Harpers Ferry, West Virginia

Harpers Ferry

Before I started my trek through the Shenandoah National Park, I decided to make a stop in Harpers Ferry. I remembered extraordinarily little from my history classes about this place but was quickly caught up by my travel buddy, Summer, who was reading anything she could find on Google. 

Make sure you check out the Harpers Ferry National Park website to see all the historic sites.

Harpers ferry river

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Some Interesting History

This small and terribly quaint little town was one of the starters of the American Civil War. The small Kennedy Farmhouse, about four miles north of town, served as the meeting and planning location for Brown’s gang. John Brown had reached out to both Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman to join his group and the attack. 

Both declined with Douglass stating that he believed the mission was suicide. He was correct, but for Brown, the raid was intended to be the first in an elaborate plan to abolish slavery and establish a stronghold for slaves from the mountainous areas of Maryland and Virginia.

Harpers Ferry railroa

On October 16, 1859, a group of twenty-two armed abolitionists, led by John Brown, attacked the military arsenal in Harpers Ferry. It was believed that the building held around 100,000 muskets and rifles that Brown intended to use to arm rebelling slaves to assist them in revolting against their slave owners.

Harpers Ferry WV

Only a couple of days later, on October 18th Robert E. Lee and a company of Marines surrounded Brown, his sons, and the other members of his band at the small engine house of the Armory. Ten of Brown’s men were killed including two of his sons and Brown himself was captured.

Harpers Ferry things to do

John Brown was tried and found guilty of murder and treason on November 2.  He was hanged on December 2, 1859. The American abolitionist’s last words were, “I, John Brown, am now quite certain that the crimes of this guilty land will never be purged away but with blood.” It seems he was correct as the Civil War began only two years later.

Harpers Ferry overlook

Things Not to Miss

Spend a couple of hours exploring the tiny historical downtown area where you will encounter several shops of local artisans, little museums, and stunning views. Climb up to the top of the hill where St. Peter’s Roman Catholic Church sits to enjoy breathtaking overlooks and learn about the small but stunning church. Check out John Brown’s fort and White Hall Tavern.

Harpers Ferry Railroad

Fun Facts:

  • Harpers Ferry National Park is one of over 600 Underground Railroad locations that assisted slaves in their quest for freedom in the north.
  • The National Park is part of the Lewis and Clark National Historical Trail and is beautiful to see in West Virginia during the fall.
  • Author, Henry David Thoreau, was one of the well-known individuals who spoke out in defense of John Brown following his arrest. His essay, “A Plea for Captain John Brown”, was written in support of his fellow abolitionist.

Where to Stay

I use Booking.com and Hotels.com for most of my travel bookings.

Things to do

Kristal Ham

Hi fellow nomads!

Traveler and Photographer

My name is Kristal and I am so happy to have you visit my site! 

I hope that the travel guides, fun facts, and photography you find here will inspire you to explore new places!


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