America’s First Highway in Spotlight

The 2018 Ohio Valley History Expo will be celebrating the 200th anniversary of the completion of the National Road from Cumberland, Md., to Wheeling, (West) Virginia, with a number of events, beginning early next month.

The festivities will kick off at 11 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 3, at the Osiris Shrine Temple, also known as Monument Place or Shepherd Hall, 91 Kruger St. The events continue at noon, Nov. 6, at Lunch With Books at the Ohio County Public Library, 52 16th St., Wheeling.

The Historic National Road, the nation’s first federally funded highway, was conceived by George Washington and brought forward during Jefferson’s presidency by his Secretary of the Treasury Albert Gallatin. Construction began in 1811 on the first leg of the road and the National Road from Cumberland to Wheeling was completed in 1818.

As wealthy plantation owners, Lydia and Moses Shepherd ascended to the apex of early Wheeling society, counting many influential individuals, such as U.S. Senator Henry Clay, among their friends. The Shepherds’ friendship with Sen. Henry Clay helped to secure the routing of the National Road through Wheeling, ensuring that the new National Road passed directly by the couple’s stone mansion, Shepherd Hall. To show their gratitude, the Shepherds commissioned a monument to Clay to be erected on their property, which subsequently became known as “Monument Place,” and is now home to the Osiris Shrine Temple.


On Nov. 3 at the Osiris Shrine Temple, Lydia Boggs Shepherd Cruger, as portrayed by Jeanne Carter, will lead a tour of Monument Place/Shepherd Hall.

Following the tour, an optional $15 luncheon will be available at noon at Shepherd Hall. The luncheon, catered by Whisk Bakery, will feature roasted beet and chèvre salad with spicy walnuts and house vinaigrette; creamy mushroom soup; an option of either a gourmet chicken salad sandwich with dried cherries and pecans served on a mini croissant or a roasted vegetable wrap with hummus and feta; and Whisk Bakery specialty cupcakes for dessert. Please RSVP for the luncheon by Friday, Oct. 26, by calling 304-232-0244 or emailing

Following the luncheon, at 1 p.m., Dr. Billy Joe Peyton, professor of history at West Virginia State University, will talk about the “Making of the National Road.”


Peyton received his bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in history from West Virginia University. His 30-year public history career began in the 1980s at Prickett’s Fort State Park, West Virginia Public Broadcasting, the National Park Service and Kaymoor Coal Mine site.

His publication credits include entries in the West Virginia Encyclopedia (print and online versions), a chapter in The National Road: The Road & American Culture (1996), and two local history works titled Charleston Then and Now (2009) and Charleston: The First 225 Years (2013). He has also worked as writer and historian on several documentary films, including Ghosts of Green Bottom, Red Salt & Reynolds and The Midland Trail, and can be seen in The 50 States series on the History Channel.

The tour at 11 a.m. and the talk at 1 p.m. are free and open to the public.

The 2018 Ohio Valley History Expo will continue on Tuesday, Nov. 6, at Lunch With Books at the Ohio County Public Library, with Hilary Miller.

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In her program, “Stories from the Stagecoach,” Miller, a doctoral candidate in American Studies at Penn State University, will examine the experiences of travelers on the National Road during the road’s heyday in the first half of the 19th century. Many travelers kept accounts that described their travels on the National Road. Common topics in the narratives include encounters with stagecoach passengers, accommodations at roadside hotels and taverns, and scenery and tourist sites along the route of the road. Portraying a traveler along the road, Miller will uncover the experience of traveling on the National Road and explore the material culture of stagecoach travel, particularly for women making the journey along the National Road.

Her dissertation, tentatively titled, Popularly It Was Known as the National Road: The National Road, the Expansion of American Culture and the Creation of American Identity, focuses on the history of the National Road and its place in American cultural memory and history. Miller received her bachelor’s degree in history and English from Washington & Jefferson College. She earned her master’s degree in history with a public history concentration at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. She is a seasonal park ranger with the National Park Service at Fort Necessity National Battlefield and Friendship Hill National Historic Site. She has previously taught history and American studies courses at Washington & Jefferson College, UNC Charlotte and multiple Penn State campuses.

A National Road exhibit, America’s First Highway: The National Road in West Virginia, will be on display at the Ohio County Public Library throughout the month of November. Curated and created by the Museums of Oglebay Institute, the exhibit will be on loan at the library courtesy Oglebay Institute.

All library events are free and open to the public.

A kick-off for the year-long 2019 Wheeling 250 celebration, the 2018 Ohio Valley History Expo is presented through a partnership of the City of Wheeling Arts & Cultural Commission, Wheeling Heritage, the Osiris Shriners of Wheeling, Oglebay Institute and the Ohio County Public Library.

Erin Rothenbuehler works at the Ohio County Public Library where she digitizes the library’s archival collections and maintains the library’s history websites. She is the co-founder of, and the podcast, “From Camp Lee to the Great War: The Letters of Lester Scott & Charles Riggle.” She has a bachelor of science degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and an associate of applied science degree in building preservation from Belmont College. A 2017 West Virginia History Hero recipient, Rothenbuehler is the president of the West Virginia Independence Hall Foundation and serves on the City of Wheeling Arts & Cultural Commission, the Friends of Wheeling Board and the Wheeling 250 Committee.