The oldest incorporated town in West Virginia (along with Shepherdstown, chartered on December 23, 1762), Romney is the principal municipality in Hampshire County and the county seat. Romney is located in the lower valley of the Potomac River’s South Branch. The earliest Europeans to reside there were Job and John Pearsall, who established homesteads before 1738. By the late 1740s, the town, then known as Pearsall’s Flats, numbered approximately 200 settlers who had banded together for security during perilous times on the Appalachian frontier. With the outbreak of the French and Indian War in 1754, these settlers sought refuge in nearby Fort Pearsall, which was guarded by George Washington’s troops.
By 1762, Thomas, Sixth Lord Fairfax, who owned much of what today is the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia, persuaded Virginia’s colonial governor to accept Pearsall’s Flats as the county seat for Hampshire County, which had been created by the Virginia General Assembly in 1754. Fairfax renamed the place ‘‘Romney’’ after a town in his native England.
Owing to its strategic location on the Northwestern Turnpike, a 19th-century stage road following present U.S. 50, Romney changed hands during the Civil War at least 56 times. Most of the town’s residents had sympathized with the South. Romney’s Indian Mound Cemetery in June 1866 hosted one of the reunified nation’s first Confederate grave decoration ceremonies, and in 1867 an early monument commemorating the Confederate dead was erected there. Historically important buildings in Romney include the Wilson-Woodrow-Mytinger House, the town’s oldest surviving structure (about 1750); Literary Hall, built in 1870 by the Literary Society, West Virginia’s first debating organization (founded 1819); and the West Virginia Schools for the Deaf and Blind (established 1870). Romney had 1,848 residents in 2010.
Written by Ted Olson