Archive for February, 2012

As some of you know, I have a keen interest in Hilltop House history in general, and Thomas Lovett and his family in particular.  Thomas  S. Lovett graduated from Storer College and maintained strong ties to it and had a close personal and professional relationship with  Nathan C. Brackett, a founding school President.

In a random search, I came across Thomas Lovett’s name in a well-known slave narrative by Kate Drumgoold, who wrote an autobiography published in 1898.

She outlines her early life including the sale of her mother at the beginning of the Civil War so that her owner could pay a poor white man to take his place in battle: 

“The money that my mother was sold for was to keep the rich man from going to the field of battle, as he sent a poor white man in his stead, and should the war end in his favor, the poor white man should have given to him one negro, and that would fully pay for all his service  in the army.”

pp. 4-5. 

Kate did not know that her mother had been sold until she was gone.  She was later reunited with her mother after the war.  

Kate dreamed of becoming a teacher. She saved the money she earned as a housekeeper, and ultimately went to Washington, DC to attend the Wayland Seminary under yet another Maine native, Professor G.M.P. King of Bangor. In 1878, she went to Brooklyn to earn more money to attend school.

She continued her education in the Blue Ridge, Alleghany Mountains “where the very air of heaven seemed to fan the whole hill sides, and there never was a more lovely place on this earth for one to learn a lesson, for we could see the key to all lessons where nature had designed for a grand school of learning. At this place was to be found one of the best schools of learning that has been built by man. And I think of the hundreds and thousands of teachers and preachers and lawyers and doctors that these two schools have turned out in the different parts of this country, and many of tem are in other parts of the world.”

While she enjoyed Wayland Seminary’s location on Meridian Hill between 15th and 16th Streets, and the school was “lovely to behold with all its fine buildings and art galleries, though I do not like it as well as Harper’s Ferry, for I was not well the whole time I was there and I had so much better health at the Ferry.” p. 48

She stayed in Harper’s Ferry for four years, “and they were years of hard labor, but they were just as sweet as they could well be”.  p. 28. 

Who were her professors?  Mrs. W. Brackett, Mr. W.P. Curtis, Mr. D.M. Wilson, Miss Caroline (Coralie)Franklin, Miss C. Brackett, and Mr. W.M. Bell, among others.

On page 55, the reader is introduced for the first time to a member of the Lovett Family, Mrs. William Lovett, Thomas’s mother.  Kate says that Thomas has two little girls, Florence and Charlotte. She goes on to describe Hill Top House:

“Mr. Lovett has built a hill-top house in a lovely place. It is filled in the Summer time, while he has music for the boarders. That makes it pleasant during the warm weather of the Summer months, and it is one of the loveliest places that can be found on the B. & O. Railroad, and the white people go their (sic) from all parts.

I had the pleasure of stopping there on my way home in 1895, and it did my soul good to find such a fine house built by one of the colored gentlemen and one that I had known; for I was at his mother’s boarding house for the whole time that I was at the Ferry. He was teaching school then in the Winter time and looking after his mother’s business in the Summer time. So I am glad that some of my people are trying to make an honest living. He is one among the many at the Ferry that are keeping boarding houses; and I am thankful for all that comes to us as a race.”

Mr. William Lovett  “is one of the finest gentlemen anywhere around the whole country, and is much beloved by all who know him. … He has a large family of girls and boys and all are smart. He sent  two of them to the Hillsdale College when they had finished at the Ferry, and one was John Lovett, who studied law, and the other one, Miss Etta Lovett, was a fine school teacher and a music teacher.”  As for Thomas and his wife, “Mr. Thomas Lovett is a school teacher and very much beloved. He married a doctress,who is one of the finest ladies that lives.”

Kate never mentions Storer College by name, which may explain why she is not clearly linked with the school. However, she is identified as one of the more famous students of Wayland Seminary.  She, along with Dr. Adam Clayton Powell, Sr., Dr. Booker T. Washington, Reverend Harvey Johnson, and Alfred L. Cralle (inventor of the ice cream mold and disher a/k/a ice cream scoop, U.S. Patent No. 576,395 dated February 2, 1897), were students there.

Census records show that she spent the balance of her life in Brooklyn. She is listed as a teacher in the 1900 United States Census. She was identified in the 1930 Census as being 79 years old. She died while a resident of a retirement community in New York.

She was identified variously as “single” and “widowed,” although I could find no record of her marriage. Over time, it appears one of the “o”s went missing, so if you try to search for her, look for “Drumgold” instead of “Drumgoold.”

Also, if you are really interested in reading her autobiography, I would recommend that you look at a scanned original version, rather than a transcription.

If anyone knows where I can see Storer College student rosters for the years up until 1900, please let me know! 

Steam at Harper’s Ferry has Storer College memorabilia on display.

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Harper’s Ferry visitors have a unique opportunity to walk alongside two historic canals. One, the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal, which extends from Washington, DC to Cumberland, MD for a distance of about 185 miles and the other, the Shenandoah Canal also known as the Shenandoah Navigation, which is often overlooked even  though its construction began twenty-two years earlier than that of the C&O. 

The canal became obsolete for use as a canal once the C&O was completed, however, the water siphoned from the Shenandoah fed industries, such as the paper mill on Virginius Island, through the early 1900s. If you take the Harper’s Ferry National Historic Park bus from the Park entrance at Cavalier Heights, you can still see lock ruins, especially during this time of  year.

The train tracks along this portion of the Shenandoah were once owned by the Winchester & Potomac Railroad, considered a Confederate railroad system during the Civil War. In 1867, the Winchester & Potomac Railroad was renamed the Winchester & Strasbourg Railroad.

A few weeks ago, Harper’s Ferry experienced some excitement as !!Snow Panic!! set in, although short lived. Here is a photo showing the Shenadoah Canal lock still on the job managing the Shenandoah in the midst of the fearsome flurries.

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What makes certain things iconographic and others not? In the book Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea there are so many creatures and characters to capture the steampunk imagination it is worth considering what is not a steampunk icon.

For example, why not the shark who struggles in mortal combat with Captain Nemo: “The beast’s eyes were on fire, its jaws were opened wide. I was mute with horror and quite unable to move a muscle. … Then I saw Captain Nemo straighten himself from a crouching posture and, dagger in hand, walk directly toward the submarine terror, ready for a face-to-face fight with it.”

While the octopus/poulp/cephalopod/immense cuttlefish is a steampunk icon: “The monster’s mouth, a horned beak like a parrot’s, opened and shut vertically. Its tongue was of horn substance and furnished with several rows of pointed teeth. It came forth quivering from this veritable pair of shears. … The truly terrible beak of the cuttlefish was open above Ned Land. The poor chap would be cut in two – unless- I rushed to his succor with all my might and main, but our commander was there before me. His axe disappeared between the two enormous jaws. Miraculously saved, the Canadian jumped unharmed to his feet and jammed his harpoon to its heft into the triple heart of the nauseating poulp.”

Why the “Nautilus” and not the “Abraham Lincoln”? Captain Nemo and not Ned Land?  Steam trains and not steam boats?

But that is what makes the genre so fascinating. If there were not some icons about which the majority of steampunks agreed, it wouldn’t be so much fun to break the rules!

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I have to let you know in advance that this review is biased. I am already a fan and Steam at Harper’s Ferry has asked Jonah to come to the gallery next week. That being said, I can now get to it.

This latest release by Jonah Knight “Age of Steam: Strange Machines” stays true to his folk style. A few tracks remind me of Joseph Arthur, who is another favorite of mine. This time around, Jonah has ghosts and zombies on his mind, along with an inventor who is the CD’s main character. The introduction to the CD explains:

“These songs are set between 1880 and 1920. They tell the story of an increasingly passionate inventor who, living in a world of ghosts and monsters, must rely on strange machines to live and to escape.”

The music itself is anything but hopeless. My personal favorites are Track 1, Once Around the Sun; Track 4, Old Folk Roam; and Track 8, Welcome to the Age of Steam. CDs are available at the Gallery. Jonah will be at Steam at Harper’s Ferry on February 25 from 3-4.

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Steam at Harper’s Ferry has put together Valentine collections as unique as your beloved. For the past several weeks, Steam has been preparing woodblock print Valentine’s Day cards.  We also have the good fortune to have original steampunk themed charms, bookmarks and earrings from G3 Creations.  There are three collections available.

Hearts Abound collection – One Swarovski red heart crystal and silvertone charm by G3 Creations, one Bear-Heart woodblock print card from Steam at Harper’s Ferry, and one bag of Wilbur Buds brand chocolates.

Music to Her Ears collection – One pair of nickel-free silvertone Heart & Key earrings by G3 Creations, one Bear-Heart woodblock print card and one bag of Wilbur Buds brand chocolates.

Can’t Go Wrong collection – One Bear-Heart woodblock print card and one bag of Wilbur Buds brand chocolates.

Custom collections can be made for you at the shop. All Bear-Heart Valentine’s Day cards were printed on the premises and are numbered and signed. The G3 Creations earrings and charms are from steampunk-themed collection made for Steam at Harper’s Ferry. Wilbur Buds brand chocolates are from Lititz, Pennsylvania and are delicious!

All come with a complimentary sheer drawstring bag, ready for gift-giving! Limited supply available.

Original Bear-Heart woodblock print by TJE

Here’s a short steampunk romance  Of Steam and Spring, based in Harper’s Ferry for your enjoyment. Below is the description:
“A steam carousel operates on Island Park for tourists. An enchantment occurs on the full moon when a town church clock strikes 12. A railroad executive brings the carousel’s designer to assure mechanics. A mournful calliope portends not all is well.”
Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone!

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This past Sunday, February 5, there was a gathering of folks from near and far who came to attend a ribbon cutting ceremony and hear about Harper’s Ferry’s role as it pertains to American History, and in particular African American history. Local historian and well-known member of the Jefferson County community, George Rutherford, gave an interesting talk about Martin Delany, who was born in Charlestown, Virginia in 1812.  There are few books written about him which may be explained partially because his papers were destroyed in a fire Wilberforce University of Ohio in 1865. The Harper’s Ferry Historical Association Bookstore has books about him.

In addition to his being trained as a physician, he achieved the rank of major in the United States Army during the Civil War. He co-edited the newspaper The North Star with Frederick Douglass. In apparent response to Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Delany wrote his own serialized novel entitled, Blake, or the Huts of America in The Anglo-African Magazine, and later in The Monthly Anglo-African Magazine. His achievements are too numerous to show here, but his life warrants further study.

In addition to several Park Service employees, officials from the Jefferson County Commission were there along with local businessman (his office is next to Steam’s gallery!) and candidate for the 66th District in the West Virginia House of Delegates, John Maxey.

As usual, the sherbet punch and cookies were excellent! 

The exhibit, Running to Freedom: Fighting for Freedom, is open to the public and is located on the 2nd floor of the John Brown Museum.


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I follow a Yahoo! group about the B&O Railroad. I asked Mr. Cohen if I could repost a recent post of his to the group. He said yes, and here it is. If you want to get in touch with Mr. Cohen, there is a group email address below.

The Washington County Branch RR began operations in 1867 or 1868 from Weverton, which about a mile and a half to 2 miles west of Knoxville. The branch was something like 24 miles long and lasted until 1975-1978 when it was removed in stages. Today, IF you know where to look there are evidences to find at Weverton where the branch headed towards Hagerstown. They are located almost exactly opposite the C&O Canal lock house there off old Keep Tryst Rd. I passed right by there yesterday afternoon and this is an excellent time to check it out as the weeds and underbrush are non-existent for photos, especially using the lock house as a prop for photos, maybe a bit of an anachronism with current motive power behind the 180 years old (or thereabouts) lock house. Some of the rails for the branch are still there for a few dozen yards before they were removed heading up the valley where I think Israel Creek flows.

The B&O backed this project and from what I have read, it wasn’t very successful financially. The last passenger operations ended October 31,1949 with I think the Doodlebug running a triangle route between Brunswick, Frederick and Hagerstown and back again.

There were a number of stations along the line and some have good photos surviving. A few are quite elusive to find. The Weverton station was closed from what I have determined in 1929 or thereabouts and was demolished in early 1936, just before the big Potomac flood of that year. Route 340 today occupies much of the old town along the hillside which was removed to make way for that work in the 1960’s. The last permanently assigned station agent Franklin Garber retired in 1929, died in 1944 and is the great-great grandfather of the B&O RR HS Sentinel editor, Harry Meem. Franklin Garber is now a permanent resident in the cemetery in Knoxville at the top of the hill there.

Weverton was named for Caspar Wever (those are the correct spellings) who attempted to establish a milling community at this point but it was too isolated even back then to attract the necessary development.

Wever led an interesting past being involved in construction of the old National Road, what later became Route 40 and construction of the B&O mainline. He was involved in the faulty construction of the first B&O bridge across the Potomac at Harpers Ferry and that forever clouded his future 25 years of life before expiring in early 1861.

As an aside, if you want to know more about Wever, there has been an informative booklet published by Peter Maynard plus I think Dilts’ book covers some of his shenanigans as well.

Bob Cohen

January 29, 2012


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Ships on the Shore is a great blog. Today’s post is especially awesome!

Ships on the Shore

You just never know what you’ll stumble upon in google books. This gem, a mid-nineteenth-century drama by Charles H. Saunders, has it all–daring wreckers, beautiful maidens, old salts and shipwrecks galore. I love the song that opens the play, sung by several wreckers sitting around a large table “covered with drinking-cans, bottles, &c., &c.”

When the thunder loudest roars,

And the lightning flashes free,

When the drenching rain in a deluge pours,

And mad waves lash the sea:

O, then the wrecker hies,

With his grapnel and his coils,

To the beach where the shipwrecked sailor lies,

Where the surf in its fury boils.


When the minute-gun is heard

In the pauses of the storm,

When the noble ship, like a tired bird,

On the gale is swiftly borne:

Then the wreckers’ luring light

Gleams merrily o’er the sea,

And the sunken rock, in its awful…

View original post 38 more words

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When I selected this image for the beginning of Black History Month, I did so because it depicted a remarkable sculpture about which I knew nothing. The illustration showed well-to-do families interested in the freedman holding the Emancipation Proclamation in his left hand and the remains of broken shackle about his right wrist.  “Which American sculptor did this?” I wondered.

Well, Frank Leslie’s Historical Register of the Centennial Exposition of 1876 (held in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) doesn’t tell me.  On page 133 of this massive volume, all I know was that the “Statue of ‘The Freed Slave’ ” was in Memorial Hall.

I learned that the sculptor was an Austro-Italian by the name of Francesco Pezzicar, who created this sculpture for sale, like many works seen at the Exposition  and was part of the Austrian exhibit.The literal translation of the work is “Abolition of Slavery” (l’Abolizione della schiavitù) – which has a subtle, yet importantly different meaning from the listed title “The Freed Slave.” The work is now at the Trieste, Revoltella Museum in Italy.

The work’s display created a lot of negative attention which was not understood by Francesco Pezzicar, because it was well known at the time that Americans spent a lot of money on similar sculptures. For some reason, this one touched too closely onto the sensibilities of white Americans, according to a rough translation of a biography written by the artist’s son, Amerino, in 1911.  The work remained at the artist’s studio until his death.

The most well-known critic of the work, William Dean Howells, an editor of the Atlantic Monthly at the time, wrote several articles about the Centennial Fair for the July 1876 edition.  He was not impressed with the Italian contribution to the Fair, and most particularly found Pezzicar’s bronze statue “offensive”. Not only offensive, but a sculpture of a “most offensively Frenchy negro, who has broken his chain, and spreading his arms and legs abroad, is rioting in a declamation of something (I should say) from Victor Hugo.”

I couldn’t find a photo of the statute which appeared in Philadelphia, but I did find the work upon which the bronze was based, Spartaco di Vela or Spartacus by Vela (Vincenzo Vela). Pezzicar’s using this statute of Spartacus could not have been accidental. While Vela and Pezzicar were contemporaries, the Pezzicar bronze’s meaning goes deeper than its physical similarities to Vela’s work.

Spartacus was a slave and a gladiator. He lead a famous revolt against the Roman Republic in the century before the birth of Christ. His life and famous battles have been depicted in film, books and television.

Black Spartacus was the name Toussaint L’Ouvertour was given by General Etienne Maynard Bizefranc, comte de Lavaux, one of his opponents who became a great admirer.

Toussaint L’Ouvertour was made a general de brigade in the French Army in 1794. That same year, the French author Alexandre Dumas’s father, Thomas-Alexandre Davy de La Pailleterie (who changed his last name to Dumas, after his mother, in 1786), achieved the same rank and served in Flanders. Toussaint was captured by Napoleon’s army in 1802 after he staged a revolt in Santo Domingo, the same year Alexandre Dumas and Victor Hugo were born.  He died in 1803 as Napoleon’s prisoner in Chateau de Joux, one of several state run prisons (one of which became famous in Dumas’s Count of Monte Cristo, the Chateau d’If).

Fifty-seven years later, on December 2, 1859, a letter Victor Hugo wrote to the London News about John Brown appeared. In the letter, Hugo reflected upon John Brown’ fate as he writes:

“Viewed in a political light, the murder of Brown would be an irreparable fault. It would penetrate the Union with a gaping fissure which would lead in the end to its entire disruption. It is possible that the execution of Brown might establish slavery on a firm basis in Virginia, but it is certain that it would shake to its centre the entire fabric of American democracy.”

He ends his letter with these words:

“As for myself, though I am but a mere atom, yet being, as I am, in common with all other men, inspired with the conscience of humanity, I fall on my knees, weeping before the great starry banner of the New World; and with clasped hands, and with profound and filial respect, I implore the illustrious American Republic, sister of the French Republic, to see to the safety of the universal moral law, to save John Brown, to demolish the threatening scaffold of the 16th of December, and not to suffer that beneath its eyes, and I add, with a shudder, almost by its fault, a crime should be perpetrated surpassing the first fratricide in iniquity.

For — yes, let America know it, and ponder on it well — there is something more terrible than Cain slaying Abel: It is Washington slaying Spartacus!”

A reproduction of Victor Hugo’s work can be seen at the John Brown Museum on the ground floor in Harper’s Ferry National Historic Park. On Sunday, February 5 at 2 pm, Harper’s Ferry National Historic Park will have a Black History Month program.

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