Situated in the lap of the Appalachians, in the lower Shenandoah Valley, is Shepherdstown. This picturesque little town is famous among travelers for its beauty, heritage, and quaint charm. Shepherdstown is the oldest city in West Virginia. While walking down the streets it isn't difficult to recognize its historical significance.
The university town that draws thousands of visitors every year boasts several small shops, cafés, restaurants, and various other places of interest. However, Shepherdstown isn't just a charming little getaway!
Shepherdstown traces its origin back to the 1700s, when migrants started settling onto the lower Shenandoah Valley. Settlers had started to drift in since 1720 in what is today known as Shepherdstown. Most people who settled in this region had been given land grants. One such settler was Thomas Shepherd who settled on the south side of the Potomac after taking up 222 acres of land in 1734. Later, in 1762, the town was established as Mecklenburg by the Virginia Assembly. Since Shepherd was the only trustee, he was given the responsibility of governing the settlement. As the town limits were enlarged, the name was changed to Shepherd’s Town, and later to Shepherdstown after the Civil War.
Shepherdstown as well as the whole Shenandoah Valley contributed to the American Revolution. The cemeteries bear witness to the veterans who laid their lives for the cause of American Independence. The townsfolk also contributed by supplying clothing, saddles, wagons and other essential items that the military could use.
The small town was also a front runner in a revolution of another sort – transportation. Perhaps the most significant historical event that took place in Shepherdstown was the successful trial of a steamboat by mechanical engineer James Rumsey in 1787. This was a moment of great significance as thousands of people watched the trial from the banks of the Potomac River.
During the time that Rumsey had his successful steamboat test, another event was taking place. The construction of the Mecklenburg Tobacco Warehouse built on the riverfront land supplied by Abraham Shepherd. This land was perfect for trading and ferrying supplies to Shepherdstown. At the point where tobacco was no longer important, the warehouse was then used to store wheat, corn, and other items. The Mecklenburg Warehouse is the only riverfront commercial property still standing today and has been registered as a historical landmark. When the tide is low, you can still see the ramp plunging into the water for bartered goods to travel on from docking ships.