Circuses Here Once 'Wild West Shows' - Waldo Goff Hosted Ringling Brothers and Wild Bill Cody

By Bob Stealey | July 18, 2013

Photo courtesy Bandwagon

As you know--you can surely feel it--we're well into summertime in Clarksburg and north central West Virginia. We're all aware that, climate-wise, summers of the 21st century are every bit as hot as they ever were.

The summer of the last two decades of the 19th century and the first three of the 20th century was a big season of the year for people in the area, as it was circus time.

A report that appeared in The Daily Telegram on April 10, 1910, read as follows: "A fellow gets old during winter. A thousand things press down on the mind until the head aches; wrinkles grow deep during the winter; the hair borrows a tinge from the frosts. It's different (on) circus day. You're a boy again."

This quote also appeared in the late author Dorothy Davis's volume, "History of Harrison County," published in 1970 by McClain Printing Company of Parsons.

She wrote that all the well-known circuses stopped in Clarksburg, unloaded their cars at the railroad station, which was then located just off East Pike Street--before 1898, anyway--and traveled the short distance to "The Corral," between Park and Oak streets, where they set up their tents before time for the big circus parade to start on its route west on Pike Street, south on Fourth, and back to the show grounds by way of Main Street.

As late as 1910, the 101-Ranch Wild West Show set up its tents in the "Old Jackson Grounds," the newspaper reported.

It continued that, in 1914, Robinson Famous Shows appeared at "Highland Park." For those who may not be aware of where Highland Park was located, it was just off lower Milford Street as you approach the Stealey community. Park Boulevard, Fairview Avenue and Grove Avenue were all in Highland Park, the city's older fairgrounds.

Perhaps you've noticed the horseshoe-like shape of Park Boulevard, which starts at the south end of the Stealey Bridge, follows the West Fork River for a short distance and ends on Milford Street, where Little Caesar's Pizza now stands.

In 1917, Ringling Brothers advertised its show at "the old ball park two miles out of the city," it was also printed in The Daily Telegram.

Then in the 1920s, circuses performed in Goff Plaza.

A 1914 newspaper account of the Carl Hagennbeck and Great Wallace Shows Combined tells the size of the entourage that provided entertainment for Clarksburg and all of Harrison County:

"Five sections of trains arrived early in the morning. (One thousand) people and 300 horses were in the line that moved from the trains to the show grounds. A massive parade passed through the streets of the city this morning. The performances in the afternoon and evening outshine the elastic conception of the most fanciful records of pageantry glories."

Dr. Waldo Percy Goff was the "circus people's friend" and one of the "most widely known circus enthusiasts in the country," Mrs. Davis pointed out in her history volume. During the second decade of the 20th century--whenever the circus came to Clarksburg--he welcomed the circus executives and the outstanding performers to stay as his guests at the elegant Waldo Hotel.

By the time of Mr. Goff's death in 1922, he had entertained William F. "Buffalo Bill" Cody, James A. Bailey, Adam Forepaugh and Peter Sell, John and Charles Ringling, and Pawnee Bill, The Daily Telegram reported.

In marking the good ol' summertime, I'll feature other recreational activities that were enjoyed by many in the Clarksburg area in future Bob'n'Along columns.


"The Crow's Nest," the name given for a writers' group that meets regularly in the area, will meet at 6 p.m. Tuesday, July 23, at the Center Branch Assembly of God Church, also known as Faith Fellowship, on WV Route 20 south of Clarksburg, opposite Radio Park.

Aspiring writers from Clarksburg and vicinity have the opportunity to read the works of others in the group and critique their stories in a constructive manner. Call Charlotte Snead at 304-745-3324 for directions.

The meetings are generally held on alternating Tuesdays at Bridgeport Public Library.


Today's Bible Verse:  "For we walk by faith, not by sight."--II Corinthians 5:7

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