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A Brief History of Our Town and Area

History of Dorsey & Kiger Realtors
A 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."

Fort 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 Funeral Home.

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.

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