Over 250 Years of History
1726: Col. Morgan Morgan builds a home along Mill Creek near Bunker Hill. Morgan is said to be the first European settler in present-day West Virginia.A monument was dedicated in 1924 to recognize Morgan's pioneering settlement.
December 1762: Shepherdstown established by act of the Virginia House of Burgesses in what would become part of eastern Berkeley County 10 years later. Continued settlement prompted Virginia lawmakers to pass bills creating Harpers Ferry (1763), Bath (Berkeley Springs, 1776), Martinsburg (1778), Charles Town (1786), Gerrardstown (1787), Darkesville (1791) and Smithfield, now known as Middleway, (1798) in Berkeley County- all before the formation of Jefferson and Morgan counties. Gerrardstown and Darkesville are now among Berkeley County’s more than 40 unincorporated communities, which include Bunker Hill, Falling Waters and Inwood. Hedgesville was established in 1836 after the creation of Morgan County in 1820.
May 15, 1772: Berkeley County is established by an act that divided Frederick County, Virginia into three distinct counties. Berkeley County was created from the northern end of Frederick County, and originally contained all land in what is now Jefferson County and a large portion of Morgan County to Warm Springs Ridge, which overlooks the Town of Bath (Berkeley Springs). Dunmore County, renamed Shenandoah County in 1778., was created from the southern end of Frederick County. John Murray, 4th Earl of Dunmore, known as Lord Dunmore, gave his assent on April 11, 1772 to the Act, which contains the May 15 effective date.
March 18, 1774: George Washington leases 125 acres in the County to William Bartlett for the planting of 100 peach trees and 100 winter apple trees in the "barens of Bullskin" in the Kabletown area of what was then eastern Berkeley County. It became part of Jefferson County when the new county was formed in 1801. Bartlett's annual rent? Six Pounds in Virginia currency payable at Mount Vernon, Christmas Day.
The Washington-Bartlett venture is regarded as the beginnings of horticultural history of Berkeley County, and West Virginia.
July 1775: The “Bee Line March” of Berkeley County Riflemen to Cambridge, Mass., begins in Shepherdstown. Led by Captain Hugh Stephenson, the 98-man unit made the trip within 25 days in response to George Washington’s call for soldiers at the start of the Revolutionary War. Stephenson was among a number of notable Continental Army officers who resided in the Berkeley County area, including Adam Stephen, Horatio Gates, Charles Lee, William Darke, Henry Bedinger and Daniel Morgan.
July 1, 1776: Jacob Hite, one of Berkeley County's founding fathers and rival of Martinsburg founder Adam Stephen, was killed by Cherokees in Greenville County, SC. Hite moved south after he lost a bid to make his "Hitetown," now Leetown, the seat of Berkeley County government, instead of Martinsburg. While the county court controversy was raging, Sheriff Adam Stephen seized 15 of Hite's slaves and 21 horses, which were to be auctioned off in settlement of an apparent judgement against Hite. Horatio Gates, an ally of Hites, later broke into the county jail and reclaimed Hite's property. Gates served as a general in the Revolutionary War. Disgusted with the affair, Hite sold his property to Charles Lee, who served as as general in the Revolutionary War and moved his family to South Carolina.
December 6, 1776: The town of Bath at the Warm Springs, part of Berkeley County for 48 years, was created. The Virginia General Assembly's act also mandated "one large and convenient spring suitable for a bath, shall be . . . for the publick use and benefit, and for no other purpose whatsoever." The town of Bath became the county seat for Morgan County when lawmakers created it from western Morgan County and eastern Hampshire County in 1820.
November 22, 1787: Middletown, renamed Gerrardstown, was created by act of the Virginia legislature. Founder David Gerrard represented to lawmakers that he had laid off 100 lots "with convenient streets" for creating the town in southern Berkeley County.
December 1778: Martinsburg is established by an act of the Virginia General Assembly and declared the county seat of Berkeley County. Founder Adam Stephen named the town after his good friend, Col. Thomas Bryan Martin.
December 3, 1787: James Rumsey demonstrates the first steam-powered boat in the Potomac River near Shepherdstown. Rumsey, who lived in the town of Bath (now known as Berkeley Springs), was a pioneer in boiler technology. His inventions, such as the water-tube boiler, are still used to this day. A man of many trades, Rumsey was also commissioned by George Washington to build a house and stable for him.
June 25, 1788: Berkeley County delegates William Darke and Adam Stephen vote to ratify (89-79) the U.S. Constitution at the Virginia Convention. Established on December 9, 1791, the village of Darkesville, south of Martinsburg (and Darke County, Ohio), is named for Darke. Stephen, who founded Martinsburg, and Darke served as officers in the American Revolutionary War.
June 15, 1796: President George Washington signs off on purchase of land for federal armory and arsenal in Harpers Ferry, in what then part of Berkeley County. Selected by Washington, the 125-acre site bounded by the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers was purchased from the heirs of Robert Harper for $7,016.66. The firearms manufacturing facility and storehouse was targeted in 1859 by abolitionist John Brown in an attempt to initiate a major slave rebellion.
April 22, 1799: Davy Crockett came to work for Gerrardstown, W.Va. farmer John Gray after a falling out with his father over dropping out of school in his home state of Tennessee. Crockett was paid 25 cents a day.
October 26, 1801 - Jefferson County was created from Berkeley County. The Act for dividing the County of Berkeley was passed by Virginia lawmakers on Jan. 8, 1801, but did not take effect for several months.
March 12, 1812: We, the Subscribers do Enrole (sic) ourselves in a company to be known by the name of the Martinsburg Fire Company and do bind ourselves to obey such rules as may be adopted for the government of said Company." - "At a court held for Berkeley County the 12th day of March 1812. A list of the members ..."
September 26, 1816: David Hunter Strother, a well-known journalist and illustrator is born in Martinsburg. Strother, who went by the pen name "Porte Crayon," documented his experiences in the Civil War while serving as a topographer in the Union Army. Strother, aided by a surveyor, laid out the Green Hill Cemetery in Martinsburg in 1854.
February 11, 1836: The town of Hedgesville, laid out by William Snodgrass, was created by an act of the Virginia Assembly.
May 21, 1842: The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Company arrives in Martinsburg, fueling industrial development well into the 20th century. Martinsburg was selected by the B&O to be the hub for maintenance between Baltimore and Cumberland, Maryland. A rectangular engine shed was built in 1848 on site of the present roundhouse and shop building complex, which replaced facilities that were destroyed during the Civil War by Confederate troops. The town's historic train station and hotel survived the war and now houses a children's museum.
March 23, 1843: Renowned Martinsburg businessman John W. Bishop is born. A wholesale merchant and miller, Bishop also was a director with local banks and served as president of the Berkeley County Society for Detecting Horse Thieves, an organization founded in 1884. A water drinking fountain dedicated in memory of Bishop and his son, Sprague, still stands at the intersection of West Stephen Street, Faulkner Avenue and Virginia Avenue.
September 13, 1848: J.R. Clifford, West Virginia's first African American attorney, is born. Clifford served as principal and teacher at the Sumner School in Martinsburg. Clifford also was a Civil War veteran, civil rights pioneer and founding member of the Niagara Movement, which led to the development of the NAACP. Clifford also founded West Virginia's first African American newspaper, the Pioneer Press. In 1896, Clifford filed the first legal challenge of segregated schools in West Virginia.
1851: William S. Miller, who is considered to be the father of modern commercial orchard development in West Virginia, planted his first orchard of 16 acres near Gerrardstown. At the close of the Civil War, Miller had nearly 4,000 peach trees and several hundred apple trees in production. By 1889, West Virginia apple production had reached about 4.5 million bushels.
October 22, 1862: W.C. Quincy wrote to B&O Railroad Co. President Garrett about the destruction of the railroad by Confederate troops during the Civil War.
"On Saturday last eight-thousand men arrived in Martinsburg. They immediately commenced to destroy our (rail) road. The ties were taken up and set fire to and the iron thrown on the burning piles ... I am not easily alarmed by rumors but I fear Sir that our entire tracks, bridges, buildings and all our property between Opequon (perhaps Duffields) and Back Creek will be destroyed."
Confederate Captain Wingfield's Account (Diary Entries):
- October 18, 1862. Leave Camp and march to Martinsburg. Camp some two miles above the town.
- October 19, 1862. Move up towards Hedgesville and turn to B. & O. R.R. Our Brigade ordered to tear up the track. Our Regiment out on picket.
- October 20, 1862. Leave picket post and cook up day's rations. Move to old camp near Martinsburg.
- October 21, 1862. We were ordered to tear up railroad between Martinsburg and Harpers Ferry. Spent the night some two miles below Martinsburg. I take command of the Regt.
January 1, 1863: The Emancipation Proclamation is issued by President Lincoln. "Berkley" County is listed as an exception to the famous Executive Order due to the county being occupied by Union troops at the time. West Virginia abolished slavery on February 3, 1865.
April 7, 1863: "The Siren of the Shenandoah," famed Confederate spy Belle Boyd of Martinsburg, was taken into custody by Union forces and held at the Berkeley County Courthouse. "I wonder if I'll be shot tomorrow," Boyd apparently wrote in a Berkeley County Chancery book. Several months after her release in December 1863, Boyd volunteered to carry Confederate papers to England via ship. The ship was stopped on May 10, 1864, and Boyd eventually managed to escape, first to Canada, then to London where she married Hardinge, one of the Union naval officers who had seized the ship. Boyd married two more times before she died in Kilbourn, Wisc., on June 11, 1900 while touring the U.S.
June 20, 1863: West Virginia is established as the 35th state in the Union. Berkeley and Jefferson Counties voted to join the new state in February 1863 and Berkeley County was added by West Virginia lawmakers on August 5, 1863, but the vote was challenged in a court case filed by the state of Virginia. Virginia's legal challenge contesting the transfer of the two counties ended with a 6-3 Supreme Court decision in 1871.
July 14, 1863: Gen. Robert E. Lee, in retreat after the Battle of Gettysburg, crossed the Potomac River with Confederate troops at what is now Falling Waters, W.Va. While waiting to cross, Union troops charged in a surprise attack from the east, and Gen. James J. Pettigrew, already wounded at Gettysburg, was mortally injured near the Daniel Donnelly house north of the road. Pettigrew later died at the home of John Boyd in Bunker Hill.
While Lee's escape into what was then still part of Virginia was his second and last visit to Berkeley County, he resurfaced in a Berkeley County Circuit Court case in October 1865, five months after the War ended. The court papers bearing Lee's signature were returned to the custody of the Berkeley County Circuit Clerk in 2022.
July 1864: The Boydville estate, built in 1812 by Elisha Boyd, is spared by a direct order from President Lincoln. Union troops had been ordered to burn Boydville to the ground in retaliation for the burning of Gov. Bradford's house by Confederate soldiers. The mansion was built on land bought from Gen. Adam Stephen. The estate was home to Elisha Boyd's daughter Mary and her husband, Charles J. Faulkner, who served as Minister to France under President Buchanan. Today, Boydville is used as an event venue.
September 23, 1866: Famed Western artist William Robinson Leigh is born in Falling Waters. Leigh studied at the Maryland Institute of Art in Baltimore and at the Royal Academy in Germany. After returning to the United States, Leigh established a studio in New York where he made illustrations for Scribner's Magazine. Looking to expand his artistry, Leigh persuaded Santa Fe Railway to send him west in return for a painting of the Grand Canyon. While Leigh traveled all over the West, the Hopi and Navajo tribes were the primary subject of his paintings.
1867: Henry S. Hannis of Philadelphia purchases 18.5-acre distillery property along the Tuscarora Creek in Martinsburg for $25,000 from John Quincy Adams Nadenbousch for the development of what would become “Hannisville,” a sprawling whiskey production industrial complex for Hannis Distilling Co. The complex included five distillery buildings adjoining one another, a three-story warehouse and a granary. Once part of a booming whiskey industry in the 19th century, the distillery was forced to shut down by Prohibition. Though Hannis became the most noted whiskey maker in the county prior to 1920, distilleries also operated at Flagg’s Crossing, east of Martinsburg, Bryarly’s and Sencindiver’s in Darkesville south of Martinsburg and Bella Vista west of Martinsburg.
September 10, 1872: The first annual fair or "exhibition" of the Berkeley County Agricultural and Mechanical Association opens on their "magnificent" fairgrounds in the vicinity of what is now State Circle off East Stephen Street in Martinsburg. The Association purchased the property from Philip Showers for $5,875 on August 1, 1872, after first gaining use of the site little more than a year earlier. The Agricultural and Mechanical Association's fair continued into the 1880s, when newspapers reported that an auction of the property was scheduled for October 15, 1887. Nearly two years later, on July 4, 1889, a game of "base ball between two crack clubs" at the Fairgrounds was announced.
July 14, 1877: The Great Railroad Strike of 1877 begins in Martinsburg after the B&O Railroad cut wages for the third time in a year. Railway workers responded by uncoupling trains and preventing them from leaving. West Virginia Gov. Henry Mathews sent in the National Guard to restore train services, but the soldiers refused to fire. The governor then called upon President Rutherford B. Hayes for federal troops. The strike spread to Pittsburgh, Chicago, and St. Louis before it ended later in the summer of 1877. While serving in the Union Army, Rutherford B. Hayes is said to have laid "ill" at the Wegenast Brewery in Martinsburg in 1864.
July 10, 1879: In a visit to Martinsburg, Frederick Douglass meets with "a large number of leading white citizens" of the community. He separately spoke for about two hours to a crowd gathered at the Fairgrounds. The Fairgrounds, at that time, were located on what is now the eastern side of Martinsburg in the vicinity of State Circle. Douglass made several visits to West Virginia, including speaking engagements in Wheeling, Parkersburg and Harpers Ferry, where he had served as a trustee of Storer College, the first historically black college in what is now West Virginia.
1890: First electric-powered textile factory in the U.S. is established in Martinsburg by what was known as the Middlesex Knitting Company. Martinsburg went on to become a state leader in textile manufacturing with the establishment of various ventures, including Martinsburg Worsted and Cassimere Co., Crawford Woolen Co., Dunn Woolen Co., Interwoven and Perfection Garment Co. Interwoven Mills was said to be the world’s largest manufacturer of men’s socks at one time.
May 7, 1893: Ward Hill Lamon, President Lincoln's friend and personal bodyguard, dies and is buried in Gerrardstown, near where he was raised in Bunker Hill. Lamon took on the personal task of protecting Lincoln. It is said that on the night of Lincoln's inauguration, Lamon slept in front of the president's bedroom door with pistols and a Bowie knife at hand. Lamon was also commissioned as U.S. Marshal for Washington D.C. by Lincoln.
February 1, 1898: future Congressman George Meade Bowers of Berkeley County was nominated to be the next Fish Commissioner by President McKinley. Bowers served in #Congress from 1915 to 1923.
June 13, 1909: Born in Martinsburg, Garland Lorenzo Wilson, was an American jazz pianist who was a master of the boogie-woogie and stride styles of jazz piano. He was best known for his work with Nina Mae McKinney. Wilson attended Howard University in Washington, DC and began working in New York in 1929 at nightclubs and speakeasies. Playing in England and France, Wilson spent most of his career in Europe. In 1936, he appeared in “Burnt Sepia”, a live variety show featuring black artists, and in 1938, he appeared as an actor in the British film “On Velvet”. In 1948, he would also appear on “The Ed Sullivan Show.” In 1939, due to the threat of World War II, he returned to the U.S., where he worked in night clubs until 1951. He then moved back to Paris and remained there until his death in 1954.
1912: The Norwalk Motor Car Company began operations in Martinsburg after investors bought out the original company in Ohio. The Norwalk would go on to become the most successful early automobile manufacturing company in West Virginia with production of the Norwalk Underslung Six convertible. "The Car of Absolute Exclusiveness" had a complete electric system and sold for more than $3,000.
1915: The Martinsburg Blue Sox, a professional baseball team in the Blue Ridge League, is formed. The League produced three Major League Baseball Hall of Famers, including home run record-setting hitter Lewis Robert "Hack" Wilson, who joined the team in 1921. Wilson still holds the record for 191 runs batted in (RBI) a single season, a mark he set while playing for the Chicago Cubs. Wilson’s 56 home runs in 1930 stood as the National League record for 68 years. Wilson is buried at Rosedale Cemetery in Martinsburg.
1916: Martinsburg native, Newton Deihl Baker, is appointed Secretary of War by President Woodrow Wilson. Baker's service to the nation was recognized in 1944 when the Martinsburg Veterans Affairs Medical Center opened for patients as the Newton D. Baker General Hospital.
November 4, 1922: Fire causes significant damage to county courthouse It was the Saturday before Election Day 1922. It has been said the cause of the fire was linked to a whiskey still in the upper floor of the building, but those stories have not been verified. Inside the dome of our county's historic courthouse remains the bell that was manufactured by Clampitt & Regester in Baltimore, Md., in 1855, the same year construction of the county's (second) courthouse began. Since its completion, the courthouse has been expanded and remodeled, most significantly in 1908, with the dome you see today being the crowning feature.
November 7, 1922, Bessie D. Kilmer is elected Superintendent of Berkeley County school district in the 1922 General Election. Kilmer was among several women elected as County Superintendent of Schools in counties across West Virginia. Kilmer is believed to be the only female to ever serve as Superintendent of Berkeley County Schools. She was reelected in 1926 and 1930. Superintendents were appointed by elected County Boards of Education beginning on July 1, 1935 with the appointment of G.W. Ropp. On August 20, 1935, Kilmer was appointed principal of the Fairview-Arden School.
1923: Shepherd Field, which is now commonly known as the Eastern West Virginia Regional Airport, is established. The airfield is the oldest in West Virginia and currently has longest runway of any airports in the Mountain State.
September 13, 1924: West Virginia Gov. E.F. Morgan delivers principal address at dedication of the Morgan Morgan Monument off U.S. 11 along Mill Creek in Bunker Hill in southern Berkeley County. The granite monument, purchased with $5,000 from the West Virginia Legislature, recognizes Morgan Morgan, who is traditionally regarded as the first colonial settler in what is now West Virginia. Now a small park, the monument site was first turned over to the State Road Commission for a "tourist camp,” which was then the only one of its kind in West Virginia.
Gov. Morgan was a descendant of Morgan Morgan.
1947: The Berkeley County Youth Fair, now the only county-level youth fair in the U.S., begins. The county’s very first Youth Fair was a one-day event with 15 exhibitors and 12 winning prizes. In the fair’s first few years, exhibits were presented in a rented tent staged in a parking lot between Martinsburg High School and Cobourn Field. The fair moved to the current fairgrounds at Harry D. Shelley Park east of Martinsburg in 1981. The first Miss Berkeley County Youth Fair contest was held in 1960. The very first Berkeley County fair was held in 1916, but was not strictly a youth fair.
1966: Twenty-six miles of Interstate 81 is completed through Berkeley County.
March 25, 1969: Groundbreaking held for the construction of James Rumsey Technical Institute near Hedgesville. JRTI has served the county for over 40 years in academic and technical education.
1984: Blue Ridge Outlet Center opens in the former Crawford Woolen and Cassimere Mills complex. The outlet center attracted thousands of shoppers to the area with its 50 stores, restaurants and other amenities.
1988: Vicky Bullett of Martinsburg wins gold medal at the 1988 Seoul Summer Olympic Games as a member of the U.S. Women's National Basketball Team. Bullett retired from the WNBA after the 2002 season, then retired from overseas professional play in 2007. She returned to Martinsburg, which named the street where she grew up in her honor. Since her playing days, she has taught at Martinsburg South Middle School and coached for the Washington Mystics, Hagerstown Community College and West Virginia Wesleyan College.
2001: Classes begin at new campus in Martinsburg for Community & Technical College of Shepherd, which was officially renamed Blue Ridge Community & Technical College on July 1, 2006. Blue Ridge CTC relocated to new campus in Berkeley County in 2012 and has a Technical Center in the former Corning Glass Works manufacturing plant south of Martinsburg. The company’s 244,000-square foot plant closed in 2002 after peak employment had ranged between 600 and 700.
October 19, 2018: Martinsburg High School varsity football team breaks the state record for most consecutive wins. The team's winning streak ended on September 18, 2020 at 57 wins, which is among the longest streaks in the U.S. The Bulldogs have won 10 state AAA championships, capturing their first title in 2010 and tenth title in 2023.