Temperatures rising a little above 40 degrees and a steady drenching of rain wasn't enough to detract visitors from all over the country from visiting Harpers Ferry National Historical Park Saturday and absorbing a vital portion of U.S. history.
Saturday was the second day of the 150th anniversary celebration of abolitionist John Brown's Raid on the Harpers Ferry Armory, an attempt to arm slaves for a revolution against slavery.
Historians believe Brown's Raid and ensuing trial were catalysts to the Civil War. The raid actually started during a wet, chilly evening 150 years ago Friday. It lasted for three days, culminating with a U.S. Marine Corps detachment led by then-Col. Robert E. Lee storming the arsenal's fire engine house, where Brown and some of his men had holed up, and capturing the abolitionist.
For those present Saturday, the cold weather added another affect to their surroundings.
Dennis Frye, chief historian for Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, was very surprised to see as many people as there were walking the streets, he said.
"This is unbelievable," Frye exclaimed. "The weather is absolutely horrible, yet we have thousands of people here today. I can't imagine what it would look like if we would've had good weather with all these beautiful fall colors at these events. I'm really stunned that we still have very big crowds considering the very bad weather."
Jay Melesky, who hails from the pleasant confines of Ponte Vedra Beach, Flor., made the trip with a few friends of his, who are all history buffs, he said.
"I've never been here before, so all we are really doing is exploring at this point in time," Melesky said.
They also planned to visit Antietam National Battlefield in nearby Sharpsburg, Md., and Gettysburg National Military Park in Pennsylvania.
For Gordon and Samantha Poer, of Chapel Hill, N.C., John Brown's Raid celebrations signified their first "daughter-dad" get-together in 10 years. In addition to Harpers Ferry, they planned stops at Antietam and Gathland State Park in Maryland.
Gordon Poer was pretty impressed with the reenactments and presentations.
"It's worth the rain and cold just to see everything here," Poer said.
The duo appreciated it more because Brown's Raid took place under the same dreary weather.
Lavell Jones, from Odenton, Md., came to Harpers Ferry with his family to see the exhibits concerning the Civil War and John Brown. He heard stories about John Brown that he had never heard before, Jones said. He and his family planned to visit Antietam, also, he said.
"It was great coming down here and learning some stuff," Jones said as he took refuge under a porch from the rain.
The rain didn't stop Callis Carlton and his wife, Melody, from taking in the history, making a return visit to Harpers Ferry Saturday. Originally from southern Florida, the couple recently moved to Arlington, Va.
The Carlton's made a solo trip Saturday. On their previous trip, they brought their six children along to experience history.
As for whether the weather would put a halt to the rest of their trip, the Carltons would have none of it.
"We got a few hours to go, and a lot more to see," Carlton said.
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Martinsburg Journal, Used by Permission