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

 


A Historical Tour Of
West Virginia's Morgan County

You’ll take wonder in the beautiful scenery of the mountains and valleys all around as you tour through the quaint rural setting of the Eastern Panhandle in West Virginia. This area is definitely a must see in the fall and also is the place where you can find the one hundred and twelve mile motor driven scenic loop that spirals its way through the Panhandle, the George Washington Heritage Trail that many of the historic landmarks are a part of.

In Morgan County, Berkeley Springs holds yet the oldest and smallest State Park in the nation where when wading in an ancient stone pool you’ll envision a place where all Indian nations came to bathe in peace believing that the warm mineral spring waters had medicinal powers. Considered the oldest health spa in the nation and a resort since 1740, it was first noted as Medicine Springs in a map drawn by Thomas Jefferson’s father in 1747 and is historically known as the town of Bath. The spring’s curative powers have brought the arrival of such as George Washington who visited as a youth with Lord Fairfax’s surveying party and still brings travelers from afar where at Lord Fairfax’s public tap that was built in 1816 we may all take some home in a jar. The state park also holds the only known monument to President’s bathing with the George Washington’s Tub which marks where one of the main springs was when he had visited. George Washington had originally owned many of the lots in this area and walking down the streets in this historic town one may actually walk where he had walked before. Two of the Washington marked lots can be found across from the visitor’s center on Fairfax Street and buyers of the first lots sold in Morgan County in 1777 include Washington and signers of the Declaration of Independence. The law office on Congress and Wilkes Street was once a tavern called At The Sign Of George Washington from 1792 through 1814, a place where Washington had stayed.

In the State Park we will also find the oldest public building in the area, the 1815 Roman Bath House which houses nine private bathing chambers downstairs and upstairs is now the home of the Berkeley Springs Museum that highlights the geology and history of the springs and of the town. “James Rumsey who was the inventor of the steam engine lived in Morgan County from 1783 to 1786 and his steamboat was tested where Sir Johns Run enters the Potomac.” Says author and local historian Jeanne Mozier “From the records he was a partner in a general store and in an Inn located where the Country Inn is now on Washington Street.” Says Jeanne. “John Moray, a Rumsey fan, put a Rumsey monument located in the park there around 1910.” Says Jeanne. An exhibit on him can also be found at the museum that was created by Jeanne. “On Route 9 Rumsey also had a sawmill in the location of the Spruce Hollow Park.” She says. Remnants of a millrun have been found near the stream at the property border of the park.

Standing in the Berkeley Springs State Park and looking up you’ll catch a glimpse of a majestic castle on the hill…The Berkeley Castle that is an historical love story in itself. Built in 1885, German stonemasons constructed this wondrous building that is a half scale of the famed Berkeley castle located in England. Colonel Samuel Taylor Suit proposed to Rosa Pelham and said, “I will build you a castle if you marry me.” Once open to the public with a hoard of treasures inside from an eight hundred pound German painting to a thousand year old hand carved teak wood love seat and the magnificent Great Hall where grand parties were held and if we listen hard enough we might hear the faint sounds of the many orchestras that played there so long ago. The magnificent castle now sold can only be viewed from the outside and can be found on Route 9, the old carriage road to Chicago.

Further down from the castle is the most incredible historic view in all of West Virginia; overlooking the states of Pennsylvania, Maryland and West Virginia where you can take in the breathtaking sight of the Potomac and Great Cacapon River Valleys is Prospect Peak. Located three miles west of Berkeley Springs residents and tourists alike in the eighteenth century would picnic and view in its glory, where George Washington would ride daily to use the outrageous scene as a source of relaxation and as an open window to his future dreams. This wondrous site still draws many tourists today and was rated as one of America’s outstanding beauty spots in the National Geographic Magazine. “Prospect Rock, formed from giant Oriskany sandstone boulders actually called the Cacapon Rocks is located by hiking through the Cacapon State Park and is actually where Washington and countless 18th and 19th century visitors rode horseback to view this site.” Jeanne says. “I point out on my bus tours that this site fueled Washington’s dream of using the Potomac to open up the west and that colonials had the right idea, Prospect Rock was made for a picnic with plenty of slabs to serve as private tables and various unseen nooks and crannies that provided shelter from the group for historic lovers.” She says.

On US 522 a road marker can be found that is labeled Stonewall Jackson Hill, “Stonewall Jackson came through and shelled artillery across the river to Hancock Maryland on January 5th 1862. He allegedly housed his men and weapons in the Berkeley Motel that burned down in 1898.” Jeanne says. Local legend has it that local residents around the area can hear a succession of six cannon shots, which vibrates the liquid in their cups. “Stonewall Jackson Hill is actually called Brosius Hill, on January 1st of 1862 Jackson left Winchester Virginia with 8,500 men to the Unger Crossroads in Morgan County on the 4th he over came Berkeley Springs and then pursued the Yankees into Sir Johns Run, Great Cacapon and into Hancock Maryland.” Says amateur historian and County Commissioner Tom Swaim.

In 1930 during the great depression the Civilian Conservation Corps project that was founded by Franklin Delano Roosevelt started development of the Cacapon State Park on US 522. The Old Inn built by the CCC that is still standing reminds all of the Colonial days with its stone chimneys, pine and chestnut walls and wrought iron hardware. The CCC also constructed the bathhouse, beach, trails, cabins and picnic areas and the actual opening of the park was in 1937. Well-known economist and author Herbert Quick built the Manor House in 1912 that is now listed in the National Historic register and although the building is now part of the Coolfont Resort where many free concerts have taken place by well-known artists as pianist Peter Basquin one can view the building and it’s beautiful surroundings and perhaps take a look inside. Seven sand mines existed in the county until being consolidated in the 1920’s to the Pennsylvania Glass and Sand Company; you can still see some of the writing left on the old large stonework found in the parking lot of the Moose Lodge on US 522.

Taking Route 9 past Prospect Peak we can find the town of Great Cacapon, “Also on the Washington Heritage Trail, traces of native American settlements have been found there and it is a possibility that a French – Indian War fort could have been there.” Jeanne says. Washington surveyed land in this area and owned Potomac riverfront land nearby. Further up with an approximate distance of twenty five miles from Berkeley Springs we can also find the town of Paw Paw named for the unique fruit which grows along the river that holds one of the major and impressive features of the C & O Canal, the Paw Paw Tunnel, the only tunnel on the canal. Once considered one of the wonders of the world this twenty-four foot high hand craved wonder is lined with about six million bricks and took fourteen years to complete. Intact and open for sight seeing walking through the tunnel can be an awe-inspiring journey. During the season on Sundays National Park Service rangers point out various interesting facts and history on free tours through the tunnel.

The old town hall built in 1893 by Oscar Hott has been historically restored to the way it would have looked many years ago and holds all town related items. People are welcome to visit Paw Paw and tour inside this historic building. “Camp Hill, which is now a cemetery, was General Braddock’s encampment during the French and Indian War and then the site of Camp Chase, a Federal camp during the Civil War.” Says Jeanne. “The records show Civil War General Imbodden fighting around Paw Paw in 1862.” She says. Built in 1890 the old railroad station is now being used as storage and an office for CSX Railroad. Many historic buildings still exist throughout the county such as the Heritage Bread and Breakfast building built by Wesley and Alice Slonaker in 1897; this structure once housed several country physicians being known then as the “Doctors Office”.

During the George Washington Bath Tub Celebration usually held in March Jeanne Mozier holds free readings from the George Washington diaries that take place at the Morgan County Library. Morgan County is just under a two hour drive from Washington DC, for more information on events and happenings throughout the area and the Historic Bus Tours that are available with Jeanne you can contact Travel Berkeley Springs at 800-447-8792.


 

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

 

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