Shepherdstown residents, friends and neighbors gathered on a beautiful fall weekend to close out a year-long celebration of the 250th signing of the town’s charter.
Saturday started off the closing weekend with a dedication of a plaque honoring town founder Thomas Shepherd. The plaque was presented by the town’s Ministerial Association.
After the ceremony, visitors were able to travel through town to the Thomas Shepherd Grist Mill on High Street where Shepherd established his business even before the town was granted its charter. The mill was established prior to 1739, near Pack Horse Ford crossing point of the Potomac.
Included on the National Register of Historic Places, the mill is opened at various times throughout the year for visitors to witness the turning of the wheel and learn of the historical importance to the town.
Shepherdstown, earliest known as Mecklenburg, was later renamed Shepherdstown in honor of Thomas Shepherd.
The 250th anniversary celebration culminated on Sunday with a parade of more than 50 families traversing German Street as their family histories were read aloud to the crowd. The families were all descendants of the early families of Mecklenburg and Shepherdstown.
Participants in families such as the Martins, Lemens, Washingtons, Buckles, Hendricks and of course, the Shepherds, marched in alphabetical order. Participants came from Shepherdstown but also from beyond the town’s borders. Some traveled from as far as New York, Pennsylvania and even London, England to take part in the town’s wrap-up of the year-long anniversary.
Following the parade, a closing ceremony was held on the lawn of McMurran Hall.
Looking out as the crowd gathered in chairs in the middle of German Street, Mayor Jim Auxer said, “We’ve got a hell of a town, don’t we?” His amazement at the gathering continued throughout the evening as he often was seen with a tear in his eye.
“I cannot put into words how this makes me feel,” he said. “It’s what you feel and what you see, you just can’t find a way to say it.”
During the closing ceremonies, attendees had the opportunity to view some gifts that were presented to the town including the quilt stiched by the Tuesday afternoon sewing group. The project included more than 500 signatures gathered for the quilt. What will be an heirloom one day will be hung in town all.
Also given to the town were several books commemorating the past year including a book of photos by Hali Taylor, a historical writing by Jim Price and poetry given by Georgia Lee McElhaney. The students from Shepherdstown Elementary who were on hand to sing songs also shared that they had constructed a time capsule including items in celebration of this year’s event.
Chuckles were heard throughout the crowd as some of the students shared essays on what they expect Shepherdstown to be like at its 300th anniversary. Jenna Everhart prophesied that there will be a Dairy Queen. She prefaced that with the fact that it is almost ready to open.
Guests spoke about the significance of the 250th anniversary as well as about the town itself. State Senator Herb Snyder, who graduated from Shepherdstown High School in its last year, 1972, said, “It’s the fabric of the citizens that makes Shepherdstown what it is today.”
In recognizing the veterans on Veteran’s Day, County Commissioner Walt Pellish said, “Isn’t it wonderful that we live in a community that we can gather on a day like today and do what we’re doing. Thanks to the veterans,” he said.
The night did not end with the applause as the speakers finished their comments. After the chairs were folded and microphones put away, citizens and guests traveled to nine different locations to enjoy the Soup Fest. The Community Club and the Entler Hotel were hit early with many hungry folks and they soon ran out of their soups; however, a bit further down some side streets found delicious butternut squash, potato, chicken corn chowder, kale and sausage and any other combinations of tasty bowls. Homemade breads were found at some locations while others offered crackers and even desserts. The churches, Community Club and Fire Department saw initially hungry individuals leave happy and fulfilled.
The chair of the 250th event, Meredith Wait, was her usual quiet self as she watched the afternoon and evening unfold on what has been a most successful celebration. She said that between she and Mayor Auxer, there were many tears shed over the day as they witnessed the turnout to the final event.
“It’s pretty amazing,” Auxer said.