The Hiehle Theater & The Hiehle Brother
Mackey's Antiques & Clock
1249 Gihon Road
Parkersburg WV 26101
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John R. (Reinhold) Hiehle, the organist at the dedication in 1887 of the first Lutheran church in Wood County, was a native of Saxony, the same state in Germany in which Martin Luther had been born. He came to Parkersburg in 1871, prepsumably by way of Baltimore. His parents (Herr and Fraulein Gustav Adolph Hiehle) had migrated to that beautiful city on the Chesapeake Bay a few years earlier. Why he came to Parkersburg is not known. It might, however have been due to any of the following factors or a combination of some or all of them: (1 ) the completion in 1871 of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad bridge across the picturesque Ohio; it was at the time the longest span of its type In the United States (2) the economic boom caused by the opening of the Volcano oilfield on the heels of the play out of the Burning Springs field (3 ) the growing German American population in the Mid-Ohio Valley (4) the efforts of the West Virginia Commissioner of Immigration, J.H. Diss Debar, to encourage, from his office in Court Square in Parkersburg, Germans to settle in West Virginia.
What ever triggered his decision to settle in Parkersburg, once here, he established a contectionary business in Court Square, married twice, and fathered six children. One of them was named for him and made a major contribution to the Mid-Ohio Valley culture in the 20th century by founding and operating theaters. A photograph of one, The Hiehle, no better popcorn in town could be found than that prepared and sold at Riney Hiehle's theater. When the arms of the freshly popped corn began to fill the 400 seat facility located at 703 Market St. customers would leave their seats one by one to get a box or a bag of the tasty snack. The theater ceased operations in the early 1960s, a victim of the growing television business. (However, according to one local legend, revenue from the popcorn sales were used to construct a pretty, (white frame house beside the theater proprietor's residence located on the north west corner of Liberty and 16th, a few blocks west of City Park.
Two years after the arrival. in Parkersburg of the father of the theater's proprietor, another Hiehle came to town and made his mark, too. Referred to as E. O. by the general public but known as Oscar by friends and relatives, he was a native of Dresden, Saxony, who started a bottling business in Parkersburg and became a leader in the musical circles of the city. What is more he was the brother of organist, John R. Hiehle, and while John R. was operating a confectionary business, E. O. founded in 1890 the Parkersburg Bottling Works, which the Parkersburg State Journal in 1896 called "the largest of its kind in the State." It bottled three products: a Worcestershire sauce from a foreign recipe, soft drinks (hoke, sarsaparilla, vanilla, cream, orange, lemon soda, strawberry, banana, pepsin, cherry, and birch), and mineral water (in the words of the newspaper, "celebrated Triplett water from Willow Island, W.Va. and "the famous Webster salt sulphine procurred at Addison, W.Va.").The last mention accord" ing to the State Journal, was a " specific for dypspepsia, constipation or diarrhea from inactive liver, and was particularly efficient in relieving low spirits, despondency and sleeplessness, occasioned by a torpid liver and bowels. "Trained at the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music, he was a leader in the German Singing Society.
Four years after his arrival in Parkersburg, another brother, G. A. (Gustav Adolph) joined John R. and E. O. in the city. Born in Dresden in 1848, he became after settling in the city, president of the West Virginia Horticulture Society and Vice President of the Society of American Florists. This was not surprising. He had been trained as a florist in Germany and elsewhere in Europe. By 1896, he had become the proprietor of the Elberon greenhouses and nurseries on St .Mary's Avenue. Seven years later, he sold his business to another business, Dudley's, which was located in that section of town, too. However, his son, Ernest, worked for Dudley's for 58 years and won many prizes for his flowers, including a first prize in Washington in the early 1900s for the Otaska Hydrangdae. it should be noted that it is not surprising that G. A. Hiehle seems to have possessed more of an intellectual bent than his brothers, John R. and E. O. He had attended in Germany the famous Froebel kindergarten ("children's garden"), founded in 1837 by Friedrich Froebel, a friend of the parents of the Hiehle boys.
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