At the northeast entrance to Strasburg, along the Valley Pike, one passes several massive old structures of limestone. On the east side of the Pike is an old barn, in the walls of which are ventilating apertures resembling portholes. On the other side of the road are a couple of low buildings beside a copious spring of water. This is the Hupp homestead. It was, for many years, the residence of George F. Hupp, whose wife was a Miss Spengler. The buildings, it is said, were erected by the Spenglers, Mrs. Hupp's ancestors. The main residence, a large brick mansion, stood farther up on the hill, east of the Pike, where the ruins may still be seen. It was partly destroyed by fire about 1877. The stone building by the road at the spring was formerly used as a distillery.
George F. Hupp was a man of wealth and influence, who had been a paymaster, it is said, in the War of 1812. Later he was owner or part owner of three or four of the charcoal furnaces of Shenandoah County. At one time, we are told, Hupp had $42,000 due him for furnace products. This was a considerable sum in those days. The Hupp plantation comprised 1000 acres or more, and included Hupp's Hill and Hupp's Cave (aka Crystal Caverns). The Federal generals, Shields and Banks, occupied the Hupp mansion as headquarters.
The complex of buildings now known as the "Hupp Homestead" or "Frontier Fort" consists of a two and half story, stone dwelling house, with a spring drain running through the cellar and a smaller stone building, identified in several records as a distillery located on a tract of land on US route 11 just north of the present town limits of Strasburg, Virginia. There was at one time a large stone barn there as well. The historical marker at the site, erected in 1991, states that the house was built in 1755 and has been continuously occupied by the Hupp family for 236 years. No specific individuals are mentioned nor are any specific dates or land grants or deeds given to identify these very early pioneers but it should be possible to identify them using the early land records. Buildings from this early period are quite rare and a more detailed history of these remarkable structures would add greatly to their historical significance.
At the time of the very earliest settlement of land on the North Fork of the Shenandoah, this area was still part of Orange County, Virginia. It fell into newly formed Frederick County in 1743 and into Dunmore (renamed Shenandoah) County in 1772. The land, tax and probate records of these counties are among the most complete of any in Virginia, making it possible to establish an unbroken record of ownership for this property, from the first grant down to the present. The whole process of finding the original owners of any parcel of land in Shenandoah County has been made much easier with the recent publication of Lena Fuller's Original Land Survey Atlas of Shenandoah County, 1739-1850s (2010). Mrs. Fuller has researched every known land grant and platted them on the Geological Survey maps of Shenandoah County. By looking at the maps and locating a particular site it is possible to determine exactly the first person or persons to own that land. In some cases where there was an estate settlement or division of the grant the subsequent owners are also identified.
An examination of early land grants reveals that the Hupp Homestead site lies clearly within the bounds of an original grant, of 2030 acres made to Henry Willis 21 August, 1734 and which he sold to Jacob Funk on July 14/15, 1735 (Orange County Deed Book 1, pp. 62-67). Jacob Funk had previously lived in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania but moved to Virginia and settled along the creek that flowed through his land, where the town of Strasburg now stands. He was living there by February 1736, when he petitioned the Orange County Court to open a road from his place to the Forks of the Shenandoah.
Funk sold 180 acres of the tract at the mouth of what was later called Tumbling Run to his brother John Funk in 1737, another 200 acres to his neighbor, George Dellinger in 1740 and 110 acres to Christian Crabill in 1742. All three of these sales were from the western section of his land. In 1744, he sold five hundred acres in four different tracts from the eastern portion along the North Fork of the Shenandoah, leaving 1040 acres more or less (Frederick County Deed Book 1, pp. 86, 112, 114, 229 and 232). He then proceeded to deed 150 acres along the river to his son, Henry, 6 August 1745 and 438 acres to his oldest son, Jacob Funk Jr. on 7 August 1745 (Frederick County Deed Book 1, pp. 236-38). The section he sold to Jacob Jr. was in the center of the tract and stretched from the river north. The site of the "Hupp Homestead" lies within the bounds of Jacob Jr.'s 438 acres tract.
Jacob Funk Jr. sold the entire 438 acres tract to his brother-in-law, Peter Stauffer (Stover), on 2 May 1749 (Frederick County Deed Book 2, p. 8). Peter Stover married Franey, the oldest daughter of Jacob Funk about 1740 and took up residence on his land, most likely at the site under discussion, because of the excellent spring. Peter Stover retained the entire 438 acre tract the rest of his life, selling none of it except lots in the town of Strasburg, which he established in the middle portion of his tract in 1761. In 1758 Stover petitioned the Frederick County Court to open a public road from his place to George Bowman's mill on Cedar Creek. The petition was granted and he was put in charge of opening and maintaining the road. The "Great Wagon Road" ran further west and north of his land at the time and so it makes sense that he wanted a shorter route north to link up with the wagon road to Winchester, if he were living along the run in the northern section of his land. Such a road also fit into his plans for establishing a town, because it rerouted the Wagon Road through it.
Stover's Mennonite ancestors had been distillers and he is known to have been a distiller. The smaller stone structure on the "Hupp Homestead" has been identified in various documents as a "still house." It requires a large supply of water to produce whiskey and brandy and there is no better source than a strong spring. The dwelling house on the site is built with the same materials and in the same style of other known structures built by German and Swiss settlers of Pennsylvania and Virginia in the 1750s. Therefore, the house, distillery, barn and other outbuildings could only have been built and occupied by Peter Stover, sole owner of the land from 1749 until his death in 1799.
Peter Stover wrote his will in the summer of 1795 and at the same time drew up an agreement with his son Joseph regarding the care of his wife, should she survive him. He also deeded his sons Jacob and John large tracts of land he owned elsewhere and therefore stated in his will that they would receive nothing more. In his will he left his son, Christian, land between Strasburg and the river and the adjacent unsold lots in Strasburg, south of Queen Street. (a little over 100 acres). His son Joseph got the remaining unsold lots in Strasburg and the rest of the land, north and east of Strasburg (Shenandoah County Will Book "E" p. 308). The agreement with Joseph, which Stover mentioned in his will, has never been found, but if it was like other similar agreements, it required him to provide for his parents as long as they lived and for that he got the additional land, including the dwelling house and "other appurtenances" and probably had to make some sort of payment in money to his sisters. The stone house, distillery and other buildings were definitely in the land inherited by Joseph Stover.
Joseph Stover was an enterprising, shrewd businessman, identified in a number of records as Joseph Stover "merchant." Even before his father died and he inherited the larger portion of his father's property, he had acquired considerable real estate of his own. Shortly after his father's death he also got into the business of buying slaves and hiring them out. Stover married about 1790 but he and his wife Elizabeth never had any children. He continued to buy and sell real estate, and acquired several large tracts immediately north of his home, which he kept.
Joseph Stover died in the fall of 1819 and in December, 1819, George F. Hupp, who was married to Catherine Spengler, a niece of Stover, presented Joseph Stover's will to the court for probate. The will had a several illegible sections and some that appeared to have been erased or faded out, but it was also dated 27 June, 1788, at which time he was not yet married. His wife, Elizabeth, challenged the will and the suit was heard in the District Court in Frederick County. The court appointed Joseph S. Spengler (nephew of Stover and brother of George Hupp's wife) as administrator of Joseph Stover's estate and also gave Stover's widow, Elizabeth, the "home place" of 473 acres as her dower along with several other smaller tracts. Her interest was only for her lifetime and after her death it would revert back to the heirs of Joseph Stover. His other lands amounting to over a thousand acres, some in other counties, were ordered to be sold and the proceeds distributed to the legal heirs of Joseph Stover. It took Spengler many years to finally settle the complicated estate.
Elizabeth Stover, widow of Joseph, married William Morris, Sept 6, 1820 and Morris proceed to buy the interest of the Stover heirs in his wife's property between 1825 and 1831. In December, 1831, William Morris made a deed of trust with George F. Hupp in which he put up his interest in his wife's 473 acre farm as security for debts he owed Hupp (Shenandoah County Deed Book KK, p. 505). Several of the Stover heirs had not yet sold Morris their interest, including Hupp's wife, Catherine, and her sister, Elizabeth Spengler Machir, but the majority had sold to him.
Four years later, having only paid part of the debt, Morris agreed to sell the property to Hupp outright for 9000 dollars. And so on Apr 20, 1835, he sold the 473 acre tract along with another adjoining tract of 100 acres to Hupp. (Shenandoah County Deed Book PP, p. 537). Almost exactly one hundred years after Jacob Funk purchased this land, Hupp and his family took possession of the farm and took up residence there. A few years later he began to build a much grander mansion house across the road from the older buildings. He also bought out the remaining heirs except for the share of his sister-in-law, Elizabeth Machir, who died in 1848.
On February 9, 1852, George F. Hupp conveyed a good portion of his real estate holdings to his wife, Catherine Hupp, with their son, John S. Hupp as her legal trustee. The transaction conveyed to her the "home farm on which George F. Hupp now resides adjoining and near Strasburg, containing 473 and quarter acres, formerly belonging to Joseph Stover, deceased" for the use of Catherine Hupp during the lifetime of George F. Hupp and Catherine his wife.
As she approached her 80th birthday, Catherine Hupp wrote a will in which she divided the land between her two surviving sons, George F. Hupp Jr. and Joseph S. Hupp. To George F. Jr. she gave the land on the east side of the pike, including the brick mansion house. To her son, Joseph, she gave the land on the west side of the pike, and very specifically mentioned the "stone tenements" and the "still house". She also requested that she be buried in the "old family burying ground" by the old school house lot in Strasburg. Catherine Spengler Hupp died 31 January, 1875, age 80 years, ten months and 15 days. Her will was probated 12 April, 1875. George F. Hupp died 23 December, 1885, age 93 years, four months and nine days.
In 1891, seventy years after Elizabeth Stover, the widow of Joseph, was awarded the Stover home site as her dower, the heirs of Elizabeth Spengler Machir sued George F. Hupp Jr. and his brother, Joseph S. Hupp, for their share of her dower that reverted to the heirs of Joseph Stover. The court ordered that 47 acres be taken in equal portion from the land inherited by the Hupp brothers and deeded to the plaintiffs in the suit. None of the land taken included the buildings.
Joseph S. Hupp, who inherited the western portion of the farm with the old stone house, still house and outbuildings, died 23 March, 1891. He and his wife, Betty, had no children and his property was left to his nieces and nephews, the children of George Franklin Hupp Jr and their sisters. The land where the mansion house stood on the east side of the pike passed out of the family but the older stone buildings on the west side remained in the family through Bruce Franklin Hupp, younger son of George F. Jr. and Bruce's son, Frank R. Hupp.
This well preserved example of an eighteenth century German home has indeed passed down through eight generations of the same family, beginning with Jacob Funk, the original settler, so why did the story of Peter Stover get forgotten and this pioneer homesite become identified solely as the ancestral home of the Hupp family? The answer lies in the fact that George F. Hupp became a dominant figure in the Strasburg community and by the 1850s owned all the land from Strasburg to Cedar Creek. The hill north of Strasburg became known as Hupp's Hill. The grand home built by Hupp was the Hupp Mansion and in the late nineteenth century when the cave on the property began to be seen as a possible attraction it was called Hupp's Cave. By the end of the nineteenth century there were no longer any Stovers living there and the generation that knew them had passed from the scene. It began to be assumed, quite naturally, by everyone including the younger generation of Hupps that the Hupps had always been there.
The age and architectural significance of the buildings alone are reason enough to cherish them, but knowing now they were also the home of the founder of the town of Strasburg, and have been in the same family for eight generations, is even more reason to make sure they continue to be regarded as one of the Shenandoah Valley's historic treasures.
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