Josephine Street Community Seeks Independent Status

The Josephine Improvement Association has petitioned the Virginia General Assembly to grant the Josephine Street community a charter to become an independent city.

Kenneth D. Liggins, president of the Josephine Improvement Association, is asking the General Assembly to make the change so that the citizens of the proposed Josephine City community can gain access to economic value created by its founders and to reverse the Town of Berryville’s annexation of the area that he claims was illegal.

Roadside marker located on Josephine Street near South Church Street in Berryville, Virginia.

“Josephine City can become a multi-million dollar investment economic stimulus area for new development for the State of Virginia with a new tax base and job development programs as well as fair housing market for all Virginians” Liggins said in a request delivered to not only the General Assembly but also to the Town of Berryville and the Clarke County Board of Supervisors.

In the request Liggins says that Josephine City was once a self-sufficient city from 1870 thru 1989 until the Josephine City community was illegally annexed by the Town of Berryville. Liggins says that his is supported by the Virginia General Assembly’s 1987 moratorium of annexation any county by any city in recognition of the controversy such local land acquisitions had caused.

Liggins says that the expiration date for the moratorium was 2010.

“In 1987, while the General Assembly of Virginia’s moratorium was in place, the Town of Berryville proceeded with the annexation by using the Virginia Code Title 15.2-2903 -15.2-3902 which was replaced from Title 15.1-2300 -3200” according to Liggins.

While a new charter for the Josephine City community, which was founded by former slaves who purchased property in the area after the Civil War, would provide economic and political autonomy for the area, it would also address pre-Civil Rights era wounds that some members of the Josephine City community feel have never been resolved.

“From approximately 1955 to 1960 the members Josephine Improvement Association petitioned the Town of Berryville Town Council to annex Josephine City but the Town Council refused to do so” Liggins said. Liggins said that the Town instead waited until the Josephine City community had paid for their own infrastructure improvements before moving forward with the annexation, thus saving town taxpayers a significant amount of money at the expense of the Josephine City residents.

At the time, faced with a cold shoulder from the Town of Berryville on annexation, Liggins said that the Josephine Improvement Association petitioned the Federal government for a grant to install sewer and water as well as paving the road. The citizens collected money to build new sidewalks as well as provided labor equal to the dollar amount needed to build a school for the former-slaves and surrounding former-slave communities.

According to the petition, by the 1900, Josephine City had become an oasis for the County’s African-American Community. Segregation laws at the time encouraged local African American owned institutions to serve the Josephine Community including a school, grocery store, gas station, boarding house, restaurant. A one-story, two-room frame building, originally constructed in 1882, served as the cornerstone of the then-self-contained African American community.

Liggins said that because the former slaves who built the Josephine City community lacked formal education, it was impossible for them to incorporate the area despite the economic and social factors that indicated the value of such a move and believes that it’s not too late to reclaim the area’s independence and revitalize its economic viability through the requested city charter.

“By granting the Josephine City a charter jobs would be created and new business development would occur. The City of Josephine would begin to establish its administration by the Josephine Improvement Association, Inc. and establish a city office by complying with the Code of Virginia Laws of Cities” Liggins said.

“As the President of the Josephine Improvement Association, Inc. I ask that the Virginia General Assembly grant Josephine City, it city Charter by way of the Virginia Grandfather Clause due to the time frame of 118 years.” Liggins requested in the petition.













  1. The Shocker says:

    I would hate for the VA General assembly to have to use its time for things like tax reform, budget problems, economic factors etc…. This seems reasonable.

    I hope the Assembly has tall boots.

  2. reader22611 says:

    I get the feeling this is more about being disillusioned with the town of Berryville than it is about heritage or history. I also believe if the town of Berryville wanted to make this area its own city (was the town of Berryville’s idea) these folks would be up in arms claiming discrimination or segregation. I think this is a way to get out of having to conform to town laws/rules stemming from the blight abatement plan and the issue of the antennas that where mounted to the top of the water tower. I would think that making this area its own town or city it will cause much larger issues with the residents of this area and the Town since they are connected to town utilities. They seem to be trying to segregate themselves

  3. Right Winger says:

    So do they have a plan for providing water and sewer to their residents now that they no longer want to be a part of Berryville? What about schools, and road maintenance? Law enforcement? How will they pay for all that?

    • Tom Witmark says:

      Hmmm…interesting questions. If it were an “independent city,” albeit one comprised of just 1 street, it’d most likely have to have its own school (as it did “back in the day”). Road maintenance, as it is today, would have to be a combo of “city” and state efforts. Police efforts would be easy – chip in for an enclosed golf cart, and motor on.

      If his resolution is as poorly worded as it is presented here, then so much more will it get sent immediately to the ol’ circular file.

  4. Say What? says:

    Liggens spends a lot of money on law suits. Maybe he should donate those funds to help his neighbors instead of asking for taxpayers (local, state and federal) to foot the bill to fix up this street and the in turn neglected properties on it, and create some sort of economic independent mecca of business and sustainability. But there is nothing commercial on this street, right? Not even a little market.

    I see, appreciate and respect the history of this neighborhood. Many residents do take care of their properties. However on this tiny street at least a half dozen homes are falling-in not just the one reported in the media. Why are they not subject to razing since they are much worse and not safe? If the buildings were historically significant, the owners of those specific lots would and should take care of them and not let them erode away. Yet nothing is being done. Not even a simple thing like paint to protect wood. Or $20 glass in broken out windows. Why not sell them to someone that will? Or donate them to the historical society? Do something besides hold out your hand, sue every few months or greedily claim the industrial park water tower as “your” own so you can steal the funds from the cell phone antennae. Have community fundraisers. Yard sales. Tent Parties. Parades. Concerts. Raise your own funds to better your own street. That will earn respect from other residents of Berryville, like myself.

  5. Stonebroke says:

    The City Of Josephine would be crying the blues after the first big Snowfall! (Street Snow Removal)

  6. What will he think of next!!!!

  7. Because I Care says:

    I’d sure would love to have his time and money for many other things other than his seemingly weekly legal grievances!

  8. George Archibald says:

    It is inconceivable that the General Assembly would even report this proposal out of committee, let alone vote on it in the House of Delegates and State Senate. There is no gain for the community at large for the residents of Josephine Street to become a separate town again. And there is no economic base there, only neighboring Berryville Graphics and Johnson Williams Apartments which are both negative drags on Berryville/Clarke County because services to both cost the community more than their economic benefit. Johnson Williams Apartments is a tax-exempt enterprise which costs the community a lot for services with no positive revenue flow in return.

    A separate Josephine City is totally unrealistic and the proponents do not have identifiable support for it even among the people who live on the street, with the possible exception of less than half a dozen relatives and friends of Kenneth Liggins, who has his own personal agenda that the community has become well aware of from his multi-million lawsuit that was dismissed by the court.

  9. Perhaps the town should, just this once, grant Mr Liggins his wish. Let them pay for their own water, sewer, police, fire and other services. Might be able to give the rest of the town a tax break after that is said and done

    • It should require a petition to see how many others actually support the idea. If most Josephine residents supported the idea than it would be an interesting experiment.

      The problem is that most of the folks are older there and like many of us they / we remember “back in the day”. Well back in the day downtown Berryville had a much more diverse economy and many more businesses. Today they can’t compete with sprawlmart and target.

      I do realize you are being sarcastic but you know your concept would work for everyone who doesn’t want to pay taxes for the services that they take for granted.

  10. “Johnson Williams Apartments is a tax-exempt enterprise which costs the community a lot for services with no positive revenue flow in return.”

    Mr. Archibald,

    Johnson Williams Apartments provides housing for very low income senior citizens in this community, many if not most have lived in this community all of their lives. Many of them have worked in this community for businesses like Berryville Graphics, Moore Dorsey, etc. I know several of them. I knew one lady who lived there who was the widow of a gentleman who worked at the race track in Charles Town.

    These are people, human beings. Where would you have them go to live when they can no longer labor for painfully low wages? They are no more “negative drags” than you are.

    You truly are a piece of work.

  11. THIS IS A FIRST… I agree with SARGE on this one!!!

  12. sargewillis says:

    Jennifer, I doubt Mr. Archibald was implying that JW apt. weren’t needed, or that the good folks that live there weren’t fine human beings. Being a 501c organization they do not pay taxes to the couny or town, although the residents do pay taxes and are some of Berryville’s finests citizens the apts themselves are a drain on Berryville tax base.

  13. n3utr0nRU says:

    A disappointingly divisive decision.

  14. Roscoe Evans says:

    I’d be curious to know how many members of the Association, and how many residents of Josephine Street, support Mr. Liggins.

    Otherwise, I find some of these comments and characterizations about “them” a bit off-putting. “They” are our fellow citizens and neighbors — they are us. How about trying to be a bit more inclusive? Last year I delivered Christmas presents to some needy people on Josephine Street, and the season is upon us again. Maybe some of you religious types can take the opportunity to act the part.

    Shaun, I am dismayed. You’ve proved yourself a follower, not a leader. Until you grow up, and prove it, you’ve received your last vote from me.

  15. GOPjunkie says:

    You know it simply has to be something in the water… There’s really no other explanation other that alien abduction….

    What a town….