Wheeling’s Distinctive Table Rock


Glennova Development 1902 Glennova (named after Glenn's Run) was a real estate development in present-day Warwood, promoted by W. E. Stone, J.A. Miller, W.H. Frank, M.J. McFadden, L.E. Sands and H.C. Ogden (a who's who of Wheeling business!) in 1902. This appeared in the Aug. 1, 1902 Wheeling Intelligencer.
Glennova (named for Glenn’s Run) was a real estate development in present-day Warwood, promoted by W. E. Stone and H.C. Ogden, among others. This appeared in the Aug. 1, 1902 Wheeling Intelligencer.

If you’ve ever driven Cherry Hill Road to Tablerock Lane near Glenn’s Run, you’ve driven fairly closely by it*, probably without even realizing it. Personally, I’ve lived in Wheeling for nearly half a century, and I’ve driven that route hundreds of times, but had never actually seen it until just the other day.

Yet in the old days, when Wheeling’s hills were bereft of trees, the Table Rock was, no doubt, quite a stand-out feature on the rolling hills above Glennova (now part of Warwood).

 

And it’s likely (as the surviving photographic record strongly suggests) that passersby — whether on horseback or in motor cars — would have been drawn to the unique formation, resembling (as it still does) a giant, oddly out of place, stone mushroom, or, if you prefer, a fedora.

Early photo of Table Rock, courtesy the Richard Pollack family
Early photo of Table Rock, courtesy the Richard Pollack family

This irresistible prehistoric fairy-tale photo-op is actually “a peculiar formation of a sandstone of the Dunkard Series…A pillar of sandstone averaging a meter high and varying from about 2 to nearly 3 m in diameter, supports an irregular horizontal slab averaging a little more than 2 m thick (the ‘Table’ of the Table Rock), about 20 sq. m in maximum area, 4 m in greatest east to west measurement, almost 5 m in greatest north to south measurement. Projecting vertically from the center of the ‘Table’ is a cylinder of sandstone 60 cm high in the west, 1 m high on the east, with approximately the same 2 to 3 m range in diameter as the base pedestal (Rock Art of the Upper Ohio Valley by James L. Swauger and Clifford J. Morrow, DaRe Rare Books Collection, OCPL).

But that’s just the scientific description. On a visceral level, this is one cool looking, big rock. Now mostly hidden in a stand of trees on private property (part of the historic Hess family farm on land once owned by Samuel McColloch–nephew of that Sam McColloch), the quirky rock has inspired equally quirky folklore, casting it as everything from Indian picnic table to buffalo back-scratcher (see Maureen Zambito’s Jan. 16, 2011 article in the Sunday Wheeling News-Register).

From
From “Rock art of the Upper Ohio Valley,” James L. Swauger, Clifford J. Morrow Akadem. Druck-u. Verlagsanst., 1974. OCPL Rare Books Collection

But the true source of the Table Rock’s significance is the presence of four identified Indian petroglyphs carved into the upper surface of the “Table.” One of the glyphs is snail-shaped, another is kidney-shaped, and the remaining two are abstract designs. There may have been additional petroglyphs, but unfortunately, they were obscured by a “thin slip of cement” inexplicably applied to the rock in the past (Swauger). [Note: For more on regional petroglyphs, including some hands-on activities, join Andrea Keller, Cultural Program Coordinator at the Grave Creek Mound Archaeological Complex, for People’s University ArchaeologyClass 4, on Tuesday, July 21 at 7 PM at the Ohio County Public Library.]

But where did this big, mysterious rock come from? It appears to have sprouted from the soil, again, like an over-sized mushroom. And, in a way, that’s probably, sort of, what happened. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, Dunkard Series rocks in West Virginia date to the Pennsylvanian Age, part of the late Carboniferous Period (late Paleozoic Era), or approximately 300 million years ago. So the Table Rock is sedimentary sandstone, which originally settled horizontally, “but with the uplifting of the land, the beds were folded or arched. Subsequent erosions of these folds has exposed in different places sections of the different strata…” (Field Operations of the Bureau of Soils, 1910, 12th Report, Milton Whitney). So we are looking at one very old, time traveling rock. And the well-dressed people you see above and below, who climbed onto the inviting “Table” to have their pictures made over a century ago, were unwittingly climbing on a rock old enough to have been a dinosaur’s chair.

This engraved wood marker sits in the ground near a spot a tree once stood at the base of Table Rock. Photo by Seán Duffy.
This engraved wood marker appears to be the remains of a tree that once stood near the base of Table Rock. Photo by Seán Duffy.

Thus, from ancient petroglyph carvings, to the 19th century graffiti evident in these early photographs, to the engraved wood and stones surrounding its base, the Table Rock has long inspired humans to leave their mark, perhaps as a simple message — a time capsule — to future travelers who would inevitably be drawn to Wheeling’s timeless curiosity.

That message?

We were here.

 

Then and Now animation:
Then and Now animation: “Then” photo from the Sophia Dauber Grubb Collection, OCPL Archives

 

Then and Now animation:
Then and Now animation: “Then” photo courtesy the Richard Pollack family

 

Then and Now animation:
Then and Now animation: “Then” photo from a circa 1908 real photo postcard, OCPL Archives Postcard Collection
 

 

Then and Now animation:
Then and Now animation:”Then” photo taken July, 1960: “General View with James L. Swauger and Herbert J. Moore.” From Rock Art of the Upper Ohio Valley, James L. Swauger, Clifford J. Morrow.

Gallery of Photos from Table Rock, 2015.

*As noted above, the Table Rock is located on private property. Please do not attempt to find it without first securing permission from the landowners.

 

Many thanks to Evelyn Strader for sharing this 1928 photograph of Herman and Melva Rolf visiting the Table Rock.

For more on the Table Rock, see:http://www.archivingwheeling.org/blog/a-timeless-curiosity/

Many thanks to Evelyn Strader for sharing this 1928 photograph of Herman and Melva Rolf visiting the Table Rock. For more on the Table Rock, see: http://www.archivingwheeling.org/blog/a-timeless-curiosity/