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Woodsdale Kids

Memories of a Wheeling Neighborhood
By Kate Quinn

Ready for nearly anything, these Woodsdale kids pose for a picture one cool fall day.
Standing, from the left, are Louise, Melissa, Tom, Kate, and Michael Quinn. In the wagon, from the left, are Suzanne and Colin Quinn : seven of nine children in the Quinn family.

My sister and I were reliving fun memories of our old neighborhood of Woodsdale, a suburb of Wheeling. The Woodsdale-Edgwood Neighborhood Historic District is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. There are many beautiful Victorian homes there as well as other important architectural landmarks. To us, it was the center of the universe.

It all started with a big rock – a huge boulder that sits in a nearby churchyard, weighing at least 500 pounds. All of the kids in our neighborhood believed that it was a meteorite. I have since learned that the granite boulder was brought from Massachusetts in 1911, as if West Virginia didn’t have big rocks! This myth led to another, and I began collecting stories from my childhood neighborhood.

In the 1940’s, my grandfather, Russell B. Goodwin, was mayor of Wheeling, and he lived in a big house in Woodsdale. He loved squirrels and decided our neighborhood didn’t have enough of them, so he ordered them by mail. One day a huge wooden crate arrived, and my grandmother instructed the men to put it in the basement. My uncle came home from school, heard a racket in the basement, and went to investigate. He could tell that there was something alive in the mysterious box, so he pried it open to have a look. Looking back at him was the biggest squirrel he had ever seen, so I’m sure my uncle ran off in a fright. Meanwhile the squirrels escaped and ran havoc in the neighborhood, terrorizing the dogs, and eating anything made of wood, including my sister’s dollhouse. When people found out who had imported these giants, my grandfather was forced to call an exterminator. But to this day the squirrels in Woodsdale are the biggest I’ve ever seen!

The Children’s Home in Wheeling was a big Gothic structure that was like something out of an Alfred Hitchcock movie. The children who lived there attended the same elementary school as we did. When the kids were old enough for seventh grade, they disappeared, and no one knew their fate. Of course kids will imagine the worse, and instead of figuring out that these children were sent to another facility, some believed the wild imaginings of other kids who reported that they had met a “fate worse than death.”

You can read the rest of this article in this issue of Goldenseal, available in bookstores, libraries or direct from Goldenseal.