1762 – Hand-Drawn Plat of Mecklenburgh

The Map

This plat is believed to be the earliest map of the layout of Mecklenburgh, later renamed Shepherd’s Town and then Shepherdstown. It is possible that Thomas Shepherd used it to obtain his initial Charter for the town on December 23, 1762.

Of the 222 acres of land along the Potomac River that Shepherd purchased in 1734, he designated 50 acres for his town. Although the grid contains 150 units, only 96 actual lots were delineated. By 1798, Mecklenburgh had been renamed Shepherd’s Town and had increased in size. As a result, a new plat was drawn up. In his 1931 publication History of Shepherdstown 1730-1931, Clifford S. Musser surmised that the original 96-lot plat for Mecklenburgh had likely been destroyed when the new 1798 plat was drawn. He noted that his search for it in both Winchester and Richmond had been unsuccessful.

Fortuitously, the Historic Shepherdstown Museum obtained this plat, along with other Shepherdstown-related documents, from a rare book and paper dealer in 2004. No provenance information accompanied this map, and there are no inscriptions or dates on the document.

The Map’s Conservation

In 2005, the Historic Shepherdstown Museum hired paper conservator Susan A. Nash to examine and conserve the document. Nash determined that the paper was linen laid with a watermark, possibly dating it to prior to 1762. The grid lines were drawn with iron gall ink and later retraced during an early restoration. Linen laid, or rag paper, was common in the 1700s and iron gall ink, commonly a mixture of ferrous sulfate and oak apples (galls), was the standard ink of the 18th century.

The conservation revealed that a second paper, also a rag paper, had been glued to the original document to reinforce it after the map was initially drawn. An illegible notation found on the back of the reinforcement paper indicated two names, but it is unclear who they are or why these names appear. The second paper was removed, allowing for a reading of an inscription on the back of the plat. However, due to the aging of the document and fading of the ink, only a partial reading was obtained. It said, in part, “…Town Plat Course of the Run from the Saw Mill, Course of the River, & Bearing from the Separate Land”.