Family Histories Presented at Shepherdstown 250th Anniversary Coming Home Parade Sunday, November 11, 2012
The town of Shepherdstown wrapped up its year-long 250th Anniversary celebration with a series of events on Sunday, November 11, 2012.
These events included a 3:00 p.m. “Coming Home Parade,” a 4:00 p.m. closing ceremony, and an evening “Soup Fest” at various locations around the town.
The parade was held on German Street. The only marchers were descendants and representatives of 58 of the town’s historic families. Music was provided by fifes and drums from the Shepherdstown Middle School Band and drummers from the Jefferson High School Band. Antique vehicles were furnished by several local residents and the Hub City Model A Club of Hagerstown, the Greater Baltimore Model A Club, and the George Washington Chapter of the Model A Club of America in Fairfax, Virginia.
The historic families were arranged in alphabetical order and each family carried a sign that displayed the family’s name. As the parade passed McMurran Hall, parade announcer Jerry Mays, of Martinsburg’s WRNR Radio, gave a brief account of each family’s history.
These family histories are reproduced below. They were prepared by 250th Anniversary Signature Events and Legacy Committee members Betty Anne Lowe, Jerry Thomas, and Peter Smith, based on information submitted by the families.
Our first family in the parade is the Banks family.
The family is descended from Washington Banks, born in 1812.
His eldest son, George Washington Banks was born in 1855 at Molers Cross Roads. During the Civil War, his parent’s home was destroyed and he, his father, and his brothers had to work as farm laborers to support the family.
George graduated from Shepherd College, taught school and was its principal. In 1889 he married Imogene Tanner, the daughter of a doctor, and had two children.
At the age of 38 he attended the University of Maryland and received a medical degree in 1897. He was a popular doctor, taking good caring of his patients, especially the poor.
He was also active in the fire department, a member of the Town Council for four terms, head of the local Board of Health for over ten years, and was president of the school board for 22 years.
The family is represented today by Thomas Banks of Maryland; Lucille Banks Waltz, of Shepherdstown; and other family members.
Next we have the Bedinger family.
The Bedingers were among the earliest settlers of Shepherdstown. Two brothers, Henry and Peter, each bought four of the original town lots in 1764. Their family had immigrated to America from Alsace in 1737.
Henry had three sons who were raised in Shepherdstown and served in the American Revolution. One was Henry, who later served in the Virginia Assembly. Another, George Michael, became a leader in the Indian wars in Kentucky and Ohio and served two terms as the first congressman from Kentucky. He was married to Henrietta Clay, Henry Clay’s aunt. The third son, Daniel, who lied about his age to enlist, was a British prisoner of war on a ship in New York harbor.
Daniel’s son, also Henry, was named the first US Ambassador to Denmark and served two terms in Congress. He was the father of Danske Bedinger Dandridge, who we will hear more about later.
About a dozen direct descendants of the first Henry Bedinger are present for today’s parade, led by Mr. and Mrs. John Bedinger, of Reston, Virginia.
Now we have the Beltzhoover family.
The first Beltzhoover in Shepherdstown was George Beltzhoover Sr., who was born in 1844 and moved here in 1866, after having had the distinction of hearing Abraham Lincoln deliver the Gettysburg Address.
He was an attorney and married a local girl, Lucy Entler. He was one of the founders of Shepherd College and the Jefferson Security Bank and served on the boards of both organizations for many years until his death in 1935. For 60 years he was also president of the Shepherdstown Branch of the American Bible Society.
His son, George Jr., also an attorney, attended Shepherd College and then WVU. His senior thesis was about James Rumsey, and that paper eventually led to the re-establishment of the Rumseyan Society and the construction of the Rumsey Park monument.
Representing the family today are George Sr.’s great granddaughter, Betsy Butzner Greene, and her husband, Jim, who live in Annandale, Virginia.
Coming down the street now is the Billmyer family.
David Billmyer was one of the town’s most illustrious 19th Century citizens. He owned 1,400 acres in the area and had many business interests, including the first toll bridge across the Potomac River here.
David served as town councilman and treasurer, and as a member of the House of Delegates. Confederate forces burned his toll bridge in 1861 and for that and other reasons he remained a Unionist during the Civil War and a Republican thereafter.
He is buried in Elmwood Cemetery along with 77 other Billmyers.
The family is represented by Samuel Robert Billmyer and his family from Shepherdstown, and Daniel Peck, from the Baltimore area.
Next is the Boteler family.
Alexander Boteler was born in Shepeherdstown in 1815. He graduated from Princeton in 1835 and returned home to farm his father’s estate. He was active politically and served in the United States Congress from 1859 to 1861.
Like many Virginians of the time, he was a unionist who didn’t favor succession. But when Virginia joined the Confederacy he sided with his state. During the War, he was a member of General Stonewall Jackson’s senor staff and served in the Confederate Congress.
For this, his home, which stood where Morgan’s Grove Park is now, was burned to the ground by Federal forces in 1864.
After the war he held appointed federal posts under presidents Arthur and Cleveland. He was one of the founders of Shepherd College and helped bring the first rail line to Shepherdstown.
He is represented here today by another distinguished Southern gentleman, town resident Dabney Chapman.
Coming up now is the Branson family, represented by Clifford Branson, who is often called “the unofficial mayor of Shepherdstown.”
The Bransons are an old and large Shepherdstown family whose roots here date back at least to the early 19th Century.
Descendents of those earliest Bransons have been involved in many civic and religious activities. Notable examples are Charles Branson and his wife Jane.
He was a Storer College alumnus and World War II veteran who had a long career at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center. He served on the Town Council, the deacon board at St. John’s Baptist Church and the founding board of the Shepherdstown Day Care Center.
She was a long-time lay leader of the Asbury United Methodist Church and a member of the NAACP.
Shepherd University alumnus Robert Holmes has established a scholarship at the university in honor of the Branson, Stubbs and Washington families of Shepherdstown.
Next in the parade is Susannah Buckles Flanagan, representing the Buckles family.
The first Buckles in this area was Robert Buckles, who was born in England in 1702. He came to America in 1719 and settled initially in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, where he married Ann Brown and started a family.
They moved here around 1732 with 16 other families, including Edward Lucas. They all settled outside of what is now Shepherdstown on Rattlesnake Run.
Robert served in Captain Richard Morgan’s Company during the French and Indian War. It was then that, during a time when Robert and other men of the community were away with Morgan’s Company, a party of Indians came into the neighborhood, killing and scalping all the inhabitants they could find.
Robert’s wife and children were surprised in the night but managed to escape. In the confusion their two-year-old daughter, Jane, was left behind. She was scalped and left lying in the cabin.
Fortunately she survived, grew up to marry Daniel Hendricks, and lived to a ripe old age.
Speaking of ripe old ages, Susannah is the daughter of Frank Woodruff Buckles, who died last year at the age of 110. He was the last surviving American World War I veteran.
Byers, McKee & Yeasley
Next, we have Shepherdstown’s Historian Laureate, Dr. Jim Price, and members of his family, including his niece Nancy Moshier and her husband Bob and their children and grandchildren, and his cousin Joy Lewis and members of her family.
They are all descended from three early Shepherdstown families: Byers, McKee, and Yeasley.
The Byers came here from Germany in the 1740s. They were farmers. Jim’s maternal great-grandfather, George Byers, was first mayor of Shepherdstown after this area became West Virginia.
The first McKee to come here was John McKee, an Ulster Scot and staunch Presbyterian. He settled in Unionville (now Uvilla) in 1800 and spawned a large family of farmers, blacksmiths and wheelwrights. Several served in the Confederate Army. There are still many descendants here.
Michael Yeasley was born in Germany and served in the American Revolution as a member of a German battalion from Pennsylvania. He moved to Shepherdstown in 1789 and built the large stone house on German Street where the toy store is now. In 1798 he procured four bells from Germany for the Christ Reformed Church and had them transported here by ox cart. The bells are still there.
The Carter family is next.
The Carters arrived in Tidewater Virginia in the mid 17th Century, making them one of the earliest landowners in the Virginia Colony. They were farmers and business owners, and continued their trades when Berry Carter moved to this area during the Civil War, working as a blacksmith. He lived out his days here and is buried at Elmwood Cemetery.
Berry’s sons took up farming and operated some businesses in town, including the Shepherd Grist Mill.
Today, their numerous descendants are widely scattered around the Shepherdstown area. Several of them are with us today, including Kevin Carter of Shepherdstown.
Here are the Chaplines, represented by a descendant, Patty Martineau and her husband Neal.
The Chaplines were one of the town’s earliest families. William Chapline the Third secured a grant in 1730 for a 465-acre tract just north of Shepherdstown, where the Steamboat Run subdivision is now.
His son, Joseph, amassed land grants totaling some 13,000 acres across the river in Maryland and founded the town of Sharpsburg.
Now we have the Cookus family.
Henry Cookus, born in 1722, was among the earliest settlers of Shepherdstown, and the first of a long line of his family members who have left their mark here.
The Cookuses were among the first group of settlers to hold a formal worship service here and the family donated land for both the Lutheran and German Reformed churches.
Cookus family members served in the Revolution, dealt in farmland and town lots, and served as town constables.
The descendants representing the family today are the husband and children of the late Louise Cookus.
Louise’s father, Joseph Robert Cookus, and her grandfather, Joseph Lambright Cookus, operated a butcher shop on German Street.
Next is the Dandridge family.
This is a distinguished old Virginia family, descended from Colonel John Dandridge, who was Martha Washington’s father.
The family member who lived in Shepherdstown was Adam Stephen Dandridge the third, born in 1845. He was a great-great grandson of General Adam Stephen, the founder of Martinsburg. He was a prosperous farmer and landowner who served three terms in the West Virginia House of Delegates in the 1890s.
Locally, the family is today best known for Adam’s wife, Danske Bedinger Dandridge, who was the daughter of Henry Bedinger, a United States Ambassador to Denmark. Danske was a poet, historian and naturalist, and she was published widely in her day
The family is represented today by Caitlin McAteer, whose family lives in Rosebrake, where Adam and Danske Dandridge lived.
Next is the Entler family, represented here today by Bill Strider, a descendant, who lives in Ranson.
Philip Adam Entler was probably the first Entler here; he was born in Germany in 1717, and came to America in 1737. He settled first in Pennsylvania. He was an innkeeper and butcher. He died in 1799 and is buried in the Lutheran Cemetery.
It was Philip’s grandsons who made their mark on Shepherdstown as innkeepers in the 19th Century. Daniel owned and operated the Entler Hotel on lower German street for many years, and his brother owned and operated the Great Northern Hotel up the street.
Daniel’s hotel was the more upscale of the two; it was where the gentry would have stayed.
Joseph’s hotel catered to the rougher wagon trade, serving wagon trains and drovers who moved goods and cattle across the Potomac here at Pack Horse Ford.
Next in the parade is the Fleming family.
Joseph and Catherine Fleming settled in Shepherdstown well before the Civil War and their descendants still live in Shepherdstown and the surrounding area.
Joseph Fleming was a prominent businessman active in the affairs of the town. He was a member of the town council and the St. Peter’s Lutheran Church, where he was instrumental in the purchase of the pipe organ still in use today.
Joseph and Catherine’s son, John, was also active in town affairs, serving as town clerk. Their daughter, Ida May Fleming, was one of the first women to graduate from Shepherd College, earning her degree in 1877.
Representing the family today are three generations of Ida May Fleming’s descendants. They include Marianne Alexander, who’s wearing Ida May’s “Sunday best” outfit found in a family trunk, and Kristin Alexander, who’s wearing a sun bonnet of Ida May’s that hung for years on the hall coat rack in her home.
Next is the Folk family, represented by George Welch Folk, from Martinsburg, and relatives.
The Folks are descended from Friedrich Volk, who came to America from Germany.
Frederich and his wife Sophia lived first in Pennsylvania and raised a large family there but moved to Shepherdstown in time for a son named George to be born here in 1786.
George married Lurana Byers. Her father, Conrad, was one of Shepherdstown’s original trustees after the Virginia Assembly granted the residents the power to form a government and elect their own officers in 1793.
Their descendants have been farming in this area ever since, and the family has been continuously involved in the Farm at Swan Pond since 1828. The George Folk who is with us today is carrying on that tradition.
Grantham, Boyd, Robinson and Clark
Next is Wanda Smith and her family, who are descendants of four old Shepherdstown families: the Granthams, Boyds, Robinsons, and Clarks.
Wanda’s grandfather, John Edward Grantham, worked at the Entler Hotel when it was a Shepherd College dormitory, which it became after the hotel closed for the last time in 1917.
All of these four families have been in Jefferson County and have lived in Shepherdstown all their lives, residing on West High Street.
Next we have the Hawn family.
The Hawns have been in Jefferson County for many years.
One Hawn ancestor, David Hawn, served in Company F of the 1st Virginia Cavalry, known as the Shepherdstown Regiment, in the Civil War. He was captured at Gettysburg in July 1863 and spent the reminder of the war in various POW camps. He is buried at Elmwood Cemetery.
Hawn descendants still live in Berkeley and Jefferson counties.
Representing the family are descendants Penny Carter Pickles of Martinsburg and her mother.
Now we have the Hedges family, represented by descendant Vivian Park Snyder of Martinsburg and members of her family.
Hedges family members were prominent among the early settlers of Berkeley County. Peter, Joshua, Benjamin, and Samuel Hedges all owned land in the county at the time of the Revolution. The town of Hedgesville was laid out in 1830 on land originally settled by Josiah Hedges.
The Hedges family illustrates the interconnectedness of many of this area’s early families. Through marriages, today’s Hedges are related to many of Shepherdstown’s prominent early families, including the Lemens, the Thornburgs, and the Shepherds.
The Hedges are also marching as members of the Lemen family, and the group includes Chet and Cindi Bushong from Lancaster, Pennsylvania. They are here to represent a Lemen Cousin, Almrya Lemen, who passed away two years ago.
Next up is the Hendricks family.
Most, if not all, of this family’s local members are descended from Albert Hendricks who was born in Holland in1641. He and his wife Lysbeth came to America in 1662 and settled in Pennsylvania.
One of Albert’s great grandsons, James Hendricks, moved to Sandy Ridge near Shenandoah Junction around 1760.
His son, Daniel, was a giant of a man, seven feet tall, known as “Big Dan.” He served in the Revolutionary War in Captain William Darke’s company and, as we noted earlier, married Robert Buckles daughter, Jane.
The Hendricks family prospered here, eventually owning some 1,000 acres and intermarrying with many other old families, such as the Osbournes and Snyders.
Two groups of Hendricks are with us here today. Jay Hendricks and his family, who live on River Road, and Erick Hendricks Jenkins and his mother, Teresa Hendricks, who live on Uvilla Road.
Next is the Hoge family, represented by Randy Tremba, the current pastor of the Shepherdstown Presbyterian Church, and some of his parishioners.
The Presbyterian Church is the town’s oldest congregation, established in 1743, and Moses Hoge was its first full-time, resident minister.
He served in that capacity for twenty years, from 1787 to 1807, and it’s said that the church grew rapidly in influence and numbers under his stewardship.
He then went on to become the President of Hampden-Sydney College and a professor of divinity at Virginia’s Union Theological Seminary.
He died in Philadelphia in 1820 and is buried there. A plaque that marks his grave states that he was “a man of genius, profound erudition and ardent piety.”
Now we have the Humrickhouse family, represented by a descendant, State Senator Herb Snyder.
Two Humrickhouse brothers settled in Shepherdstown in the early 19th Century. They were sons of Captain Peter Humrickhouse, a Pennsylvanian who had served with distinction in the Revolutionary war.
One of the brothers was named Samuel, the other Albert. Both married into established Shepherdstown families.
Albert owned a coach line that ran from Boonsboro through Shepherdstown to points west. In 1834, one of his sons was killed when the coach he was driving had an accident near Winchester. One of the passengers was one of the most famous Americans of the time, United States Senator Henry Clay, who was traveling from Kentucky to Washington.
Clay escaped unharmed and later sent a letter of condolences to the boy’s parents.
The Humrickhouses were skilled carpenters and musicians and, later, photographers.
Next we have the Knode family, represented by Bill Knode.
The Knodes, of German stock, came down from Pennsylvania to Sharpsburg, Maryland, before the Civil War and have remained active in this area ever since.
Bill’s great-great-grandfather Urias, was strongly involved with the Episcopal Church and other community activities.
When the C&O Canal was in its heyday, the family started a store just across the river in the place called Bridgeport, selling supplies to the canal-boat owners and their families.
Eventually, as the canal failed, the family moved their operations to Shepherdstown, first selling coal and ice and then farm supplies. Their farm-supply store finally closed just last year.
Bill is still chairman of the board of Jefferson Security Bank.
Now we have the Knott family
The Knotts settled here in the early l820s. Over the years, they’ve operated a variety of successful businesses.
Some quarried stone, shipping it to Washington on the C&O canal for the construction of government buildings.
Others have been farmers. Willow Well Farm outside Shepherdstown is still farmed by Knotts.
Samuel Tanner Knott served the community as a physician from the l880s through the l920s, and also served on the County Court.
The family helped construct the Methodist Church at Moler’s Crossroads in the 1870s and in still active in that congregation.
Members of the family have served in most of the country’s wars.
The Knott family is represented today by descendants Susan Knott and her granddaughter, Livia; Martha Knott Putz; Linda Peralta and her children, Lawson and Katherine, and Linda’s brother, Samuel Mills.
Now we have the Lemen family.
The Lemens are one of the county’s oldest families. Nicholas Lemen obtained the first land grant from Lord Fairfax in the Kearneysville area in 1756.
The family is represented here today by Elizabeth Snyder Lowe and members of her family. They are all direct descendents of William Lemen, of Shepherdstown, who was born in 1756.
William served as a captain in the Revolutionary War, and died in 1809. He is buried in the Episcopal Cemetery. He was married to a granddaughter of Thomas Shepherd, Mercy Thornburg.
Their son, Willoughby Newton Lemen, was a prominent local merchant who traded in grain and coal and served as a lieutenant in the Civil War. He owned the Bellevue estate before it was acquired by the Shepherd family in 1900. His business ledger and diary are in the manuscript collections of the West Virginia State Archives.
Our next family is the Links, represented by Cindy Jones Nicewarner and members of her family.
They are descendants of John Jacob Link who arrived in Philadelphia on a ship named “Hope” in 1733. His grandson, John Adam Link Junior, was an Ensign in the Catoctin Battalion of the Frederick County Maryland militia in the American Revolution.
He built a house outside Shepherdstown in 1788 and the Link family has been well represented here ever since.
Many members of this family are also descended from the Buckles, Hendricks and Osbourn families.
The links celebrated their 60th Annual Link Family Reunion this August.
Now we have the Lowe family, represented by Ken Lowe and his relatives.
The Lowes came to the Eastern Panhandle from Loudoun County. Virginia.
Ken’s grandfather farmed in Jefferson and Berkeley counties, then moved to Shepherdstown and became the town’s only policeman.
Cletus Lowe was a football coach at the local High School and also at Shepherd College.
Ken is one of the area’s leading businessmen. He has been active in real estate and business development and property management.
Our next marcher is John Lucas, of Martinsburg. He is the great-great grandson of Edward Lucas the Fifth, who was born in Shepherdstown in 1780.
Edward, for his part, was a great-great grandson of the first Lucas to settle here, Edward Lucas Junior.
Edward the Fifth was an important figure in his own right. He graduated from Dickenson College in 1809, served in the War of 1812 as a first lieutenant and acting captain, and then practiced law here and “engaged in mercantile pursuits.”
He served in the Virginia House of Delegates six times between 1819 and 1831, and then served in the United States Congress from 1833 to 1837.
In his later years, he was the Military Storekeeper of Ordinance at the Harpers Ferry Armory.
Next up is the Marshall family.
The earliest Marshall in the Shepherdstown area was William Marshall Sr., who arrived in Virginia in the mid to late 18th century. His son James Marshall is credited with building the Marshall family home where members of the family lived until the late 20th century.
The Marshall’s have long been associated with the rich fruit-growing heritage of the Shenandoah Valley.
They are represented here today by Miss Mable Jo Cotgreave, a 10th generation Marshall, along with various members of her family. Mable is one of the youngest Marshalls in Jefferson County.
Our next family is the Martin family, represented by Upton Martin the Third and other family members.
Martin’s grandfather, Upton Martin Senior, was a prominent businessman in Shepherdstown in the early 20th Century.
He purchased the Thomas Shepherd Grist Mill in 1904, moving the mill’s giant iron wheel 100 feet uphill to the mill to increase its efficiency.
He built the Mill House that’s now on the National Register of Historic Places and built Opera House that’s still in use today on German Street.
He brought the first gas station to Shepherdstown, in the building that now houses the Blue Moon Café.
He was mayor of the town for six terms.
Now we have the McMurran family.
Joseph McMurran was the first principal of Shepherd College.
A Shepherdstown native, he graduated from Hampton-Sydney College in 1852 and became a teacher.
When the Civil War broke out, he enlisted in the Stonewall Brigade. He was wounded twice and spent six months in a Union prison.
After the war, he helped found Shepherd College and served as its principal for ten years, until 1882.
He later operated a drug store here but remained a strong supporter of Shepherd and served on its Board of Trustees. He died in 1902.
He is represented here today by members of Shepherd University’s McMurran Scholars Association. These individuals are all recipients of the University’s McMurran Scholar Award, which is the institution’s highest academic honor.
Here come the Morgans, lots of them.
They are all descended from Richard Morgan, one of this area’s earliest settlers, who arrived here from Wales in 1732.
Early on, Richard secured grants for several thousand acres of land in this vicinity. He sold 50 of them to Thomas Shepherd, who owned adjacent land, and much of present-day Shepherdstown sits on those 50 acres.
Just south of present-day Shepherdstown, Morgan built a small stone house that still stands today above a spring. That is where the famous Bee Line March to Boston began in 1775.
In the 1830s, Richard’s grandson, Jacob, built a mansion nearby called Falling Spring, which also still stands today.
Jacob’s son, William, served as a Colonel under Robert E. Lee during the Civil War and was involved in many major battles.
Many Morgan descendants still live in Shepherdstown, including Mary Ann, D.L. and Ross Morgan, Holly Morgan Frye, George Alwin, and Diane Boppe.
Next is the Osbourn family, represented by descendants Sandra Osbourn, who lives in Shepherdstown, and her cousin James Stuart Osbourn, who is from New York City
The first Osborn to come to America was David, an Irish Presbyterian from Ulster. He built a home in 1737 near present-day Shenandoah Junction.
During the French and Indian War he served in Captain Richard Morgan’s company, and took part in General Braddock’s ill-fated march.
Afterwards, he was active in the community, serving on juries and supervising the construction and repair of roads. He was constable of Berkeley County in 1772.
He had two sons, David and William. David’s wife, Margaret, is said to have been one of the earliest Shepherdstown residents to embrace Methodist teachings.
William married Mary, a daughter of Robert Buckles.
Now we have the Quigley family.
John Quigley was a doctor in Shepherdstown in the 19th Century. He was born in 1802 in Shippinsburg, Pennsylvania and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania Medical School in 1823.
He married Mary Swearingen of Shepherdstown in 1827 and practiced medicine here until his death in 1883.
During the aftermath of the battle of Antietam, he and Mary took 34 wounded confederate soldiers into their home on German Street, and their children helped care for them. Imagine what that must have been like.
The Quigleys are represented here today by a descendant, Snowdon Byron, of Shepherdstown, and members of her family.
Next in the parade is Etta Ray Griffin, of Westminster, Maryland, who is the great-granddaughter of John Reason Ray.
John was a blacksmith who lived here in the 19th century and died in 1894.
He served many years as mayor. He was a member of the County Board of Supervisors in 1870, and was among those who fought unsuccessfully to keep the county seat from being taken back to Charles Town after the Civil War.
He has been described as a “colorful and highly respected” man. Shortly before he died, in recognition of his service, townspeople presented him with a gold-headed cane. Mrs. Griffin has recently donated this cane to the Shepherdstown museum.
Next in the parade is the Rickard family.
The Rickards were among the many skilled German craftsmen who settled in Shepherdstown in the 18th century.
The first Rickard here, Michael, was what was known at the time as a “whitesmith”¾someone who made locks, hardware, and small implements of unforged metal.
The buildings that housed his shop and home still stand on West German Street; his descendants continued to live and work there for many years.
The family is best known for its locks. They invented a particular kind of lock, known as a screw lock, that was widely used by railroads.
Legend has it that the Rickards also made the handcuffs John Brown wore at his trial in Charles Town in 1859.
The family is represented today by a descendant, James Harrison Rickard, of Martinsburg, and his wife, Nancy.
Coming down the street now are members of the Rumsey family, riding in the town’s replica of James Rumsey’s boat.
James Rumsey was an inventor and early steamboat pioneer who is famous for successfully exhibiting a working steamboat in Shepherdstown on December 3, 1787. This was twenty years before Robert Fulton constructed his boat.
Rumsey moved to England the next year to secure patents and seek financial backing. Sadly, he was stricken with a severe pain in his head right after delivering a lecture in London and died. He is buried in that city.
Representing the family are two sets of Rumsey descendants: they include Nicholas and Monica Rumsey, from Richmond, Virginia, and David and Debbie Rumsey and Jodi Rumsey Keyes, from Nazareth, Pennsylvania.
Now we have the Schley family.
The Schleys of Shepherdstown are descended from John Thomas Schley, an immigrant schoolmaster who led a group of Germans to Frederick, Maryland in 1735. He is said to have built the first house in that town.
The first Schley to settle in Shepherdstown was John Edward Schley, who arrived in 1844 after he married Mary Towner. For four generations, the family lived in the house known as Rockland on Kearneysville Pike.
The family is represented today by descendant John Schley and some of his relatives.
John is a veteran of World War II as well as of the Korean and Viet Nam wars. He served a long career commanding ships of the US Navy.
His late brother, Ben Schley, also a World War II veteran, was a famous fly fisherman. Ben’s fishing companions included presidents Dwight Eisenhower and Jimmy Carter and the industrialist Howard Hughes.
Now we have the Sheetz family, perhaps the best-known of the German artisan families who settled in Shepherdstown in the 18th Century.
The first Sheetzes here were Phillip and Henry, gunsmiths who came from York County, Pennsylvania before 1775.
They supplied guns for the famous Bee Line March, and one of their brothers, Adam, was part of the march. Afterwards they continued to supply guns to the Virginia Militia throughout the Revolutionary War.
After the War, many of Phillip’s and Henry’s sons and grandsons continued gunsmithing here, and their guns are prized by collectors.
Descendants of the Shepherdstown Sheetzes can be found all across the United States.
To prove that point the Sheetzes in our parade are Gene Sheets and his wife Joan, from California; his sister, Carol Sheets McFawn, and her husband Les, from Ohio; Gene’s daughter, Dora Sheets Simpson, and her family from Texas; and Dawson Sheetz and his family, from Illinois.
Coming down the street now are the Shepherds, led by Gay Shepherd Henderson, who still lives here in Shepherdstown, and her uncle, Thomas Shepherd, who lives in Stow, Massachusetts.
With them are Elizabeth Shepherd Scott, who now lives in Virginia Beach, Virginia; her daughter Ginny, who has come from North Carolina; her cousin Will Lashley, who has come all the way from London, England, with his wife Anna; Barham Lashley of Ithaca, New York, and four of his children; and many other Shepherds.
All of them, of course, are descended from our town’s founder, Thomas Shepherd. It was he who secured a tract of land here in 1734, laid out a town, and incorporated it in 1762.
He is the reason we are all here today, and we’re glad to see so many members of his family coming from all over to participate in this celebration.
Now we have the Shindler family, represented by Tom White, of the George Tyler Moore Center for the Study of the Civil War, which is located in the old Shindler house on German Street.
Conrad Shindler Senior migrated to America from Germany in 1752. He settled first in Pennsylvania, served in the Revolutionary War, then moved to Shepherdstown in 1792. He was a coppersmith.
His son, Conrad Jr., also a coppersmith, bought the German Street house in 1815, and established his shop and home there with his wife Elizabeth.
The family continued to live and work in the house until 1869, when they sold it to the German Reformed Church for a parsonage.
In 1995, the actress Mary Tyler Moore, a Shindler descendant, bought the house from the Reformed Church and donated it to Shepherd University to house the Civil War Center. The Center is named in honor of her father, George.
The Shindlers are another example of the town’s old German craftsmen families.
Next is the Show family, represented by descendants Ron and Bob Starry of Waynesboro, Pennsylvania.
The Shows first appeared in Shepherdstown in the 1810 Census, which indicates that George Show was residing here with his wife Margaret Ellen. They lived out their lives in Shepherdstown and are buried in the Reformed Church cemetery on German Street.
One of George’s sons, Joseph Collin Show, served in Company D of the 12th Virginia Roseers Brigade of the Army of Virginia during the Civil War.
The 19th Century piano in our town museum belonged to the Show family.
Ron’s uncle and Bob’s brother, Silas, was mayor of Shepherdstown for two terms, from 1972 to 1980.
Next is the Shutt family.
Philip Shutt was born in the 1750s in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. He moved here in 1790 with his wife Anna Maria and established a brewery known as “Philip Shutt’s Brewhouse.”
This was located in the row of stone buildings now known as Stone Row on the south side of East New Street.
Philip became a prominent citizen and was elected twice as a town trustee. He served as treasurer of St. Peter’s Lutheran Church for nearly 30 years.
For many years, local workers, including the Irish who built the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal in the 1830s, enjoyed “Shutt’s Cream Beer” and other products of the brewery.
Representing the Shutt family is our current Mayor, Jim Auxer, who lives in Stone Row, and other residents of those buildings.
Skinner & Thompson
Next is Margaret Rose Peterson and members of her family, who are descendants of the Skinner and Thompson families.
The Skinners came to the Shepherdstown area around 1830 and the Thompsons had arrived by 1850.
The families were joined when Milton Moore Skinner married Ella May Thompson in 1884. They were primarily farmers and orchardists, and they were instrumental in events leading to formation of the old Morgan’s Grove Fair in the late 19th Century.
Some family members pursued other occupations, including running the Entler Hotel and serving as the last owner-operators of the Thomas Shepherd Mill.
A large number of Skinners and Thompsons are buried in Elmwood Cemetery.
Next in the parade are the Snyders, represented by John Snyder, of Shepherdstown, and his family.
John is descended from another John Snyder, a native of Germany who came here before the Civil War and married a Frederick woman, Rachel Lambright.
He served in the Stonewall Brigade during the Civil War and was killed at the Battle of the Wilderness.
His son, Harry, grew up to become a printer and in 1884 became the sole proprietor of the Shepherdstown Register newspaper. He held that post until his death in 1935.
Harry has been described as “an editor of unusual ability, a perfect paragrapher, one who loved his home town and won recognition for his paper.”
Harry was committed to public service, serving on the boards of many nonprofit organizations. He was a great friend to Shepherd College and chaired the committee that planned the college’s first modern building, Knutti Hall, in 1903.
Shepherd’s science building is named for him.
Next is the Staley family, represented by descendants Jim and Peachy Staley of Shepherdstown.
The Staleys are descended from John Jacob Staley, who was born in Pennsylvania in 1720, and his wife Catherine, who was born in Germany. The couple moved to Shepherdstown in 1777.
Their children remained in the area, intermarrying with other old families such the Fishers, Yeasleys, and Hollidas.
Son Peter participated in the Bee Line March. The husband of daughter Sarah was likely the Peter Fisher of Shepherdstown who served in the siege of Yorktown in 1781. A Jacob Staley of the next generation fought in the War of 1812.
In peace, the Staleys were farmers and millers, establishing farms in the Scrabble and Rocky Marsh Run area.
Many of the early generations of Staleys are buried in the German Reformed Graveyard.
Next we have the Swearingen family, represented by descendants Don Amoroso, of Shepherdstown, and delegate John Overington.
Brothers Thomas and Van Swearingen were among the first settlers in the Shepherdstown area.
Both were awarded land grants in the 1730s.
Thomas was a prosperous landowner who operated the original ferry across the Potomac here. He successfully opposed George Washington for the local seat in the Virginia House of Burgesses in 1757, beating him by a vote of 270 to 40.
George was not amused by this and described Thomas as “a man of great weight with the meaner class of people.”
Thomas’s younger brother Van was also a large landowner. He fought in the French and Indian War and served as the local militia commander during the Revolution.
Now we have Cheryl Brown, of Shepherdstown, who is a member of the Verdier family.
Her ancestor, James Verdier, came here and bought property just southwest of Shepherdstown in 1771. There he built the home now known as “Rockland.”
According to his will, dated 1785, he owned a tanyard and lot in Shepherdstown. He provided wheat for the government’s use during the Revolution.
Family tradition says that James, a French Huguenot, and his wife Susannah, a Catholic, escaped persecution by fleeing in disguise to America with gold coins and other valuables sewn into the lining of their clothing.
James’s second son, Paul, was being educated to return to France to retrieve the family’s fortune when his father died. He never made that journey, and instead moved to Orange, Virginia in 1798.
“Rockland” remained in the Verdier family until 1836.
Coming down the street now is the Walper family, represented by a descendant, Barbara Knott Nickell, and members of her family.
The first Walper in the area, Casper Walper settled in Shepherdstown following the Revolutionary War probably because it probably reminded him of his native Germany.
He became active in the Reformed Church and later built and operated a successful Inn and tavern. The building still stands today as a residence at Walper’s Cross Roads.
Casper’s numerous descendants have included prominent farmers, teachers, military veterans, lawyers, and church and community leaders. Some held government positions and others have had careers in the business world.
At least five generations have graduated from Shepherd University
The Walper name in Shepherdstown is now extinct, but its spirit will continue to thrive in generations to come.”
Next in the parade are members of Shepherdstown’s Washington family: Francine Kidrick and Curtis Grantham.
They are grandchildren of Dora M Washington, and niece and nephew of Leon Washington, who were born and raised here.
Dora was very active in the community, serving on the Shepherdstown Outreach Committee, Interfaith Caregivers and the Shepherdstown Historical Commission.
Leon was a respected businessman who owned and operated the 5- & 10-cent store on German Street
Next is the Weis family, who were potters here in the 18th and 19th centuries.
They are represented today by two of the town’s current potters, Debbie Dickenson and Joan Johnston.
The first Weis, John Senior, founded a pottery in Hagerstown around 1750 and later established another pottery here.
He is regarded by some as the father of the Shenandoah potting tradition, with his influence extending down beyond Winchester to Strasburg.
Three generations of his descendents worked at their home and shop on the northwest corner of German and Duke Streets, first in a wooden house that burned in 1815 and later in the large brick house now on the site.
Among other items, they turned out an unglazed reddish brown pottery that is now prized by collectors. Examples can be seen in the Shepherdstown Museum.
Here is the Welshans family, represented by Elise Baach, who lives in the house on King Street where the Welshans lived.
Joseph Welshans was born here in 1804, and he worked as a farmer and a blacksmith. In 1838 he married Margaret Bennett Entler, and they had three children.
He served the town as councilman and treasurer, and then was mayor from 1857 to 1859, the crucial time leading up to the Civil War. He opposed secession when it came.
After the war, from 1872 to 1885, he concentrated on being town postmaster. He was a member of the Reformed Church for some 75 years, and he served for many years as superintendant of its Sunday School.
He died in 1897 at the age of 93.
Next we have David Lillard, the editor and publisher of the Observer newspaper, representing Nathaniel Willis, who was Shepherdstown’s first newspaper publisher.
Willis seems to have been a restless man.
He started out in Massachusetts, where he participated in the Boston Tea Party at the age of 18 and then published two different newspapers.
In 1784, he headed toward the western frontier, first publishing a paper in Winchester and then coming to Shepherdstown.
Here, from 1790 to 1791 he published the “Potowmac Guardian and Berkeley Advertiser.” This was the first newspaper in what is now West Virginia.
In 1792 he moved the paper to Martinsburg and published it there until he moved again in 1796. This time, he went way west to Chillicothe, Ohio.
He finally settled down there and lived out his days, first in newspapering and printing, and then as a farmer. He died in 1831.
Last but not least is the Wyncoop family, represented by Shepherdstown residents David and Susan Kemnitzer. They live in the large brick house on German Street that was built by Cornelius Wyncoop in 1792.
Cornelius was a tavern keeper, and he began operating a tavern in an earlier building on the same site in 1781.
His tavern was considered a fashionable stopover place for visitors for many years.
Wyncoop was very interested in James Rumsey’s steamboat experiments and he witnessed and attested to the success of Rumsey’s run on the Potomac in December, 1787.
Ironically, it’s said that one of Rumsey’s rivals, John Fitch of Connecticut, stayed at Wyncoop’s tavern while trying to gather intelligence on Rumsey’s activities.