Jefferson County, West Virginia

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Jefferson County, West Virginia
Jefferson County Courthouse, Charles Town.jpg
Map of West Virginia highlighting Jefferson County
Location in the U.S. state of West Virginia
Map of the United States highlighting West Virginia
West Virginia's location in the U.S.
Founded January 8, 1801
Named for Thomas Jefferson
Seat Charles Town
Largest city Charles Town
 • Total 212 sq mi (549 km2)
 • Land 210 sq mi (544 km2)
 • Water 2.0 sq mi (5 km2), 1.0%
Population (est.)
 • (2014) 55,713
 • Density 265/sq mi (102/km²)
Congressional district 2nd
Time zone Eastern: UTC-5/-4

Jefferson County is the easternmost county of the U.S. state of West Virginia. As of the 2010 census the population was 53,498.[1] Its county seat is Charles Town.[2] The county was founded in 1801.

Jefferson County is part of the Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV Metropolitan Statistical Area.[3]



Jefferson County was formed from Berkeley County in 1801 because the citizens of southeastern Berkeley county felt they had to travel too far to the county seat of Martinsburg. Charles Washington, the founder of Charles Town and brother to George Washington petitioned for a new county to be formed. It was named for Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence and third President of the United States.[4] Virginia previously had a Jefferson County, which was lost to form the new state of Kentucky. Accordingly, in the State records of Virginia, there will be listings for Jefferson County from 1780-1792 and Jefferson County from 1801-1863. Neither is still located in Virginia and despite naming a county after him twice, Virginia no longer has a county named for its hero Thomas Jefferson.

John Brown Rebellion

The county's courthouse was the site of the trial for the abolitionist John Brown after his October 1859 raid on the federal armory in Harpers Ferry. Some 90 U.S. Marines serving under then Army Colonel Robert E. Lee and Lieutenants J.E.B. Stuart and Israel Green put down the rebellion.

Brown was sentenced to death for murder, treason against the Commonwealth of Virginia, and conspiring with slaves to rebel. On 2 December 1859 John Brown was taken from the Charles Town jail a short distance to an open field and hanged. Among those attending the Brown execution was a contingent of 1500 cadets from Virginia Military Institute sent by the Governor of Virginia Henry A. Wise under the supervision of Major William Gilham and Major Thomas J. Jackson. In the ranks of a Richmond militia company stood John Wilkes Booth.

Civil War

The county was a frequent site of conflict during the civil war, as Union and Confederate lines moved back and forth along the Shenandoah Valley. Some towns in the county changed hands between the Union and Confederacy over a dozen times, including Charles Town, and especially Harpers Ferry.

Jefferson County is the only part of modern-day West Virginia not exempted from the effects of the Emancipation Proclamation (as Berkeley County and the 48 counties designated as West Virginia had been). Slaves in the county were legally free as of January 1, 1863.

The Courthouse of Charles Town is the only Courthouse in America to have held two treason trials including the trial of John Brown in 1859 and a trial regarding coal companies from the southern part of the state.

Joining West Virginia

Both Berkeley and Jefferson counties had voted for secession in the vote taken on May 23, 1861. However, these counties lying on the Potomac River in the Shenandoah Valley, with the consent of the Reorganized Government of Virginia voted in favor of annexation to West Virginia in 1863 in a dubious election supervised by the occupying Union Army. Virginia tried to nullify this after the American Civil War, but the counties remained part of West Virginia.

The question of the constitutionality of the formation of the new state was brought before the Supreme Court of the United States in the following manner: Berkeley and Jefferson County, West Virginia, counties lying on the Potomac east of the mountains, in 1863, with the consent of the Reorganized Government of Virginia, had supposedly voted in favor of annexation to West Virginia. However, many voters were absent in the Confederate Army when the vote was taken and they refused to accept the transfer upon their return. The Virginia General Assembly repealed the Act of Secession and in 1866 brought suit against West Virginia, asking the Supreme Court to declare the counties still part of Virginia. Congress, on March 10, 1866, passed a joint resolution recognizing the transfer. In 1871, the U.S. Supreme Court decided Virginia v. West Virginia,[5] upholding the "secession" of West Virginia, including Berkeley and Jefferson counties, from Virginia.[6]

Yet in recent years, there has been serious talk about the possibility of certain counties in the Eastern Panhandle rejoining the Commonwealth of Virginia. Frustrated by bad economic conditions and what they perceive to be neglect from the Charleston government, this movement has gained at least some momentum. In 2011, West Virginia state delegate Larry Kump sponsored legislation to allow Morgan, Berkeley, and Jefferson counties to rejoin Virginia by popular vote.[7]

Rural Free Delivery

In October 1896, Jefferson County became the first county in the United States to begin Rural Free Delivery service.[8]


Tripoint of Virginia, West Virginia, and Maryland in Potomac River east of Harper's Ferry and the lowest point in West Virginia.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 212 square miles (550 km2), of which 210 square miles (540 km2) is land and 2.0 square miles (5.2 km2) (1.0%) is water.[9] It is the only West Virginia county where the Blue Ridge Mountains and Shenandoah River that John Denver sang about in the song "Take Me Home, Country Roads" can be found. The lowest point in the state of West Virginia is located on the Potomac River (just east of Harpers Ferry) in Jefferson County, where it flows out of West Virginia and into Maryland.

National protected area

Major highways

Adjacent counties

Rivers and streams


Historical population
Census Pop.
1810 11,851
1820 13,087 10.4%
1830 12,927 −1.2%
1840 14,082 8.9%
1850 15,357 9.1%
1860 14,535 −5.4%
1870 13,219 −9.1%
1880 15,005 13.5%
1890 15,553 3.7%
1900 15,935 2.5%
1910 15,889 −0.3%
1920 15,729 −1.0%
1930 15,780 0.3%
1940 16,762 6.2%
1950 17,184 2.5%
1960 18,665 8.6%
1970 21,280 14.0%
1980 30,302 42.4%
1990 35,926 18.6%
2000 42,190 17.4%
2010 53,498 26.8%
Est. 2014 55,713 [10] 4.1%
U.S. Decennial Census[11]
1790–1960[12] 1900–1990[13]
1990–2000[14] 2010–2014[1]

As of the census[15] of 2000, there were 42,190 people, 16,165 households, and 11,315 families residing in the county. The population density was 201 people per square mile (78/km²). There were 17,623 housing units at an average density of 84 per square mile (32/km²). The racial makeup of the county was 91.02% White, 6.09% Black or African American, 0.60% Asian, 0.28% Native American, 0.04% Pacific Islander, 0.60% from other races, and 1.37% from two or more races. 1.74% of the population were Hispanics or Latinos of any race.

There were 16,165 households out of which 31.90% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 55.90% were married couples living together, 10.00% had a female householder with no husband present, and 30.00% were non-families. 23.20% of all households were made up of individuals and 8.50% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.54 and the average family size was 2.99.

In the county, the population was spread out with 23.90% under the age of 18, 10.00% from 18 to 24, 29.90% from 25 to 44, 25.10% from 45 to 64, and 11.20% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 37 years. For every 100 females there were 97.90 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 95.40 males.

The median income for a household in the county was $44,374, and the median income for a family was $51,351. Males had a median income of $35,235 versus $26,531 for females. The per capita income for the county was $20,441. About 7.20% of families and 10.30% of the population were below the poverty line, including 11.40% of those under age 18 and 9.40% of those age 65 or over.




Census-designated places

Unincorporated communities

Magisterial districts

  • Charles Town
  • Harpers Ferry
  • Kabletown
  • Middleway
  • Shepherdstown

Historic buildings and structures


See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 "State & County QuickFacts". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved January 10, 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. "Find a County". National Association of Counties. Retrieved 2011-06-07.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. Gannett, Henry (1905). The Origin of Certain Place Names in the United States. Govt. Print. Off. p. 168.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. Virginia v. West Virginia, 78 U.S. 39 (1871).
  6. Archived December 1, 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  7. Vincent, Jenni (January 25, 2011). "Secession bill planned to 'stir pot'". The Journal. Retrieved July 27, 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. "First Rural Routes by State". United States Postal Service. Retrieved 2013-12-28.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. "2010 Census Gazetteer Files". United States Census Bureau. August 22, 2012. Retrieved July 24, 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. "Annual Estimates of the Resident Population for Incorporated Places: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2014". Retrieved June 4, 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. "U.S. Decennial Census". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved January 10, 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. "Historical Census Browser". University of Virginia Library. Retrieved January 10, 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. "Population of Counties by Decennial Census: 1900 to 1990". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved January 10, 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  14. "Census 2000 PHC-T-4. Ranking Tables for Counties: 1990 and 2000" (PDF). United States Census Bureau. Retrieved January 10, 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  15. "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2011-05-14.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  16. "Landmarks Nomination Report: New Hopewell" (PDF). Jefferson County Historic Landmark Commission. Retrieved March 20, 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links

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