February 26, 1766: Society Hostess Lydia Boggs Shepherd Born in Berkeley County

Lydia Boggs Shepherd

Society hostess Lydia Boggs Shepherd Cruger was born in present Berkeley County on February 26, 1766. Her family moved near Wheeling in 1774.

Lydia and her husband, Moses Shepherd, became wealthy landowners in the Wheeling area. Their magnificent home, Shepherd Hall, hosted six U.S. presidents. One of the most famous stories about Lydia involves a visit from Senator Henry Clay.

Clay was spearheading the National Road—America’s first interstate road system. He was well known for drinking his political adversaries under the table. But Lydia could also hold her liquor. Supposedly, after an evening of heavy drinking, she convinced Clay to build the road from Wellsburg to Wheeling past her home, where it runs to this day.

After her husband’s death, she married former congressman Daniel Cruger. Late in life, she sparked a local controversy by claiming that a woman named Molly Scott, not Betty Zane, had heroically brought gunpowder to Wheeling’s Fort Henry during a 1782 Indian siege. Zane was a local legend, and Lydia’s claims didn’t sit well.

Lydia Boggs Shepherd Cruger became an eccentric recluse and died at Shepherd Hall in 1867 at age 101.