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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.

 

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There were a few pieces that Eric Holstine didn’t disclose prior to the exhibit opening day – but were well worth the wait!

The first was his “Acoustic Roundabout Cube.”

Eric Holstine Mystery Image 2

The second was his Steampunk Time Machine version 2.

Steampunk_Time_Machine_Version_2

Some of you may have wondered what inspired the first promotional video for Eric’s solo show. Here is an illustration by Georges Melies’ “A Trip to the Moon”

Melies Le Voyage dans la Lune

 

Here is Eric’s exhibit – featured in our new video!

Music composed and performed by Garrett Boone a/k/a STAR☆DRIVER.

This excellent video was put together by Jason Edwards Steam at Harper’s Ferry Resident Artist.

Enjoy!

 

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Steam at Harper’s Ferry is pleased to announce a solo exhibition featuring the works of Eric Holstine. Eric’s theme for this exhibit is “(EH=MC2): The Art of Electrodynamic Illumination” and will be on display from April 26 through May 25, 2014.

Eric Holstine

Eric Holstine

Eric Holstine was born and raised in Charleston, WV. He discovered at an early age that he enjoyed taking things apart and seeing how they worked. As he said in a recent interview, “Sometimes I used the parts for something else, and sometimes I just tried to make it do something different than it was intended.” His talent was acknowledged early – in the second grade. Other than basic art classes provided in junior high and high school, he hasn’t had any formal art education.

His family provides ideas and inspiration for his work. His mother is a retired school teacher, and as he said, “quite crafty.” Eric credits his mother with giving him a lot of encouragement. He spent time with his grandfather who also worked on various objects and who taught him how to fix things. With his wife’s grandmother, Eric made huge toy soldiers. He continues, “I built them and she made the clothes.” The goal was to have the soldiers march in place, but Eric didn’t have all the parts to complete the project.

Can you guess what this is? Courtesy Eric Holstine with permission.

 Courtesy Eric Holstine with permission.

When Eric spoke about his artistic influence, he said that he always liked Steampunk style. He found inspiration in movies, books and video games. He said, “Some of my favorites were ‘Myst’ the video game, followed by the books. I also enjoy the ‘Doctor Who’ series, the ‘Time Machine,’ ‘Wild, Wild West,’ and ‘20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.’”

He works professionally in the IT field and found that he can use his computer training to enhance his art and make it unique. Prior to his IT employment, he did electrical work which he said has “merged and evolved into my style of art.”

In many ways, he is a classic tinkerer. He will look at an object and think about how it can serve the same function, but be displayed in a new way. He said, “I tend to look around for items that I can either re-purpose or breakdown and create something completely different.   If I can’t find what I need, I figure out a way to make it. Sometimes it takes trial and error and most often, time. I have works waiting, unfinished until I find that missing object that just seems to complete piece.”

Eric doesn’t think that he fits into a specific artistic mold or genre. He likes to try out different things, including stained glass, painting, woodwork, metal, and polymer clay. When considering which medium he prefers, he responded, “I prefer trying to see how I can merge them together to present a more unique piece.”

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Jefferson County West Virginia is facing a budget crisis – and in the crosshairs is the Bolivar/Harpers Ferry Public Library, among other public libraries in the county. The public libraries are facing 15% cuts for FY 2015 which are largely due to decreased gambling revenue to the tune of $1.5 million over the past 2 years. There are other critical services being threatened – among them emergency services and arts organization funding.  But, in my humble opinion, without access to knowledge, opportunities are slim – whether you want to be a paramedic or an illustrator. Libraries open up worlds of opportunities to young and old minds alike.

In the May 22, 1909 issue of Harper’s Weekly, there was an article about travelling libraries, written by C.P. Cary, the Wisconsin Superintendent of Public instruction entitled “Educating All of the People All of the Time.”  In it, he quotes:

“In the work of popular education,” said Melvil Dewey, “it is, after all, not the few great libraries, but the thousand small, that may do the most for the people.”

According to regional newspaper, The Journal, Gretchen Fry, the director of the Bolivar/Harper’s Ferry Public Library, said that the library received $65,000 in funding from the county last year and that the reduction in county funding could impact the library negatively.

1909 MAY 22 Harper's Weekly Traveling Libraries008 (2)

What a small price to pay for the resources, helpfulness and general public service provided by this and other county libraries! For myself, libraries have always been such an important part of my life, I can only express sorrow that anyone would threaten such an important part of the communities’ fabric.

Please support your local libraries!

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Even United States presidents get motoring to Harper’s Ferry to enjoy the view!

The Washington Post reported on October 17, 1915 (WILSON AT OLD INN, Motors to Harpers Ferry and Country Dinner is Served, TIPS WAITRESS WHEN HE PAYS) that President Wilson and his fiance, Mrs. Norman Galt, along with his cousins, Misses Lucy and Mary Smith of New Orleans motored to Harper’s Ferry for lunch.  (NYT version here.)

“The party left the White House yesterday morning without telling even White House officials where they were going. It was raining and the roads were muddy, but the holiday makers were not to be discouraged, and noon found the White House car at Harpers Ferry, 72 miles away. At an inn overlooking the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers the President registered, writing ‘Woodrow Wilson and party.’ “

And what inn was this? Hill Top House, of course!

“Hill Top House is run by Thomas Lovett, who took the greatest pleasure in escorting the party over the hotel, taking them on to the great balcony, where can be seen the beautiful country for miles around, including numerous points of historical interest. It happened that it will be 56 years today since the famous John Brown started his raiding at Harpers Ferry.”

They were served a dinner in the main dining room which sounds delicious! Roast lamb, fried chicken, boiled ham, creamed rice and corn dodgers the “well-known southern corn cakes.” President Wilson paid for the meal himself and tipped the waitress, Martha Smith.

Later that evening, the Woodrow Wilson party attended a performance of George Bernard Shaw‘s Androcles and the Lion at the Belasco in Washington, DC.

There you have it! Another reason to visit Harper’s Ferry this weekend!

P.S. The visit to Harper’s Ferry may not have been entirely coincidental. President Wilson was initially supported by W.E.B. Du Bois, as well as many other African American leaders, but President Wilson introduced segregationist policies for federal government employment. Woodrow Wilson has been identified as the presidential candidate who greatly encouraged African American voters to leave the Republican Party and join the Democratic Party. Another Niagara Movement participant figured in Woodrow Wilson’s policies toward African Americans, William Monroe Trotter. In July 1915, United States forces invaded Haiti which drew a lot of criticism from Du Bois. 

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View from Hill Top House April 2013

View from Hill Top House April 2013

On the Occasion of West Virginia’s Sesquicentennial

West Virginia is nothing if not a dual-natured state. On one hand, it was during the “War between the States” that a dedicated, wily few decided to finally wrest unsuspecting Eastern Panhandle slavery-leaning counties from the Old Dominion by hook or by crook to secure the railroads heading west and form a new free-leaning state. On the other, it is the state where, in 1898, an African American attorney, J.R. Clifford, successfully argued before the West Virginia Supreme Court on behalf of an African American teacher,  Carrie Williams, that racial discrimination was illegal – the first such ruling in United States’ history.

There are bucolic pastures and leisurely flowing rivers along with sharply descending and precipitous cliffs. Even its name, “West Virginia” is somewhat duplicitous. The word “west” suggests a forward thinking state, yet its name retains the colonial heritage of Virginia.

The state’s motto “Montani semper liberi” or “Mountaineers Are Always Free” could also indicate duel meaning. Upon the state’s formation, were mountaineers free from something or free to do something?  I prefer the latter. You may fight to become free from something, yet find yourself in a predicament you didn’t anticipate. Aspiring to be free to do something opens up possibilities. That aspiration, the dream to do something other than what had come before, to break with comfortable traditions and a way of life, the jump into the future in the midst of a civil war, speaks volumes about the state.

From my front porch I can hear those lonesome trains, and reflect upon what they represent. A state cut within and from the mountains, forging a future for itself that is still being realized. Many made sacrifices for the state – the price for which is lost in the mists of time. One only needs to take a deep breath in the mountain air, in that mist, to be fortified by the little known, and the renowned, who leapt feet first onto a path of their own choosing in hopes of building a new life for themselves as well as everyone else who has come to call West Virginia home.

Steam at Harper’s Ferry is selling paper and fabric commemorative flags. See this and other celebratory memories here.

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Around the World – Next Exhibit

Watch this space! The next exhibit at Steam will have an “Around the World in 80 Days” theme. A “Call to Artists” will be posted soon.

What’s New at Steam

Steam’s next installment “Of Steam and Spring” under its new SciFi/Steampunk imprint, Steam at Harper’s Ferry Press, was released on April 27. Here is an excerpt:

“A full moon rose between the mountains. Its light reflected from the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers at The Point. A crowd gathered on the Hill Top House veranda, bundled in furs, scarves, gloves and hats even though it was early Spring. … The chimes at St. Peter’s Church rang out at midnight, just as the moon completed a triangle above the uneven peaks. … Lights flickered into being on the newly installed carousel which began to turn. A song began to play on the calliope. Its mournful noise was in sharp contrast to the joyful tunes with which people were familiar who visited the Park.”

The Steampunk World’s Fair is this month, from May 17 – 19, 2013. Cynthia M. Gayton is scheduled to speak about protecting literary and illustrated characters on Sunday, May 19 from 1:15 – 2:15 at The Radisson in Boardroom A. Looking forward to it!

Big Top Steam – Exhibit Ended

The Big Top Steam exhibit ended this past weekend. The artists are Leigh Anne Cassell and Lindsey Donaldson. In addition, there are  two special installations by Eric Holstine and Phil Berneburg. This was one of the most ambitious and varied exhibit Steam has had to date. Thanks everyone for taking the time to view this wonderful collection!

Bolivar-Harpers Ferry Community Art Walk – April  27 and 28, 2013 – A Success!

At final count, there were over 50 artists at 21 venues participating in the Bolivar-Harper’s Ferry Community Art Walk over this past weekend. Despite the rain on Sunday, about 150 people received commemorative goodie bags and letterpress prints, along with coupons and gifts from local merchants. The Hill Top House was especially gorgeous on April 27. The grounds were decorated with flowering plants and freshly mulched. Special thanks goes out to the volunteers, Kenzie Allen, Teresa Barth, and Jason Edwards. If you attended, thanks for coming! If not, please come next time!

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