Adam Stephen, a medical doctor, was also a colonial military officer during the French and Indian War. He served with George Washington in General Braddock’s attack on the French at Fort Duquesne. A skilled businessperson, Stephen acquired land, and built a large stone house in what later became the city of Martinsburg. He served in the Continental Army with the rank of Colonel. One of Adam Stephen’s best-known moments was his speech given in stirring support of the newly offered Constitution of The United States at the Virginia Ratification Convention.
Adam Stephen was born in Scotland around the year 1718. He
completed his university studies and became a surgeon sometime near 1746.
Stephen served in the Royal Navy. In 1948, Stephen arrived in the American
Colonies. He settled in Fredericksburg, VA where he established a doctor’s
practice.1 Stephen received his first military post in the colonies in 1754.
The French and Indian War was just beginning and the frontier was largely unsettled.
Stephen served as a Colonel in the colonial militia during the war. He
participated in Braddock’s failed effort to take Fort Duquesne from the French.2
Land was the
mechanism of wealth during this period and Stephen was adept at acquiring land.
One of his acquisitions was a plantation outside of Winchester. Adept at business,
Stephen operated several mills, a distillery, and an armory.3 He sold some of
his property in the area to help develop the city of Martinsburg. Stephens’ negotiating
skills lead him to great success in negotiating treaties with Indian nations in
the Carolina’s, western Virginia, and the Ohio region. In 1761 Stephen ran,
unsuccessfully, for a seat in the House of Burgesses against George
The land upon
which Adam Stephen built his house was purchased by him in 1770. The lot
consisted of 255 acres, and contained the entrance to large cave system.
Stephen built his home on one of the cave systems entrances. Speculation has it
that the caves were to be used as an escape system in the event of an Indian
attack.5 A letter written to Daniel Morgan by the acting Governor of Virginia,
states that Adam Stephens was a “Lieutenant and Chief Commander” in the
militia.6 Stephen served in Lord Dunmore’s war in 1774.
American Revolution Stephen acquired the rank of Colonel with the Virginia 4th.6
Stephen rose to the rank of Major General, leading well at Brandywine and
Trenton. His military career crashed at the Battle of Germantown. Stephen ordered
an untimely retreat that contributed to a colonial defeat. Stephen was accused
of being intoxicated during the battle and was court-martialed.7