kids encyclopedia robot

Charles Town, West Virginia facts for kids

Kids Encyclopedia Facts
Quick facts for kids
Charles Town, West Virginia
City of Charles Town
Jefferson County Courthouse in Charles Town
Jefferson County Courthouse in Charles Town
Location of Charles Town in Jefferson County, West Virginia.
Location of Charles Town in Jefferson County, West Virginia.
Country United States
State West Virginia
County Jefferson
Named for Charles Washington
 • City 5.83 sq mi (15.11 km2)
 • Land 5.83 sq mi (15.11 km2)
 • Water 0.00 sq mi (0.00 km2)
512 ft (164 m)
 • City 5,259
 • Estimate 
 • Density 1,033.25/sq mi (398.93/km2)
 • Metro
Time zone UTC-5 (EST)
 • Summer (DST) UTC-4 (EDT)
ZIP code
Area code(s) 304, 681
FIPS code 54-14610
GNIS feature ID 1554110

Charles Town is a city in Jefferson County, West Virginia, United States, and is also the county seat. The population was 5,259 at the 2010 census. It is named for its founder Charles Washington, youngest brother of President George Washington.


18th century

HappyRetreat CharlesTownWV
Happy Retreat

"Charlestown" was established by an act of the Virginia General Assembly in January 1787.

Charles Washington, the founder of Charles Town, was born in Hunting Creek, now Fairfax County, Virginia on May 2, 1738. He was the youngest full brother of George Washington. He came to present Jefferson County between April and October 1780. The estate of Charles Washington, Happy Retreat, was erected in 1780. In 1786, on 80 acres (320,000 m²) of his adjoining land, Charles laid out the streets of Charles Town, naming many of them after his brothers and one after his wife, Mildred. He donated the four corner lots at the intersection of George and Washington Streets for public buildings of the town and county, provided the town become the seat of the county separated from Berkeley County.

In 1794, James Madison married "Dolly" Todd at Harewood, the home of George Steptoe Washington, son of Colonel Samuel Washington, just outside Charles Town.

19th century

Jefferson County was formed in 1801 as Charles Washington had anticipated. The county court house stands on one of the lots he donated, as did the jail until 1919 when it was demolished to be replaced by the post office.

Charles Washington died sometime between July and September, 1799, only a short while before the death of his brother George. Charles' and his wife Mildred's grave sites near Evitts Run have recently been located and surrounded by a stone wall.

In 1844, the first issue of the Spirit of Jefferson newspaper was published in Charles Town by James W. Beller. It is still published as the Spirit of Jefferson-Advocate, making it one of the oldest newspapers in the state.

On October 16, 1859, abolitionist John Brown and his followers raided the Federal arsenal at nearby Harpers Ferry, seven miles east of Charles Town. The insurrection was ultimately put down and John Brown was tried for treason in the town's Jefferson County court house. On December 2, 1859, he was hanged in Charles Town at the Gibson-Todd House, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

During the first two years of the American Civil War, the front lines of the Union and Confederate armies in the area fluctuated and the town frequently changed hands during the military engagements in the surrounding areas with the town first occupied by Confederate troops, then Union troops, then back to Confederate until 1863 when Union troops occupied the town on a permanent basis for the remainder of the war.

In 1883, the Valley Telephone Company was incorporated in West Virginia and began installing telephone lines throughout Jefferson County. The company's main office was in Charles Town.

20th century

In 1922, William Blizzard, a leader of striking coal miners, was charged with treason and murder for engaging in warfare against state and federal troops in Mingo and Logan counties. He was tried in the Jefferson county courthouse in Charles Town and was found not guilty.

The Charles Town Race Track first opened in 1933. It was built on land purchased from the Charles Town Horse Show Association.

In 1975, the new Jefferson Memorial Hospital opened, replacing the old Charles Town General Hospital. It is now part of the West Virginia University Hospitals (WVUH-East) chain of health care facilities, and was renamed Jefferson Medical Center in 2013.

In 1999, the Charles Town Race Track underwent major renovation which included a large addition to house video slot machines. It was renamed Charles Town Races & Slots and now attracts many visitors each week from the nearby Baltimore and Washington D.C. metropolitan areas.

21st century

In 2006, a non-profit corporation, called the Friends of Happy Retreat, Inc. (FOHR), purchased an option to buy the former home of Charles Washington outright. The goal of this group is to see Happy Retreat preserved as a national historic treasure while at the same time contributing to the public’s appreciation of the arts, local culture, and the rich history of the Washington family and the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia. FOHR hosts a special tour of Happy Retreat along with other Washington Family Homes during the annual Charles Town Heritage Festival which occurs the third Saturday of September. The Gavin family, the current owners of Happy Retreat, have placed the mansion on the market to sell.

In 2011, Discover Downtown Charles Town (DDCT) was founded. DDCT volunteers work closely with local governments and merchants to put on events, create programs to support business owners and improve the design of Historic Downtown Charles Town.

Geography and climate

Charles Town is located at 39°17′3″N 77°51′22″W / 39.28417°N 77.85611°W / 39.28417; -77.85611 (39.284237, -77.856211).

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 5.81 square miles (15.05 km2), all of it land.

Charles Town is located 73 miles northwest of Washington, D.C. and 75 miles west of Baltimore.

Due to its low elevation, Charles Town is on the northern extent of the Humid Subtropical climate zone, having cool to mildly cold winters and hot and humid summers. Precipitation is evenly distributed throughout the year, providing lush, abundant plant growth.


Historical population
Census Pop.
1850 1,507
1860 1,376 −8.7%
1870 1,593 15.8%
1880 2,016 26.6%
1890 2,287 13.4%
1900 2,392 4.6%
1910 2,662 11.3%
1920 2,527 −5.1%
1930 2,434 −3.7%
1940 2,926 20.2%
1950 3,035 3.7%
1960 3,329 9.7%
1970 3,023 −9.2%
1980 2,857 −5.5%
1990 3,122 9.3%
2000 2,907 −6.9%
2010 5,259 80.9%
2019 (est.) 6,029 14.6%
U.S. Decennial Census

2010 census

As of the census of 2010, there were 5,259 people, 2,011 households, and 1,289 families living in the city. The population density was 905.2 inhabitants per square mile (349.5/km2). There were 2,270 housing units at an average density of 390.7 per square mile (150.9/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 76.9% White, 13.3% African American, 0.3% Native American, 2.1% Asian, 0.1% Pacific Islander, 3.7% from other races, and 3.6% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 9.0% of the population.

There were 2,011 households, of which 37.2% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 47.3% were married couples living together, 11.1% had a female householder with no husband present, 5.7% had a male householder with no wife present, and 35.9% were non-families. 28.7% of all households were made up of individuals, and 10.1% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.57 and the average family size was 3.19.

The median age in the city was 35.5 years. 26.9% of residents were under the age of 18; 6.9% were between the ages of 18 and 24; 31.4% were from 25 to 44; 22.5% were from 45 to 64; and 12.4% were 65 years of age or older. The gender makeup of the city was 48.9% male and 51.1% female.


2019-08-17 12 46 27 View north along U.S. Route 340 (Charles Town Bypass) from the overpass for West Virginia State Route 115 (South George Street-Charles Town Road) in Charles Town, Jefferson County, West Virginia
US Route 340 approaching West Virginia Route 9 in Charles Town

Charles Town is served primarily by two main highways, U.S. Route 340 and West Virginia Route 9, which run concurrently for a short stretch in the vicinity of Charles Town. US 340 travels in a general southwest to northeast direction, connecting Charles Town to locations in the eastern Shenandoah Valley of Virginia to the southwest. To the northeast, US 340 provides direct access to Harpers Ferry and Frederick. WV 9 traverses the region with a northwest-to-southeast orientation, connecting Charles Town to Martinsburg and Leesburg. Additional highways serving Charles Town include West Virginia Route 51 and West Virginia Route 115.

Notable people

  • John Peale Bishop, author
  • Sammi Brown, former member of the West Virginia House of Delegates
  • Frank Buckles, longest-surviving American veteran of World War I
  • Martin Delany, abolitionist, physician, leader in the Black Nationalism movement
  • Warren B. English, politician
  • Jack W. Germond, political reporter and commentator
  • Gary Gregor, NBA player
  • James Jett, NFL player
  • Hamilton Hatter, born enslaved, faculty member and trustee, Storer College; founder of Bluefield Colored Institute, later Bluefield State College
  • John H. Hill, former slave, first African-American lawyer admitted to the Jefferson County bar; second president of West Virginia State University
  • Samuel Mason, Revolutionary War soldier and early American outlaw
  • Frederick Mayer, German-born Jewish agent of the OSS during World War II
  • William McSherry, Jesuit and president of Georgetown University
  • Alex Mooney, U.S. Congressman for West Virginia's 2nd congressional district
  • Stephen Skinner, former member of the West Virginia House of Delegates
  • Frank R. Stockton, author, most famous for the short story "The Lady, or the Tiger?"
  • David Hunter Strother, also known as Porte Crayon, artist, author, soldier, statesman (Consul General to Mexico City)
  • Edward Tiffin, first governor of Ohio
  • Samuel Washington, George Washington's brother, lived in Charles Town at Harewood
  • William Lyne Wilson, Postmaster General of the United States
  • Thomas Worthington, sixth governor of Ohio and one of the first senators from Ohio

Images for kids

kids search engine
Charles Town, West Virginia Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.