On Saturday, April 29, 2017 I visited Chambersburg, PA for their special History Day, where a number of sites of historical importance were open with free admission.
I first visited Mary Ritner’s Boarding House, which is the house John Brown used to plan his Harper’s Ferry Raid.
The house has some really good artifacts and recreations of 19th Century life.
They do fall down in one respect. In discussing John Brown’s plans, they asserted he was trying to overthrow the United States Government. Such was not the case. Brown’s plan was to establish a breakaway slave area in the mountains.
My next stop was the old Franklin County jail, which had been in operation from the early 1800s all the way to 1970.
It was interesting to see the cells, which had very small doors and were depressing to look at, even at this date.
Unfortunately, they too fell down in their historical interpretation. In a display on slavery, they perpetuated the myth that there were quilts that had secret codes to help guide runaway slaves along the Underground Railroad.
There is absolutely no foundation for this ludicrous claim.
Those two stumbles were disappointments in an otherwise interesting visit. The good folks at the Ritner House should try to stock their gift shop with biographies of John Brown and books about the Harper’s Ferry Raid. It would help them also if their docents read those biographies.