Speaker series, 2023 – Dr Benjamin Bankhurst, Loyalist rising and conspiracy in the Potomac borderlands before Yorktown

Historic Shepherdstown Commission’s September Speaker Series will be held on Wednesday, September 6, at the Erma Ora Byrd Auditorium on the Shepherd University campus. Dr. Benjamin Bankhurst of Shepherd University will be the featured speaker. His talk is entitled Loyalist rising and conspiracy in the Potomac borderlands before Yorktown.

Bankhurst is the Ray and Madeline Johnston Chair in American History and Associate Professor of History at Shepherd University. He completed his graduate studies at King’s College London. His research focuses on migration to the Appalachian frontier in the colonial and revolutionary periods.  Bankhurst is the co-director, alongside Dr. Kyle Roberts of the Congregational Library and Archives in Boston, of the Maryland Loyalism Project, a public archive and database documenting the experiences of Chesapeake loyalists in the era of the American Revolution.

Historic Shepherdstown Speaker Series talk, September 2023, by Dr. Benjamin Bankhurst

Speaker series, 2023 – Lori Wysong, Prohibition in Jefferson County

Prohibition in Jefferson County is the subject of Historic Shepherdstown Commission’s June Speaker Series event, scheduled for Wednesday, June 21, at 7 p.m., at the Robert C. Byrd Center for Congressional History and Education on the campus of Shepherd University. The talk will be given by Lori Wysong, the director of the Jefferson County Museum in Charles Town.

Prohibition in Jefferson County officially lasted barely two decades, but its roots go much further into history and its legacies still impact us today. It brought forward social, economic, and legal issues particular to the region and others that reflected national dilemmas. This presentation will focus on histories of local bootlegging, temperance, and more, as well as on the creation of a new exhibit about Prohibition at the Jefferson County Museum.

Wysong is originally from Maryland and holds an MA in History with a concentration in Public History from Villanova University. In the past, she has worked at museums and historic sites in West Virginia, Maryland, Washington, D.C., Virginia, and Pennsylvania. She is a local historian and author of the book Historic Washington, DC: A Tour of the District’s Top 50 National Landmarks.

Speaker Series, 2022 -Keith Alexander, Living Libraries: Using Oral History to Preserve the Past

Dr. Keith Alexander, associate professor of history at Shepherd University, discusses the importance of oral history in his talk entitled “Living Libraries: Using Oral History to Preserve the Past.” The talk was given to accompany Historic Shepherdstown Museum’s exhibit: Educational Opportunities for Black Jefferson County Residents Before and After Brown v Board of Education, which was based on oral interviews conducted by Dr. Alexander’s students. The talk and the exhibit were funded in part by the West Virginia Humanities Council

Speaker series, 2022 – Steve and Harriet Pearson, Shepherdstown Opera House: A Place of Many Dates.

On Wednesday, May 11, 2022 @ 7 p.m. Historic Shepherdstown will have its second speaker series talk, Shepherdstown Opera House: A Place of Many Dates presented by the owners, Steve & Harriet Pearson. It will be held at the Byrd Center Auditorium on Shepherd campus.

For generations, the Shepherdstown Opera House was the place in town to go out for a date. That’s all Steve and Harriet Pearson had in mind in 2017 when they first heard live music at the Opera House. Little did they know that this historic venue would soon become the stage for the next chapter of their adventures.

So, when they learned that the Opera House was in need of new ownership, the Pearsons made the commitment to restore the building and revive the performance space for the 21st century.

Speaker Series, 2022 – Ed McMullen, Archaeological Excavations Above the Falls: Life Before Shepherdstown

Edward McMullen is a professional archaeologist currently working in cultural resource management throughout Northern Virginia and the surrounding region for Thunderbird Archeology, Wetlands Studies and Solutions, Inc.

He has worked extensively identifying and excavating Chesapeake Native/Indigenous sites within Virginia and Maryland. He has a particular interest in Mid-Atlantic Indigenous history and has gained experience excavating, writing reports, and working with clients and agencies to preserve or mitigate cultural resources. His Master’s Thesis focused on excavation methodologies within the Chesapeake Bay region, while providing a paleoenvironmental narrative from the Paleoindian to Late Woodland cultural periods.

Wednesday, April 13, at 7 p.m. in the auditorium at Shepherd University’s Byrd Center for Congressional History and Education.

Speaker Series, 2021 -“Love Begins at Home” – Carmen & Austin Slater

Austin and Carmen Slater, owners of the Christian Clise House on West New Street in Shepherdstown, will give the final Historic Shepherdstown Speaker Series talk of 2021 on October 13 at 7 p.m. via Zoom.

The Slaters’ talk, “Love Begins at Home”, will recount their experience renovating the 18th Century home. Additionally, the Slaters will step us through the process of making application for the West Virginia State Historic Restoration tax credit, which they successfully navigated.

Earlier this year, the Slaters received Historic Shepherdstown’s Preservation of Historic Structures Award for their restoration work.

The Christian Clise House, circa 1789, was built as a log house. Clise purchased the lot from Abraham Shepherd in 1785. Succeeding owners enlarged the house, adding a center hall, siding and other unique architectural details. The house is an excellent example of refined log and chink construction covered with painted weatherboard siding.

The Slaters undertook the project both to restore and preserve this unique and historical residence. Improvements included removing paint from the exterior rubble foundation, renovating the southeast and northwest chimneys, replacing the roof over the basement door, and uncovering a window under the front porch.

Both Austin and Carmen Slater have a deep interest in history. Austin holds an MBA from George Washington University and an B.S. from Shepherd University. He is the retired president and CEO of the Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative and remains involved in finance and investment activities. Since he moved to Shepherdstown, he has joined the Board of Historic Shepherdstown Commission and become a volunteer at Antietam National Battlefield. Carmen is a licensed personal trainer and a former dental hygienist. Having renovated and operated several homes and investment rentals, Carmen was the hands-on force behind restoring the Christian Clise House. A passionate animal rights supporter and environmentalist, she devotes much of her time to her ever-expanding organic garden.

Speaker Series, 2021 – The Ladies Garland: The Story of an 1820’s Jefferson County Women’s Magazine.”

Wednesday, September 8, 2021. The first Fall Speaker Series event will feature Dr. Dianne Roman. The topic of Dr. Roman’s talk, which will begin at about 7 p.m., is “The Ladies Garland: The Story of an 1820’s Jefferson County Women’s Magazine.”



Speaker Series, 2021 – Karen Gray, The C&O Canal: Surprising Truths and Colorful Myths

Dr. Karen Gray, volunteer historian at C&O Canal National Historical Park, will give the next Speaker Series talk for Historic Shepherdstown Commission on Wednesday, June 23, 2021 at 7 p.m. via Zoom. Her talk will focus on “The C&O Canal: Surprising Truths and Colorful Myths.” This overview of Chesapeake and Ohio Canal history and engineering will look at some of the canal’s most persistent myths and little understood truths. Dr. Gray will distinguish the four very distinct eras of the canal’s history and explain such little understood physical characteristics as its three canals and river navigation stretches.


Speaker Series, 2021 – Shepherdstown In September 1862 – A Confederate Hospital

Kevin Pawlak

The Historic Shepherdstown Commission Speaker Series will feature Kevin Pawlak, Historic Site Manager for Prince William County’s Historic Preservation Division, on May 12 at 7pm.

Pawlak’s presentation will be based on his 2015 book titled Shepherdstown in the Civil War: One Vast Confederate Hospital, September 1862.

In September 1862, Western Maryland became the focus as Robert E. Lee’s thus-far victorious Confederate army advanced north across the Potomac River to deal the final blow to a United States that seemed to be on its last leg. Lee began his campaign with the goal of defeating a Union army on northern soil and gaining independence for the eleven states of the Confederacy, while U.S. President Abraham Lincoln and George McClellan, commander of the Union Army of the Potomac, struggled to keep the United States as one nation instead of two. This decisive campaign culminated along the banks of Antietam Creek, stopping the Confederacy’s quest for independence and helping to grant freedom for enslaved people. The Battle of Antietam, the bloodiest single-day battle of the war, changed the course of the Civil War and of the United States itself. It also turned Shepherdstown into “One Vast Confederate Hospital.”

Pawlak is a 2014 graduate of Shepherd University, where he majored in History with a concentration in Civil War and 19th Century America and minored in Historic Preservation. He is a Certified Battlefield Guide at Antietam National Battlefield and Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, He is on the Board of Directors for the Shepherdstown Battlefield Preservation Association, the Save Historic Antietam Foundation, and the Friends of Ball’s Bluff Battlefield.

In addition to his book about Shepherdstown, he has written “To Hazard All: A Guide to the Maryland Campaign, 1862”, with Robert Orrison, published in 2018, and “Antietam National Battlefield”, published in 2019. He is a regular contributor to the “Emerging Civil War” online blog, and is currently working on a study of George B. McClellan and the Army of the Potomac in the Maryland Campaign.

May is also Historic Preservation Month, and HSC’s annual Historic Preservation Award winners will be acknowledged before Pawlak’s talk. Austin and Carmen Slater will receive the Preservation of Historic Structures Award for their restoration of the Christian Clise House. Bruce Massey and Jerry Bock, the inspiration behind the Shepherdstown Tour of Historic Churches, will receive the Preservation of Historic Legacies Award, also known as the Dr. James C. Price Award. Finally, longtime HSC board member Vicki Smith will receive the Service to Historic Shepherdstown award.

Speaker Series, 2019 – Ret. Pastor Randall Tremba, Shepherdstown Stories

On Wednesday, October 16, Dr. Randall Tremba will be the final speaker in Historic Shepherdstown’s 2019 Speakers Series. His talk is entitled “Dr. Price, Mrs. Williams and Her Corgi Plus Other Tales and Characters of Shepherdstown.” He will be telling stories selected from his collection gathered over 45 years. In the process, he will provide a picture of the town and the many changes it has seen over nearly half a century.

            The talk will take place at 7:00 p.m. in the auditorium of the Byrd Center for Congressional History and Education on the Shepherd campus. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.

            Randall Tremba was born and raised in Youngstown, Ohio. He took a bachelor of arts in philosophy at Wheaton College, Illinois (1969), a master’s of divinity at Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena, California (1973), and a doctor of ministry at Princeton Seminary (1992). He was installed as minister of the Shepherdstown (WV) Presbyterian Church in July 1976. Forty-one years later he retired. In between, he married Paula, became a parent (Jonah, Nathanael, Amanda) and a grandfather, founded the Rumsey Radio Hour (1990), and co-founded the Shepherdstown Good News Paper with Ed Zahniser (May 1979).

            Light refreshments will be served after the talk.

            Historic Shepherdstown will announce the speakers for the 2020 Speakers Series early next year. For more information about the October 16 event, contact the Historic Shepherdstown Commission office at [email protected] or 304-876-0910.