Shepherdstown, West Virginia

by Bro. Stuart Younkin

In 1734, the Colony of Virginia issued a land grant to a settler named Thomas Shepherd, for a tract in excess of 200 acres of land on the south side of the “Potomack” river.  Fifty acres was designated for the layout of a town, which he named “Mecklenburg”.  In 1762 he received a charter for the town, and was solely responsible for its governance.  

The town quickly grew thanks to its central location to the river and later became part of Berkeley County when it separated from Frederick County in 1772.  In 1775, Captain Hugh Stephenson formed a company of militiamen in Mecklenburg that regularly drilled near where the current Masonic Lodge stands.  On July 16th, 1775 the company departed Shepherdstown on the famous “Beeline March” to Boston following the breakout of war at Lexington and Concord.  The company covered over 600 miles in 24 days.     

After the war, the C&O canal, and later the railroad helped the community to grow even more as the country moved ever westward.   Farmers and local industries were able to transport their goods to market quickly, and settlers heading west had a relative high speed means of beginning their journey.

During the Civil War, the town was at the center of many campaigns as both Federal and Confederate forces moved back and forth over the Potomac.  During the Battle of Antietam, Shepherdstown became a vast hospital for the massive amounts of wounded from both sides.  A battle was fought just below town, near Pack Horse Ford several days later, adding to the carnage as the Federal Army attempted to pursue Lee into Virginia but was quickly repulsed.  With the war still raging, West Virginia broke off and became a state in 1863.

After the Civil War, the Jefferson County Courthouse was located in Shepherdstown, which was then the town hall on German Street.  In 1872, it was moved back to Charles Town, and the building eventually became the home of then Shepherd College, but is better known today by all as McMurran Hall.

As time went on the community ebbed and flowed, but has since become best known not only as the home of Shepherd University, but as a vibrant village full of shops, restaurants and homes.  The town is frequented by urban visitors and tourists looking to “get away from it all” and fall in love with the charm and “old town” feel that Shepherdstown offers to all.  Some come to visit and never leave!

Many of the men who helped make Shepherdstown into the community that it is today were members of Mt. Nebo Lodge, and are buried in local cemeteries, such as Elmwood, just off of South Duke Street.  Today, the brethren are proud to continue the more than 200 years of heritage, history and traditions of “making good men better men”, which have made Mt. Nebo Lodge one of the oldest AF&AM Lodges in West Virginia.