Parkersburg was permanently settled in 1785 by Capt. James Neal, a veteran of Lord Dunmore's War and the Revolutionary War. It was first surveyed in 1796 as Springville, chartered in 1800 as Newport, and resurveyed and renamed Parkersburg in 1810 in honor of Capt. Alexander Parker, who had purchased the land in 1785. From its earliest days, Parkersburg was a center for trade and industry.
In the years before the Civil War, Parkersburg became the terminus of two state pikes, the Northwester Turnpike, completed in 1838, and the Staunton-Parkersburg Turnpike, finished in 1847. In 1857, the Northwestern Virginia Railroad, the southern trunk of the B&O Railroad, was completed to Parkersburg. The absolute necessity of protecting the turnpikes and railroad made Parkersburg one of the most strategic spots in the state during the war. In addition to Fort Boreman, the large hill on the north side of town, Prospect (now Quincy) Hill was also planned to be fortified, though there is no indication that this ever occurred.
During the war there were at least five military field hospitals as well as a supply depot and commissary in the city. Hundreds of thousands of Union soldiers passed through the city, staying temporarily while their trains were ferried across the Ohio River. The war brought great changes to Parkersburg, as it was transformed almost overnight from a sleepy courthouse town to a hub of industry and transportation.