On April 18, 2009, Harpers Ferry National Historical Park begins its commemoration of the 150th anniversary of John Brown’s Raid with the opening event:  A Prelude to History:  The Wedding of Virginia Kennedy. A full day of programs and activities focus on the arrival of raider John E. Cook to Harpers Ferry and his subsequent marriage to local girl, Mary Virginia Kennedy.  Highlights include family and youth activities and the dramatic presentation, My Conspirator, by Cynthia Goetz.


Goetz resides in the boyhood home of John E. Cook in Haddam, Connecticut.  She has spent hours dedicated to research on Cook and his family, especially his sister, Kate.  This research inspired her presentation.  Told from Kate’s viewpoint, the story explores her “beloved if misguided/foolish/foolhardy” younger brother’s life and his role in John Brown’s raid in October 1859.


Schedule of Events for April 18, 2009:


10:00 – 4:00 pm   Portrait of a Conspirator  

Exhibit focuses on the life of Captain John E. Cook and his role in John Brown’s Raid.

(John Brown Museum 2nd floor)


10:00 – 4:00 pm Family Activities at Gathering Tent

Join Rangers in the Gathering Tent for a variety of fun activities. Discover what Harpers Ferry was like before the John Brown Raid. Become a Junior Ranger. Paint the Harpers Ferry landscape. Take your wedding picture as John Cook and Virginia Kennedy.  Play “Where in the World is John E. Cook?”


11:00 – 11:45 am Harpers Ferry 1859

Join a Ranger at the Gathering Tent for a 45 minute walking tour. Learn about Harpers Ferry on the eve of John Brown’s Raid.


11:00 – 1:30 pm Come Meet Hannah and Ezra

Find out what life may have been like for free and enslaved African Americans. Become a curator and investigate what a backstreet basement living quarters tells us about the stories of two families.

(Behind the Tavern)


11:00 – 3:00 pm  Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Blue:  19th Century Wedding Traditions

Where do American wedding traditions come from?  Join the living history staff and volunteers and re-visit the roots of American wedding traditions, such as the etiquette of the marriage proposal, the engagement, appropriate wedding dresses, wedding photos, and the all important wedding cake.


12:00 – 1:30 pm  Harpers Ferry Is My Home: One Day in My Life

Find out what life may have been like for young people. Try activities like milking a “cow,” playing period games, going to school, dancing, butter making, singing, and designing a quilt.

(Gathering Tent/The Green)


1:00 – 2:00 pm My Conspirator by Cynthia Goetz

Cynthia Goetz lives in the house where John E. Cook, Jr., was born in Haddam, Connecticut. She presents the story of John Cook as told from his sister, Kate’s viewpoint. The story explores her “beloved if guided/foolish/foolhardy” younger brother’s life and his prominent role in John Brown’s Raid.   (Gathering Tent/The Green)


2:00 – 3:00 pm Gun Tour (Meet on The Green)


2:00 – 3:00 pm I Do Wed

Step into the past, become the bride and groom and plan your 19th century wedding. Pick from a hat to find out your occupation.  Based on this information you’ll move through stations that help to plan your  happy day. (Gathering Tent/The Green)


3:00 – 4:00 pm An 1859 Country Reception

Help the living history staff and volunteers host an 1859-style reception, including the important elements:  a cake, a toast, gifts, noisemaking and a song.  (Gathering Tent/The Green)

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