NCTC Cultural History
The Shepherd family and later history is not as detailed in this account as it could be, and only some general themes have been followed during their period of ownership in the 19th century. The Shepherds did not require their Upper and Lower farms to be entirely self-supporting, as they made money through shipping, real estate and other business, yet we know that they continued to raise a variety of livestock and grow a number of crops on these farms. Even the Civil War left the Shepherd holdings in the Terrapin Neck area relatively intact. Some members of the Shepherd family continued to receive ground rents from lot holders in Shepherdstown throughout most of the 19th century. R.D. Shepherd built and donated the central portion of the prominent Shepherdstown building now known as McMurran Hall as a Town Hall in 1859; additions to the building in 1866 allowed its temporary use as the Jefferson County Court House. The first paved road in the local area was built by the Shepherds between their upper and lower farms, and was well known enough to acquire its own name - Shepherd Grade. By the 1890s, Shepherd heirs seemed less adept at maintaining the family fortunes, at least in the Shepherdstown area, though they continued to be engaged in expensive activities such as horse racing. An oval racetrack built by the Shepherds can still be seen at the entrance to NCTC, which probably dates to this period (it appears on a plat in 1895). Aler (1888), if his language and description can be read literally, mentions that Shepherd Grade had been used as a racetrack for many years, but makes no mention of an adjacent oval track, suggesting a construction date between the mid-1880s and 1895, though the exact year that the oval track was built and how long it was used have yet to be determined. Another piece of evidence is a photograph of Shepherd Grade and the Springwood estate house, circa 1870s, shown above, which does not seem to show a racetrack. Several local people in the community have described their relatives using the track around the turn of the 20th century, and claim it was a track for private use then. By the beginning of the 20th century, the Springwood estate, or Lower Shepherd Farm, was up for sale. In 1907 it was bought by a Colonel IV Johnson, former state auditor of West Virginia, who in turn sold it 3 years later to a local entrepreneur William H. Martin. Martin added many of the farm buildings seen on the property today, replacing some of the old structures. Martin rented at least part of the mansion house to tenants at various times. It was sold to Dr. N.B. Hendrix in 1941, who was the first surgeon at the Kings Daughters Hospital in Martinsburg; he bought Springwood as an investment property but continued to live in Martinsburg. One of his sons, N.B. Hendrix Jr., lived at Springwood until about 1961. Hendrix Sr. also bought RiverView Farm and an adjacent parcel to the east of Springwood, once again consolidating much of the original colonial Van Swearingen estate. The entire property was willed to Charles and Jessie Hendrix in 1969. Charles was a Navy submarine captain, Naval Academy Class of 1939, who first moved with Jessie to Springwood in 1960. Jessie was originally from California and was working for an admiral there when she met Charles. Prior to WWII she had been a congressional administrative assistant working for Congressman Frank Buck. They married at the Naval Academy Chapel in 1946 and had various duty stations including Hawaii and Washington prior to moving to West Virginia. Charles and Jessie spent about two years doing minor refurbishing and modernizing of the old Swearingen mansion, including sealing up several of the fireplaces and adding a modern kitchen, discovering a huge old kitchen fireplace complete with blackened iron cookpot behind a wall in the process. Floors, walls, moldings, fireplace mantles and other architectural details are reportedly original from 1759. The farming operation on the Hendrix Springwood estate, in part run by local farmer Bill Knighten for many years, eventually included over 300 Hereford beef cattle, 70 hogs, and 200 Suffolk sheep. Farming operations were taken over by the local Griffith family in about 1977. The sheep herd started as daughter Mary’s 4-H project, and eventually grew large enough to pay for her undergraduate degree at Shepherd College (Jessie Hendrix, pers. comm). Charles Hendrix spent many years commuting daily between his farm and the Naval Academy in Annapolis, where he had started the Oceanography program; he died in 1976. Jessie Hendrix sold the property to the US Fish and Wildlife Service in March of 1992, retaining the Springwood mansion and several surrounding acres. Daughter Mary holds a PhD from Harvard University and is now Dr. Mary Hendrix, professor and head of the Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology at the University of Iowa College of Medicine.
The RiverView Farm house, shown during demolition in 1984 (lower photo) and in a Fraley family photo from the 1940s, and other buildings that comprised RiverView Farm were dismantled, hauled away or buried in 1984, though the foundations of several buildings can still be seen; the last tenants lived there in the 1950s. It had been sold by a member of the Shepherd family in 1902 to Jacob Rush, who seems to have been in default when he sold it in turn to David Jones in 1935. Jones sold it in 1941 to NB Hendrix.
The eastern portion of NCTC, acquired by the Browning heirs in their lawsuit in the 1790s, contains the remains of at least two farmsteads. One of the houses was occupied by the Entler family from 1851 to about 1888 near the river; only a foundation and basement depression is still visible just north of the pond. The other house and outbuildings near Terrapin Neck Road were part of a working farmstead as late as 1938 (it is visible on an aerial photograph taken as part of the National Aerial Photography Program in Feb. 1938). This 86 1/2 acre farmstead, pieced together after 1888 from 3 separate smaller parcels including the former Entler farm, was owned by George F. Turner from 1887 to 1909, William J Foutz from 1909 to 1936, briefly by Jefferson Security Bank in 1936, Ernest Stutzman from 1936 to 1941, and Gilbert Wright from 1941 to 1943, when it was purchased by the Hendrix family. A road now overgrown in the woods was first shown on a county map published in the 1920s and is still visible in a 1938 aerial photo. According to Charles Hanshew of Martinsburg, WV, the steep terminus of the road down to the river bottom was built by his family in the mid-1930s. His family pitched two large tents complete with carpeting on the Foutz property near the river during the summer months for recreation and to escape the heat. The road may also have been used for access to a commercial fishing operation on Shepherd Island and around Terrapin Neck, run by the Lemen family from the 1890s to the 1930s, and gave access to a recreational cabin built by Ernest and Leone Stutzman (ca 1937) during their ownership - the cabin’s old chimney can still be seen down the hill north of the commons building. Ernest was a longtime professor at Shepherd College in Shepherdstown, and finished his career as a researcher at a Veterans Administration Hospital. The house on this farmstead near Terrapin Neck Road, occupied by German native Conrad Crowe and his family in the 1850s, was torn down in the late 1960s after it became an attractive nuisance to local youths. A single small barn is still standing among the old foundations and debris in the woods.
Archaeological work has documented the remains of human cultures that utilized this property on the Potomac River going back more than 8000 years - the river terrace in particular has numerous artifacts including potsherds, hearth stones, projectile points and lithic scatters. The mere 270 years of occupation by a European culture pales in comparison. From a visual standpoint, the look of the overall landscape today probably has not changed dramatically from the time of the first European settlement. The scattered trees, patches of forest, and open meadows seen today would not seem unfamiliar to Poulson, Mounts and Jones. Nearly all of the trees around the campus and lodges have grown since the 1940s. The Swearingens would also not feel out of place with the farming operations here during the 20th century. Cattle, horses, sheep, hogs, corn, wheat, and hay were laboriously brought here in the 1730s and 1740s and have persisted to nearly the present day. The activities on a 1760s-era plantation that featured a relatively wealthy, public-spirited landowner supervising the farming operation in the European feudal tradition, with the labor supplied by others - slaves in this case - eking out a largely subsistence lifestyle on the land, can still be seen in some lesser degree with the small tenant farming operations of the 1930s on RiverView Farm, with a tenant supplying labor in return for a house, garden patch, facilities for a few cattle and chickens, and a profit-sharing agreement with the owner. The main difference being, of course, the ability of the laborer to choose his habitation, landlord, and subsistence lifestyle.
Floristically speaking, the biggest changes on the landscape can be seen in the composition of the herbaceous plants in the meadows, fence rows and forest floor. Non-native European annuals are now a prominent part of the NCTC plant list; the native plants are still on the property, but many have been crowded to the edges, hollows and slopes that could not be reached by plow and hungry grazing animals. The first efforts at conservation in the 1930s, some of which are now seen as undesirable and wrong-headed, have also left their effects on the landscape. Consider Japanese honeysuckle, once used to control erosion but now draping and choking forest edges, and the impenetrable thickets of multiflora rose, once touted as a way to provide wildlife habitat along fencerows, now making a walk through the woods a more sensory experience than one might have bargained for.
I would like to end this history with the thought that even hundreds of years after spending time on a landscape, your story can still be told- because the evidence persists (though motivations are harder to fathom after a number of years). We have within each of us the ability to leave a legacy of thoughtful decisions, care and appreciation of the land that surrounds and sustains us. May we strive to ensure that our conservation efforts are rewarded with future writers who can find positive things to say about us.