During the 15 years between the decline of Indian hostilities in the early 1760's and the beginning of the American Revolution, virtually all of the available land in eastern Jefferson County was purchased through land grants from Lord Fairfax.  Some settlers were content to acquire small parcels, but there was a general movement by a few individuals or families to obtain large tracts of land (Figure 6-1).  Most settlers probably wanted to buy enough property to provide farms for their large numbers of children rather than to hold the land for speculative proposes.1  The descendants of many of these settlers still live in Jefferson County on portions of the land grants made more than 200 years ago. 

Only three of the approximately 30 landowners in the Bakerton area at the time owned more than 1,000 acres: Gersham Keyes, John Semple, and Robert Buckles [1].  The 1,800 acres owned by Gersham Keyes and his son Humphrey adjoined the Bakerton area on the south (Figure 6-1).  The family appears to have focused much of its energy on raising wheat, corn, and cattle, probably through the use of indentured servants or tenant farmers (Table 6-1).  They operated their own grist mill, saw mill, smithy, and distillery.  The distillery, used for making whiskey and brandy, seems to have been a substantial, income-producing operation.  Keyes' slaves were probably used for domestic rather than for agricultural purposes. 

Shortly before his death in 1770, Gersham Keyes mortgaged much of his property, and a large portion of his land was sold after he died.  Several hundred acres of the Keyes property were purchased by John Semple.2 Although the breakup of Gersham Keyes' large holdings may have been caused, in part, by his land speculation, his will suggests that he was intent on creating a large, profitable estate that could be kept in the family for generations.12 

John Semple, one of the largest local land speculators of the period, acquired approximately 1,800 acres of land in the Bakerton area between 1763 and his death in 1773.  His holdings on the Virginia side of the Potomac River were small compared with those in Maryland (more than 13,000 acres).  Of the land he bought in Virginia, perhaps 100 or 200 acres were acquired because they contained valuable deposits of iron ore.  The rest of his holdings in this area were meant to supply him with the water, limestone, and wood needed to sustain an iron furnace and to produce agricultural goods to feed his workers or sell at a profit.  Semple's ventures into land speculation and iron manufacturing were disastrous (see Chapter VII), and he apparently lacked the time, finances, or ability to make his farmland turn a profit.  Although Semple owned more than 20 slaves at the time (Table 6-1), he probably used most of them to cut timber or make charcoal for his iron works rather than to farm. 


Robert Buckles [1], who had purchased more than 550 acres to the west of the Bakerton area in the 1750's, bought 400 acres in 1763 close to the Potomac River (Figure 6-1).  Like Gersham Keyes, Buckles appears to have been interested in developing the agricultural potential of his land, and the impressive estates owned by his children and grandchildren suggest that he must have made a successful beginning. 

Melchior's Engle's [1] land grant was subdivided when his wife Mary died in 1769.  The land was partitioned among his sons John [5], William [6], and George [7] at that time, with John receiving the upper lot and the buildings, William the middle lot, and George the lower end.13 

The Engle family was instrumental in establishing a Presbyterian congregation at Duffields at this time.  The first notice of a congregation at Elk Branch appears in April 1769, and records show that one year later John Engle gave the trustees of the Elk Branch congregation an acre of land for their church.  An earlier log church had been located about one-half mile west of the current Elk Branch Presbyterian Church, on the south side of Elk Branch near the spring.14  When the Engles moved into the Bakerton area during the next century, they brought their dedication to the Presbyterian faith with them.  Eventually, the family was responsible for establishing a second church, this time near Bakerton.          

Melchior's sons John, Michael, and George had the urge to settle on the new frontier and may have left home early in the 1770's.  Michael Engle [4] leased his land to Peter Storm for 5 years in 1770; John Engle sold his 100-acre inheritance to Robert Lowrey in 1772; and Philip [3] and George Engle sold 100 acres of the original grant to Jacob Miller in 1774.15  

Several other families in the area had acquired more than 500 acres of land by 1770.  At least two of them ¾ the Taylors and the Stroops ¾ had already lived in the area for a decade or more. 

Samuel Taylor [1], who had obtained one of the earliest patents in the area and added to his property in 1754, was joined by his brother John [2] in 1760 (Figure 6-1). John Taylor purchased 204 acres adjoining his brother's property on the north.  In addition, Samuel Taylor, Jr., obtained a 138-acre grant to the west of his father's river front property.  This brought the joint holdings of the Taylor family to over 800 acres. 

William Stroop, who obtained two land grants north of Elk Run on the Potomac River and an 185-acre grant northwest of Halltown, was one of the wealthier local farmers (Figure 6-1).  Stroop had also purchased 100 acres from Israel Friend and owned additional property in the Maryland side of the Potomac and on the Opecquon.  At the time of his death in 1767, he owned a large amount of personal property (Table 6-1).  The number of horses and farm implements in his estate indicates that three or four family members or servants were involved in agricultural labor.  He probably operated a saw mill along Elk Run near the present location of Engle, and the grain and liquor he produced make it likely that he also owned a grist mill.  His estate included 310 gallons of rye whiskey, 115 gallons of apple brandy, 62 gallons of peach brandy, and 30 gallons of mead.  He is known to have kept bees, and he probably had his own orchard.  Pork was a staple of the family's diet, as was cheese, butter, and sauerkraut.  Substantial quantities of elk, deer, and calf skins, horse hide, linen cloth, and woolen yarn were also enumerated, most of which was probably needed to clothe the large family and its five slaves.16 

In addition to the settlers who received grants during this period, several families purchased land from the original grantees and proceeded to establish their own farms.  James Hendricks [1] bought land near Moler's Crossroads in 1762.17 Henry Bedinger purchased Anthony Worley's 398-acre grant north of River Bend in 1767 (Figure 6-1).  A log house sheathed with boards is still standing on the Bedinger estate and is believed to be the original structure.18 Thomas Melvin obtained John Wright's 398-acre grant in 1768.19 

Table 6-1, based on data found in estate appraisals and wills, provides an overview of agricultural growth in eastern Jefferson County during this period.  Wheat was by far the most important local crop, followed by corn and rye.  Oats and barley were also raised, although in smaller quantities.  Flax and hemp were produced by many local farmers, most of it probably being used locally to produce cloth and cordage.  Despite the large number of acres occupied by many of the settlers and the large size of most families, the number of farm implements listed in the inventories suggest than no more than two or three persons were actively involved in farming each tract and that most of the land was not under cultivation. 

Virtually all of the farmers kept enough horses, cattle, pigs, and sheep to be self sufficient, and Gersham Keyes had his own herd of tame deer.  Most of the farmers had the spinning wheels, looms, and other implements needed to make their own cloth, and some of them had the tools required to produce footware, harness, and other kinds of leather goods.  Keyes and some of the more prosperous farmers probably had their own smithy for making routine repairs to their equipment.  Several local furnaces and forges provided them with other items such as stoves, pots, griddles, chain, and bar iron. (See Chapter VII.) Although few families had stills that could compare with those operated by the Keyes and Stroops, most settlers appear to have made small quantities of distilled beverages.  Many of them probably brewed their own beer as well.

Slavery was not a major factor in the local economy at the time.  Of the 20 adult male slaves listed in Table 6-1, 14 were owned by John Semple and were used for tasks related to iron manufacturing.  It is possible, although not likely, that the remaining male slaves were used for agricultural activities.  It is more probable that they, like most of the female slaves, were used for general domestic help.  In addition to John Semple, the local slave owners included Robert Buckles [1], William Stroop, John Wright, and John Carney.  Since the lands of Stroop and Carney lay next to the Potomac River, their slaves may have been involved in nonagricultural activities such as milling, weaving, tanning, and river trade.  Melchior Engle does not appear to have been a slave owner at the time, although his ancestors were to own several slaves.  No records have been found that indicate that Samuel Taylor [1], his brother John [2], and their children ever owned slaves; however, their Moler relatives were slaveholders in the next century and slave quarters are located on the Taylor property. 

For the most part, slaves appear to have remained in the slaveholder's family after their master died.  Many of the slave owners made provisions in their wills for particular slaves to be given to their children when they died.20  Moses, a mulatto son of John Carney, not only received his freedom upon his master's death but also became the heir to 100 acres of land.  Because of his illegitimacy or his race, he was not allowed to take title to the land, and it became the property of his white half-brother Thomas.21 

Little information is available on the numbers of indentured servants living in the area, but their number was probably quite small at the time.  Wills and deeds of the period reveal that tenant farmers worked on the Friend, Engle, Semple, and Keyes properties.  Other tenants and laborers doubtlessly supplemented the local workforce. 

On the eve of the Revolution, the Bakerton area contained several well-established farm families that had lived on the land for at least two generations.  Many of them had withstood the Indian raids of the 1750's and 1760's, and they appear to have been self sufficient enough to make a substantial contribution of men and materials to the war effort. 


1. A few grantees sold their property shortly after they had acquired it, including John Wright (Deed Book 6, pp. 30-31, 34- 35, Winchester, Va.). 

2. Deed Book 8, pp. 479-485, Winchester, Va.; Deed Book H, p. 4, Frederick, Md. 

3. Will Book 1, pp. 418-419, Frederick County, Va. 

4. Will Book 2, p. 421, Frederick County, Va. 

5. Will Book 3, pp. 355-360, Winchester, Va. 

6. Deed Book M, pp. 418-424, Frederick, Md. Property includes approximately 10,000 acres in Maryland. 

7. Will Book 3, pp. 391-395, Winchester, Va. 

8. Will Book 1, pp. 35-36, Martinsburg, W. Va. 

9.  Deed Book 9, pp. 303-304, Winchester, Va. 

10. Berkeley County Tax List, 1782. 

11. Will Book 1, pp. 415, 420-421, Martinsburg, W. Va. 

12. Deed Book 11, pp. 81-82, Winchester, Va. As part of his inheritance from Gersham Keyes' widow, Humphrey Keyes received the "priviledge and liberty of distilling 400 gallons of liquor yearly in the said still free from charge except the store of the distiller." 

13. Deed Book 15, pp. 274-275, Frederick County, Va..  Will of Melchior Engle (January 12, 1760, Will Book 2, p. 388, Frederick County, Va; partition of Melchior Engle's land, Deed Book 13, p. 83, Frederick County, Va; Deed Book 1, p. 17, Martinsburg, W. Va.; Deed Book 3, p. 100 , Martinsburg W. Va. 

14. Deed Book 3, pp. 458-460, Jefferson County, W. Va.  James R. Graham, The Planting of the Presbyterian Church in Northern Virginia (Winchester, Va: George F. Norton Publishing Co., 1904), pp. 69-71. 

15. Deed Book 15, p. 274, Winchester, Va.; Deed Book 1, p. 17 and Book 3, pp. 101-104, Martinsburg, W.Va. 

16. Will Book 3, pp. 391-395, Winchester, Va. 

17. Deed Book 9, pp. 74-75, Winchester, Va.  Genealogical information on the Hendricks and Melvin-Engle families can be found in Appendix B. 

18. Deed Book 11, pp. 534-536, Winchester, Va.  Jefferson County, W. Va., Architectural Inventory, PRR-13. 

19. Deed Book 12, pp. 335-366, Winchester,  Va. 

20. Will Book 1, pp. 228-229, Martinsburg, W. Va. 

21. Will Book 1, pp. 35-36 and Will Book 11, pp. 446-447, Martinsburg, W. Va.