M. M. Bleakmore
An article from the Wheeling Intelligencer in which lawyer M. M. Bleakmore, born in Wheeling in 1818 revisits the Wheeling of his childhood.
-- Wheeling Intelligencer Feb. 2, 1889:
A PIONEER WHEELING BOY
Aged over the Allotted Three Score Years and Ten.
Of the Good Old Times When He Was Young and the Hills Were Clad in Forest Trees -- He Calls on an Old Sweetheart.
"M. M. Bleakmore, Iowa," written plainly and yet showing evidence of having been penned by the trembling hand of old age, was among the signatures that appeared on the McLure House register yesterday. It attracted the attention of the Intelligencer reporter who daily makes a study of the chirography on the various hotel registers, and he was on the point of asking the clerk who Mr. Bleakmore, of Iowa, was, when that punctionary spoke the name. turing to see who it was that had been addressed, the newspaper man found standing by his side a well preserved old gentleman, apparently over 70 years of age, yet erect in stature and with a pair of twinkling brown eyes that still retained much of the merriment and fire of youth. As the clerk was performing some little duty for this guest, the latter added to his thanks the statement that he had just hunted up and seen one of his old sweethearts. This he volunteered with a little chuckle of pleasure and an extra twinkle danced in his eyes. The reporter's interest was aroused and a little secret eye telegraphy between him and the clerk resulted in an introduction.
"You were speaking of old friends here, I believed," entured the reporter. "Did you ever live here?"
"Why I was born and raised here," answered the old gentleman, and in this manner several minutes of very pleasant conversation was started. Mr. Bleakmore was born six miles below here, where Benwood now stands, in 1818. His father was one of the original pioneers here, having been a contemporary with the Zanes and other notables of the day when Wheeling was a mere Indian trading point. The elder Bleakmore operated a ferry between the Virginia and Ohio shores at a point below here, near where his house stood. His son, the old gentleman with whom the reporter talked, roamed with other boys all over this part of the country. Wheeling and Chapline hills, in those days covered with a dense growth of timber and presenting a much grander sight than they do now standing out bleak and bare, were favorite resorts of the youth of that day, and the recollection of nutting parties and other excursions into their leafy depths are today as vivid in Mr. Bleakmore's memory as though they were occurences of yesterday. He was educated in the best schools that existed here in those days, his father having been fairly well off and able to provide good educations for his children, and as he reached manhood's estate he chose the law for a profession. He studied law under old Zach Jacob, and was duly licensed to practice. He continued to make Wheeling his home till 1857, when he removed to Fairfield, Jefferson county, Iowa, and that has been his home ever since. Since leaving here he has never been back in Wheeling, though he has frequently passed by the site of his birthplace, in Benwood, as he has been going between the West and East, on the Baltimore & Ohio, on business. For four years he held a Department position at Washington and he has a son in one of the Departments there now. Mr. Bleakmore has just been on to see his son and look after some pension cases that he has charge of, and carrying out a desire he has long had to visit the scene of his youthful joys and pleasures, stopped off here on his return trip.
The big flood of 1832 and the cholera plague of 1833 were both events of which he still retains the liveliest recollections, and many are the incidents of those two awful visitations that he can relate in a most entertaining manner. He was well acquainted with the Zane family, the Spriggs, the Baggs, the Jacobs, the Woods and many other old-time families, and remembers many of their peculiarities, their appearances and anecdotes about their careers.
As a matter of course, the Wheeling of to-day is nothing like the Wheeling of his youth, yet he had already found several old landmarks in the short time he had been here, only about five hours. He told with a hearty laugh of his first sight of and experience with a goat. It was in a livery stable opposite the McLure House, where McLain's block now stands. A pair of [..scratched film. ... ]here by the owner of the stable. They were quite a curiosity, and Mr. Bleakmore, then a mere boy, was taken by his aunt to see them. He saw them and stars besides, for too much familiarity on his part bred a "despise" in the contemplative mind of one of the goats, and a good opportunity offering, young Master Bleakmore was lifted several feet by a well delivered butt.
"You spoke about seeing an old sweetheart," said the reporter.
"Oh! yes, that was --, " naming a lady now living on Fourteenth street. "I just came from there. She happened to come to the door and I knew her at once, but she didn't know me. I was a very devoted gallant to her in those good old days. It took her some time to find out who I was, and I'm afraid I vexed here a little before I let her know. She apologized for the parlor being cold, but I told her not to mind; that I had sat up with her in cold parlors before and kept her warm by hugging her. And then I told her that I was sure that I could find ruts worn by my buggy wheels in taking her out to old Triadelphia. And then before I let her know who I was, I told her that I had kissed her a thousand times. That capped the climax, and then she began to recognize me.
There was [--scratched film--] ing nature that Mr. Bleakmore told, and the conversation was finally brought to a close by his stating that he must go out and hunt up Mr. Michael Reilly, another of his old time friends. Mr. Bleakmore will remain at the McLure probably till Monday.