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Your Guide To The Mountains of Maryland, Pennsylvania & West Virginia.

 


A Historical Tour Of
Berkeley County, West Virginia

By Florence Hite

A touch of history surrounds all of the beautiful rustic countryside of Berkeley County located in the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia. In 1832 Josiah Hedges laid out the rural town of Hedgesville and if we traveled to Martinsburg from Morgan County on Route 9 we would first pass this quaint town that has log buildings built from 1832 to the Civil War. Also located on Route 9 is the Mt. Zion Episcopal Church, a meetinghouse originally called the Hedges Chapel that was built in 1818.

In Martinsburg as we begin our historical tour there we can only start out at the General Adam Stephen House now open as a public museum located at 309 East John Street. Founder Adam Stephen came to America in 1748 practicing as a doctor in the beginning of the French Indian War and followed through continuous military service as a colonel. Purchasing land near the Tuscarora Creek, he built his residence, a mill, distillery and gun factory in the 1770’s and petitioned to have the town named after Thomas Bryan Martin, his friend and a nephew to Lord Fairfax.

The town of Martinsburg came to be and every year a Founders Day celebration takes place at the Stephen House with reenactments, blacksmithing demonstrations and horse drawn carriages. The event usually takes place in June call (304) 267-4434 for more information.

Close by is the Triple Brick Museum at 313 East John Street that was built in 1874 that includes exhibits of early surveying equipment, wood spinning wheels and railroad items.

Built in the eighteenth century, the Berkeley County Court House at 100 West King Street was used as a prison during the Civil War for Confederate spy Belle Boyd and still has some of the original pressed tin ceilings, lighting fixtures, iron vaults and hardware.

The Civil War museum the Belle Boyd House built in 1853 that holds artifacts from Berkeley and Jefferson County and archives for the tri-county area from the time of settlement can be found at 126 East Race Street in Martinsburg. It was Belle’s childhood home until 1858 and is the only known house that is still standing that she had lived in. On my trip to the museum last year I had found it to be very enlightening with the help of the wonderful curator there Don Wood who is happy to discuss places of interest and the history of the area.

“New this year are some wonderful displays such as WWI and WWII uniforms and memorabilia in the military room and in the Civil War display an artificial leg that belonged to Union soldier William Dean Smith that dates back to 1870.” Says Don. “A fabulous display of women’s purses is now available with one from 1812 being the oldest that is made from leather and is sewn together with human hair, there is a total of twenty seven on display.” He continued. “Also there is a new collection of Belle Boyd’s youngest son John E. Hammond who was a world wide known race car driver with photos and original documents.” Don said.

The Belle Boyd House is also the place to find a garden with one hundred and forty five varieties of roses, an herb garden with several hundred varieties and you can sit in the garden gazebo and view this spectacular foliage. “The site of the house that Belle had shot and killed a Union soldier can be found at the 500 block of South Queen Street and is identified by a historic marker.” Don tells us. For information on special tours call (304) 267-4713. An annual Belle Boyd’s Birthday Celebration is held each year with a full weekend of Civil War activities call the Martinsburg Visitors Bureau at 1-800-498-2386 for additional information.

The oldest known house in Berkeley County is the Snodgrass Tavern who was visited in the past by George Washington. The houses first log section was built in 1742 and is now privately owned and is located near the northeast side of the bridge that crosses Back Creek on Route 9.

One of the oldest brick buildings in downtown Martinsburg is the Boarman House, the home of the Boarman Arts Center on 208 South Queen Street. Built in 1832 it was the home of Rear Admiral Charles Boarman who served in the War of 1812 and the Civil War. The historic Boydville Inn at 601 South Queen Street that was built in 1812 now houses a bed and breakfast inn. This mansion was spared from being torched during the Civil War by direct order of President Lincoln.

Constructed in 1842 is the B & O Roundhouse and Station Complex located at 229 East Martin Street and during the Civil War all but the stationhouse was destroyed by Stonewall Jackson’s troops and the roundhouse was rebuilt in 1866. “This is the last great cathedral to the age of steam.” Says Jim Surkamp, historian and producer of programs on commercially supported cable television. It has been said that this is a very active place for a ghost tour. “The first time it was ever used they thought the Railroad would be important during the war so they fought over it and as a consequence a lot of lives were lost in the wake of that fighting.” Said Susan Crites, author and “The Ghost Lady”. “There are many spirits and people from the workers to the commuters have ghostly encounters.” She said. Summer Ghost Tours with “The Ghost Lady” start in July, call the Ghost Line at (304) 754-6983.

The Green Hill Cemetery Historic District can be found east of the South Water Street District and is considered to be a museum of stone carvers art. Thirty known Confederate soldiers, Captain Alburtis and Porte Crayon Civil War author and artist are buried there. Hack Wilson the holder of the most unbeatable National League home run hitting records in history since 1932 that was just beaten two years ago is buried at the Rose Dale Cemetery located at 917 Cemetery Road. “In the 20’s Wilson was on a local Martinsburg team, the Blues.” Says Jim. “This is one of my favorite places it’s a wonderful monument.” He says. The cemetery has been there since 1929.

Situated around six miles north of the center of Martinsburg at the intersection of Spring Mills Road and Route 11 the first Civil War battle took place in the Shenandoah Valley. A monument at the Edgewood Manor that sits along Route 11 on the edge of Bunker Hill can be found, a marble pillar with cannon balls on top of it that is dedicated to General Pettigrew who died there after being carried into the manor.

Gerrardstown and Bunker Hill is also located in Berkeley County with Gerrardstown keeping its eighteenth century charm and having many of the original historic buildings from its founding in 1784 including the Hays – Gerrard stone house that was built in 1743 which is open to the public as a gift shop on the lower floor. Bunker Hill has two original church buildings damaged during the Civil War still stand today and many Civil War conflicts took place there.

Two miles west of Bunker Hill on Route 26 is the Morgan Cabin that was built in 1731-34 and was once the home of Morgan Morgan the first white settler of West Virginia. This cabin was rebuilt with part of the original cabin in 1976 and is open for public viewing. For more information and group tours call (304) 229-5631.

Berkeley County is also part of the George Washington Heritage Trail, the one hundred and twelve driving tour that spirals its way through the Eastern Panhandle and young Washington surveyed many of these areas.

On your visit to Berkeley County just 79 miles from Washington DC there is many nearby shops and antique malls including the well-known Blue Ridge Outlet Center and the Tanger Shopping Outlet. In Kearneysville handcrafted treasures of pottery, baskets and furniture can be found. The Middleway Historic District with fifty historic structures is known as “the Paris of the Valley” for its numerous shops and crafts people.

The Martinsburg Berkeley County Visitors Bureau provides information on dining and places to stay overnight you can call them at 1-800-498-2386.

A House and Garden Tour is held annually in Berkeley County so we can see some of the privately owned historic houses, for more information call Wendy Kedzierski at (304) 728-8636 publicist for the tour.


 

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