Our 12 acre farm is steeped in history. The original one room cabin with upstairs sleeping area was built around 1840. It served as one of three slave quarters of the Willowdale Plantation, and is currently one of two original slave quarters left standing in Jefferson County.
The circa 1870 additions were of timber frame, covered in pine plank and batten. The board and batten were salvaged from original C&O canal boats, and added to the sides of the cabin resulting in a small six room house, as it still stands today.
The 1852 Jefferson County Map identifies the property as belonging to the Eichelberger family, descendants of Philip Frederick Eichelberger (1693 – 1776), a German immigrant.
George William Eichelberger (1820 – 1881) was a gentleman farmer. By the time he was 30, his household included his father, the family dwelling, and a 94 year old German relative. George William Eichelberger served as a justice on the Magistrate’s Court for the preliminary hearing of John Brown.
According to the 1860 Slave Schedule for Jefferson County, VA, George William Eichelberger owned 13 slaves housed in 3 dwellings.
Seven males ranging in age from 3 years to 34 years
Six females ranging in age from 5 years to 38 years
Those slaves, with estimated years of birth were:
Males: 1826, 1832, 1845, 1847, 1851, 1852, 1857
Females: 1822, 1836, 1844, 1848, 1853, 1855
Most of the slaves owned by descendants of George William Eichelberger appear to have left that area by 1870.
According to the 1883 map of Jefferson County, VA, George W. Marlow acquired the Willowdale Plantation which included the Bloomery, the first ironworks west of the Blue Ridge Mountains:
“Shenandoah Bloomery, near Charles Town, also known as Vestal’s Bloomery, was the first ironworks west of the Blue Ridge Mountains and the first in present West Virginia.
“A bloomery was a cheaper, simpler way to produce iron than by using a blast furnace. Like contemporary blast furnaces, the bloomery used charcoal for fuel, but unlike the blast furnace the iron ore never reached a temperature high enough for it to melt. In the bloomery operation, charcoal and iron ore were ignited and air applied. A spongy iron developed. The spongy iron contained large amounts of impurities, mostly slag and dirt, and had to be hammered to eliminate these impurities. Bloomery production was limited, less than 100 pounds of iron per firing. A bloomery was most frequently used in frontier situations, meeting local needs until more established blast furnace and forge operations appeared.
“William Vestal, John Traden, Richard Stevenson, and Daniel Burnet contracted Thomas Mayberry in 1742 to construct a ‘Bloomery for making Barr iron, upon the present plantation of William Vestal lying upon Shunandore [sic].’ Mayberry agreed to erect a bloomery, raceways, water wheels, and dam. The completed bloomery was located in Jefferson County on the north bank of Evitts Creek, near its confluence with the Shenandoah River.
“Vestal operated the bloomery until about 1760, when the property passed to the Fairfax family. George William Fairfax and his brother-in-law, John Carlyle, planned to operate Bloomery Mills, but it is unlikely that the pair ever smelted any iron. Today, the town of Bloomery is the only tangible reminder of the pioneering ironworks.”
-written by Lee R. Maddex