Sometimes one comes across something that is too good to pass up. As a collector, despite what my bank account tells me, some things are just too good to be true. And if you can’t purchase whatever it is that you wanted to buy, a story about it quickly follows. I have many stories that begin with, “One time I was at an antique store, and I saw such and such, but I had no money…” You will never forget those stories and if you continue to frequent those sorts of establishments, you will always be on the lookout.
On my seemingly ever-growing list of collectibles, I like to look for pictures, paintings and old maps. My wife and I like to change our pictures in our house with those we recently purchased, and that keeps our decor interesting for us. While perusing the Internet recently for something new to add to our gallery wall, I stumbled on the Library of Congress Map collection, which has a digital collection. I have used this site in the past, but this time I stumbled upon a map I had never seen before.
The map in question is a Map of Hancock County, Virginia, from 1852. At this time, the county had recently split from Brooke County in 1848. I spent a lot of time looking at this old map against a current map to see what has changed, and as one can imagine, there is a lot to talk about.
In 1852, the railroads had not come into our area just yet — that would come a few years later, and would open our area up, like so many others, to the world. The main thoroughfare through the southern end of the county was the Holliday’s Cove and Pittsburgh Turnpike. This road had a toll house and in Holliday’s Cove, there was at least one tavern, according to historian Mary Shakley Ferguson. The road passed through Weirton along more or less the same route on Main Street north, until it reached Cove Road.
It then followed that road until it turned left up the hill across from where Weirton Lumber is today, following the current route. If you were riding on that road toward Pennsylvania in 1852, before you arrived at Holliday’s Cove, according to the map, you would go through an area called “Danville.” Going through the town, you may have turned left up the hill at what is today Weir Avenue and Cove Road and joined South 11th Street toward the hilltop. Surprisingly, those sections of roads were here in the 1850s. To the left and below what is today Weir Avenue, there was a creek called Griffiths Run that flowed toward Harmon Creek as well.
Going up Cove Road Hill from where Weirton Lumber is today, you would have passed through a section of town called “Demopolis.” Following the road and a telegraph line, one would pass Greenbrier Road along Bear Run on the left.
The next run that one would come to going up the hill would be Skull Run. This valley is located to the left of where Nick’s Auto Sales is located. I would love to find out how Skull Run got its name. Skull Run and Bear Run flow into Roberts Run, which is to the right of Cove Road as you ascend the hill, and it, too, flows into Harmon Creek.
Today if one were to follow South 11th Street, the road would wind over the hilltop, cross Pennsylvania Avenue and descend into a valley on what is today South 12th Street. In 1852, this road existed and followed what was known then as Sugar Tree Run. When you reached Kings Creek, there could be quite a few roads to travel. There appears to be another road that descends the hillside from what is today Weirton Heights joining the intersection by where Willow Street intersects with South 12th Street. Today that long road is gone, but looking at Google maps, it could be that this road connected to what is today the end of North 20th Street. Since the oldest house in the county, the circa-1785 Truax House, is just off that street, it would make sense that North 20th was a busier thoroughfare at one time.
There was a crossing at Kings Creek at that point, as there is today, and the road continued up to the intersection of North Fork and Hudson Hill Road, but that is where this part of Kings Creek Road stopped. According to the map, there was another crossing in that area near the end of Willow Street that crossed the creek onto the grounds of what is today the Serbian Picnic Grounds.
Today, 169 years later, that road and crossing is long gone. A road matching the route of Kings Creek Road picks up again and travels east and crosses the creek into today what is Country Club Estates, avoiding the sharp curve near the entrance to Lick Run. That road had its own creek crossing, which is the bridge at the end of Culler Road today. Going up Culler Road the road in 1852 followed what was known then as Parks Run and later Charcoal Run, which today is the little run on the left as you drive up the hill.
Around where Bass Drive is today the 1852 road separates from the current route and travels to the left up the valley and would connect to Pennsylvania Avenue somewhere near where Starvaggi Drive is today.
At the juncture of Culler and Kings Creek Road, there appears to be another road that goes through Country Club Estates and up over the hill connecting to what is today either Shady Avenue or Pleasantview Drive and joining the current route of Culler Road back toward Pennsylvania Avenue, joining to it where Giovanni’s Restaurant is today.
All in all, I would think that if you were dropped in our area in 1852, you may be able to navigate the area with a fair amount of accuracy given most of the routes are the same as they are today.
But if someone tells you to pass Skull Run on the road to Demopolis, you may have some trouble. This map was to me, too good to pass up and the information gleaned from it is a snapshot into our history. So next time you ride on South 11th Street or down Culler Road, look for the ghosts of the past around you on these antique thoroughfares.
(Zuros is executive director of Historic Fort Steuben.)