The town of Stephens City has a long history spanning over two and a half centuries. From its beginnings in the 1730s and through the French and Indian War, the Revolutionary War and the Civil War, the town and its inhabitants witnessed and participated in events of national significance. After the Civil War into the twentieth century the town suffered through a forced name change and economic hardships associated with the general advancements in transportation technology. Today the town faces unprecedented growth along with other towns in the Northern Shenandoah Valley. Please click on the links below to read about the various eras of the town's story. These pages are for those who are seeking a concise but thorough historical account of the history of Stephens City. If you have more specific questions, please contact us and we will be happy to try and answer them for you.
Stephens City was chartered in 1758 as the town of "Stephensburgh," but its origins reach back into the early 1730s when Peter Stephens (1687-1757), an immigrant originally from Heidelberg, Germany, built his homestead on land that would eventually become part of the far southern end of the original town.
After the Revolution the town's population grew. By the 1790s there was so much growth that the citizens of Stephensburg petitioned the General Assembly of Virginia for the boundaries of the town to be expanded to the North along the wagon road on additional land owned by Lewis Stephens.
Civil War, 1861-1865
Despite the anti-slavery sentiments of some of its most influential citizens, John Brown's raid on Harpers Ferry Arsenal went too far for the majority of the town's white citizens. The militia units of Frederick County responded to the alarm, and Newtown-Stephensburg supplied its complement of citizen soldiers to quell the potential uprising.
Reconstruction, the Railroad and a Name Change, 1866-1899
For the next decade after the end of the Civil War, the town struggled to rebuild its economy and repair the damage caused by the horrors of the conflict. As veterans of the war came home and resumed their work as tradesmen and merchants, the local economy did improve.
The Twentieth Century and Today
By the beginning of the twentieth century the town's economy had recovered. Apples were being grown in the orchards of the region and sold at a great profit. In 1906 Inez Virginia Steele wrote the following in her book Early Days and Methodism in Stephens City, Virginia.