Bellaire Nail Works
— from THE WHEELING DAILY INTELLIGENCER, " Special Natural Gas Edition", September 14, 1886.
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An Account of One of the Leading Industries of the Section
The Bellaire Nail Works manufactures Bessemer steel blooms and billets, pig iron and steel nails. This concern is one of the youngest and most lusty of Wheeling's offspring. It has always been owned and operated to a greater or less extent by Wheeling capital and brains, though not so distinctively a Wheeling industry as others separated from the city by the Ohio river. The corporators were Wheeling men -- A.L. Wetherald, Thomas Harris, jr., J. Percy Harden, H. L. Beck, H. Hardenstein and George Leasure. The charter was obtained in 1866, and in the fall of that year the company completed its organization with fifty stockholders representing $157,00. Of these stockholders all but Gen. B.R. Cowen, W.G. Barnard, James McCourtney and Fred Schenck were practical operators, and the mill was run as a cooperative concern for many years. This was a decided advantage in its early history. Strikes which stopped other mills left it to monopolize the market and coin money while other manufacturers were idle. B. R. Cowen was the first President, D. J. Smith, Secretary, and A. L. Wetherald, Manager. The mill began operations in December, 1867, with 24 nail machines.
The mill had been in operation but six weeks when it was entirely destroyed by fire. The new company, nothing daunted by a disaster which would have paralyzed the energies of almost any company under the circumstances, rebuilt at once, and were again in operation by June, 1868. In 1873 the company doubled its capital. The number of machines had by that time increased to 51. The same year an additional $140,000 was added to the stock and the erection of a blast furnace commenced. This was one of the finest furnaces in the vicinity.
Gen. Cowen was succeeded as President by W. G. Barnard, he by M. Sheets, he by the late C. Oglebay, of this city, and he by J. R. McCourtney, the present successful head of the affair. Mr. James Wilson, who has been identified with the mill from its early history, is now Vice-President, and in the absence of President McCourtney in Europe is temporarily at the head of the company. Mr. Smith remained Secretary until 1874, when Mr. A. D. Milbourn succeeded him, and remains in the position yet. Mr. A. B. Carter is Assistant Secretary.
The Board of Directors is composed of Messrs. McCourtney and Wilson, Capt. R. T. Devries, General Agent of the B. & O. company here; E. W. Oglebay, of Wheeling, Ed Jones, jr., William Sharp and W. G. Barnard. The co-operative feature was long ago abandoned.
The blast furnace, after a striking record of productiveness, and being repaired several times, is now being rebuilt with greatly increased diameter and capacity. It will be able to turn out an average of over a thousand tons a week. The nail works has grown to a completely equipped plant of 125 machines, with a capacity for turning out 7,000 kegs of nails per week ready for the market. The capital stock has grown to $500,000. The furnace is in charge Ed. Jones, Jr., as manager, and the nail factory is under the superintendence of Thomas W. Wetherald, an old nailer identified with the factory since its establishment.
AN IMMENSE AFFAIR.
The progressive spirit of the Bellair management is shown by their taking the lead in putting to practical execution the plans of the local manufacturers in regard to the manufacture of steel for their own uses. Their steel plant was commenced in 1883 and completed in 1884. It has a capacity for 1,500 tons of steel billets and slabs per week. The Company has had difficulty in supplying the demand for its steel product, and has been for some time behind with its orders. Its plant is as complete and conveniently arranged as any of those in this district, and its product is not excelled for quality. The manager of the steel department is J. W. Cabot.
The mill has gradually extended and increased until it is one of the most considerable concerns in the valley. Its buildings are all of the most approved construction, mainly of iron, and includes the best warehouse for the storage of nails in this vicinity. The company owns ten acres of ground, besides a valuable coal tract reached by a railroad from the works. It was the first nail manufactory here to use natural gas, introducing it as soon as the Wheeling Company was ready to furnish it, and the result was most satisfactory. From the start the new fuel proved a great improvement on coal.
Nearly all the site of ten acres originally purchased from W. G. Barnard is now occupied by the company's extensive works, including a keg factory. Its property lies on both sides of the Cleveland & Pittsburgh division of the Pennsylvania Railroad and on the river, the mill having a fine landing where its product is loaded upon boats. The Cleveland, Lorain & Wheeling road's extension is now being constructed through the mill property, and it also has convenient access to the B. & O. road. Taken altogether no similar establishment in the Ohio Valley or elsewhere can excel it in facilities, equipment, natural advantages or anything else that contributes to the success and growth of a corporation of its utility.