relocation of West Virginia Route 2 through the construction of the present four-lane highway in 1966.
Benwood was once home to three churches of different religious denominations. Of the three churches, two remain in operation.
Saint John Roman Catholic Church
Saint John Roman Catholic Church, located on Main Street in Center Benwood, was officially established as a parish on August 1, 1875 when the first resident pastor, Rev. Patrick F. McKernan, was appointed to serve the Roman Catholic residents of Benwood. In 1868, a church had been constructed by Roman Catholics in Benwood dedicated to Saint John and had been served by visiting priests from parishes in the surrounding area prior to 1875. The original church was damaged in the Ohio River Flood of February 1884. As a result, the church was demolished, and a new church was built on the site of the original church in 1891. The cornerstone for the second church was laid on June 28, 1891. The second church served the parish for one hundred and twenty-four years until it was destroyed by fire on March 30, 2015. The 1891 church, along with the rectory, was demolished between May 2015 and August 2015. Ground was broken for the third Saint John Church on June 28, 2016. The new church will be constructed on the same site as the 1891 church.
The majority of the parish consists of the descendants of immigrants from fifteen different European nationalities (English, Irish, German, Hungarian, Italian, Bohemian, Croatian, Slovak, Austrian, Dalmatian, Serbian, Slavic, Polish, Welsh and Romanian) according to the parish history book (which also includes the history of Benwood and the surrounding areas) released in 1975 for the parishes' centennial celebration.
Saint John Church is a parish within the Wheeling Vicariate of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston. Since June 20, 1995, Saint John Church and Saint James Roman Catholic Church in the neighboring city of McMechen have been served by the same pastor. On June 15, 2016, the pastor of Saint John Church and Saint James Church was also appointed the pastor of Saint Alphonsus Roman Catholic Church in Wheeling, West Virginia.
Saint Matthew Evangelical Lutheran Church
Saint Matthew Lutheran Church is located in Boggs Run on Boggs Run Road just outside the Benwood city limits. The church was formerly located in what is now the Blake Brothers Post No. 46 American Legion building in Center Benwood on Water Street. It was relocated to the present church built on Boggs Run in 1941.
Benwood Methodist Episcopal Church
A Methodist Episcopal (M.E.) Church was formerly located in Center Benwood. The first structure that housed the church was located on Eighth Street. It was later relocated to a new church built on Main Street in 1900, which was razed in the early 1990s.
Benwood was once home to several public schools and two Roman Catholic private schools.
There was a public elementary school in Center Benwood. During the course of its history, three separate buildings housed this school located on Water Street. The first school building was built in the late 1860s and razed to build a larger school in 1873. The second school building was built in 1873 and razed in 1901. The third and final school building was built in 1901. The school closed in 1953, and the building was later razed.
A public elementary school was located in North Benwood and closed in 1953 as well. The Croatian Cultural Club building housed this school.
South Benwood had a public elementary school, but it was destroyed by fire in the early 1910s.
Boggs Run Elementary School is located on Boggs Run Road beyond the Benwood city limits. It was first housed in a wooden structure, but was later replaced with a brick structure on the same site about 1927. The school closed in 1990 at the end of the 1989–1990 school year. The brick school building still stands, and it now houses a Halloween museum.
Union High School, located in South Benwood on Marshall Street, was established in 1913 when Benwood High School was consolidated with McMechen High School. Union operated as a high school (grades 9, 10, 11 and 12) for fifty-five years, from 1913 until the end of the 1967–1968 school year, graduating its last class in 1968. Union High School was consolidated with two other public high schools in Marshall County (Moundsville High School and Sherrard High School, which both became junior high schools and are still in operation) in 1968 to form John Marshall High School in the city of Glen Dale in Marshall County. John Marshall High School opened at the beginning of the 1968–1969 school year and is still in operation. Union then became a junior high school (grades 7, 8 and 9) until it closed in 2003 at the end of the 2002–2003 school year.
Saint James and Saint John School was a Roman Catholic elementary and middle school (preschool through eighth grade) that was located on 7th Street in Center Benwood. The origin of Saint John School dated back to 1860. The school, which was connected to the back of Saint John Roman Catholic Church, was housed in several different buildings in the immediate area during the course of its history before the most recent school building was built during 1952–1953 and opened in January 1954. At the end of the 1970–1971 school year, Saint John School in Benwood was consolidated with Saint James School in McMechen, and the school became known as Saint James and Saint John School in 1971. After the fire that destroyed Saint John Church on March 30, 2015, the school was moved to the former Saint Francis Xavier School in Moundsville, West Virginia (closed in 2012) where the students finished the 2014–2015 school year. On May 18, 2015, it was announced by the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston that the school would remain in Moundsville, and the school would be renamed All Saints School. All Saints School is a Diocesan school rather than a parish school, and it serves the parishioners of Saint John in Benwood, Saint James in McMechen, Saint Jude in Glen Dale, Saint Francis Xavier in Moundsville, Saint Martin of Tours in Cameron and Saint Joseph in Proctor. Saint James and Saint John School was demolished in August 2015.
Saint Catherine School was a Roman Catholic elementary and middle school (first through eighth grade) that was located on Marshall Street in North Benwood. The building, which once stood on the site of the parking lot of the former Pic-way Shoe Store (later the Payless ShoeSource) on Marshall Street, was originally used as a Roman Catholic chapel dedicated to Saint Catherine from 1924 to 1928. It was founded by Croatian immigrants, and it operated as its own parish during those years. In 1929, a school by the same name was opened in the chapel building and continued to operate until Saint Catherine School closed in 1962 at the end of the 1961–1962 school year.
The majority of the students who attended the former Saint John School in Center Benwood (later Saint James and Saint John School) and the former Saint Catherine School in North Benwood went on to attend high school at Bishop Donahue Memorial High School in McMechen, which was founded in 1955 and is still in operation.
The following individuals have served as the mayor of Benwood:
- James L. Brown (1882–1889)
- Joseph Mahood (1889–1895) (1906–1910)
- Thomas Shepard (1895–1904)
- John Manley (1904–1905) (1910–1912)
- John Scanlon (1912–1914)
- Clark Sprouts (1914–1921)
- John Cox (1922–1926)
- Henry Healy (1928–1936)
- Raphael Deegan (1936–1959)
- Henry A. Musilli, Sr. (1959–1962)
- Anthony J. Scaffidi (1962–1996)
- Lawrence C. Ferrera, Jr. (1996–2003)
- Edward M. Kuca, Jr. (2003–present)
Coal mine disasters
1924 Wheeling Steel Corporation Benwood Mine Disaster
Benwood was the location of the third worst mine disaster to occur in the state of West Virginia. At approximately 7:05 AM EST on Monday, April 28, 1924, the coal mine of the Wheeling Steel Corporation's mill located in Benwood exploded, killing all 119 men who were working in the coal mine at the time. The majority of the miners killed were recent immigrants of Polish, Italian, Greek, Croatian, Serbian, Hungarian, Russian, Ukrainian and Lithuanian descent.
1942 Hitchman Mine Disaster
Eighteen years after the devastating 1924 explosion at the Wheeling Steel mine, Benwood was once again the location of another tragic coal mining disaster. On Monday, May 18, 1942, the coal mine of the Hitchman Coal & Coke Company exploded, killing 5 men.
Family of Benjamin McMechen and Nancy Boggs
The namesake of Benwood, Benjamin McMechen (1777 – 1855), was the son of William McMechen (1724 – 1797) and Sidney (née Johnson) McMechen Stricker (1744 – 1810). Sidney Johnson McMechen married George Stricker (1740 – 1810) after the death of William McMechen.
Nancy Boggs (1786–1846) was the daughter of John Boggs (1738–1826), the namesake of Boggs Run, by his second marriage to Mary (née Williamson) Barr (1748–1828), who was the widow of Robert Barr (1750–1778).
Benjamin McMechen married Nancy Boggs on November 27, 1804. They had fourteen children together - six sons and eight daughters. Their children were as follows:
- Sidney McMechen (1805–1887), who married Thomas H. List in 1822.
- William McMechen (1807–1888), who married 1) Mary Blake in 1834 and 2) Lucinda Bonar in 1863.
- Hiram McMechen (1808–1877), who married Hannah Armstrong in 1853.
- David McMechen (1810–1879), who married Mary Jane Cummins in 1848.
- James Hanson McMechen (1813–1889), who married Elizabeth Ann Sehon in 1836.
- Mary McMechen (1814–1870), who married 1) Joseph Bushfield in 1838 and 2) Jesse Lazeaur in 1868.
- Elizabeth McMechen (1816–1883), who married John R. Morrow in 1843.
- Jane Taylor McMechen (1816–1877), who married Benoni Swearingen Good in 1842.
- Benjamin Benson McMechen (1818–1849), who never married.
- Lydia McMechen (1820–1865), who never married.
- Ellen McMechen (1822–1906), who married Elbert Halstead Caldwell in 1847.
- Susan Lambdin McMechen (1824–1898), who married Eugene A. Hildreth in 1851.
- Shepherd McMechen (1827–1874), who married Alcinda Cockayne in 1868.
- Sallie Boggs McMechen (1830–1879), who married Aaron Kelly in 1854.
Benjamin McMechen and Nancy Boggs McMechen were originally buried in McMechen Cemetery in McMechen, Marshall County, West Virginia (just south of Benwood) where the parents of Benjamin McMechen (William McMechen and Sidney Johnson McMechen Stricker) are buried. Benjamin and Nancy McMechen were exhumed in 1906, and their remains were moved to Greenwood Cemetery in Wheeling, Ohio County, West Virginia where they, along with several members of their family, were re-interred on October 15, 1906. Thirteen of their fourteen children (Sidney, William, David, James Hanson, Mary, Elizabeth, Jane, Benjamin Benson, Lydia, Ellen, Susan, Shepherd and Sallie) and their spouses are buried in Greenwood Cemetery in Wheeling, Ohio County, West Virginia. Hiram McMechen and his wife, Hannah, are buried in McMechen Cemetery in McMechen, Marshall County, West Virginia.
William McMechen (1724–1797) had the following three children by his first marriage to Rachel Rosanna Nevins (died in the 1750s):
- James McMechen (1748–1825), who married Hannah Davidson in 1779.
- David McMechen (born about 1751; died 1810), who married Margaret Carroll in 1803.
- a daughter (first name unknown), who married a man by the surname of Broom.
William McMechen remarried to Sidney Johnson. They had the following six children:
- Nancy Agnes McMechen (1769–1806), who married Samuel McColloch about 1789.
- William McMechen (1772–1832), who married Ellen Bowles Armistead in 1800.
- Sarah McMechen (1775–1851), who married John Boggs (1775–1861) in 1799.
- Benjamin McMechen (1777–1855), who married Nancy Boggs (1786–1846) in 1804.
- Sidney McMechen (1783–1869), who married Thomas Barr (1772–1830) in 1797.
- Jane McMechen (born about 1788), who married 1) James Taylor in 1806 and 2) John Boggs (widower of her sister Sarah) in 1853.
John Boggs (1738–1826) was married twice. His first spouse was Jane Irwin (circa 1740–1783), whom he married about 1762. They had nine children together - four sons and five daughters. Their children were as follows:
- William Boggs (born 1763; captured and held prisoner by Native Americans as a young man, but eventually escaped).
- James Boggs (1764–1791; killed by Native Americans near Cambridge, Ohio).
- Lydia Boggs (1766–1867), who married 1) Moses Shepherd about 1783 and 2) Daniel Cruger in 1833.
- Martha Boggs (1772–1851), who married 1) James McFarland and 2) Jacob Johnson.
- Elizabeth Boggs (born about 1773; died in infancy about 1774).
- John Boggs (1775–1861), who married 1) Sarah McMechen (sister of Benjamin McMechen) in 1799 and 2) Jane McMechen Taylor (widowed sister of Benjamin McMechen) in 1853.
- Moses Boggs (born about 1777).
- Jane Boggs (1779–1855), who married her stepbrother, John Barr, in 1799.
- Mary Boggs (born about 1781), who married John Engeart.
After the death of Jane Irwin Boggs in 1783, John Boggs married Mary Williamson Barr (1748–1828), the widow of Robert Barr (1750–1778), about 1785. They had four children together - one son and three daughters. Their children were as follows:
- Nancy Boggs (1786–1846), who married Benjamin McMechen (1777–1855) in 1804.
- Elizabeth Boggs (born 1788), who married David Crouse in 1807.
- Sarah Boggs (born about 1789).
- David Boggs (1790–1800).
The stepchildren of John Boggs (children of Mary Williamson Barr and Robert Barr) were as follows:
- infant Barr (born and died 1772)
- Thomas Barr (1772–1830), who married Sidney McMechen (sister of Benjamin McMechen) in 1797.
- John Barr (1774–1847), who married his stepsister, Jane Boggs, in 1799.
- Jane Barr (1776–1799), who married Benjamin Newell.
- Isabella Barr (1778–1844), who married 1) James Denny in 1797 and 2) William Florence.
The eldest daughter of John Boggs by his first marriage to Jane Irwin was Lydia Boggs Shepherd Cruger (February 26, 1766 - September 29, 1867), who played a significant role in the history of Wheeling, West Virginia. Lydia Boggs Shepherd Cruger and Nancy Boggs McMechen were half sisters. Lydia Boggs was first married to Moses Shepherd (November 11, 1763 - April 29, 1832) about 1783. Moses Shepherd built Shepherd Hall (Monument Place) in 1798, the stone mansion that still stands near the Forks of Wheeling Creek in the Elm Grove area of Wheeling, West Virginia. After the death of Moses Shepherd in 1832, Lydia remarried to widower Daniel Cruger (December 22, 1780 - July 12, 1843) on July 16, 1833 in Ohio County, West Virginia (then Virginia). Lydia Boggs Shepherd Cruger died at Shepherd Hall on September 29, 1867 at the age of 101.
Benwood is home to WDUQ-LP, a listener supported commercial-free radio station.
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