Attractions February 11, 2018
The One Small Town In West Virginia That Is Overflowing With History
Every town in West Virginia has history, but few have as much history as Sheperdstown, the oldest city in The Mountain State.
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Sheperdstown is the oldest incorporated city in West Virginia, along with Romney, which were both incorporated on December 23, 1762.
The incorporation was passed by the Virginia House of Burgesses and approved by the Governor. At this time, of course, there was no America yet, and there was no West Virginia. Virginia would not split for another 99 years. At the time, Sherperdstown was called Mecklenberg.
Early in the 18th century, settlers began to colonize the northern end of the Shenandoah Valley. Captain Thomas C. Shepherd Sr. (1705-1776) was one of these men.
By 1734, Virginia was actively issuing land grants in the region and granted Shepherd 222 acres on the south bank of the Potomac River. From that point, he began to lay out his town. By 1775, the town had a population of roughly 1,000 residents, and was officially incorporated by a charter in 1762.
When the Revolutionary War broke out, Mecklenberg played its part.
In 1775, when General George Washington called for Virginia riflemen to fill his ranks, one of his captains, Hugh Stevenson, came to Mecklenberg and recruited many men to fight. The recently increased company of 100 men departed from Morgan's Spring, just outside the town, and began the "Beeline March to Cambridge" to meet up with George Washington's Army in Massachusetts. Known as the Berkeley County Riflemen, Stevenson's regiment was one of several companies that would make up the newly formed Continental Army — the precursor to the U.S. Army. In 1798, after the town's borders were expanded, a second charter was granted for the expanded town, and its name was changed to Shepherdstown.
As the next century rolled forward, Sheperdstown continued to expand and build. In 1859, the Hamtramck Guard, a light infantry unit stationed in Sherperdstown, was dispatched to assist in the capture of John Brown and his men who were raiding the federal armory in the nearby town of Harpers Ferry.
63 years later, the town saw war again. But instead of fighting the British, this time we were fighting each other.
Following the Battle of Antietam in September of 1862, General Robert E. Lee's infantry crossed the Potomac and brought his wounded and dying to Shepherdstown for care. The small town was inundated with thousands of men, filling every building, street, and alley with injured soldiers.
Three days later, the Battle of Sheperdstown, also known as the Battle of Boteler's Ford, occurred.
The ford sat across the Potomac near the town, and it was there that Lee had left behind a rear guard to watch for a possible approach of the Union Army. That approach eventually came as Lee had feared. More than 100 men were killed during the battle (73 Union soldiers, 36 Confederates), many of whom are still buried in Elmwood Cemetery on the southwest end of the town.
Then, in 2000, Sherperdstown made history again as it was chosen as a setting for the Israeli-Syrian Peace Talks, in which president Clinton brought together the leaders and officials of both countries to the small town in an effort to ease tensions between the war torn nations. Three venues were used for the talks: Clarion Hotel, Shepherd University and the National Conservation Training Center.
It is places like Sherperdstown that make a city more than just a collection of houses and businesses, but a living piece of history through which the past rises beyond mere words found in a history book.
For more information about Sheperdstown, check the city’s official website
Have you ever been to Shepherdstown? Feel free to comment below and tell us about your visit.
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this historic small town that everyone should visit at least once.