May 4th, 2020
By Nathan Kosmicki, WVRHC Graduate Assistant
The Bloch family are some of the most influential and noteworthy members of the Wheeling community. Bloch Brothers Tobacco Company was one of the largest employers in the city and produced one of the most widely used brands of chewing tobacco: Mail Pouch. Samuel and Aaron Bloch founded the company in 1880 and came to employ over 500 people by 1900. Samuel and Aaron were both noted philanthropists in the Wheeling area, contributing to charities and donating land for the creation of public parks. Samuel Bloch also served on the board of Ohio Valley General Hospital and contributed greatly to their pediatric department. Jesse Bloch, Samuel’s son, became a state senator and cast the deciding vote for West Virginia’s ratification of the 19th Amendment. Elmhurst, the former home of Samuel, his wife Bertha and their children, now functions as Elmhurst: The House of Friendship. Donated in 1940 by Samuel and Bertha’s children, Mr. Jesse A. Bloch, Mr. Harold S. Bloch, Mrs. Edouard Ziegler, and Mrs. Steven Hirsch, it was donated in memory of Bertha Bloch who served on the board of the House of Friendship when it was titled “The Home for Aged Women.” In addition to this, Samuel and Bertha’s children erected a nurses home for Ohio Valley General Hospital and named it after Samuel S. Bloch.
Samuel and Aaron’s father, Solomon Bloch, was a founding member of the Jewish community in Wheeling. Solomon had established a wholesale grocery business and settled his family in the upscale North Wheeling neighborhood by 1860. While the Blochs were a founding Jewish family in Wheeling, Jesse Bloch eventually joined the Presbyterian Church. The legacy of the Bloch family can still be seen today in Wheeling, whether at Elmhurst in Edgewood, at the playground on Wheeling Island, or at 40th and Water Streets in South Wheeling. The Bloch family have certainly showcased and ensconced themselves amongst the many generations of Wheeling residents.