George Washington, Revolutionary general and first president of the United States, figures prominently in the history of Romney, the seat of government of Hampshire County. Washington, then 16 years old, was a member of a survey party sent by Lord Fairfax to set boundaries and prepare to plat the future county seat. Some years later he was named commander of the local troops organized to protect the town from destruction by several Indian tribes.
What is now called Romney was first settled by hunters and traders in 1725. In 1738, John Pearsall built some houses in what was called Pearsall's Flats. By 1748 the town had 200 residents and Lord Fairfax saw an opportunity to recoup some of his lost fortunes. He sent in the survey party, with George Washington as a members, and laid out the town of Romney, named for a port on the English Channel. Romney wasn't officially incorporated until 1762. It is one of the two oldest cities in the state. In 1753, Chief Killbuck led the Shawnee and some other Indians in what they called a "Death claim" for all the land near the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Ohio River. The villagers built Fort Pearsall, and George Washington was the commander. Although many of the settlers left, Chief Killbuck and his followers gave up by 1761, and the settlers returned and rebuilt their homes.
Hampshire County itself was torn by internal strife. The Tories, led by John Claypole, refused to pay taxes to the local government and pledged themselves to "drink to the health of King George and the damnation of Congress." In the Civil War, the Hampshire Guards and Frontier Riflemen joined the Confederate Army. The city of Romney changed hands no less than 56 times during the war. On June 11, 1861, Union Gen. Lew Wallace captured the city and a half-hour later Confederate Col. McDonald got it back for the South.
After the war, the state Schools for the Deaf and Blind were established here. Hampshire County is in northeast West Virginia in the eastern Panhandle. It is criss-crossed by ridges and valleys of the Appalachian Mountains. The county's business includes livestock, dairy products, fruit, limestone quarries, and timber. Hampshire County was established in 1753.