Stephen City? Stephens City? Stephen’s City? I saw it all three ways during my run. Even the town’s official Web site has it both with and without an apostrophe.
Just to confuse things, in the past it was also called Stephensburg and Newton. The first house in the area was built by a Peter Stephens in 1732, which would seem to indicate that Stephens’ City would be more correct. My best guess is that it was originally with an apostrophe of some sort, but trouble with the postal service or sign builders forced townsfolk to drop it.
Regardless, this small town bills itself as the second oldest in the Shenandoah Valley. Winchester, 8 miles to the North, is the oldest. You will find quite a number of houses built in the 1700s in Stephens City. You’ll also find houses built in the 1960s and 1970s in front of developments built in the 1990s. Interstate 81 looms close to the town, a few blocks from and parallel to Main Street/Route 11.
Transportation has always been an important part of the town. Stephens City was the original Detroit, only they made wagons rather than cars. Route 11 and 277 were key supply routes in the 19th Century and during the Civil War.
A Civil War story about the town also involves transportation. After a number of attacks on wagons containing supplies for the Union troops took place in the area, a general was given orders to burn the town to the ground. For some reason, he decided to let the city stand. Why didn’t he burn it? Accounts differ, but one theory was that he disobeyed because the population was largely women and children. Most of the men were either in the Confederate army or dead.
Stephens City is in Frederick, the northernmost county in the state. George Washington lived in the county for 10 years and held his first elective office representing county, elected to the house of Burgesses in 1758 and 1761.
The county has a population of 78,000 while Stephens City comes in at less than 2,000.
Being that it is not a particularly big town, during my run, I had to weave my way around to get my mileage up to 3 miles. the town has good sidewalks through the center of town. But when the sidewalks ran out, I had to run on the side of Route 11.
29 down, 105 to go.
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