Honoring Thomas Jefferson
Honoring Thomas Jefferson
Jefferson County was created by an act of the General Assembly on January 8, 1801, from parts of Berkeley County. It was named in honor of Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), who was then President of the United States.
The Tuscarora Indians inhabited West Virginia's eastern panhandle region, including present-day Jefferson County, during the 1600s and early 1700s. They eventually migrated northward to New York and, in 1712, became the sixth nation to formally be admitted to the powerful Iroquois Confederacy (comprised of the Seneca, Cayuga, Onondaga, Oneida, Mohawk, and Tuscarora tribes).
The Mingo, who lived in both the Tygart Valley and along the Ohio River in West Virginia's northern panhandle region, also used the eastern panhandle region as a hunting ground.
Interesting Facts Within Jefferson County
In 1748, George Washington was employed as a surveyor for Lord Fairfax. One of his expeditions led him to the Jefferson County area. Washington was impressed with the region and, in 1750, bought some land there. Through the years, he continued to acquire more land in the area, and, at one point, owned nearly 2,300 acres in the eastern panhandle region. Washington's half brother, Lawrence, also owned land in the county, and when he died without any heirs in 1752, he left much of it to his brothers, George, Samuel, John Augustine, and Charles.
Samuel Washington's home, known as Harewood, was located in present-day Jefferson County. The home featured an exquisite marble mantelpiece that had been given to George Washington as a gift by popular General and aristocrat the Marquis de Lafayette. George Washington then gave it to Samuel as a present. Harewood was also the site of Dolly Payne Todd and the future President of the United States, James Madison's marriage.
During the early 1800s, the citizens of Jefferson County began to demand that improvements be made to county roads and waterways. In 1823, a group of concerned citizens gathered to discuss ways to improve travel along the Potomac River. At the meeting, delegates were elected to attend another meeting in the Supreme Court Hall in Washington D.C. on November 7 of that year. The Washington D.C. meeting resulted in the creation of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal Project.
By the 1830s, a new turnpike had been constructed that connected Shepherdstown to Middleway and a stage line ran from Washington D.C. to Leesburg (then part of the county). The early 1830s also saw the construction of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal to Harper's Ferry and the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, the canal's competitor, arrived a year after the canal opened in 1834. In 1835, the Winchester and Potomac Railroad came to Jefferson County where it linked with the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad at Harper's Ferry. The new roads, railroads, and canals opened the Jefferson County area to economic expansion.
Jefferson County was a center of activity during the Civil War, primarily because of its geographic location (especially its proximity to the Federal Capital) and the presence of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad within its borders.