1883 – Map of Jefferson County, West Virginia

S. Howell Brown, 1883

Map courtesy of the Library of Congress.

The Map

S. Howell Brown was elected Surveyor of Jefferson County in 1872, and in late 1882 he announced that a proof-sheet of his “New Map” could be viewed by the public. The updated map included every town, village and farm, as well as railroads, turnpikes, county and other roads, rivers, creeks, and branches. The completed map was published in September 1883 and in the opinion of the Spirit of Jefferson’s editor was “one of the handsomest maps we have ever seen.”

Brown’s 1883 map differed in several ways from the 1852 version. The 1883 version of the map is oriented so that the map’s top is north, the south is at the bottom, and west and east are on the left and right respectively. In deference to its importance as the county seat, Brown included a plat of “Charlestown” in the map’s upper left corner. Brown’s 1883 map has three instead of four illustrations; Shannondale Resort is no longer pictured.

When the West Virginia Constitution was revised in 1872, the state replaced townships with districts. Instead of school districts, Brown chose to indicate the boundaries of the five magisterial districts on the 1883 map.

One of the significant additions is the Shenandoah Valley Railroad. Entering Jefferson County on the border with Clarke County, the new railroad traveled south to north exiting Jefferson County at Shepherdstown, where it crossed the Potomac River into Maryland on a bridge built in 1878. The new rail line was responsible for a new town: Shenandoah Junction appeared on a Jefferson County map for the first time. The village marks the spot where the Shenandoah Valley line met and crossed the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad.

The map identified turnpikes, toll gates, mills, and the remaining ferry and river crossings. It also shows the names of property owners, including some who received land grants from Virginia Governor Gooch or Lord Fairfax.

The Mapmaker

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.