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Specific picture descriptions: Photos above with "i" icons next to the bracketed sequence numbers (e.g. " ") are described as follows:
HARPEX_040620_136.JPG: A Building Split In Half
Do you see the original alley? Although formerly a closed corridor through the center of the building, this alley was dismantled sometime after 1860. It was then covered by fill, a floor, and later, a concrete pad.
Based on a tip from historians, who discovered reference to the alley in a deed, archeologists excavated and found the original alley.
These parallel foundations show the original walls which divided the building in half. Each half had a separate owner.
The Mysteries Hidden Below
Many parts of an old building's story lie below ground level. Foundation walls, discarded building materials, and long-forgotten artifacts may yield important clues about construction and use through time.
(The little "L"-shaped wall) Archeologists discovered this foundation and determined that it predated the existing building. The clue that led archeologists to this conclusion is that the foundation lies beneath the alley walls. This suggests its earlier construction.
Archeologists found no artifacts which identified the original purpose of the earlier building. Historians helped solve the mystery with a 1820's map showing a stone stable on this site.
The wall corner shows the interior of the earlier structure. ... The bedrock indicates that no construction went below this point.
HARPEX_040620_218.JPG: Harpers Ferry History
On October 17, 1859, abolitionist John Brown attacked Harper's Ferry to launch a war against slavery, Heyward Shepherd, a free African American railroad baggage master, was shot and killed by Brown's men shortly after midnight.
Seventy-two years later, on October 10, 1931, a crowd estimated to include 300 whites and 100 blacks gathered to unveil and dedicate the Heyward Shepherd monument.
During the ceremony, voices raised to praise and denounce the monument. Conceived around the turn of the century, the monument has endured controversy. In 1905, the United Daughters of the Confederacy stated that "erecting the monument would influence for good the present and coming generations, and prove that the people of the South who owned slaves valued and respected their good qualities as no one else ever did or will do."
In 1932, W.E.B. DuBois founder of the Niagara Movement and a founder of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), responded to the Shepherd monument by penning these words:
Here, John Brown aimed at human slavery a blow that woke a guilty nation. With him fought seven slaves and sons of slaves. Over his crucified corpse marched 200,000 Black soldiers and 4,000,000 freedmen singing: "John Brown's body lies a mouldering in the grave, but his soul goes marching on!"
HARPEX_040620_276.JPG: Early Travel
Situated in a gap in the Blue Ridge Mountains and at the confluence of the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers, Harpers Ferry, from its beginning, functioned as a natural avenue of transportation.
The first mode of travel consisted of a primitive ferry established in 1733 by Peter Stephens. Stephens sold his business to Robert Harper in 1747, and Harper and others carried settlers and supplies across the waters until 1824 when a bridge constructed across the Potomac made ferryboat operations unnecessary.
In less than a decade after the completion of the bridge, the iron horse and the mule brought the transportation revolution to Harpers Ferry.
The Race to the Ohio
Rail transportation in the United States began in Baltimore, Maryland, on July 4, 1828, when Charles Carroll, the only living signer of the Declaration of Independence, laid the cornerstone of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad.
On the same day, President John Quincy Adams turned the first spade of earth along the Potomac River for the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal.
The race was underway as the progressive railroad and the traditional canal struggled to become the first to connect the Ohio Valley with the east coast. Harpers Ferry was one of the first milestones of that race.
The Iron Horse Wins
Work on the railroad and canal progressed slowly at first, but by 1834 both companies had completed construction to a point opposite Harpers Ferry. The canal had won the race to this point and it continued up the Maryland side of the Potomac.
The B&O Railroad, plagued by land disputes with the canal, crossed the Potomac at Harpers Ferry in 1837 and rapidly pushed on. By 1842, it reached Cumberland, Maryland, and a decade later the railroad was open to Wheeling on the Ohio River.
Business boomed at Harpers Ferry with the arrival of the railroad. Refrigerated cars brought oysters and other luxuries to the town. Thousands of travelers visited Harpers Ferry as it became a gateway to the Ohio Valley.
The Civil War shattered Harpers Ferry's prosperity. Much of the town was destroyed, and Confederate raiders constantly sabotaged the railroad. Despite the war, the railroad escaped permanent damage, and the B&O survives today as a main artery of transportation in the United States.
The Mule Falters
As the railroad streaked westward from Harpers Ferry, the C&O Canal fell hopelessly behind in the race for the Ohio.
Burdened by a lack of building supplies and a scarcity of skilled labor, the canal encountered serious financial problems and did not reach Cumberland, Maryland until 1850 -- eight years after the railroad reached that point. Plans to continue westward were abandoned.
Made obsolete by the faster and less expensive railroad, the C&O Canal never attained any great measure of economic success, but did transport coal, flour, grain, and lumber to Washington for nearly 90 years. Canal operations ceased in 1924 when a flood devastated the Potomac Valley, leaving the canal in ruins.
AAA "Gem": AAA considers this location to be a "must see" point of interest. To see pictures of other areas that AAA considers to be Gems, click here.
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