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While working on the next documentary and researching the W.E.B. Du Bois papers for Niagara Movement documents, I came across a letter written by Ben W. Azikiwe to W.E.B. Du Bois on February 24, 1926. He lists his unpublished works and asks whether The Crisis publishes books.

The name “Ben Azikiwe” was familiar to me because of a photo display of Storer Graduates at Harpers Ferry National Historical Park.

Sure enough, the Ben Azikiwe with whom I was familiar was the same person. He is better known as Nnamdi Benjamin Azikiwe, the first President of Nigeria.

In light of all the impeachment discussions, including the impeachment of Secretary of the Army William W. Belknap, below is an excerpt from documentary “Hidden in Plain Sight-Revealing the Concealed Harper’s Ferry Cemeteries.” Secretary Belknap was impeached 1876 with regard to federal government contracts. In 1869, Secretary Belknap approved the sale and transfer of former Federal Government land, including land for Pine Grove Cemetery and land purchased by the M.E. Church which was later designated as the Cedar Hill Cemetery. Purchasers were offered extremely loose and speculator-friendly terms, the enforcement laxity after the 1870 flood during which more than 30 members of the African American Myers-Bateman family perished, left several legitimate and speculative investors in financial straights. Repayment terms were not met for several months. It took 18 years for Harpers Ferry and the Federal Government to financially recover from 1869 land speculator sales.

Script excerpt from documentary “Hidden In Plain Sight – Revealing the Concealed Harper’s Ferry Cemeteries”

Impeached Secretary of War
William W. Belknap

We were so excited to be an Official Selection for for the October-November 2020 Beyond the Curve International Film Festival! Despite everything, some very encouraging things happened during the second half of this year.

The Spirit of Jefferson reviewed the film in advance of it being made publicly available, which was wonderful. You can see the review here.

Thanks to all of you who have helped us get this documentary together including our interviewees Pastor Edward Hall and Bonnie Zampino.

We can’t wait to have you all see it early 2021.

“Hidden in Plain Sight-Revealing the Concealed HF Cemeteries” soundtrack by Grammy Award winning artist and the documentary’s music director Clark Gayton.

Steam at Harpers Ferry is pleased to announce the completion of documentary film “Hidden in Plain Sight – Revealing the Concealed Harpers Ferry Cemeteries” in collaboration with Bot Studios under the joint project Rabbit Hole History Productions. Currently, we are privately screening the film with individuals in anticipation of a wider public screening opportunity in the near future.

HiddenPlainSightposter

Two cemeteries are featured. One cemetery was set aside by the United States Armory at Harpers Ferry in 1852 at the request of the citizenry, where Union soldiers were later buried. Another holds the remains of African American residents, including an African American soldier who was a private in the United States Colored Troops. Both are investigated using public records, interviews with local residents, and other clues to explain why these cemeteries were ignored in a town so rich in history.

Here is the trailer:

Also check out the soundtrack for the film plus bonus track “3rd Avenue Bridge”!

Clark Gayton was the Music Director for the documentary film “Hidden in Plain Sight – Revealing the Concealed Harpers Ferry Cemeteries”

Although the Gallery closed several years ago, I have continued researching and writing about the region. Pretty excited about this new direction, so as things progress, I will make an effort to update everyone here.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

 

 

On August 30, 1899, a funeral was held for 8 of John Brown’s men who were killed or soon died after the October 1859 raid in Harper’s Ferry, in North Elba, New York. Two additional men who were killed by hanging in March 1860, were also memorialized during the funeral.

Lewis Sheridan Leary, who was with John Brown during his infamous raid in Harper’s Ferry, was one of the men killed at the Ferry. Leary was born free in Fayetteville, North Carolina on March 17, 1835 and met John Brown in Cleveland. During the Brown party’s retreat across the Shenandoah River after the raid, Leary was shot and died several hours later from his wounds. Several weeks before the raid, John Brown sympathizers living in Philadelphia, sent great “blanket shawls” to the Kennedy farm as gifts.

“On the night of the raid each man had taken one of these shawls and used it instead of an overcoat. … The men had evidently been buried in these shawls, for great masses of woollen (sic) texture were found enveloping each body.”

From The New England Magazine, March – August 1901.

Lewis Sheridan Leary courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Lewis Sheridan Leary courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Ten of John Brown’s men were killed during the raid (Watson and Oliver Brown, William and Dauphin Thompson; Stewart Taylor; John Henry Kagi; Jeremiah G. Anderson; William H. Leeman; Dangerfield Newby and Lewis Sheridan Leary. Those who survived either escaped or were captured. Those captured were tried, convicted and executed in Charles Town. Two of John Brown’s men who were killed during the raid, Jerimiah Anderson and Watson Brown, were considered “fine anatomical specimens” and were sent to a Winchester, Virginia medical school for anatomical study. Watson Brown’s body was later recovered in 1881 and was buried next to his father in North Elba, NY. Anderson’s body was never recovered.

The remaining eight bodies which were recovered from near the Potomac or Shenandoah rivers, were denied burial in any of the local Harpers Ferry cemeteries. Soon after the raid, James Mansfield (who, at the time of a 1901 article in The New England magazine, still lived in Harpers Ferry) was given instructions to bury the bodies. He bought two boxes and divided the bodies between them and ultimately buried them about .5 miles from Harpers Ferry along the Shenandoah river where they remained until 1899, when the two boxes were found and transported for burial at North Elba, NY.

1901 MAR - AUG New England Magazine John Brown, The Final Burial There is no Question(2)

On August 30, 1899, there was a funeral held for John Brown’s men in North Elba.

1901 MAR - AUG New England Magazine John Brown, The Final Burial Funeral Attendees Photo(2)

1901 MAR - AUG New England Magazine John Brown, The Final Burial Grave Photo

Leary was married to Mary Patterson, whom he met at Oberlin. Mary Patterson Leary later married Charles Henry Langston. They had a child named Caroline, who married James Nathaniel Hughes. They had a child, James Mercer Langston Hughes, known as Langston Hughes, in February 1902.

In 2013, a book was published, entitled “My Dear Boy : Carrie Hughes’s Letters to Langston Hughes, 1926-1938which reproduced dozens of letters by Carrie (Caroline) Mercer Langston Hughes Clark, mother of Langston Hughes. While Carrie was not the daughter of Sheridan Leary, Langston Hughes had a special attachment to the shawl worn by him during the raid. Langston Hughes lived with his grandmother, Leary’s widow, for several years and it was with this shawl that she covered him while he slept.

According to the book, “Former president Teddy Roosevelt honored [Mary Leary] at a commemorative ceremony in Osawatomie, Kansas, where he delivered his re-nowned ‘New Nationalism’ speech, on August 31, 1910.” p. 45 FN 2.

Langston inherited the shawl from his grandmother and he put it into a safe deposit box in New York City in 1928.  In about 1930, Langston’s mother was in dire need of money and suggested that he sell the shawl.

Say here in Cleveland Antiques are all the rage and I was just wondering if we could not sell the Harper’s Ferry Shawl? I almost know we could and it would give us all a few dollars. Do you know where it is or do you have a receipt or anything for it. A man told me here last week I ought to get $500.00 for it. I have been in some of the antique shops here and they have old rugs, spreads, quilts &ct. I don’t know just thought I’d ask about it.

My Dear Boy, at p. 51.

He didn’t sell it. On April 30, 1943, he donated the shawl to the Ohio Historical Society, where it remains.

The original 1901 article, “The Final Burial of the Followers of John Brown” by Thomas Featherstonhaugh in The New England magazine, is available for purchase from Steam at Harper’s Ferry. Please inquire at info@steamatharpersferry.com.

 

Steam at Harper’s Ferry has 5 editions of The National Intelligencer newpaper dating from April 10 through April 22, 1823. They are all addressed to “E.D. Howe Painesville via Pittsburg.”  This newspaper was a leading political publication and was founded in Washington, DC in 1800. The founder, Samuel Harrison Smith was married to Margaret Bayard Smith who wrote the book “The First Forty Years of Washington Society.”

E. D. (Eber Dudley) Howe was the founder and editor of the Painesville Telegraph which was published and edited by him in Painesville, Ohio from 1822 to 1835. The paper continued its publication until 1987. While living in Painesville, his wife, sister and niece converted to Mormonism. Howe became interested in the religion’s history, which was founded by Joseph Smith, Jr. in the 1820s. His interest resulted in the 1834 publication of a book entitled “Mormonism Unvailed” (sic).

Howe was an abolitionist and his home was used as a station for the Underground Railroad. His wife was one of the first women in the region to join the anti-slavery movement.

Though it is most likely that Howe read the newspaper because of its political content, he may have been just as interested in the slave sales advertised within its pages. On the front page, for example, there is an advertisement for

“A NEGRO WOMAN, about 25 years of age. She is a good cook, washer, and ironer and can be recommended as strictly honest. Apply at the new City Auction and Commission Rooms, corner of 7th Street and Pennsylvania avenue, Opposite the Centre Market. , P. Mauro, auctioneer.”

On the same page is an article about Major General La Fayette,:

“The President of the United States, in commemoration of the distinguished services of Major General La Fayette, during the Revolutionary War, has directed that the fortress recently erected at the Narrows, near New York, an hitherto called Fort Diamond, shall hereafter be known by the name of Fort La Fayette[Note:  Fort La Fayette was used for Confederate prisoners from 1861 – 1866]. The ceremony in conformity thereto, took place on Monday last, at 1 o’clock, P. M.”

[Fort Lafayette.]

Fort La Fayette was used for Confederate prisoners from 1861 – 1866.

Promoting revolution and slavery in the nation’s capital circa 1823.

These newspapers and others are available for purchase from Steam at Harper’s Ferry. Please contact us for prices and shipping fees.

The Steampunk World’s Fair 2014 was an amazing event. Steam at Harper’s Ferry was very fortunate to participate in the first Steampunk Art Fair at the Steampunk World’s Fair along with other artists. Eric Holstine, Leigh Anne Cassell and Jason Edwards all had work on display at the event.

 

Eric Holstine’s “From the Earth to the Heavens” and a 3D banner from Steam at Harper’s Ferry collection featuring “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.”

 

What’s this? Jason Edwards’ “Steambutt.”

Steambutt by Jason Edwards

 

Here is Leigh Anne Cassell with Doc – as in Doc in her “Steampunk Dr. Who” illustration!

The Doctor Rosa and Leigh Anne Cassell

Here’s hoping the organizers make this an annual event!

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