Historic Murphy Farm Protected (W.VA)
HARPERS FERRY, W.Va., 10/31/02 – The historic Murphy Farm, site of both a Civil War battle and a meeting of African-American leaders which led to the creation of the NAACP, will be purchased and protected rather than developed into a housing subdivision, the Trust for Public Land announced today.
“By preserving this remarkable property and its unique historic values for over a century–and by making it available to the public today – the Murphy family has afforded the American people an unparalleled opportunity to experience the confluence of our nation’s Civil War history and its civil rights heritage”, said Alan Front, Senior Vice President of the Trust, a nationwide non-profit which works to preserve open space. “With the farm’s anticipated transfer in the coming weeks to the Harpers Ferry National Historic Park, this opportunity will last for all time.”
The 99-acre property is located in the eastern tip of West Virginia, adjacent to the Harpers Ferry Park. Protection of the farm means it will not be developed into the 188-home subdivision, known as Murphys Landing, which had been proposed.
In 1862, the farm was the scene of the final assault by Confederate Gen. A.P. Hill, ending a Confederate siege of the Union Army and leading to the surrender of 12,000 Union soldiers to Confederate Gen. Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson.
In addition, from 1895-1910, the Murphy Farm was the site of the relocated fort of abolitionist leader John Brown. Brown had briefly captured the fort in 1859 in his attempt to strike a blow for freedom, but his insurrection was put down by Union troops and he was hanged. The Brown fort was moved to Chicago for the 1893 Columbian Exposition, but was brought back to Harpers Ferry by Kate Field, a newspaper reporter. In 1895, Murphy deeded 5 acres for the fort to be re-built on his farm.
In 1906, W.E.B. DuBois and other leaders of the Niagara Movement, an organization of African-American leaders, made a barefoot pilgrimage across the Murphy Farm to the restored Brown fort. The Niagara Movement later grew into the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People(NAACP).
Kweisi Mfume, President of the NAACP said, “The NAACP is proud to support the preservation of the Murphy Farm. Its recognition should serve as a reminder to all of us its extraordinary legacy in our nation’s history. It was on this West Virginia farmland, where 12,000 Union soldiers surrendered to Stonewall Jackson and where abolitionist John Brown established his headquarters. It is also where esteemed W.E.B. Dubois held the second meeting of the Niagra Movement, a movement that marked the establishment of the NAACP. The Murphy Farm is freedom fighters land. It should be preserved, revered to the benefit of all.”
Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va., chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said, “I welcome this collaboration between the Trust for Public Land and the National Park Service. I have long worked to improve the education opportunities at Harpers Ferry. In fact, I have worked to secure more than $40 million in capital improvements and renovations at the park. It is a magnificent educational resource for students and adults alike.”
Don Campbell, Superintendent of Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, said, “Harpers Ferry is one of the best-preserved pieces of Americana in the country. The addition of the Murphy Farm enhances this. I am very pleased the family and all those involved in this matter chose to protect a piece of the nation’s history for all to enjoy.”
TPL is purchasing the Murphy Farm from Josephine Murphy-Curtis and Karen Dixon Fuller, the current generation of Alexander Murphy heirs. The 99 acres overlooking the Shenandoah River has been a working farm since Alexander Murphy acquired the property in 1869, and will be conveyed to the National Park Service.
“This is a dream that every generation of the Murphy family has shared. We’re extremely gratified that the National Park Service recognizes the farm’s significance to both Civil War and Civil Rights history, and that by working with the Trust for Public Land, the property will finally be added to the park” said the family in a statement.
Jim Kuhn, Murphy’s descendent stated, “I am glad that the farm will be protected for future generations. After over fifteen years of painstaking historic research and restoration on the Murphy Farm, I am overjoyed that the public will be the ultimate beneficiary of our family’s stewardship. Inclusive history was always my goal.”
The Trust for Public Land, 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. Across the nation, TPL has helped protect more than 1.4 million acres.