New Web Site Unveiled: www.johnbrownraid.org
(Hagerstown, MD and Harpers Ferry, WV) — The upcoming John Brown sesquicentennial has been named a Top 100 Event for 2009 by the American Bus Association (ABA). The sesquicentennial commemorates John Brown’s Raid on the U.S. Arsenal at Harpers Ferry, 150 years ago. There are scores of events scheduled throughout the four-state area, because John Brown’s activities, and actions immediately following the 1859 raid, impacted Franklin County (Pa), Washington County (Md), Frederick County (Md), what is now the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia including Jefferson County (WV), Loudon County and Frederick Counties (Va).
The John Brown Sesquicentennial Quad-State Committee, comprised of various historians and officials from West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Maryland, has coordinated a range of commemoration events to ensure that the schedules of the individual county committees do not conflict. The coalition of state and county tourism officials, historians, elected officials, and park service management are working to promote the entire area during the 150th anniversary period.
Numerous special events are planned for 2009, including re-enactments, concerts, an educational symposium, scholarships, living history, family and youth activities, and ranger conducted programs. A new web site (sponsored by the Hagerstown-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau but promoting the entire four-state area) has been unveiled which has a complete listing of events during the 150th Anniversary: www.johnbrownraid.org. The events are updated frequently.
“The events committee has been very active for the last year and a half,” said Todd Bolton, Events Committee Chair of the Sesquicentennial Quad-State Committee. “We currently have more than 65 events planned that will appeal to a wide variety of people. Our hope is to promote this commemoration to a diverse audience.”
A re-creation of John Brown’s procession from his headquarters at the Kennedy Farm in Washington County, Maryland, to Harpers Ferry, will take place. The city of Frederick, Maryland, will recreate the confusion and alarm that occurred when the word of John Brown’s raid hit the city. The anniversary events provide visitors and residents opportunities to revisit the tumultuous life of John Brown, to learn about the abolitionist movement to end slavery, to discover the real causes of the Civil War, and to reflect upon the beginning of the American Civil Rights Movement.
“The John Brown story impacts our four-state area,” said Tom Riford the president and CEO of the Hagerstown-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau. “Brown met with Frederick Douglas in Franklin County in August of 1859, he spent months planning at the Kennedy Farm and then executed his raid from Washington County, the raid took place in Jefferson County, and several surrounding counties were involved.” Riford said that interest in the anniversary is running high, “We are already receiving bus group reservations, and a lot of media attention because of the 150th Anniversary. This event is more than just about one town or one county, and it is certainly historic that a coalition of four states is working together to promote our entire area and the events that happened during the time that John Brown was here in 1859.” Riford said that this sesquicentennial is the beginning of a series of observances for the 150th Anniversary of the Civil War.
For several months in 1859, John Brown assembled “an army” in Washington County, Maryland. On the evening of Oct. 16, 1859, Brown led a group of abolitionists on a six-mile march from the Kennedy Farm in Washington County, across the railroad bridge into Harpers Ferry and seized control of the town in order to steal weapons from the old federal armory so they could be used in the cause against slavery. But because a passing train reached Frederick, Md., a telegram notifying the army of the attack enabled soldiers to respond before Brown could fully accomplish his goal. Brown was soon captured, during a skirmish led by US Marines and soldiers, dispatched under the leadership of the US Army Colonel Robert E. Lee.
In December 1859, he was hanged in Charles Town for his attack. In looking at the history of the United States, historians agree that John Brown’s infamous raid in 1859 was the spark that began the Civil War. Before John Brown’s raid, negotiations between the differing North-South factions might have been possible. However, after the attack – and Brown’s trial and hanging – emotions ran so high that armed conflict became an inevitable outcome. The war began a mere 16 months following Brown’s hanging (with the shots fired at Fort Sumter in April 1861).
Dennis Frye is the chief historian at Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, and chairs the John Brown Sesquicentennial Quad-State Committee, “The John Brown Raid is looked upon by most historians as being the spark which became the inferno of the American Civil War.” Frye said that the story of John Brown is forever tied to the story of the American Civil War.
Events commemorating the sesquicentennial begin at Harpers Ferry National Historical Park in April. On June 25 and 26, Harpers Ferry National Historical Park will host the inaugural kickoff of the Virginia Sesquicentennial ACW Signature Tour Series. This summer a John Brown Driving Tour will be unveiled. Since John Brown stayed in Hagerstown on June 30th, 1859 (signing in the hotel register “Isaac Smith and Sons”), a concert is planned on the former hotel site for that anniversary date.
ABA’s Top 100 Events in North America is an annual compendium of the best events for group travel in the United States and Canada. Each spring, a committee of ABA-member motorcoach and tour operators selects the Top 100 Events for the subsequent year; the list is unveiled in September. Winners are chosen from hundreds of celebrations, festivals, fairs, commemorative events, and more that have been nominated by state tourism offices and local and regional Convention and Visitors Bureaus. “To be selected in the Top 100 is a feather in the cap for our area,” said Tom Riford. “It’s an honor, and it brings a lot of attention to this event.”
The ABA announcement, honoring the 150th Anniversary of John Brown’s Raid as a Top 100 Event in North America, stated: “This observance will provide an unprecedented opportunity to reflect on and revisit the life of John Brown as it relates to the broader context of slavery, the abolitionist movement, and the American Civil Rights Movement. All activities will lead up to the 150th anniversary of the Civil War.”
ABA launched the Top 100 program in 1982 to help motorcoach and tour operators plan itineraries. Now in its 27th year, The Top 100 events receive worldwide attention via the media–television, radio, and print–such as USA Today and CNN. ABA distributes some 10,000 copies of the Top 100 Events in North America magazine, featuring the winners, to all of its members and to thousands of travelers worldwide. For a complete list of the Top 100 events in North America, see: http://www.buses.org/
About Harpers Ferry National Historical Park: Harpers Ferry National Historical Park includes land in and around Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, but also includes more than 800 acres in Washington County, Maryland and significant acreage Loudoun County, Virginia. Harpers Ferry National Historical Park is located at the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers in and around Harpers Ferry, West Virginia. The park is managed by the National Park Service, an agency of the U.S. Department of the Interior, and tells the story of John Brown and also the Civil War battles which took place in and around Harpers Ferry.
Some other historical facts of note:
When John Brown conducted his raid at Harper’s Ferry (then part of Virginia) on October 16, 1859, citizens of Winchester, Virginia, were drawn into the sensational drama. Colonel Lewis Tilghman Moore of the 31st Virginia Militia quickly assembled approximately 150 local volunteers from the Morgan Continentals, Marion Guards, and Mount Vernon Riflemen, and moved them 30 miles by train to Harper’s Ferry. Ironically, the first person killed during Brown’s raid to free the slaves was an innocent free black man, Heywood Shepherd. His body was returned to his hometown of Winchester, where he was buried with military honors. Judge Richard Parker of Winchester presided over John Brown’s trial, and it was Parker who sentenced the abolitionist to hang. While caught up in the excitement at Harpers Ferry, students of the Winchester Medical College laid claim to a cadaver for their anatomy class. The body turned out to be John Brown’s son, Watson, and three years later, Union Troops burned down the college in retaliation. The attack of 1859 was indeed a prelude to many bloody battles and perilous times to follow for the citizens of Winchester and Frederick County, Virginia.
Signature Events During 2009 (from www.johnbrownraid.org):
April 18, 2009 – “A Prelude to History: The Wedding of Virginia Kennedy.” A full day of programs and activities focus on the arrival of Captain John Cook to Harpers Ferry and marriage to Virginia Kennedy. Family & youth activities center on Harpers Ferry 1859 and a dramatic presentation entitled, “My Conspirator”, the life of Captain John Cook as told by his sister, Kate. Time: 10:00 A.M. – 4:00 P.M. Location: Harpers Ferry National Historical Park.
May 2, 2009 – Rededication of John Brown House. The rededication includes house tours, public reception and a walking tour of John Brown sites in Chambersburg. Time: 1:00 P.M. Location: 225 East King Street, Chambersburg, PA Contact Name: Ann Hull Contact Number: (717) 264-1667 Website: http://pafch.tripod.com.
July 11-12, 2009 – Kennedy Farm Open House The 150th anniversary of the arrival “Isaac Smith” and sons. The afternoon will include tours, demonstrations, and refreshments. Sponsored by Kennedy Farm Foundation Time: 12:00 P.M. – 4:00 P.M. Location: 2406 Chestnut Grove Road, Sharpsburg MD. See: www.johnbrown.org for information about the Kennedy Farm.
August 8-9, 2009 – Frederick Militia & Fire Company Days The city of Frederick, Maryland celebrates the militia support provided to Virginia in response to John Brown’s Raid. The support came from the militia units that were part of the city’s fire companies. The event includes lectures, living history demonstrations, antique fire equipment and a downtown outdoor celebration along Carroll Creek. Time: 10:00 A.M. – 4:00 P.M. Location: Linear Park at Carroll Creek, Frederick, MD
October 14-17, 2009 – Academic Symposium “John Brown Remembered” A 3 1/2 day Academic Symposium featuring plenary sessions with Dr. David Blight, Dr. Spencer Crew and Dr. Paul Finkelman. Co-sponsored by Pennsylvania State University, Mont Alto and the Harpers Ferry Historical Association. Time: Daily Location: Mather Training Center, Harpers Ferry National Historical Park Contact Name: Dr. Peggy Russo Contact Email: [email protected] Contact Number: (717) 749-6231, Website: http://www.harpersferryhistory.org/johnbrown/index.htm.
October 16-18, 2009 – Sesquicentennial Commemoration of John Brown’s Raid Three days of public education events focusing on the 36 hours of John Brown’s Raid on Harpers Ferry. The reenactment of the march from the Kennedy Farm House, across the river to Harpers Ferry will take place. The weekend includes music, drama, scholarship, living history, family & youth activities, and ranger conducted programs. Time: Day and evening activities throughout weekend Location: Harpers Ferry National Historical Park. Contact Name: Park Information Center, Contact Number: (304) 535-6029 , Website: http://www.nps.gov/hafe/index.htm.