Nestled in evening shadow of South Branch Mountain, Romney stands on a river terrace above the South Branch of the Potomac River. Early settlements began as early as the 1730’s, as it was then known as the western frontier. Families of Scotch-Irish descent populated the area up and down the rich farmland of the South Branch River.
The Pearsall brothers, Job and John first established a fort near Romney around 1755 and the settlement was known by many names, Fort Pearsall, Fort McKenzie, Pearsall Flats, and finally Romney, when it was incorporated in 1762. Named after the English port of Romney, England, the small town soon became a bustling hub of activity for traders, surveyors, military troops, and business along the main roads through the town.
During this time, there were numerous Indian uprisings with settlers being captured or killed near the fort. At one point, most of the settlers moved back to Winchester or moved into the fort for safety.
After the French and Indian War and the Revolutionary War, Romney settled into a prosperous growth period of population and their economy. Business sprang up, banks were started, and a newspaper was formed in 1830.
Then came the devastation of the Civil War. Romney and the eastern part of Hampshire County were fiercely Confederate. Most of the young men either joined the local militia or signed up for the Confederacy and marched off to war.
Romney did not have any military importance but existed at a crossroads, south to Moorefield; east to Winchester; west to New Creek Station (now Keyser, WV), and north to Cumberland, MD, the location of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad. There was much troop activity in and out of Romney during the war but no major battles. This left the town in shambles after the war and much work was needed for Romney to regain its prominence.
Many buildings and businesses lost during the war, but worst of all 125 of Romney’s young men were killed which left the area wanting for teachers, farmers, and businessman.
Romney and Hampshire County has always been proud of the contributions of its young men and women to the cause of American freedom during World War I, World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Persian Gulf War, and other conflicts.
After statehood in 1863, West Virginia decided it needed its own school for the education of deaf and blind children. By resolution of the governor and the State Board of Education in 1870, the West Virginia Schools for the Deaf and Blind, opened their doors that fall. Still in existence today, the school continues to provide an excellent education for the sensory impaired students of West Virginia.
Beginning in the late 1890’s the fruit industry began to form in the area surrounding Romney. These orchards became famous for the produce and remain today as one of the proudest industries of our county.
Tourism has grown over the years with hunting, fishing and river sports being very popular and many out-of-towners having river front camping areas to relax during the spring, summer, and fall season. The Potomac Eagle, the scenic rail excursion, attracts hundreds. It winds south up the South Branch Valley cutting through a river canyon known as the Trough, home to bald eagles.
Romney has it all, a small town embracing the future, while respecting its past.