Following the abolition of slavery, African American communities were rapidly established throughout Jefferson County. Churches were cornerstones of these communities — serving as houses of worship, schools, and community centers. The African American community in Kearneysville was known as Hartstown.
Appalachia is often viewed through a narrow lens. The stories of Black communities throughout the region are often left untold or simply overlooked. Acknowledging these communities and preserving their stories helps us to truly understand the broad patterns of the cultural landscape in which we live today.
If you walked down the 300th block of South Lawrence Street in downtown Charles Town during a recent late August weekend, you might have seen a little bit of the past, present, and future of the Jefferson County African-American community.
The repurposed house of Belle Boyd, as a historical exhibit, is the rare hybrid representation of someone who lived on the Confederate side of the Civil War. And because it acknowledges those Americans who were at the mercy of Our Peculiar Institution, it really does “teach us about our history.”
Over a year ago, four local women contacted the Jefferson County Commission to request the removal of a plaque by the front door of the Jefferson County Courthouse honoring Confederate soldiers (read more here). Placed by the United Daughters of the Confederacy in 1986 to commemorate their ancestors, the plaque reads: 1861-1865 In honor and memory of the Confederate soldiers of Jefferson County, who served in the War Between the States. Erected by the Leetown Chapter #231 United Daughters of the Confederacy. Erected May 25, 1986.
On Thursday, October 26, the Jefferson County Commission confirmed a September vote that denied a request to remove a plaque from the front of the county courthouse honoring residents who fought for the Confederacy in the Civil War.
One of the most prominent and beautiful landmarks in Harpers Ferry (WV) is historic St. Peter’s Catholic Church, perched atop the highest point in Lower Town. For many visitors driving on U.S. Rt. 340 across the Shenandoah River, the spire atop St. Peter’s seems to beckon them to the special village.