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General Adam Stephen, a physician who rose rapidly to military and political prominence in Western Virginia, was born in Scotland in 1721 and lived in Martinsburg. He shared command of the frontier defenses with George Washington during the French and Indian War, his reputation surviving the disasters of Fort Necessity and the Braddock campaign. Called to service in the Revolutionary War as a full colonel in the 4th Virginia Regiment, he was commissioned for meritorious service at Trenton as brigadier and then major general in the Continental Army. When serious errors of judgment at the 1778 Battle of Brandywine brought his military career to an abrupt close, Stephen returned to land development, medicine, and politics. Stephen played a key role in persuading the Virginia Convention to ratify the U.S. Constitution.

Stephen, who had recently moved to the area, was largely responsible for the creation of Berkeley County in February 1772, and the establishment and naming as county seat the town of Martinsburg in October 1778. He assured the town’s orderly development by laying off in lots and sections 130 acres of land obtained from Col. T. B. Martin, for whom the town was named. Stephen, who served as Berkeley County’s first sheriff, died July 16, 1791. His Martinsburg home, a local landmark, was named to the National Register of Historic Places on October 15, 1970.

Read the National Register of Historic Places nomination for Adam Stephen House.

This Article was written by Dallas B. Shaffer

Last Revised on February 07, 2023


Evans, Willis F. History of Berkeley County. Martinsburg: Willis Evans, 1928.

Doherty, William T. Berkeley County U.S.A.: A Bicentennial History. Parsons: McClain, 1972.

West Virginia Antiquities Commission. Annual Report. 1972.

Cite This Article

Shaffer, Dallas B. "Adam Stephen." e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia. 07 February 2023. Web. 22 July 2024.


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