A Brief History of Our Town and Area
History of Dorsey & Kiger Realtors
Brief History of Our Town
Points of Interest
It is difficult today to imagine the absolute wilderness
which confronted the first settlers in the region now
known as Morgantown and Monongalia County. Prior to
1763, the area was contested both among settlers and
native Indians, and by England and France.
The Treaty of Paris in 1763 in theory established England's
right to the area, but Indian fighting continued almost
to the beginning of the American Revolution. Invariably,
first settlements were forts, and several were located
within the area now labeled "Greater Morgantown."
Morgan, on the site of present downtown Morgantown,
was established in 1772. South of town, near Dorsey
Knob, Fort Coburn was established in 1770. Several miles
north on the Monongahela, Fort Martin was established
in 1773. Towards the Cheat River on the present W. Va.
Route 73, Fort Pierpont was established in 1769. Several
miles north on U. S. 19 at the present location of Stewartstown,
Fort Dinwiddie was established in 1772. Fort Burris
existed in the Suncrest area of Morgantown, and Fort
Kern in the Greenmont area of Morgantown, as did other
small forts throughout the region.
Just three months after the signing of the Declaration
of Independence, Monongalia County was established by
the State of Virginia under Governor Patrick Henry on
October 11, 1776. Originally, the county encompassed
a much larger area, leading to Monongalia being called
the "mother of counties." Thirteen counties,
including three in Pennsylvania, have been formed from
the original Monongalia. Indeed, the first county seat
was located near New Geneva, in Pennsylvania, and Virginia
courts met as far north as Pittsburgh. Extension of
the Mason-Dixon line westward in 1782 more firmly established
the county's northern boundary.
Zacquill Morgan first settled in the area in 1772 and in 1785 received
a charter from the Virginia Assembly for the establishment of a town to
be called Morganstown. The present city of Morgantown
is the direct result of that Virginia Charter.
Other historic milestones for the area include establishment
of the Forks of Cheat Baptist Church north of Stewartstown
in 1775. This house of worship, still in use today,
was the first church established west of the mountains
in Virginia. Further toward the Cheat River, a settlement
grew up around a ferry established and operated by Frederick
Ice in 1767. That same year, Frederick's son Adam was
the first white child to be born in the Monongahela
Valley. Ice's Ferry was the first authorized ferry in
western Virginia, and George Washington crossed there
in 1784. The present bridge over Cheat Lake on W. Va.
73 marks the location of Ice's Ferry.
In 1785, Albert Gallatin became a naturalized citizen
in Morgantown and a year later, purchased land which
he called "Friendship Hill" near the original
county seat near New Geneva, Pennsylvania. Gallatin
later became Secretary of the Treasury under Presidents
Thomas Jefferson and James Madison.
Iron was an important industry in this area in the
late 18th century. An important industrial area existed
at Ice's Ferry with a population of nearly 3,000 people.
Tramroads ran into the mountains to various furnaces
to bring out the iron. Ice's Ferry was a shipping point
and much of the iron also was processed there at a nail
factory, a rolling mill, a bar mill, a stove foundry,
a wagon shop, a blacksmith shop, and a grist mill. The
ore was smelted with charcoal made from wood cut and
burned in the mountains. Of the many furnaces built,
a few are still standing. Best preserved is the Henry
Clay Furnace, located in the Coopers Rock State Forest
on W. Va. 73, built prior to 1840. By the Civil War,
this industrial activity had largely disappeared because
of changing economic conditions and better transportation.
The first school in the region was the Monongalia Academy,
established in 1814 at Spruce and Willey Streets, the
present location of the VFW home. West Virginia University,
established in 1867, had its first facilities in the
older Woodburn Academy and those facilities now constitute
the historic Woodburn Circle on the downtown campus.
Francis H. Pierpont, governor of the "Restored
Government of Virginia" during the Civil War, was
born near Morgantown in 1814. He was a grandson of John
Pierpont, the builder of Fort Pierpont.
Notable early structures still standing in Morgantown
include the "Old Stone House," built before
1813. The present address is Chestnut Street, though
the street originally was called "Long Alley."
The handsome home built by John Rogers on Foundry Street
in 1840 also is kept today, now occupied by the Dering
As Morgantown enters its bicentennial era, a robust,
thriving community continues where numerous Indian forts
once stood. Abundant natural resources, a mighty river,
modern educational, industrial, and transportation facilities
and a healthy business community insure continued growth
of what once was merely an assembly of log structures
on the shores of the Monongahela called Morgans-Town.