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Top Mill: Wheeling Iron and Nail Co., 1886

-from The Wheeling Daily Intelligencer, September 14, 1886.


The "Top" Mill, the Successor of Wheeling's First Iron Works.

As mentioned elsewhere, Wheeling's first iron works was established in 1834 at the north end of the present city limits, by Peter Schoenberger and David Agnew. This site and much other ground adjoining is now occupied by the blast furnace, nail factory and forge department of the Wheeling Iron and Nail Company. Mr. Agnew in a few years succeeded to the business of the firm, and ran it until 1840, when he failed. The mill was taken by the former manager, Mr. Grassemer, and the head book-keeper, Mr. Tallant. In 1845 they were succeeded by E. W. Stevens, who came here from Pittsburgh. He enlarged the nail department and induced the Norton brothers to come in Wheeling. The mill was still owned by Mr. Schoenberger. Later Johnson, Sweeney & Co.and other firms ran the mill. It was once burned down, and in 1857 the last named firm failed. It never had more than fourteen machines, and its greatest capacity was about 700 kegs of nails per week. In the early days of the war of the rebellion the Belmont company leased the mill, and it was occupied for several years in the manufacture of gun-boat plates. The Schoenberger heirs sold the mill in 1864 to Acheson, Bell & Co. for $44,000. Besides the mill, this price embraced about fifty acres of land, with a river frontage of about three-fourths of a mile. The new owners added to the manufacture of gun-boat plate that of bar iron. A site for a nail factory was also secured by grading out the side of the hill. In 1865 the mill suffered from a disastrous boiler explosion.In 1865, Moses B. Cox and the Brockunier Brothers were added to the firm, and in 1866 the Wheeling Iron and Nail Works Company was formed, It enlarged the nail factory, and by the end of that year was running 50 machines.


In 1869 there was change in the ownership of the concern to a certain extent, and the company was reorganized with John P. Gilchrist as Present, C. D. Hubbard as Secretary and Adams Dodson as Vice-President.In the early days of the new company's history (September, 1871) the mill was entirely destroyed by fire. While ruins were yet smoldering preparations were begun to rebuild. Taking advantage of the necessity forced upon them by the fire, the company remodeled the entire plan of the works. All the latest improvements, either in machinery or the arrangement of the departments, were adopted, and every defect which experience had pointed out was remedied in the construction of the new works. By the summer of 1872 the mill was ready to resume operations with 105 machines.To-day the Top mill has one of the completest and most admirable nail factories anywhere, containing 130 machines and having an estimated daily capacity of 1,235 kegs of nails. This estimate has been exceeded in this factory proportionately. InFebruary, 1874, with 105 machines, the factory cut 6,867 kegs, a daily average 1,144 1/2 kegs, or nearly eleven kegs per day per machine.


The company began the erection of a blast furnace in 1874, but when the projected P., W. & Ky. railroad was temporarily abandoned the progress of the construction of the furnace was stopped. In 1878 work was resumed and the furnace completed. New, hot blasts are now being put in with twice the former capacity, and when the alterations are completed the furnace will have a daily capacity of 100 tons of pig iron. The company also owns one third of the Wheeling Steel Company, and while it manufactures steel nails exclusively in its factory, its complete and modern forge department is engaged in making muck bar which is sold to advantage to Pittsburgh manufacturers. The entire establishment occupies over six acres of ground, and all the buildings are substantial and of the most approved design. In its property is included a once valuable coal tract, but the mill is now introducing natural gas, and within a week will be in operation with the new fuel in all departments.The present officers of the Wheeling Iron and Nail Company are: C. R. Hubbard, President; H.H. Hornbrook, Vice-President; Hon. C. D. Hubbard, Secretary, and these gentlemen, with Messrs. John P. Gilchrist, George K. Wheat, William Isett and Dr. T. H. Logan compose the Board of Directors. The company has all the advantages of experienced management, late processes, favorable location, the possession of a blast furnace and steel plant of its own. Its continued prosperity and increased importance among the industries of Wheeling follows as a matter of course.

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