Martinsburg, W.Va., Founder's Day full of history

May 06, 2004|by KATE COLEMAN

On Saturday, May 8, the city of Martinsburg, W.Va., will celebrate the 226th anniversary of its founding and honor the 250th anniversary of the beginning of the French and Indian War.

From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., the stone home built by and named for Adam Stephen, will be the center of the day's activities.

There is a strong connection between the city and the conflict that brought its founder to the region.

Stephen, a young Scottish physician, emigrated to the Colony of Virginia in 1748 and practiced medicine in Fredericksburg, Va., for five years.


In 1754, as the French and Indian War began, Stephen took a military commission to serve in the forces of Virginia, fighting under the command of a young colonel named George Washington. By the end of the year, Stephen commanded all the Virginia forces on the frontier.

He retired a brigadier general in 1768, returned home from military duty and served as a delegate to the Virginia House of Burgesses. In 1770 and 1773, Stephen purchased land for his plantations and businesses - two mills, an armory and distillery.

He went back into military service in 1774 and was promoted in 1777 to the rank of major general after his leadership in Revolutionary War battles. He was dismissed from military service later that year after being accused of drunkenness during the battle of Germantown, Pa. He denied the charges and returned home.

Stephen built his stone house over a cave opening that served as an entrance to tunnels - part natural, part man-made. The tunnels are thought to have been planned as a possible escape route against enemy attack. Weather permitting, recent excavation work on the tunnels will be shown for the first time Saturday, said Keith Hammersla, curator of General Adam Stephen House. Members of Tri-State Grotto, a chapter of the National Speleological Society, will be tour guides.

The house, furnished with antiques dating from 1750 to 1830, will be open for tours conducted by members of the General Adam Stephen Memorial Association. The group spent 10 years restoring the property, which was donated to the city of Martinsburg in 1959.

A video about Stephen's life and participation in the French and Indian War will be shown during the day at the Triple Brick Museum next door

and on the grounds of the Stephen house.

Historical interpretations of life during the colonial period will be provided by Gene Butts of the Black Powder Rifles Club and Rutherford's Rangers, a French and Indian War re-enactors' camp. Wayne's Maryland Light Infantry, a group of Revolutionary War re-enactors, also will have a camp on the grounds.

A fife and drum corps, dulcimer and vocal music will set the mood of the period. Mary Dailey, Whipporwill, Bona Fide, the Unfortunate Rakes and the Loudoun Border Guard will perform.

Craft items and Martinsburg souvenirs will be sold, and there will be children's games and activities as well as free horsedrawn wagon rides throughout the day.

You can sample fare of the era by purchasing a Colonial soldier's meal - barbecued chicken or beef stew, sauerkraut, baked beans, cornbread and apple juice or iced tea - prepared and sold by members of the Lioness Club of Martinsburg.

If you go ...

Founder's Day

10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, May 8

General Adam Stephen House

309 E. John St.

Martinsburg, W.Va.

Admission and parking are free.

Directions: From Hagerstown, take Interstate 81 south to exit 13 for Martinsburg, King Street. Go through town. Turn right on Queen Street. Go one block and turn left on John Street. Cross creek and railroad bridge. Adam Stephen House is on the left.

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