[Home]Harpers Ferry

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Harpers Ferry, Virginia is a town on the banks of the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers where Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia meet. The town is surrounded by mountains and is at the bottom of a ravine created by the two rivers. The town in most known historically for John Brown's raid on the Armory in 1859.


In 1751, Robert Harper was given a patent on 125 acres at the present location of the town. In 1761, Harper established a ferry across the Potomac 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 October 25, 1783, Thomas Jefferson visited Harpers Ferry. He viewed "the passage of the Patowmac though the Blue Ridge" from a rock is now named for him.

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 lead him to propose the site as the location for a new federal armory and arsenal.

The United States Armory and Arsenal was established in the town in 1799 and the town was transformed into an industrial centre. Between 1801 and the outbreak of the American Civil War in 1861, the Armory produced more than 600,000 muskets, rifles, and pistols. The inventor [John H. Hall]? pioneered the use of interchangeable parts in firearms manufacture at his Rifle Works in the town between 1820-1840.

This industrialisation continued in 1833 when the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal reached the town. The canal linked Harpers Ferry with Washington DC. A year later, the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad arrived.

The Civil War was disastrous for Harpers Ferry. Given the town's strategic location on the railroad and at the northern end of the Shenandoah Valley, both Union and Confederate troops moved through Harpers Ferry frequently. In fact, the town changed hands eight times between 1861 and 1865.

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Last edited November 27, 2001 1:25 am by 193.133.134.xxx (diff)