The city was originally formed as a settlement along the banks of the Ohio River by the British Colony of Virginia, and was later an important town in the Commonwealth of Virginia until 1861, when the western counties of Virginia seceded from the state. The city was the location of the Wheeling Convention, which established the new state of West Virginia; Wheeling was made the first capital of the state. But by 1870, the State Legislature voted to move the capital to Charleston as it was more centrally located. Just five years later, however, the capital was moved back to Wheeling, and was finally settled through a West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals judgement in favor of the city. It was not until 1877 that an election was ordered by the Legislature for the citizens of West Virginia to vote on a permanent location for the capital, choosing between Wheeling, Charleston and Clarksburg.
It was not until 1885 that the capital moved to Charleston where it has remained ever sense.
Wheeling soon prospered as a major industrial center, situated along the National Road and served as the western terminus of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. Major industries included nail plants, foundries and breweries. When Yost’s Law was applied in 1914, much of Wheeling’s breweries were shut down, eliminating thousands of jobs both direct and indirect. The closure of many early industrial centers led to a job exodus and a population loss that began in 1930 and has not stopped sense.
Today, Wheeling is a much small city than it used to be, having gone from a population of over 61,500 in 1930 to just under 29,000 in 2010. Tourism plays a greater role in employment today, with the West Virginia Independence Hall – the site of the Wheeling Convention, a major tourist attraction. The city is also home to Centre Market, Wheeling’s market house that was constructed in 1853. The area is also home to Oglebay Resort & Conference Center, Wheeling Park and the famous Wheeling Suspension Bridge.