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Ebenezer Zane


Pioneer Ebenezer Zane (October 7, 1747-November 19, 1812) was the founder of Wheeling. He was born on the South Branch of the Potomac River near present Moorefield in Hardy County and married Elizabeth McColloch, sister of John and Samuel McColloch of border warfare fame.

After the 1768 Treaty of Fort Stanwix opened the frontier to the Ohio River, Zane, with his brothers Jonathan and Silas, established a settlement at the confluence of Wheeling Creek and the Ohio in 1770. He made two 400-acre claims on the site of present Wheeling, later adding other claims on both sides of the river. A colonel in the Virginia militia as well as a disbursing agent during Dunmore’s War (1774), he constructed Fort Fincastle, renamed Fort Henry during the Revolutionary War, which withstood attacks by combined British-Indian forces in 1777 and 1782. The latter attack was fought after the British defeat at Yorktown.

Concerned about the state of education in Western Virginia, Zane, in 1787, helped establish Randolph Academy in Clarksburg, said to be the oldest institution of learning west of the Alleghenies. He represented Ohio County when the Virginia convention of 1788 met to consider ratification of the U.S. Constitution, which Zane supported, and he laid out the town of Wheeling in 1793. Three years later he received permission to open a road, long called Zane’s Trace, from Wheeling to Limestone (now Maysville), Kentucky. The town of Zanesville, Ohio, is named for him.

Col. Ebenezer Zane, brother of the heroic Betty Zane, died in Wheeling.

Written by Jack Wills


  1. De Hass, Wills. History of the Early Settlement and Indian Wars of Western Virginia. Philadelphia: H. Hoblitzell, 1851, Reprint, McClain, 1960.

  2. Martzolff, Clement L. Zane's Trace. Columbus: Heer, 1904.

  3. Patterson, John G. Ebenezer Zane: Frontiersman. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 1939.