The Times West Virginian

February 25, 2013

Debate lingers

Romney, Shepherdstown both claim to be state’s oldest town

By Emily Gallagher
Times West Virginian

FAIRMONT — There is a debate regarding which town in West Virginia is the oldest, with both Shepherdstown in Jefferson County and Romney in Hampshire County making the claim.

According to the West Virginia Encyclopedia, Shepherdstown and Romney received their charters as incorporated towns on the same day, Dec. 23, 1762.

But the Journal of the Virginia House of Burgesses from 1761-1765 holds the answer to which town was first established.

The House of Burgesses was the lower house of the colony, which is compared to the current House of Delegates or U.S. House of Representatives. The upper house was the Council of the colony and the executive was the final authority to sign bills, like today’s governor or president.

Back then, to become a town a community had to petition the House of Burgesses. Officials then wrote a bill if the community met basic requirements. If passed by the House, it would go to the Council, and if they approved it, it had to be signed by the governor.

The website www.historichampshire.org says the first community in Hampshire County, which was suggested Nov. 5, 1762, for incorporation, was at Tucker Plantation. The petition was rejected.

A week later on Nov. 12, 1762, the Journal of the House of Burgesses mentions that a petition for a town to be established was given to the House. This was for a community called Pearsall’s Flats, now known as Romney.

The House ordered that a bill be presented in accordance with the petition and that Hampshire County representatives, Mr. Mercer and Mr. Rutherford, prepare the bill and bring it to the House.

 

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