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Hampshire County, West Virginia

From Academic Kids

Image:Map of West Virginia highlighting Hampshire County.png

Hampshire County is a county located in the state of West Virginia. As of 2000, the population is 20,203. Its county seat is Romney6. Hampshire County was created by the Virginia General Assembly on December 13, 1753 from parts of Frederick and Augusta counties (Virginia) and is the oldest county in the state of West Virginia. The county lies in both West Virginia's Eastern Panhandle and Potomac Highlands regions.

Contents

Nomenclature

Although its creation was authorized in 1753, Hampshire County was not actually organized until 1757 because the area was not considered safe due to the outbreak of the French and Indian War (1754-1763). According to Samuel Kercheval's A History of the Valley of Virginia, the county was named in honor of its several prize hogs. The story goes that Thomas Fairfax, 6th Lord Fairfax of Cameron, who owned the Royal Grant to the area, came upon some very large hogs in Winchester and asked where they had been raised. He was told that they were from the South Branch Potomac River Valley (now Hampshire County). He remarked that when a county was formed west of Frederick that he would name it in honor of Hampshire County, England, famous for its very fat hogs.

Geography

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Hampshire.gif
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According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 1,670 km² (645 mi²). 1,662 km² (642 mi²) of it is land and 8 km² (3 mi²) of it is water. The total area is 0.45% water.

Magisterial Districts

  • Bloomery
  • Capon
  • Capon Bridge (town)
  • Gore
  • Mill Creek
  • Romney
  • Romney (town)
  • Sherman
  • Springfield

Hampshire County Maps

Demographics

As of the census2 of 2000, there are 20,203 people, 7,955 households, and 5,640 families residing in the county. The population density is 12/km² (32/mi²). There are 11,185 housing units at an average density of 7/km² (17/mi²). The racial makeup of the county is 98.04% White, 0.83% Black or African American, 0.24% Native American, 0.16% Asian, 0.02% Pacific Islander, 0.12% from other races, and 0.59% from two or more races. 0.55% of the population are Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There are 7,955 households out of which 31.30% have children under the age of 18 living with them, 56.70% are married couples living together, 9.50% have a female householder with no husband present, and 29.10% are non-families. 24.60% of all households are made up of individuals and 10.60% have someone living alone who is 65 years of age or older. The average household size is 2.49 and the average family size is 2.94.

In the county, the population is spread out with 25.10% under the age of 18, 7.10% from 18 to 24, 27.60% from 25 to 44, 25.60% from 45 to 64, and 14.60% who are 65 years of age or older. The median age is 38 years. For every 100 females there are 99.70 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there are 97.30 males.

The median income for a household in the county is $31,666, and the median income for a family is $37,616. Males have a median income of $28,884 versus $19,945 for females. The per capita income for the county is $14,851. 16.30% of the population and 12.90% of families are below the poverty line. Out of the total population, 22.70% of those under the age of 18 and 13.10% of those 65 and older are living below the poverty line.

History

Earliest European Settlers

Romney was initially settled by hunters and traders around 1725. In 1738, John Pearsall (or Pearsoll) and his brother Job built homes in the town. Their settlement was then known as Pearsall's Flats. In 1748, Thomas Fairfax, 6th Lord Fairfax of Cameron sent a surveying party, including 16 year-old George Washington, to survey his lands along the Potomac and South Branch Rivers. Washington spent three summers and falls surveying Lord Fairfax's estate, which included all of present-day Hampshire County. In April 1748, he laid off several lots in an area known as the Trough, about ten miles south of Romney, and he is known to have been in present-day Romney on October 19, 1749. Oral traditions claimed that Washington laid present-day Romney out into lots at that time, but written records from that era indicate that Romney was surveyed and laid out into lots by James Genn prior to Washington's arrival. Genn was also employed by Lord Fairfax.

Important Events During the 1700s

In 1756, Fort Pearsall was constructed on Job Pearsall's plantation for protection against Native American raids and George Washington provisioned and garrisoned the Fort at various times until 1758. At that time, there were at least 100 people living in the general area. Following the end of hostilities in the area, Lord Fairfax recognized that more settlers would be interested in moving into the area and that he could earn some extra revenue by selling plots in the town. He sent a survey party to Romney in 1762 to formally lay out the town into 100 lots. At that time, he renamed the town Romney, in honor of the Cinque Ports city on the English Channel in Kent.

Confusion ensued for several decades concerning land ownership within the town as counterclaims were made by the original settlers and those who purchased lots laid out by Lord Fairfax's surveyors.

The first meeting of the Hampshire County Court was held in 1757 and was presided by the Right Honorable Thomas Bryan Martin, Lord Fairfax's nephew. By that time, Hampshire County's population had fallen dramatically as most of the settlers had fled the county in fear of the Native Americans. The only families remaining lived near Fort Pearsall, near present-day Romney, and Fort Edwards, at Capon Bridge.

Once the Native Americans were defeated at the Battle of Point Pleasant in 1774 settlers, once again, returned to the county. By 1790, when the first national census was taken, Hampshire County had 7,346 residents, making it the second most populous county in the present state at that time. Berkeley was the most populous county, with 19,713 people. At that time, there were nine counties in the present state, with a total population of 55,873 people.

During the Whiskey Rebellion in 1794, many Hampshire County men volunteered to serve under Major General Daniel Morgan to put down the insurrection. The men most likely volunteered at Moorefield in Hardy County and then marched north to Cumberland, Maryland. Approximately 1,200 of the 12,950 men under Morgan's command came from the area that would later become West Virginia.

Early Churches

Not only in a material way were the people of the county developing wealth but in an even more important way did they continue to advance. The early missionaries helped to sustain the religious faith of the early inhabitants. In 1775 two Baptist missionaries among a group of settlers moved to the Cacapon and organized the first church in the county. In 1771 the work of the Methodist Episcopal Church was begun, in which later developments led to the formation of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South. In 1753 Hampshire County had been formed into a parish by the Protestant Episcopal Church and in 1773 a missionary sent by that church began work. In 1787 a Primitive Baptist church was established at North River. Soon after the American Revolution there was preaching by the Presbyterians at different points in the county. In 1792 a Presbyterian church was organized at Romney and another, Mount Bethel Church, at Three Churches.

Early Industry

The wide lowlands of Hampshire County certainly invited agriculture, and fields of wheat and tobacco surrounded the important truck-patch of the settler. The rolling uplands offered pasturage for horses, cattle, sheep, and hogs, which were driven across country to market at Winchester. The streams abounded in fish and the mountains contained not only game but timber and stone for early settlers' homes. The limestone was burned for lime at Bloomery Gap, where remains of old lime-kilns give evidence of an early industry. Soon it was discovered that some of the strata contained iron ore. Much of it was transported to Keyser, from an area along South Branch south of the present limits of the county. In Bloomery Gap a ruined furnace still stands, mute evidence of another former industry. In the early days the increasing population stimulated not only farming and grazing but every industry of a new country. James Morton Callahan, in his History of West Virginia, Volume I, page 135, tells us of these early industries as follows:

  • "In 1800, Robert Sherrard built at Bloomery a large stone-mill and also a woolen-mill. William Fox built a merchant mill at Fox's Hollow in 1818, and shipped flour by boat to Georgetown. Hammock Mills, flour and woolen, was another very early plant. Also the Painter Mill was a pioneer establishment on North River about a century ago. Colonel Fox established a tannery in 1818 in Fox's Hollow, which was operated until the Civil War. Another tan-yard was on Dillons Run, and Samuel Gard had another extensive tannery at Capon Bridge prior to 1820. New methods came in and the leather trade in this State had to succumb to the advance of this industry and improved machinery. Distilleries were located at many points in the county."

Of the iron industry at Bloomery Gap he also says:

  • "The Bloomery furnaces, ruins of which are still to be seen, were built and operated by a Mr. Priestly and were being run in 1833. Large quantities of iron were made and shipped over the Cacapon River on rafts and flatboats. S. A. Pancoast purchased the furnaces in 1848, and after his death they continued in other hands until 1875."

At the present time the property is under the care of Webster H. Wyand, of Hagerstown, Maryland.

Important Events During the 1800s

The building of the Northwestern Turnpike was an integral part of the development of Hampshire County. General Daniel Morgan first suggested the road be built in 1748, but his recommendations were not acted upon until the 1830s. Colonel Claudius Crozet, a Frenchman who had previously worked for Napoleon Bonaparte, engineered the road which connected Parkersburg with Winchester, Virginia. The turnpike traversed Hampshire County stretching through Capon Bridge, Hanging Rocks, Pleasant Dale, Augusta, and Romney. Through the years, Romney became an important rest stop for travelers on the turnpike. This aided the local economy as hotels and taverns began to appear in the area.

During the Civil War, the Hampshire Guards and Frontier Riflemen joined the Confederate Army. Although there were no major battles in Hampshire County, Romney changed hands at least fifty-six times during the war. It was often a case of one army evacuating the area allowing the opposing army to move into the town. This places Romney second behind Winchester, Virginia as the town that changed hands the most during the Civil War. On June 11, 1861, it changed hands twice in the same day. Some local Hampshire County historians speculate that Romney actually changed hands more than Winchester, Virginia but there are no surviving records to support the claim.

In the late 1860s and early 1870s, one man Professor H. H. Johnson of Franklin, Virginia (later West Virginia) was instrumental in bringing a school for the deaf and blind to Romney in Hampshire County. Himself blind, Johnson had during his youth attended a school for the deaf and blind at Staunton, Virginia. Johnson recognized the need for a school in West Virginia so beginning in the late 1860s he canvassed the state gathering support for his project. On March 3, 1870, Johnson's dreams became a reality when the West Virginia State Legislature approved a measure calling for the creation of a school for the deaf and blind in the state. Several towns including Romney, Clarksburg, and Parkersburg all lobbied to have the school located there, but Romney was chosen following an offer consisting of the buildings and grounds of the Romney Literary Society. The school opened on September 29, 1870 with thirty students, twenty-five deaf and five blind students. Through the years, additional buildings and grounds have been added to accommodate increasing enrollment. Currently, the main campus consists of sixteen major buildings, containing approximately 302,000 square feet, situated on seventy-nine acres of land.

Cities and towns

Historic Sites

Natural Landmarks

See Also

References

  • Branch, Shelden W. 1976. Historic Hampshire. Parsons, WV: McClain Printing Company.
  • Maxwell, Hu and H.L. Swisher. 1897. History of Hampshire, West Virginia. Morgantown: A. Brown Boughner Printing.
  • West Virginia Geological Survey, Hampshire and Hardy Counties, by John L. Tilton, William F. Prouty, R.C. Tucker, and Paul H. Price; Morgantown Printing and Binding Company, Morgantown, WV, 1927; page 2-6, "Historical And Industrial Development".

Hampshire County Links



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