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Lydia Boggs Shepherd


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Society hostess Lydia Boggs Shepherd Cruger (February 26, 1766-September 26, 1867) was born in present Berkeley County. She passed her childhood on the Virginia frontier, where father John Boggs served as a militia captain. The family settled near Wheeling in 1774, where they experienced the dangers of the period’s recurring Indian wars.

About 1782, Lydia married Moses Shepherd. By 1800, the couple’s business success, growing political influence, and enormous land holdings gave them great wealth. It was symbolized by Shepherd Hall, their stone mansion, which hosted some of the era’s most famous political figures, including six U.S. presidents. The Shepherds’ friendship with Sen. Henry Clay helped to secure the routing of the National Road Road from Wellsburg to Wheeling. After Moses’s 1832 death, Lydia married Daniel Cruger, a former New York congressman.

Lydia Boggs Shepherd Cruger sparked a controversy in 1849 by denying that Betty Zane made the famous gunpowder run to save Wheeling’s Fort Henry during the 1782 siege. According to Cruger, the heroine actually was Molly Scott. The truth remains unclear. No contemporary documentation is known to exist proving who carried the powder or even if the incident occurred at all. Solid secondary evidence, however, some of it dating as early as 1802, substantiates the traditional account with Zane as its central figure.

Lydia Boggs Shepherd Cruger died, eccentric and reclusive, at Shepherd Hall. Shepherd Hall, also known as Monument Place, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Read the National Register nomination.

Written by Ray Swick