Early Model Airplane in Parkersburg
Transportation to and through Wood County played a significant role in the development of the state of West Virginia and the nation.
While the first settlers in the late 1700s forged their way through densely populated forests on foot and horseback, future generations would come by way of the river, road or rail.
Running through the Ohio Valley, the Ohio and Little Kanawha Rivers carried a vast and varied panorama of thousands of travelers into the heart of North America at the turn of the 19th century. By 1811 the outside world had begun to break into the quiet town when the Ohio River's first steamboat stopped in Parkersburg to refuel.
Travel by road improved when the Northwestern Turnpike, connecting Winchester, Virginia and Parkersburg (paralleling present-day US Route 50), was completed in 1838. Nine years later, the Staunton-Parkersburg Turnpike (following modern day WV Route 47) was finished. But Parkersburg’s greatest economic and population expansion came after the railroad embraced it in her steel web. A branch of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad reached the river city in 1857, for the first time giving the town easy access to the East Coast and Cincinnati.
The railroad, in combination with the discovery of the world’s largest oil fields in 1860 just north and east of Parkersburg, brought a great deal of prosperity to the region. Because of its strategic geographical location on the B & O Railroad (exactly half way between Baltimore, Maryland and St. Louis, Missouri), and its fuel resources, Parkersburg became a major troop transfer and supply center for the Union Army during the Civil War. The completion of the B & O Railroad across the Ohio River in 1871 further ignited growth in the area.
In more recent developments, the completion of Interstate 77 during the 1970s further improved access to the area from north and south. The construction of the final section of the new four-lane US Route 50 through Parkersburg provides greatly enhanced accessibility from the east and west.