Although the area near the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers was visited by white explorers early in the 17th century, the area between Shepherdstown and Harpers Ferry was not thoroughly investigated until the early 1700's.  Louis Michel, on one of his visits to America from Switzerland, gathered a party of experienced Pennsylvanian backwoodsmen and mapped the area in 1706.1  

Returning to his homeland with accounts of rich agricultural and mineral wealth, Michel formed an alliance with George Ritter and Baron Christopher De Graffenreid and petitioned the English Crown on July 13, 1709, for a land grant on the Shenandoah River to accommodate a Swiss colony.2  According to Michel's report, a settlement had been established near the forks of the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers shortly after his visit to the area.3 

According to Baron De Graffenreid, this Swiss settlement and another at Great Falls were never realized because Michel failed to repair the ship that was to transport the settlers from the Carolinas.  The further requests of Michel and Graffenreid to settle in this area were denied.  Ownership of the land was uncertain, with both Maryland and Virginia claiming it as part of their territory.  In addition, the Conestoga Indians had become alarmed during Michel's expeditions along the Potomac and complained to the government of Pennsylvania in 1707.  Unauthorized expeditions to the area were forbidden.4 

The location of the earliest white settlement in Jefferson and Berkeley Counties has been debated for more than a century, and most candidates for the honor lack adequate documentation or physical evidence.  One of these sites, located on the Engle land grant in the Duffields area, is still worthy of consideration. 

In 1899, a tombstone was removed from the Engle-Ronemous Graveyard near Duffields and taken to Charleston, West Virginia, for examination and preservation.  The badly weathered sandstone was inscribed with the name Katrina Bierlin and the date 1687-17...7.  The missing number appeared to be either a "0" or a "5." 

Several local sources, relying primarily on oral tradition, insisted that the date was 1707, that the stone marked the resting place of a young woman who had been killed by Indians, and that the tombstone proved the existence of a very early settlement in this area.  Critics argued that there was no proof of a 1707 settlement and that the woman was probably the mother of Melchor Engle, who may have died in 1757 on the land granted to her son three years earlier.5 

Physical evidence may still exist that would settle the dispute.  However, the argument that the grave holds the remains of a young lady named Katrina Bierlin who died in 1707 must currently be based on the credibility of available documents.  Death records for Melchor Engle's [1]6 mother, Catherine Beyerle, have not been found, and she may have remained in Philadelphia or gone to live with other known relatives.  The maps and statements of explorer Louis Michel and Baron De Graffenreid allege that a settlement had been established in the area between their 1706 visit and Michel's return to Europe in 1708.7  Testimony by 19th century visitors to the site lends further support to the earlier date. 8 Finally, Lodonzo C. Engle (1866-1942) named the settlers and described the 1707 settlement in detail, stating that this "tradition" was told to him by Jacob Moler, Philip Engle, Sr., Philip Engle, Jacob Engle, B. D. Engle, and Jacob Strider.9 Engle calls the murdered girl Cattana Biern, a plausible variation since 17th century writers often varied the spelling of names. (Whether history or fiction, Lodonzo Engle's interesting tale, reprinted in Appendix A, deserves a niche in local literature.) 

When the evidence is weighed, I believe that the case for the 1707 death of Cattana Biern (or Katrina Bierlin) and the early settlement in the Duffields-Engle area is stronger than the argument in favor of the 1757 death of Melchor Engle's mother, Catherine Beyerle. 

Although settlements along this portion of the Potomac River were officially prohibited, Michel's report on the area's natural resources doubtlessly caught the attention of Maryland, Virginia, and Pennsylvania residents. By 1719, Presbyterian settlers had established themselves at "Potomoke, in Virginia"; this settlement was probably located near the present site of Shepherdstown.  Three years later, the Treaty of Albany between Virginia and the Six Nations opened up the land south of the Potomac River and east of "the high ridge of mountains" to settlement and readjusted the Warrior Path.  Settlement of the land between the Blue Ridge and Shenandoah Mountains was disputed by the Indians.10 

While the territorial conflicts among the Indians and the colonies continued on both sides of the Potomac River, Israel Friend was one of the first settlers in the area to gain a foothold. 

Friend first appears in August 1725 as an emissary from Governor Charles Calvert of Maryland to the Five Nations.11  Friend's selection by Calvert, plus his subsequent success with the Indians, suggests that he may have known their language and been familiar with the area.  His origin is uncertain ¾ he may have been a member of Louis Michel's 1706 expedition to the Potomac River or a Pennsylvania Quaker who had been involved in that colony's negotiations with the Five Nations. 

Although the Six Nations secretly proposed to join with the Delawares and Shawnees to drive out the English along the Warriors' Path, the scheme was abandoned when the latter two tribes refused the proposal.  In 1727, the Six Nations decided to abandon their attempt to prevent English settlement along the southern portion of the Warriors' Path and turned their attention westward.12  During the same year, two years after Israel Friend first met with the Indians, they gave him a parcel of land at the mouth of Antietam Creek (Figure 3-1).  The deed is the earliest record of a grant to a settler in that section of Maryland and predates the Virginia land grants made of the west bank of the Potomac River by several years: 

Whereas be it known to all manner of persons whom it may concern that we Cunnawchahala, Taw,wenaw, Capt. Sivilite, Toile Hangee, Shoe Hays, Callakahahatt being kings and rulers of the five nations: for naturall love and affections we beir to our brother Israel Freind wee give him and heirs executors administrators and assigns a certain peece of land lying and being upon potomock River beginning at the mouth of Audie//tum Creek at Cox elder marked with three notches one every side and to run up the said River two hundred shoots as far as an arrow can be slung out of a bow and to be one hundred shoots right back from the River so containing its square till it interceeds with the said creek again, with a iland against the mouth of the creek which said land wee the said Indians and our heirs doe warrant and for ever defend unto the said Israel Freind his heirs executors administrators and assigns forever with all the appurtenances thereunto belonging, as fishing, fowling, hawking, hunting and all other priviledges thereunto belonging with paying unto some of us two ears of Indian corn for every year if demanded as witness our own hands and seals this tenth day of January, one thousand seven hundred and twenty seven.13 

In terms of natural resources, Friend's Antietam Creek site was one of the most advantageous on the Maryland side of the Potomac River. The spot was convenient for river travel, had abundant water power, and was adjacent to large supplies of timber, limestone, and iron ore.  This would eventually become the site of Frederick Forge and, later, Antietam Iron Works.  In addition, the island owned by Friend (Knott's Island) at the mouth of Antietam Creek was an excellent midpoint for a ferry between the Maryland and Virginia riverbanks. 

There appears to be no evidence that Friend built a forge or iron furnace at Antietam Creek, or even that he permanently occupied the land at that time.  However, he must have spent considerable time in the area, for he quickly became familiar with the lands on the Virginia side of the river. 

In 1730, Virginia granted John Van Meter the younger a 20,000-acre tract in the fork of the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers that was bounded on the North by the Opequon and thus encompassed not only the Shepherdstown-Bakerton-Harpers Ferry area but also other portions of Jefferson and Berkeley Counties.  Van Meter, like other grantees of the time, was to settle one family of non-Virginians for each 1,000 acres of land he received.  Much of John Van Meter's land was then patented to Jost Hite on June 12, 1734, after Hite had purchased part of Van Meter's holdings and established the required number of families in this area.14  Only two new families managed to receive Regal grants in the Bakerton area before ownership of the whole region was disputed.  The grants were issued on October 3, 1734, to Israel Friend and Samuel Taylor [1].15 

HEJC 3_1


Friend's 300-acre grant encompassed an S-shaped, 5-mile strip of riverbank which began north of River Bend and ended about one quarter of a mile above the confluence of Elk Branch and the Potomac River (Figure 3-1).16  It contained the spring at River Bend and the limestone and iron ore deposits on the west bank of the Potomac.  Friend now owned two of the most desirable pieces of property along the river, and from this time to the present, the histories of Friend's Virginia and Antietam Creek properties have been closely linked. 

If Friend met the conditions under which John Van Meter and Jost Hite were to have settled the area, he established his wife Sarah, and possibly his children and brother Charles, on the Virginia property some time between 1730 and 1733.  By 1749, his family included three sons (Jonas, Jacob, and Charles), two daughters (Catherine and Mary), and three female slaves.  His stone house appears to have been built by 1736, making it one of the oldest original homes in Jefferson County.17 

Friend's relationship with Indian tribes appears to have remained good throughout this period ¾ the Indian grave located on his property suggests the family may have allowed Indians to live in the area or that they cared for wounded or sick who could not return to their tribe.18  This concern for the welfare of Indians appears to have been shared by Israel's brother Charles, who was reported to have saved the only surviving warrior of a Delaware party pursued by Catawabas to Charles' home at Conocoheague Creek (Williamsport, Maryland).19 

Friend's selection of lands along the Potomac River suggests that he recognized the mineral wealth of the region.  His sale of 100 acres to William Stroop in 1746 further strengthens this belief, for the tract sold to Stroop was the southernmost part of Friend's grant and did not contain any resources necessary for digging or smelting iron ore.  There appears to be no evidence that Friend or his family made extensive use of the Virginia site for digging ore or manufacturing iron.  The appraisal of Friend's estate after his death does not contain items that would have been used in digging or smelting operations.20 The family's chief occupations appear to have been raising cattle, sheep, and horses, making honey, and weaving linen and woolen cloth. 

After Israel Friend's death in 1749/1750, the remaining 200 acres of the Virginia grant were divided among his three sons.  According to Friend's will, "the said Jonah [was] to have his divisional part where John Horan now dwelleth and Jacob his divisional part where I now dwell and for Charles my youngest son between the said Jonah's divisional and my now dwelling place."21 

Most of Friend's family did not remain on the home tract long after his death.  His wife may have married John House, who owned several small tracts on the Maryland side of the river.  Jonas sold his 66 1/2-acre tract at River Bend to Simeon Rice in 1754 and moved to Augusta County, Virginia, with his wife.  Jacob appears to have sold part of his land to Charles and joined Jonas in Augusta County.  Charles continued to own his 120-acre tract until 1776, although he probably joined his brothers earlier.  The brothers' exodus occurred as the area became vulnerable to Indian attacks and Quakers were being jailed for refusing to contribute to the war effort.22  Israel's daughter (or daughter- in-law) Mary was still living in a cabin on the old Friend property as late as 1778.23  This area became known as Friend's Orebank. 


At the same time that Israel Friend received his Regal Grant to 300 acres, Samuel Taylor obtained two tracts totalling 325 acres. The 1736 survey map indicates that the 125-acre tract near Moler's Crossroads was the location of Taylor's dwelling.  According to tradition, Taylor erected a log structure on this site in 1732.  The original house, expanded and resheathed, still stands and is probably one of the oldest standing homes in Jefferson County.24  Taylor's second, 200-acre patent, spanned most of the Potomac riverbank between Friend's (now Knott's) Island and Israel Friend's Virginia grant (Figure 3-1).  Taylor did live on his river property some time before his death in 1786, but the precise date is not known.  Taylor's Ferry operated at this location during the 1760's and had probably been in business at least a decade before this date. 25 This site became known as Brien's Ferry in the early 19th century. 

Taylor appears to have emigrated to the area from Pennsylvania, for he owned a considerable quantity of land in "New Castle County and Kent upon Delaware" and in the town of Salisbury.  He was a close friend of Gersham Keys, who owned a large amount of land along the Shenandoah River and had Taylor's power of attorney to buy and sell lands in Pennsylvania.26  Samuel Taylor and his wife Sarah [3] had eight children, and his son Isaac [4] inherited the ferry tract after Taylor's death in 1786.27 Several descendants of Samuel Taylor married members of the Moler family early in the 19th century.  Although slave quarters still stand on the Taylor property, the family members do not appear to have been slave owners during this period.28  Samuel's brother John [2] also may have come to the area in the 1730's, but he did not obtain a grant to nearby land until 1760. 

The land selected by Friend and Taylor in 1734 graphically emphasizes the importance of the Potomac River to early settlers. Virtually the entire western bank of the Potomac River between the future sites of Shepherdstown and Harpers Ferry became the property of two men.  Only a small piece of riverbank north of River Bend and the area at the confluence of Elk Run and the Potomac River were left unclaimed, and these tracts were probably in the process of being granted when Regal land grants ceased as a result of Lord Fairfax's complaint. 

Although Friend and Taylor were the only persons officially occupying land in the Bakerton area, other people had doubtlessly established themselves without government sanction.  Robert Harper probably arrived some time in the 1740's even though he did not receive grants from Lord Fairfax until 1763.  Thomas Mayburry, who later received a Fairfax grant on Elk Run, constructed a bloomery forge for William Vestal and others on the Shenandoah River in 1742.29  

On the Maryland side of the Potomac River, unofficial settlement may have begun as early as 1734.  In May of that year, a group of Pennsylvania settlers petitioned Samuel Blunston, a Pennsylvania official, "To get grants from you to settle any where upon the Waters of Conehecheegoe and likewise upon the Waters of Andiatom on the North side of the line that George Noble and John Smith did run."  The petitioners included Charles, John, and Neils Friend and James Hendricks.30  John House received a patent to 25 acres named "Mill Place" in 1747, suggesting that a grist mill was already established or soon to be built at that site. 

No evidence of forges or mills has been found on the Virginia bank of the Potomac River during this period, although an undocumented source states that settlers said to have accompanied Jacob Engle to the area in 1707 built a grist mill on Elk Run.31  By 1751, a ferry (probably Harper's) was operating at the present site of Harper's Ferry.32  Gersham Keys appears to have established a saw mill and a grist mill along the Shenandoah River by 1752.33  Full scale industry was not to develop on the Potomac River until the 1760's. 


1. Champlain's 1632 map shows the junction of the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers.  Since he did not visit this area, he probably received his information from earlier Jesuit explorers; Charles E. Kemp (ed.), "Some Valley Notes," Va. Mag. Hist. & Bio., XIX (Oct. 1921), p. 413.  William J. Hinke (ed. and trans.), "Letters regarding the Second Journey of Michel to America, February 14, 1703, to January 16, 1704, and His Stay in America till 1708," Va. Mag. Hist. & Bio., XXIV (July 1916), pp. 302- 303. 

2. Otis K. Rice, The Allegheny Frontier: West Virginia Beginnings, 1730-1830 (Lexington: Univ. Press of Kentucky, 1970), pp. 16-17. 

3. Charles E. Kemper (ed.), "Documents related to Early Projected Swiss Colonies in the Valley of Virginia, 1706-1709," Va. Mag. Hist. Bio., XXIX (Jan. 1921), pp. 3-4; "A Brief by L[odonzo]. C. Engle on the Origin of the Engle Name," undated typescript in the possession of Kenneth and Donna Kidwiler, Engle, W. Va.; Thomas P. DeGraffenreid, History of the DeGraffenreid Family (New York: Vail-Ballou Press, 1925), pp. 100-104. 

4. Rice, pp. 16-17; Charles E. Kemper (ed.), "Documents related to Early Projected Swiss Colonies in the Valley of Virginia, 1706-1709," Va. Mag. Hist. Bio., XXIX (April 1921), p. 180. 

5. Genealogists of the Engle family favoring the 1707 date include Jessie Engle Johnson and Lodonzo C. Engle.  Mrs. Johnson's history of the Engle family is excerpted in Winfield S. Engle, The Melchor Engle Family History and Genealogy (Lima, Ohio: Published by the Author, 1940), p. 32.  L.C. Engle's account is described in note 9.  Bushong (Historic Jefferson County, pp. 12-13) believes that no settlement existed in the area at that early date and supports the date of 1757. 

6. Bracketed numbers refer to persons found in Appendix B genealogies. 

7. Charles E. Kemper (ed.), "Documents Relating to Early Projected Swiss Colonies in the Valley of Virginia, 1706-1709," Va. Mag. Hist. & Biog. , XXIX (1921), pp. 3-4, 180-181; William J. Hinke (trans. and ed.), "Letters Regarding the Second Journey of Michel to America, February 14, 1703, to January 16, 1704 and His Stay in America till 1708," Va. Mag. Hist. & Biog., XXIV (July 1916), pp. 302-303. 

8. James R. Graham as cited in Danske Dandridge, Historic Shepherdstown (1910), reprinted, Shepherdstown, W. Va.: The Specialty Binding & Printing Co., 1985, p. 8.  Several witnesses repeated that the date on the stone was distinctly 1707 when it was first cleaned.  The stone deteriorated after being cleaned. 

9. Lodonzo C. Engle, "A Brief by L. C. Engle on the Origin of the Engle Name," typescript, no date, in the possession of Kenneth and Donna Kidwiler, Engle, W. Va., p. 8.  According to this source, these settlers moved to another location in 1712. 

10. Rice, p. 18. 

11. Proceedings of the Maryland Council, August 6, 1725.  In: William Hand Browne (ed.), Archives of Maryland: Proceedings of the Council of Maryland 1698-1731 (Baltimore: Maryland Historical Society), pp. 450- 451. 

12. Francis Jennings, The Ambiguous Iroquois Empire (New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 1984), pp. 302-303. 

13. Indian Deed to Israel Friend, January 10, 1727.  Recorded in the Courthouse of Prince George's County, Upper Marlboro, Md., 1730. 

14. Rice, pp. 21-22. 

15. Grants were also issued at this time to Thomas Shepherd, Isaac Garrison, and John Welton on or near the present site of Shepherdstown.  Jost Hite is also recorded as having a 228-acre grant in the area, but it is not clear that it was occupied. 

16. Regal Grant, October 10, 1734, Virginia State Library, Richmond, Va.  According to a 1802 resurvey of Friend's patent by William McPherson, it actually contained 398 acres.  (Copy made by James M. Brown, 27 June 1836, Harper's Ferry National Park Library: Harper's Ferry, W. Va.). 

17. Will Book 2, pp. 92-93, Frederick County, Va.  Israel Friend's estate included "1 negro woman and female child" and "1 old negro woman."  The date of the existing stone house is inferred from the 1736 map of the Northern Neck of Virginia drawn up for William Gooch.  Thomas Williams (A History of Washington County Maryland, 2 vols., 2nd ed.  [Baltimore: Regional Publishing Co., 1968], 1:21-22, 2:785) reports that Israel Friend's brother Charles was the first resident of Conococheague, Maryland, to obtain a grant (Sweed's Delight, 1739).  Charles Friend's will identifies Gabriel, Jacob, and Charles as his sons (Will Book 1, p. 25, Frederick County, Md.).  Williams does not mention Israel Friend but implies that a Jacob Friend was one of the three original brothers to settle in the area.  John Friend (relationship unknown) was also a Maryland property owner and contemporary of Charles and Israel Friend (Debt Book for 1753, Frederick County, Md.).  Conococheague was located near the present town of Williamsport, Maryland, at the junction of the Potomac River and Conococheague Creek. 

18. Copy of William McPherson's 1802 survey of Friend's Orebank made by James M. Brown, June 27, 1836, Harpers Ferry National Park Library, Harpers Ferry, W. Va. 

19. Samuel Kercheval, History of the Valley of Virginia, 4th ed. (Strasburg, Va.: Shenandoah Pub. House, 1925), p. 39, as told by Captain James Glenn. 

20. Deed Book 1, pp. 264-266, Frederick County, Va.  Will Book 1, pp. 418-419, Frederick County, Va.  Several samples of slag have been found on Friend's Orebank, but the date of origin is uncertain; see: Ellis E. McDowell-Loudan and Gary Loudan, "Glen Haven Site, 46-JF-5: 1983 Interim Report," 1983 Middle Atlantic Archaeological Conference: Proceedings, Rehoboth Beach, Del., April 8-10, 1983, pp. 28-35. 

21. Will Book 2, pp. 92-93, Frederick County, Va.  The Maryland tract is not mentioned in Friend's will. 

22. George Washington, Aug. 4, 1756, Letter to Robert Dinwiddie, in John C. Fitzpatrick (ed.), Writings of George Washington (Washington, D.C.:GPO, 1931), vol. I, p. 420. 

23. Court Order Book XVI, Augusta County, pp. 244, 353, 361, 393; Judgments, Augusta County, Lee vs. Friend, December 17, 1796; Will Book V, Augusta County, p. 133, Augusta County; reprinted in Lyman Chalkey, Chronicles of the Scotch-Irish Settlement in Virginia: Extracted from Original Court Records of Augusta County 1745-1800 (Rosslyn Va.: The Commonwealth Company, no date), I, pp. 194, 201, 202, 204, II, p. 125, III, p. 190, 374, 459.  Court Order Book 4, p. 130, Frederick County, Va.  Deed Book 1, pp. 324-325, 372-374, Frederick County, Va.  The 1802 survey by William McPherson shows the location of Mary Friend's cabin and lot as well as Indian graves and the locations of early ore pits.  Another relative, Neals Friend, became overseer of the road from Friend's property to Falling Springs in 1751-1753 (Court Order Book 4, p. 405, Frederick County, Va.). 

24. "Caton House," Jefferson County, W. Va, Architectural Inventory Form, DR-10.  Jefferson County Planning Commission, Charles Town, W.Va. 

25. Deed Book 13, p. 28, Winchester, Va. 

26. Deed Book 2, pp. 37-38, Winchester, Va. 

27. Will Book 1, p. 415, Charles Town, W. Va. 

28. Jefferson County, W. Va., Architectural Inventory, Form DR- 10. 

29. Deed Book 1, pp. 168-169, Winchester, Va.  Keys hired a blacksmith to serve his plantations in 1746 (Deed Book 1, pp. 287-288, Winchester).  A reconstructed description of Bloomery Forge appears in " 'The Bloomery' As Washington Saw It," The Jefferson Republican, September 20, 1951, pp. 26-27. 

30. Minute Book K, Minutes of the Board of Property and other References To Lands In Pennsylvania, William Henry Engle (ed.), (Harrisburg: Clarence M. Busch, State Printer, 1894), p. 39. 

31. Lodonzo C. Engle, p. 8.  Elk Run Mill appears on several surveys of the Engle area and seems to have operated throughout much of the 19th century. 

32. Joshua Fry, A Map of the Most Inhabited Part of Virginia.  Drawn by Joshua Fry & Peter Jefferson in 1751.  London: Thos. Jeffreys, 1755. 

33. Deed Book 2, pp. 473-476, Winchester, Va.