WEST VIRGINIA (NEXSTAR) – West Virginia has officially been part of the United States since June 20, 1863, but which West Virginia city or town can call itself the oldest?

The title of “West Virginia’s oldest town” has been disputed for some time. Depending on who you ask, the answer is either Romney or Shepherdstown.

The West Virginia Encyclopedia, a project of the West Virginia Humanities Council, says German immigrants settled in the area that became Shepherdstown “possibly” as early as 1717. However, there’s no way to confirm the exact date. 

The town, originally known as Mechlenburg, was renamed for Thomas Shepherd after the Thomas Shepherd Grist Mill was built. It was the largest mining facility in the area, according to Shepherdstown website.

The first Europeans to settle in the area that became Romney, meanwhile, were Job and John Pearsall, who established homesteads in the region before 1738. Romney, then known as Pearsall’s Flats, was home to approximately 200 settlers who grouped up to survive danger on the Appalachian frontier.

One fact about Shephardstown and Romney is that they share the same charter date of Dec. 23, 1762. This means that both would technically qualify as the oldest cities in the state.

As of the 2020 Census, Shepherdstown had a population of 1,531 residents. Romney, on the other hand, had a slightly larger population of 1,722 people.