Lewis at Harpers Ferry

river and city with sunset

Photo: NPS

Today’s West Virginia was still a part of Virginia in the early 19th century. West Virginia separated from Virginia in 1861 and became a part of the Union on June 20, 1863.

Harpers Ferry, in the far northeast corner of West Virginia, was a major junction point due to its location of where the Shenandoah River enters the Potomac. Just 70 miles northwest of Washington City, it was here that George Washington proposed to build an armory and arsenal for the young United States. Construction began in 1799.

Since this was just one of two armories in the country at the time (do you know the other?), Meriwether Lewis obtained the guns and hardware necessary for the Expedition. He ordered 15 rifles, 15 powder horns, 30 bullet molds, 30 ball screws, extra rifle and musket locks, repair tools, several dozen tomahawks, and 24 large knives. He also had the craftsmen at Harpers Ferry create his concept for a collapsible iron boat frame. Lewis spent time here in April and July 1803.

Today, Harpers Ferry National Historic Park is set on 3,500 acres in and around the quaint, historic community. You’ll find picturesque streets, interesting museums and exhibits, hiking trails, and battlefields. The park is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (except on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s). To learn more, go to:

Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail

Last updated: December 9, 2022