West Virginia Department of Commerce Eastern Panhandle

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Eastern Panhandle

Berkeley County
The second oldest county in West Virginia, was created in 1772 from the northern third of Frederick County and named for Norborne Berkeley (Baron de Botetourt), Colonial Governor of Virginia from 1768 to 1770. Morgan Morgan founded the first permanent settlement in 1726 at Bunker Hill. In 1740, Morgan, Jacob Hite, and Dr. John Briscoe erected the first Episcopal Church (Christ Church) in what is now West Virginia. Occasionally services are held in this church today. Also the Tuscarora (organized in 1740 and built in 1803) and Tomahawk Presbyterian churches are both over 200 years old and still operating with active congregations. The first Baptist church (Mill Creek Church) was organized in 1743 in nearby Gerrardstown.

The chief agricultural and industrial products are fruit, vegetables, hay, grain, dairy farming, livestock, poultry, canneries, clothing, cement and road materials.
Martinsburg, incorporated in 1778, was founded by General Adam Stephen, a friend and contemporary of George Washington and Patrick Henry. The town was named in honor of Colonel Thomas Bryan Martin, nephew of Lord Fairfax.

An armory that produced guns for the American Revolution was owned by General Adam Stephen and housed in
Martinsburg. Morgan Morgan formed the first National Guard in this area in 1735. George Washington led these troops at the beginning of the War of Independence.

The second oldest bridge in West Virginia, the Van Metre Ford Bridge, was built in 1832 and is a three‑arched stone bridge across Opequon Creek. In 1842, the B&O Railroad brought new growth and prosperity. At this time, large warehouses and hotels, as well as new industrial complexes were erected. During the Civil War, both sides took a keen interest in
 Martinsburg -- not only for its location but also because of the railroad. The North was determined to keep this vital transportation and communication link open; the South was equally determined to destroy it.

During the summer of 1861, Union troops occupied
Martinsburg. Confederates led by Stonewall Jackson, burned and destroyed the roundhouse, machine shop and rail lines. They burned dozens of passenger and other railroad cars as well as 35 locomotives. Then the partially damaged locomotives were hauled over land to Winchester, Virginia -- 22 miles away. For the remainder of the war, both armies fought bitterly over control of the railroad. Between June 1861 and September 1864, the line was destroyed by Confederate troops and repaired by Union soldiers nine different times. Great losses were suffered during the war and Martinsburg was slow to recover from both the physical and emotional scarring of this national tragedy. Boydville, built in 1812 by General Elisha Boyd, famous during the War of 1812, was spared from burning by Union troops during the Civil War on direct orders of President Abraham Lincoln.

childhood home of the famous Confederate spy, Belle Boyd, is also located in Martinsburg. As the story goes, following a Fourth of July celebration in 1861, a group of rowdy Union soldiers broke into Belle's home to take down the Confederate flag and replace it with a Union one. Belle's mother told the soldiers that her family would burn the Union flag. One of the drunken soldiers insulted her mother, struck her, and knocked her down at which time Belle shot and killed the soldier. Belle, only 17 at the time, was not prosecuted because the soldier was drunk. She was sent to live with her aunt in Winchester where she became a spy for the Confederacy.

In the late 1940s, Martinsburg
 experienced a series of changes in business that served as the commercial foundation for the town. The railroad continues to flourish by providing daily commuter rail service to the Washington Metropolitan area. The Historic Baltimore and Ohio Ticket Station and Railroad Hotel is being revitalized to become an Intermodal Transportation Center offering ticketing services, an interchange for bus and rail service, as well as a convenient parking facility.

Jefferson County
This county was formed in 1801 from Berkeley County and named for Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence, and third president of the United States. From 1748‑1752, George Washington and his brother Lawrence acquired tens of thousands of acres of land along Bullskin Run and throughout Jefferson County. Neither brother built homes in the area; however, several brothers and future generations did. Harewood, built by Samuel Washington in 1770 was maintained by the Washington family for over 230 years and was the site of the marriage of James Madison and Dolly Payne Todd.

The leading industries and chief agricultural products are cement and road materials, clothing, paper, boxboard, lumber, brass, lime-marl, dolomite, fertilizer, fruit, livestock, hay, grain and dairy farming. 

Shepherdstown claims to be the oldest town in West Virginia, originally chartered in 1762 as Mecklenburg. The town was the site of the first newspaper in the state, "Potowmac Guardian and Berkeley Advertiser," published by Nathaniel Willis in November 1790. James Rumsey successfully demonstrated a steamboat on the Potomac River in 1787, two decades before Robert Fulton.

In 1859 the small town of Harpers Ferry became known throughout the country. Settled in 1732 by Peter Stephens, the town was named for Robert Harper, who in 1747 bought Stephens’ "squatters' rights” and operated the first ferries across the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers. In 1794, President George Washington commissioned an armory and arsenal to be built in Harpers Ferry. Operations began at the armory in 1801 and during the next 60 years, over 600,000 weapons were produced.

During the night of October 16, 1859, an abolitionist by the name of John Brown entered the quiet town. With his "Provisional Army of the U.S.", Brown was able to take control of the railroad bridge, depot, arsenal and armory without a shot being fired or an alarm being sounded. Brown was determined to fight "until slavery is done for." Ironically, the first person killed was a black man, baggage porter Heyward Shepherd, who ran when Brown's men yelled halt. The shot alarmed others and by mid‑morning Brown's escape routes were cut off. President James Buchanan sent 90 U.S. Marines under the command of Lt. Colonel Robert E. Lee to capture Brown and release his hostages from the armory's fire engine house. The Marines charged at 7:00 a.m. on October 18 and in three minutes the battle was over. Brown, wounded, was captured and taken to Charles Town, the county seat, for trial. Brown was found guilty of treason against the Commonwealth of Virginia, insurrection and murder. At 11:30 a.m., December 2, 1859, John Brown was hung as troops from the Virginia Military Institute, under the command of Thomas J. Jackson, looked on. Many historians claim John Brown's raid precipitated the oncoming Civil War. Two of the three treason trials in U.S. history were tried in the Charles Town courthouse. The first rural free delivery service of mail in the U.S. was started between Charles Town, Urilla and Halltown in 1896.


Morgan County
This county was created from parts of Berkeley and Hampshire counties in 1820 and named for General Daniel Morgan, prominent Revolutionary soldier. The leading industrial and agricultural products are glass, sand, tomatoes, fruit and rye. Berkeley Springs is the county seat. The town of Bath, named for Bath, England, and famed for its waters, was incorporated in 1776. The post office name of Berkeley Springs is a combination of the name Norborne Berkeley, Governor of Virginia (1768‑1770), and the warm medicinal springs found here. Maintaining a year‑round temperature of 74.3 degrees Fahrenheit, the springs are now a state park.