Writer-In-Residence, Week 3

I can’t develop any historical novel without digging into the type of library and archival work I discussed last week. Other research approaches, however, are equally essential.

If you’re familiar with the Chloe Ellefson mysteries, you know I’m often inspired by artifacts. While exploring lesser-known events in Harpers Ferry and the vicinity, the search for material culture took me to the Jefferson County Museum in Charles Town, WV.

This writing chair was one of my favorite pieces. Don’t you think I need a character who would treasure this?
Perhaps I shouldn’t use the word “beautiful” to describe these irons, but…I do think they are.

Most of my time, though, is spent right in Harpers Ferry National Historical Park. Living here during my month-long residency enables what I love most: walking the ground. There are layers upon layers of events and stories here. Being physically present helps me tune in.

The historic structures preserved in the Lower Town represent perhaps a third of what was here during the town’s industrial heyday. The landscape reveals plenty of clues about what’s been lost to time and floods.

When I started visiting the park in the 1960s, there was little to see. Today you’ll find beautiful structures restored by the National Park Service. Some are furnished to depict their original function,

and others contain formal exhibits.

Excavated treasures.

While the Lower Town is by far the best known area, the park includes much more. I’ve spent time wandering Camp Hill a mile away.

In 1867, the Freedman’s Bureau established a school, open to all, in this building.

The Lockwood House was badly damaged during the Civil War, but became a haven.

Tensions were still high from the Civil War, and many local citizens were hostile to the plan. The educators and students persevered, and the school grew to become Storer College, which didn’t close until the 1950s.

The National Park Service has repurposed this college building as a training center.

Thanks to the Harpers Ferry-Bolivar Historic Town Foundation, I spent a fascinating afternoon learning more about black history on Camp Hill. (The brochure was nice to have, but the Foundation also has the information and maps on their website.)

This superb guide revealed the backstory of many privately-held buildings. The house below, which “symbolizes how important education was to the local African American community,” was home to three generations of Storer College students. It also once held an informal school.

I’ve learned a lot about Harpers Ferry that I hadn’t known before…and there’s a lot more to discover!

Sunset in Lower Town.

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2 Responses to “Writer-In-Residence, Week 3”

  1. nancyloswald Says:

    Great blog post. Thanks for sharing your writing adventure with the rest of us.

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