Bright Future, History Mingle in West Virginia

Article excerpt

Byline: Jim Watkins, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES

There is a spot in Jefferson County, W.Va., where the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers converge at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Harpers Ferry. It was here in 1783 that Thomas Jefferson sat on what is now known as Jefferson Rock and deemed the view "worth a voyage across the Atlantic."

This confluence of two scenic rivers is an apt metaphor for Jefferson County, a county experiencing the convergence of a past steeped in historic significance and a future of great potential.

The history is well-documented. The future is outlined in plans for expansive multi-use communities that blend homes, town houses and apartments with retail outlets and commercial office space, with acreage set aside for recreation areas and civic uses.

The county was carved out of neighboring Berkeley County in 1801 and named for then-President Thomas Jefferson. Charles Washington, George's younger brother and the namesake of the county seat, donated the land and laid out Charles Town, which was chartered in 1786. However, Charles Washington was not the county's first major developer. That title belongs to the founder of historic Shepherdstown.

The small town along the Potomac River - population 1,208 - is 3 miles from Sharpsburg, Md., and the Antietam National Battlefield. It was chartered in 1762 as Mecklenburg, later changed to Shepherdstown, on land donated by Thomas Shepherd.

The river and a "town run" gave rise to a vibrant economy of "millers, tanners, potters, smiths and other artisans," according to information provided by the Shepherdstown Visitors Center (www.shepherdstownvisitorscenter.com). In 1775, the town had 1,000 residents. While the town's official population count hasn't changed dramatically since that time, some 4,500 students attend Shepherd College. …