Long before the first Europeans discovered the warm waters of Berkeley Springs, it was already a famous health mecca which attracted Indians from the St. Lawrence Seaway in Canada and the Great Lakes to the Carolinas. Those first settlers, who came in 1730, learned the uses and value of the springs from the Indians and began spreading the word of its benefits throughout the settlements of the east.
Perhaps the most notable and influential advocate of the curative powers of the springs was George Washington, who, at 16, visited them as a member of a survey party. As the party, which was surveying the western limits of Thomas Lord Fairfax's lands, camped there for the night, young Washington noted in his diary, "March 18th, 1748, We this day called to see Ye Fam'd Warm Springs."
For many years afterwards, George Washington visited the springs regularly, and it was largely through his efforts that its fame as a health spa grew throughout the colonies. At the urging of the Colony of Virginia and in the public interest, Lord Fairfax conveyed his land holdings at the springs and fifty adjacent acres to the Colony of Virginia in 1776. Shortly thereafter, the land was offered for public sale. George Washington, three signers of the Declaration of Independence, four signers of the Constitution, seven members of the Continental Congress, and five Revolutionary generals were among the prominent colonists who made initial purchases there. Hence, the springs' reputation as a health resort became firmly established.
Borrowing the name of a famous counterpart in England, the General Assembly of Virginia formed the town of Bath on this location in 1776 and created a board of trustees to govern the new town. James Rumsey, who later invented the first successful steamboat, was then contracted to construct five bathhouses and several other public buildings. This officially established the springs as a resort facility.