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Jefferson County, West Virginia, USA

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  • John Ridgeway, Jr. (1757 - c.1795)
    John Ridgeway Birth: 1757 - Prince George's County, Maryland Death: 1796 - Berkely, West Virginia Parents: John Ridgeway and Mary Tenley Spouse: Rachel Riley Children Elizabeth Ridgway 1...
  • Capt. Thomas C. Shepherd, Sr. (1705 - 1776)
    Capt Thomas C. Shepherd, Sr. BIRTH 1705 Prince George's County, Maryland, USA DEATH 1776 (aged 70–71) Shepherdstown, Jefferson County, West Virginia, USA BURIAL Shepherd Burial Ground Shepherdst...
  • George M Ott (1863 - 1933)
    August 12, 1891. To this union were born six children, four girls and two boys. Member of the Methodist Protestant church Obituary- George M. Ott, of Chesterville, Wood County, formerly well kno...
  • Logan Osburn (1812 - 1891)
    Reference: Find A Grave Memorial - SmartCopy : Dec 1 2022, 23:14:28 UTC * Residence : 1850 - Jefferson county, part of, Jefferson, Virginia, USA** Reference: 1850 United States Federal Census - SmartCo...
  • Major Alfred Madison Barbour (1829 - 1866)
    Superintendant of the Harper's Ferry Armory during John Brown's Raid. Confederate officer. Born in Culpeper County, VA. Attended University of Virginia and Harvard Law School. Prewar legislator. Superi...

This project is a table of contents for all projects relating to this County of West Virginia. Please feel free to add profiles of anyone who was born, lived or died in this county.

Jefferson County was established on October 26, 1801 from Berkeley County because the citizens of southeastern Berkeley County felt they had to travel too far to the county seat of Martinsburg. Charles Washington, the founder of Charles Town and brother to George Washington, petitioned for a new county to be formed. It was named for Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence and third President of the United States. Virginia previously had a Jefferson County, which is now part of Kentucky. Accordingly, in the State records of Virginia, there are listings for Jefferson County from 1780 to 1792 and Jefferson County from 1801 to 1863, neither of which are still in Virginia.

The county's courthouse was the site of the trial for the abolitionist John Brown after his October 1859 raid on the federal armory in Harpers Ferry. Some 90 U.S. Marines serving under then Army Colonel Robert E. Lee and Lieutenants J.E.B. Stuart and Israel Greene put down the rebellion.

Brown was sentenced to death for murder, treason against the Commonwealth of Virginia, and conspiring with slaves to rebel. On 2 December 1859 John Brown was taken from the Charles Town jail a short distance to an open field and hanged. Among those attending the Brown execution was a contingent of 1500 cadets from Virginia Military Institute sent by the Governor of Virginia Henry A. Wise under the supervision of Major William Gilham and Major Thomas J. Jackson. In the ranks of a Richmond militia company stood John Wilkes Booth. Walt Whitman was also present.

The county was a frequent site of conflict during the Civil War, as Union and Confederate lines moved back and forth along the Shenandoah Valley. Some towns in the county changed hands between the Union and Confederacy over a dozen times, including Charles Town, and especially Harpers Ferry.

Jefferson County is the only part of modern-day West Virginia not exempted from the effects of the Emancipation Proclamation (as Berkeley County and the 48 counties designated as West Virginia had been). Slaves in the county thus were legally free as of January 1, 1863.

The Jefferson County Courthouse is the only courthouse in America to have held two treason trials: the trial of John Brown in 1859 and a trial arising from the Battle of Blair Mountain labor rebellion.

Jefferson County had voted for secession in the vote taken on May 23, 1861. However, Jefferson County, along with Berkeley County, both counties lying on the Potomac River in the Shenandoah Valley, with the consent of the Reorganized Government of Virginia voted in favor of annexation to West Virginia in 1863.[citation needed] Virginia tried to nullify this after the American Civil War, but the counties remained part of West Virginia.

The question of the constitutionality of the formation of the new state was brought before the Supreme Court of the United States in the following manner: Berkeley and Jefferson County, West Virginia, counties lying on the Potomac east of the mountains, in 1863, with the consent of the Reorganized Government of Virginia, had supposedly voted in favor of annexation to West Virginia. However, many voters were absent in the Confederate Army when the vote was taken and they refused to accept the transfer upon their return. The Virginia General Assembly repealed the Act of Secession and in 1866 brought suit against West Virginia, asking the Supreme Court to declare the counties still part of Virginia. Congress, on March 10, 1866, passed a joint resolution recognizing the transfer. In 1871, the U.S. Supreme Court decided Virginia v. West Virginia, upholding the "secession" of West Virginia, including Berkeley and Jefferson counties, from Virginia. In 2011, West Virginia state delegate Larry Kump sponsored legislation to allow Morgan, Berkeley, and Jefferson counties to rejoin Virginia by popular vote.

In 1863, West Virginia's counties were divided into civil townships, with the intention of encouraging local government. This proved impractical in the heavily rural state, and in 1872 the townships were converted into magisterial districts. Jefferson County was initially divided into five townships, which became magisterial districts in 1872: Averill, Bolivar, Chapline, Grant, and Shepherd. In 1873, Averill District was renamed "Middleway", Chapline became "Potomac", and Grant District became "Charlestown". Two additional districts, Harpers Ferry and Osburn, were created during the 1870s. In the 1880s, Bolivar District was annexed by Harpers Ferry; Potomac and Shepherd were consolidated into Shepherdstown District, and Osburn was renamed "Kabletown".

In October 1896, Jefferson County became the first county in the United States to begin Rural Free Delivery service in the towns of Halltown and Uvilla.


Cemeteries of West Virginia