The History of the land of Jefferson County, WV:
(Per plat by John Stroud Kusner, 1970 with additions by our mapper)
Jefferson County is located in the lower Shenandoah Valley, in that part of West Virginia known as the eastern panhandle. It occupies the eastern extremity of the state.
Bounded on the North East by Washington County, Maryland, on the South East by Loudoun County, Virginia and on the South West by Clarke County, Virginia, Jefferson County is adjacent to only one other West Virginia County, Berkeley, on the West, From which it was divided in 1801.
The County has an area of 212.41 Square Miles and spans about 25 ½ miles at it’s longest and 17 ¼ miles at its widest.
Prior to 1645
Jefferson County was NOT part of any of the eight (8) original Virginia Colony Counties established in 1634, being at that time within the Indian district of Chickacoan.
Part of Northumberland County
Part of Lancaster County
Part of Old Rappahanock County
Part of Essex County
Part of Spotsylvania County
Part of Orange County ***
Part of Frederick County (Virginia)
Part of Berkeley County (Virginia)
October 26, 1801
Jefferson County was established
November 2, 1863
Jefferson County was transferred from the commonwealth of Virginia to the State of West Virginia by an act of the West Virginia Legislature
*** Prior to becoming part of Frederick County, there is some dispute as to which county Jefferson was a part of
due to being mostly wilderness and the description of the Virginia counties as Thence west to the Mississippi or
Thence west to the Pacific.
Jefferson County was first divided on June 9th, 1807 into two (2) districts know as the “Southern” and “Northern”.
Some intermediate county redivisions were made, but effective January 1, 1882 the county court adopted the redivision of jefferson county formulated by S. Howell Brown, County Surveyor, into the present five (5) magisterial districts. This resulted in the 1883 map of Jefferson County by S. Howell Brown.
Formation of Jefferson County:
Descriptions of record were found for only a few of the precincts. Boundaries were developed from records research provided by Mr. John Ott, Clerk of the Jefferson County Court and his staff, together with diagrammatic and interview information obtained from precinct registrars. Some precincts evolved to where they presently overlap magisterial district limits.
Passed January 8, 1801
“That from and after the twenty-sixth day of October next, all that part of the county of Berkeley, lying easterly of the of a line beginning at Opeckon Creek in the Frederick line, thence with the said creek to the bend immediately below Wallingford’s Tavern, thence running a direct line to Wyncoop’s spring on the public road leading from Martinsburg to Shepherdstown, and thence with the meanders of the spring to the confluence with the Potowmac, Shall form one district county and be called by the name of Jefferson County. “
Statues at large, Vol. 2, 1796-1802 S. Shepherd
Bearings and Distances, Straight portion of Jefferson/Berkeley line:
p. 271 Chapter 31 “An act for dividing the County
of Berkeley.” Sect 1
Bearings and Distances for the straight line segment of the north west border vary in records from earlier surveys. Eventual definitive determination can be made only remeasurment of the distances and astronomical observation to measure alignment to a geodetic meridian.
The Boundary with the State of Maryland:
The proprietary charter issued June 20, 16323 By Charles I, King of England, to Cecilus Calvert, 2nd Baron of Baltimore, defined the jurisdictional land of Maryland as extending (translated from the latin) “Unto the true meridian of the first fountain of the river of Pottowmack (Potomac), thence verging towards the south, unto the farther bank of the said river, and following the same on the west and southunto a certain place called Cinquack, situate near the mouth of said river.”
After the colonies had become states, this definition was confirmed by “Ratification of the Compact between Maryland and Virginia” on record in Chapter 1 of the Acts of 1785, Maryland.
Further, The United States Supreme Court held that the line was to the low water level of the Potomac River in Maryland Vs. West Virginia, 225 U.S. 1 (1912)
The boundary with Loudoun County, Virginia:
The boundary between present Jefferson County, West Virginia and Loudoun County, Virginia was originated on November 12, 1738 by the Colony of Virginia in “An Act for Erecting Two New Counties and (etc)”, Stating: “All that territory… at present deemed to be part of the County of Orange lying in the Northwest side of the top of said mountains (The Blue Ridge) extending from thence Northerly, Westerly and Southerly beyond the said mountains to the utmost limits of virginia be separated from the rest of the said county and erected into two distinct counties …; to be divided by a line to be run… (far west of present Jefferson County); and all that part of the said territory lying northeast of the said line beyond the top of the said Blue Ridge shall be … called the county of Frederick”
From Statues at large W.W. Hennings Vol. 5 1738-48
Chapter XXI pages 78-79
On March 30, 1998, A project report was recorded in the Jefferson County Clerks office. This report was the result of Loudoun county, Virginia and the Virginia/West Virginia Boundary Survey Commission. Patton, Harris Rust and Associates, PC, was contracted to establish the boundary and place monumentation. The complete description of their methods is located in the recorded report. This survey superceded the previous boundary description.
Jefferson County Extends to the center of the Opequon:
“Thence with the line division the counties of Jefferson and Frederick, to the middle of the Opequon Creek”
Acts of the General Assembly of Virginia,
Establishment of the present Southwestern Boundary:
1835 – 36, p. 20, 7th and 8th lines of an
“Act forming a new county out of the county of Frederick”
“That from and after the 15th day of May next, the said county of Frederick shall be divided into three distinct counties, in the following manner; that is to say, on the north by a line beginning in the line that divides the counties of Frederick and Loudoun, one mile and an half northward of the corner in William’s gap, that at present divides the parishes of Frederick and Norborne, thence westward, with a line exactly parallel to the line that now divides the said parishes of Frederick and Norborne, till it intersects the line of Hampshire County;”
Statues at large, Vol. 8, 1764-73 W.W Hening pp 597-98
Chapt XLIII “An Act for dividing the county of Frederick
into three distinct counties.
Bearings and Distances, Jefferson/Clarke line:
Bearings and Distances for the South west border vary in records from earlier surveys. Eventual definitive determination can be made only remeasurment of the distances and astronomical observation to measure alignment to a geodetic meridian.
*** Line was establish and monumented by surveyors. The monuments are not in a single, straight line, but this monumentation has been adopted as the true line between the counties.
Chartered by Virginia as “Mecklenburg” on December 23, 1762
Rechartered by Virginia as “Shepherdstown” on January 11, 1798
Chartered by West Virginia on February 11, 1867
Original Settlement of “Mudfort”
Chartered by Virginia as “Bolivar” on December 29, 1825
Chartered by West Virginia on March 27th, 1877
Chartered by Virginia as “Harpersferry” on March 24, 1851
Chartered by West Virginia as “Harpers Ferry” on April 16, 1872
Chartered by West Virginia on October 18, 1910
Chartered by Virginia as “Charlestown” on January 7, 1787
Chartered by West Virginia as “Charlestown” on February 24, 1872
Rechartered by West Virginia as “Charles Town” on February 16, 1915
The “Lost” Cities of Jefferson County:
1.Virginius: Chartered in Virginia, Never rechartered in West Virginia. Destroyed by a flood. Virginius was located on an Island in the Shenandoah just south of Harpers Ferry.
2. Shenandoah City: Chartered in Virginia, Never Rechartered in West Virginia. Effected by the same flood that destroyed Virginius. Shenandoah City was located north west of Virginius and west of the armory. The city died when the armory shut down. Harpers Ferry now encompasses this area.
3. Smithfield, now Middleway. Chartered in Virginia, Never Rechartered in West Virginia.4. Shasta, now know as Shenandoah Junction. Chartered in Virginia, Never Rechartered in West Virginia.
Private Title History – Original Sources:
Private titles to land in Jefferson County: Not all originate from Thomas 6th Lord Fairfax. On April 11, 1745, the Privy Council to the British Crown rendered a historic decision that the land south of the Potomac River, West of the Shenandoah, extending to specified southern and western limits, was the western portion of Fairfax’s proprietary of the northern neck. Prior to this, some land grants were made by Jost Hite and Van Meter. A few were also granted by the colonial governor.
S. Howell Brown:
1852: S. Howell Brown, County Surveyor, created the first inclusive map of the County, A 'tax map' of sorts "From Actual Survey with the farm limits" This map began his career. This map depicted the school districts.
1869: S. Howell Brown, County Surveyor, updated the eastern portion of the map
1883:S. Howell Brown, County Surveyor, created the 1883 map of Jefferson County West Virginia. A 'tax map' of sorts "From Actual Survey with the farm limits" This map ended his career. This map depicted the newly created Magisterial Districts.
There are no known maps between 1883 and the first state maps in the early 60's. The earliest tax map available in the Assessors office is from 2005. While some older maps do exist the tax year is not known.
John Stroud Kusner
Thanks to (in no particular order):
for his plat dated 10 February 1970 “Official Map of Jefferson County West Virginia showing the Jurisdictional subdivision in current use”
S. Howell Brown for his plats (1883, 1853, etc) and for being a great surveyor in a time of bad surveyors.
The State Road commission for their General Highway Maps.
The United States Geological Survey for all of their maps and products.
Ms. Daphane Gentry of the Virginia State Library for her references to Virginia history.
Hon. Fancis Silver 5th, Berkeley County Surveyor of Lands for his helpful advice.
Galtjo Geertsema, Berkeley County Surveryor of lands for all his work compiling all of the Fairfax land grants that include the area of Jefferson County. Copies of his maps are available in the County Clerks Office and a GIS reproduction is available on the Jefferson County Landmarks Commission Geohistory / Geoexplorer website http://www.wvgeohistory.org/.