The Fascinating Archaeological Discoveries That Put This West Virginia Island On The Map
The most famous island on the Ohio River. That’s a claim to fame that only Blennerhassett Island in West Virginia can boast! Here’s a bit of the fascinating history of this remarkable Ohio River island that helped put it
on the map.
Located on the Ohio River near Parkersburg, West Virginia, Blennerhassett Island is a unique destination that boasts a rich history and fascinating archaeology. This picturesque island has captivated the minds of historians, archaeologists, and tourists alike for centuries.
There's Native American history on this island that significantly predates modern times.
But the modern story of Blennerhassett Island begins in the late 18th century when it was settled by none other than Harman and Margaret Blennerhassett. The couple, of Irish descent, arrived on the island in 1798 and immediately began constructing a lavish mansion, creating what would eventually become known as Blennerhassett Island Estate, the "most beautiful home in the West" at the time when it was built.
The Blennerhassett mansion, built in the style of Palladian architecture with exquisite gardens surrounding it, quickly became a symbol of their wealth and privilege. The estate was renowned for its grandeur, boasting luxurious furnishings, rare artwork, an extensive library, and an impressive collection of scientific instruments.
The couple, along with their family, hosted extravagant parties and social events that attracted the most prominent figures of the time.
However, the Blennerhassetts' dream was short-lived. Their idyllic lifestyle came to an abrupt halt when they became entangled in a conspiracy with Aaron Burr, the former Vice President of the United States.
Burr, who had plans to establish his own empire in the American Southwest, sought financial and military support from the Blennerhassetts. Unfortunately for them, Burr's grand scheme was ultimately foiled, and the couple faced significant legal troubles. The mansion was eventually burned down, and the Blennerhassetts were forced to abandon their island paradise.
Fast forward to the late 19th century, when archaeologists and historians began to uncover the remnants of the Blennerhassett estate. Excavations led to the discovery of various artifacts, such as pottery, glassware, and personal belongings of the Blennerhassetts and other inhabitants of the island.
These archaeological findings provided valuable insights into the couple's opulent lifestyle and the significant historical events that unfolded on the island.
Today, Blennerhassett Island stands as a testament to both the glory and downfall of the Blennerhassett family. Visitors can explore the reconstructed Blennerhassett mansion, which showcases period-appropriate furnishings and décor.
The island (accessible by ferry) also offers various recreational activities, including guided tours, horse-drawn carriage rides, and the opportunity to witness historical reenactments.
Blennerhassett Island is not only a popular tourist destination but also a site of ongoing research and excavation. Archaeologists continue to unearth new artifacts and unravel the untold stories of the island's past. Through their dedication and expertise, they offer a glimpse into the lives of those who once called this island home.
While some of their finds have been stored or reconstructed on the island, others are stored nearby in the Blennerhassett Museum in Parkersburg (pictured).
As you step foot on Blennerhassett Island State Park, let its history and archaeology transport you to a bygone era. Marvel at the remnants of a once-thriving mansion, contemplate the events that led to its demise, and appreciate the continuous efforts to uncover its secrets. Blennerhassett Island is a true gem, woven into the fabric of West Virginia’s history, inviting you to explore, learn, and be enchanted. (And it’s not the only infamous connection to Burr that West Virginia boasts…)
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Blennerhassett Island, West Virginia 26101, USA