News

–October 2020–

Acquisition of Albert Berghaus Sketches and The Liberator Newspapers

The Jefferson County Museum recently acquired five important items related to abolitionist John Brown: two sketches by illustrator Albert Berghaus and three editions of The Liberator, a 19th century abolitionist newspaper. The items were purchased at an auction with money from the museum’s Fund for the Future.

On October 16, 1859, abolitionist John Brown led a group of 21 men to Harpers Ferry intent upon inciting a rebellion against slavery. Their first step was to capture the federal armory. However, two days later, that plan was thwarted by the US Marines and Virginia militia. Brown was captured and taken to the Jefferson County Jail in Charles Town. After a trial at the Jefferson County Courthouse, he was found guilty of murder, treason, and inciting a slave insurrection and sentenced to death. Brown was hanged in Charles Town on December 2, 1859.

Albert Berghaus Sketches

Albert Berghaus was a sketch artist for Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper, a weekly publication that provided news and illustrations of significant historical events. The newspaper sent Berghaus to Charles Town in late fall 1859 to capture the aftermath of John Brown’s attempted rebellion. He completed a number of sketches that showed Brown, the jail, the hanging site, and the Virginia militia posted in Charles Town to maintain order. The museum purchased two of Berghaus’s militia sketches.

“Night Guard before Posting: Reading the Roll”

The sketch on the right shows three groups of Virginia militia standing at night in formation in Charles Town. Berghaus identified them (left to right) as the “Richmond militia,” known as the Richmond Greys; the “Continentals,” Winchester’s Continental Morgan Guard; and the “Frederick Militia,” from Frederick County, Virginia.


Night Guard before Posting: Reading the Roll, 1859

“1st Regiment Virginia Volunteers: Parade of Richmond Militia”

The sketch on the right shows a crowd of spectators and a line of militia “in front of Mr. Hunter’s House,” presumably a reference to a house owned by Andrew Hunter, the Charles Town attorney who prosecuted John Brown. However, Berghaus was mistaken. According to museum historian, Doug Perks, the house sketched appears to be that of Gerard and Margaret Holliday Mason, located across from the Presbyterian Church on East Washington Street.


1st Regiment Virginia Volunteers: Parade of Richmond Militia, 1859

The Liberator Newspapers

Published in Boston, Massachusetts, The Liberator was the leading antislavery newspaper during the pre-Civil War era. The three 1859 issues purchased by the museum covered abolitionist John Brown’s attack on Harpers Ferry, as well as its aftermath, including his execution.

The October 21 edition contained an article on an inside page, “Attempted Insurrection in Virginia,” giving brief details of events in Harpers Ferry on October 16. By October 23, coverage had expanded dramatically with about half of the four-page paper, including the entire front page, devoted to Brown. Almost all of the December 9 edition, published a week after Brown’s execution, contained news and commentary on his death and martyrdom.

These newspapers provide an important northern perspective on slavery and Brown’s raid—in contrast to the southern White perspective that dominated in Jefferson County and elsewhere in the South in 1859.

–October 2020–

Return of the Green-Copeland American Legion Post 63 Flag and Charter

The flag and charter of the Green-Copeland American Legion Post 63 have returned to the museum after several months on display at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture as part of their temporary exhibit, “We Return Fighting: The African American Experience in World War I.”

Edward Tolbert and other Black Jefferson County veterans of World War I formed Post 63 in Charles Town in 1929. At the time, White veterans barred African Americans from their Whites-only post. The new post was named to honor Shields Green and John A. Copeland, Jr., two African Americans who joined John Brown in his attempt to incite a rebellion against slavery by capturing the federal arsenal in Harpers Ferry in 1859.

The family of Edward Tolbert donated the flag and charter to the museum in 2018.

The museum is honored to display the flag and charter to remind present and future generations of the sacrifice, courage, and importance of Jefferson County African American soldiers during and after World War I.

–June 2020–

JCM conserves 1882 African American couple’s marriage certificate and 1800 copy of George Washington’s will

The museum has recently conserved two rare 19th century documents: an 1882 marriage certificate for an African American couple, Alicis Hart and Philips Lucas, from Kearneysville and an 1800 first-edition printed copy of George Washington’s will. Cleveland Conservation of Art on Paper, Inc., repaired, cleaned, and restored the two documents. The Calamara Fund of the Eastern West Virginia Community Foundation paid for the work.

1882 Hart-Lucas Marriage Certificate

The beautifully restored marriage certificate is rare because of its embedded tintypes of the bride and groom and its decorative coloring. Few marriage certificates from the 1880s have tintypes; even fewer have tintypes of an African American couple. Dr. Shelley Murphy, a relative of the Hart family, donated the certificate to the museum.

Before conservation:
Hart-Lucas marriage certificate
After conservation:
Hart-Lucas marriage certificate

1800 First-Edition Printed Copy of George Washington’s Will

The copy of George Washington’s will is one of fewer than five thought to have survived from the first printing. Cornelia Helbold Haden Brewer, a sixth-generation descendant of Charles Washington, donated the will to the museum after it had been in the family for generations.

Before conservation:
George Washington will
After conservation:
George Washington will