The story of Grant County long pre-dates the 126 years of history it has experienced bearing that name. Created out of the monumental conflict known as the Civil War, the county bears the name of one of the war's most illustrious warriors, Ulysses Simpson Grant, who was to become the 18th president of the United States.
Within its 478 square miles of territory one finds fertile valleys along the South Branch of the Potomac River and its myriad of smaller streams. These valleys drew the earliest settlers to the area. But the level, fertile areas were soon claimed and the more typical settler was the hill-farmer, struggling to wrest his existence from a more harsh land.
In sharp contrast to the valleys were the forests , a barrier to early settlers, which became the most accessible natural resource. Early records of the logging industry reflect they were harvesting timber of a size and on a scale that is now hard to imagine.
What is documented of the Indian peril was severe enough that George Washington and others planned a string of forts along the fringes of the settlements to which settlers could retreat for protection. Fort George near Petersburg, Fort Peterson, near North Mill Creek, and Fort Shobe, near the junction of North and South Mill Creek are among those for which sketchy information is known.
Land records exist for the area around Bayard as early as 1736 and Petersburg was settled in 1745. Many other towns sprang up as the population continued to grow; Bismarck (1817), Gormania (1849), Mount Storm (1773), Maysville (1831), Williamsport (1847).
The firing on Fort Sumter, in Charleston, started the Civil War and ignited local tensions as well. The area now known as West Virginia was, at the time, a portion of Virginia. Locally, some joined regular Confederate and Union units immediately. Others joined Home Guard or Ranger units and stayed near home. The most famous of these local units was McNeills' Rangers. Petersburg contributed more men to the Confederacy that people generally assumed, considering its Union ties during much of the war.
Union Colonel James A. Mulligan, from Illinois, along with his 23rd Illinois troops and more from Ohio, Pennsylvania and western Virginia, built the 1863 fort which overlooks Petersburg. During an expedition to the area in 1864, Major General Jubal A. Early praised the fortifications and commended the efforts of the men. The fort is still regarded as one of the best preserved fortifications in West Virginia. There were no major engagements around Petersburg during the war, but constant tension seemed to pervade the community due to its close proximity to both sides.
Grant County, carved out of Hardy County, came into being on February 14, 1866 and Maysville became the first county seat. It remained the county seat until 1872 when, by popular vote, the records were moved to Petersburg.
In the late 1800's and early 1900's, Grant County prospered based on the strong values of its people and the wise use of resources at hand. Logging and the forest industry continued to be a pillar of the economy. The tanning industry, based on the raw material of bark was also very successful and Gormania once boasted of having the largest tannery in the world. The Petersburg tannery continued to operate until 1974. In 1893, Bayard became the first Grant County town to incorporate followed by Petersburg in 1910. The days of the great tanneries are over but logging, cattle, and the poultry industries continue to thrive throughout the area.
The site of Petersburg was first settled by German immigrants around 1745, making it one of the first settlements in the South Branch Valley, at a time when most of what is now West Virginia was still a virgin wilderness. The city was named for Jacob Peterson, who owned and operated the first general merchandising store in the community.
The community grew slowly for a time, but gradually became the trading center for this section of what was to become, in 1786, Hardy County, West Virginia. In 1833 the community acquired its first post office, which was given the name Lunice Creek. Grant County came into being in 1866 and Petersburg (or Lunice Creek) became the county seat in 1870.
The new county was named for victorious Union General Ulysses S. Grant and, for the next 50 years, this community was generally known as Grant County Court House. A permanent Grant County Courthouse was constructed here in 1879, and subsequently remodeled in 1909. The town was officially incorporated in 1910 as Petersburg, taking back its original name designation, with R. W. Baker as the first Mayor.
The Grant County Circuit Court was petitioned on July 14, 1910, to be incorporated and subsequently approved. According to that certificate, the city's original boundaries enclosed 373 acres and 73 "square rods". Boundary markers included a "large elm tree in a line of Tom Welton . . . to a gate post on the west side of the road leading to Tom Welton's". D. P. Hendrickson, circuit clerk, signed the certificate.
Grant County is located in the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia, in the midst of one of the most picturesque areas of the country - the Potomac Highlands. Here, expanses of lush hardwood forests provide exquisite autumnal shows. Striking natural formations are skirted by tributaries of the Potomac River. Rich in distinctive history the area is known for its neighborly residents and magnificent scenery and you get a community that embodies the idea of "home sweet home."