Ritchie County was formed February 18, 1843 by taking parts of Lewis, Wood, and Harrison counties for a total of 455.27 square miles. The county was named for Thomas Ritchie, a journalist from Richmond, who called it his "little gem." Tradition tells us that Elias Hughes, Jesse Hughes, and William Lowther were the first white men to enter what is now Ritchie County. Historians tell us that Christopher Gist may have been the first white man in this area.
The first man to settle in Ritchie County was John Bunnell, who in 1800 built a cabin on the small creek which bears his name, at what is now the City of Pennsboro. But before 1810, he sold his property to John Webster, who built the "Old Stone House" on this site. The Stone House is now the property of the Ritchie County Historical Society.
The county started its growth, when between 1830 and 1840 the Northwestern Turnpike was completed. Between 1850-60, the Staunton Pike was completed to Parkersburg. The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad was built between 1856-58. This brought many settlers from the east. In 1875, the Pennsboro and Harrisville Railroad was built, later named the "Lorama." This line was later extended to Pullman. Another RR adventure was a nine-mile broad-gauge standard line from Cornwallis to Harrisville. The Calico Road was built to transport a very unique product from Ritchie Mines, the only "Asphalt Mine" in the United States at the time.
The production of oil and natural gas has been a chief source of wealth since 1865 and 1870. Wells are still being drilled in the County and it is a big business throughout the territory. The County also produces livestock, hay, grain, manufacturers products such as glassware, marbles, clothing, aluminum, and lumber products.
North Bend Park, consisting of 1404 acres, lies between Cairo and Harrisville. It has hardwood forests, rich river bottoms and steep rocky ridges. The area was once the scene of a booming oil industry.
For more information on Ritchie County history or for genealogical resources, see the local history collection at both libraries or contact the Ritchie County Historical Society,Inc. at 200 S Church St.,Harrisville, WV 26362-David Scott, president.
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