Wheeling Hall of Fame: George A. Laughlin
George A. Laughlin left an unusual legacy to the citizens of Ohio County — a legacy to benefit people he never met and one which will benefit those of future generations. This income from a sum considerably in excess of a million dollars is offered annually, in interest-free loans for home financing.
Nearly 100 of these loans have been made since the income became available in 1950. The requirements for consideration are that the applicant be a resident of Ohio County, married with three or more dependent children living at home, insurable for life insurance, and be steadily employed and of good character.
During his lifetime, George Laughlin made numerous interest-free loans which aided deserving individuals in the purchase of homes and his legacy made possible the continuation of this philanthropy.
George Laughlin was born in Wheeling in 1862 and educated at Linsly Institute. After his graduation from Linsly, Laughlin learned the iron business working with his father. He struck out on his own in 1877 and moved to Cleveland. After nine years in the Lake Erie metropolis, he went to Richmond, Ind., where he spent three years in the manufacture of tin plate.
He was president of the Cleveland-Canton Spring Company and chairman of the board of the Western Spring and Axle Company of Cincinnati.
George Laughlin returned to Wheeling in 1899. He founded the Wheeling Board of Trade in 1900 and became its first president. Also, in 1900, he was elected to a term in the West Virginia House of Delegates. He served as president of the Wheeling Intelligencer Company until its purchase by H. C. Ogden in 1904. He leased The Wheeling Telegraph newspaper in 1914 and published that paper until its demise in 1929. He then became associated with the News Publishing Company.
Laughlin was the donor of the ground and equipment for the children's playground on Bethany Pike at Greggsville. The Woodsdale Children's Home and the West Virginia Home for Aged Women profited for many years through his advice and financial support.
One of George Laughlin's particular interests was the Eighteenth Street Chapel of the First Presbyterian Church. The history of the chapel extends back to 1836, when the building was erected by the First German Lutheran Church, which used it until 1872, when it put up a building on Market Street. The Eighteenth St. property was then sold to the First Presbyterian Church, of which the Laughlin family was among the pioneer members.
The building was remodeled by Laughlin upon his return to the city from Richmond. He was associated with the chapel for many years and acted as superintendent of the Sunday School and leader of a Bible class. He donated the chapel to the community with Hazel-Atlas securities — valued at $100,000 and to be held in trust and used as needed. Since his death in 1936, it has been known as "Laughlin Memorial Chapel."
Laughlin was the driving spirit in the daring enterprise which resulted in the development of Warwood and the establishment of an industrial center there. He also was a leader in the organization of both Wheeling Can Co. and Wheeling Mold & Foundry.
Text and pictures provided by Wheeling Hall of Fame. Service provided by the staff of the Ohio County Public Library in partnership with and partially funded by Wheeling National Heritage Area Corporation.