Posts Tagged ‘storer college’

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 He lists his unpublished works and asks whether The Crisis publishes books.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.

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When: Friday, August 17, 6 – 8 pm
What: Birthday Party to commemorate the 200th birthday of Charles Town native 
son Martin Robison Delany.
In honor of Dr. Delany’s interest in health, there will be hula hoop demonstrations, 
Zumba classes, African infused tap and free jump ropes will be available. People of 
all ages are invited to join in!
Where: Downtown Charles Town, 124 E. Washington Street, across the street from the 
Charles Town Library.
When:  Fri Aug 17, 2012 to Sun Aug 19, 2012
What:  African-American Culture and Heritage Festival. The festival is being 
dedicated in honor to Delany. Descendants are invited to participate in the 
annual parade that will take place on Saturday at 12 noon which take place 
down the main street in Charles Town. Educational, health, vendors, food, 
festive and other activities will take place at the festival ground located at 
301 South Lawrence St. Charles Town.
Where: Festival Grounds Charles Town, WV

When: Sat Aug 18, 2012 to Sun Aug 19, 2012
What:  Cannon firing demonstrations Sat 11 am, 1, 3 pm and Sun 11 am, 1 pm 
Learn about Civil War artillery and the important role it played in the Battle 
of South Mountain.
Where:  Gathland State Park Burkittsville, MD

When:  Sat Aug 18, 2012 to Sun Aug 19, 2012 *11 am - 4 pm*
What:  Bringing In the Harvest: 19th Century Summer Foods <http://www.nps.gov/hafe>
Join 19th-century Historic Foodways Expert Carol Anderson for this in depth look 
at how summer time harvest foods were preserved for winter consumption.  Demonstrations 
include, pickling, drying, potting, and canning.
Where:  Harpers Ferry National Historical Park Harpers Ferry, WV

When: Sun Aug 19, 2012 *8 am*
What:  1906 Niagara Movement Commemorative Pilgrimage to John Brown’sFort <http://www.nps.gov/hafe>
Retrace the 1906 footsteps of the men and women of Niagara during this commemorative walk to the site of the 
John Brown’s Fort in 1906. A 10:00 a.m. memorial service will follow at the Curtis Freewill Baptist Church 
Where:  Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, Murphy Farm & Curtis Freewill Baptist Church Harpers Ferry, WV
If you come into the Lower Town, be sure to check out the African American 
Exhibits. The articles below were copied from the Afro-American newspaper based in Baltimore, MD. The first one is dated July 21, 1906, the second, August 18, 1906 and the third August 25, 1906.


When:  Sun Aug 19, 2012 to Sat Aug 25, 2012
What:  60th Annual Jefferson County Fair <http://www.jeffersoncountyfairwv.org/>
Where:  Jefferson County Fairgrounds Jefferson Co, WV


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On more than one occasion, Frederick Douglass was on hand to remind citizens about sacrifices made on behalf of others in this country.

For example, on May 30, 1871, he spoke on Decoration Day, which is now known as Memorial Day, at Arlington  National Cemetery, saying:

“Friends and Fellow Citizens:

Tarry here for a moment. My words shall be few and simple. The solemn rites of this hour and place call for no lengthened speech. There is, in the very air of this resting-ground of the unknown dead a silent, subtle and all-pervading eloquence, far more touching, impressive, and thrilling than living lips have ever uttered. Into the measureless depths of every loyal soul it is now whispering lessons of all that is precious, priceless, holiest, and most enduring in human existence.”

On May 30, 1881, again on Decoration Day, Frederick Douglass spoke on the 14th Anniversary of Storer College located in Harpers Ferry (full text version is available online. See Selected Research attached). One of the lesser quoted passages is this:

‘During his last visit to us in Rochester there appeared in the newspapers a touching story connected with the horrors of the Sepoy War in British India. A Scotch missionary and his family were in the hands of the enemy, and were to be massacred the next morning. During the night, when they had given up every hope of rescue, suddenly the wife insisted that relief would come. Placing her ear close to the ground she declared she heard the Slogan – the Scotch war song. For long hours in the night no member of the family could hear the advancing music but herself. “Dinna ye hear it? Dinna ye hear it?” she would say, but they could not hear it. As the morning slowly dawned a Scotch regiment was found encamped indeed about them, and they were saved from the threatened slaughter. This circumstance, coming at such a time, gave Capt. Brown a new word of cheer. He would come to the table in the morning his countenance fairly illuminated, saying that he had heard the Slogan, and he would add, “Dinna ye hear it? Dinna ye hear it?” Alas! like the Scotch missionary I was obliged to say ‘No.’ Two weeks prior to the meditated attack, Capt. Brown summoned me to meet him in an old stone quarry on the Conecochequi river, near the town of Chambersburgh, Penn. His arms and ammunition were stored in that town and were to be moved on to Harper’s Ferry. In company with Shields Green I obeyed the summons, and prompt to the hour we met the dear old man, with Kagi, his secretary, at the appointed place. Our meeting was in some sense a council of war. We spent the Saturday and succeeding Sunday in conference on the question, whether the desperate step should then be taken, or the old plan as already described should be carried out. He was for boldly striking Harper’s Ferry at once and running the risk of getting into the mountains afterwards. I was for avoiding Harper’s Ferry altogether. Shields Green and Mr. Kagi remained silent listeners throughout. It is needless to repeat here what was said, after what has happened. Suffice it, that after all I could say, I saw that my old friend had resolved on his course and that it was idle to parley. I told him finally that it was impossible for me to join him. I could see Harper’s Ferry only as a trap of steel, and ourselves in the wrong side of it. He regretted my decision and we parted.”

The Bucks County Gazette had an article about this event in its June 2, 1881 edition which said:

“On Decoration Day the Citizens of Harper’s Ferry had reason to wet their eyes. Fred Douglass, as part of the decoration ceremonies, delivered an historical oration on John Brown.  Quite a number of Confederates and Old Virginians gathered to hear him. Among the latter was Mr. Hunter, who was the State’s Attorney who prosecuted Brown. When Douglass had finished his oration, Mr. Hunter was one of the first to congratulate him.”

This weekend on Saturday, June 2, almost 131 years to the day of this historic speech, The Appalachian Trail Conservancy and Harpers Ferry National Historic Park are sponsoring an African-American Hike on National Trails Day.

Coincidence? I don’t know. You’ll have to ask them!

The Hike is being held from 10:30 am until 2 pm

Linked below is a list of Selected Research to complement the hike. Steam at Harper’s Ferry features Victorian and Steampunk art and gifts. It also has original Civil War period newspapers, historic postcards and other Harper’s Ferry related items for purchase and on display.

Selected Research – African-American Hike

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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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Back in August, I posted about Island Park. Today, I’m posting about Circus Hill, another forgotten Bolivar/Harper’s Ferry amusement location.

According to the National Park Service’s Circus Hill National Register of Historic Places site application (don’t know if it was every approved – anybody have information about that?), the land didn’t have a proper deed and was the subject of a dispute between the heirs of George Rowles and Lewis Wernwag. The Chancery court decided in favor of the Wernwag heirs:

“Sometime prior to 1848, Lewis Wernwag, a well-known local bridge builder who lived on Virginius Island, purchased the Union Street lot from George Rowles. No deed was recorded for this transaction unfortunately. and in 1848, both men having passed away, a special commissioner was appointed by the Chancery Court to settle the ownership dispute between the heirs of George Rowles and Lewis Wernwag. The settlement placed the lot in the hands of Wernwag’s heirs, which they retained for 68 years.”

Julia Ann Wernwag sold the property to Scott W. Lightner, a Storer College Trustee, in 1914. He, in turn, sold the property to Storer College. In 1944, the lot was sold to Edward Tattersall. Edward Tattersall’s heirs owned the property until 1995, when Melvin and Dorothy Tattersall sold the property to the National Park Service.

The Mountain Echo, a publication of the Harper’s Ferry Woman’s Club, said that Circus Hill was a site frequented by the famous John Robinson Circus .

Circus Hill appears now to be a storage location for the Park. The house and out buildings are still there. Deer can be seen about the place at dusk. Would be a nice spot for a steampunk convention …

On to the steam calliopes!

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