Historic Harpers Ferry Site Protected (WV)

Harpers Ferry, WV, November 21, 2005 – The Trust for Public Land (TPL), a national land conservation organization, and the National Park Service (NPS) announced today the acquisition of the historic 70-acre Ott property located on School House Ridge, the site of Stonewall Jackson’s 1862 advance on Harpers Ferry during the Civil War. The property is now protected as part of Harpers Ferry National Historical Park.

West Virginia’s congressional delegation has been extremely supportive of this conservation effort along School House Ridge. U.S. Senator Robert C. Byrd, the ranking member on the Senate Appropriations Committee, secured federal funding through the Land and Water Conservation Fund for the property’s acquisition and secured passage of legislation to adjust the park’s boundary to include this property, along with others that make up this original battlefield.

“The story of Harpers Ferry is the story of America. In one setting, several themes in America’s story converge: exploration, industry and transportation, the question of slavery, the Civil War, and the natural splendor of our nation. Thousands and thousands of people travel to West Virginia each year to experience this unique place first-hand,” explained U.S. Senator Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va. “I am proud to be part of this effort to protect and enrich such a special place so that its lessons and legacy will live on for generations to come. I thank the Trust for Public Land for their commitment to this work.”

On the morning of September 15, 1862, Union commanders at Harpers Ferry surrendered to Stonewall Jackson, who had completely surrounded Union forces that included the placing of 15,000 men on School House Ridge. Jackson captured over 12,500 Union troops at Harpers Ferry, the largest single capture of Federal forces during the entire war.

TPL worked with the Ott family, which has owned the property for several generations, to secure an option to purchase the land, while the Harpers Ferry Conservancy, along with other nonprofit groups, and local citizens supported the effort to expand the park boundary and secure funding.

U.S. Representative Shelley Moore Capito, who also supported the boundary expansion, praised the many partners in the protection effort.

“National Parks like Harpers Ferry play a critical role in the Eastern Panhandle’s economy and in our nation’s history,” noted Capito. “By expanding the park more land will be preserved and spared from development. Ensuring the vitality of Harpers Ferry helps preserve an important period in American history.”

“School House Ridge is a unique historic landscape whose future is now assured,” said Alan Front, Senior Vice President of the Trust for Public Land. “The protection of this property through the Land and Water Conservation Fund is the latest example of Senator Byrd’s effective commitment to key resource lands at Harpers Ferry and elsewhere across the state and across the country, and of the energy of West Virginia’s congressional delegation in preserving our nation’s natural and cultural heritage. As a result, a crucial part of our history will not be lost.”

The National Park Service has been working for years to ensure the integrity of Harpers Ferry by acquiring threatened critical properties for inclusion in the National Historical Park. These efforts have been supported by several other nonprofit organizations, including the Harpers Ferry Conservancy, the National Parks and Conservation Association, the Friends of Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, and the Civil War Preservation Trust, which has acquired several properties for the park. In 2003, TPL worked with the NPS and the Murphy heirs to acquire and transfer the historic 99-acre Murphy Farm, which is also part of the School House Ridge battlefield, to the park.

Park Superintendent Don Campbell, commended WV Congressional leaders, TPL, local private-non profit organizations and the Ott family for protecting the property. “The Ott farm is at the heart of the matter, the center of the Confederate line where General Stonewall Jackson orchestrated his brilliant victory over Union forces—the farm is where history happened,” said Campbell.

The School House Ridge site is part of the rich historic landscape stretching from Gettysburg, PA, to Monticello, VA, according to the Journey Through Hallowed Ground Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to raising national awareness of the region’s unparalleled history.

“Preserving our heritage benefits all Americans,” said Cate Wyatt, executive director of the Journey Through Hallowed Ground Foundation. “We are thrilled that TPL and others are partnering with The Journey Through Hallowed Ground to ensure this part of our American Story will always be part of our nation’s future.”

The Trust for Public Land (TPL), established in 1972, specializes in conservation real estate, applying its expertise in negotiations, public finance, and law, to protect land for people to enjoy as parks, greenways, community gardens, urban playgrounds, and wilderness. For more than 20 years, the Trust for Public Land has led conservation efforts throughout West Virginia, protecting over 72,000 acres for people to enjoy as parks and outdoor recreation. TPL successes include working in the Monongahela National Forest, the New River Gorge, Harpers Ferry, and the Gauley River. To date, TPL has protected more than two million acres nationwide and depends on many partnerships and the support and generosity of individuals, foundations, and businesses to achieve our land for people mission. For more information, visit www.tpl.org.

Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, West Virginia, is one of the most important Civil War sites in the nation. Because of its strategic location at the confluence of the Shenandoah and Potomac rivers, the town of Harpers Ferry changed hands eight times during the Civil War. It was here that Confederate Lieutenant General A.P. Hill executed a flanking maneuver that forced more than 12,000 Union soldiers to surrender during General Stonewall Jackson’s famous siege of Harpers Ferry in 1862, resulting in the largest capitulation in the entire Civil War. Harpers Ferry is also the site of John Brown’s famous raid in 1859 that foreshadowed future civil rights battles.