SW corner of where Duke (Route 480) and New Sts once intersected. The log cabin in which James Rumsey lived (1785-1788) stood on this spot where now stands a brick house built in 1860. A plaque on the side of the house identifies the site. The town’s first jailhouse, a limestone structure, stood in the middle of New Street adjacent to the Rumsey house site from 1794 to 1865.
Rumsey is an inventor, credited with inventing the steam engine and having the
first successful test of the steamboat. He was born in 1743, in Cecil County,
Maryland, but his family moved to Berkley County, Virginia. Rumsey was mechanically
minded and became a miller, mill mechanic, and designer, canal builder,
blacksmith, and rustic architect. Rumsey kept an inn in Berkley Springs and created
the first bath houses there.
Rumsey met George Washington at these bath houses and had a credible connection
for his inventing. Washington hired Rumsey to build a “dwelling House, Kitchen,
and Stable” on his Bath property.
Washington also wanted Rumsey to
supervise operations of the Potomac Company, Washington’s enterprise to make
the Potomac River navigable from Cumberland to Georgetown.
time working on the Potomac fit with his work on steam power. The first
self-propelled boat was a pole boat. Carriage of the boat was fitted with a
bank of poles that dragged the river bottom to propel the boat forward.
This design was not very effective in propelling the boat forward.
brought Rumsey to Shepherdstown with his work with the Potomac Company.
Rumsey’s contact with George Washington and Benjamin Franklin may have sparked
his invention of the steam powered- water jet propelled boat. Rumsey made his
first demonstration on December 3, 1787, 20 years before Robert Fulton’s boat.
In 1788, Rumsey published “A Short Treatise on Steam,” then he went to
Philadelphia to seek help from the American Philosophical Society. Rumsey
demonstrated his steamboat invention for Washington and received certification
of the event from Washington. Washington wrote
“The model & its operation upon the water … not only convinced me of what I
before thought … quite impractical, but that it might be turned to the greatest
possible utility in inland navigation.”
invention of the steamboat was controversial, Rumsey had to defend his
invention against other’s. John Fitch invented a boat, but his used oars, while
Rumsey used water-jet propulsion.
Rumsey also had to defend his patent against Robert Fulton, who also invented a
steamboat, but had his first test much later than Rumsey’s.
 DuBose, Georgia Caldwell James
Rumsey. e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia. 08 December 2015. Web. 06
 From a letter to James Rumsey written by Watt’s partner, Matthew
Boulton, August 14, 1788. Ella May Turner, James Rumsey: Pioneer in Steam
Navigation, Mennonite Press, 1930. p.12-13. Quoted in http://www.appaltree.net/aba/downloads/james_rumsey_biography.pdf
 Allen, David G.. James Rumsey American Inventor. Accessed July 08, 2017. http://www.appaltree.net/aba/downloads/james_rumsey_biography.pdf.
 Andrea Sutcliffe, STEAM: The Untold Story of America’s First
Great Invention, Palgrave Macmillan, 2004, p. 3. Quoted in http://www.appaltree.net/aba/downloads/james_rumsey_biography.pdf
 George Washington’s diary entry of September 6, 1784,
DuBose, Georgia Caldwell James Rumsey. e-WV: The West Virginia
Encyclopedia. 08 December 2015. Web. 06 April 2017.
 Allen, David G.. James Rumsey American Inventor. Accessed July 08, 2017. http://www.appaltree.net/aba/downloads/james_rumsey_biography.pdf. p.19.