Parkersburg's strategic location at the confluence of the Little Kanawha and the Ohio River
aided its development as an industrial center. In 1810 the Virginia legislature passed an act to found the town. Improved transportation modes and routes to the area soon followed. West Virginia's first oil wells were drilled nearby in 1860, which made Parkersburg the supply and shipping point for the 'black gold' fields.
Parkersburg is part of the Parkersburg-Marietta, West Virginia-Ohio metro area.