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Harpers Ferry in Jefferson County, West Virginia — The American South (Appalachia)
 

St. John's Lutheran Church

Alarm Bell at Dawn

 
 
St. John's Lutheran Church Marker image. Click for full size.
By William Fischer, Jr., September 13, 2012
1. St. John's Lutheran Church Marker
Inscription.  

The Reverend Doctor Josiah P. Smeltzer laid the cornerstone of St. John's Lutheran Church on April 30, 1850. The building was completed two years later and dedicated on August 1, 1852. Little more than seven years had passed when, at dawn on October 17, 1859, local physician John D. Starry ordered the church bell to be rung to alert Harpers Ferry that John Brown's Raid was under way. Many terrified residents fled the town proper and gathered at the church. Smeltzer, the church's pastor, wrote in his diary, "I never witnessed such a fright in any community as when the news fled that the Abolitionists of the north had taken the Armory and were killing our people."

Less than two years after shots were fired in Harpers Ferry, the Civil War began. Services here were soon suspended as Federal forces took over the church to use it as a hospital.

The war took its toll on the church. During the Battle of Harpers Ferry on September 15, 1862, a Confederate cannon ball fired from Maryland Heights struck and shattered part of the wall. The signs of repair are still visible. After the war, the church was slowly rendered fit for
Map St. John's Lutheran Church Marker image. Click for full size.
By West Virginia Civil War Trails, undated
2. Map St. John's Lutheran Church Marker
services, which resumed in 1869.

In 1908, dissension divided the congregation, and the church was closed. It reopened in July 1928 and remains in operation today. The church's interior remains intact, with the original pews in place. The church bell that rang on October 17, 1859, is accessed from the balcony.
 
Erected by West Virginia Civil War Trails.
 
Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Churches & ReligionPatriots & PatriotismWar, US Civil. In addition, it is included in the Historic Bells 🔔, and the West Virginia Civil War Trails series lists.
 
Location. 39° 19.574′ N, 77° 44.593′ W. Marker is in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, in Jefferson County. Marker is on Washington Street (Business U.S. 340) east of Boundary Street, on the left when traveling east. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 950 West Washington Street, Harpers Ferry WV 25425, United States of America. Touch for directions.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. St. John Lutheran Church (here, next to this marker); Mayors of Harpers Ferry, West Virginia (about 500 feet away, measured in a direct line); The Appalachian Trail and Benton MacKaye (about 800 feet away); The Black Americans (about 800 feet away); Harpers Ferry / John Brown’s Fort
Photo on St. John's Lutheran Church Marker image. Click for full size.
By Unknown, 1860s
3. Photo on St. John's Lutheran Church Marker
Troops near Harpers Ferry, St. John's Lutheran Church in background. Courtesy Harpers Ferry National Historical Park
(about 800 feet away); Camp Hill (approx. 0.2 miles away); Church and School (approx. 0.2 miles away); Virginia Lodge No. 1 (approx. 0.2 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Harpers Ferry.
 
Also see . . .
1. History of St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church. (Submitted on December 17, 2013, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania.)
2. Harpers Ferry National Historical Park. (Submitted on December 17, 2013, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania.)
3. Civil War Trails. (Submitted on December 17, 2013, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania.)
 
St. John's Lutheran Church and Marker image. Click for full size.
By William Fischer, Jr., September 13, 2012
4. St. John's Lutheran Church and Marker
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. It was originally submitted on December 17, 2013, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania. This page has been viewed 510 times since then and 55 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4. submitted on December 17, 2013, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania.
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Nov. 23, 2020