Bob Powell Published

December 23, 1762 : Virginia General Assembly Charters Romney and Shepherdstown


On December 23, 1762, the Virginia General Assembly chartered the towns of Romney and Shepherdstown, igniting one of the longest-lasting debates in West Virginia history. The question?  Is Romney or Shepherdstown West Virginia’s oldest incorporated town? 

Some historians think Shepherdstown might have been settled as early as the 1710s or 1720s. However, its earliest documented settlement didn’t occur until sometime before 1739, when Thomas Shepherd built a grist mill in the town.  As for Romney, Job and John Pearsall had settled there prior to 1738. Still, it isn’t certain when either town was first settled.

But, since Shepherdstown and Romney were both chartered on the same day, the big question still comes down to which one came first. At that time, bills passed by the General Assembly had to be read allowed three times. Shepherdstown sometimes argues that it is older because its bill was read for the third time before Romney’s bill was.  However, both bills were signed on the same day without any indication of which one came first.  So, as for determining the oldest town in West Virginia, let the debate continue.