CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. — According to local officials, the John Brown walking tours in Charles Town have increased tourism to Charles Town while educating the public about “the rest of the story” after Brown’s raid in Harpers Ferry.
Charles Town mayor Peggy Smith and Annette Gavin, CEO of the Jefferson County Convention and Visitors Bureau, attended Thursday’s Jefferson County Commission meeting to request the commissioners’ approval to use the historic Jefferson County Courthouse in the tours again this year.
The walking tours, which began in May 2014, were formed by an agreement between rangers at Harpers Ferry National Historical Park and Charles Town officials.
“We’ve made history with these tours,” Smith said. “The Park has been there for 70 years, but this is the first time rangers are leaving the park to guide tours.”
Gavin said Dennis Frye, chief historian with Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, said more of his rangers are asking to lead the John Brown walking tours through Charles Town.
Commission president Jane Tabb asked if the tour groups would need to access the upper level of the courthouse for the tour.
“The tours only go through the lower part of the courthouse,” Gavin said. “I think it means more to visitors if they get to see the beautiful, historic courtroom where John Brown’s trial was actually held.”
In addition to the courthouse, another stop along the tour route is the yard where Brown was hanged.
Smith said that when tours begin for the 2015 season, there will be more of an effort to reach out to schools, scouting organizations, 4-H clubs and other youth organizations.
“There were more than 1,000 people who did the tour last year, but we’re going to try to reach out to the school system. I think the students miss out on a lot of the history, even though it’s right here,” she said. “One teacher at Wildwood Middle School gave her students extra credit for taking the tour. That day we had about 30 students, just in one tour group.”
The tours will begin May 23, and will take place only on weekends from May 23 to June 7. During the summer months, tours will be offered on weekdays, and the tours will stop on Nov. 1.
For more information about the John Brown walking tour, call 304-535-2627.
– Staff writer Mary Stortstrom can be reached at 304-725-6581 orwww.twitter.com/mstortstromJN.