Parkersburg, located at the confluence of the Ohio and Little Kanawha rivers, is the third-largest city in the State of West Virginia. It is the county seat of Wood County and the largest city in the Parkersburg–Marietta–Vienna Metropolitan Statistical Area. The population was 31,492 at the 2010 census. Its peak of population was more than 44,000 in 1960. The city is about 14 miles south of Marietta, Ohio.
The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad reached Parkersburg in 1857, but lacked a crossing over the Ohio River until after the American Civil War. When the B&O completed the Parkersburg Bridge (CSX) 1868-1870 to Belpre, it was the longest railroad bridge in the world.
The Bureau of the Public Debt, an agency of the U.S. Treasury Department, was relocated from the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area in the late 20th century and headquartered in Parkersburg. In October 2012, it was merged with the Financial Management Service to form the Bureau of the Fiscal Service.
White settlers originally named the city Newport when they settled it in the late 18th century following the American Revolutionary War. This was part of a westward migration of settlers from parts of Virginia to the east, closer to the Atlantic Ocean. A town section was laid out on land granted to Alexander Parker for his Revolutionary War service. Virginia made grants of land to veterans for their war service. The title conflicts between Parker and the city planners of Newport were settled in 1809 in favor of his heirs. The town was renamed Parkersburg in 1810. It was chartered by the Virginia General Assembly in 1820. It was rechartered as a city in 1860.
The town was the terminus of the Staunton-Parkersburg Turnpike and the Northwestern Turnpike. In 1857 the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad built a branch line south to the town from Wheeling, West Virginia. Travelers wanting to connect with the Ohio Marietta and Cincinnati Railroad, one of the east-west lines along the Ohio River, had to take a steamboat 14 miles north to Marietta, Ohio.
Jacob Linville designed the railroad bridge planned by the B&O. It was constructed in 1868–1870 between Parkersburg and Belpre, Ohio, as part of the B&O's main line from Baltimore to St. Louis, Missouri. This drew traffic and trade from Marietta. Today the structure is known as the Parkersburg Bridge (CSX).
Parkersburg served as a transportation and medical center for Union forces during the American Civil War. It developed further as a transportation hub in the gas and oil boom following that war.
Blennerhassett Island is a historical site located in Parkersburg.