Remembering Mary Tyler Moore

Mary Tyler Moore, the iconic television personality who died earlier this year, had a family connection to Shepherdstown as well as to the Historic Shepherdstown Museum.

Her great, great, great grandfather, Conrad Shindler, an early resident of Shepherdstown, was a coppersmith and lived in a house at the corner of German and Church Streets.  Several of the kettles he crafted are on display at the Museum.

The Shindler Family sold the house in 1869 to the Christ Reformed Church, which used the house as its parsonage.  In 1995 Moore purchased the house and donated it to the Shepherd University Foundation to be used by the university as a center for Civil War studies.

In September 1995, Mary Tyler Moore attended the dedication of the Center which was named after her father, George Tyler Moore, an avid historian.

Also in attendance at the event was Jo Ann Knode, a then member of the Historic Shepherdstown Commission Board of Directors. Mrs. Knode invited Mary Tyler Moore to visit the Museum just down the street and view not only the copper kettles fashioned by her ancestor, but also the Shindler Family Bible, on display on the second floor of the Museum.

The bible was donated to the Museum in 1991 by E.B. Rogers, another Shindler descendent. The bible is inscribed with the date “16th of March 1792.”

Ms. Knode recalls that Mary Tyler Moore leafed through the Bible, but since she didn’t have her glasses with her, she was unable to read most of the inscriptions. Ms. Knode’s daughter, who had accompanied them to the museum, snapped the accompanying photo.

Historic Shepherdstown to Feature Quilt Events in May

On May 24, Fawn Valentine, a West Virginia quilt expert, will be in Shepherdstown to”read” local quilts from 1 to 3 p.m. and to give a talk, “West Virginia Quilts and Quiltmakers: Echoes from the Hills,” at 7 p.m. In addition, throughout the month of May, the Historic Shepherdstown Museum will display three quilts loaned by the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley. The quilts, created by highly skilled Shenandoah Valley quilters of the 20th and 21st centuries, exemplify several Valley quilting styles. Historic Shepherdstown’s quilts will be on display as well. If you suspect this exhibition is going to lead to you catching the quilt-making bug, it might be worth purchasing a fabric cutter machine in the near future.

The afternoon quilt reading will take place in the reception room of the Entler Building at 129 E. German Street. Community members are invited to bring no more than two quilts for Ms. Valentine to read. She will discuss the style, period, and materials used, but will not do appraisals. Preregistration is required for this event since time is limited. Call or e-mail Historic Shepherdstown at 304-876- 0910 or Registrations will be accepted in the order received. Spaces are already filling up.

Fawn Valentine’s 7 p.m. talk on WV quilting, which is part of Historic Shepherdstown’s 2017 Speakers Series, will take place at the auditorium of the Robert C. Byrd Center for Congressional History and Education on King Street on the campus of Shepherd University.

Both events are free and open to the public.

The display of Museum of the Shenandoah Valley quilts will begin on May 6 and run through June 3. The three quilts will be on display in the Shepherdstown Museum during the Museum’s regular hours, on Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sundays from 1 to 4 p.m. On exhibition will be a Pineapple White Work quilt, a Wind Rose or Mathiesen Mariner’s Compass Variation quilt, and a Broken Dishes Pattern quilt. All have been on display in U.S. Embassies around the world as part of the State Department’s Arts in Embassies program.

The Editor and the Spy: Espionage and Poetry in Shepherdstown on the Eve of the Civil War

by Jerry Bruce Thomas

In 2012, Yale University Press published John Brown’s Spy: The Adventurous Life and Tragic Confession of John E. Cook, by Steven Lubet.  The book details Cook’s early life in New England and activities in Kansas and Virginia (largely in Jefferson County) leading up to John Brown’s abortive attempt in October 1859 to inspire a slave rebellion at Harper’s Ferry and Cook’s subsequent confession and execution for his part in the plot.  One part of the Cook story left untold by Lubet and others who have written about these events is Cook’s connection with Shepherdstown.  To establish a local cover for his espionage activities Cook pulled the wool over the eyes of Shepherdstown Register editor John H. Zittle by appearing as a “literary character.”

Born in 1829 to a prosperous Congregationalist family in Haddam, Connecticut, the young Cook combined a love of tales and poetry with a devotion to guns and risky adventures.  He went to Yale at 20 to study law but never finished because, as a relative wrote, Cook “wandered in a land of dreams,” talking incessantly, writing sentimental verse for lady friends, and yearning for a bold undertaking.

He went to New York in May 1854.  There he found his cause, embracing a militant abolitionism, likely inspired by the sermons of Henry Ward Beecher of Plymouth Congregational Church in Brooklyn Heights and also by Uncle Tom’s Cabin, the influential 1852 anti-slavery novel written by Beecher’s older sister, Harriet Beecher Stowe.

Later in 1854 he joined the fight in Kansas over slavery in the territories.  A “dead shot,” he became known for recklessness, bravery, and womanizing, as his free-state forces fought pro-slavery militia called “border ruffians.”  There he also joined forces with John Brown.

More than a year before the Harper’s Ferry raid, Brown sent Cook to Jefferson County to gather intelligence and to compile a census of local slaves who might be ready to rise up against their masters and a list of prominent men of the area who might be useful as hostages.

Cook traveled about Jefferson and Berkeley counties and along the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal, identifying himself as a school teacher, canal worker, or book seller and ingratiating himself with local people. In the late winter of 1859 he came into Zittle’s office at the Shepherdstown Register claiming that he was a bookseller in town to make available to the public Joel Tyler Headly’s Life of Washington. Impressed by the striking young man of slight stature, blue eyes, and flowing blond hair, Zittle bought the book and gave Cook a plug in his newspaper, writing in the issue of February 5, 1859, “now is your chance getting a book worth having” and urged every Shepherdstown family to buy a copy. In succeeding weeks, Cook visited frequently, and several of his poems appeared in the Register.

In Harper’s Ferry, after courting several area women, he married his innkeeper’s daughter, Mary Virginia “Jenny” Kennedy, just a month before their child, John E. Cook, Jr., was born.

Cook talked to prominent slave owners in the county and to slaves. Brown later complained that Cook’s exaggerated and uncritical reports had misled him into thinking that the slaves were “ripe for insurrection.”

On the night of October 16, 1859, Brown led a group of 21 followers to capture the federal arsenal and armory at Harper’s Ferry.  Cook and others captured Lewis Washington, a great -grand nephew of George Washington, taking him along with other hostages to Brown.  Cook also seized Washington’s heirloom sword, which he gave to Brown and an antique pistol, which he kept. Cook then crossed the Potomac to secure their Maryland base.  Brown and his surviving men ended up being captured in the engine house by U.S. marines under Col. Robert E. Lee.

About ten of Brown’s group were killed in the fighting, five escaped, and some six community people died, including the mayor, Fontaine Beckham.  Cook fled into Pennsylvania only to be quickly captured and returned to Virginia authorities.

In Shepherdstown, conflicting reports and rumors from Harper’s Ferry led to a panic. Editor Zittle now called Cook “a wolf in sheep’s clothing.”  With other members of the local Hamtramck Guards, he rushed to Harper’s Ferry.  Shepherdstown mayor Dr. John Reynolds organized a patrol to secure the town.  Next day, hearing that a band of insurgents and slaves headed by Cook was on its way upriver to attack Shepherdstown, some of the oldest citizens quickly organized a company commanded by Col. Charles Harper and marched through the streets surrounded by the cheers of women and children.  After a mile of marching down the canal towpath, men on a passing canal boat told them that Cook had fled into the mountains. Later the same day the Hamtramck Guards returned from Harper’s Ferry to fifes and drums and the cheers and bouquets of the town’s ladies in an atmosphere that anticipated the early moments of the coming Civil War.

Seven captured raiders, including Brown and Cook, faced trials in Charlestown. Cook received legal advice from his brother-in-law Ashbel Willard, the governor of Indiana, and Willard’s friend,  Daniel Voorhees, United States Attorney for Indiana.  Rather than taking the high ground of affirming the effort to free slaves and protecting its supporters, as John Brown did in a brief and eloquent defense, they tried to save Cook by blaming John Brown and his Northern backers for misleading the young men Brown had gathered for the attack.  Cook made a last attempt to avoid his fate when, on the eve of their execution, he and a fellow prisoner, Edwin Coppoc, chipped away the bricks of the outer wall of their cell in a failed escape attempt.

The widespread fear and panic in Virginia and the South spurred the state to act quickly, convicting and hanging all of the captured raiders by March 16, 1860.  On December 16, 1859, two weeks after Brown’s execution for treason, murder, and conspiracy to inspire slave rebellion, Shepherdstown’s Hamtramck Guards escorted Cook and Coppoc from the jail to their executions in Charlestown. The Jefferson County Register of Deaths prosaically listed Cook’s cause of death as “gallows” and occupation as “adventurer.” Biographer Lubet says that Cook “was a casualty of the coming Civil War.”  His gravestone in Green-Wood cemetery in Brooklyn reads that “he died for the cause of human liberty.”  Because of the nature of his defense, his effort to escape justice, and his year of living as a spy among them, white Jefferson countians hated Cook the most.  Even in the week after his death, some blamed an outbreak of rural fires on unknown slaves whom Cook allegedly had influenced.

Civil war historian James M. McPherson writes that the Southern reaction to John Brown’s raid “brought to the surface a paradox that lay at the heart of slavery.”  Slave owners lived in fear of slave insurrection, but they also insisted that slaves were treated well and remained cheerful in bondage.  They felt vindication when few slaves joined Brown’s raid, but throughout the South when it became apparent that noted leaders of Northern opinion found nobility in Brown’s abolitionist goals, Southern anger grew and many prepared to fight.  Public reaction in the North was more complicated as many opposed slavery but abhorred the violence of Brown’s methods.

When the war came, Zittle closed his newspaper for the duration and was elected first lieutenant of the Hamtramck Guards, Company B of the 2nd Regiment of Virginia Infantry, later known as the Stonewall Brigade.  After the war, Zittle resumed publication of the Register and served several terms as mayor.  In 1882, he sold the Register to Harry L. and William Snyder.  Over the years he had also compiled a collection of comments and documents about the Harper’s Ferry raid, but it languished largely unknown until his widow, Minnie, had it published in 1906, five years after his death, under the title A Correct History of the John Brown Invasion of Harper’s Ferry.

In 1860, Jenny Cook returned to Harper’s Ferry to live again at her mother’s rooming house, but local resentment forced her to leave.  She later remarried and lived in Illinois.  Her son John E. Cook, Jr. became a prominent lawyer in New York.

Cook’s poems mirror the romantic, mystical, dark, and morbid musings of the age but reflect nothing of the cause for which he died.   Zittle’s Correct History contains six of the poems that Cook gave him and one that Cook wrote for his wife and child just before his execution.  The poems can be accessed in online versions of Zittle’s book.

(The following first appeared in the Spring 2017 edition of the Shepherdstown Good News Paper.  Harpers Ferry and Charles Town are spelled as they were at the time of the events.)





The Rumsey Monument Turns 100

[This post was originally published on Feb. 22, 2016 in our newsletter. It has been updated with photos taken from Nick’s Speakers Series talk last year.]

by Nicholas Blanton

By sometime in the 1830’s, James Rumsey’s heirs had had enough.  The two daughters, their families and their mother had relocated to Kentucky, like many Virginians.  They had seen Robert Fulton’s steamboat on the Ohio and Kentucky rivers, and were caring for James’ disabled son, James Jr, who was a deaf mute and had become too old to work.  Thinking the nation owed something to their father for his work in steamboats,  they did what many did who felt the nation owed them: had a memorial presented to Congress. This required getting statements from witnesses to James’ steamboat demonstrations, and in the resulting Memorial of 1836 was one from Henry Bedinger, Jr, who’d been there in December of 1787.   His statement is quite revealing.  After about 50 years,   elements of the Rumsey legend were already in place- how John Fitch had spied on Rumsey in his workshop, and how the steamboat had worked much earlier.  Bedinger also said, “I knew him well, admired his talents, his genius, and enterprise, and would willingly contribute to the erection of a snug little monument very lately proposed and contemplated to be erected to James Rumsey, at Shepherdstown.”

The Memorial would wander around House committees for a decade until the heirs gave up, and the “snug little monument” was never built.  Then in the 1850’s politician and gentleman farmer A.R. Boteler was taken with the tale of the steamboat.  He searched for artifacts, employed a historian at the Maryland Historical Society to look for documents, and wrote on Rumsey, embellishing the legend. Boteler would have a very short career as Speaker of the House, just before the country was diving into the Civil War, then a few years as a Confederate officer, and then, after taking the loyalty oath, a Federal  bureaucrat.  He continued to be a Rumsey advocate, and also hoped for a monument (probably for Rumsey’s centennial in 1887).  Like Bedinger,  he never saw it.  But briefly before his death in 1892, he approached the Norfolk and Western Railroad about their quarry on the bluff overlooking the river, and got a positive reply from the Superintendent that the rock crusher had suspended operations, and that the site was safe for building a monument.

In 1900, George Beltzhoover ,Jr, son of one of Boteler’s best friends, gave a speech before the West Virginia Historical Society in Charleston, where he made a plea for a Rumsey monument to be built at Boteler’s location.  In 1905, pushed by state senator William Campbell of Charles Town, the West Virginia legislature appropriated $1,750 towards the construction of a monument.  In the following year,  at a meeting at Shepherd College, a group called The Rumseyan Society was formed for taking the responsibility of building it. Daniel Lucas was elected president,  Belzhoover was elected vice-president, and M.L Snyder, owner of the Shepherdstown Independent, secretary. Noted the Independent, “…efforts will be made to interest the Legislatures of Virginia and Maryland in the enterprise. Private subscriptions will also be sought, and it is hoped that an imposing memorial will be erected “.   Virginia and Maryland proved to be uninterested.  But the Legislature gradually doled out money over the next seven years, in the end paying $13,625 of the $15,200 needed, the rest coming from local fundraising.

While Shepherdstown was trying to build the Rumsey Monument, monuments were already being erected on Civil War battlefields around the country.  The Forbes Granite Company of Chambersburg had already built the Indiana monument at Antietam, and once the money was in hand Forbes was chosen to build Rumsey’s. Site preparations started in July of 1915, with a temporary railroad spur being laid up to the bluff , the site levelled and steps and concrete foundation laid down. In January 1916 giant 80 ft. fir timbers arrived to build a tripod crane hoist, and the tower was quickly built, the crowning globe being set in March. The brass plaques finally arrived and were mounted in August.  Not until May of 1917 did Shepherdstown Street Committee extend Mill Street to the Monument Park, making it finally possible to drive up to the Monument  (it also voted to change the name of Mill Street to Rumsey Avenue and, in the wartime patriotic spirit sweeping the country, voted to change German Street to Main Street-  but these changes were not adopted).

Through it all , Belzhoover was the driving force. The words on the west-facing brass plaque are certainly his, showing some of the lawyerly rhetoric he would use as prosecutor of the Blair Mountain Coal Mine strikers in 1922,  valiantly waving a small Rumsey flag to a world that only remembered Fulton.  An image of the very small steamboat, in the opposite plaque, was used for fruit box labels by the Shepherdstown Fruit Grower’s Association- who were members of the Society.  It also graced the cover of Ella May Turner’s 1930 biography of Rumsey.  Turner taught English at Shepherd, and was President of the Jefferson County Historical Society.  Perhaps because such steamboats were finally in the past, she could write the first even-handed well-sourced Rumsey book but, perhaps because she was a woman, she was never a member of the Rumseyan Society.  The Society would  hand over maintenance of the Monument Park to the town in the 1960’s, and would see the creation of  the almost-identically named Rumseian Society in 1984, which built the replica of Rumsey’s steamboat now displayed behind the Shepherdstown Museum.  In 2007 it handed over the Park itself, then disbanded.

Photo credits:

The portrait of James Rumsey was painted by George William West, 1822, Luce Foundation Center for American Art, a bequest of Eugene A. Rumsey and Brothers, currently at the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

The James Rumsey monument photo includes a photo from Historic Shepherdstown’s archives, and a 2014 photo taken by former AmeriCorps member James Horn.

Murder of Young Susie Ferrell Shocked Shepherdstown and the Country

125 Years Ago: Murder of Young Susie Ferrell Shocked Shepherdstown and the Country

Shepherdstown doesn’t often make national news, but back in January of 1892, a crime committed here made headlines – well, at least bold-face type—in several newspapers across the country.  Harry Smootz, a local boy some 28 years old, became enamored of Susie Ferrell, described by newspapers as a “bright, pretty and popular young lady,” some five years younger than Smootz.

Susie had rejected him and his proposals of marriage, but Smootz became obsessed and stalked her.  There was snow on the ground on January 22, and Susie and a friend  were going to enjoy some sledding,  Smootz, with gun in hand, approached the pair as they walked on New Street. Susie, fearful of what might happen, told her fried to run for help.

Smootz grabbed Susie and fired the gun, killing her instantly.

The Christian Clise House on New Street, where Susie Ferrell’s body was taken.

Several townsfolk, having heard the shots, ran to the scene. They carried Susie’s lifeless body into the nearest house.

Smootz, meanwhile, then ran a couple of blocks to the Entler Hotel, where he met up with his brother, Charles, and told him and several others that he had killed Susie Ferrell. The witnesses took his gun and called for the authorities.

Arrested by Constable John Maddex, he was taken to the home of Shepherdstown’s Mayor W.N. Lemen’s and the deputy sheriff, Col. William A. Morgan, was sent for.

News of the murder had spread through town and, within minutes, an angry crowd of several hundred persons had gathered outside the mayor’s home. Col. Morgan, addressed the crowd telling them not to interfere.

A paddy wagon pulled up to the house and Smootz was whisked away to the jail in Charles Town.

“This is one of the most law-abiding communities in the Valley,” wrote the Roanoke Times, “but it was hard for the crowd to see him carrried to the county jail.”

For several days after the murder, there was fear of a lynch mob attacking the jail, and Smootz was taken to safe keeping under guard to Summit Point for the night, and later to Charleston, for several days, until feelings calmed down.

Smootz was tried in June of 1892.  The prosecuting attorney called the murder “the most atrocious crime ever committed in the county.” After five days of testimony, it took the jury a little over an hour to reach a verdict of “murder in the first degree.”

The judge sentenced Smootz to be hung on October 7, 1892.

On the morning of September 21st, Smootz was discovered in his cell, dead from an overdose of morphine. How he obtained the drug was never discovered,

“There is a general feeling over the county that Smootz’s suicide puts a satisfactory close to the terrible tragedy,” reported the Baltimore Sun.

Not quite. That’s not really the end of the story.

Some residents of Shepherdstown claim that Susie’s spirit still haunts New Street where she was murdered.  In 2016, the television series, Ghosts of Shepherdstown, dramatized the murder—albeit taking some artistic license—and supposedly helped both Susie and Smootz cross over, if not to another plane, then perhaps to another episode.

Holiday Traditions: From Germany to German Street: Belsnickle

belsnickelAt Christmas time, in the front parlor of the Historic Shepherdstown Museum you’ll find a sleigh near the fireplace. The sleigh, with its animated figures, was donated to the museum by Keith Knost about 1998. It depicts a modern-day Santa Claus, but with a nod to a traditional German and Shenandoah Valley character known as Belsnickle, roughly translated as St. Nicholas in fur.

Belsnickle, usually ragged and disheveled, wears a hat, a long, heavy coat of fur and sometimes a mask with a long tongue. In addition to his bag of goodies, he carries a switch to “punish” naughty children. According to the tradition, during Advent, and especially closer to Christmas, he would make his way from home to home, rapping on the door or window with his stick. Once inside, the children of the family would have to answer a question for him or sing some type of song. In exchange he would toss candies onto the floor. If the children jumped too quickly for the treats, they might end up getting struck with Belsnickel’s switch.

belsnickelsIn later years during Christmas time in the Shenandoah Valley, groups known as Belsnicklers would dress in costume and go door to door, carrying lanterns, singing and carrying on. Neighbors would offer them cakes, cookies and maybe wine and cider. Belsnicklers were popular in Shepherdstown in the 1880’s and 1890’s, according to the late James Price, Shepherdstown’s historian emeritus.

The January 5th, 1922, Shepherdstown Register recounts an evening of Belsnickling:

The masqueraders were a lively feature of holiday week. The young men exercised great ingenuity in devising striking costumes… and they had a lot of fun.  Masked and arrayed in fancy costumes these jolly fellows would make their rounds. It was accustomed to serve suitable refreshments to the masqueraders at the homes where they visited, and so cake and wine and cider and candy and nuts would be set out. They usually wound up the evening at Uncle Billy Lambright’s store where the girls would congregate and wait for the end of the night’s fun.

Belsnickling faded out sometime in the 1950s, but many older residents still remember the tradition fondly.

2016 Shepherdstown Library Ornaments Are Selling Fast!

With the holidays right around the corner, are you looking for a stocking stuffer, hostess gift, or something to make your tree sparkle?  Then look no further!  The Historic Shepherdstown Commission is introducing their second annual holiday ornament, The Old Market House, also known as the Shepherdstown Library.

            The Old Market House was chosen as this year’s ornament because it is the iconic symbol of Shepherdstown.  The design itself was chosen based on a photograph by Al Freund, a frequent photographer of the Shepherdstown Library. With help from Tom Pollard Designs, that photograph was turned into the impressive ornament that you see.

            The first Historic Shepherdstown ornament, depicting McMurran Hall, was issued last year. If you did not purchase the 2015 ornament, a few remain.  Each ornament is $20.00 or you may purchase both for $35.00.  Ornaments may be purchased at the multiple locations:

  Shepherdstown Museum during Christmas in Shepherdstown (Saturdays, 11-5; Sundays, 1-4)

Historic Shepherdstown office at the Entler, 129 E. German St., Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays, 9:30-5:30

Four Seasons Books

Shepherd University Bookstore

Hair Graphics Beauty Salon

            It is our hope that this will become a family tradition and that you will be as excited to see the unveiling of each new ornament as we are.   Whether you live in Shepherdstown, have a connection to Shepherdstown, went to college at Shepherd University, or just love the quaint feel of this community – we hope you will support this endeavor. The proceeds go to support Historic Shepherdstown Museum programs.


Holiday Traditions: From Germany to German Street

The Christmas Tree

Shepherdstown kicked off the holiday season on November 25 with the lighting of the tree in front of McMurran Hall.

While Mrs. Claus, the Grinch and Santa on a firetruck are more recent additions to Shepherdstown’s public holiday events, the town tree has been a Christmas tradition since 1921 when the Shepherdstown Register reported that:

A handsome cedar tree some forty feet in height was cut from the cliffs north of town…. When the tree was lighted up Christmas Eve, everybody pronounced it beautiful. Electric lights of various colors were shining brightly in the foliage, and reflections from the ornaments added to its brilliancy. Above the tree a golden star cast a mellow glow and was significantly beautiful.

christmas_treeThe story of the Christmas tree goes back to 17th century Germany where the first Christmas trees were decorated with edible things, such as gingerbread and gold covered apples. Then glass makers made special small ornaments similar to some of the decorations used today. Several cities in the United States with German connections lay claim to our country’s first Christmas tree: Windsor Locks, Connecticut, claims that a Hessian soldier put up a Christmas tree in 1777 while imprisoned there during the Revolutionary War. But the first documented use of the Christmas tree took place in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, in 1821.

entler_tree_2016The large number of German settlers in Shepherdstown brought their traditions with them and likely decorated fir trees at Christmas time.  The Entlers may have had a tree, not unlike the tree at the Historic Shepherdstown Museum, decorated with candles, straw ornaments and glass balls.

Special holiday events are scheduled for every weekend between Thanksgiving and Christmas in Shepherdstown.  Visit the Historic Shepherdstown Museum which is open every weekend during the Christmas season.



The Colorful History of Stone Row on New Street


The four houses that make up Stone Row on New Street were once the site of one of the first breweries in what is now the State of West Virginia. Marc Briod, a board member of Historic Shepherdstown Commission and a resident of one of the units, writes about the history of the building. 

Philip Shutt’s Brew House and Family

Philip Shutt built his limestone brew house on New Street about 1792.  No doubt he chose the location in order to be next to Town Run, a spring-fed stream that flows along the southwest side of the property.  All good beer requires good water, and spring water is especially prized.  Shutt’s Cream Beer soon became popular with locals, and later with Irish laborers who helped build the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal during the early 1830s.

Philip-the-Brewer arrived in Shepherdstown (then called Mecklenburg) during the late 1780s, a newly married adventurer from Bucks County, Pennsylvania.   It is likely he came originally from a region near Zweibrucken, Germany.  He may have served with the British as a Hessian mercenary during the War of Independence.  If so, he apparently changed his name from Schutz to Shutt, perhaps to have a fresh start with an altered identity.

Armed with money in his pocket, youthful ambition, and a supportive bride at his side, Shutt must have decided that Mecklenburg would be a fine place to build a log home and stone brewery on New Street, open a tavern on German Street (now the Mecklenburg Inn) and raise a family.  In 1796 three of his properties were insured by the Richmond Fire Insurance Company.  Some stones used to build his brewery may have been quarried straight from New Street and hauled into place just a few yards away. The resulting gaps in the street were then filled in with gravel and dirt.

Slavery was common in Shepherdstown until the Civil War.  Census records show that Shutt usually kept one or two slaves as well as three or four large animals.  He is said to have offered his horse, “Young Nebuchadnezzar,” for stud service out on the street — until residents complained about spoiling the innocence of children.

Philip and his wife, Anna Maria, were active in the life of the town.  Both served as elders at St. Peter’s Lutheran Church, and Philip was the treasurer for nearly 30 years, until 1827.  He was elected twice to the town Court of Trustees, in 1797 and 1813.  During his first term the town’s name was changed from Mecklenburg to Shepherd’s Town in honor of its deceased founder, Thomas Shepherd.  Trustee town meetings were occasionally held at Shutt’s tavern.

Anna Maria gave birth to five children during the 1890s, three boys and two girls, all christened at the Lutheran Church.  Philip died in 1833, around age 73.  His oldest child, Elizabeth, moved with her husband to Sagamon County, Illinois.  His son, Jacob, moved there as well.  Both families then flourished in the town of Springfield, including Jacob’s two sons, George, a “bon vivant” lawyer who lived very near the home of Abraham Lincoln, and William, who later became mayor of Springfield.

Stone Row:  1830 through the Civil War

During the late 1830s Shutt’s Brew House went into decline.  The oldest son, Johannes, died in 1818.  In 1835, sons George and Philip, Jr. took their brother, Jacob, to court over an inheritance dispute.  Shortly thereafter George died, perhaps through suicide.  Mary, the youngest daughter, married Thomas Fawcett, a local plasterer, who added a brick second story and partitioned the building into separate dwelling units.  Soon this long masonry structure became known as “Stone Row.”

Stone Row continued its colorful history long after passing from the hands of the Shutt family.  A famous incident occurred during the Civil War.  Redmond Burke was a notorious Confederate scout for General J.E.B. Stuart.  Sometimes he visited young Virginia McGlincy, who lived with her family in one of the four dwelling units.  Apparently she was a collaborator who was spying for Burke. They may also have had a romantic relationship.  But Burke carried a price on his head.  So when the Union garrison at Sharpsburg learned of his whereabouts they went straight to the McGlincy residence and demanded entrance.  It was a dark night, and Burke, a small man, was hidden above a little trapdoor in the ceiling of the second floor.  At first Virginia refused entrance to the soldiers, even whacking at them with an ax handle.  So they backed off and enlisted help from old Mr. Fawcett who lived next door.  He carried a lamp, which she promptly smashed.  Only after surrounding the place and fixing their bayonets were the soldiers allowed entry.  They found no trace of Burke.  But a few days later they returned to town on a new tip and descended upon his mother’s house on Duke Street, where they shot and killed him as he tried to escape.  Redmond Burke is buried in Elmwood Cemetery.

Another Stone Row story comes as well from the Civil War era.  John Wesley Culp was a young boarder in one of those same dwelling units.  He worked for the Hoffman Carriage Company nearby, and became good friends with John, another Stone Row resident.  Both men joined the Confederate army and fought at Antietam, but were captured by Union forces and imprisoned at Fort McHenry.  John then wrote a letter to his wife, Mary, saying that he and Wesley could be released on parole if they would pledge an oath to never again take up arms against the Union.  He said he felt conflicted about what to do and wanted her advice.   She wrote back that he should remain loyal to the Rebel cause and remain in prison.  “You were born in the South.  You have lived in the South throughout your whole life.  Swearing to that oath would be living a lie. Rot in prison, but don’t sign the oath. Your wife Mary.”   She sent a different letter to Wesley that hinted they might be romantically involved.   “You were born in the North.  You have family in the North.  Swear the oath, kiss the book and hurry on home.  Mary.”  Obviously she had no way of knowing whether Wesley and John would share the contents of those letters, so she had to be discreet.

The following year Culp left town again, this time to fight with Confederate forces at Gettysburg.  Ironically, Gettysburg was his boyhood home and the site of his ancestral farm.  As fate would have it, Wesley was killed on or near “Culp’s Hill” by a bullet to the forehead.   Legend says that Union officers allowed only one Confederate soldier to be buried there.  Many believe that soldier was John Wesley Culp, presumably in honor of his familial ties to the soil.  Legend also has it that Mary was at first seen walking the streets of Shepherdstown, heavy with child.  But after receiving the news of Culp’s death she was no longer pregnant.  Today the muffled cries of a newborn baby are said to be heard coming from subterranean stairs beneath Stone Row.

Stone Row: Recent History

More recently part of Stone Row was restored by Walter Washington, a descendant of George Washington’s older brother, Samuel.  In 1987, Walter purchased one of the dwelling units and worked on its restoration until 1991. Today he remains active in the effort to preserve early homes and landmarks of Jefferson County.  He currently resides at “Harewood” (as of 2016), his ancestral home, which was built by Samuel Washington near Charlestown.

Throughout its history Stone Row has undergone many physical transformations.   The original stone structure was a long single story with two smaller stone buildings behind, each with a massive fireplace.  Later, the four separate townhomes shared half a fireplace.  The brick second story was added in the 1830s.  During the late 1800s several stone buildings in the back were tied into the main structure, resulting in two larger rooms with handsome interior stone walls.  By the early 1900s Stone Row had acquired four stoops with Victorian style porches in front of each entrance.  Before 1950 the stone exterior was covered over with paint or stucco, requiring no pointing and little maintenance.  For a while part of the building stood vacant and served as storage.  But renovation began in the 1970s.  The final section of stucco siding was removed in 2003, revealing the full scope of Shutt’s original stonework.  In 1998 thick concrete slabs covering Town Run were cut and dragged away. They had originally supported firetrucks parked beside the old fire hall (built in 1912). Today the lively dappled stream, once known as “Falling Springs,” is again clearly visible to passers-by.

Stone Row is Stop 38 on the walking tour of Shepherdstown.



Keep up with the Joneses …

Or at least Jones Mill, on Saturday afternoon, September 24 at from 4:30 to 7:00, when Historic Shepherdstown Commission and Museum holds its fall fund raiser on the grounds of the Thomas Swearingen House at the Jones Mill Historic District. Come out and spend an afternoon on the front lawn, with food, refreshments and live music.

The property is the site of the first mill in what is now the State of West Virginia. In 1734, two years before Thomas Shepherd came to the area, Josiah Jones had built a mill on Rocky Marsh Run. The original mill building is long gone, perhaps destroyed in a fire in 1811, but the foundation and the half-mile-long mill run and tale races remain. The current mill structure dates from the turn of the 19th Century and is said to have generated electricity for the nearby town of Scrabble through the early 1950’s.

Thomas Swearingen acquired the mill in 1748. He or his oldest son, also named Thomas, built a three-bay, two-story stone house near the mill around 1760. The first Thomas is well known in the history of Shepherdstown for having established a ferry across the Potomac in 1755 near the current James Rumsey Bridge, and for getting more votes than George Washington for a seat in the Virginia House of Burgesses in 1757. Son Thomas was a major in the Revolutionary War.

The three-bay, two-story house is built of local stone and was grand in its time and place. The east chimney, which extends only half way out, is somewhat unique. The woodwork and moldings inside the house are original.

Come out and enjoy a taste of history and good food with old and new friends.

The Jones Mill Historic District and the Thomas Swearingen House are located on Dam 4 Road in the town of Scrabble.