Speakers Series, 2019 – Joseph Goss, Rediscovering a Local Log Farmhouse

In his talk, “Rediscovering the History of a Long-Forgotten Shepherdstown Log Farmhouse,” Mr. Goss will describe his determined efforts to research the history of the log home near Shepherdstown he and his wife Lynne purchased in 2011.

Local author Joseph Goss, will present the second talk in Historic Shepherdstown’s 2019 Speakers Series on May 22 at 7 p.m. in the auditorium of Shepherd University’s Byrd Center for Congressional History and Education. The talk is free and open to the public.

Having been told that the house was built in 1780, Mr. Goss set out to discover the cabin’s first owner, its age and boundaries, and to lay bare some of the house’s unexplored secrets. It was not an easy task. However, his fascination with discovering the building’s mysteries eventually led Mr. Goss to write the story of what he had learned. His recently released book, Frontier Cabin Story: The Rediscovered History of a West Virginia Log Farmhouse, will be available for sale at the Byrd Center that evening.

In his introduction to the book, Mr. Goss writes of his convictions about why this story needs to be told: “I believe the past owners and residents are an essential part of the history, spirit and energy of the house. I hope that this project will honor them and the other pioneers, both men and women, European and enslaved African American, who settled the frontier.”

Joseph Goss is an engineer who earned degrees from UC Berkeley and Stanford University. He served in the Peace Corps in Afghanistan in the 1960’s. He spent much of his career working to rehabilitate the aging water and sewer infrastructure of the DC region. He and his wife divide their time between the log farmhouse and the DC suburbs.

In addition to Mr. Goss’s talk, Historic Shepherdstown will mark Preservation Month in May by presenting its annual Preservation Awards. The Awards are given to local citizens who have contributed to historic preservation in Shepherdstown. In addition to the Preservation Awards, Historic Shepherdstown will present their first “Contributions to Historic Shepherdstown” award at the meeting.

Light refreshments will be served after the event.

For more information, contact the Historic Shepherdstown office at hsc1786@gmail.com or 304-876-0910.

Shepherdstown Museum to Open with Display of Local Silver

The Historic Shepherdstown Museum will open for the season on April 6 with a display of historic Shepherdstown and Jefferson County silverware.

Beginning on April 6, the Museum will be open on Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and on Sundays from 1 to 4 p.m. It is located in the Entler Hotel building at 129 E. German Street in Shepherdstown.

The silver display, which includes spoons and serving pieces made by a number of local craftsmen, is on loan from the extensive collection of Eric Hendricks Jenkins, a twelfth-generation resident of the Eastern Panhandle. He is an avid collector of local silver and other artifacts, a history teacher at Wildwood Middle School, and a docent at the Shepherdstown Museum.

Mr. Jenkins tells some great stories about his pieces and the people who made them. Among the items featured are spoons by Frederick Jerome Posey (1815-1881), who lived at the Entler Hotel and had his workshop there at one point. An opponent of slavery, Posey attempted to assist a group of slaves to escape from their owner to Canada in 1857. Posey lent his carriage to the group, which was led by an enslaved man named William Henry Mood and included a woman named Belinda Bivans. Bivans was attempting to find her father, who had escaped to Canada earlier. She said that her owner, though a Christian, was a “backslider,” and added that “money was his church.” Unfortunately, the group was caught in Chambersburg.

Also on display will be silver items made by Jacob Craft and John Bernard Woltz, both also makers of tall clocks, several of which are on display in the Museum. Clockmaking clearly was only one source of their income.

The Shepherdstown Museum houses a varied collection of other Shepherdstown objects, from prehistoric tools to an early Rural Free Delivery mail cart to two mid-twentieth century dial phones on which guests can call each other.

A suggested donation of $4 for adults is welcome. Admission for children and members is free.

For more information about the Museum opening or the exhibits, contact the Historic Shepherdstown Commission office at hsc1786@gmail.com or 304-876-0910.

Holiday Tour of Historic Churches

A partnership of Shepherdstown churches and community organizations is sponsoring the first Shepherdstown Tour of Historic Churches on December 26 from 3:00 to 6:00 p.m. The churches, all located in town and all with long histories, are Christ Reformed United Church of Christ, New Street United Methodist, Shepherdstown Presbyterian, St. Agnes Catholic, St. Peter’s Lutheran, and Trinity Episcopal. All will be decorated for Christmas. The tour will be free and open to the community and visitors.

Participants may start at any of the churches, the Historic Shepherdstown Museum (located at E. German and Princess Streets) or the War Memorial Building (located at German and King Streets). At the War Memorial Building, refreshments and hospitality will be available. Maps will be available at each location.

Greeters and docents will be stationed at each church to welcome visitors with information about the history of the congregation and the church, architecture of the buildings, and interior accoutrements of the sanctuaries.

The tour partnership includes the participating churches, the Historic Shepherdstown Commission, the Shepherdstown Community Club, and the Shepherdstown Visitors Center.

Jerry Bock, Historic Shepherdstown President, says “This is an unprecedented opportunity for Shepherdstown residents and out-of-town visitors to admire the interior beauty of the town’s houses of worship.” All of the churches are within walking distance of each other and will be marked by luminaries. The event will begin with a citywide ringing of the church bells.

Questions regarding the tour may be directed to Jerry Bock, HSC President. He may be reached at 304-283-8338 or jerrybock@comcast.net.

Children’s Holiday Events

Historic Shepherdstown will present two events for children during Christmas in Shepherdstown. Both will take place at the Shepherdstown Museum in the Entler Hotel building at the corner of German and Princess Streets. On December 1, right after the 10 a.m. Shepherdstown parade, Santa will greet children at the Museum. The next weekend, on December 8 at 2 p.m., Mrs. Margaret Entler, wife of the original proprietor of Daniel Entler’s Hotel, will present ” ‘Twas a Night Before Christmas,” the famous poem written in the early 1820’s, the same period when Daniel Entler opened the hotel.

As he has done for many years, Santa will talk with children about their Christmas wishes in the parlors of the historic hotel and museum. Santa will present each child with a small gift. This event will begin when the parade ends, around 11 a.m., and end around 1 p.m. The Museum will be decorated for Christmas.

On December 8, ” ‘Twas a Night Before Christmas” will feature Mrs. Entler, portrayed by Karen Johnson, recounting some of the town’s and the hotel’s history and reading Clement Moore’s famous poem. The old-fashioned Christmas decorations will be reminiscent of 19th century Shepherdstown and will represent parts of the poem. There will be activities for the children, along with a copy of the poem for each child and some small surprises.

Historic Shepherdstown’s President, Jerry Bock, noted that “it is good to have children visit the Museum, whether it’s for Santa, Mrs. Entler or a school tour. We want to provide a welcoming place for children and their families. We also want to share this town’s exciting history with its younger members.”

Both events are free.

The Shepherdstown Museum will be open for visitors on weekends from November 24 through December 16: Saturdays, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sundays from 1 to 4 p.m.

For more information, contact Historic Shepherdstown at hsc1786@gmail.com or 304-876-0910.

2018 Christmas Ornament Now Available

Historic Shepherdstown now has its 2018 Christmas ornament available for sale. This year it is the historic Entler Hotel. It is the fourth in a series of historic buildings by HSC. Ornaments can be purchased in the museum on the weekends during Christmas in Shepherdstown and also in the HSC office during normal business hours 9:30 – 5:30, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday.

Also, please join us and bring your children or grandchildren to the Shepherdstown Museum on December 8th at 2 pm for a reading of “Twas the Night Before Christmas” by “Mrs. Entler” herself in character. This is a way we can make history come alive for both adults and children. This famous poem was written in 1823 the same year that Daniel Entler became the proprietor of the Entler Hotel. The museum will be decorated as we think the Entlers would have done so and there will be a small gift for the young ones that attend. There is no cost for this event.

Speaker Series, 2018: “Antietam Shadows: Mystery, Myth & Machination”, Dennis Frye

On Wednesday, October 10, Historic Shepherdstown will present Dennis Frye, recently retired Chief Historian at Harpers Ferry National Historic Park, speaking on “Antietam Shadows: Mystery, Myth & Machination.” The free event will take place in the auditorium at the Byrd Center for Congressional History and Education on the Shepherd campus. It will begin at 6:45 p.m. with Historic Shepherdstown’s annual meeting, followed by the talk at 7:00 p.m. Light refreshments will follow.

Mr. Frye has been studying Antietam and the first invasion of the North for nearly 50 years. From his earliest days as a National Park Service volunteer at the Dunker Church (he is a Dunker), and as a native of the area, Dennis has immersed himself in the Civil War, publishing many books on the subject. He is also a prominent Civil War battlefield preservationist. He was one of the founders of what is today the Civil War Trust. The Trust, which has spearheaded the saving of much battlefield land, awarded Mr. Frye with their highest honor, the Shelby Foote Award.

Mr. Frye’s talk, based on his recent book, also called “Antietam Shadows,” challenges many of the commonly held beliefs about the Battle of Antietam. Of this book, he has said: “I’m challenging my peers. I’m challenging myself. I’m challenging what we have accepted as fact, what we have accepted as reality.” He has also said that he hopes the talk will stimulate debate as he explores uncertainties and unknowns.

On November 14, Historic Shepherdstown will sponsor the last talk of the 2018 Speakers Series. Jerry Thomas, Shepherd University Professor Emeritus of History will speak on “From the Old South to the New in the Lower Shenandoah Valley:  The Life and Times of Alexander Robinson Boteler, 1815-1892.” His talk will take place at 7:00 p.m., also at Shepherd’s Byrd Center.

For more information, contact the Historic Shepherdstown Commission office at hsc1786@gmail.com or 304-876-0910.

 

 

8th Annual Jefferson County Civil War Seminar

The 8th Annual Jefferson County Civil War Seminar will be held on Tuesday, June 19, 2018 in the auditorium of the Robert Byrd Center on the campus of Shepherd University. This popular event is sponsored jointly by the Charles Town Library Civil War Round Table and the Jefferson County Historical Society. As in previous years, all presenters are either members of the round table or local historians with an interest in the Civil War.

This year’s seminar presenters and their topics include:

  • John Bagladi. “WHAT’S IN A NAME? ‘The Battle of …’” On August 21, 1864, thousands of soldiers wearing blue and gray met in combat across western Jefferson County. What was this engagement called? Do you know? Are you sure?
  • Bill Berry. “Harpers Ferry Civilians during the Civil War.” Water and whiskey, two key ingredients in the tragic tale of civilians of Harpers Ferry during the Civil War. The story of the people harassed by both sides with no solution in sight.
  • Steve French. “McNeill’s Rangers in the Gettysburg Campaign.” During the Gettysburg Campaign, Rebel guerrillas and partisans roamed far and wide attacking military targets and gathering plunder. One of these bands, McNeill’s Rangers, fought at the 2nd Battle of Winchester, occupied Hancock, Md. destroyed Baltimore & Ohio property, raided the farms and stores of southern Pa., fought at the July 6 Battle of Williamsport and later skirmished with Federal cavalry around Clear Spring, Md. The talk will give an overview of the role of these so-called “land pirates” in the campaign.
  • Jim Glymph. “The Whitworth Rifle.” The Whitworth rifle was developed in England to be the standard rifle for their infantry.  It had many shortcomings, but it was extremely accurate.  England did not adopt it but a few of them became the deadly tool of the Confederate sharpshooters.
  • Russ Harbaugh. “Will the real Scarlett O’Hara please stand up?” Have you ever wondered if Scarlett O’Hara’s character was based on a real-life person? Russ does, and he thinks she lived in Jefferson County.
  • John Kavaliunas. “Watch on the Potomac: Foreign Observers of the U.S. Civil War.” We think of the American Civil War as a purely domestic event. However, the War was of concern to many in Europe. Regular news reports from the battlefield caught the attention of the public and, in several instances, inspired others, including European princes, aristocrats, and adventurers, to view the conflict first hand or to personally join in the battle.

This presentation will describe some of these foreign observers and their impressions of the War itself.

The seminar begins at 8:45 AM and will conclude at 4:30 PM. Parking is available in the “A” Lot at Shepherd University. There is no charge for the seminar, and the public is invited to attend.

“The Spirit of Elmwood” Tour: The Presbyterian and Methodist Grave Yards

The “Spirit of Elmwood” tour was postponed by the weather and has been re-scheduled for Saturday, June 9th, 2018 starting at 11:00 AM. This year’s tour kicks off a commemoration of the upcoming 150th Anniversary of the establishment of Elmwood Cemetery and is sponsored the cemetery’s Board of Directors. Please drive into the cemetery and you will be directed to parking. The tour will take place in the Presbyterian Grave Yard located in the northeast corner of the cemetery along the Kearneysville Pike.

The “Presbyterian and Methodist Grave Yard” tour will be led by local historian Doug Perks. Perks will discuss the history of both grave yards and highlight some of the men and women buried there who helped shape Shepherdstown’s rich History.

A donation of $15 per person is recommended. All proceeds from this tour will be applied to the restoration of the Superintendent’s House.

The tour will take place in one location in the Presbyterian Grave Yard. Feel free to bring along a chair to sit in while you listen. Be sure to wear comfortable clothing and your walking shoes. Gnats are bothersome this time of year, so don’t forget your favorite remedy.

Tea with Mrs. Entler on June 2, 2018

By Boat to Shepherdstown on the Canal

In 1915, John Pryor Cowan, a journalist with the Pittsburgh Gazette, decided to take a trip to Washington.  He would go, not by car or train, but by canal. He and his wife built their own boat from a kit.  The boat was not very elegant looking, and friends who saw it remarked “That’s some tub.” The name stuck.

The Cowans shipped the Sometub from Pittsburgh to Cumberland, Maryland, and on July 15, 1915, they set off on their 184-mile journey.

Cowan said that the Sometub had the distinction of being the first boat with an outboard gasoline engine — even if it only had a top speed of 5 miles per hour — on the canal.  While the boat could go faster than a mule-drawn canal barge, the early outboard motors were not reliable, and the Cowans’ would fail them often.

It took about a week to reach C&O Lock No. 30, the Shepherdstown lock, where the Cowans had planned to visit the Antietam Battlefield.  But their motor died and with night falling and thunder in the distance, they decided to leave their boat with the lock-keeper and instead to seek shelter across the river in Shepherdstown.

In his book, Sometub’s Cruise on the C. & O. Canal, written the following year, Cowan tells of his visit to Shepherdstown:

Fleeing across the bridge over the Potomac we breathlessly climbed the hill and along a dark street [Princess St.] to the center of the town whither we had been directed to the hotel. Suddenly we rounded a corner into an electric-lighted thoroughfare and stood before the entrance of the Rumsey House [Today’s Entler Hotel and Historic Shepherdstown Museum]. Our clothes were wrinkled and we were splashed with mud from head to foot. We still carried our lighted lantern and the crowd at the hotel gazed at us with expressions twixt curiosity and amazement. The proprietor was moved to commiseration.

“Come in here, you-all, right away,” he said.

The next morning, a Sunday, the Cowans woke to the sound of church bells.

It was a restful place to spend Sunday and in the evening we joined the villagers in a stroll through the shady streets and out on the bluff overlooking the Potomac. Here on the edge of the cliffs on a natural base of limestone rock is an imposing shaft lately erected to the memory of James Rumsey, Shepherdstown pioneer and inventor of the steamboat.

Cowan was charmed by Shepherdstown:


Geographically Shepherdstown is in West Virginia, but politically, socially and traditionally it leans toward the Old Dominion. It lies in Jefferson county at the foot of the beautiful Shenandoah valley and is essentially southern. Its whole atmosphere and the sympathy of its people belong distinctly to Piedmont Virginia. It is the Alsace-Lorraine of America.

Next to Alexandria, Shepherdstown is perhaps the oldest important settlement in the Potomac valley. It is one of the few old towns in the country that has not been defaced by too much present day progress. Shepherdstown has always been a substantial prosperous place and does not affect the gewgaws of the new rich municipality. In some respects it resembles Concord, Massachusetts. Its streets have many features in common with the thoroughfares of the old-time New England towns. In many of the residences are preserved some of the most striking characteristics of chaste colonial architecture.

Two days later the Sometub’s motor was fixed and the Cowans, after bidding farewell to their “hospitable friends” in Shepherdstown, resumed their journey on the canal to Washington.

Nine years later, in 1924, the canal would close for business.