Speaker Series – “Black Burial Grounds of Jefferson County, West Virginia: Restoring Lost History through Cemetery Preservation”, Addison Reese, Byrd Center, April 17, 2024

Historic Shepherdstown is pleased to announce the first talk in its 2024 Speaker Series.

Addison Reese, cemetery caretaker, advocate, local historian, and educator, will present “Black Burial Grounds of Jefferson County, West Virginia: Restoring Lost History through Cemetery Preservation.” Ms. Reese’s talk will be held on Wednesday, April 17 at 7pm at the Robert C. Byrd Center for Congressional History and Education at Shepherd University.

Addison Reese currently works at the Shepherdstown Public Library where she has conducted genealogy and local history research workshops. She served on the Jefferson County Historic Landmarks Commission for the past three years with a focus on cemetery preservation, documentation, and restoration.

Museum reopening April 20, 2024

The Museum will open on April 20. Hours through October will be Saturdays 11 – 5  and Sunday 1-4. Come visit our three floors of history and  items crafted by or owned by the people of Shepherdstown, from samplers to Sheetz rifles.  The Entler Hotel is a fitting location for the museum. In 1786 Philip Adam Entler, Jr. built a residence on the west side of the property. In following years, others built substantial brick buildings on the lot extending eastward from Entler’s residence to Princess Street. By 1809 Daniel Bedinger owned all of the property that became the Entler Hotel and leased it to others. For more than a century the Entler thrived. In 1912, the Entler residence on the west side of the property burned. During the 20th century the Entler briefly took the name Rumsey Hotel and then became Rumsey Hall, a college dormitory. It housed students, World War II Navy and Air Force cadets, and college faculty. This is now the 40th year of the building being the location of the Historic Shepherdstown museum. 


Shepherdstown history available 24/7

The museum may be closed until spring, but you can learn about the town from this website. Check Digital exhibits for Artifacts, Books, Events, Landmarks, Maps and People, watch the recordings of the previous speaker series at Speaker Series, learn important dates at Shepherdstown Town Documents and for a unique view of  the Who’s Who of the town, Shepherdstown 250 Parade


Front parlor with fan window

Historic Shepherdstown Museum – virtual video tour

Have you ever wondered what artifacts are housed in the Historic Shepherdstown Museum and how it tells the story of Shepherdstown? Or, have you visited the Museum and wished you could show it off to friends who don’t live in the area? Now, you have a chance. You can preview the Museum via YouTube.

During the summer of 2022, Jessie Ramchurran, a Communication Arts major from Hood College who interned with Historic Shepherdstown Commission, completed a three-part video tour of the Museum. The tour gives an overview of each floor of the Museum, and it also highlights artifacts from several of the rooms. The tour is now available on  Historic Shepherdstown YouTube channel

The museum is housed in the historic Entler Hotel. The first floor is set up to resemble the parlor and dining area of a 19th century inn. Highlights include three tall clocks; Col. John Francis Hamtramck’s sword and West Point commission; and furniture made by Adam Link, James Shepherd and Thomas Hopkins. Visitors are then invited to tour the garden and the James Rumsey Steamboat Museum, which houses a working half-size replica of Rumsey’s steamboat. Rumsey conducted the first successful steamboat demonstration on the Potomac River at Shepherdstown on December 3, 1787. The first-floor video can be found at  HSM – First Floor Video Tour

Chronologically, the next video to watch features the third floor of the Museum, which focuses on the early-Colonial era through the late 19th century. Highlights of this floor include a 1760s plat map of Mechlenburgh (now Shepherdstown); Shepherdstown samplers, Sheetz rifles and Schindler kettles; a room dedicated to the impact of the Civil War on Shepherdstown; the importance of the Potomac River and the railroad; and maps of Shepherdstown and Jefferson County. The third-floor video can be found at  HSM – Third Floor Video Tour

Finally, view the video of the second floor of the Museum, which is mostly dedicated to the 20th century. The Traveler’s Room (purported to be the most haunted room in the Museum) features rope beds and a 19th century bathtub. Other highlights include the Small Town America room, which is dominated by an early Rural Free Delivery horse-drawn mail cart; the 20th century room which features posters from Morgan’s Grove agricultural fairs and circuses, and pictures from the Israeli-Syrian Peace Talks that were held in Shepherdstown in 2000; and the African American room, which houses exhibits related to the educational opportunities for and leisure activities of the area’s Black community. The second-floor video can be found at  HSM – Second Floor Video Tour

We hope the virtual tour will inspire you to take a trip to Shepherdstown and visit the Historic Shepherdstown Museum in person. The Museum is open Saturdays from noon to 4 p.m., and Sundays from 1 to 3 p.m., from April through October and during Christmas in Shepherdstown. For more information about our museum, hours and artifacts, visit our Facebook page Historic Shepherdstown Museum Facebook or check out the digital exhibits section of this website.

Doll given to local girl in 1832 and a quilt made by Sarah Moler acquired by museum

August, 1832. One can imagine the soft smiles and joyous tears as a healthy baby girl was born to Jane and Corban Blackford on the family farm near what is now Bardane, West Virginia. But who was the child and what is her connection to an 1830s-era doll recently acquired by the Historic Shepherdstown Museum?

A note that accompanied the doll, written by Hugh S. Moler, a descendant, indicates the following:

“Great Grand Mother’s cousin William Anderson was going west to make his fortune and gave this doll to James [although it could have been Janie] Jackson Blackford for Virginia (not 100 percent sure of that name) Hellen Blackford in the year 1832.”

Virginia Helen Blackford was a daughter, mother and wife who lived a long 83 years of life. Her parents were Corban Blackford (1792-1841) and Jane Jackson Blackford (1802-1856).

Jane (Jackson) Blackford migrated to the United States at age 14 from Ireland with help from members of the Jackson family. In particular, she was assisted by her uncle, a Presbyterian minister named Anderson, whose mother was a Jackson. That made Jane a cousin of the seventh President of the United States, Andrew Jackson.

Jane originally settled in Baltimore but eventually she met Corban Blackford. They were married at Corban Blackford’s family home Ferry Hill, the home in Washington County, Maryland, that overlooks the Potomac River on the border of Shepherdstown and Sharpsburg. After their marriage, they moved to the farm in Bardane and raised five children, one of them being Virginia.

“There were a number of reasons why the Historic Shepherdstown Museum was interested in acquiring this doll,” said Donna Bertazzoni, president of the Historic Shepherdstown Commission Board of Directors. “First, it is a well-preserved example of an 1830s doll. But more important is the fact that the Museum already owns a sampler made by Virginia Helen Blackford. The doll is a wonderful complement to the sampler.”

Eleanor Lakin, a doll expert and retired architect, examined the doll before it was purchased by the museum. Lakin determined that the doll was from the early 1830s and had been imported from Germany. Germany was one of the world’s largest toy manufacturers during the 19th century. “Well, we really didn’t have much in doll manufacturing in America,” Lakin said. “Most dolls and toys came from Germany.”

According to Lakin, the design of the doll has some notable characteristics. The legs and arms of the doll are wooden, and the head is paper-mâché. The clothing is made of gauze and possibly silk. The style of the dress and the painted shoes are typical of the era.

However, the doll the Museum purchased does have an unusual hairstyle. According to Lakin, most female dolls of that era featured a hairstyle called an Apollo knot. In this style, the front section of hair was parted in the center, and the back section was collected into a knot-like bun at the very top of the head. There would also be some framing hair pieces in the front, generally represented by a cluster of curls around each ear. Like the face, the hair would be painted on the doll.

The Museum’s new doll does have the front framing hair pieces. However, there is no Apollo knot. Underneath the doll’s gauze cap, there is simply a bun on the back of the head.

Lakin determines a doll’s age based on her experience and research, including through researching costume books. “I collected [dolls] many, many years and went to a lot of auctions, a lot of sales, read a lot. … You learn by experience,” Lakin said. “I have a whole collection of costume books and that shows the hairstyle and clothing…so you use that.”

So what happened to Virginia, the original owner of the doll? In 1855, Virginia Helen Blackford married Jacob Henry Engle. Engle had been born in 1825 on a farm in Jefferson County, Virginia. In 1849, he was among a group of men from Charles Town who headed to California to seek their fortune in the gold rush. Engle succeeded, and returned to farming in Jefferson County in 1853. During the Civil War, he served in the Confederate army, reaching the rank of captain.

Following the war, Engle returned to his farm near Engle Station in Jefferson County. He and Virginia had three children: Alice Jane Engle Moler, Varena (Irene) Catherine Engle, and Lodenza Corban Engle. Jacob Engle died in 1900 and Virginia Engle died in 1915. They are both buried in Elmwood Cemetery in Shepherdstown.

The doll eventually descended through the Moler family. Virginia and Jacob’s daughter Alice Jane Engle married Raleigh Moler, and their son Hugh Swagler Moler wrote the note that accompanied the doll.

At the same time that the Museum bought Virginia’s doll, it also purchased a lover’s knot quilt made by Raleigh Moler’s mother Sarah Moler, in honor of her son Raleigh’s marriage to Alice Engle. The Museum has discovered a possible connection between that quilt and “Aunt Sallie’s Quilt,” which has hung in the Museum for many years.

“In researching Sarah Moler, HSC board member Terry Fulton found her obituary. It mentions that she was known as Aunt Sallie,” Bertazzoni said. “We are excited that we may not only have purchased a beautiful locally-made quilt, but that we may also have finally discovered the identity of Aunt Sallie. We are looking forward to displaying both the doll and the quilt.”

The Historic Shepherdstown Museum purchased both the doll and the quilt from a local antique dealer, who acquired them at an auction. They are expected to be on display when the Museum opens for the 2023 season.

By Jessie Ramcharran, HSC summer intern, 2022

1852 Map of Jefferson County after restoration

Restored 1852 Map of Jefferson County on display

1852 Map of Jefferson County before ter restoration

1852 Map of Jefferson County before restoration

1852 Map of Jefferson County after restoration

1852 Map of Jefferson County after restoration

From a run down to a practically brand-new map, it is almost like magic.

In February, Americana Corner awarded Historic Shepherdstown Commission & Museum a $7,000 grant to restore its S. Howell Brown 1852 Map of Jefferson County, Virginia. The map, which was donated by Mary Hartzell Dobbins, was considered to be in poor condition.

Americana Corner, established in 2020 by Tom Hand, is an online resource that helps organizations tell stories about America and its Revolutionary past. Hand set up a website and posts videos about Revolutionary-era Americans such as John and Abigail Adams, Benjamin Franklin, and Andrew Hamilton to YouTube and Facebook. He also developed the Americana Corner Grant Program. This program provides funds to organizations to enhance a historical site, establish academic exhibits and recondition historical pieces.

“The grant we received from Americana Corner gave us the opportunity to conserve the map, and we want to thank them for it,” Donna Bertazzoni, president of Historic Shepherdstown Board of Directors, said. “The map was donated to Historic Shepherdstown Commission in the early 1990s, and for nearly 20 years, we did not have the funds to have it restored.”

The work to restore the map was done by Maria Pukownik Fine Art and Paper Restoration. It is a privately-owned art restoration center in Orrtanna, PA. Before doing the work, it developed a restoration treatment for the 19th century wall map.

This map by S. Howell Brown is subtitled “Actual Survey with Farm Limits”. It encompasses 27 Districts alongside the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers and includes accounts of Harpers Ferry and Shepherdstown. It was lithographically printed on two sheets of paper, hand-colored in some areas, and coated with varnish. The map was entered into the Act of Congress in 1852 by Brown and its dimensions are 39 inches by 54 inches. Maps were seen as tools used for direction, especially in the 19th century, and this map is a prime example of that.

Before its restoration, the map was in poor condition with discoloration, dirt, dust, varnish damages, fragmentation, and some decomposition in the back of the canvas. There was also masking tape found securing the map edges to the glass frame.

The preservation and restoration process took roughly three and a half months and 10 steps. First and foremost, the frame was removed, and the map conditions were photographed. Then, the surface of the map was sealed with tissue.

“It’s a Japanese tissue that can be adhered to the front of the map with a very light glue, a water-based glue that further, later on, is easy to remove,” Maria Pukownik, chief conservator of MP Fine Art and Paper Conservation, said. Sealing the surface protects the map from any possible shifting.

Next, the backing canvas was removed for the cleaning process. Layers of fabric were laid onto the map to absorb moisture from the aqueous solution that was applied. This solution was sprayed profusely until it was completely saturated. This method was repeated in certain areas.

“You know some stains, like the stains on the map, they had to be pretreated to be able to remove them, and the process is pretty long,” Pukownik said. “You spray the water – it’s completely wet – then, the dirt comes to the surface as it’s being blotted, for as long as it is needed and until you can tell there’s no more dirt coming through.”
After this stage occurs, fractured and creased areas were filled in with matching paper pulp and tissue. Then, the map was set overnight to dry and the next day, a water-based starch glue was applied. After this application, Pukownik used reference material to restore missing pieces within the map.

“Before we put the new canvas … that same tissue is applied on the back because the map, even de-acidified and cleaned, the paper is still antique paper, fragile and could be too weak for contact with other materials,” Pukownik said. “So, we applied the same tissue, clean tissue, on the back, all over and then, followed by the fabric backing.” The fabric backing is modern cotton that was pre-washed. Then, the map was put under weights until it was fully dry.
The entirely dried map was then touched up in color and surface sealer. “The Jefferson [County] map had some weakness in color – some colors faded, original colors,” Pukownik said. “So, they needed to be touched up slightly because of the geographical borders. They were important for the map to be fully informational, so we touched it up with watercolors and at the end, everything was sealed, and the varnish was sprayed on the surface to keep it nice and stable, and it went back in the frame.”

“The work that Maria Pukownik did was so good, I jokingly asked if she had bought us a new version of the map. The before and after comparison is that striking,” Bertazzoni said.

The museum intends to open a new map exhibit in September, and the restored map will become the centerpiece. “The museum owns several maps, including what is believed to be the original plat map of Shepherdstown, as well as two other Shepherdstown maps and another map of Jefferson County,” Bertazzoni said. “We have also just received a gift of an 1883 S. Howell Brown map of Jefferson County from the Jefferson County Historical Society. It is very interesting to compare all of them and see the evolution of both the town and the county.”

The Library of Congress has the 1852 S. Howell Brown map on their website in a form that allows the viewer to zoom in to a specific location Map of Jefferson County, Virginia 1852

Jessie Ramcharran, 2022 Intern

A Shepherdstown resident writes to Martha Washington, 1799

The Museum recently came across a letter that was written to Martha Washington, expressing condolences on the death of her husband,  President George Washington.  The letter was written on December 26, 1799, from “Shepherdstown on the Potomac.”

The author of the letter was Mary Stead Pinckney.  Mary and her husband, General Charles Coatesworth Pinckney, earlier that month, had leased “a small house” in Shepherdstown to serve as their residence. The house would also serve as the general’s headquarters while he oversaw the establishment of the armory at Harpers Ferry as head of the Southern Command of the fledgling American Army. The Pinckneys lived in the house from December 1799 through September 1800.  That house is now the Historic Shepherdstown Museum on East German St.

Charles Coatesworth Pinckney was a veteran of the Revolutionary War, a signer of the United State Constitution, and the American Ambassador to France. He ran for vice-president on the Federalist ticket with John Adams in 1800 and was nominated by the Federalist Party as its presidential candidate in 1804 and 1808, losing to Thomas Jefferson and then to James Madison.

Image courtesy of the Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington at Mount Vernon. 

Shepherdstown Then and Now

Historic Shepherdstown Museum Reopens with Regular Hours

The Museum reopened on June 12. Read all about it in the Shepherdstown Chronicle’s June 18, 2021 article.

Photo by Tabitha Johnson and used with permission.

Remembering Shepherdstown’s Civil War Veterans on Memorial Day

There’s a new small display in the 3rd floor hallway of the Museum, opposite the Civil War Room. It’s an enlarged copy of two pages from a diary kept by Shepherdstown resident, Cato Moore Entler.  Born in Shepherdstown in 1821, he was the son of Joseph Entler, owner of Shepherdstown’s Great Western Hotel, and nephew of Daniel Entler, owner of the Entler Hotel that now houses the Historic Shepherdstown Museum.

In 1852, Cato Moore Entler began keeping a diary in which he recorded details of events in Shepherdstown, including election results and personal observations.  An important entry in the diary is a list of Shepherdstown men who served in the Confederate Army, with later notations on their fate as a result of the war. Some of the poignant entries include “arm shot off,” “died at Gettysburg,” and “deserted.”


The full diary is available at: https://historicshepherdstown.com/portfolio-item/c-m-entler-1852-diary/  It is an historical document, reflecting the biases of the times, including pro-Confederate leanings. Some later diary entries include recipes, newspaper clippings and instructions for making home remedies for a variety of illnesses.

The diary is on loan to the museum by William Strider of Jefferson County.