Fred and Jan's Excellent Adventure 2008 travel blog

Boy, did we learn a lot that we didn’t know before by visiting Harper’s Ferry National Historical Park today. The only part of Harpers’ Ferry I knew was about John Brown and his raid there in 1859, but there was so much more to learn! We spent the day in this very beautiful part of West Virginia, and learned so much – especially that we’d like to come back again and stay longer in the area. The park explores the region’s importance in six themes: natural heritage, transportation, industry, Civil War, African American history. and John Brown. George Washington surveyed the landscape and later, while President, recommended the area for a National Armory; the armory was finally started there in 1799, and the first interchangeable rifle parts were first started at this armory. This development revolutionized rifle making, and supplanted the artisan who formerly would create all the parts, i.e. “the whole lock, stock, and barrel.” Other claims to fame for Harpers Ferry: Thomas Jefferson stopped there on a trip and wrote about its beauty; education for former sales was emphasized here after the war; it is the location for the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers; Meriwether Lewis spent time here outfitting his expedition before leaving for the west in 1803; it was the site of the largest single surrender of soldiers during the Civil war when Stonewall Jackson captured the garrison in 1862. Of course, the John Brown incident is deeply explored at the park; many historians believe his unsuccessful raid of the armory helped lead the nation toward war, because the trial and execution focused the nation’s attention on the issue of slavery. On an interesting aside, while at the park, we met a man in his late 70s who was there on his Harley, and he told us about how he almost beat the motorcycle land speed record on the Bonneville Salt Flats in the 1950s; he was ahead of the record after his first run, but his engine blew up, so he couldn’t finish the 2nd run.

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