Fallout 76 Locations In REAL Life - Part 4
Updated: Sep 15, 2021
In the fourth installment of Terry's journey to visit real West Virginia locations found in Fallout 76, a special small town awaits.
A Wastelander’s Guide to West Virginia: Harpers Ferry
Harpers Ferry sits at the confluence of the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers. It is part idyllic small town and part National Park. The amount of history that has transpired at Harpers Ferry is palpable and you could easily spend an entire day there only to just scratch the surface of all the things to do and learn there. It is both the Easternmost town and the lowest altitude point in West Virginia.
Robert Harper was a millwright traveling through the area and realized there was great potential to develop here at the confluence of the two rivers. Around 1747 he purchased the squatting rights from Peter Stephens who operated a ferry. Later in 1751 he purchased the land from Lord Fairfax and was granted the right to maintain the ferry across the Potomac River. Since then, industry and transportation have shaped this area from a small ferry crossing to a major strategic point in American history. The United States Armory and Arsenal was created here in 1799. Weapons such as rifles and muskets were produced at the armory and employed over 400 workers. There was also a sawmill, flour mill, machine shop, cotton mills, a tannery, and foundries built in and around Harpers Ferry.
The convergence of the B&O Railroad, Winchester & Potomac Railroad, and the C&O Canal helped fuel the growth of Harpers Ferry and establish a thriving community.
The most famous attraction at Harpers Ferry is John Brown’s Fort. It is the epicenter of the raid that transpired there. The Armory’s fire engine and guardhouse were erected in 1848. An Armory report describes it as “an engine and guard-house, 35 ½ x 24 feet, one-story brick, covered with slate, and having copper gutters and downspouts, has been constructed and is now occupied.”
John Brown was an abolitionist leader who incited a slave rebellion preceding the Civil War. Brown believed that he was on a divine mission and that “all men are created equal” meant that slavery had to end even if that meant violence. His goal was to start a revolution that would spread South. Brown and twenty-one other raiders staged their raid against the federal armory from a farmhouse a few miles outside of town. On October 16th, 1859 John Brown and his raiders descended upon Harpers Ferry. Over three days they had taken over bridges and train cars, the US Armory and Arsenal, taken hostages, and holed up in the fire engine house in a final stand. By the morning of the 18th, the US Marines had recaptured the building. Brown was taken into custody. During the raid, sixteen people were killed including ten of Brown’s men. Six raiders were captured alongside Brown and five had managed to escape. Charges again Brown and his raiders included murder, conspiring with enslaved people to rebel, and treason against the state of Virginia. John Brown was put to trial and found guilty of all charges. He was executed on December 2, 1859 by hanging. The six other raiders were tried and hanged as well. John Brown’s raid was a flashpoint in bringing the divide over slavery to the forefront of the nation’s political and social upheaval.
The Civil War brought much destruction to the town of Harpers Ferry. The town changed hands several times throughout the war. Both sides burned much of the town and its industry in an attempt to keep the other side from gaining an advantage during the war. After the war, John Brown’s fort was dismantled and moved to Chicago to be displayed at The World’s Columbian Exposition. After which, it was dismantled again and left in a vacant lot. In 1895 the fort was brought back to Harpers Ferry and rebuilt on a farm three miles outside of town. In 1909 (50 years after John Brown’s Raid) Storer College bought the structure, placed it on their campus, and used it as a tourist museum. In 1968 the National Park Service finally acquired the building and moved it back just 150 feet from its original location.
Today, many of the historic buildings in Harpers Ferry can be visited and are maintained by the National Park Service. There are many museums, archeological displays, and shops that attract thousands of tourists each year. A few of the buildings are set up and displayed as they would have been during the 19th century including a general store, watch shop, dry goods, clothing stores, industrial buildings, and many more. There are also modern shops that include many restaurants, gift shops, a hiking store, a pottery shop, and other retail locations.
Another landmark that dominates the Harpers Ferry scenery is St. Peter’s Roman Catholic Church. It was originally built in 1833 in a Gothic style. It was one of the only churches to avoid destruction during the Civil War. In 1896 it underwent extensive remodeling but kept a Gothic theme. It overlooks the Shenandoah river high up on a bluff above the town. The Appalachian Trail runs near the church and Jefferson Rock is a popular hiking destination not far off.
There is so much to talk about Harpers Ferry that I could not even begin to put into one blog post. The town's rich history extends far more than just what happened here during the Civil War. There have been many historic floods and fires that have swept through the town changing much of what you see today. However, the preservation efforts of many throughout the years have kept that history alive. There are many hiking opportunities afforded by the Appalachian Trail and a trip up to Maryland Heights is a favorite destination of many locals to get an iconic picture taken overlooking Harpers Ferry. Many people enjoy river rafting trips along both rivers. There are many casual and upscale dining offerings. Even QTB Beer Correspondent Brad would be glad to visit the local brewpub. There are museums to explore, shopping opportunities, and even Pokémon hunting just to name a few of the myriad of activities you can expect to find in Harpers Ferry. If you are into the paranormal, there are ghost tours available all year round. Many of the local ghost stories I know center around Harpers Ferry including the hair-raising tale of Screaming Jenny. That’s another story for another time.
I would like to thank everyone for supporting this series and Paulette for helping me take the pictures seen in this post. If you are interested in exploring more of what West Virginia and Fallout 76 have to offer, check out my other blog posts about Berkeley Springs, Moundsville, and The Palace of Gold.