St. John's Lutheran Church

St. John's Lutheran Church (HM1CCB)

Location: Harpers Ferry, WV 25425 Jefferson County
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Country: United States of America
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N 39° 19.574', W 77° 44.593'

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Alarm Bell at Dawn

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 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.
Series This marker is part of the West Virginia Civil War Trails series
Placed ByWest Virginia Civil War Trails
Marker ConditionNo reports yet
Date Added Saturday, September 20th, 2014 at 9:41pm PDT -07:00
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Locationbig map
UTM (WGS84 Datum)18S E 263536 N 4356568
Decimal Degrees39.32623333, -77.74321667
Degrees and Decimal MinutesN 39° 19.574', W 77° 44.593'
Degrees, Minutes and Seconds39° 19' 34.44" N, 77° 44' 35.58" W
Driving DirectionsGoogle Maps
Area Code(s)304
Closest Postal AddressAt or near 940 Washington St, Harpers Ferry WV 25425, US
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