NCTC Cultural History
RiverView Farm and the New Neighbors
A map of Jefferson County, Virginia was produced by Charles Varle, published in Philadelphia. The only landowner shown on the map in the Terrapin Neck area is Abraham Shepherd, though land records show that the Browning heirs owned some Terrapin Neck property until at least the 1840s.
On the 6th of April, young Samuel Swearingen, described in the deed as a resident of Ohio, sold his 137 acres of Springwood behind the house next to the river to uncle Abraham Shepherd for $3654 (JCDB 10, p. 109). Shepherd’s neighbor to the west, Van Swearingen (grandson of Col. Van), still owned a narrow corridor pointing eastward from RiverView farm out to Terrapin Neck, effectively splitting Shepherd’s property in two and possibly not allowing direct access from the direction of Shepherdstown (this corridor can be seen in the 1797 map)
Thomas Swearingen, mill operator at Hardscrabble, apparently concerned over his brother Andrew’s handling of financial matters related to the family’s Kentucky lands, decided to take action. In October 1809 he required his brother Andrew to sign a mortgage for his share of the Kentucky lands, giving Andrew six months to pay off his debt of $2853. The entry in the deed book states that “management of which lands has been committed entirely to the said Andrew Swearingen by the said Thomas Swearingen his brother”. Of perhaps greater interest is the description and location of the various parcels, which totaled more than 33,000 acres!, only 2600 of which were described as unpatented (Bourbon County DB G, p.247). This total does not include the acreage also patented in Kentucky by various other Swearingen family members from the Shepherdstown area, including Joseph Swearingen and Benoni Swearingen’s heirs.
Census records showed Hezekiah Swearingen living in a household with one free person, and 11 slaves. His son Van listed a white female (wife Elizabeth Morgan) and 4 slaves.
Neighbor Abraham Shepherd and his family were attended to by 18 slaves, and further to the south Marcus Alder and his wife Priscilla had 7 slaves.
Thomas Swearingen died, grandson of Thomas of the Ferry and founder of “Hardscrabble”. In his will he divided the old “Jones Mill”, his house and lands between his wife, his sisters’ families, and his brother’s children. His brother Andrew’s children in Kentucky were given all the land that Thomas held or claimed in Kentucky (BCWB 4, p434). Sometime later the mill burned, and a free black woman was blamed and arrested. The Executor of Thomas’s will is “(his) friend” Abraham Shepherd. The witness was Martha (Keating) Vansant, one of the Browning heirs and a relative newcomer to the neighborhood; she may have moved here to escape a bad marriage in Maryland - she apparently renounced any claim to property left her in her first husband’s will (Hulse and Schneider, 1997 unpublished).
In October, Van Swearingen and Abraham Shepherd began a deal that would simplify the boundary between their respective properties and allow a more direct route from Shepherdstown to Shepherd’s recently acquired dwelling at Springwood. A little over ten acres comprising the narrow corridor pointing east to Terrapin Neck was sold by Van Swearingen to Abraham Shepherd for $450 (JCDB 7, p.364). About the same time, Abraham Shepherd sold an adjacent 15 acre narrow triangle to Van Swearingen, which is now located on the west side of Shepherd Grade across from the entrance to NCTC; the price was also $450 (JCDB 7, p.360). A road was likely built shortly after this time, extending from the Terrapin Neck road to the Shepherd estate house along the new property boundary, which eventually became known as Shepherd Grade.
Abraham Shepherd sold an old family property again - he subdivided Pell Mell on the Maryland side of the river into three parcels. The Blackford family, now operating the Ferry, would now incorporate part of Pell Mell into their Ferry Hill Plantation (WCDB Z, p.282 - 286).
The War of 1812 culminated this year in a British defeat at the hands of Andrew Jackson’s rag-tag army in New Orleans. In a letter written after the great Battle of New Orleans, Commander Daniel Patterson wrote to the Secretary of the Navy commending R.D. Shepherd (son of Abraham Shepherd) for having “rendered me very essential assistance” as an aid-de-camp (Brannon, n.d.). R.D. Shepherd had first arrived in New Orleans in September of 1802 at the behest of the shipping business he was working for in Baltimore. Shortly after his arrival in New Orleans, which had recently become an American territory, he cornered the market on sugar which made him and his employer a bundle of money. This allowed him shortly thereafter to go into business for himself. This success was tempered by the loss of his 25-year-old wife Lucy, who had died at Sweet Springs, Monroe County VA, (now WV) on August 23, 1814 (Martinsburg Gazette Sept 8, 1814, p3. c.3). She died about 3 weeks after the death of one of her children at the same location (Smyth 1909); a single daughter Ellen would survive, and R.D never remarried. R.D Shepherd was later described as “one of the most successful, prudent and sagacious merchants ever engaged in commerce” in New Orleans, and “never embarked in any enterprise which did not have a profitable and generally brilliant result”, and was “by far the largest property holder in the city”. Within a few years R.D.’s brothers, especially James, would be attending to the business in New Orleans while R.D. traveled in Europe and attended to his young daughter’s education in Boston (Kenamond 1963, and obituary in New Orleans Daily Picayune, 18 Nov. 1865).
Uriah Brown, a surveyor from Maryland, in his journal described the landscape between Martinsburg and Shepherdstown:
The First 6 Miles from Martinsburg Mountainous & Piny poor Ground bad farmers, plaster would help; now in Jefferson County Virginia, the next Six Miles to Sheppards Town, a Delighful Valley of Land (farmers good for nothing except 4 or 5) the Lime Stone too Troublesome in the roads and farms, Very Little wood not Enough to Spare to burn the Lime Stone, as the Land is worn out & would be a good thing to have those troublesome Stones Burned up & Strewed over the ground; at any rate a few years a very few years will force some of you to take some of those Lime Stones to make fences with your Land will afford it, but your Wood will not Afford you wood to make fences with use Plaster freely & you have as good Land in 4 or 5 years as heart Could wish...(in Dougherty 1972)
So it would appear that, by Brown’s standards at least, the farms in the area by this time were poor and worn out, with few trees and a lot of rock. Diversified farming methods would be required to maintain a livelihood under these conditions, and many in the lower Shenandoah Valley, including the Swearingens, continued to develop extensive orchards along with their livestock and grain crops. It was still difficult to ship raw fruit to market, so it was commonly distilled into brandy and other spirits that could be stored and transported easily.
James Bell, having apparently branched out from his tailoring trade, advertised in a local paper this year that he had four boats available for floating barrels of flour down the Potomac to Alexandria, at a cost of a dollar per barrel (Dandridge 1910).
Hezekiah Swearingen died, and passed his remaining property to his son Van. (Hezekiah’s daughter Mary was married to a neighbor James Foreman). Van was married to Elizabeth Morgan and by this time they had 3 sons, William, Hezekiah and James, and 2 daughters, Rebecca and Almira. The size and quality of the house on RiverView Farm, the list of property divided some years later, and archeological work done on the site in the 1990s all indicate that this was still a relatively wealthy family for the time (see Hulse and Desaules 1997). There are no records indicating which of the houses they may have lived in after Hezekiah’s death, so Van and his wife may have moved into Hezekiah’s nicer stone and brick home at this time to get more room for their large family, now the site of the Lone Drake farm, though this is conjecture; it’s also possible that Van and Elizabeth had always lived with Hezekiah, who had never remarried after his wife’s death more than 35 years before, and the RiverView Farm portion of the property that is now NCTC was utilized by employees or slaves during the first few decades of the 19th century.
The Potomac Company’s annual report indicated that even despite the past season’s unusual low water, boats loaded with 50 to 60 barrels of flour had continuously passed down from Harpers Ferry (Corra Bacon-Foster 1912).
The federal census showed the Van and Elizabeth Swearingen household with 5 white males, 4 white females, 10 male slaves and 12 female slaves; he listed his occupation as Farmer.
A daughter of Van and Elizabeth was born this year and died a year later - she may have been the first to be buried in the new Swearingen graveyard on RiverView Farm (it’s unknown where Hezekiah was buried in 1817- his wife was buried at Springwood back in 1781, but the site was owned by the Shepherds at the time of his death and therefore probably unavailable for his interment – so he may have been the first buried there, but there is no record or marker to suggest this). This new Swearingen graveyard is located just south of NCTC’s wastewater treatment plant.
At the port in New Orleans, the brig Mexican, under Master John Wales, delivered its manifest which included a 14 year old female slave named Lucy, listed as 5 feet in height. She was shipped by Goodhuct & Co, of New York, and was delivered to R.D. Shepherd & Company in New Orleans. R.D. Shepherd’s brother James was running the business in New Orleans and he received about the same time, aboard the Baltimore brig Intelligence under Master Benedict Jenkins, a shipment that included a 35 year old female mulatto slave named Phoebe Black, along with her two very young daughters. Their heights were not listed (Woodtor, n.d.).
Shepherds Town lawyer Thomas V. Swearingen, 38, living at the Bellevue tract originally owned by Thomas of the Ferry, died during his second term in Congress of an epidemic of “bilious fever” perhaps malaria (Aler 1888). Swearingen heirs would hold the property for a few more years, but it would eventually be sold to Henry Shepherd, Capt. Abraham’s son, reportedly as a present for his wife.
Speaking of Abraham Shepherd, he also died this same year. He gave “To son Henry, the farm on which I now live, 321 acres formerly owned by Col. Van Swearingen”, while son Abram received the “Neck Place and the 100 acres where he now lives, known as Boidstone’s place”. Henry was then 29 years old, recently married to Fanny Briscoe, while Abram Jr was 35. Their brother R.D. had already struck it rich in New Orleans by this time. The probate inventory (shown in full in the appendix) suggests some of Abraham’s activities on the property that has become NCTC, which included: 7 “barshear” plows, 5 shovel plows, 64 hogs of various ages, 5 horses, 26 beef cattle, 5 milch cows, 190 head of sheep, 2 stills, 20 still tubs, 110 gallons of apple brandy, wheat, rye, oats, corn, and flax seed. At least 22 slaves were listed in the inventory, amounting to nearly 70% of the value of his personal property (JCWB 4, p.85.) When the estate was finally settled several years later, the accounts indicated that the slaves Emily and Amy, with their young children, were sold after his death for a total of $600 (Amy’s two older children, Bev and Harry, stayed behind), and that he owed $49.91 to John Blackford, probably for ferry services (JCWB 6, p.222).
Henry and his wife Fanny now settled in the old stone home built by Van Swearingen during the French and Indian War, with Henry’s mother Eleanor and her servants probably living in the new wing that was added in the 1820s. Their first child Mary, born in 1824, lived only a year. Their second child was born in 1826 and was named Rezin Davis. Later siblings included Ann Elizabeth, Henry Jr., John, Abraham, and James Touro, born in 1838.
The Potomac Company annual report indicated that toll collectors had been appointed at Williamsport, Shepherdstown and Harpers Ferry to gather tolls from freight boats passing these locations, in hopes of “a handsome increase of revenue” (Corra Bacon-Foster 1912). The company had struggled financially from the very beginning, and this may have been a last ditch effort to clear a profit. Forward-thinking businessmen were now planning a canal along the Potomac that could provide a more reliable method of transporting goods.
On RiverView Farm in January, Van Swearingen’s wife Elizabeth died, 43 years old. She left behind 5 teenagers, William, James, Hezekiah, Rebecca and Almira, and 1 newborn daughter Elizabeth - suggesting the mother died from complications related to childbirth. In June, Van added 187 acres on the south side of the farm, purchasing it from the Webb family. This area is now the site of the Wild Goose mansion and surrounding property.
A cholera epidemic devastated several towns near the Potomac River, and had a particularly harsh effect on the Irish immigrants working in gangs constructing the new C & O Canal along the Maryland side of the river. Cholera can kill within a matter of hours, and accounts of September 1832 and 1833 describe horrific scenes of many unburied bodies of canal laborers lying about in fields adjacent to the Potomac River (Hahn 1993). Many fled the region, including John H. Bennett, great-grandson of Col. Van Swearingen. An obituary in the Chillicothe News Advertiser (March 23, 1903) described how he and his family initially fled to Missouri in 1831, where cholera soon caught up with them anyway. The surviving family members traveled back east to Chillicothe, Ohio by 1836.
The 1830 census shows the Van Swearingen household at RiverView Farm with 4 white males, 3 white females, 11 male slaves and 7 female slaves. He was one of the top 10 slaveholders in a county that averaged 2 or 3 slaves per middle class farm (Hulse and Dessaules 1997).
A wedding at RiverView Farm! Van’s oldest daughter Rebecca, 20 years old, married George S. Kennedy on September 21, the ceremony conducted by Rev. William Monroe.
Henry Shepherd, living next door at Springwood, noted in his account ledger in October and November the payment of $1.50 for “hauling flour to the boat”. The following February he paid for hauling another 150 barrels of flour “to the river” (Shepherd Family Papers 1790-1862). His accounts for the 1830s and 40s mention a Merino ram, a Berkshire boar, and an Ayrshire bull put out to stud, as well as beef, pork, mutton, apples, cider, brandy, clover seed, oats, wheat, corn and potatoes. According to the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy website, the Ayrshire breed originated in Scotland before 1800, and is known for its red and white markings, long graceful horns, ability to graze under adverse conditions, and its milk production, suggesting that the Shepherd’s farm activities included a dairy operation; the Ayrshire breed is now on the ALBC Watch List because of its rarity. By the 1740s Henry and his brother R.D. owned equal shares in “blooded stock” that were kept on their lands near Terrapin Neck; the details carefully spelled out in R.D’s precise handwriting. Politically Henry was a stalwart Democrat, and like his parents was active in the Episcopal Church in Shepherdstown. Two long-time workmen for Henry during the 1830s and 1840s are a George Price and a Robert Evans (Shepherd Family Papers, sect. 4). A typical notation in the account book:
Robert Evans has agreed to work and manage for Henry Shepherd for one year for the sum of one hundred and sixty dollars in cash and 12 bu of wheat, 16 bu corn, 300 lot of pork.
Construction of the C & O Canal on the Maryland side of the Potomac River had now reached the Shepherdstown area. A dam across the Potomac designed to feed water into the new canal, first started in 1832, was finished just upstream of RiverView Farm near the mouth of Jones Mill Run (now Rocky Marsh) and the old site of Thomas Swearingen’s mill.
Another Swearingen sibling from RiverView farm married - Hezekiah H. Swearingen, 23 years old, married Isabella Lyle Henshaw on February 18. The ceremony was officiated by Rev. Woodbridge.
In March young newlywed Hezekiah Swearingen, apparently feeling a financial pinch at the time, had a friend named M.J. Brown pay off his debt of $119.50 to Robert Magruder. In return Hezekiah deeded to Brown a sorrel saddle horse and a workhorse named Sam, though Hezekiah was to retain possession of the animals until he could pay off the loan (JCDB 21, p. 391).
In May of that year, Hezekiah’s brother William Swearingen, 22 years old, bought a neighboring tract of 60 acres at auction “near Jones Spring Run” (JCDB 22, p. 92). He apparently left for Chillicothe, Ohio soon afterward without paying for the property, because in November his father Van agreed to pay $1966.43 for the property in his stead (JCDB 22, p.338). So it would appear that William was also a little short of cash and perhaps felt he could find better opportunities elsewhere. (Chillicothe, Ohio, seems to be a frequent destination when the going got rough for the Swearingens along the Potomac - Eleanor Swearingen Worthington at Adena died in 1848). Estate records several years later reveal that Hezekiah and William also owed their father $207.50 and $150, respectively, for debts incurred during this time period. The Swearingen brothers weren’t the only ones experiencing a shortage of money just then. Nationally this phenomenon became known as the Panic of 1837, possibly one of the worst financial depressions experienced in the United States. President Andrew Jackson’s federal banking policies exacerbated a severe shortage of gold needed to back the currency being issued across the country. Tens of thousands of people across the country went suddenly bankrupt, many more experienced imminent starvation, over 600 banks failed between May and December, and many more suspended payments in gold (note that William purchased a property in May about the time of the banking crash, then by November we see he can’t pay for it). Workers, if paid at all, were paid in an endless variety of locally issued scrip. The depression would last until after 1843. Particularly hard hit were many banking institutions and large businesses in New Orleans, then the fourth largest city in the country. It’s unknown how badly R.D. Shepherd and his brother James fared financially in New Orleans, but for James it was all over anyhow - he died in New Orleans on July 27th (a large monument now marks his grave in the Shepherd graveyard in Shepherdstown). R.D had to travel to New Orleans to get things in order, and seems to have taken a stronger interest in his old Virginia home after this time. His business acumen may have seen possibilities on the Potomac now that the C & O Canal was in operation across the river, and the B & O Railroad was beginning to haul freight and passengers along roughly the same route. The Swearingens on RiverView Farm were better off than most in that they still had land, crops, livestock and labor, but ready cash seems to have been in short supply.
On Sunday, Feb. 18 Van Swearingen died at his residence “at an advanced age” (Henley, n.d.), though his tombstone claims an age of 59 years, 2 months and 20-odd days. His will, written in January, specified that some land be sold, with the rest divided between two of his older children. He left 200 acres of his father’s old “mantion track”, a 22-year-old negro named Henry, all the farming tools, kitchen furniture, and the choice of four houses to his oldest son James. Daughter Rebecca Kennedy was to get the balance of this property, including a part of 14 acres purchased from a Dr. Henry Botelar. He specified that the 187-acre tract of land on the southern end of the farm, purchased from the Webbs in 1828 (JCDB 15, p.188) was to be sold, with son Hezekiah receiving $1500 from the proceeds. Almira was to receive $1000 from the land sale proceeds, a six year old slave girl named Ann, and a feather bed. (It seems to have been common practice for the Swearingens and perhaps others in the region to ensure that when young slaves were given away that they were outfitted with a feather bed and oftentimes a horse as part of the package.) The remainder of the selling price was to go to son William and daughter Elizabeth; one Edward Southward became the guardian of Elizabeth, and he acted as the agent for both William and Elizabeth (JCWB 9, p.265). William was also to receive 2 slaves, named Lewis (21 years old) and Hardridge (22 years old), while Elizabeth was to receive the slave Susan (6 years old), a feather bed, and a riding horse. The other 12 slaves were to be divided between James and Rebecca, except for the slave named Andrew Jackson who was given “liberty to choose which of my children he shall belong to.” What was so special about Andrew Jackson that he alone was given this seemingly benevolent choice of masters? Andrew Jackson was 16 months old when the estate was appraised.
To meet these obligations the executors in October sold 192 acres of the southern portion of RiverView Farm, acquired ten years before in the vicinity of “Rattlesnake Spring” (near the present-day Wild Goose mansion), to Charles M. Shepherd, 38- year old son of Capt. Abraham Shepherd for $10,072 (JCDB 24, p.260); Charles was likely acting as the agent for his brother R.D. Shepherd. This sale was apparently interesting enough to make it into John Blackford’s Ferry Hill Plantation Journal on Oct 19, where he recorded that “Kenady and Swearingen sold the farm at $51.75 per acre to Moses Shepherd”. (John Blackford had acquired rights to the Shepherdstown ferry after marrying Sara Swearingen, daughter of Benoni, and by later buying out her brother’s share). Van was buried in the Swearingen plot on RiverView Farm next to his wife, where his headstone can still be seen on the hill above the water treatment plant. Son William Morgan Swearingen was by some accounts now headed for Texas, where he would spend the rest of his life. Daughter Rebecca and her husband George Kennedy at some point moved to Jericho Farm near Boonsboro, Maryland.
Van’s estate included 20 slaves, numerous farming tools and implements, 38.5 acres of wheat, 58 sheep, 53 gallons apple brandy, 426 bushels corn, 12 horses, about 23 cattle and several dozen hogs. An estate sale was held after Van’s death, at which James and Hezekiah Swearingen bought back much of the livestock. For example, James bought a brindle bull, several brindle cows and calves, 15 sheep and 45 hogs, 7 1/2 bushels of oats, 250 bushels of corn, 10 bushels of potatoes and 266 pounds of bacon, while Hezekiah purchased a horse, 5 sheep, 50 bushels of corn and 38 acres of wheat still in the ground (JCWB 9, p. 265). This suggests that James and Hezekiah had plans to continue farming the land first occupied by their great-grandfather.
Neighbor Henry Shepherd was not listed as a buyer in the sale, perhaps because he was busy overseeing the additions being appended to the old Van Swearingen house he lived in next door, or attending to the Bellevue mansion originally built by Joseph Swearingen which he had recently bought for his wife Fanny. Henry and Fanny’s last child, James Touro, was also born this year (Touro is from Judah Touro, Jewish business partner and friend of R.D. Shepherd in New Orleans. R.D. saved his life during the Battle of New Orleans when they were both young men)
On February 9, the executors of Van’s estate sold the 60 acres that Van had been forced to buy because of William’s lack of cash two years before, to neighbors George and John Hollida for $1832 (JCDB 23, p. 265). In March, neighbor Henry Shepherd purchased for $100 about 4 acres of land next to the spring on the Swearingen property line west of his house, now the location of the cottage and pond near the sharp turn in the road next to the Hendrix life estate (JCDB 23, p. 270). This would now give Henry Shepherd complete access to both heads of the spring there; this was once the “wet meadow” set aside for old Hezekiah Swearingen back in 1788 in his father’s will.
Van’s daughter Almira Swearingen, 24 years old, married James Markell on November 7, and had a daughter Elizabeth (Betty) one year later. Markell would at various times list himself as a farmer, tanner, businessman, and merchant. He and partner Willoughby L Webb, from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, had a business - Webb and Markell - on German Street in Shepherdstown in the early 1840s, described as occupying the western portion of Lot 1 (JCDB 27, p. 137). A Markell family member from Shepherdstown had lost all 3 children including 6-year-old John Baker Markell in St. Charles, Missouri within a 9 month period the year before (in Henley, n.d., Virginia Free Press, Charles Town, VA, March 29, 1838, p. 3, c.4), though the exact relationship to James Markell is unknown. In the 1840 census James Markell is shown living in Virginia with 2 white females, presumably his wife and daughter, and two female slaves.
Isabella Henshaw didn’t stay long in the Swearingen family - on June 18, Hezekiah Swearingen, her husband of three years, died an untimely death “at the home of Mrs Henshaw” (Henley, n.d.). James Swearingen would now have to continue farming without the help of his brother.
In 1839, J.F. Cannell, 18 Castle Street, Liverpool England printed a little pamphlet entitled “A CATALOGUE OF SHORT-HORNED CATTLE, Leicestershire Sheep, BERKSHIRE AND SUFFOLK HOGS, Selected by J.C. Etches, of Barton Park, Near Derby, for R.D. SHEPHERD, ESQ., of Shepherdstown, Virginia and New Orleans, United States IN MAY, 1839.” The pamphlet then itemized various animals including their previous owners, extensive genealogies, and various prizes won at area livestock shows. One example is for:
MINNA, light roaned heifer, calved February 14, 1838, bred by R. Pilkington, Esq., of Windle Hall, got by Windle, (bred by the Rev. H. Berry, by Henwood, 2114), dam Annetta, by Hopewell (2135), g d Bellona, by Belvedere (1706), gr g d by Blucher (1725), gr gr g d Mr. Stephenson’s favourite Red Cow. This heifer, as a calf, won the sweepstakes at Liverpool, in October, 1838; her dam won the premium at Liverpool for the best one-year-old heifer, in 1836, the two-year-old premium and sweepstakes in 1837, and in 1838 she was shown for the best dairy cow and sweepstakes, also for the best cow of any breed, all of which prizes she took; and in the same year was shown as a three-year-old at Manchester, and obtained the premium. Neither cow nor calf has ever been beat!!!
Rezin Davis (R.D) Shepherd, son of Capt. Abraham Shepherd, after making several million dollars in business and real estate and somehow surviving the financial disasters of the past several years in New Orleans, bought 468 acres of land west and south of his brother Henry, which included 196 acres of RiverView Farm that had been purchased 3 years before by his brother Charles, as well as the portion of RiverView Farm that Rebecca Swearingen Kennedy had inherited about the same time. Shepherd began building his Wild Goose mansion shortly thereafter (Kenamond 1963). He filled his new stables, barns and pastures at least partly with imported horses, cattle, sheep and hogs from Europe, each animal of known and impeccable pedigree; some of these animals he and his brother Henry owned jointly. R.D and his brother Henry Shepherd, along with their relatives and heirs would own the majority of the Terrapin Neck area for about the next 60 years. R.D. Shepherd signed a petition to Congress along with numerous other “planters and sugar manufactures in the state of Louisiana” in June of 1842 that asked for an increase in the duties on imported sugar. This suggests that he still had a strong financial interest in the sugar industry in New Orleans, which, according to the petition, was in danger of outright destruction and could result in “ a national loss to an extent beyond calculation, would lead to expropriation of almost every planter connected with it” (Louisiana State Courier October 1984).
On July 12, James Swearingen, new owner of what remained of RiverView Farm, married his sweetheart Margaret Darby. He had about 200 acres, several houses, livestock, slaves, and now a 16- year-old wife to begin a new life on RiverView Farm. The Swearingen farm was now considerably smaller than when his father was alive, a large portion having recently been incorporated into the Shepherd’s new Wild Goose farm.
The little rock-walled cemetery on RiverView Farm hosted another funeral--James Swearingen’s wife Margaret died, 17 years old (he was 32). Her headstone can still be seen. An infant son of Margaret and James is also listed as buried there, suggesting a contributing factor in her death.
October 1842 entries in Henry Shepherd’s account book include:
To cash paid for Negro Lam $445.00
To cash paid for hats for Negro Men $2.25
James Swearingen had enough. After losing a father, wife, infant son, and brother within a 4- year period, and seeing much of his boyhood home sold to the Shepherds by his sister, his remaining small farm on the Potomac and the Shepherdstown area in general had undoubtedly lost some of its charm. In a deed dated 1st April, 1843, he sold the remaining 197 acres of RiverView Farm to his 15-year-old sister Elizabeth Swearingen, and his 3-year-old niece Elizabeth Morgan Markell, for $10,000 (JCDB 26, p. 519). One account shows James re-marrying to Mary Gleeves, moving to Missouri, and then on to Texas, perhaps to be with his brother William (H.H Swearingen 1884). His choice of Missouri as a new place to settle may have been influenced by Missouri being a slave state. RiverView Farm was now owned by a teenager and a toddler.
Why didn’t James sell the farm to his sister Almira rather than Almira’s little daughter? Almira, wife of James Markell, died a few months later on Sept. 10, suggesting she may have been dangerously ill back in April when James sold the farm. She left behind her husband, a young daughter, and three remaining siblings. RiverView Farm and the Swearingens had surely seen too many deaths during the past several years.
Widower James Markell served two terms as mayor of Shepherdstown, then moved to Baltimore for a time.
Another owner of RiverView Farm is buried - James Markell’s now 8 year old daughter Elizabeth (Betty) Morgan Markell died on Feb 23. The RiverView Farm property was now owned by 20-year-old Elizabeth Swearingen, with an interest retained by little Betty’s remaining “heir”, her father James Markell.
Elizabeth Swearingen and James Markell apparently found they had a lot in common in addition to joint ownership of RiverView Farm, and the shared experience of having attended many of the same funerals over the last 11 years. Elizabeth Swearingen married her deceased sister’s husband James Markell, recently returned from Baltimore, in Frederick County, Maryland on the 18th of June (Frederick Cty, Md Marriage Records via Karel Whyte). They eventually had 4 daughters, the first in 1852 when Elizabeth was 24 years old. They seemed to have taken up farming at RiverView Farm after their marriage, as Markell’s occupation was listed as a Farmer on various birth and death records of the time.
Elizabeth seems to have had a rather tragic young life - her mother died within days of her birth, she lost her father and became an orphan at 10, lost a brother before she was 11, lost a sister-in-law at 14, lost her sister at 15, lost her niece at 20, then at 24 married a man she had attended many of these funerals with--her sister’s widower--before starting a family. At least one of her four daughters died young in the 1850s, and she buried her husband when she was 43. Elizabeth died in 1901, 73 years old.
The 1850 census shows that R.D. Shepherd, described as a 65-year-old white farmer, had an overseer named Eli Sloan, a 26-year-old stonemason named Conrad Smith, and a gardener named George Beck. The Beck family included his wife Louisa and five children ranging in age from 14 years to 1 month; some of these employees and their family members were likely living in the house built by Hezekiah Swearingen at the present-day Lone Drake Farm. Interestingly Conrad Smith and George Beck were both born in Germany, and seem to have come to Virginia in the early 1840s at the time that the Wild Goose Farm was first developed, based on the birthplaces of the various Beck children. This also corresponds well with the Conrad Crowe family, shown living on Terrapin Neck road in 1852 in an area now known as the old Foutz farm on the eastern side of NCTC. The Crowe family was also from Germany, with the first children born in Germany and the later children in Virginia after about 1842; the Crowes seem to have owned their own small patch of land. Napolean Hiteman, also born in Germany, was listed along with his wife and 5 children living with the Henry Shepherd family (he appears in Henry’s account book for the first time in 1847). This suggests that many of the employees, as well as the livestock, of the extended Shepherd farming operations were imported from Europe; the number of slaves at this time is unknown, but the presence of an “Overseer” at Wild Goose Farm is suggestive. R.D Shepherd had property valued at $240,000 dollars, while Henry’s was valued at $25,000. Henry and R.D’s mother Eleanor, now 91 years old and still living with Henry in the home acquired by her husband Abraham back in 1809 (Springwood), had property worth an additional $10,000; she died about two years later.
S. Howell Brown produced a map of Jefferson County Virginia, made from actual surveys of farm limits. The map shows numerous land divisions adjacent to and east of Springwood once owned by the Browning heirs, including small farmsteads owned by, in addition to the Crowes listed above, G.W. Sappington and Joseph Entler, respectively, who were both hotel keepers in Shepherdstown (now the eastern portion of the NCTC campus).
Henry Shepherd’s account book for 1852 includes a conversation he must have had with his neighbor:
James Markell recipe for coff drops
take 2 oz of liquirish ball one oz of salts of Tarter
add three pints of water and let it boil about half a way,
take a table spoon full at a time for a grown person
Henry’s children and slaves may have given him more than a passing interest in cough remedies over the years. Henry Jr was now managing his uncle’s business in New Orleans after having graduated from St. James College near Hagerstown, Maryland; his youngest siblings were still teenagers. Henry Sr.’s account book for the 1850s includes frequent mention of “hog killings”, the ledger indicating several dozen hogs at a time killed at various times of the year. This suggests that hogs may have been the predominant livestock raised for food or possibly income at this time (Shepherd Family papers 1790-1862). In 1853, the Jefferson County Death Record indicates that Sally, one of Henry’s slaves, died of unknown causes; Sally’s mother’s name was Effie (Death Register Bk 1, p6, L. 3). Henry and R.D.’s mother Eleanor also died in September of 1853, at 93 years of age.
This year the internationally acclaimed Shakespearean actress Charlotte Cushman was pleased to have received a visit from her bent old white-haired - but rich - benefactor from Boston, R.D. Shepherd (Leach 1970). The Wild Goose Farm in Virginia was still his part-time country residence at this time, while business interests and his daughter kept him in Boston and other cities much of the year. His nephew Henry Shepherd II had been entrusted with the family business in New Orleans eight years earlier in 1849. Aler in 1888 described R.D Shepherd as “...strong in intellect, rigid in system, firm and inflexible in conviction, of uncompromising integrity and extraordinary executive ability. Still he was generous and kind-hearted, distributing large sums of money among those of his kin whom he deemed worthy...”.
In New Orleans, on June 10, Henry Shepherd married Azemia McLean, daughter of a Scottish merchant. Four sons would be born to them in the coming years, the first in 1859, the last in 1871. The drumbeats of war were sounding, and New Orleans would prove to be an interesting place for a prominent merchant in the shipping and real estate business; his father’s home in Virginia would also prove to be located near much of the coming conflict.
Civil War - Local men entered both armies in large numbers. The Shepherdstown area was repeatedly traversed by small and large military forces throughout the war, with neighboring families often on opposite sides of the conflict. Proximity to railroads made the area of strategic value, which played a large part in Jefferson and Berkeley counties becoming part of the new state of West Virginia.
In 1860, the census shows James Markell (age 48) and his wife Elizabeth (31) with 2 daughters (Elmira age 8, and Mary age 2) living at RiverView Farm. They were also living with a white laborer named William White (25), a black laborer named Wilson Ross (25), and a mulatto laborer named Frederick Butler (30). Markell at the time listed his occupation as tanner, though it is unknown if his tannery was at RiverView Farm, or he operated one of several tanneries in Shepherdstown. In the 1850s the Jefferson County Births and Deaths records indicate the death of 1 child, three slave births and 4 slave deaths, the cause of deaths included dysentery and pneumonia (Hulse and Dessaules 1997). The Markell’s real estate was appraised at $11,080, and the personal estate at $6980; in comparison neighbor Henry Shepherd Sr. at Springwood had $30,000 in real estate and $30,000 in personal estate; this accounting does not include the value of slaves.
Neighbor Henry Shepherd’s account book shows a pronounced drop in activity starting about midway through 1860; only a handful of transactions were recorded through 1862, when the account book finally ends. Two of Henry and Fanny’s sons died during the war: R.D. died in November of 1862; he had been married to Elizabeth Boteler, daughter of Alexander Boteler of Shepherdstown who served on Stonewall Jackson’s staff and in the Confederate Congress. James Touro Shepherd, youngest son of Henry and Fanny, also died during the war.
Nov. 24, 1864 - A party of two hundred and fifty or three hundred Yankees passed through town on their way from Martinsburg to Harpers Ferry. Some of them went to Tom Butler’s and there arrested John Keplinger and then to Henry Shepherd’s and arrested and took him away.
Dec. 1, 1864 - Henry Shepherd released and returned home...
(Extract from a diary kept by a Shepherdstown resident, submitted by D.C Gallaher to December 1996 Magazine of the Jefferson County Historical Society, vol. LXII). It’s unknown if this entry refers to Henry Shepherd I, b. 1793 or his son Henry II, b. 1831, who may have been visiting. In either case the Yankees arrested a Henry Shepherd at Springwood. At the time the Union forces were scouring the area looking for anyone associated with Mosby’s raiders, who were a notorious irregular military group fighting on behalf of the confederacy that banded together to inflict surprise raids on Union forces, then disbanded, disappeared and resumed their roles as innocent farmers and shopkeepers. According to several genealogical sources with no supporting documentation, Henry Shepherd Sr.’s son Abraham was captured by Union soldiers at one point and condemned to hang--a penalty usually reserved for spies and raiders such as Mosby’s - but was exchanged for captured Union soldiers instead. Another source says he was imprisoned at Ft. McHenry in Baltimore for nearly a year (Am. Hist. Soc., 1923). Aler, in 1888, wrote that “Like hosts of Southerners (Henry II) was crushed financially by the war, but with a business capacity that rebounds from reverses and overcomes them unaided, and by the force alone of his own energies, he has recuperated his fortunes and risen again to the comforts of plenty”.
(Note: A Civil War era Union army belt buckle was discovered on the Entler Farm (just east of the Commons building) during an archeological survey prior to construction of NCTC. There are no records indicating the Entler’s activities during the war, though the whole region was deeply divided, with passionate debate continuing even to this day.)
The Civil War, of course, put an end to the slave-based agricultural economy of the area, and it was slow to recover. The Markells at RiverView Farm seemed to have fallen on hard times, while the Shepherd family at Springwood managed to maintain their property ownership and continue their life near Terrapin Neck, albeit without their slaves.
An advertisement appeared in the Shepherdstown Register on September 9:
JEFFERSON LAND FOR SALE. The subscriber wishes to sell at Private Sale about 223 ACRES of the BEST LIMESTONE LAND, susceptable of a division in two Tracts, lying between R.D. and Henry Shepherd, one mile from the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal, and 7 miles from the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. Improvements good. Has upon it two fine Large Orchards and about 50 OR 60 ACRES of the very best TIMBER. Well watered, there being six or eight springs. Terms made to accommodate the purchaser. J.S. Markell. September 9, 1865.
In November, R.D Shepherd died of typhoid fever, after having retired and become a recluse on his Wild Goose Farm some years before. The war had to have been a tremendous burden on R.D. during the last years of his life: much of his business was still in New Orleans, a southern port city fought over and occupied by northern military forces for much of the war, while his daughter, grandsons, and other business interests were located in the Yankee bastion of Boston. His Wild Goose Farm heard the footsteps and cannon of armies on both sides of the conflict, so it can perhaps be understood why R.D. would look for peace in a world gone mad. His will specified that various family members could keep everything that he had given them over the years, and all his property, including the “Medford” estate in Middlesex County, Massachusetts, and his real estate holdings in New Orleans, were to be divided between his daughter Ellen Brooks and her two sons, Peter Brooks and Shepherd Brooks (JC Recorders WB, p.21). It is assumed that nephew Henry, already in New Orleans, continued to manage the operations there for the Brooks family members. Henry Shepherd II took over ownership of the Wild Goose Farm at some point, thus creating the necessity of distinguishing between his Upper (Wild Goose) and Lower (Springwood) farms. Henry would come back to live in Virginia full-time with his wife, Azemia (McLean) Shepherd, daughter of a prominent New Orleans merchant, and four children sometime in the 1770s (in the Jefferson County, VA 1880 census he listed an 8-year-old son born in Louisiana, suggesting the family moved back to Virginia after 1772).
RiverView Farm, now down to 152 acres, was sold. Thornton W Mason and wife Ellen paid $660 to James Markell, and also had to pay off two other bonds of $1231 and $1891 held by a trustee E. J. Lee, suggesting a foreclosure was at least imminent (JCDB 4 - 1869-70, p. 231). The 1870 census shows the Mason household at RiverView Farm with 9 children, and a 10-year- old mulatto day laborer named James Brown. Continuing the tradition of many previous owners of RiverView farm in the 19th century, Thornton died within a couple of years of acquiring the property.
Henry Shepherd Sr., born in 1793 and the owner of Springwood, died in October 1870 of “general debility”. He was survived by his wife Fanny (Briscoe) Shepherd, and four of their remaining children, among them Henry Jr who had spent much of his adult life in New Orleans, but would soon be managing the upper and lower farms near Terrapin Neck. A description of the farms during his era of ownership is included in the appendix. Henry Sr.’s will mentions the four remaining children: Henry Jr, Anne Elizabeth, John and Abram, and mentions that his son R.D. is deceased, with the heirs already amply provided for by both Henry Sr and R.D. Sr. The will specified that his entire estate in Jefferson County was to go to his wife Fanny, and upon her death the property was to go to both Anne Elizabeth and Henry Jr. Henry Jr could in turn buy out his sister’s half when the time came for $8000 (JC Recorders WB p. 153)
James Markell died. He was reportedly living in a boarding house in Shepherdstown and died of erysipelas, a bacterial disease of the skin
RiverView Farm was purchased by Henry St. John Shepherd, grandson of Abraham Shepherd and cousin of Henry, after the death of Thornton Mason. Edgar Mason, the 25-year-old eldest son of Thornton (clerk in a dry goods store in 1870), contested the sale in court, with his mother as the defendant. The dispute wasn’t resolved until 10 years later.
Fanny Shepherd, widow of Henry Shepherd, died of “old age” at the age of 81. Her son John had recently died of a “spinal affliction” two years prior, and her unmarried daughter Anne Elizabeth died two years later of cancer at the age of 52. Presumably Henry Jr. paid his sister Anne $8000 for her half of the property before her death, as specified in their father’s will.
RiverView farm was finally assimilated into the adjacent Shepherd family domain when the court ruled that it had been purchased by Henry St. John Shepherd. A life-long bachelor, Henry St. John may have rented the place to tenants or to Henry Shepherd next door. RiverView Farm seemed to continue its long period of decline after this time. Henry St. John apparently was the first to refer to it as RiverView Farm in a deed. When he died in 1901 of dropsy at the age of 76, he was living in a room in a building owned by Thomas Files, and gave the farm to his sister Mary in return for the $3500 he had borrowed from her (JCWB C, p.5). His will was not witnessed by anyone, and specified that his funeral should not cost more than $100.
The Shepherd family’s upper and lower farms were given a glowing report in Aler’s (1888) book of the history of Berkeley County (though the property had become part of Jefferson County in 1801); a photo of Springwood – the lower farm – ca. 1870’s is shown above. Henry Shepherd Jr’s son Rezin Davis (R.D.), after attending Washington and Lee College and the University of Virginia at Charlottesburg, and pursuing a short career in real estate in New Orleans, had by this time become a renowned Shakespearean actor, “tragedian and artist” using the stage name R.D. MacLean
Aler also described R.D.’s brother, a young industrious Henry Shepherd (III) with “already marked business capacity” who has been given “the general supervision of his extensive farming operations”, with his “thorough knowledge of the best methods of raising and developing thorough-breds of all kinds”. Aler confidently predicted “an honorable and prosperous future - and that he will prove a worthy successor to his illustrious father”. Another family genealogist described young Henry III as “a fancy stock breeder and farmer” (Smyth, 1909).
Henry Shepherd II died of “paralysis” at 62 years of age (JC Death Register, B5, p. 45). He gave the paved road between his two farms, Shepherd Grade, to Jefferson County at this time (Smyth, 1909). He divided all his property between his four sons: R.D., Henry, William and Augustus, each getting a certain percentage based on their ages (JCWB B, p.24). The Aler account quoted above suggests that his son Henry, then in his early 20s, after having been schooled at the Virginia Military Academy and St. James College near Hagerstown, MD.
was now supervising the farming operations.
Henry Shepherd III married Minnie Rinehart; an infant son, also named Henry, died soon after.
A plat recorded in the Jefferson County courthouse on 3 March describes a “plat of W.J. and A.M Shepherd Stock Farm containing 312 acres formerly “the lower” farm of Henry Shepherd and adjoining George F. Turner, the Potomac River, J.R. Johnson, R.D. Shepherd, Henry St. John Shepherd, the Terrapin Neck Road, Shepherd’s Pike and Shepherd Island” (Thompson 1984). A copy of this plat was found in the attic of the estate house at Springwood some years ago, and now hangs on a wall there. The date suggests that Henry III had sold his portion of the lower farm to his two brothers, Augustus and William and had developed other interests besides being a fancy stock breeder on the old family estate.
Young Henry Shepherd III died on March 4 at 29 years of age, his honorable and prosperous future as a fancy stock breeder somewhat short-lived. His death was not recorded in the Jefferson County courthouse records, suggesting he died elsewhere. Springwood was now being operated as the “Shepherd Stock Farm” by young brothers William and Augustus Shepherd. Augustus, after an education at St. James College in Maryland and a short stint at the University of Virginia, for a time had aspired to the stage like his older brother R.D. but moved back to Virginia in the mid 1890s. His brother William graduated from the University of Virginia in 1893. The oval racetrack seen today near the entrance to NCTC is probably one of their contributions to the cultural history of the property. One report describes them as owning “such noted horses as Queen Gothard, 2.14 _, Nellie D, 2.18 _; Jennie C, 2.23 _; Royal Penn, 2.10 _; and Director Joe, 2.09_”. (see Shepherd postings by Nel Hatcher at Rootsweb link at http://homepages.rootsweb.com/~nhatcher/miller/index.htm)
Within a few years, the Shepherd family’s ownership of these historic properties came to an end. The Shepherd Stock Farm operation lasted about another decade, when it was sold to a Col. Johnson in 1907. RiverView Farm, after the death of Henry St. John Shepherd, was sold out of the family by his sister in 1902. William and Augustus's famous brother R.D. sold the Wild Goose Farm about 1911 and moved to Hollywood to try a career in the movies; silent film credits include The Bishop of the Ozarks (1923), Bag and Baggage (1923), Don’t Neglect Your Wife (1921), Number 99 (1920), The Silver Horde (1920), The Little Shepherd of Kingdom Come (1920), Full of Pep (1919), The Best Man (1919)). R.D. died in California in June of 1948.