On November 12, 1762, Thomas Shepherd presented articles of incorporation for the town of Mechlenburg to the Virginia General Assembly. Along with Romney, Mechlenburg, which was later renamed Shepherdstown, would become one of present West Virginia’s first two incorporated towns.
Shepherd established a grist mill there along the Potomac River as early as 1739, but it’s believed that German immigrants might have settled at Shepherdstown more than 20 years before. Located along Pack Horse Ford—an ancient Potomac crossing—Shepherdstown is among West Virginia’s most historic places.
At the outset of the Revolutionary War, a contingent of the famous Bee Line March to Boston started there in 1775. In 1787, James Rumsey successfully tested his steamboat on the Potomac at Shepherdstown. Then, in September 1862, Civil War fighting spilled over into Shepherdstown before and after the Battle of Antietam. Shepherdstown also served as the Jefferson County seat for six years following the Civil War. Shepherd College, now University, was established there in 1871.
Today, Shepherdstown is known for its shops and restaurants and is home to the annual Contemporary American Theater Festival.