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Charles Town, officially the City of Charles Town, is a city in Jefferson County, West Virginia, and is also the county seat. The population was 5,259 at the 2010 United States Census.
"Charlestown" was established by an act of the Virginia General Assembly in January 1787. However, for about two decades, confusion arose because the same name was also used for a town established in Ohio County at the mouth of Buffalo Creek, and authorized in the 1791 term of that local court. That area in 1797 became known as Brooke County, with that "Charlestown" as its county seat until a December 27, 1816 act of the Virginia General Assembly changed its name to Wellsburg, to honor a trader and his son.
Charles Washington, the founder of Charles Town, was born in Hunting Creek, now Fairfax County, Virginia on May 2, 1738. He was the youngest full brother of George Washington. He came to present Jefferson County between April and October 1780. The estate of Charles Washington, Happy Retreat, was erected in 1780. In 1786, on 80 acres (320,000 m²) of his adjoining land, Charles laid out the streets of Charles Town, naming many of them after his brothers and one after his wife, Mildred. He donated the four corner lots at the intersection of George and Washington Streets for public buildings of the town and county, provided the town become the seat of the county separated from [[Berkeley County,
In 1794, James Madison married "Dolly" Todd at Harewood, the home of George Steptoe Washington, son of Colonel Samuel Washington, just outside Charles Town.
Jefferson County was formed in 1801 as Charles Washington had anticipated. The county court house stands on one of the lots he donated, as did the jail until 1919 when it was demolished to be replaced by the post office.
Charles Washington died sometime between July and September, 1799, only a short while before the death of his brother George. Charles' and his wife Mildred's grave sites near Evitts Run have recently been located and surrounded by a stone wall.
In 1844, the first issue of the Spirit of Jefferson newspaper was published in Charles Town by James W. Beller. It is still published as the Spirit of Jefferson-Advocate, making it one of the oldest newspapers in the state.
On October 16, 1859, abolitionist John Brown and his followers raided the Federal arsenal at nearby Harpers Ferry, seven miles east of Charles Town. The insurrection was ultimately put down and John Brown was tried for treason in the town's Jefferson County court house. On December 2, 1859, he was hanged in Charles Town at the Gibson-Todd House, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
During the first two years of the American Civil War, the front lines of the Union and Confederate armies in the area fluctuated and the town frequently changed hands during the military engagements in the surrounding areas with the town first occupied by Confederate troops, then Union troops, then back to Confederate until 1863 when Union troops occupied the town on a permanent basis for the remainder of the war.
In 1883, the Valley Telephone Company was incorporated in West Virginia and began installing telephone lines throughout Jefferson County. The company's main office was in Charles Town.
In 1922, William Blizzard, a leader of striking coal miners, was charged with treason and murder for engaging in warfare against state and federal troops in Mingo and Logan counties. He was tried in the Jefferson county courthouse in Charles Town and was found not guilty.
The Charles Town Race Track first opened in 1933. It was built on land purchased from the Charles Town Horse Show Association.
In 1975, the new Jefferson Memorial Hospital opened, replacing the old Charles Town General Hospital. It is now part of the West Virginia University Hospitals (WVUH-East) chain of health care facilities, and was renamed Jefferson Medical Center in 2013.
In 1999, the Charles Town Race Track underwent major renovation which included a large addition to house video slot machines. It was renamed Charles Town Races & Slots and now attracts many visitors each week from the nearby Baltimore and Washington D.C. metropolitan areas.
In 2006, a non-profit corporation, called the Friends of Happy Retreat, Inc. (FOHR), purchased an option to buy the former home of Charles Washington outright. The goal of this group is to see Happy Retreat preserved as a national historic treasure while at the same time contributing to the public’s appreciation of the arts, local culture, and the rich history of the Washington family and the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia. FOHR hosts a special tour of Happy Retreat along with other Washington Family Homes during the annual Charles Town Heritage Festival which occurs the third Saturday of September. The Gavin family, the current owners of Happy Retreat, have placed the mansion on the market to sell.
Charles Town is located at 39°17′3″N 77°51′22″W (39.284237, -77.856211).
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 5.81 square miles (15.05 km2), all of it land.
Charles Town is located 73 miles northwest of Washington, D.C. and 75 miles west of Baltimore.
The city is primarily served by US 340. Interstate 81 is located 20 miles to the west in Martinsburg.
Due to its low elevation for West Virginia, Charles Town is on the northern extent of the Humid Subtropical climate zone, having cool to mildly cold winters and hot and humid summers. Precipitation is evenly distributed throughout the year, providing lush, abundant plant growth.
As of the census of 2010, there were 5,259 people, 2,011 households, and 1,289 families residing in the city. The population density was 905.2 inhabitants per square mile (349.5/km2). There were 2,270 housing units at an average density of 390.7 per square mile (150.9/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 76.9% White, 13.3% African American, 0.3% Native American, 2.1% Asian, 0.1% Pacific Islander, 3.7% from other races, and 3.6% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 9.0% of the population.
There were 2,011 households of which 37.2% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 47.3% were married couples living together, 11.1% had a female householder with no husband present, 5.7% had a male householder with no wife present, and 35.9% were non-families. 28.7% of all households were made up of individuals and 10.1% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.57 and the average family size was 3.19.
The median age in the city was 35.5 years. 26.9% of residents were under the age of 18; 6.9% were between the ages of 18 and 24; 31.4% were from 25 to 44; 22.5% were from 45 to 64; and 12.4% were 65 years of age or older. The gender makeup of the city was 48.9% male and 51.1% female.
As of the census of 2000, there were 2,907 people, 1,285 households, and 732 families residing in the city. The population density was 2,082.3 people per square mile (801.7/km²). There were 1,396 housing units at an average density of 999.9 per square mile (385.0/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 78.91% White, 17.54% African American, 0.10% Native American, 1.03% Asian, 0.03% Pacific Islander, 0.62% from other races, and 1.75% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 2.55% of the population.
There were 1,285 households out of which 25.8% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 39.5% were married couples living together, 13.5% had a female householder with no husband present, and 43.0% were non-families. 36.0% of all households were made up of individuals and 19.4% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.26 and the average family size was 2.95.
In the city, the population was spread out with 22.9% under the age of 18, 8.6% from 18 to 24, 27.4% from 25 to 44, 22.5% from 45 to 64, and 18.5% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 39 years. For every 100 females, there were 89.0 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 85.2 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $32,538, and the median income for a family was $43,547. Males had a median income of $30,917 versus $22,241 for females. The per capita income for the city was $18,104. About 13.2% of families and 15.8% of the population were below the poverty line, including 20.3% of those under age 18 and 13.4% of those age 65 or over.
For more information see Jefferson County Schools.
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