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Land preservation rush continues in Harpers Ferry

October 31, 2002|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

HARPERS FERRY, W.Va. - For the second time this week, officials have announced that another large chunk of historic Civil War property in the School House Ridge area is about to be purchased for preservation.

On Wednesday afternoon, Del. John Doyle, D-Jefferson, presented the Civil War Preservation Trust $300,000 in state money to help the non-profit organization clinch a $1.7 million deal to buy 232 acres on School House Ridge.

The $300,000 will be added to $55,000 Doyle helped secure through the state budget digest and more than $200,000 members of the Civil War Preservation Trust donated for the purchase of the land, said James Lighthizer, president of the trust.

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The remaining money of the $1.7 million purchase price came from the federal government, Lighthizer said.

The Civil War Preservation Trust wants to turn the 232 acres over to the Harpers Ferry National Historic Park, although the park can only currently accept 56 acres, said park superintendent Donald Campbell.

That is because the 56 acres will increase the park's size to 2,505 acres, its maximum allowable size, Campbell said.

There is a proposal before Congress to increase the park by another 1,299 acres, which would allow the remaining 176 acres to be added to the park if the expansion proposal is approved, Campbell said.

School House Ridge is where Confederate Gen. Stonewall Jackson oversaw the capture of 12,500 troops in 1862, the largest capture in the Civil War.

It remained the largest military capture until World War II, trust officials said.

School House Ridge is considered to be the most significant battlefield in West Virginia because 37,000 troops were involved in Jackson's siege, Civil War experts say.

No other West Virginia battle involved that many troops.

Less than 200 acres of land is unpreserved in School House Ridge, Campbell said.

"We're going to get all this dirt eventually," Lighthizer told Campbell during a press conference at the Stephen T. Mather Training Center in Harpers Ferry Wednesday afternoon.

In April, The Civil War Preservation Trust announced it would begin a fund-raising drive to raise money for the purchase of the 232 acres.

If the organization could raise at least $200,000, it would trigger state and federal funding to complete the purchase, said Dennis Frye, a Sharpsburg resident and a member of the Civil War Preservation Trust's national advisory board.

On Monday, The Trust for Public Land announced it was in the final phases of purchasing the 99-acre Murphy's Farm for the park.

Purchase of the farm will likely put to rest plans for a controversial 188-home subdivision that had been planned for the farm.

The farm has historical significance for several reasons, including that a pivotal part of Jackson's 1862 siege was conducted there.

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