By the beginning of the nineteenth century, much of the Bakerton area's agricultural and mineral potential was being actively developed.  Most of the natural resources available to the early settlers were still abundant.  Land transportation had improved slightly during the last one hundred years.  Some of the roads had been improved, particularly between the towns, but the rough terrain between Shepherdstown and Harpers Ferry still prevented people from moving easily through the Bakerton area and tended to keep it isolated from more populous locations.  However, as a result of improvements made by John Semple and the Patowmack Company, movement of goods down the Potomac River had become much easier.  Travel between the Maryland and Virginia sides of the river was still relatively easy, and family ties between Bakerton and Antietam area residents continued to grow. 

Charles Varle's 1807 Map of Jefferson, Berkeley, and Frederick Counties, Virginia, provides a bird's eye view of some local trade and transportation patterns (Figure 9-1).1  Starting at the southern end of the Bakerton area, a road ran from what is now called Bolivar Heights down the hill to the "Old Furnace," where John Strider's [12] saw mill was located.  No grist mill is noted at this site.  At the same time, the grist mill on Elk Run near Engle does appear to be operational, and it lies at the end of a road that runs from the center of Philip Engle's [11] domain west through Duffields, the site of his father's 1751 land grant.  (Note that the road from the mill does not continue to the confluence of Elk Run and the Potomac.)  The Furnace Road then continued along the river, following the western boundary of the original grant to Israel Friend, until it arrived at the grist mill and quarry owned by John Ripple.  Ripple's operation was also the starting point of the road to Shepherdstown and, if the map is to be trusted, his grist mill appears to be the only one in operation at that time on the Virginia side of the Potomac River between Harper's Ferry and Shepherdstown.  The road continued north to Taylor's Ferry, where it was met by the road from Uvilla. 

Although the knowledge that can be gleaned from this map is limited, it does suggest that Taylor's Ferry and the mill at River Bend were the two places of major importance along the river between Harper's Ferry and Shepherdstown.  Furthermore, the convergence of roads at Taylor's Ferry suggests that strong economic and social ties existed between the eastern part of Jefferson County and the Antietam area.  Finally, there appears to have been little traffic between the mill on upper Elk Run and the Keep Triste-Harper's Ferry area.  The reasons for the development of these roads will soon become apparent. 

That first century of settlement not only produced improvements in transportation but also fundamental changes in the character of the residents.  First, the area was no longer the frontier.  Some of the land was now occupied by the third and fourth generations of the original settlers, and new immigrants had replaced those who had moved on.  Furthermore, the surrounding towns of Harpers Ferry, Shepherdstown, and Charles Town had begun to develop into centers of commerce, religion, education, and culture.  Compared with towns like Frederick, Winchester, Alexandria, and even Martinsburg, they may not have been impressive.  Nevertheless, they were the places where people in eastern Jefferson County could go when they needed something their local resources and skills could not provide.  In addition, as new counties had been formed, the seat of county government had shifted from Winchester to Martinsburg, and it was about to be centered in Charles Town with the formation of Jefferson County in 1801.  The whole county, including the eastern section, was beginning to develop a character of its own.  Although substantial improvements still needed to be made to navigation on the Potomac River, navigation was generally good from Conocheague Creek to Great Falls.2 Finally, a Federal Armory was being established at Harper's Ferry.  Such a project could affect the economy and politics of the entire area. 



At the beginning of the nineteenth century, the iron industry in the Bakerton-Antietam- Harper's Ferry area could have developed in several directions.  During the past 40 years, entrepreneurs like John Semple or Richard Henderson and associates had attempted to gain control of enough natural resources to make their iron works independent.  Since transporting raw materials upriver and bringing pig iron down were expensive and inconvenient, this quest for self sufficiency seems to have make sense.  This is the approach George Washington appears to have followed when he had the United States acquire the Orebank and Furnace properties in 1800.  Washington's policy of self sufficiency could have been extended during the next few years to include the Antietam Iron Works and the Keep Triste Patent, both of which could have been purchased for less than $30,000.3 This approach would have had a profound effect on the local economy and probably would have altered the residents' allegiance to the state and Federal governments. 

Alternatively, the Armory could have made extensive use of local, privately owned resources for iron ore and cast iron, limestone, wood, and food.  The prices of locally produced goods and materials should have been reasonable because transportation costs were minimal.  Thomas Jefferson apparently shared this view.  Commenting in 1802 on the Armory's ownership of the furnace and orebank properties, he observed 

Whether this method of supplying what may be wanted will be the most advisable or that purchasing at market where competition brings everything to its proper level of price and quality is for the legislature to decide, and if the latter alternative be preferred, it will rest for their further consideration in what way the subjects of this purchase may be best employed or disposed of.4 

Competition and use of local resources also would have made the local economy more dependent on the Federal government and might have made residents more sympathetic toward the Union in later years. 

A third alternative would have been to ignore transportation costs and local resources and import labor and materials from outside the area.  If local labor and materials were inferior or too expensive, this approach could have been justified, although it suggests that placing the Armory at Harper's Ferry was a mistake.  Such a policy would have made Harper's Ferry into a Federal enclave in an essentially southern, rural, economically independent area. 

A final alternative would be to follow a laissez faire policy and let political influence and favoritism determine what materials were purchased and who was hired.  This approach might have produced close ties between the Armory and a few local residents, but it probably would have maintained a distinct political and economic separation between Harper's Ferry and the surrounding area. 

As the following discussion will show, Armory officials James Stubblefield and Armistead Beckham made little use of the lands that had been acquired to support the manufacture of firearms, and the people of Harper's Ferry utilized little of the labor, products, and raw materials available in eastern Jefferson County.  With few exceptions, economic and cultural relations between Harper's Ferry and the Bakerton area were poor from the time that the Armory was established until the arrival of the canal and the railroad.  

The rift between Harper's Ferry and the rest of eastern Jefferson County was caused primarily by the rise of a Harper's Ferry junto made up of Armory officials, landowners in that area, and select businessmen.  When the Wager family sold their land at Harper's Ferry to the United States, they were allowed to retain ownership of the ferry itself and of some land to be used for businesses and residences.  At the same time, the government apparently agreed to grant the owners of this private land a monopoly on all local business.  Under these circumstances, Armory officials such as James Stubblefield and Armistead Beckham found it rewarding to become part of the local clique and reformers like Chief of Ordinance Colonel George Bomford and Colonel Decius Wadsworth had limited success in making the Armory operation more efficient or economical.5  

Although governmental and private business operations were theoretically separate, they were in fact closely connected since the isolated Armory was dependent on its neighbors for some of its own supplies, and Armory employees were at the mercy of local businessmen.  This monopoly existed until at least 1830, when Stubblefield left the Armory.  Clearly, the resources of eastern Jefferson County could not have supplied all of the needs of the Armory or Harper's Ferry residents.  However, as the following discussion will show, the actual use of local labor and materials was far below the potential. 

Labor: During the late eighteenth century, North, Potts, and Hobart had discovered that millwrights, founders, and other skilled workers were in short supply throughout most of Maryland and Virginia.  Thus they actively recruited workers from Pennsylvania and Delaware, where these industries were more firmly established and a larger workforce existed.  Because of the rapid growth in the Federal City, there was probably no surplus of skilled laborers near Harper's Ferry when the Armory was being built.  Surplus armorers and gunsmiths may have been rare, although Antietam Furnace at Mt. Aetna had supplied cannon and small arms during the Revolution.  At the same time, Keep Triste's old ironmaster, George North, was still living in the area and ironworkers, quarrymen,  limeburners, colliers, and blacksmiths had lived in the region for at least two generations.  Furthermore, wages at the Armory must have been substantially greater than those paid to local skilled labor.  Why didn't available local artisans flock to the Armory for work? There are several possible reasons. 

According to one source, jobs for skilled workers at the Armory were often awarded to friends or relatives of the junto or of current workers.6  Although favoritism was doubtlessly a factor in hiring, there was also prejudice against employing rural workers.  In some cases, this prejudice was probably justified.  Rural artisans may have had trouble adapting to an industrial work schedule ¾ their grandsons definitely disliked the similar regimentation that was part of military life.  If the members of the Harper's Ferry junto disliked their neighbors, the feeling was probably mutual.  Family ties were strong in eastern Jefferson County, and many local artisans had relatives who could have sold their agricultural products at Harper's Ferry had they not been excluded.7 The appointment in 1829 of Thomas B. Dunn, manager of Antietam Iron Works, as James Stubblefield's successor was an attempt to thwart corruption and break up the local monopoly of labor and materials in Harper's Ferry.  However, Dunn was killed by a disgruntled armorer 5 months after he accepted the position; the community's tacit acceptance of the murder was a clear signal that interference from outsiders was not welcome.8 

In the case of unskilled labor, Armory officials seem to have had a major problem finding anyone to dig the canals and perform other kinds of manual labor.  The prevalence of dysentery, typhoid, yellow fever, and malaria doubtlessly made both local residents and immigrants reluctant to accept employment.  Slaves had been used locally during the last century for similar kinds of work, and local residents often leased their slaves by the year or the season.  Although slaves may not have been used at the Armory because whites would not work with them, local slave owners may simply have been unwilling to risk losing their property to disease.  The Patowmack Company's use of slave labor may also have increased the competition for this workforce.9 

In addition to using few local workers at the Armory, its officials failed to utilize the forge, furnace, and iron ore that the United States had acquired at Keep Triste Furnace and Friend's Orebank.  Although Armory officials may have believed that some of the local materials needed to produce iron were inferior or too scarce to be used, the information available on two of these resources ¾ timber and iron ore ¾ does not strongly support such a conclusion. 

Timber: Large amounts of charcoal (and therefore timber) would have been needed to sustain frequent smelting operations at the government-owned Keep Triste Furnace.  Although contemporary sources indicate that the supply of timber in the Bakerton- Antietam area was limited,10  there appears to have been enough to keep Antietam Iron Works in business until coke-fired furnaces were introduced in the mid-nineteenth century.  Furthermore, the Strider brothers sold charcoal to the Armory until the mid-1820's at prices 20% higher than those quoted by other offerors.11  Thus the closing of Keep Triste Furnace was not due to the limited supply of charcoal, and local colliers probably had the ability but not the influence to supply the Armory. 

Iron Ore: Even if the quantity of hardwood in the Bakerton area is uncertain, the abundance of iron ore is not.  Deposits of brown hematite existed at both Friend's Orebank and on the Maryland side of the Potomac River across from Harper's Ferry.  It was not as pure as the red hematite found in Pennsylvania, and Armory officials argued that the local ore was unsuitable for their purposes. 

Was locally mined ore really unusable?  The available evidence tends to weaken the Armory's argument.  First, favoritism and corruption probably thwarted attempts to use local iron.  Under the administration of Stubblefield, several Armory employees, including Armistead Beckham, accepted monetary gifts from the Pennsylvania iron manufacturer who supplied the bulk of the iron used.  It was not until after armory operations were investigated in 1825 that some castings were purchased from McPherson & Brien and other local sources.  Even after the resignation of Stubblefield and the demotion of Beckham, the Armory's use of nearby pig iron and castings appears to have been small.12 

Next, several sources were impressed with the quality of local iron.  Although the earlier owners of Keep Triste Furnace imported small amounts of iron to be used in castings,13 Ferdinando Fairfax, proprietor of Shannondale Iron Works, was convinced that it was the high quality of the iron ore "which makes the Ore Bank of Keeptryste so celebrated both for castings and bar iron; out of which cannon are made for the United States..."14  In addition, Colonel George Bomford, Chief of Ordnance at Harper's Ferry in 1837, referred to the ore at Friend's Orebank as being "of the very first quality."15   

Finally,  hauling iron nearly 100 miles over bad roads from Pennsylvania furnaces must have increased the costs of the finished products and caused supply problems.16  As the following pages will show, other locally available commodities, such as flour, were also imported from as far away as George Town or Alexandria.  The armory's use of Pennsylvania iron ore fits into the overall pattern of bypassing local resources for more distant and expensive ones.  These factors must be weighed against the quality of the Pennsylvania ore. 

In sum, local corruption, rather than the supply of timber and the quality of the iron ore appears to have been the most important factor shaping governmental policy toward Keep Triste Furnace.  The Federal purchase of the Furnace property marks the end of smelting operations at that site.  The furnace bellows, various pieces of equipment, and available cast and wrought iron were bought by Ferdinando Fairfax between 1809 and 1811.  The property was purchased by John Peacher in 1819.17 

With Keep Triste Furnace dismantled and the armorers apparently reluctant to use local iron ore, Friend's Orebank should have met the same fate as the Furnace tract.  However, the United States did not sell or lease its right to dig iron ore at this site, and it waited nearly four decades before trying to utilize this resource.  At the same time, it failed to prevent others from removing ore from the area.  It was this Federal inaction that allowed John McPherson and John Brien to use Friend's Orebank to their own advantage.  Early in the new century, they began reassembling pieces of John Semple's former holdings into a substantial iron mining and smelting operation. 

McPherson and Brien became interested in the local iron industry in 1803, when the Chancery Court of Maryland ordered more than 7,900 acres of Keep Triste Patent (Sample's Manor) sold at auction.  Although they did not acquire the Sample's Manor tract until 1810, 18 McPherson and Brien began buying the property they would need on the Virginia side of the Potomac River to support a large scale iron furnace at Antietam Creek.  In 1804, the two men acquired an 18-acre lot on Friend's Orebank when they purchased Antietam Iron Works from the heirs of Richard Henderson.  Although title to this property was disputed by Lee's creditors, McPherson and Brien began removing iron ore from the site shortly after the transaction was completed.  Six years later, they bought 64 acres of Friend's Ore Bank from Thomas Derne and Ludwell Lee and had their title to the 18-acre parcel confirmed.  In 1811, the partners acquired 381 acres of riverfront land near River Bend from Henry Bedinger, Jr., so that they could move ore from Virginia to the Maryland side of the river.19 

Because the United States had exclusive use of the wharves on Friend's Orebank, McPherson and Brien sought other ways to move the iron ore to their furnace on Antietam Creek.  They accomplished their goal by purchasing riverfront property, including Taylor's ferry, north of River Bend.20  They could now move iron ore by wagon along the road to Shepherdstown, transport it from their ferry landing (now called Brien's Ferry) to the island near the mouth of Antietam Creek, and then take it across the rest of the river to their furnace. 

It unclear why the United States failed to establish its own mining operation after it learned of McPherson's and Brien's intentions or why the Federal Government did not prevent the owners of Antietam Iron Works from removing substantial amounts of iron ore if the Marylanders lacked legal access to the river.  Poor management and continued favoritism at Harper's Ferry are the most likely reasons.  McPherson, Brien, and their successor continued to mine this area without competition or interference for more than three decades.  Thus, Friend's Orebank became an adjunct to iron works in Maryland rather than to the armory at Harper's Ferry.  In addition, the commercial and social ties between the Antietam-Bakerton area continued to develop in spite of the growth that was occurring in the Harper's Ferry area. 

By 1815, McPherson and Brien had enlarged and improved the operation at Antietam Creek, and ore from Friend's Orebank was still being used at their furnace.  When McPherson died in 1833, John McPherson Brien bought his grandfather's part of the operation.  Some time before 1842, the operators of the Antietam Iron Works bought additional acreage at Friend's Ore Bank, bringing their holdings at this site to 100-110 acres.21  

The arrival of the railroad and canal at Harper's Ferry in 1833-1834 and their extension through the Bakerton area in the next few years would have a significant effect on the local economy.  The Armory could easily import supplies it needed, and local mines, quarries, and farms could find new customers.  Had close economic and political ties developed between Harpers Ferry and the Bakerton area before the railroad and canal arrived, these bonds might have persisted for a considerable time.  However, it appears that such an opportunity was lost, probably because Federally owned resources were mismanaged or favoritism affected the selection of materials and workers. 


Since lime was one of the ingredients used in smelting iron ore, stone quarries were doubtlessly in existence near the Keep Triste Furnace area by 1800.  By the time the B & O Railroad came through the area in 1839, two stone quarries had been developed on Samuel Strider's [14] property.  These quarries appear to have been located at Engle on property that was once part of John Semple's domain and later owned by North, Potts, and Hobart, who operated Keep Triste Furnace at the end of the eighteenth century.  The long association of this property with iron smelting operations suggests that these quarries, like Keep Triste Furnace, probably date from the 1760's.  Since the Striders were part of the business clique associated with the Harper's Ferry junto, they may have also had the advantage in supplying lime or building stone in the Harper's Ferry area. 

The stone quarries at River Bend were probably established in the late eighteenth century by John Rourer, and the "Keep Triste marble" praised by Robert E. Hobart appears to have come from this source.  Little Mill, built by George Reynolds at River Bend in 1813,22 is made from stone cut and dressed at this location.  An earlier mill had been built on or near the same site,23 and the stone was probably obtained from the same stone quarry.  The amount of quarrying done at River Bend before the arrival of the canal is not known.  However, Reynolds expanded the quarry into a major operation between the time he bought it in 1813 and his son lost it in 1842.  According to local tradition, the foundation for the White House was made from stone hewn at this site. Several of the nearby locks on the C. & O. Canal were reportedly built with stone from this quarry.24 


The fall of the land speculators and the subdivision of the original land grants at the end of the eighteenth century had opened up more land to cultivation.  As agriculture continued to prosper during the early nineteenth century, several of the more successful or adventurous farmers began to expand their holdings.  The development of agriculture in the Bakerton area during this period is marked by the exclusion of most farmers from the Harper's Ferry market, their search for other customers, and the consolidation of farmland in three major areas ¾ Engle, the Moler patent, and River Bend. 

The Engle Area 

During the early nineteenth century, Philip Engle, Sr. [3], continued to hold land at Duffields, and the Duffields property was passed on to some of his sons when he died in 1830.25  At the same time, his son Philip Engle [11], began to purchase land in eastern Jefferson County.  He bought a 244-acre tract near the present site of Engle jointly with John Daniels in 1808, subdivided it into two equal portions in 1812, and bought it in entirety in 1816.  The date of the Engle-Daniels subdivision (1812) probably marks the earliest date at which Homestead Farm at Engle could have been built.  The slave quarters on the Homestead property were probably built shortly after the house.26  (See Figure 9-2.)  Philip Engle, Jr. [11], also purchased a 155-acre parcel about a mile to the north from the heirs of William Jones in 1819; the Zion Presbyterian Church was later built on this site. 

Philip Engle, Jr. [11], died in 1822 and his wife Lydia Ellen Daniels [43] died in 1836.  He left no will, but his plans for the estate seem to have been clearly communicated to his children.  His son William [47] married in 1820 and may have moved to his father's 155-acre parcel at that time.  William Engle's house near the Zion Church was probably built in the early 1820's.  The small stone house located a few hundred feet east of William Engle's residence is probably the original school house rather than slave quarters.  The building was erected in 1835 on land that William Engle had set aside that year for a school house and burying ground.  The 1852 map of Jefferson County shows the schoolhouse as being located across the road from the Zion Church, the location of the stone "cottage."  Thus it seems likely that this building is the schoolhouse, which was badly damaged by the Yankees during the Civil War.  It was probably renovated to serve as a cottage after the war. 

Philip's oldest son John [45] married in 1823, one year after his father died, and he must have remained at the Homestead with his mother.  A third son, Phillip III [48], married in 1829 and probably moved out of the house at that time. 

The three brothers did not subdivide their joint inheritance until 1848, years after they had settled into their own portions of the property.  In this subdivision, William [47] received the 155-acre tract where the Zion Church now stands and Philip and John each received equal portions of the 224-acre parcel.  John's portion included the Homestead.  The two-room addition to Homestead Farm was made by John Engle [45] in 1849, one year after the property was subdivided.27 


By the 1830's, the Engle holdings in eastern Jefferson County area amounted to over 500 acres.  Although most of this land was probably managed as three independent farms, there appears to have been close cooperation between family members, particularly during planting and harvest time.28 Unlike Melchior Engle [1], his son Philip [3] and his grandsons were slave owners (Table 9-1).  Among them, the family may have owned as many as a dozen negroes during this period.  These blacks appear to have been used primarily as agricultural laborers or domestic servants. 

Philip Engle, Jr. [11], was a substantial landowner when he died in 1822, having over 1,200 bushels of grain and 25 horses and mules, 60 pigs, 32 sheep, and 3 slaves (Table 9-1).  His son John Engle [45] was also one of the more prosperous farmers in the area.  During his lifetime, Philip Engle acquired additional land in the Engle, Bakerton, and Orebank areas.  

Moler Family 

During the early part of the nineteenth century, the holdings of the Moler family gradually spread beyond the original boundaries of the 297-acre grant obtained by George Adam Moler [1] in 1762.  After his death in 1783, the original estate became the joint property of the two eldest sons, Michael [3] and (George) Adam, Jr. [4]; the other children appear to have received enough money from the sale of the estate to buy their own land.  George and Michael may also have inherited another 200-acre parcel from their father just southwest of the original grant.  By 1800, six of the seven sons owned land near the original grant; the other son Casper [5] moved to Ohio.29 

Of the Moler brothers who remained in Jefferson County, "Adam" Moler [4] appears to have been the most prosperous (Table 9-1).  Some time before 1811, he purchased 58 acres between the original patent and the river bank from Thomas Derne and Ludwell Lee.30 Although he reportedly owned only three horses and two slaves in 1800, he possessed 8 horses and 20 slaves by the time he died in 1830.  In addition to owning enough livestock and tools for a substantial farm, Adam had also acquired some of the amenities of life, such as china and silverware, a globe, and a library that included German literature, Shakespeare, Byron, Burns, and The Spectator.31  The other Moler brothers prospered as well.  John [7], who died in 1807, had an estate (at the corner of Bakerton Rd. and U.S. 340) that included five slaves, plus horses, sheep, cattle, hogs, and wheat (Table 9-1).  Frederick [6], who died in 1824, owned a successful farm and three slaves.32 Jacob Moler, Sr. [9], appears to have acquired property near Engle at the intersection of Elk Run and the B. &O. Railroad tracks.44  Henry Moler, Sr. [8], or his namesake, obtained a tract of land along the riverbank north of River Bend as well as part of the Sample's Manor tract across the Potomac River.45 

The total holdings of the Moler family are difficult to determine, but before the advent of the railroad brothers "Adam" [4] and Michael [3] must have owned close to 500 acres and the other brothers or their heirs probably possessed 200-300 more. The land of George and Michael may have been farmed jointly, and the distance between all of the family farms was small enough to allow them to pool resources.  The actual working relationships between the various family farms are not known.  The Molers were also related to the Taylors and Engles by marriage.  "Adam's" son George Washington Moler [26] was one of the original trustees for the schoolhouse erected on William Engle's [47] property. 

River Bend, The Reynolds Family 

Of the major agricultural operations in the area, that of George Reynolds and his son was one of the most ambitious and the shortest lived.  George Reynolds, Sr., began acquiring his property in the River Bend and Moler's Crossroad's areas about 1813.  The tract that Reynolds purchased from Philip Ripple was the upper third of the original Friend grant.46  Other portions of his estate had originally been part of the nearby Taylor land grants. 

An orchard and a grist mill were located on the property bought by Reynolds from Ripple, and the site also contained a small quarry.  The distillery and cooperage run by Ripple, probably in conjunction with the grist mill, were no longer in operation when Reynolds purchased the property.  However, he rebuilt the cooperage and distillery and ran them along with his mills.  At his death in 1822, his estate included 26 sheep, 36 cattle, 62 hogs, 16 horses, 13 slaves, and approximately 3,000 bushels of grain.  George Reynolds, Jr., a surveyor, inherited most of his father's estate in 1822.47 

George Reynolds, Jr., and Henry Boteler built a second grist mill, approximately one mile upstream from River Bend, in 1826.48  Three years later, a deposit of natural cement was discovered on the adjacent land owned by Jacob Bedinger.  The grist mill was expanded and converted for grinding cement, and kilns were constructed at approximately the same time.  Since the Potomac River was now navigable, much of their produce was probably sold in the tidewater area.49  Boteler and Reynolds bought the Bedinger lands and other lands adjoining them along the river in 1835.  The ruins of these structures, known as the Cement Mill, can still be found on the bank of the Potomac River. 

Before Reynolds' financial problems forced him to sell his property in the 1840's, he had accumulated approximately 1,000 acres in Jefferson County and 3,000 acres in Morgan County.  His local holdings included Potomac Mill and a warehouse and boat for transporting flour at the ferry landing in Shepherdstown. 

Reynolds owned a total of 28 slaves and a large amount of livestock and farm equipment when his property was sold, but the actual number of slaves used in the River Bend area is unknown (Table 9-1).  After owing more than $30,000 to his creditors, Reynolds witnessed much of his property auctioned off at the Entler Hotel in Shepherdstown in 1842.50 

The Strider Family 

One of the most successful families to acquire land during this period were the Striders.  Starting with the approximately 500 acres acquired by Isaac Strider [1] in the late eighteenth century, his children began to add to their holdings in the Keep Triste Furnace and Harper's Ferry areas.  Although they were not able to buy all of the Keep Triste property from the Federal government, the Striders purchased nearby woodland, erected a sawmill and warehouse at the mouth of Elk Run, built a tannery, and sold lumber, charcoal, flour, and other goods to the Armory and Harper's Ferry residents.  By 1820, they had also acquired substantial portions of the land in Harper's Ferry that was adjacent to the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers.51 Wielding this power and using their influence with Armory officials, the Striders appear to have successfully prevented most residents of eastern Jefferson County from selling their goods in Harper's Ferry. 

Table 9-1 presents an overview of agriculture in eastern Jefferson County before the arrival of the railroad and canal.  As in the mid to late eighteenth century, area farms concentrated primarily on raising grain and livestock.  Wheat still appears to have been the biggest crop, followed by corn, rye, oats, and hay.  Although farmers raised horses and cattle, most of these animals were probably for local use. Pigs and sheep were raised in large numbers, suggesting that farmers supplied other areas with meat.52  Flax and hemp were still being grown and looms and spinning wheels were still common household items, indicating that homespun cloth was still being produced. 

Although definite trends cannot be determined without much more data on local agriculture, this information from wills and estate sales contains several items worthy of note (Table 9-1).  First, three of the estates sold in the early 1830's had windmills and several had sleighs, items that do not appear in more than 30 earlier estate appraisals.  Next, even though white potatoes had been cultivated since colonial times, they begin to be listed as crops in 1834 and 1837 appraisals, the time when the canal is being built in the area and Irish laborers are plentiful.  Finally, the number of slaves owned by farmers had increased since the eighteenth century while the actual size of most farms had shrunk. 


The information on slave ownership in Table 9-1 is fragmentary, but it does reveal the growing importance of slavery in eastern Jefferson County.  At least 9 of the 11 property owners listed were slave owners.  These 9 persons owned a total of 65 slaves, with George Adam Moler, Jr. [4], owning the most (17).  The 65 slaves included 14 adult males, 15 adult females, and 36 children.  The distribution of men, women, and children among the slave owners suggests that many of them lived in family units, and the relatively small proportion of adult males probably indicates that slaves did not occupy a significant place in the agricultural workforce.  However, they may have performed most of the domestic labor, including weaving.  George Adam Moler, Jr., who owned five male slaves, may have been an exception. 

Most of these 65 slaves were bought or inherited by family members when the original owner died, so they were regarded as more than merely a commodity.  At the same time, they were valuable property and often a substantial portion of an individual's estate.  In 1822, for example, a healthy black man was worth $400 to $500, a woman $300 to $400, and a child $200 to $300.  In contemporary terms, this meant that a black man in his prime was worth the equivalent of 500 bushels of wheat, 5 good horses, or 250 hogs.53 


The abundance of wheat and corn grown in the Bakerton area at the end of the 18th century suggests that grist mills had long played an important part in the local economy.  Because of the abundant water power, both the River Bend and Elk Branch areas were the prime locations for mills and related industries. 

A mill owned by John Ripple was in operation at River Bend before 1806,54 and according to local tradition a small community, including a distillery, had grown up around it.  Ripple, who owned approximately 200 acres in the area at the beginning of the nineteenth century, appears to have combined the occupations of farmer and miller.  Ripple's mill seems to have been destroyed between 1806 and 1812, because a second mill (called "Little Mill") was built on or near the same site in 1813 by George Reynolds.  This was the mill later purchased by Samuel Knott [1] and renamed Spring Mill.55  (See Figure 9-3.) 

The development and operation of mills on Elk Run during this period were significantly influenced by the actions of the Harper's Ferry junto and its associates.  The grist mill near the Keep Triste Furnace seems to have fallen into disuse when the property was acquired by Henry Lee.  It was later rebuilt by North, Potts, and Hobart.  This land was purchased by the United States in 1800, and during the next 19 years was leased to Samuel Strider [14].56  The grist mill does not seem to have been operational during this time. 

During this 19-year period, the Strider family attempted to increase its holdings adjacent to Harper's Ferry and to use its influence to advantage.  Their efforts met with mixed success. 

Some time before 1809, Samuel Strider built a store house below the old Keep Triste grist mill.  The store house appears to have been built primarily to hold imported goods sold at Harpers Ferry rather than to serve as a depot for goods to be sent down river. The Striders imported more than 260 barrels of flour from Winchester between 1812 and 1815, when grist mills at Elk Run, Keyes' Ferry, and River Bend were in operation.  In addition, John Strider [12] erected the saw mill on property he leased from the government after he had been forbidden to do so and at a time when timber was supposed to be scarce.57 

The actions of the Strider brothers suggest that they had a monopoly on supplying Harper's Ferry with certain commodities.  They were, in fact, members of a small clique of businessmen, including Lewis Wernwag, John G. Wilson, Samuel K. White, John McFarland, and Philip Coontz, which had become associated with the Harper's Ferry junto. 58  The economic power wielded by the junto and their business associates appears to have been immense during this period, and their control seems to have encompassed a wide variety of goods and services.  Outlining the problem to the Secretary of War, Colonel Decius Wadsworth noted in 1820: 

If it be admitted that the Persons occupying the Wager property ... shall have the exclusive privilege of supplying the people of the Armory with all they want to purchase ... [they] will be empowered to tax the Armory almost at Discretion.  Mechanics constantly employed have neither the time or means to procure supplies from a distance.  They must purchase on the spot at any price... 

The price of flour for instance is always higher at Harper's Ferry than at George Town, although a great portion of the flour sold in George Town comes down the Shenandoah & Potomac passing directly by Harper's Ferry.  The country on the Shenandoah is one of the most fertile & plentiful in the U. States & provisions ought to be as cheap at Harper's Ferry as anywhere else & would be, were the Trade there perfectly open & free with a full competition among the Dealers.59 


Despite the power that the Striders appear to have wielded in the area of Keep Triste Furnace, they were not the only ones with influence.  When the Keep Triste Furnace tract was sold in 1819, it was bought, not by the Striders, but by John Peacher, who refurbished the old mill.  It is likely that Armory Superintendent James Stubblefield had a hand in Peacher's good fortune, for Peacher owned part of Virginius Island at the time.  Four years after Peacher obtained the land at Keep Triste Furnace, he sold Stubblefield the Virginius Island tract that would later become an important part of Harper's Ferry economy.  The land purchased by John Peacher became known as Peacher's Mill and the Peacher house continued to remain a local landmark until it was dismantled in the 1920's.60 

Not to be thwarted by Peacher's success, the Striders obtained the grist mill located on Elk Run in the Engle area.  According to Engle family tradition, the original mill was built by the followers of Rev. Jakob Engle about 1707.61 If a mill existed there at the time, it was probably burned shortly thereafter and may have been rebuilt in the 1730's and burned again during the French and Indian War.  Local deeds suggest that a mill was operating at this location by 1780.  This mill was being run by Frederick Sly (Sligh) in the early 1800's and appears to have been part of the 221 acres of Furnace Farm purchased in 1819 by Henry Strider [11] from George North's widow.62 



The Potomac River no longer served as a highway for marauding bands of Indians, but it posed another threat to the growing population ¾ as a breeder and carrier of disease.  Along rivers and creeks, the months of August, September, and October were known as the "sickly season," a time when typhoid, dysentery, malaria, and yellow fever claimed their victims among both rural and town dwellers.  Death statistics, where available, indicate that the death rate during these months was usually much higher than normal and that people living near rivers and streams were the most vulnerable (Figure 9-5).63  Annual death rates also seem to have peaked at regular intervals, perhaps suggesting that epidemics periodically recurred when the number of people lacking immunity increased (Figure 9-6).  One epidemic occurring in 1831 claimed four Moler children in the same week. 

10_22_1 10_22_2

Typhoid was the most likely culprit for the deaths of these Moler children and for many of the other deaths that occurred in the late summer and early fall of the same year.  During the next year (1832), the first worldwide cholera epidemic swept through the area, temporarily stopping work on the C. & O. Canal and scattering frightened workers in all directions.  The number of workmen who died at this time is not known, although a graveyard was established for the victims across the river from Harpers Ferry.  Few residents of the Bakerton area seem to have succumbed to this disease, for the available death statistics indicate that approximately the same number of deaths occurred during the 1832 "sickly season" and during the previous year, before cholera had first arrived.64 


No churches are known to have existed in the Bakerton area before 1835, although there may have been a Presbyterian congregation at Duffields by the mid-18th century.  The two main religious groups, the Presbyterians and the Methodists, seem to have travelled outside the Bakerton area to worship. 

The Engle family had been one of the founders of the Elk Branch Presbyterian church in the Duffield's area and had supported its growth by donating both land and money.  However, the church at Duffields does not appear to have been used for formal worship between 1790 and 1833, when the current Elk Branch Presbyterian Church was established.  During this 40-year period, Presbyterians attended services at Harper's Ferry, Charles Town, or Shepherdstown.  When they successfully petitioned the Winchester Presbytery to re-establish  the Elk Branch congregation, two prominent residents of eastern Jefferson County were among the signers ¾ George W. Moler [26] and William Flanagan [1].65 

For a few years, members of the Engle family and many other Presbyterians regularly made the trip to Duffields to worship.  When William Engle [47] (the son of Philip Engle, Sr.[11]) acquired land in the Bakerton area during the early decades of the nineteenth century, his ties to the Duffields area continued for  many years.  The establishment of Zion Chapel in the Bakerton area did not occur until 1837.  However, the chapel was erected only 4 years after its parent church was reopened.  The relationship of the Zion Chapel to the one at Elk Branch has always been a close one, and for much of their history, the two churches were probably served by the same ministers. 

Methodists in the Bakerton area appear to have travelled to Uvilla to worship during the early nineteenth century.  It is also possible that a school and non-denominational place of worship were located on the Reynolds' property north of Moler's Crossroads in the 1830's. 


Little information exists on the early growth of education in the Bakerton area.  Since farming, mining, and raising a family did not require much formal education, local families probably taught their own children the basics if the parents had the interest, ability, or opportunity.  An examination of deeds signed by local residents during the period suggests that most of the men could sign their names and many of the women could not. 

By 1835, George Hagley and William Engle [47] had set aside land for a school, graveyard, and a church.  Some time during the next few years, this school was built (across the road from the Zion Presbyterian Church) and directed by William Engle.66 The stone house on this site, currently occupied by Brian Hoffmaster, may be the original school building (Figure 9-7).  The first trustees included William Engle [47], George Washington Moler [26], and Isaac Dust. 




A thorough examination of the economic and cultural relationships between eastern Jefferson County and the nearby towns is beyond the scope of the current study.  However, land tenure and family relationships that have been discussed in this chapter can use used to trace the pattern of growth and development in the era. 

By the end of the period, the central part of the Bakerton area was occupied by the Engles and the Molers, prosperous farm families and slave owners closely related by marriage.  They were responsible for building and maintaining the first church and school in the area, and they had property or relatives in Duffields and Antietam. 

The Peacher and Strider families lived to the south, in the old Keep Triste area.  The latter were clearly part of the Harper's Ferry clique and actively sought to exclude their northern neighbors and the Antietam population from the Harper's Ferry economy.  To the north of the Moler lands lay the Taylor and Reynolds properties. These two families were related by marriage to each other and to the Molers, and they had economic interests in the Antietam area.  Reynolds, as well as the Bedingers and Boetlers, was also closely associated with Shepherdstown's business community. 

In sum, eastern Jefferson County and Antietam continued to develop into an economic and cultural entity in the first four decades of the nineteenth century.  The similar natural resources of the two areas had nurtured the development of local industry and family ties, while the corruption and favoritism at Harper's Ferry had created animosity that would last for decades.  Relations with Shepherdstown and Elk Branch (Duffields) had continued to grow, while those with Harper's Ferry had deteriorated.  These economic and cultural relations would continue to shape the growth and development of the Bakerton area and the ways in which the C. & O. Canal and the B. & O. Railroad would be used during the next generation. 


1. Charles Varle, Topographical Description of the Counties of Frederick, Berkeley & Jefferson, Situated in the State of Virginia (Winchester, Va.: W. Heiskell, 1810).  The map does not include the numerous farm roads that ran through the area. 

2. Bacon-Foster, Early Chapters in the Development of the Patomac Route to the West, pp. 97, 169. 

3. The figure is based on the sale prices of the properties. 

4. Thomas Jefferson,  February 2, 1802.  In A Compilation of the Messages and Papers of the Presidents, 1789-1897, 10 vols. (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1896-1899), 1:335. 

5. Merritt Roe Smith, Harpers Ferry and the New Technology (Cornell Univ. Press., 1975), pp. 35, 41, 141, 147. 

6. Smith, pp. 148-149. 

7. The Engle family appears to have been able to enter the workforce at the Armory through its relationship with the Strider family.  Philip Engle (son of William Engle and grandson of Philip Engle, Sr.) married Sarah Ann Strider [30] in the 1850's and was employed at the gun works.  It is not clear whether this relationship benefitted other members of the Engle family. 

8. Smith, p. 181. 

9. The Patowmack Company had always considered slaves to be an important source of labor for canal building and had quickly discovered that free white labor or indentured servants were unreliable.  See Bacon-Foster, pp. 69-73, 85. 

10. James C. Roach, "Keep Tryste Furnace Tract."  Roach's notes were based on unidentified sources in the files of the library at the Harper's Ferry National Park, August 1971.  Wholesale harvesting of timber on Keep Triste Patent (in Maryland) occurred during the last decades of the 18th century; see John Ritchie to John Buchanan, January 1, 1804, in Chancery Records, October Term 1800, vol. 46, pp. 217-219, Annapolis, Md., Hall of Records. 

11. Smith, p. 163. 

12. Smith, pp. 163-164, 166, 170, 177-179. 

13. Articles of agreement between Potts, Wilson, and Lee, December 19, 1788; Potts' Papers, Hagley Library, Wilmington, Del. 

14. Description of Ferdinando Fairfax's Shannondale Iron Estate, with A Plan of a Company for Improving the Same (Washington: J. Crossfield, Printers, 1815), p. 5. 

15. Col. George Bomford to B.H. Butler, January, 12 1837, in Snell, Acquisition and Disposal, 1:89. 

16. Smith, p. 34. 

17. Paymaster Samuel Annin to War Department, June 30, 1809; U.S. Statutes at Large, Fifth Congress, Sess. II.  3 March, 1819, Chapter 90, p. 521; Deed Book 23, pp. 178-179, Charles Town, W. Va. 

18. Attempts to dispose of Sample's Manor were thwarted in 1803 and 1804 by occupants who had purchased tracts from long-time squatters on the Sample's Manor property.  Thirty-seven years after John Semple's death, when the property was finally sold to McPherson and Brien in 1810, Semple's relatives appeared and unsuccessfully tried to claim part of the proceeds of the sale as their inheritance.  Chancery Records, vol. 46, pp. 85-187, 217-219, 243-249, Annapolis, Md. 

19. Deed Books 2 (pp. 136-139) and 6 (pp. 8-12, 21, 468), Charles Town, W. Va. 

20. Deed Book 7, pp. 631-632, Charles Town, W.Va. 

21. Thompson, History of Iron Industry, pp. 34, 36-38; Deed Book OO, pp. 656-666, Washington County, Md.  Deed Book 26, pp. 137- 138, Charles Town, W. Va. 

22. The corner stone for Little (or Spring) Mill is dated 1813 and inscribed with the initials "G.R." 

23. Deed Book 7, pp. 219-221, Charles Town, W.Va. 

24. Thomas F. Hahn, Towpath Guide to the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal: Section Three Harpers Ferry to Fort Frederick (Level Walkers of the C & O Canal Assoc., 1972), p. 13. 

25. Will Book 7, pp. 154-157, Charles Town, W. Va. 

26. Jefferson County Architectural Survey No. 21, Homestead Farm.  Deed Books 9 (p. 266) and 11 (pp. 32-33), Charles Town, W. Va.  At the November 1822 sale of Philip Engle, Jr.'s personal property, his son John bought a negro woman named Grace, her child Bob, and a man named Ben (Will Book 4, pp. 311- 312, Charles Town, W. Va.).  "Old Ben" is mentioned in Engle family histories as one of the best cradlers in the area and appears to have remained at the Homestead until the Civil War, and possibly after.  The two grave markers outside the Engle family cemetery may contain the remains of Ben and Grace. 

27. The two-room addition to the Homestead does not connect with the original six-room house, and it was reported that the addition was meant to house two bachelor members of the family.  This view is supported by census data and the Engle family history.  When the addition was made to the house, John Engle had four children surviving from his first wife.  James William Engle (age 22) and Anna Catherine Engle (age 19) both married in 1849 and presumably left home.  The remaining two children were Jacob H. Engle (age 20, married in 1855) and John H. Engle (age 20, married in 1881).  John's second wife Catherine B. Daniels and their three children (ages 4, 6, and 8) were also living in the house at the time.  Because of the age difference between the children of John Engle's first and second marriages, it is very plausible that the two bachelor sons occupied the addition to the Homestead. 

28. Deed Books 4 (pp. 476-481), 9 (p. 266), and 11 (pp. 32-33, 289), Charles Town, W. Va. 

29. Will Book 1 (p. 352) and Deed Book 8 (pp. 332-333), Martinsburg, W. Va. 

30. Deed Books 6 (pp. 8-10) and 7 (pp. 631-632), Charles Town, W. Va. 

31. Will Book 8, pp. 290-294, Charles Town, W. Va. 

32. Will Book 4, pp. 318, 338-339, Charles Town, W. Va. 

33. Will Book 1, p. 420, Charles Town, W. Va. 

34. Will Book 2, pp. 1-4, Charles Town, W. Va. 

35. Will Book 4, pp. 311-312, Charles Town, W. Va. 

36. Will Book 3, pp. 389-391, Charles Town, W. Va. 

37. Will Book 5, pp. 402-403, 451-452, Charles Town, W. Va. 

38. Will Book 6, pp. 360-364, Charles Town, W. Va. 

39. Son of George Adam Moler, Sr. Will Book 7, pp. 154-157, Charles Town, W. Va. 

40. Son of John Moler; Will Book 8, pp. 290-294, Charles Town, W. Va. 

41. Will Book 6, pp. 459-460, Charles Town, W. Va. 

42. Will Book 1, pp. 139, 234-240, Charles Town, W. Va. 

43. Will Book 11, pp. 1-4, Charles Town, W. Va 

44. Deed Book 23, p. 238, Charles Town, W. Va. 

45. Deed Book (June 10, 1822), Charles Town, W. Va. 

46. Deed Book 7, pp. 605-608, and Will Book 4, pp. 4-7, Charles Town, W. Va. 

47. Will Book 2, pp. 1-4, and Deed Book 11, pp. 32-33, Charles Town, W. Va.  The Ripple family may have been related to the Engles, for part of the Ripple estate was purchased by "Engle Ripple." 

48. Jefferson County Architectural Inventory, PRR-3; Deed Book 14, p. 351, Charles Town, W. Va. 

49. Deed Book 16, p. 17, Charles Town, W. Va.; Bacon-Foster, p. 148. 

50. Deed Book 25, pp. 387-388, Charles Town, W. Va.  The 1840 Census for Jefferson County lists George Reynolds, Sr., as having 34 slaves, 11 of which were males between the ages of 10 and 54. 

51. Galtjo L. Geertsema, Land Grants [Jefferson and Berkeley Counties] (Martinsburg, W. Va., 1969), maps 97-25, 97-26, 97- 35, and 97-36; Notes of John C. Roach (source unidentified), Harpers Ferry National Park Library; C. S. G., "Iron Industry in Jefferson County," Magazine of the Jefferson County Historical Society 30 (1964):19; Deed Book 11, pp. 107-108, Charles Town, W. Va. 

52. Will Book 3, p. 414, Charles Town, W. Va. 

53. From the appraisal of the estate of George Reynolds, Sr., Will Book 4, pp. 4-7, Charles Town, W. Va.  When Reynolds died, his slaves accounted for 47% of appraised value of his personal estate. 

54. Deed Book 7, pp. 219-221, Charles Town, W. Va. 

55. Deed Book 7, pp. 605-60 and Deed Book 8, pp. 201-202,Charles Town, W. Va.  The mill, remodeled into a residence, is now the property of Joseph and Marlene Thompson. 

56. Notes of John C. Roach. 

57. C.S.G., "Iron Industry in Jefferson County," p. 19. 

58. Smith, pp. 148-149. 

59. Letter from Col. George Bomford to Secretary of War, April 15, 1820, reprinted in Smith, p. 141. 

60. Deed Book 23, pp. 178-179, Charles Town, W.Va. John [12] and Henry [11] Strider protested the price Peacher paid and the fairness of the sale.  Notes of John C. Roach (Armory correspondence of August 9, 1818), Harpers Ferry National Park Library.  Peacher bought part of Virginius Island from Daniel McPherson in 1817 (Deed Book 10, pp. 142-143) and sold it to Stubblefield in 1823 (Deed Book 13, p. 27, Charles Town, W.Va.). 

61. See Chapters II and III and Appendix A for a discussion of the Engle family tradition of early settlement. 

62. Deed Books 4 (pp. 476-481) and 11 (pp. 107-108), Charles Town, W. Va. 

63. Analysis by the author of mortality data from Tombstone Inscriptions in Jefferson County. 

64. Analysis by the author of mortality data from Tombstone Inscriptions in Jefferson County. 

65. Harold H. Leech, "Historical Sketch of Elk Branch Presbyterian Church," Shepherdstown Register, September 15, 1929. 

66. Deed Book 29, pp. 505-507, Charles Town, W. Va.