Shepherdstown has roots that go deep into the nation’s past. From its pastoral setting on the banks of the Potomac River, the town has watched young soldiers march off to fight in the Revolutionary War, witnessed James Rumsey’s demonstration of his new steamboat (two decades before Robert Fulton launched the Claremont), and—on the bloodiest day of the Civil War—seen the horror of the Battle of Antietam, fought less than five miles away.
Shepherd College was established in 1871, when the county seat of Jefferson County was moved from Shepherdstown back to Charles Town. The people in and around Shepherdstown decided to use the vacated courthouse for a private college. A year later, in 1872, the college became a public institution of West Virginia. (The old courthouse is now McMurran Hall, named for Shepherd’s first president.) On Wednesday, April 7, 2004, Governor Bob Wise signed legislation which changed Shepherd’s name to Shepherd University, effective March 13, 2004.
Shepherdstown today is an interesting blend of the old and the new. German Street, the town’s main street, is a showplace of 18th- and 19th-century homes and shops, many lovingly maintained and adapted to modern purposes. Specialty shops, boutiques, bookstores, antique shops, and restaurants line the sidewalks, imparting a quaint charm to the business district.
Visitors to Shepherdstown may want to allow time to visit the Antietam National Battlefield Site and Cemetery, just across the Potomac River in Maryland, or take a side trip to nearby Harpers Ferry. The Shenandoah Valley—Shepherdstown’s magnificent setting—also offers a wealth of natural resources and historic sites for leisurely exploration.