1852- Map of Jefferson County Virginia By S. Howell Brown

From Actual Survey with the Farm Limits 1852

This map was donated to The Historic Shepherdstown Museum by Mary Hartzell Dobbins. It was restored in 2022 with funds from a grant from Americana Corner.

The Map

S. Howell Brown was a teenager when he agreed to publish a Map of Jefferson County. He modeled his map on the Map of Delaware County (Pennsylvania). That map included two important features: “the exact farm limits of every farm of any size in the county with the owner’s name inserted,” and “every road—stream—mill—saw-mill—blacksmithshop—tavern— church—schoolhouse—country store—and in fact everything notable or worthy of notice.”

He began soliciting subscriptions for the map in 1848, and once he met his goal of 200, he began surveying the county. Four years later, the five-color Map of Jefferson County was complete. The map was oriented so that the county appeared to be lying on its side, which made it easier to read when mounted on a wall.

In 1847, Jefferson County became the second county in Virginia to establish free public schools for white students. Jefferson County was divided into 27 school districts, and Brown’s map showed each district’s boundary. It also included the boundary of every farm in the county as well as the name of the landowner in 1852.

The map features four illustrations: a view looking west on Washington Street in Charles Town; a view of The Gap and the U.S. Armory grounds in Harpers Ferry; a view of Shepherdstown as seen across the Potomac River from Ferry Hill; and the Shannondale Resort on the Shenandoah River. Brown reported the Fall in the Shenandoah River because of its importance as a source of power. He also noted turnpikes, ferries, bridges, fords in the river, railroads, sawmills, and gristmills.

The Mapmaker

  • S. Howell Brown (1831-1905)

    S. (Samuel) Howell Brown was born in Jefferson County, Virginia, in 1831, the son of James M. Brown and Sarah Howell Brown. His father James was the long-time antebellum Surveyor of Jefferson County, and it is presumed that Howell Brown learned both surveying and cartography from his father. In 1848, while working with his father as Deputy Surveyor, Brown produced his first map, Map of Harper’s Ferry – Prepared in compliance with Letter to Major Symington. Four years later, he produced the Map of Jefferson County Virginia followed 30 years later by his Map of Jefferson County West Virginia. Those two maps, both in this exhibit, are considered the most important 19th century maps of Jefferson County.

    During the Civil War, Brown served in the Confederate Army in the Engineering Department. Brown produced several maps including the Map of the Battle-Fields of Harper’s Ferry and Sharpsburg following General Robert Lee’s 1862 Maryland Campaign, and in October 1862, he drew the Map of Jefferson County VA, also in this exhibit.

    In 1869, Brown, now the Surveyor of Jefferson County, was called upon by the War Department to produce an accurate map of its holdings in Harpers Ferry, resulting in Map of Harper’s Ferry – Plat of the Harper’s Ferry Armory Property. One of his last maps was Plan of Middleway Jefferson County West Va. as Incorporated in 1831.

    A strong proponent of his friend Postmaster General William Lyne Wilson’s plan for a system of rural free delivery of the mails, Brown designed the routes that postal carriers followed as they delivered the mail throughout the county.

    In 1885, Brown married Annie Lee Wager of Culpeper, Virginia. They had four daughters and two sons. Brown died January 24, 1905, at age 74, and was buried in the graveyard at Zion Episcopal Church in Charles Town.