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A HISTORY AND GENEALOGY
WILLIAM BOGGS FARM IN BACK CREEK VALLEY
BERKELEY COUNTY, WEST VIRGINIA
THIS PROPERTY IS NOW FOR SALE (2012) - CLICK HERE FOR INFORMATION
|On March 7, 2001, the Boggs Farm was officially listed on the NATIONAL REGISTER OF HISTORIC PLACES.|
|Note: Most of the narrative below, from the period of the 1750 land grant to William Boggs, Sr., until the death of his son, William Boggs, Jr., in 1836, is abstracted from the application filed with the National Park Service, Department of Interior, nominating the property and house to be on the National Register. Added to this is the chronology of ownership until today.|
A group of loyal supporters of the English Monarchy was given a vast area of unsettled land in 1649 situated between the Rappahannock and Potomac Rivers in the Colony of Virginia. The area, commonly called the Northern Neck, consisted of approximately 5.3 million acres and came under the ownership of Thomas, Lord Culpeper by 1688. His daughter married Thomas, Lord Fairfax, in 1690. Since then, the area has been associated with the Fairfax name. Their son Thomas, the 6th to bear the title, like others who controlled vast land areas, was required to encourage settlement and assign ownership to those who occupied and farmed the land. A significant barrier to settlement on Lord Fairfax's western lands fell in the summer of 1744 when colonial officials in Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania met in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and negotiated a treaty with the Native American Indians. This guaranteed colonists the right to settle on lands which were formerly considered Native American Indian hunting grounds and included Frederick County in northwestern Virginia, a part of the Northern Neck.
Would-be settlers purchased warrants for a specified amount of ungranted land. The settlers then located on the land, cleared it sufficiently to grow crops for a season to support a family, and built a modest log dwelling. They then had a surveyor from the proprietor's office survey the land, who drew a plat and verified that the holder of the warrant occupied the land. These papers were sent to the proprietor's office and a grant was issued to the original warrant holder and the heirs.
Fairfax issued grants from his estate at Belvoir in eastern Virginia, near Mount Vernon, and through a branch office which opened at Greenway Court near Winchester in the summer of 1749.
Settlement of the Property and "Genealogy" of Ownership
William Boggs (spelled Bogs in some early documents) and his family arrived in Back Creek Valley, Frederick County, Virginia, prior to 1750, and settled along the west bank of Back Creek. John Mauzy, a surveyor for the Northern Neck Proprietary (commonly known as the Fairfax Grants), surveyed the Boggs settlement. His March 26, 1750, survey defines the boundaries of the 275 acres and includes a plat with a drawing of a small dwelling near the creek. Mauzy added a note to the survey stating, in part, that “[t]his Survey was made in this manner to include Bogs’s improvements and etc. That was partly the reason of running so far upon the Creek [unclear] the low grounds [unclear] being so very narrow & the chiefest part of the rest being not tendable.” The grant was executed on April 2, 1750.
This appears to be the earliest dated grant for this area of Back Creek Valley based on the records of the Virginia State Library, Richmond, Virginia. The boundary description, for example, makes no mention of any other settlers on land adjoining the Boggs land, which was a common practice then and today in land descriptions. This, along with the fact that Boggs obtained two additional grants of land adjoining the original grant, indicates that Boggs was the first to be granted land in this area.
By the time Boggs received a second grant of land, the survey description identifies other settlers in the area whose property adjoined the new parcel. This grant consisted of 243 acres, and was made October 6, 1766. The third and final grant was made on March 17, 1798, and contained 22 acres. Hedgesville, the first village in the area, was not settled until lots were sold in 1832.
The State of Virginia assessor on July 4, 1787, recorded that Boggs owned 4 horses and 9 cattle. Four years later, at the time of his death, an appraisal, April 16, 1791, showed that the estate had grown to include a mare, black horse, a wagon and wagon gear, sheep and lambs, plow and harrow, cattle, pots, pewter plates, sundry kitchen furniture, and bushels of wheat. The real and personal property was willed to one of his sons, William Boggs ( referred to as Jr.), 20 pounds to his son John contingent upon William Jr., selling the land, and to his three daughters, Elizabeth, Mary, and Janreth, the “. . . sum of five pounds each when my son William shall chuse to dispose of the Plantation . . . .”
William Boggs, Jr., remained at the farm until his death in 1836. A June 12, 1837, inventory valued the personal property at $606.00, and listed items from farm animals - mare, bay horse, stallion horse, five milk cattle to farm equipment - axe, manure fork, shovel, hoes to household items - Windsor chairs, china, carpets, forks, etc.
William Jr.’s will divided the land among his wife, Sarah (one third), his two daughters, Elizabeth and Jane (one third each), and 20 dollars to his son John. Sarah Boggs had died in 1832, so her one-third share was divided equally between Elizabeth and Jane, as provided in William Jr.’s will. However, Elizabeth died in December 1837 without a will so that her share of the property was divided between Jane and her brother John. An agreement between Jane and John Boggs in 1838 provided for John to retain 243 acres and to relinquish all rights to the remaining 306 acres. In 1846, John sold his 243 acre tract for $2,000.00 to Thomas C. Harper, who had married Jane Boggs in 1839.
During the period Jane and Thomas Harper owned the farm, one of the daughters of John Boggs, Theresa, came to live at the farm. She inherited the entire farm upon the death of her uncle Thomas in 1884; Jane, his wife, having died in 1859. Theresa remained single until shortly after Thomas’s death, when she married a widower, Plummer Mussetter. She was 55 and he was 65.
The inherited farm was in debt when Theresa assumed it. She negotiated a bond extension for payment of $380.00 on July 24, 1885. By the end of 1887, she was unable to pay the debt. Enoch G. Hedges, and others, forced a sale of the property. The public auction was announced in at least one Martinsburg newspaper on January 7 and again on January 14, 1888, the very day of the auction. By the terms of the court ordered sale, the title remained in the hands of the special commissioners, E. Boyd Faulkner and W. H. H. Flick, until the three annual payments by the purchaser were made. On April 21, 1891, full title to the property was transferred to the purchaser, D. E. Stone.
Stone kept the farm until he and his wife, Rebecca, sold it to John H. Laing, March 23, 1911. Upon purchase of the Boggs Farm, Laing sold 150 acres to E. Fink, April 5, 1911. Laing transferred various sized parcels of land to his offsprings and their spouses during his life time. His will dated on July 10, 1924, about a month before his death, transfers additional small parcels of land to his offsprings and, additionally, states that “I give, bequeath and devise to my son, Charles Louis Laing, all the remainder of my property, real, personal and mixed . . . for life and at his death to his children . . . .”
When Charles L. Laing died in 1977, Charles L. Laing's four children inherited the property, in accordance with the elder Laing's will. The property was auctioned at the Berkeley County Court House steps on September 30, 1978, under the direction of Special Commission D. Patrick Dalton. It was purchased by Richard W. Dodge, Daniel T. and Mary M. Goggin, and Karl K. and Carroll B. Kindel. Three years later, the Kindels sold their 1/3rd share in the property to Dodge and the Goggins. Upon the divorce of Daniel and Mary Goggin, Daniel purchased Mary’s 1/3rd interest in 1984. The property today is owned undivided ½ interest by Richard W. Dodge and Daniel T. Goggin.
Significant Boggs Family Members
Two descendants of William Boggs born on the farm are notable as individuals.
Lydia Boggs, born in 1766, was the daughter of John Boggs, oldest son of William Boggs, Sr., who, with his family moved to what is present day Wheeling, West Virginia, in the early 1770s. He was a Captain in Lord Dunmore’s War and was involved in various skirmishes with the Native American Indians in the Wheeling area. Lydia Boggs married Moses Shepherd, the grandson of the founder of Shepherdstown and, after he died in 1832, married Daniel Cruger, who had fought in the War of 1812 and was a one-term congressman from upstate New York. Lydia Boggs became well known as a forceful advocate of the National Road. In this endeavor, she developed a close friendship with Henry Clay and other well known American historical figures during the first half of the 19th century. Lydia spent a large portion of each year over a long period of time in Washington, DC, and lived until 1867. The building of the National Road opened the west to rapid growth and greatly facilitated the expansion of commerce through the 19th century.
Another notable family member was John Boggs, son of William Boggs, Jr., who became a well known Presbyterian minister. He was born on the farm in 1785 and graduated from Princeton University Seminary. He served as pastor in various churches in New Jersey, Virginia, South Carolina, Georgia and Louisiana. In 1845, he announced plans to open a female seminary in Martinsburg, but failing health forced him in 1847 to move to the warmer climate of South Carolina where he died in September 1848.
Description of the House
Most of the following description of the log house, which was restored in 2000-01, is taken from an architectural analysis of the house prepared by Frances D. Ruth, 1981.
The center-hall log house was constructed about 1790 on a bluff and is within the boundaries of the original grant. The house is an excellent example of vernacular architecture, embodying characteristics both distinctive for reflecting frontier construction by using local materials and for incorporating a contemporary floor plan and decorative moldings and other distinctive woodwork. It has three bays and two stories (the footprint is 20 feet by 30 feet). The interior of the house has been little changed during two centuries. Most of the interior walls were never covered; the exposed logs, including the hand hewn beveled beams, were white washed. The only modern conveniences have been the installation of electrical wiring and a telephone line until restoration when central heating and air conditioning were added. The woodwork reflects period styles; and the two mantels, one on each floor, are fine examples of early Federal craftsmanship. The first floor mantel is fairly sophisticated, the pilasters are paneled with reeded appliqués on the end blocks and the frieze has a reeded, oval appliqué. The shelf is shallow with an outline of scotia and fillet moldings. The second floor mantel has two large recessed panels with small moldings surrounding it and a picture frame molding around the opening (firebox). This mantel is transitional (Georgian-Federal) in design.
The main entrance door of six flat panels sheathed with vertical beaded boards and hung on full strap hinges on pintles is original and excellent. This opens to a central hall of beaded board walls with chair rail and a fine open-string, open-well, two flight stairs. The staircase is enclosed in beaded boards; the lower edge of the stringer course is beaded and the step-ends have a beautiful triple scroll appliqué. The newels are tall and slender, round-in-section, with neck moldings and decorative knobs.
Most doors retain the original or early 19th century hardware, including fine examples of door latches and hinges. During restoration, antique Carpenter locks were added to some doors. The interior walls setting off the rooms are of beaded board in good condition. The drawing room’s walls above the chair rail are covered by wood paneling; below, the wall has beaded wood. The dining room’s exterior walls have not been covered, although there is a chair rail of fine design attached to it.
The over-all effect of the house is quite astounding and the interior is of excellent period workmanship and design. The house remains largely as it was at the time of its construction. The structure embodies the distinctive characteristics of permanent log-house construction of the late 18th century.
During the 2000-2001 restoration, an addition was constructed in sympathy with the original structure. The addition includes a large all purpose room and kitchen, two bedrooms, small study, and two bathrooms. The exterior of the original house has beaded cedar siding while the addition has plain cedar siding.
A short distance from the house is a 2 ½ story root cellar built into the side of a hill. This structure has two entrances, one is on the first floor at ground level and the other is on the opposite side into the second floor, also at ground level. The high ceilinged first floor is built of local stone and appears to have been constructed about the time of the log house. More than half of the first floor is buried into the hill side. The interior, all stone with wooden ceiling, remains cool and moist year round. The upper levels are frame constructed by using unmilled small logs for upright studs. The second floor interior is plain with some shelving for housing preserved food and other domestic products. The exterior door to the second floor is wood and has two full length strap hinges and a metal latch lock.