Miniature Map of Lower Great Valley of Virginia

Furnished by Wilmer L. Kerns, Ph.D.

With the permission and suggestion of Dr. Kerns, the map which appears on Page 5 of "Frederick County, Virginia, Settlement and Some First Families of Back Creek Valley, 1730-1830", by Wilmer L. Kerns, Ph.D.

Map of Lower Great Valley of Virginia



The text below the map in the book (not reproduced on the image) is: The map above was created by cartographer Sam Lehman to show that the 12 counties of Old Frederick County contain nine distinct valleys and watersheds that empty independently into the Potomac River. Four counties from Old Augusta County are included. The independent valleys, as defined by their land- water basins from right-to-left are: Shenandoah Valley, Opequon Creek Valley, Back Creek Valley, Sleepy Creek Valley, Great Cacapon Valley, Little Cacapon Valley, South Branch Valley, Pattersons Creek Valley, and New Creek Valley.

This map was further discussed on the WVHampsh mailing list.

Part of that discussion is reproduced below, at Dr. Kerns' suggestion.


For the sake of those who might not be familiar with a historical term that we use (Old Frederick County), there are numerous ways to explain it. Most people define it is in terms of the present 12 Counties (seven of them in West Virginia) that formed from Old Frederick County of 1743. There were social, economic and political reasons for the formation of each County and those boundaries are the most important.

Another way to slice the pie is to draw boundaries around valleys or water basins, which happens to be my preferred paradigm when dealing with the earliest settlements. There are nine of these water basins meaning there are nine unconnected rivers that flow through Old Frederick County, and all empty into the Potomac River. From East-to West, the nine water basins (rivers) are:

  1. Shenandoah River flows through Page, Warren, Shenandoah, and Frederick Counties in Virginia, and Jefferson County in WV. (Of course the Shenandoah also passes through Rockingham and Augusta Counties)
  2. Opequon Creek flows through Frederick County in VA and Jefferson and Berkeley Counties, WV.
  3. Back Creek flows through Frederick County and Berkeley County, WV
  4. Sleepy Creek flows through Frederick County and Morgan County, WV.
  5. Great Cacapon River flows through Hardy, Hampshire and Morgan Counties, WV
  6. Little Cacapon River flows through Hampshire County.
  7. South Branch of the Potomac River flows through Grant, Hampshire and Hardy Counties, WV
  8. Patterson's Creek flows through Grant and Mineral Counties WV.
  9. New Creek flows through Mineral County, WV

Settlement in each valley developed distinct cultural characteristics; different approaches to using land, development of roads and mills. Cacapon Valley was primarily English speaking people, whereas Patterson's Creek and the South Branch settlements were formed by a heavy element of Dutch and Germans. The Germans were the best farmers among the immigrants. The Shenandoah and Opequon water basins contained the majority of plantations, whereas New Creek farmers owned small plots of land on hillsides or mountain tops. When roads were developed across mountains to connect the valleys, the Clerk of the Court received petitions from citizens. A court order was issued for a person to lay out the course of the road; another to oversee construction, and neighbors (tithables) who lived within 5-8 miles on either side of the road were to perform free labor.

Wilmer L. Kerns

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