By the end of the eighteenth century, settlement had progressed sufficiently in the area surrounding the confluence of the Ohio and Little Kanawha rivers that a new county was deemed necessary. Wood County, formed from Harrison County in 1798, was named for James Wood, governor of Virginia at the time. Newport, strategically located at the confluence of the two rivers and soon to be renamed Parkersburg, became the county seat. Several decades later, two of Virginia's major antebellum turnpikes traversed the county. As the western terminus of both turnpikes, Parkersburg benefited from the settlers and traders they brought.
In 1840 the county had a population of 7,923, of whom 624 were slaves. Just before the Civil War, Wood County and Parkersburg became the center of the region's extensive oil and natural gas boom. Speculation caused such increases in population that by 1870, with a count of 19,000 people, Wood was West Virginia's third most populous county.
During the twentieth century, Wood County and Parkersburg prospered with the establishment of huge industrial plants along the Ohio River. DuPont's Washington plant is the second largest of the company's far-flung manufacturing enterprises. The 2000 census counted a population of 87,986, making Wood, as it had been in 1870, the third most populous county in West Virginia.
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