Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Wheeling Steel & Iron Company

The Wheeling Steel and Iron Company was formed in 1892.  A history of the founding of the firm and its component companies can be found below.  Wheeling Steel and Iron was formed in the foremost steel making region of the United States, a place where the energy for steel production, coal, was plentiful.  Oddly, iron ore couldn't be found anywhere near cities like Wheeling or Pittsburgh.  Though iron ore had to be imported from places like the Minnesota iron range, western Pennsylvania, western New York, and eastern Ohio were on top of the coal and much closer to end users of the finished material than northern Minnesota.  

In the coming days this site will feature a several stamps canceled by steel companies.  

W. S. & I. CO.

David Thompson scan

The former Wheeling Steel & Iron building in downtown Wheeling, West Virginia.  The original photo can be found at Historic Wheeling.

From "History of Wheeling City and Ohio County, West Virginia and Representative Citizens," by Hon. Gibson Lamb Cranmer, 1902. 
THE WHEELING STEEL & IRON COMPANY, whose extensive operations class it among the foremost concerns in the steel and iron industry in the United States, was formed by the consolidation of the Benwood, Belmont and Top mills and the Wheeling Steel works, and was incorporated April 16, 1892.  The founding and development of the component plants of this  
corporation are as follows: 

The Missouri Iron Works, Wheeling's first iron mill, were built in 1834, by Philip Shoenberger and David Agnew, and were located on a  portion of the present site of the Top Mill.  They were operated with varying success until 1857, never having more than 14 nail machines.  In 1847 E. M. Norton and others organized the Virginia Mill, for the purpose of manufacturing nails exclusively.  It was located on the present site of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad depot, and started with  40 machines.  It was subsequently moved to Benwood, affording the railroad company more room.  The new mill was sold under a decree of the court in 1864, and reorganized as the Benwood Iron Works, E. M.  Norton serving as president.  About this time Cyrus Mendenhall entered  the company, and it thus acquired his blast furnace and 50 acres of land at Martin's Ferry, Ohio.  

In 1883 a monster union steel plant, intended to furnish nail slabs for their factories at Wheeling, was contemplated, and nearly all the corporations secured amendments to their charter, permitting them to invest in incidental industries.  The Benwood company had projected and begun a plant of this kind for its own use, but before much progress had been made in its construction the Belmont and Top mills were enlisted in the project. The original plans were changed and the capacity enlarged, and in August, 1886, the first steel was made by this concern, which was known as the Wheeling Steel Works.  The plant is very advantageously situated with respect to transportation facilities, being located near the south end of Benwood, about 200 yards north of the railroad bridge, and between the lines of the Baltimore & Ohio and Ohio River railroads.  The various buildings are of iron, and are equipped with the best machinery obtainable for the production of soft steel of a high quality.  The capacity is 700 tons per day.  The works are well supplied with railroad tracks for  receiving raw material and shipping steel, the corporation owning three locomotives to handle the rolling stock.  This is one of the finest Bessemer steel plants in the country. 

The Belmont Mill was started in 1849, when E. M. Norton and others withdrew from the Virginia Mill.   Mr. Norton, with William Bailey, S. H. Woodward, Henry Wallace, C. B. Doty, Holstein Harden, F. D. Norton, William Hay, Hugh McGiven and John Wright formed a partnership under  
the name of Norton, Bailey & Company, and bought from Joseph Caldwell for $1,600 two acres of land, on which they built a mill with 18 nail machines.  Operations were begun in the fall of 1849 with E. M. Norton as president and William Bailey as manager.  Henry Moore was admitted as a partner about that time.  Important improvements, relating to the handling of iron, introduced just at this juncture, made this an auspicious time to establish a nail factory.  The Belmont Mill, under  
skillful management and with its new processes, had two years of notable success.  Messrs. Bailey and Woodward and a number of others sold their interests in the Belmont Mill to Henry Moore and started the LaBelle Iron Works in 1852.  The firm of the Belmont Mill then became Norton, Acheson & Company.  Joseph Bell became actively connected with the firm in 1853, and by the year 1860 the mill had increased its capacity to 80 machines.  In the year 1863 the partnership arrangement of the company expired by limitation, and the mill property was sold at public auction for $127,000, Henry McCullough, of Pittsburg, being the purchaser.  The company was reorganized under the title of McCullough, Acheson & Company.  M. B. Cox also at this time became a member of the company, and after a brief existence the title of the company was changed to Robert Lehr & Company, and still later to the Belmont Iron Works, with Henry Moore as president.  In the fall of 1865 the title was again changed to the Belmont Nail Works Company, under which operations continued until June 30, 1879.  In 1874, 110 machines were in operation, and it was the largest factory in Wheeling, and the third, in size, in the United States. In the fall of 1872 the company commenced a blast furnace, which was completed in the spring of 1874.  It was a model of its kind and stands on the river front, near the mill, in the sixth ward of Wheeling, on the Baltimore & Ohio, Ohio River and Cleveland, Lorain & Wheeling railroads.  The present plant,   which occupies two full blocks on Main street, between Twenty-fifth and Twenty-seventh streets, has 152 machines, and an annual capacity of 350,000 kegs of steel nails and spikes.  It was one of the first companies to resume work after the strike of 1885. 

The Top Mill, or the Wheeling Iron & Nail Company, is located in North Wheeling on the site of the first iron works established in the city.  A few years after its inception Mr. Agnew succeeded to the business of  the firm, and conducted it until 1840, when he failed in business.  The mill was taken by the former manager, Mr. Grassemer, and the head bookkeeper, Mr. Tallant, who were succeeded by E. W. Stevens, in 1845.  The latter came here from Pittsburg and enlarged the nail department of the plant.  He induced the Norton brothers to come to Wheeling.  The mill was still owned by Mr. Shoenberger, and later Johnson, Sweeney & Company and other firms operated it.  It was burned to the ground in 1857, and the last named firm failed.  It never had more than 14 nail  machines, and its capacity was 700 kegs of nails per week.  In the early days of the War of the Rebellion the Belmont company leased the mill and it was occupied for several years in the manufacture of gunboat plates.  The Shoenberger heirs sold the mill in 1864 to Acheson, Bell & Company for $44,000, the purchase including about 50 acres of land, with a river frontage of three-quarters of a mile.  The new owners added the manufacture of bar iron, and a site for a nail  factory was also secured by grading out the side of a hill.  In 1865 the mill suffered from a disastrous boiler explosion.  The same year Moses B. Cox and the Brockunier brothers were added to the firm, and in 1866 the Wheeling Iron & Nail Works were established.  The nail factory  was enlarged, and by the end of that year was running 40 machines.   

In 1869 there was somewhat of a change in the ownership of the concern, and the company was reorganized with John P. Gilchrist as president; C. D. Hubbard, secretary; and Adam Dodson, vice-president.  In September, 1871, the mill was entirely destroyed by fire, but preparations were at once made for rebuilding, the company remodeling the entire plan of the works.  All the latest improvements in machinery and arrangement of the departments were adopted, and every defect which experience had pointed out was remedied in the construction of the new works.  By the summer of 1872 the mill was ready to resume operations with 105 machines.  In 1878 a blast furnace was completed and was developed to a daily capacity of 100 tons of pig iron.  The officers of the company prior to the incorporation of the Wheeling Steel & Iron Company were C. Russell Hubbard, president; Henry H. Hornbrook, vice-president; and Hon. C. D. Hubbard, secretary.  These gentlemen, with Messrs. John P. Gilchrist, George K. Wheat, William A. Isett and Dr. T. H. Logan, composed the board of directors.  The Top Mill occupies over six acres of ground, and all its buildings are most substantial.  A valuable coal tract is included in its property, although natural gas is the fuel utilized in the entire plant of the Wheeling Steel & Iron Company.  

The Wheeling Steel & Iron Company was formed April 16, 1892, and C. Russell Hubbard was elected president, and Joseph Dorsey DuBois, secretary, on August 21, 1892.  Frank W. Bowers was elected secretary in April, 1899.  The directors are C. Russell Hubbard, William F. Stifel, George K. Wheat, Joseph Dorsey DuBois, George Wise, A. J. Clarke, Edward Hazlett, Henrey H. Hornbrook and William A. Isett.  The general offices of the company are at No. 11 Fourteenth street, and all business is directed from this office.

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