The city of Wheeling has been a municipality in two different states and has twice served as the capital of West Virginia, but those facts represent a mere sprinkling of the rich history accumulated through the years.
It is that history that will be used during the inaugural “It’s Wheeling History Trivia Challenge,” a three-part competition that will involve 12 teams, three locations, and hundreds of questions concerning people, places, and events highlighting the Friendly City’s past. Registration is only $10 per participant, and there will be no cost of admission for those wishing to watch. The series is sponsored by Dr. David A. Kappel, C.J. Kaiser, Dr. David Javersak, David H. McKinley, Dr. William Noble, the Ohio County Public Library, West Virginia Independence Hall, and the Wheeling National Heritage Area Corporation.
“This idea comes from two places,” explained Sean Duffy, program director at the Ohio County Public Library. “Bekah (Karelis) had the notebook from Brent Carney, and we also have Dr. David Javersak who had this presentation on Wheeling history, and he thought it would be a good idea to do some kind of program with all of the information.
“So I thought it would be a great idea to combine the two for this trivia challenge,” he said. “We had a lot of big ideas, and we have been talking about this project for a couple of years. This is what was produced by many conversations.”
Each team can have three or four members, and the first round will be staged at the Ohio County Library on May 19 and will begin at 6 p.m. The 12 teams will face off for 20 minutes during six different rounds, and the squads that accumulate the most points advance.
Round Two is scheduled for the courtroom at Independence Hall at 7 p.m. on June 23 with six teams going head-to-head during three 30-minute games. The third and final round will be at the Blue Church on 12th and Byron streets in East Wheeling, and it will begin at 7 p.m. on Aug. 7. The three remaining teams will be asked questions for a one-hour period, and Javersak will serve as the host of all three events. The members of the championship team will receive locally-made prizes, and they will have their names inscribed on the “It’s Wheeling History” Trivia Challenge Championship Cup, a traveling trophy comprised of a red antique galvanized “Dura-Zinc-Alloy” fire bucket manufactured by Wheeling Corrugating Company. Individual team members from the second- and third-place teams will also receive locally made gifts, and Karelis, Duffy, Carney will serve as the expert judges for all three evenings.
“We wanted to highlight the Blue Church because of the number of people who are working on that project to make that a community center, and that is why it was chosen to be our championship venue,” Duffy explained. “And we also thought having one of the events inside the courtroom at Independence Hall was a good idea just because of all of the history inside that one room.
“We wanted to highlight the history, and we wanted to make it fun for both the people who are participating and the people who are attending,” he said. “Who doesn’t like a contest? Trivia is big right now, and so is the history of Wheeling, so combining the two seemed like a good idea.”
For several years in Wheeling the city’s historical relevance was discarded as many important buildings were razed to make room for what residents and government officials believed was “progress.” At one time, in fact, Independence Hall – the birthplace of the Mountain State on June 20, 1863 – housed a tropical-themed bar and was in deplorable shape.
“We have lost a lot of historical buildings through the years, but we have also seen a lot of preservation taking place because it’s very visible,” Duffy explained. “I think that had led a lot of people to appreciate the significance that the city of Wheeling has played locally and nationally.
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“There are a lot of nuances concerning the history of Wheeling, and I think once someone gets into it, they become mesmerized,” he continued. “I think for some folks it has been very surprising to them, so they just keep digging deeper and deeper to see what will surprise them next. It’s how we got to where we are today, and there are a lot of things in our history we should be very proud of.”
“Since Wheeling is as old a city as it is, there is a lot of history that goes back centuries,” Karelis said. “But the questions are not going to be impossible. That’s not our objective. If you have been in Wheeling for a while, you mostly likely have heard the stories about what the questions will cover.
“There will be questions about recent history, and there will also be questions from way back in the Fort Henry days,” she said. “It’s across the board, and it’s going to be a lot of fun to see who knows their stuff, and who thinks they know their stuff.”
Duffy offered a sampling of the level of difficulty.
“An example of a question would be, ‘Name the two rival brewers in Wheeling before the days of prohibition?’ Something like that,” Duffy said. “Most of the questions will be pretty mainstream and will cover a lot of different topics.
“We’ll also have a section of questions that will involve historic photographs so we can see who knows about a lot of the older buildings in the city. The participants will either have to name the building or tell us where it was once located before it was torn down,” he said. “We’re not going to make this impossible, though, because we really do want everyone to have a good time with it.”
Several of the questions, Karelis said, will come directly from the trivia notebooks composed by the late Bill Carney and donated to the Wheeling National Heritage Area Corp. by local historian Brent Carney.
“Bill Carney was a wonderful historian of Wheeling before he passed away, and he had composed these notebooks full of trivia questions based on Wheeling’s history,” Karelis explained. “It’s kind of like his legacy, and after he passed, his son, Brent, brought the notebooks to me and donated them to our effort of preserving the city’s history.
“I believe collecting these trivia questions became something of a hobby for Bill,” she continued. “He may have been planning a book with the questions, but that’s something we really don’t know. But the history that’s inside these notebooks is incredible, so I knew that we had to do something with them.”