WHEELING, W.Va. (WTRF) — Wheeling historian Margaret Brennan is a familiar face to the Ohio Valley.

She has spent a great portion of her life researching the records of Ohio Valley past, but it is this history buff’s decision in the present that shows just how connected she is to her own past. 

Brennan has been keeping a secret of sorts for the last 17 years. It’s a well-kept secret that she says she is ready to share. 

Brennan says, “My two great aunts. They were interesting women. They were hardworking women. They worked in pottery factories. First in Toronto, Ohio and then for Warwick China in Wheeling. They apparently saved their money and they invested in stocks. Now we’re talking way in the ‘20’s and then they held the stocks and we’re talking GE and GM.” 

Brennan says her two great-aunts, Anna and Sarah, resemble her great-grandfather John Monahan, a man whom she reveres to this day.

Brennan also says it is because of these two women and her great-grandfather that she wanted to dedicate the Celtic cross erected at Wheeling Heritage Port. 

Brennan comments, “I thought it would be nice to use some of their money to do something for them for Irish heritage.” 

The Celtic cross is the monument that Brennan says memorializes the Irish in the Ohio Valley. 

Brennan made the decision to design and fund the cross herself. 

“I was able to take advantage of those stocks to use them for pay for the Celtic cross,” she says.

Listening to Brennan reminisce about her great-grandfather is truly a treat. She holds in her heart his harp, his blackthorn walking stick and other photos, but she says it is the memories of him that she cherishes most.  

She takes you back in time to when he was 20. Brennan says he worked on the B & O Railroad and was there to see the driving of the last spike at Rosby’s Rock near Moundsville. 

Brennan chuckles saying, “I am sure they hoisted a few brews. I am sure they had a little mini party at the idea. All those months and months and all of a sudden it’s done. Then he hightailed it back to Ireland to get his girlfriend and to marry her. I think that’s delightful.” 

After many years in Ireland, Brennan says her great-grandfather decided to come back to Wheeling.  

“There must have been something about this valley that attracted him so much that he would load up seven children, many trunks and get back on a boat and leave everything he knew in Ireland and come back to Wheeling over the very road he built and to make a life here. It’s extraordinary.” 

“Although Brennan says the Celtic cross has been here for the last 17 years, to her, it feels like it was just put up yesterday.  

If you haven’t seen the gorgeous granite cross before, you should, because it is something to see. When you get close to it, Brennan says, it tells a story of its own. 

It commemorates the builders, the Irish builders of the B&O Railroad, which is one of the largest building projects in the country at that time. What this meant to the growth of Wheeling as a city cannot be overestimated. When the railroad came it was just wonderful. We went to the museum in Baltimore and got a special permission to put the B&O symbol on this monument which stands for so very much.  

County Mayo, a very poor county in Ireland, during the potato famine, they lost a lot of people. So, that’s why the county is shown here on the other side.

Then have the four areas of Ireland just to put in terms of geography and then of course the harp is the symbol of Ireland and always the Shamrock with, of course, Saint Patrick who is the key to all of this.” 

Brennan says the Celtic cross has belonged to the city of Wheeling since its dedication in 2013. She says the city is responsible for cleaning the cross and weeding around it.