Weirton, located in southern Hancock and northern Brooke counties, is an industrial city once dominated by Weirton Steel Company, once the largest private employer in West Virginia and the state’s first billion-dollar corporation.
Incorporated in 1947, Weirton included the former communities of Hollidays Cove, Marland Heights, Weirton Heights, and Weirton. The town was named for E. T. Weir, the founder of Weirton Steel. Weirton had grown up with the steel mill, but it had previously remained unincorporated. For many years before incorporation, municipal services were provided by the Weirton Improvement Company, a subsidiary of Weirton Steel. Some of these services continued until the 1950s.
Weirton was a one-company town, but never a company town in the way many mining towns were in southern West Virginia, where the coal companies owned the entire community. Weirton Steel did own some housing, but those were barrack-like structures for unmarried men in the earliest years of the mill, before World War I. Nonetheless, the connection of company and town was close. Weirton’s first mayor, Thomas Millsop, was president of Weirton Steel and later president of its successor, National Steel.
Weirton developed rapidly following the building of the steel mill in 1909. Where there had been fields of grain and orchards of fruit in 1909, Weirton became an industrial center of 8,000 people by 1920 and 18,000 by 1940. The steelworkers represented many nationalities from Europe, plus some from the Middle East, as well as a large number of African-Americans.
In its first decade after incorporation, the city built the Weirton Community Center, Weirton General Hospital, and the Mary H. Weir Library. Weirton’s population peaked in 1960 at 28,201. Into the mid-1970s, Weirton reaped the blessings of the 12,000 well-paid jobs at Weirton Steel. Its citizens enjoyed one of the state’s highest per capita income levels and highest percentage of home ownership.
The economic malaise of the 1970s affected Weirton, leading to a population drop to 24,736 by 1980. After National Steel sold the Weirton plant to its employees in 1984, employment at the mill and population of the city continued to drop. The plant is now owned by ArcelorMittal. In 2010 Weirton’s population stood at 19,746.
This Article was written by David T. Javersak
Last Revised on December 07, 2012
Javersak, David T. History of Weirton.. Virginia Beach: Donning Co., 1999.