HISTORY OF THE SHEPHERDSTOWN BATTLEFIELD PRESERVATION ASSOCIATION INC.
October - November 2004:
A Maryland-based developer applied for a Conditional Use Permit (CUP) to build 152 homes on a 122-acre farm named Faraway Farm in a rural section of Jefferson County, West Virginia. He planned to set aside 10 acres with a 200 year-old farmhouse and build on the remaining 112 acres. The farm is a significant part of the site of the Sept. 1862 Civil War Battle of Shepherdstown (Boteler’s Ford). Citizens United to Save Faraway Farm LLC (CUSFF) was formed by local residents with the initial purpose of keeping the proposed development of Faraway Farm within the limits of rural zoning since the County’s Zoning Ordinance does not recognize the importance of historic sites in deciding the fate of proposed high-density residential developments. CUSFF filed a 200-page document appealing specific measurements by the County Zoning Administrator that would have resulted in approval of the proposed subdivision. The CUSFF appeal also cited a number of administrative errors in the developer’s CUP.
January - March 2005:
The County’s Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) held a public hearing and the CUSFF appeal was rejected. The CUP application was allowed to proceed to the next step. CUSFF filed a petition with the Jefferson County Circuit Court challenging the BZA decision. The petition cited administrative issues that the BZA failed to address, their interpretation of sections of the Zoning Ordinance, and an apparent conflict of interest of one of the members of the BZA.
An 8-hour long Compatibility Assessment Meeting (CAM) was held before the County’s Zoning Administrator; the petition before the Circuit Court notwithstanding. The purpose of the CAM is to determine if the proposed development is compatible with the surrounding neighborhood. Residents of the neighborhood asked for many changes in the proposed development totaling 106 specific issues. The meeting resulted in 67 unresolved issues that the BZA was to address in its next meeting.
At the urging of local historians, CUSFF began to focus more on the historic nature of the farm and obtained support via emails and letters from the Civil War Preservation Trust, the American Battlefield Protection Program of the National Park Service, the Superintendent of the Antietam National Battlefield Park and James McPherson, Pulitzer Prize winning historian. CUSFF representatives met with Dr. Thomas Clemens and the Board of Save Historic Antietam Foundation, Inc. regarding saving Faraway Farm as an important Civil War battlefield site.
The Circuit Court agreed that the CUSFF petition had merit and a hearing would be scheduled for a later date.
Having amassed irrefutable evidence that Faraway Farm is part of the core of the battlefield, CUSFF members voted to change the organization’s name to the Shepherdstown Battlefield Preservation Association (SBPA) with the purpose of saving and preserving the remaining 282 acres of the battlefield site from any further development.
August 2005 - October 2005:
- The BZA held a post-CAM hearing to resolve all issues and to determine if the proposed development was compatible with the neighborhood. SBPA presented data showing that the average lot size in the neighborhood was 14.7 acres and that the proposed subdivision was clearly not compatible with the rural neighborhood. Maps and other documentation were also presented showing that the farm was located on part of the core of the Battle of Shepherdstown. The BZA denied the developer’s CUP application based on the high density of the proposed subdivision and the highway problems that such a development would cause. The historical nature of the farm played no role in the decision.
-Alan Rowe of the West Virginia Division of Culture and History found that the site of the Battle of Shepherdstown had retained sufficient physical integrity necessary to be eligible for inclusion in the National Register.
-SBPA met with the West Virginia state legislators representing the three-county Eastern Panhandle and presented petitions signed by 500 Eastern Panhandle residents supporting saving the battlefield site as well as letters of support by many noted historians. A resolution was unanimously passed and signed by the legislators supporting the preservation of the battlefield.
- The Board of Historic Shepherdstown unanimously signed a resolution supporting SBPA’s efforts.
- The Quad State (Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia) Legislative Conference members unanimously signed a resolution supporting SBPA’s efforts.
-The developer listed the farm for sale, advertising it as part of a Civil War Battlefield.
- The Shepherdstown Town Council unanimously signed a resolution supporting SBPA’s efforts.
- The developer filed suit challenging the BZA decision on 3 issues.
- SBPA made an offer to purchase the farm from the developer that was rejected almost immediately with no counter offer made.
- SBPA applied for grants to fund the purchase of Faraway Farm and several other properties contiguous to the farm. Three property owners on the battlefield site are pursuing conservation easements with the Eastern Panhandle Land Trust and the Farmland Protection Board in order to prevent development on their property in perpetuity.
- The Jefferson County Commission held a public hearing in order to ascertain public interest in creating a Shepherdstown Civil War Battlefield Park. More than 70 residents attended. After the developer’s attorney again denied that there was any proof that a Civil War Battle had taken place on the farm, 20 Jefferson County residents spoke in favor of establishing a park.
-The Jefferson County Commission unanimously approved three agenda items that support the establishment of a Civil War Battlefield Park:
1) A resolution supporting SBPA’s efforts.
2) A letter to the Harper’s Ferry National Park asking that the site of the Battle of Shepherdstown be included in their 5-year master plan.
3) Letters to the West Virginia Congressional Delegation urging them to allocate federal funds to establish the Shepherdstown Civil War Battlefield Park.
- The Jefferson County Circuit Court ruled against the developer on two of three contested issues. A hearing for the last issue has yet to be scheduled.
- SBPA filed for 501(c)(3) status as a charitable trust.
- Dr. Thomas Clemens, historian and President of the Save Historic Antietam Foundation, Inc. agreed to serve as an SBPA Board Member.
The Civil War Preservation Trust's latest endangered battlefield
report entitled "History Under Siege" listed the site of the Battle of
Shepherdstown as an "At Risk" battlefield. The report lists the 20
battlefields that are in danger of being lost due to development. The list
is divided between the 10 battlefields identified as "Most Endangered" and
the 10 "At Risk" battlefields. To quote the report: "What is the value of
land that hundreds of men paid for with their lives? We believe it to be
Click here to see the full report
In an effort to create a National Civil War Battlefield Park,
SBPA has enlisted the help of West Virginia Senator Robert C. Byrd and
Congresswoman Shelley Moore-Capito. An Act of Congress is required to expand the boundaries of an existing National Park to include the site of the
Battle of Shepherdstown. Both Senator Byrd's staff and that of
Congresswoman Capito are in the early stages of researching the process.
Hopefully, the boundaries of either Harper's Ferry or Antietam National Park
will be expanded to include the Shepherdstown site. If that is accomplished,
SBPA will attempt, through the West Virginia Congressional Delegation, to
obtain an appropriation the Federal budget to purchase land within the core
of the battlefield.
West Virginia Governor Joe Manchin presented Jefferson County with a $100,000 grant to be used solely for the purchase of land within the site of the Battle of Shepherdstown. SBPA learned of the availability of the
grant through West Virginia Delegate John Doyle who initiated the
application process. SBPA filed the application on behalf of Jefferson
County. The Civil War Preservation Trust agreed to provide the necessary
matching funds of $25,000.
On September 18, the Jefferson County Circuit Court issued its decision upholding the BZA's denial of a Conditional Use Permit to Faraway Farms LLC to build 152 houses on the site of the Battle of Shepherdstown. SBPA expects that the developer will appeal the Circuit Court's decision to the West Virginia Supreme Court.
-The IRS granted SBPA tax exempt status under Section 501(c)(3) of the IRS Code.
-On December 8, two members of SBPA signed conservation easement documents preserving 59 acres of the battlefield from future development. The Land Trust of the Eastern Panhandle oversaw the effort which was funded by the National Park Service's American Battlefield Protection Program and the Jefferson County Farmland Protection Board. The Civil War Preservation Trust and the SBPA were instrumental in effecting the easements. Including 25 acres donated to a conservation easement, there are now 84 acres on the site of the Battle of Shepherdstown that are safe from future development. SBPA continues its effort to save the remaining 216 acres.
In the image below, the area in red is the battlefield as identified by the West Virginia State Historian and the American Battlefield Protection Program of The National Park Service. The area outlined in blue represents the 300 acres that SBPA is trying to preserve. The areas shaded in blue represents the acreage now under conservation easements.
The developer filed a petition with the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals asking the court to reverse the decisions of the Circuit Court and the Board of Zoning Appeals. SBPA responded to the developer's petition challenging their assertions and asking the court to uphold the previous decisions.
Senator Robert C. Byrd introduced legislation asking for authorization for a National Park Service "Special Resources Study" to document the site of the 1862 Battle of Shepherdstown. This is the first of several steps that are necessary for the Shepherdstown site to be included within the boundaries of an existing National Civil War Park.
On November 15, 2007, the Jefferson County Commission, by a vote of 4 to 1, approved a motion to establish a $100,000 fund to be used to purchase land within the site of the 1862 Civil War Battle of Shepherdstown. This was the first concrete evidence that our local elected officials support SBPA's effort to preserve the site. While the amount of money pales in comparison to the $644,000 in grants and conservation easements that SBPA has been able to accumulate in preserving the site, it is a good first step by our County Commission. At the following County Commission meeting, the Commissioners established a $100,000 fund by resolution. Commissioners F.Morgan, A.Morgan, Surkamp and Corliss all voted in favor of the resolution, while Commissioner Manuel continued his desire to stymy SBPA and voted against the resolutuion.
November 2007- The first full length account of the Battle of Shepherdstown was published by Schroeder Publications. Entitled: Shepherdstown: Last Clash of the Antietam Campaign September 19-20, 1862, the book is a 256 page account of the battle with more than 80 related photos, illustrations and maps. Its author, Thomas A. McGrath, spent 10 years researching the battle and has brought together many diverse primary sources detailing both the tactical aspects of the battle and the human element.
Once again, and unfortunately, the site of the Battle of Shepherdstown was included in the Civil War Preservation Trust's list of endangered battlefields. The Shepherdstown site was included as an "At Risk" battlefield in the report entitled "History Under Siege". Click here to see the full report
Oral arguments were presented to the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals by attorneys for the Jefferson County Board of Zoning Appeals (JCBZA) and SBPA. Their arguments refuted the legal and factual basis for the developer's reasons appealing the Circuit Court's decision to deny the permit to build on the Shepherdstown site. However, by the questions asked by the Justices, it was apparent that a political decision was in the offing rather than a legal decision.
The United States Senate Committee on Energy & Natural Resources held a hearing regarding Senate Bill 1633. Jefferson County Commissioner Jim Surkamp, with the aid of SBPA, testified and cited the national significance of the Battle of Shepherdstown and the sites imminent danger of being developed for residential houses.
In a shocking decision, the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals (WVSCA) reversed the lower court decision and ordered the Jefferson County Planning Commission (JCPC) to grant the developer a Conditional Use Permit (CUP) to build 152 houses in the core of the site of the Battle of Shepherdstown. The decision ignored the fact that the JCPC was not a party to the decision to deny the CUP nor was it a party to the appeal. More importantly, neither the County's Ordinances nor state law authorizes the JCPC to grant CUPs.
SBPA and the JCBZA filed an appeal with the WVSCA asking for a reconsideration of their decision. The filings cited the many instances that the WVSCA decision violated a number of legal principles. The WVSCA refused to reconsider their decision. SBPA's attorney started work on filing an appeal in the United States Supreme Court.
Under legal duress, the Jefferson County Planning Commission granted the Conditional Use Permit (CUP) to the developer. The Planning Commission indicated that they will pursue further legal options, perhaps in Federal Court.
In September 2008, SBPA's attorney filed a petition in the United States Supreme Court (USSC) asking for a review and summary judgement reversing the decision of the WVSCA. In November, the USSC refused to hear that appeal.
SBPA believes that the Jefferson County Planning Commission has the ability to challange the WVSCA's decision in the Federal Court. We await action by the Jefferson County Planning Commission.
On Friday 10/17/08, West Virginia Governor Joe Manchin presented to Jefferson County and SBPA a $100,000 Transportation Enhancement Grant to be used to purchase land on the site of the 1862 Battle of Shepherdstown. The presentation occured in McMurran Hall on the campus of Shepherd University. This is the second Transportation Enhancement Grant given to Jefferson County to purchase land on the battlefield site. In 2006, the County received a $100,000 grant and the Civil War Preservation Trust agreed to provide the required matching funds.
Legislation introduced by Senator Robert C. Byrd was passed by both the United States Senate and House of Representatives and signed into law by President Obama on March 30, 2009. At a Senate hearing in 2008, representatives of the National Park Service spoke in support of Senator Byrd's proposed legislation. Included in the "Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009" was a section that could ultimately save and preserve the site of the 1862 Battle of Shepherdstown.
Presented below is the section of the law that will begin the process that could lead to the Shepherdstown battlefield site into being included within either the boundary of the National Parks at Antietam or Harper's Ferry:
SEC. 7205. SHEPHERDSTOWN BATTLEFIELD, WEST VIRGINIA.
(a) Special Resources Study- The Secretary of the Interior (referred to in this section as the `Secretary') shall conduct a special resource study relating to the Battle of Shepherdstown in Shepherdstown, West Virginia, to evaluate--
(1) the national significance of the Shepherdstown battlefield and sites relating to the Shepherdstown battlefield; and
(2) the suitability and feasibility of adding the Shepherdstown battlefield and sites relating to the Shepherdstown battlefield as part of--
(A) Harpers Ferry National Historical Park; or
(B) Antietam National Battlefield.
(b) Criteria- In conducting the study authorized under subsection (a), the Secretary shall use the criteria for the study of areas for potential inclusion in the National Park System contained in section 8(c) of Public Law 91-383 (16 U.S.C. 1a-5(c)).
(c) Report- Not later than 3 years after the date on which funds are made available to carry out this section, the Secretary shall submit to the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources of the Senate and the Committee on Natural Resources of the House of Representatives a report containing the findings, conclusions, and recommendations of the study conducted under subsection (a).
(d) Authorization of Appropriations- There are authorized to be appropriated such sums as are necessary to carry out this section.
SBPA established a Historical Advisory Board (HAB) organized by Dr. Peter Carmichael, the West Virginia University (WVU) Eberly Professor of Civil War Studies. Dr. Carmichael stated that “the outpouring of support from the academic community in forming a Historical Advisory Board attests to the undeniable historic importance of the Battle of Shepherdstown. Among the scholars who have joined the board, all are recognized experts in the field of Civil War history, and many have received national attention for their work, including James McPherson, Gary W. Gallagher, Elizabeth Pryor, and William Link. Their support of the Shepherdstown Battlefield Preservation Association is indispensable to saving what they uniformly believe is sacred historical ground.”
The attorneys for Far Away Farm requested that the Jefferson County Planning Commission grant an extension of the proposed development’s Community Impact Statement which was about to expire. The Planning Commission unanimously denied the extension.
The attorneys for Far Away Farm filed a petition with the Circuit Court asking for a reversal
of the Planning Commission’s denial of an extension of the Community Impact Statement for the
proposed development. SBPA filed a petition with the Circuit Court asking to be accepting as
“intervenors” in this case.
In a secret agreement between the attorneys for Far Away Farm and the Jefferson County
Planning Commission, the Commission granted the developer a 3-year extension of both it's
Community Impact Statement and Conditional Use Permit. SBPA's Attorney discovered the agreement
and filed a petition with the Circuit Court in an attempt to invalidate that agreement.
West Virginia Delegate John Doyle and the Jefferson County Historic
Landmarks Commission announced that the Landmarks Commission completed the purchase of the
historic Cement Mill property. The property is an 18 acre site on the Potomac River. The
property contains structures from an 1829 Cement Mill that was the beginning of the Industrial
Revolution in Jefferson County and is also part of the site of the 1862 Battle of Shepherdstown.
The structures include the ruins of the mill, six kilns on the bank of the river, a large kiln
south of River Road and the remnants of an office building. Some of the kilns on the river show
damage from Union artillery shells sustained during the Battle of Shepherdstown.
The site was purchased for $375,000 from a private individual whose family owned it for more
than 100 years. The funds used to purchase the land came from two $100,000 West Virginia
Transportation Enhancement Grants garnered by SBPA for the County with $50,000 in matching
funds from the Civil War Trust (CWT). When it became apparent that the owner was willing to
sell the property additional funds were sought and the CWT, the Save Historic Antietam
Foundation, SBPA provided those funds. Delegate John Doyle was able to obtain $25,000
from West Virginia Governor Earl Ray Tomblin that was still needed to
purchase the property .
Not entirely a surprise, but the Circuit Court judge overruled himself
and decided against our claim that the Jefferson County Planning
Commission (PC) violated the West Virginia Open Governmental Proceedings
Act (OGPA) when the PC reached a secret agreement with the developer of
Far Away Farm. He did this despite the fact that the PC did not, on
their meeting agenda, properly list the proposed agreement, did not
the minutes of the meeting in a timely fashion, all in violation
of the OGPA. He vacated his prior ruling that the PC had violated the
No matter what the outcome of his ruling we knew that we would be back
at the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals (WVSCA) next. We plan to
file a petition with the WVSCA as soon as possible. One comforting
factor, as we understand, is that the Circuit Court judge has been,
in the last several years, overruled by the WVSCA more than any other
WV Circuit Court judge.
CEMENT MILL PURCHASE CELEBRATED
On Saturday morning, April 5, a sign was erected and dedicated to commemorate the purchase
and preservation of the Historic Cement Mill property. This property is part of the site of
the 1862 Battle of Shepherdstown. The property contains structures from an 1829 Cement Mill
that was the beginning of the Industrial Revolution in Jefferson County. The structures
include the ruins of the mill, six kilns on the bank of the Potomac River, a large kiln south
of River Road and the remnants of an office building. Some of the kilns on the river show
damage from Union artillery shells sustained during the Battle of Shepherdstown.
In late 2011, the Civil War Trust purchased 18 acres of the Cement Mill property and in late
2013, another small parcel, contiguous to the Cement Mill property, was purchased. The entire
property was deeded to the Jefferson County Historic Landmarks Commission (HLC). Ultimately,
the HLC intends to donate the parcel to the National Park Service (NPS). A conservation
easement has been placed on the property and it has been included in the National Register of
The total cost of the purchases was $445,000. The funds to complete the purchases came from
the Land and Water Conservation Fund administered by the NPS, WV Transportation Enhancement
Grants, the Civil War Trust, Save Historic Antietam Foundation Inc., the office of Governor
Earl Ray Tomblin through the efforts of then-Delegate John Doyle, the Shepherdstown Battlefield
Preservation Association Inc., and the American Battlefield Protection Program of the NPS.
The Civil War Trust has negotiated to purchase another parcel contiguous to the Cement Mill
property which will result in the preservation of 20.2 acres of the original Cement Mill
property. Importantly, the Cement Mill property is contiguous to 59 acres already saved through
the use of conservation easements. In total, 104 acres of the core of site of the Battle of
Shepherdstown have been saved and preserved.
This effort has been the result of the work of the Shepherdstown Battlefield Preservation
Association Inc (SBPA) and its individual members. SBPA is a non-profit corporation,
organized in 2004 dedicated to saving and preserving the core of the site of the Battle of
Shepherdstown. Slightly more than $1 million has been raised through grants and membership
contributions during the last ten years.