This house, the home of physician Robert B. McNutt, is the only antebellum dwelling in Princeton. It survived the fire that Col. Walter H. Jenifer of the 8th Virginia Cavalry ignited on May 1, 1862, as he evacuated the town.
Jenifer was attempting to block the advance of Union Gen. John C. Fr?mont's Mountain Army as it marched to the Shenandoah Valley to support Nathaniel P. Banks against Confederate Gen. Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson. Jenifer sent about 200 cavalrymen and militia of his 300-man command on the road north from Princeton under Lt. Col. Henry Fitzhugh. At Camp Creek, a branch of the Bluestone River, Fitzhugh's force clashed with Fr?mont's advance guard — Lt. Col Rutherford B. Hayes's 23rd Ohio Infantry — the withdrew to Princeton. There, Jenifer gathered up all the supplied he could carry, set fire to the town, and marched south to Rocky Gap.
Fr?mont reported that "after the affair at Camp Creek ?Hayes pushed and drove Jenifer, with 300 cavalry, through Princeton. Jenifer ser fire to the place, but 6 or 8 houses were saved by Lieutenant-Colonel Hayes." One of the dwellings was the McNutt House, where Hayes — the future president of the United States - made his headquarters with his aide, Sgt. William McKinley, another future president.
] Walter H. Jenifer (1823-1878), a Maryland native, designed and patented a cavalry saddle while serving as a lieutenant in the 2nd U.S. Cavalry late in the 1850s. Confederate authorities adopted the saddle after the war began, but it soon proved unsatisfactory and saddlers attempted to modify it. Jenifer sued the Confederate government in 1863 for patent infringement and later settled out of court. After losing command of the 8th Virginia Cavalry after an 1862 reorganization, Jenifer served as a cavalry inspector for the duration of the war. Afterward he joined the Egyptian army in 1870, then resigned because of ill health two years later. He returned home to the Baltimore area and raised fine Arabian horses imported from Egypt until his death.