Robert Harper was born in Oxford Township near Philadelphia, Pa., in 1718. A builder and millwright, Harper was engaged by a group of Quakers in 1747 to erect a meeting house in the Shenandoah Valley near the present site of Winchester, Va.
Traveling through Maryland on his way to the Shenandoah Valley, Harper proceeded to "The Hole" where the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers meet. Attracted by the ample waterpower and strategic location for travel and transport, Harper obtained a patent for 125 acres in 1751. Twelve years later, in 1763, the Virginia General Assembly established the town of "Shenandoah Falls at Mr. Harper's Ferry."
In 1775, Harper commenced construction of a new home in the Lower Town. The structure was completed in 1782, but Harper, who died that same year, never occupied the house. Today the Harper House is the oldest surviving structure in the Lower Town. [For more information on the Lower Town]
Did You Know?
Robert Harper operated a ferry across the Potomac River in 1747. His heirs, the Wagers, maintained the operation until 1824 when a bridge was built across the Potomac.