Harpers Ferry, Virginia, Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, John Brown

The Site Of John Brown’s Attempted Slave Insurrection In Harpers Ferry

In 1855, Abolitionist John Brown, and two of his sons, had participated in the fighting against pro-slavery settlers in the state of Kansas. John Brown met with Frederick Douglas and Harriet Tubman, whom he referred to as “General Tubman”. Both abolitionists reinforced John Brown’s militant believes which would lead him to attempt a slave insurrection in the state of Virginia.

The Harper’s Ferry Fire Station that John Brown and his followers took over after raining the United States Armory. (Hamilton Photo October 24, 2020).

In 1859, John Brown took 20 followers to raid the United States Armory in order to procure weapons for a slave insurrection. General Robert Edward Lee was sent to the Fire Station, next to the armory, that John Brown and his militant followers were staying in. A shootout commenced and the group was forced to surrender. John Brown and some of his followers were hung for actions.

In 1861, during the Battle for Harper’s Ferry, the Union burnt down the armory, that John Brown had raided geo years before, to keep Confederate sympathizers from getting a hold of the weapons inside.

Congress declared, the area within the site of the former armory and John Brown’s Fort, as well as the areas that former President Thomas Jefferson and another areas that Lewis and Clark had once explored within the town, as part of a U.S. National Park.

On a hill near the John Brown Fort is a monument dedicated to the former abolitionist.

Author’s Note:

Here is a Smithsonian Magazine documentary on John Brown’s raid.

Harpers Ferry, Virginia, Harpers Ferry, West Virginia

The Founding Of Harpers Ferry, Virginia

The area of Harpers Ferry, Virginia was first settled in 1732 by Peter Stephens, whose “squatter’s rights” were bought in 1747 by Robert Harper, for whom the town was named. In about 1750 Harper was given a patent on 125 acres at the present location of the town. In 1761 Harper established a ferry across the Potomac River, making the town a starting point for settlers moving into the Shenandoah Valley and further west. In 1763 the Virginia General Assembly established the town of “Shenandoah Falls at Mr. Harper’s Ferry.”

On 25 October 1783, Thomas Jefferson visited Harpers Ferry. He viewed “the passage of the Potomac though the Blue Ridge” from a rock which is now named for him. Jefferson called the site “perhaps one of the most stupendous scenes in nature.”

George Washington, as president of the Patowmack Company (which was formed to complete river improvements on the Potomac and its tributaries), traveled to Harpers Ferry during the summer of 1785 to determine the need for bypass canals. In 1794 Washington’s familiarity with the area led him to propose the site for a new United States armory and arsenal. Some of Washington’s family moved to the area; Charles Washington, youngest full brother of the President, founded the city of Charles Town, some six miles to the southwest. President Washington’s great-great-nephew, Colonel Lewis Washington, was held hostage during John Brown’s raid in 1859.

When Virginia split into two states, during the U.S. Civil War, Harpers Ferry became part of West Virginia.