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Hampshire County, West Virginia facts for kids

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Hampshire County
Hampshire County Courthouse, 1920s
Map of West Virginia highlighting Hampshire County
Location within the U.S. state of West Virginia
Map of the United States highlighting West Virginia
West Virginia's location within the U.S.
Country  United States
State  West Virginia
Founded December 13, 1754
Named for Hampshire, England
Seat Romney
Largest city Romney
 • Total 645 sq mi (1,670 km2)
 • Land 640 sq mi (1,700 km2)
 • Water 4.4 sq mi (11 km2)  0.7%%
 • Total 23,964
 • Estimate 
 • Density 37.153/sq mi (14.345/km2)
Time zone UTC−5 (Eastern)
 • Summer (DST) UTC−4 (EDT)
Congressional district 2nd

Hampshire County is a county in the U.S. state of West Virginia. As of the 2010 census, the population was 23,964. Its county seat is Romney, West Virginia's oldest town (1762). The county was created by the Virginia General Assembly in 1754, from parts of Frederick and Augusta Counties (Virginia) and is the state's oldest county. The county lies in both West Virginia's Eastern Panhandle and Potomac Highlands regions.

Hampshire County is part of the Winchester, VA-WV Metropolitan Statistical Area.


Hampshire County, 1888

Although its creation was authorized in 1754, Hampshire County was not actually organized until 1757 because the area was not considered safe due to the outbreak of the French and Indian War (1754–1763). According to Samuel Kercheval's A History of the Valley of Virginia (1833), the county was named in honor of its several prize hogs. The story goes that Thomas Fairfax, 6th Lord Fairfax of Cameron (1693–1781), who owned the Royal Grant to the area, came upon some very large hogs in Winchester and asked where they had been raised. He was told that they were from the South Branch Potomac River Valley (now Hampshire County). He remarked that when a county was formed west of Frederick that he would name it in honor of the county Hampshire, England, famous for its very fat hogs.


Earliest European settlers

Romney was initially settled by hunters and traders around 1725. In 1738, John Pearsall (or Pearsoll) and his brother Job built homes and in 1758 a fort (Fort Pearsall) for defense against Native Americans in present-day Romney. Their settlement was then known as Pearsall's Flats. In 1748, Thomas Fairfax, 6th Lord Fairfax of Cameron sent a surveying party, including 16-year-old George Washington, to survey his lands along the Potomac and South Branch Potomac rivers. Washington spent three summers and falls surveying Lord Fairfax's Northern Neck estate, which included all of the present-day Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia. In April 1748, he laid off several lots in an area known as the Trough, about ten miles (16 km) south of Romney, and he is known to have been in present-day Romney on October 19, 1749. Oral traditions claimed that Washington laid present-day Romney out into lots at that time, but written records from that era indicate that Romney was surveyed and laid out into lots by James Genn prior to Washington's arrival. Genn was also employed by Lord Fairfax.

18th century Hampshire County

In 1756, Fort Pearsall was constructed on Job Pearsall's plantation for protection against Native American raids and George Washington provisioned and garrisoned the Fort at various times until 1758. At that time, there were at least 100 people living in the general area. Following the end of hostilities in the area, Lord Fairfax recognized that more settlers would be interested in moving into the area and that he could earn some extra revenue by selling plots in the town. He sent a survey party to Romney in 1762 to formally lay out the town into 100 lots. At that time, he renamed the town Romney, in honor of the Cinque Ports city on the English Channel in Kent.

Confusion ensued for several decades concerning land ownership within the town as counterclaims were made by the original settlers and those who purchased lots laid out by Lord Fairfax's surveyors.

The first meeting of the Hampshire County Court was held in 1757, at Fort Pleasant, now Old Fields in Hardy County, and was presided by the Right Honorable Thomas Bryan Martin, Lord Fairfax's nephew. By that time, Hampshire County's population had fallen dramatically as most of the settlers had fled the county in fear of the Native Americans. The only families remaining lived near Fort Pearsall, near present-day Romney, and Fort Edwards, at present-day Capon Bridge on the Cacapon River. The vast majority of the remaining settlers, however, were in the vicinity of present Old Fields-Moorefield-Petersburg and were protected by the several forts in the area, including Fort Pleasant

Once the Native Americans were defeated at the Battle of Point Pleasant in 1774 settlers, once again, returned to the county. By 1790, when the first national census was taken, Hampshire County had 7,346 residents, making it the second most populous county in the present state of West Virginia at that time. Berkeley was the most populous county, with 19,713 people. There were nine counties that comprised the present state, with a total population of 55,873 people.

During the Whiskey Rebellion in 1794, many Hampshire County men volunteered to serve under Major General Daniel Morgan to put down the insurrection. The men most likely volunteered at Moorefield in Hardy County and then marched north to Cumberland, Maryland. Approximately 1,200 of the 12,950 men under Morgan's command came from the area that would later become West Virginia.

Early churches

Mount Bethel Church Three Churches WV 2004
Mount Bethel Church at Three Churches, WV.

Many early settlers of the Cacapon area were German Baptist Brethren (or Dunkers), pacifist farmers who often befriended local natives in frontier areas. Other early missionaries helped to sustain the religious faith of the early European inhabitants. In 1775 two Baptist missionaries among a group of settlers moved to the Cacapon and organized the first European church in the county. In 1771 the work of the Methodist Episcopal Church was begun, in which later developments led to the formation of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South. In 1753 Hampshire County had been formed into a parish by the Protestant Episcopal Church and from 1772 to until his death in 1777 Rev. Nathaniel Manning served on the Glebe near present-day Moorefield. In 1787 a Primitive Baptist church was established at North River. Soon after the American Revolution there was preaching by the Presbyterians at different points in the county. In 1792 a Presbyterian church was organized at Romney and another, Mount Bethel Church, at Three Churches.

Early industry

The wide lowlands of Hampshire County certainly invited agriculture, and fields of wheat and tobacco surrounded the important truck-patch of the settler. The rolling uplands offered pasturage for horses, cattle, sheep, and hogs, which were driven across country to market at Winchester. The streams abounded in fish and the mountains contained not only game but timber and stone for early settlers' homes. The limestone was burned for lime at Bloomery Gap, where remains of old lime-kilns give evidence of an early industry. Soon it was discovered that some of the strata contained iron ore. Much of it was transported to present-day Keyser, from an area along South Branch Potomac River south of the present limits of the county. In Bloomery Gap, a ruined furnace still stands, mute evidence of another former industry. In the early days the increasing population stimulated not only farming and grazing but every industry of a new country.Hampshire County was also known for its many gunmakers,located on or near the main road from Winchester to Romney.Among them were,Henry Topper,Jacob Kline,George Young, Benjamin Shane,George Glaze,William Britton and the Sheetz Family.

19th century Hampshire County

The building of the Northwestern Turnpike (U.S. Route 50) was an integral part of the development of Hampshire County. General Daniel Morgan first suggested the road be built in 1748, but his recommendations were not acted upon until the 1830s. Colonel Claudius Crozet, a Frenchman who had previously worked for Napoleon Bonaparte, engineered the road which connected Parkersburg with Winchester, Virginia. The turnpike traversed Hampshire County stretching through the communities of Capon Bridge, Loom, Hanging Rock, Pleasant Dale, Augusta, Frenchburg, Shanks, and Romney. Through the years, Romney became an important rest stop for travelers on the turnpike. This aided the local economy as hotels and taverns began to appear in the area.

During the American Civil War, the Hampshire Guards and Frontier Riflemen joined the Confederate Army. Although there were no major battles in Hampshire County, Romney changed hands at least fifty-six times during the war. It was often a case of one army evacuating the area allowing the opposing army to move into the town. This places Romney second behind Winchester as the town that changed hands the most during the American Civil War. On June 11, 1861, it changed hands twice in the same day. Some local Hampshire County historians speculate that Romney actually changed hands more than Winchester but there are no surviving records to support the claim.


Caudy's Castle

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 645 square miles (1,670 km2), of which 640 square miles (1,700 km2) is land and 4.4 square miles (11 km2) (0.7%) is water.

Major highways

  • US 50.svg U.S. Route 50
  • US 220.svg U.S. Route 220
  • WV-9.svg West Virginia Route 9
  • WV-28.svg West Virginia Route 28
  • WV-29.svg West Virginia Route 29
  • WV-127.svg West Virginia Route 127
  • WV-259.svg West Virginia Route 259

Adjacent counties

Rivers and streams

South Branch Potomac River South Branch Depot WV 2004
South Branch Potomac River near South Branch Depot

Natural landmarks

  • Rio Turtle


Capon Springs Historical Marker Capon Lake WV 2014 10 05 01
Capon Springs

Other geological formations

Hampshire County maps


Historical population
Census Pop.
1790 7,346
1800 8,348 13.6%
1810 9,784 17.2%
1820 10,889 11.3%
1830 11,279 3.6%
1840 12,295 9.0%
1850 14,036 14.2%
1860 13,913 −0.9%
1870 7,643 −45.1%
1880 10,366 35.6%
1890 11,419 10.2%
1900 11,806 3.4%
1910 11,694 −0.9%
1920 11,713 0.2%
1930 11,836 1.1%
1940 12,974 9.6%
1950 12,577 −3.1%
1960 11,705 −6.9%
1970 11,710 0.0%
1980 14,867 27.0%
1990 16,498 11.0%
2000 20,203 22.5%
2010 23,964 18.6%
2019 (est.) 23,175 −3.3%
U.S. Decennial Census
1790–1960 1900–1990
1990–2000 2010-2019

2010 census

As of the 2010 United States Census, there were 23,964 people, 9,595 households, and 6,606 families residing in the county. The population density was 37.4 inhabitants per square mile (14.4/km2). There were 13,688 housing units at an average density of 21.4 per square mile (8.3/km2). The racial makeup of the county was 97.2% white, 1.0% black or African American, 0.2% Asian, 0.2% American Indian, 0.1% Pacific islander, 0.2% from other races, and 1.1% from two or more races. Those of Hispanic or Latino origin made up 1.0% of the population. In terms of ancestry, 29.0% were German, 12.9% were American, 11.9% were Irish, and 8.0% were English.

Of the 9,595 households, 29.9% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 54.3% were married couples living together, 9.1% had a female householder with no husband present, 31.2% were non-families, and 25.8% of all households were made up of individuals. The average household size was 2.44 and the average family size was 2.91. The median age was 42.6 years.

The median income for a household in the county was $31,792 and the median income for a family was $45,447. Males had a median income of $36,828 versus $25,347 for females. The per capita income for the county was $17,752. About 11.0% of families and 16.4% of the population were below the poverty line, including 20.1% of those under age 18 and 18.2% of those age 65 or over.

Parks and recreation

County parks

  • Central Hampshire Park, Augusta
  • Green Spring Recreational Park, Green Spring
  • Hampshire Park & 4-H Camp, Romney
  • Romney Recreation Center, Romney
  • Shanks Roadside Park, Shanks

Wildlife management areas

Edwards Run at Edwards Run WMA
Edwards Run at Edwards Run Wildlife Management Area near Cold Stream.
  • Edwards Run Wildlife Management Area
  • Fort Mill Ridge Wildlife Management Area
  • Nathaniel Mountain Wildlife Management Area
  • Short Mountain Wildlife Management Area
  • South Branch Wildlife Management Area
  • Wardensville Wildlife Management Area

National forests

  • George Washington National Forest




  • Capon Bridge

Census-designated places

Unincorporated communities

Magisterial districts

  • Bloomery Magisterial District
  • Capon Bridge municipality
  • Capon Magisterial District
  • Gore Magisterial District
  • Mill Creek Magisterial District
  • Romney Magisterial District
  • Romney municipality
  • Sherman Magisterial District
  • Springfield Magisterial District


Public schools

  • Hampshire County Schools
  • West Virginia Schools for the Deaf and Blind

Private schools

  • Maranatha Christian Academy
  • Slanesville Christian School

Notable people

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