The first settlement of the Virginia Colony in the future Clarke County was in 1736 by Thomas Fairfax, 6th Lord Fairfax of Cameron who built a home, Greenway Court, on part of his 5 million acre property, near what is now the village of White Post. White Post was named for the large signpost pointing the way to Lord Fairfax’s home. As it lay just west of the Blue Ridge border demarcated under Governor Spotswood at Albany in 1722, the area was claimed along with the rest of the Shenandoah Valley by the Six Nations Iroquois (who had overrun it during the later Beaver Wars in around 1672), until the Treaty of Lancaster in 1744, when it was purchased from them by Governor Gooch.
Many of the early settlers of what became Clarke County were children of Tidewater planters, who settled on large land grants from Lord Fairfax. Two-thirds of the county was settled by the plantation group, and the plantation lifestyle thrived until the Civil War. County status came in 1836 when it was divided off from Frederick County. Clarke was known for its large crops of wheat.
During the American Civil War, John S. Mosby, “the Gray Ghost” of the Confederacy, raided General Sheridan‘s supply train in the summer of 1864, in Berryville. The Battle of Cool Spring was fought in Clarke County on July 17 and 18th, 1864, and the Battle of Berryville on September 3, 1864.
Early in the 20th century, future Virginia politician Harry F. Byrd, Sr. and his wife established their first home near Berryville, where he undertook extensive agricultural activity growing peaches and apples. Byrd became a State senator in the upper house of the Virginia General Assembly, served a term as a Governor of Virginia, and was a United States Senator for over 30 years, heading the powerful Byrd Organization which dominated state politics between the mid-1920s and 1960s.
There were 4,942 households out of which 29.40% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 58.20% were married couples living together, 8.90% had a female householder with no husband present, and 28.90% were non-families. 24.10% of all households were made up of individuals and 9.90% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.50 and the average family size was 2.97.
In the county, the population was spread out with 23.40% under the age of 18, 5.80% from 18 to 24, 29.10% from 25 to 44, 27.10% from 45 to 64, and 14.60% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 41 years. For every 100 females there were 98.00 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 96.60 males.
The median income for a household in the county was $51,601, and the median income for a family was $59,750. Males had a median income of $40,254 versus $30,165 for females. The per capita income for the county was $24,844. About 4.20% of families and 6.60% of the population were below the poverty line, including 7.10% of those under age 18 and 11.10% of those age 65.
Berryville is located in the northern Shenandoah Valley, with a total area of 2.3 square miles, according to the United States Census Bureau. It is an incorporated town and the county seatof Clarke County, Virginia. The population was 4,185 at the 2010 census,up from 2,963 at the 2000 census.
Berryville was founded by European Americans at the intersection of the Winchester Turnpike and Charlestown Road. The land was first granted by the Crown to Captain Isaac Pennington in 1734, and George Washington surveyed it on October 23, 1750. In 1754 Pennington sold it to Colonel John Hite.
According to legend, Daniel Morgan would engage in combat with young toughs at the intersection, having first piled large stones nearby to use as ammunition in case of need. Because of this story, and a rowdy tavern nearby, the area was first given the informal name of “Battle Town”. Hite sold the tract in 1765 to his son-in-law, Major Charles Smith. Smith named his estate “Battle Town”, and on the site of the former tavern he built a clapboard homestead. This structure still stands on what is now Main Street and is now known as “The Nook”.
Daniel Morgan returned to the area after distinguishing himself in the Revolution, living at Saratoga, and briefly at Soldier’s Rest. He was one of the frequent (and reputedly most quarrelsome) patrons of the new tavern (where now stands the Battletown Inn).
Major Smith’s son, John Smith, in 1797 sold 20 acres of his inheritance to Benjamin Berry and Sarah (Berry) Stribling, who divided it into lots for a town. It was established as the town of Berryville on January 15, 1798.
By 1810, the town had at least 25 homes, three stores, an apothecary, two taverns, and an academy. It was not much larger when it was designated as the county seat of newly formed Clarke County in 1836. An 1855 gazetteer described it as “a small town” that “has some trade, and contains an academy and 1 or 2 churches.”
During the Civil War, Confederate General Jubal A. Early briefly had his headquarters in the town. Not long afterward the Battle of Berryville was fought in and around the town during the Valley Campaigns of 1864. The railroad reached the town in the 1870s
Virginia governor and U.S. senator Harry F. Byrd long resided in Berryville.