The following is from the Magazine of the Jefferson County Historical Society, condensed from a history of the “Hunsicker and Henshaw Families of Prospect Hall”, written by Mrs. J. A. Kuntz, of Swiss, W.Va., who received much of her data firsthand from her father, Charles Hall, and from Kitty Boggs, a ward of the Hunsicker and Henshaw families for more than 70 years.
In 1803, Peter Hunsicker chose “Prospect Hall” as the name of his home. "‘There was a prospect of many weddings’, he said jokingly, not unmindful of his growing family."
Nature’s guards stand silently by and view stately Prospect Hall, located 3 miles southwest of old Smithfield and along the Opequon near the Virginia border. It is a half mile off the old Back Road from Smithfield or Middleway to Brucetown, Virginia.
Prospect Hall stands on a knoll, though nestled in a cove, with the Opequon creek running through the west side of the farm. It faces the east, with the Blue Ridge Mountains in the distance. To the west, in a gap in the mountains, can be seen Payne’s Chapel, the church to which Michael and Rebecca Hunsicker walked a distance of three miles each Sunday nearly a century ago. Prospect Hall, to which many people from Baltimore and Solomon’s Island used to come and enjoy the fresh air and beautiful scenery and delicious German cooking, was centered in one of the magnificent spots of God’s handiwork.
Joseph Edwards First Owned Farm
Joseph Edwards received from Lord Fairfax a grant of 639 acres, lying mostly in present Jefferson County but partly in Berkeley and extending from one ford to the other in the deep bend of the Opequon. He built a two-room log house about twenty feet southeast of the present mansion and there reared his own children: Samuel, John, Joseph, Andrew, and Elizabeth, who married John Feagan. In a level spot facing the Opequon a plot of land 24 feet square reserved as the family burying ground was specifically excluded when the place passed from Edwards’ ownership. The senior Joseph Edwards, who died in 1797, his wife, and other members of the family were buried there, but today an unmarked pasture has taken place of the once beautiful square with its grey granite stones and hand-built limestone wall.
The executors of the 1797 will of Joseph Edwards were directed to sell the land, and so it was that his son John Edwards bought a rectangular strip of 196 acres, between two strips going to his brothers, one to Andrew on the south and the other to Joseph on the north. John Edwards got the part containing all of the buildings of his father’s time.
Enter Peter Hunsicker
John Edwards sold his homestead of 196 acres to Peter Hunsicker, who looked for land with plenty of water. It had been told that when Peter Hunsicker rode horseback from over Berryville way to pay for the land, he found Mr. Edwards sitting in a two-story granary shelling corn, with two half bushel measures which he had hewn from blocks sawed from a large oak tree. Into one Mr. Edwards was shelling corn, so he pushed over the other and said, ‘We will count the money in that one’. Peter Hunsicker brought his leather saddle bags in, and when they had counted out the price of the farm, nine hundred pounds current money, the half bushel was rounded full of coin.
Peter Hunsicker was the son of Thomas Hunsicker, a master tailor, and Anna Gertruda, his wife, who had come to America from Wolfersheim, Germany. When his parents sent back for their church certificate, so as to help organize what is now the Stone’s Chapel Presbyterian Church about five miles west of Berryville, Virginia, the certificate was dated May 13, 1754, signed by the Wolfersheim Oberant, and said they were ‘members of the Reformed Religion’. Their children were David, Chistena, Cathrine and Jacob; Margaret, who married Jacob Harrison of Lacy Springs, Virginia; Elizabeth who married George Haines, a Charles Town printer; and Peter, who married Eve Schmidt, lately come from Germany with her parents, who had settled on a farm adjoining that of Thomas Hunsicker near Stone’s Chapel.
Prospect Hall Arises
When Peter Hunsicker had moved his family into the log house built by Joseph Edwards, he first built a temporary lean-to for the spinning and weaving equipment. Then, in 1804, he began building the mansion house. Wooden nails and pegs as well as beams, girders, flooring and the like came from his woodlands; hinges and locks and keys and nails were made in his blacksmith shop; bricks were formed and burnt in a kiln which was left to this day a visible mark on the farm.
The mansion house was a spacious brick building with very thick walls. There was a chimney at each end and a portico over the front door. The first floor had two large rooms, about 20 by 25, each with a fireplace and four large windows, the parlor on the left and dining room on the right, separated by a wide hall, from the rear door of which one had view of creek and mountain. The second floor was similar, except for a small room at the front end of the hall. In the third generation, after Peter Hunsicker, the Henshaws remember the large room on the left as the blue room, with two long closets, on with shelves for storage and the other for hanging clothes, on the two sides of the fireplace. The room on the right they remember as the green room, with colonial canopy top bed and a trundle bed beneath. Wide stairways led from a three-room cellar, with outside entrance, to the third floor, which was one large room for sleeping and storage.
The cooking was done in a large frame lean-to on the north, with a fireplace, five feet wide, into which were built a crane and hooks. The baking was done in a brick oven in the yard.
The mansion was finished in four years and then timber was felled, seasoned and made into beds, chairs and other articles of furniture. In 1812 the mansion house was completely furnished by buying in Baltimore one walnut settee and six chairs for the parlor and six chairs with German floral design for the dining room. Peter Hunsicker chose “Prospect Hall” as the name of his home. ‘There was a prospect of many weddings’, he said jokingly, not unmindful of his growing family.
Written up in the: North America’s GREATEST Bird Hunting Lodges and Preserves, A Willow Creek Guide
Clays, birds and lodging, all less than two hours from Washington, DC
When you think of West Virginia, high and heavily forested mountains come to mind. Your vision fills with grouse and whitetails, and you’re not wrong at all. But there’s another West Virginia, a tail of land that swallows the point of land where the Shenandoah and Potomac rivers meet Harper’s Ferry.
This is rolling limestone countryside, open and cropped with fields of corn, wheat and beans. Here and there are isolated coveys of wild bobwhite, but, alas, quail are not prevalent enough for the prudent gunner to hunt. It is in this neck of the woods, on Opequon Creek, that Prospect Hall has established one of the finest preserves in the Mid-Atlantic States.
Prospect Hall’s 500 acres include varying terrain. Fields groomed for pheasant, chukar, and Hungarian partridge flank the long gravel lane. Clumps of red cedar, patches of honeysuckle-entwined briars, and overgrown fence rows provide cover as do plots of milo, millet, corn, and sorghum. Springers and English pointers do the work here; all you have to do is swing through the bird.
Tower shoots are immensely popular. Gunners line the base of a bluff that rises 100 feet above the floodplain. Atop the bluff rises a 50-foot-tower. Pheasants are released from the tower and they sail down over the heads of the shooters, headed for the fields beyond. Shooting is fast and, well, frustrating. The club’s 24-station sporting clays course rims the top of the bluff offering exceptionally challenging sport. Crazy quail, trap and skeet are also shot here.