Civil War Trails marked in Panhandle

March 30, 2011|By RICHARD F. BELISLE |

HARPERS FERRY, W.Va. — A new historic marker stands outside the Jefferson County Convention and Visitors Bureau here telling passersby that Confederate Gen. Stonewall Jackson brought his troops to Harpers Ferry in 1862.

That sign and 149 others are being installed across West Virginia, including 26 in the three Eastern Panhandle counties, at a cost of $2,000 each, Paulette Sprinkle, executor director of the visitors bureau, announced Tuesday.

The state is footing the bill for the signs, Sprinkle said.

West Virginia has joined Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina, Tennessee and Adams County, Pa., in the Civil War Trails directional signs program.

Jefferson County has 16 signs, Morgan County has six and Berkeley County has four, Sprinkle said.

“This is a 10-year program, and it’s the first time it’s been in West Virginia,” she said.

The program is of special particular interest this year, the Sesquicentennial of the American Civil War.

One longtime Maryland sign familiar to Harpers Ferry National Historical Park visitors sits on Bolivar Heights overlooking the town of Harpers Ferry, she said.

Dennis Frye, national park historian, said of the new signs: “It’s absolutely the best tourism marketing project promoting Civil War history. They bring the site alive where history actually occurred 150 years ago.”

“This is a lot more than digging (signpost) holes,” said Mitch Bowman of Williamsburg, Va., executive director of the nonprofit, six-state Civil War Trails Program.

“We work in 281 counties to create an environment that brings Civil War stories forward. The signs give the public physical access to the site and intellectual access to their stories,” Bowman said. “They interpret what happened where you’re standing.”

Jefferson County Commission member Frances Morgan, who is also a member of the Jefferson County Civil War Committee, said the group, made up mostly of local historians, decided where the signs would go in the county. Bowman’s agency consulted the committee, “but we kept local ownership,” she said.

Among the locations are Zion and Elmwood cemeteries, Duffield’s Station, the Greenback Raid, the county courthouse, Cameron Depot, John Allstadt House, Rutherford House, Jefferson County Library, John Brown’s execution site, St. John Lutheran Church in Harpers Ferry, Fountainrock and the Jackson sign.

In Morgan County, signs are being installed in front of the Country Inn, two at the county courthouse, Sir John’s Run, the Panorama at the Peak and Unger’s store.

The hope is that the signs will generate more heritage tourism, said Tricia Strader of Morgan County, secretary of the Bath-Romney Campaign Historical and Preservation Association.

“Statistics show that heritage tourists spend 30 percent more while traveling than average tourists,” Strader said in a news release.

Further details about Berkeley County’s signs were not available Wednesday.

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