Preparing for the raid on Harpers Ferry arsenal, John Brown came to Chambersburg in the summer of 1859 wearing a beard as a disguise and using the alias of Isaac Smith. He took up residence at Mary Ritner's boarding house on East King Street, professing to be a developer of iron mines in Maryland and Virginia.
Mining implements consigned to Smith and Sons soon arrived at warehouses in town. They were actually firearms, ammunition, and pikes with which Brown wished to arm the many Blacks who he thought would flock to his cause. Brown would secretly meet with Frederick Douglass, notable former slave and abolitionist, in a quarry west of town. Leading up to and after the raid, members of Brown's militia passed through Greencastle, Mont Alto, and Mercersburg. Seven of Brown's men eluded capture after the raid. One of them, Albert Hazlett, manage to hitch a buggy ride with a farmer named Hiram Wertz, who lived in Quincy. Leaving Wertz before he reached Chambersburg, Hazlett was later captured at Carlisle. Wertz never revealed his true mission, conductor on the Underground Railroad through his farm at Quincy.