A People’s History of Jefferson County, WV Part 2 – The Rocky Road to Nationhood to 1787 – by Jim Surkamp

by Jim Surkamp on June 9, 2019 in American RevolutionCivilianJefferson County

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VIDEO: The Rocky Road to Nationhood: James Rumsey, George Washington & Adam Stephen. Click here.

– (Olive Beaupré.(1921). “From the tower window of my bookhouse.” Chicago, IL; Toronto, CA: The Bookhouse for Children.- hathitrust.org p. 139).

– Jim Surkamp

This series of videos and posts expand on a fifty-five minute presentation given August 5th, 2018 at the Town Run Community Tap Room in Shepherdstown to an audience of about fifty people.

– Jim Surkamp.

We begin here by showing the large montage of sequenced images at the event comprising the history of Jefferson County in the form of people’s stories. The extreme upper left on the montage images is first chronologically; the extreme lower right is the last, most recent-in-time image.

Following this overview we pick up the account here starting about 1784 through to 1790. (Part 1 told the story up through the time to the end of the Revolutionary War and at the image on the montage of young George Washington). For that full story and links to the videos associated with it on youtube, Click here.


– (iStockphoto npr.org 10 December 1997 Web 10 February 2019).

6 & 7.
– (myemail.constantcontact.com 8 March 2011 Web. 10 December 2018).
– (Scudder, Horace E. (1889). “George Washington: an Historical Biography.” New York, NY: Houghton Mifflin Company.- p. 175 – books.google.com 24 November 2005 Web. 10 February 2019).

What would we have done without that mutual mystical bond that held the General with his ragged volunteers?
8 & 9.
– (George Washington at Valley Forge by N.C. Wyeth. Courtesy The Hill School, Pottstown, PA; photographed by C.C.F. Gachet. explorepahistory.com). – (Lyrics to Bonnie Charlie by Lady Nairne. wikipedia.org).


– (The Attack upon the Chew House by Howard Pyle, 1898 – Illustration Citation: “The Story of the Revolution,” by Henry Cabot Lodge, in Scribner’s Magazine, June 1898 – hathitrust.org 19 September 2008 Web. 19 January 2019. p. 715).
– (catalog.hathitrust.org 19 September 2008 Web. 19 January 2019).
– (emuseum.delart.org 21 March 2018 Web. 19 January 2019).


– (Surrender of Lord Cornwallis by John Trumbull – The painting is on display in the Rotunda of the US Capitol. The subject of this painting is the surrender of the British army at Yorktown, Virginia, in 1781, which ended the last major campaign of the Revolutionary War. – aoc.com 28 October 1996 Web. 19 January 2019).


– (This painting depicts the scene on December 23, 1783, in the Maryland State House in Annapolis when George Washington resigned his commission as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army. The action was significant for establishing civilian authority over the military, a fundamental principle of American democracy. – aoc.com 28 October 1996 Web. 19 January 2019).

– (Washington and Lafayette at Mount Vernon, 1784 (also known as The Home of Washington after the War)- Louis Remy Mignot – 1859. Owner/Location: Metropolitan Museum of Art – New York, NY (United States – New York) Dates: 1859. the-athenaeum.org 23 May 2002 Web. 20 October 2016);
– (metmuseum.org 11 November 1996 Web. 19 January 2019).

– (Auteur: Léonard Defrance (1735–1805) Description: Pub interior, Date: XVIIIe siècle, Collection: Bonnefantenmuseum – wikipedia.org 27 July 2001 Web. 19 January 2019).
– (larsdatter.com 4 December 2001 Web. 19 January 2019).

Re-doing the nation to Last had its seed in a chat in an inn in September, 1784 in today’s Berkeley Springs, WV but then Warm Springs, Va. – but in disguise.

– (A survey of the northern neck of Virginia, being the lands belonging to the Rt. Honourable Thomas Lord Fairfax Baron Cameron, Contributor Names: Warner, John, Created/Published: [n.p., 1747?] – loc.gov 16 June 1997 Web. 19 January 2019). – (pub – John S C Schaak Tavern interior 1762 – commons.wikimedia.org 5 June 2004 Web. 19 January 2019).
– (larsdatter.com 4 December 2001 Web. 19 January 2019)16. – (James Rumsey ca. 1790 – Attributed to George William West Born: St. Andrew’s Parish, Maryland 1770 Died: 1795 Smithsonian American Art Museum – Source: originally posted to Flickr as 1957.11.2, Author: pohick2 – wikipedia.org 27 July 2001 Web. 19 January 2019). – (GWashington holding tea cup – mountvernon.org 11 November 1996 Web. 19 January 2019).

The war finally over, and with peace gently reclaiming daily life, George Washington’s providential shmoozing in September, 1784 with an innkeeper in Berkeley Springs named James Rumsey,

Washington went down to the river saw Rumsey’s upstream paddle wheel boat work. He was completely satisfied with the boat and “the ingenious Mr. Rumsey” immediately seeing how this could make possible his dream.

He thought:


– (George Washington by Gilbert Stuart, National Gallery of Art – Washington DC. Source: Walters Art Museum, Date: 1821 – wikipedia.org 27 July 2001 Web. 19 January 2019). – (the-athenaeum.org 23 May 2002 Web. 20 October 2016).

There must be a way to unite my two worlds: the coastal ports, seamen and lenders with the woodsmen and farmers on the frontier and all this by way of rivers and canals that we WILL build.

– (woodsman, Howard Pyle’s book of the American spirit; the romance of American history, pictured by Howard Pyle, comp. by Merle Johnson, with narrative descriptive text from original sources, edited by Francis J. Dowd. Published: New York, Harper & brothers, 1923. hathitrust.org 19 September 2008 Web. 19 January 2019). – (seaport – Howard Pyle’s book of the American spirit; the romance of American history, pictured by Howard Pyle, comp. by Merle Johnson, with narrative descriptive text from original sources, edited by Francis J. Dowd. Published: New York, Harper & brothers, 1923, p. 57). hathitrust.org 19 September 2008 Web. 19 January 2019). – – (google map Washington/Baltimore to Pittsburgh – google.com/maps 13 October 2001 Web. 19 January 2019).

– (Grigsby, Hugh B. (1891). “The History of the Virginia Federal Convention, Vol. 1.” Richmond, Va.: The Virginia Historical Society.archive.org 26 January 1997 Web. 10 February 2019. p. 1).

Rumsey as Washington’s choice to be the Potomac Company’s supervisor and chief engineer, who was charged with blasting through rock on the Potomac, endured a year of miniscule pay and monstrous un-do-ability – and quit.

– (HAER VA,30-GREFA,1- (sheet 1 of 2) – Potowmack Company: Great Falls Canal & Locks, Great Falls, Fairfax County, VA DRAWINGS FROM SURVEY HAER VA-13 – loc.gov 16 June 1997 Web. 19 January 2019).

But the Potomac Company in a sense, succeeded vastly by failing – showing unequivocally once and for all – that ONLY interstate teamwork fed by federal funds could get big road and canal projects DONE.

Now, Washington and Rumsey knew that the law of the land – the Articles of Confederation – was a bigger obstacle than any boulder in the Potomac to interstate river travel because it forbad a strong central government that could plan, fund, and execute it more properly than a gaggle of dithering states.


– Articles of confederation and perpetual union between the states; created / Published: Williamsburg, 1777 – loc.gov 16 June 1997 Web. 19 January 2019. – (Illustration by William H. Bond of what Matildaville (near Great Falls) would have become once the canal was in place. (National Geographic Society) – mountvernon.org 11 November 1996 Web. 19 January 2019).

Ron Chernow, recipient of the Pulitzer Prize for his biography of George Washington wrote:
– (Ron Chernow – facebook.com 12 December 1998 Web. 19 January 2019). – (detail, Washington family by Edward Savage – nga.gov 5 April 1997 Web. 19 January 2019).

The plan to extend navigation of the Potomac influenced American history in ways that far transcended the narrow matter of commercial navigation. It created a set of practical problems that could be saved only by cooperation between Virginia and Maryland, setting a pattern for a seminal interstate conference at Annapolis in September, 1786 and indeed, the Constitutional Convention itself in 1787.

23. The Winding Road to Nationhood
– (earth – google.com/maps 13 October 2001 Web. 19 January 2019).

Possessed by the need to reform Washington had kept driving home his idea of uniting frontier and shore with – first – one meeting of a few people at Mount Vernon in the spring of 1785, carrying over to another meeting – same issues and more at a bigger stage and more actors in Annapolis, MD in September, 1786 – morphing again into the mother of all meetings – with all the actors on the largest stage of all – the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in the summer of 1787 to rewrite the worthless nation’s Articles of Confederation.

– (region – google.com/maps 13 October 2001 Web. 19 January 2019). – (The Old Mount Vernon by Eastman Johnson – 1857 – the-athenaeum.org 23 May 2002 Web. 20 October 2016).

At Mount Vernon in 1785 they took a baby step and showed Virginia and Maryland could create a framework for profitably sharing their rights to their common waterways: the Potomac and Chesapeake

More talk at Annapolis on easier trade between citizens of different states, but turnout was low.

– (region – google.com/maps 13 October 2001 Web. 19 January 2019). – (Annapolis watercolor by Cotton Milbourne courtesy Hammond Harwood House and the Maryland State Archives. Date: 1794 – maryland1812.wordpress.com 29 June 2011 Web. 19 January 2019).

Delegates Egbert Benson, Alexander Hamilton; Abraham Clark, William Houston, James Schureman; Tench Coxe; George Read, John Dickinson, Richard Bassett; Edmund Randolph, James Madison, St. George Tucker

– (Egbert Benson Illustrated by Thomas Addis Emmet, 1880. Volume 2 consists of pages 1-99 of the 1865, quarto, edition of the work, volume 3 of pages 99-213, volume 5 of pages 303-400. Date: 1872 – digitalcollections.nypl.org 3 January 1997 Web. 19 January 2019). – (Author Scan of Egbert Benson by NYPL – wikipedia.org 27 July 2001 Web. 19 January 2019). – (Alexander Hamilton – wikipedia.org 27 July 2001 Web. 19 January 2019).

– (Abraham_Clark – wikipedia.org 27 July 2001 Web. 19 January 2019). – (William_Houston – wikipedia.org 27 July 2001 Web. 19 January 2019). – (Ruthanne D. McCaig saved to Silhouettes Antique Print-VONCK-PORTRAIT-SILHOUETTE-1799 – pinterest.com 2 February 2010 Web. 19 January 2019). – (James_Schureman – wikipedia.org 27 July 2001 Web. 19 January 2019). – (Ruthanne D. McCaig saved to Silhouettes Antique Print-VONCK-PORTRAIT-SILHOUETTE-1799 pinterest.com 2 February 2010 Web. 19 January 2019).

– (Tench Coxe – Source A History of the United States: For Families and Libraries, p. 369 Author: Benson John Lossing (1813–1891) – wikipedia.org 27 July 2001 Web. 19 January 2019).

– (George Reed – Courtesy of Delaware Department of State, Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs, Collection of the Delaware State Museums. Hall of Governors Portrait Gallery – state.de.us/ 21 January 1997 Web. 10 February 2019 & wikipedia.org 27 July 2001 Web. 19 January 2019). – (John Dickinson Artist: Charles Willson Peale (1741–1827) Title: Portrait of John Dickinson, American politician (November 8, 1732 – February 14, 1808) Date: 1780 – wikipedia.org 27 July 2001 Web. 19 January 2019). – (Richard Bassett of Delaware (1745-1815). Engraving, by Charles B. J. Fevret de Saint-Memin (1802). National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.; gift of Mr. & Mrs. Paul Mellon. – wikipedia.org 27 July 2001 Web. 19 January 2019).30.
– (Edmund Randolph CREATED/PUBLISHED: c1904.RELATED NAMES: Brumidi, Constantino, 1805-1880, artist. Detroit Publishing Co., copyright claimant, publisher. Photograph of a mural of first attorney general by Constantino Brumidi in the rotunda, United States Capitol, Washington, D.C. Gift; State Historical Society of Colorado; 1949. – commons.wikimedia.org 5 June 2004 Web. 19 January 2019). – (James Madison Artist: Charles Willson Peale, 15 Apr 1741 – 22 Feb 1827 Date: c. 1792 Owner: Gilcrease Museum – Website: www.gilcrease.org/ gilcrease.org 12 December 1998 Web. 19 January 2019 & npg.si.edu 24 December 1996 Web. 19 January 2019). – (St. George Tucker Artist: Charles Balthazar Julien Févret de Saint-Mémin, 12 Mar 1770 – 23 Jun 1852, Date: 1808. Credit Line: National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; gift of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon – npg.si.edu 24 December 1996 Web. 19 January 2019).15:46References:1. James Rumsey (1743–1792) of Bath was a handsome and engaging jack-of-all-trades. Born in Cecil County, Md., he moved to the Warm Springs area from Baltimore about 1782, and although a man of relatively limited means and education, he had soon become owner of a sawmill and bloomery, partner in a store, contractor for building new bathhouses, and operator with Robert Throckmorton (Throgmorton) of a new boardinghouse “at the Sign of the Liberty Pole and Flag” (Md. Journal, 15 June 1784, 25 June 1784; NEWBRAUGH, 1:15; TURNER, 3–7).GW lodged at the boardinghouse (Cash Memoranda, DLC:GW), and there probably met Rumsey, whose chief interest, he found, was not business, but mechanical invention. The small model of the mechanical boat that GW saw today was designed somewhat paradoxically to be propelled forward by the force of the current against which it was to move. The “boat” actually consisted of two boats with a paddle wheel mounted between them. As the wheel turned with the current, it operated poles that were supposed to push against the river bottom, making the vessel “walk” upstream (Rumsey to GW, 10 Mar. 1785, GW to Hugh Williamson, 15 Mar. 1785, DLC:GW).Before leaving Bath, GW gave Rumsey a certificate attesting to the potential value of the invention and his faith in its ultimate success (7 Sept. 1784, DLC:GW). Rumsey promptly had the certificate published in several prominent newspapers, and soon obtained exclusive rights from the legislatures of Virginia, Maryland, and several other states to make and operate his mechanical boat, a necessary step to protect his invention in the absence of any national patent office. A modified full-scale version of the vessel was tried 9 and 13 Sept. 1786 on the Potomac River near Shepherdstown with little success. The poles slipped on the bottom on the first occasion, and the current was too slow to operate the poles on the second one (Rumsey to GW, 19 Sept. 1786, DLC:GW). Rumsey then abandoned this particular invention, having previously decided on developing a steamboat, a decision that led him in a more fruitful direction, but involved him in much controversy.“[Diary entry: 6 September 1784],” Founders Online, National Archives, last modified June 13, 2018, http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Washington/01-04-02-0001-0001-0006. [Original source: The Diaries of George Washington, vol. 4, 1 September 1784 – 30 June 1786, ed. Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1978, pp. 9–14.]founders.archives.gov 17 June 2013 Web. 10 February 2019.**2. Pickell, John. (1856). “A new chapter in the early life of Washington, in connection with the narrative history of the Potomac company. New York, NY: D. Appleton & Co. catalog.hathitrust.org 6 December 2009 Web. 10 February 2019.3. Potowmack Company: Great Falls Canal & Locks, Great Falls, Fairfax County, VA. loc.gov 16 June 1997 Web. 10 February 2019.**4. Chernow, Ron. (2010). “Washington: A Life.” New York, NY: The Penguin Press. p. 503.**5Articles of Confederation discouraged big infrastructure projects, because a strong funding and oversight by gov’t was lacking.Taxation and commerce
Under the Articles of Confederation, the central government’s power was kept quite limited. The Confederation Congress could make decisions, but lacked enforcement powers. Implementation of most decisions, including modifications to the Articles, required unanimous approval of all thirteen state legislatures.[24]Congress was denied any powers of taxation: it could only request money from the states. The states often failed to meet these requests in full, leaving both Congress and the Continental Army chronically short of money. As more money was printed by Congress, the continental dollars depreciated. In 1779, George Washington wrote to John Jay, who was serving as the president of the Continental Congress, “that a wagon load of money will scarcely purchase a wagon load of provisions.”[25] Mr. Jay and the Congress responded in May by requesting $45 million from the States. In an appeal to the States to comply, Jay wrote that the taxes were “the price of liberty, the peace, and the safety of yourselves and posterity.”[26] He argued that Americans should avoid having it said “that America had no sooner become independent than she became insolvent” or that “her infant glories and growing fame were obscured and tarnished by broken contracts and violated faith.”[27] The States did not respond with any of the money requested from them.Congress had also been denied the power to regulate either foreign trade or interstate commerce and, as a result, all of the States maintained control over their own trade policies. The states and the Confederation Congress both incurred large debts during the Revolutionary War, and how to repay those debts became a major issue of debate following the War. Some States paid off their war debts and others did not. Federal assumption of the states’ war debts became a major issue in the deliberations of the Constitutional Convention. wikipedia.org 27 July 2001 Web. 10 February 2019.**6ARTICLES OF CONFEDERATION, MARCH 1, 1781-MARCH 4, 1789The Articles created a loose confederation of sovereign states with a very weak central government. Most of the governing power was retained by the governments of individual states. Each state legislature determined how to elect up to seven delegates to represent it in Congress and each state, regardless of size or population, had one vote in the Confederation Congress. The only powers granted to Congress were the ability to declare war and make peace, to negotiate with foreign countries, to supervise affairs with Native Americans, and to appoint United States military and naval officers. Congress could also determine the value of coins and fix the standards of weights and balances and manage the postal service.The national government was not allowed powers not explicitly granted it, and this weak structure of central government led to numerous problems, which became more evident as time passed. Limited in its abilities and governmental authority, Congress was unable to conduct business without the deliberate support of the states.The inability of Congress to fund the national debt and enforce the treaty of 1783 eventually led to calls for reforms to the Articles of Confederation, which culminated in the Constitutional Convention of 1787. The current United States Constitution replaced the Articles of Confederation on March 4, 1789. edu.lva.virginia.gov 1 August 2015 Web. 10 February 2019.7.
The Mount Vernon Conference was a meeting of delegates from Virginia and Maryland held March 21–28, 1785, to discuss navigational rights in the states’ common waterways. On March 28, 1785, the group drew up a thirteen-point proposal to govern the two states’ rights on the Potomac River, Pocomoke River, and Chesapeake Bay.[1] Known as the Mount Vernon Compact,[2] formally titled as the Compact of 1785,[3][4] this agreement not only covered tidewater navigation but also extended to issues such as toll duties, commerce regulations, fishing rights, and debt collection. Ratified by the legislature of both states, the compact helped set a precedent for later meetings between states for discussions into areas of mutual concern.
wikipedia.org 27 July 2001 Web. 10 February 2019.8.
To ensure mutually profitable commerce on their shared waterways, the Virginia and Maryland legislatures recognized the need for an agreement between the two states regarding the jurisdiction of the waters. This awareness led to the chartering (in Maryland-1784 and in Virginia-1785) of the Potomac Company to make improvements to the Potomac River and improve its navigability beyond its fall line for commerce. The company’s goal was the linking of the East Coast with the trans-Appalachian northwest.[5]The Potomac Company (spelled variously as Patowmack, Potowmack, Potowmac, and Compony) was created in 1785 to make improvements to the Potomac River and improve its navigability for commerce. The project is perhaps the first conceptual seed planted in the minds of the new American capitalists in what became a flurry of transportation infrastructure projects, most privately funded, that drove wagon road turnpikes, navigations, and canals, and then as the technology developed, investment funds for railroads across the rough country of the Appalachian Mountains. – The failure of the Potomac Company was largely attributed to a lack of federal support and oversight, and the U.S. government was much more careful to support interstate infrastructure projects after that.
wikipedia.org 27 July 2001 Web. 10 February 2019.9.
In September 1784, when George Washington was staying at Rumsey’s inn, he contracted with Rumsey to build a house and stable on property he owned at Bath. During this visit, Rumsey showed Washington a working model of a mechanical boat which he had designed. It had a bow-mounted paddlewheel that worked poles to pull the boat upstream. Washington had been making plans for making the Potomac river navigable since before the Revolution, and a company was soon to be formed for the purpose.In July 1785, he was recommended by Washington and appointed the superintendent of the newly formed Patowmack Company[2] to the oversee the clearing of rocks at what is now Harper’s Ferry.It soon became was obvious that the Patowmack Company had a much greater task than any of its members had foreseen. It was hindered by the lack of an overall supervising engineer; overseers were having to improvise as best they could. The work required much manual labor and difficult blasting, and Rumsey found himself directing a large and restive gang of about a hundred workmen, including leased slaves and bondsmen, encamped in a remote area, without adequate supplies.After a year Rumsey said he would resign if not given an increase in pay.
wikipedia.org 27 July 2001 Web. 10 February 2019.10.
The Annapolis Convention, formally titled as a Meeting of Commissioners to Remedy Defects of the Federal Government, was a national political convention held September 11–14, 1786 at Mann’s Tavern in Annapolis, Maryland, in which twelve delegates from five states—New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Virginia—gathered to discuss and develop a consensus about reversing the protectionist trade barriers that each state had erected. At the time, under the Articles of Confederation, each state was largely independent from the others, and the national government had no authority to regulate trade between and among the states.[1] New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and North Carolina had appointed commissioners who failed to arrive in Annapolis in time to attend the meeting, while Connecticut, Maryland, South Carolina, and Georgia had taken no action at all.[2]
SEPTEMBER 11th-14th 1786
avalon.law.yale.edu 24 October 2008 Web. 10 February 2019