Berkeley County, West Virginia

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Berkeley County is a county located in the Eastern Panhandle region of the U.S. state of West Virginia. As of 2009, the population is 103,854, making it the second-most populous county in West Virginia, behind Kanawha.[1] Its county seat is Martinsburg.[2]

The county lies adjacent to the Washington-Baltimore Metropolitan Area and is one of three counties in Hagerstown-Martinsburg, MD-WV Metropolitan Statistical Area. Due to its proximity to Washington, D.C., Berkeley County is the fastest growing county in the State of West Virginia and among the fastest growing in the entire country.[3]

Contents

History

Berkeley is the second oldest county in West Virginia. The county was created by an act of the House of Burgesses in February 1772 from the northern third of Frederick County (Virginia). At the time of the county's formation it also consisted of the areas that make up the present-day Jefferson and Morgan counties. Most historians believe that the county was named for Norborne Berkeley, Baron de Botetourt (1718–1770), Colonial Governor of Virginia from 1768 to 1770. West Virginia's Blue Book, for example, indicates that Berkeley County was named in his honor. He served as a colonel in England's North Gloucestershire militia in 1761, and represented that division of the county in parliament until he was made a peer in 1764. He claimed the title of Baron Botetourt as the lineal descendant of Sir Maurice de Berkeley, who died in 1347. Having incurred heavy gambling debts, he solicited a government appointment, and in July 1768, was made governor of Virginia. In 1769, he reluctantly dissolved the Virginia General Assembly after it adopted resolutions opposing parliament's replacement of requisitions with parliamentary taxes as a means of generating revenue and a requirement that the colonists send accused criminals to England for trial. Despite his differences with the General Assembly, Norborne Berkeley was well-respected by the colonists, especially after he sent parliament letters encouraging it to repeal the taxes. When parliament refused to rescind the taxes, Governor Berkeley requested to be recalled. In appreciation of his efforts on their behalf, the colonists erected a monument to his memory which currently stands in Williamsburg, and two counties were later named in his honor, Berkeley in present-day West Virginia and Botetourt in Virginia.

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