Christmas, the old-fashioned way

Event takes Harpers Ferry visitors back in time to 1864

Event takes Harpers Ferry visitors back in time to 1864

December 04, 2005|By MARLO BARNHART

HARPERS FERRY. W.VA. - The voices of 19th-century costumed carolers, or ballad mongers, could be heard everywhere Saturday as the 2005 Olde Tyme Christmas got off to a rousing start in this historic Jefferson County town.

Starting at noon, there were a variety of activities, many of which were centered in the huge Lyceum tent on the green along Shenandoah Street. Visitors getting off the Harpers Ferry National Historical Park buses had just a short walk to that tent, which also provided a little warmth along with the entertainment.

There were programs on what Christmas in 1864 might have been like, how people received packages from home 141 years ago, an interpretation of how difficult life was in those days and even a grand ball, with 34th Massachusetts Regiment officers and their wives hosting the Victorian dance.


With their maps and programs of the weekend events, visitors received a handout called "Prospects of Peace: A Soldier's Prayer 1864," which featured excerpts from a letter by Charles Moulton of the 34th Massachusetts Regiment. Moulton wrote his family that he didn't think he would be able to come home for Christmas that year, as the Civil War was coming to an end.

"Oh for a silent peek in upon that jovial family circle," Moulton's letter from Harpers Ferry said, recalling happier holiday times.

A demonstration of the making of 19th-century yuletide treats was held Saturday afternoon at Roeder's Confectionery on High Street.

At John Brown's Fort, dozens of bundled-up visitors watched a small performance of a play illustrating how politically difficult times were in Harpers Ferry in 1864.

"This has just been such a treat," said Tom Fauls, a Long Island resident who journeyed from New York to see Antietam National Battlefield's luminarias in nearby Sharpsburg on Saturday night. Fauls figured while he was in the area Saturday afternoon, he would see what else was happening.

"My brother told me about some of it, and the rest I found out over the Internet," Fauls said, saying that his first trip to Harpers Ferry turned out to be quite memorable. "I really lucked out - this has been great."

Even those more familiar with Harpers Ferry appeared to be enjoying the day. The Rev. Mark Mooney and his wife, Debbie, of Smithsburg, hiked on the nearby C&O Canal before heading into the town, where they were enjoying the sights and sounds of Christmas.

"It's always special here," Mark Mooney said.

A Victorian shadow show for children and a lantern-lighted walking tour capped off the first full day of Olde Tyme Christmas.

Events continue today from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., and also will be held from Dec. 9 to 11.

If you go

What: 2005 Olde Tyme Christmas

When: Today, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Where: Harpers Ferry, W.Va.

Today's activities include a pipe organ and violin concert at St. Peter's Catholic Church at 10:30 a.m. Events at the Lyceum tent include Christmas gifts in 1864 at noon; packages from home at 12:30 and 2 p.m.; and "A Cry for Peace On Earth," weapons firing and guided tours at 1 p.m. Decorative sugar arts and edible pictures will be available at Roeder's Confectionery from 1 to 3 p.m.; and carolers will be strolling the streets from 3 to 4 p.m.

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