Story courtesy of Weelunk partner West Virginia Public Broadcasting
Earl Oglebay died on June 22, 1926, at age 77. The son of a wealthy Wheeling businessman, he became head of his father’s bank at age 28, making him the nation’s youngest bank president. In the late 1800s, Oglebay partnered with John D. Rockefeller in a Cleveland iron business. He amassed a small fortune in 1901, when he sold his iron interests to U.S. Steel.
That same year, Oglebay began restoring a mansion on a ridge between Wheeling and Bethany as a summer home. Worried about the state of West Virginia’s farm economy, he brought in leading scientists to experiment with alfalfa, Guernsey dairy cattle, poultry, and horses. It was the state’s first agricultural education program. In tribute, West Virginia University’s College of Agriculture named Oglebay Hall in his honor, with hopes he’d donate money for the building. He never did.
Despite spurning WVU, Oglebay was one of West Virginia’s most generous philanthropists. Notably, he willed his farm to the city of Wheeling. Today, Oglebay Park is a vacation destination for millions of visitors, featuring five golf courses, a lodge, a museum, and a zoo.