Welcome back! Hopefully everyone enjoyed Thanksgiving, and I also hope that you decided to #OptOutside on Black Friday!
Since we are so close to such a great variety of parks Clinton and I were able to bring our dogs, Kyzer and Kiraly, out to Harpers Ferry in West Virginia. We’ve been before to see the town, take part in the living history, and walk around the historical areas. This time we focused on hiking! We decided to take the Murphy-Chambers Farm round-trip, which includes multiple wayside exhibits as well as great views of the Shenandoah River.
Harpers Ferry is mostly known for John Brown’s attack on slavery, as well as the location for the largest surrender of Federal troops during the Civil War – but did you know it is also the location of one of the earliest integrated schools in the United States, the first successful application of interchangeable manufacture, and the first successful railroad in America? How cool is that! This one location has so much history to offer, it only makes sense to go back again and again.
In particular the trail that we explored took us past the 1895-1909 site of the John Brown Fort and the Niagara Movement’s 1906 pilgrimage. John Brown’s Fort has a complex history that includes multiple movements. Originally erected in 1848 as a guard house and Armory fire engine, this one story brick building was later used in October 1859 for John Brown’s raid. During the Civil War, the building was used as a prison, powder magazine, and possibly a quartermaster supply house. It was dismantled in 1891 and transported to Chicago for the World’s Columbian Exposition. In 1894, the building was returned to the fort with help from D.C. journalist Kate Field, who campaigned for its return, Alexander Murphy who made five acres available for $1, and the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, who offered to ship the dismantled fort for free. The picture above is where it was rebuilt in 1895, on the area called the Murphy Farm. In 1900 the building was purchased and moved to the Storer college campus on Camp Hill in Harpers Ferry and used as a museum. When the National Park Service acquired the property, the building was moved back to the Lower Tower in 1968. Whew, what a journey!
The Niagara Movement started with William Edward Burghardt Du Bois. Du Bois gathered a large group of men who had responded to his call asking for action on racial discrimination and organized a meeting. They were refused accommodations in Buffalo, New York, so they instead met in Canada. A constitution, by-laws, committees, and the “declaration of Principles” for the future of African Americans was established at this meeting in a three day span. Thirteen months later, the Niagara Movement held its first public meeting in Harpers Ferry at Storer college. For twenty-five years, Storer was the only school in West Virginia that offered African Americans an education beyond primary school. The Niagara Movement laid the foundations for the future civil rights movement. The organization continued until 1911 when the majority of the members formed the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).
Harpers Ferry has so much to offer, from history to nature to just a good area to walk around and get a nice lunch. This won’t be my last post about Harpers Ferry – it was a major part of the Civil War, and we haven’t even begun to discuss that yet! Keep your eyes here! Until next time…