Although he spent fewer than six months total time working and visiting in the area that is today Berkeley Springs, George Washington is a major figure in the history of the springs and town.
He was among the first visitors to the “fam’d warm springs” in 1748, ’50 and ’51 when the area was still frontier and part of the extensive land holdings of Washington’s neighbor and mentor, Thomas Lord Fairfax.
Washington eventually owned land both in town and along the Potomac; he wanted to own more. During the mid-1750s and the French and Indian War, Washington was involved in pursuing the “enemy” — native Indians — around the springs.
In the 1760s, he visited several times with his family to “take the waters.” Warm Springs or Frederick Springs as it was also called, was a popular resort among Washington’s social group.
Along with members of his family, friends and colleagues, Washington purchased lots at the springs when the town of Bath was established there by the Virginia Legislature in December 1776.
In 1784, Washington visited, began a long association with steamboat inventor James Rumsey, and hired Rumsey to build a house for him at the springs.
Washington visited at least once during the 1790s and his properties in the area were included in his will. Washington died in 1799.
These archives collect many of Washington’s writings, including diary entries, about his visits and dealings in Berkeley Springs and surrounding area so interested people can experience colonial and federal Bath in George Washington’s own words. In addition, there are letters written to Washington related to his activities in Bath.
To actively follow in Washington’s footsteps, journey the Washington Heritage Trail. A self-guided tour brochure is available at the Visitors Center at 127 Fairfax St. or online at www.berkeleysprings.com. “George Washington and Us” is a 70-page softcover volume of Washington’s writings about Morgan County and surrounding area explained and put into context by prize winning mystery writer and editor of the Morgan Messenger, John Douglas. Copies can be purchased at the Berkeley Springs Visitor Center or available by mail for $8.95, plus $2.25 postage and handling.
This archival material was developed through funding from the National Scenic Byways program of the U.S. Department of Transportation and is available on www.berkeleysprings.com.
Prepared by Jeanne Mozier