Jefferson County is the easternmost county of the U.S. state of West Virginia. As of the 2010 census the population was 53,498. Its county seat is Charles Town. The county was founded in 1801.
Jefferson County is part of the Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV Metropolitan Statistical Area.
- 1 History
- 1.1 Formation
- 1.2 John Brown Rebellion
- 1.3 Civil War
- 1.4 Joining West Virginia
- 1.5 Rural Free Delivery
- 2 Geography
- 2.1 National protected area
- 2.2 Major highways
- 2.3 Adjacent counties
- 2.4 Rivers and streams
- 3 Demographics
- 4 Communities
- 4.1 Cities
- 4.2 Towns
- 4.3 Census-designated places
- 4.4 Unincorporated communities
- 4.5 Magisterial districts
- 5 Historic buildings and structures
- 6 See also
- 7 References
- 8 External links
Jefferson County was formed from Berkeley County in 1801 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 was lost to form the new state of Kentucky. Accordingly, in the State records of Virginia, there will be listings for Jefferson County from 1780-1792 and Jefferson County from 1801-1863. Neither is still located in Virginia and despite naming a county after him twice, Virginia no longer has a county named for its hero Thomas Jefferson.
John Brown Rebellion
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 Green 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.
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 were legally free as of January 1, 1863.
The Courthouse of Charles Town is the only Courthouse in America to have held two treason trials including the trial of John Brown in 1859 and a trial regarding coal companies from the southern part of the state.
Joining West Virginia
Both Berkeley and Jefferson counties had voted for secession in the vote taken on May 23, 1861. However, these 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 in a dubious election supervised by the occupying Union Army. 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.
Yet in recent years, there has been serious talk about the possibility of certain counties in the Eastern Panhandle rejoining the Commonwealth of Virginia. Frustrated by bad economic conditions and what they perceive to be neglect from the Charleston government, this movement has gained at least some momentum. In 2011, West Virginia state delegate Larry Kump sponsored legislation to allow Morgan, Berkeley, and Jefferson counties to rejoin Virginia by popular vote.
Rural Free Delivery
In October 1896, Jefferson County became the first county in the United States to begin Rural Free Delivery service.
Tripoint of Virginia, West Virginia, and Maryland in Potomac River east of Harper's Ferry and the lowest point in West Virginia.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 212 square miles (550 km2), of which 210 square miles (540 km2) is land and 2.0 square miles (5.2 km2) (1.0%) is water. It is the only West Virginia county where the Blue Ridge Mountains and Shenandoah River that John Denver sang about in the song "Take Me Home, Country Roads" can be found. The lowest point in the state of West Virginia is located on the Potomac River (just east of Harpers Ferry) in Jefferson County, where it flows out of West Virginia and into Maryland.
National protected area
- Harpers Ferry National Historical Park (part)
- U.S. Highway 340
- West Virginia Route 9
- West Virginia Route 45
- West Virginia Route 51
- West Virginia Route 115 (Old West Virginia Route 9)
- West Virginia Route 230
- Washington County, Maryland (north)
- Loudoun County, Virginia (east)
- Clarke County, Virginia (southwest)
- Berkeley County (northwest)
Rivers and streams
- Potomac River
- Shenandoah River
|U.S. Decennial Census