Jefferson County, named for President Thomas Jefferson, was formed from parts of Berkeley County on January 8, 1801.
When drawing up his will, Charles Washington set aside a town square for county buildings in Charles Town if a split from Berkeley County was to take place. The formation of Jefferson County took place after his death, and the county seat was placed in the hands of his town, Charles Town.
J efferson County, was formed January 8, 1801 from Berkeley County, (West) Virginia. President George Washington’s brother, Charles Washington, petitioned for the county’s formation. A previous Jefferson County, Virginia had already become Jefferson County, Kentucky by the time the present day Jefferson County was formed and named. Both of these counties were named after Thomas Jefferson, who was sworn into office two months after the new Jefferson County was formed.
From 1738 to 1772 present day Jefferson County was part of Frederick County, Virginia. It was very briefly part of Orange County, Virginia, from 1732 to 1738, and from 1720 to 1734 was part of Spotsylvania County, Virginia.
The new Jefferson County, Virginia became Jefferson County, West Virginia in 1863 during the heat of the civil war. Interestingly enough, Jefferson County was not part of the original “West Virginia”. However, although the majority of citizens of Jefferson County wished to stay part of Virginia in lieu of becoming a Union state, Jefferson County was forced into the Union after a botched “election” shortly after the formation of the state. The Union needed Jefferson County under their control for strategic reasons.
P resident George Washington’s brother, Charles Washington, was the founder of Charles Town, the county seat (commonly misspelled Charlestown; Charlestown is also an older spelling of the town). Towards the end of the Civil War, the county seat was briefly moved to Shepherdstown, only to return to Charles Town in 1872.
Four official battles were fought in Jefferson County, with many run-ins, campaigns, and stand-offs fought in between the official battles. The official battles are listed to the left.
Many other operations are well documented in Jefferson County; the book, Military Operations in Jefferson County 1861 – 1863, listed below, is a great resource for learning of these skirmishes.
Listed below are online resources for Jefferson County Civil War Research.
A chronological retelling of Jefferson County, Virginia, during the Civil War.