Adam Stephen House
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.
Backstory and Context
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 Washington.4
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.
During the 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.7Stephen returned t Martinsburg. He served in the Virginia House of Representatives, and in October of 1788 he petitioned for the chartering of the city of Martinsburg.8 Perhaps Stephens’ greatest moment was his defense of the U.S. Constitution at the Virginia Ratification Convention. The Constitution was ratified, the winning votes were cast by western delegates, many of whom were persuaded by Stephens’ arguments.9 He also advocated for the national capital to be located in Shepherdstown. Adam Stephen died at his home on July 16, 1791.10 Stephens’ home, along with the neighboring Triple House, is now a museum.