In 1763, on land called Joe’s Lott, Joseph Chapline laid out what was to be the first town in Washington County. He named it Sharps Burgh, in honor of his friend Governor Horatio Sharpe. He choose this site for the town, he noted, because of the “great spring” of water located there.
The town consisted of 187 lots on eight streets. Each lot was 103 x 206 feet, except for four slightly smaller lots in the center of town. The initial price per lot was one shilling and the town grew rapidly over the next twenty years. Over time Sharpsburg transformed from a colonial town to an industrial town. It has been home to a popular spa and resort, known as a C & O Canal town, a Civil War town and a railroad town. Today, Sharpsburg is a residential and small business community that is proud of our past. We cherish the small town atmosphere of friendliness, peacefulness and a commitment to preserving our rich and diverse heritage.
As you walk the streets of Sharpsburg it greatly resembles its original appearance. Not much has changed since those early days and from July 6-8, you can come celebrate 255 Years of History during Sharpsburg Founder’s Day!
The celebration begins by welcoming in one of the newest businesses to the Sharpsburg area – Antietam Creek Vineyards. On Friday night, Antietam Creek Vineyards will host the festivities at their new 55-acre winery. Come out and taste some outstanding hickory smoke BBQ by Brentwood Smokers from Hagerstown, enjoy live music by the Speakeasy Boys from Shepherdstown and sit back and sip some wine from our wonderful hosts, Joan and George of Antietam Creek Vineyards.
A full day of activities and events are on the scheduled for Saturday. It’s only fitting that we start out with a dedication ceremony to Sharpsburg’s founder – Joseph Chapline. After the 9:00am wreath laying at Mountain View Cemetery, the festivities start at 9:30am around the Town Square. North Mechanic Street will be filled with vendors holding an artisans and farmers market. Some of the vendors include Kelley Farm, Cedar Ridge Soaps, Millhouse Candles, Pheasant Run Farm, and The Farm at Stillwater Spring. Throughout the day there will be demonstrations on how to make soap, candles, and rugs, as well as preserving food and a blacksmith demonstration. The Washington County Historical Society will also have children’s crafts and demonstrate butter making. On the the back deck of Victory Garden Ranch live music will be playing throughout the day by Voices of Vets and the Hancock Civil War String Band.
Alongside the market, local organizations will be there to provide information on their groups, their mission and upcoming activities. These will include the Sharpsburg Historical Society, Save Historic Antietam Foundation, American Legion Auxiliary Antietam Unit 236, C&O Canal Assoc., Rural Heritage Museum, Shepherd’s Spring, Keedysville Historical Society and BSA Troop 51.
Across the street at the Town Hall, the Sharpsburg Heritage Museum will be open, displaying old pictures and artifacts of the town. Be sure to sign up for one of the walking tours that start at the Town Hall. Mark Brugh from Sharpsburg Civil War Ghost Tours will take you through the back alleys and streets of town to share some of its history and interesting stories. Vernell Doyle of the Sharpsburg Historical Society will walk through some of the town cemeteries and talk about the preservation of these sites. A.C. Ash will offer tours of her house – the Chapline/Biggs House, and you can also visit Tolson’s Chapel.
Before leaving the Square, stop by the Living History area to see a French & Indian War era camp and learn about the ‘Military through the Ages’ from living historians portraying soldiers of all eras.
Throughout the day, historical lectures will be held just up the street at the Jacob Rohrbach Inn. Rev. John Schildt will start things off at 10am with his talk, “Drums along the Antietam“, followed by retired Antietam Chief Historian, Ted Alexander who will discuss “Sharpsburg before & after the battle” at 11am.
Over the lunchtime intermission the New Horizons Band will hold a free concert on the lawn of the Inn at 1pm and all attendees will receive a ticket for a free Kiddie Cone at Nutter’s Ice Cream.
Following the concert, local historian Tim Snyder will talk about the “Sharpsburg Rifles” at 2:30pm and at 4pm Antietam Battlefield Guide and relic collector Stephen Recker will share the story of “O.T. Reilly: Sharpsburg Relics & Remembrances”
All these activities and events are bound to make you hungry. Both Captain Benders and Pete’s Tavern will be offering Founder’s Day Specials throughout the day. At the Square you can get BBQ chicken or hamburgers from Boy Scout Troop 51, a hot dog meal from Victory Garden Ranch, and St. Paul’s Episcopal Church will have some homemade baked goodies.
On Saturday evening if you’re not up at the battlefield for the Salute to Independence Concert, sign up for the Fireworks Ghost Tour with Mark & Julia Brugh of Sharpsburg Civil War Ghost Tours. This special 90-minute tour begins at 8:15pm and will take place under the night sky of the fireworks.
The weekend events will wrap up on Sunday morning with a Homecoming Community Church Service held at the Holy Trinity Lutheran Church at 10am.
The Sharpsburg Founder’s Day celebration would not be possible without the sponsorship of the Mayor and Town Council and the support of these great businesses and organizations – THANK YOU!
During your visit to the Jacob Rohrbach Inn there are so many things to do, see, and experience. Here are our Top 25 Things to Do within 25 minutes of the Inn.
1. Take a guided tour of Antietam National Battlefield – One of the best ways to experience the pristine Antietam National Battlefield is on a private tour with a National Park Service certified guide. The Antietam Battlefield Guides will lead you across the hallowed ground of Antietam so you understand why it was a major turning point in the war. They can also take you on a campaign tour which includes Harpers Ferry, South Mountain, Shepherdstown and other off the beaten path locations.
2. Tube the Antietam – Enjoy the day with a relaxing float down the Antietam Creek. Travel from the Devil’s Backbone and down past the Burnside Bridge and you’ll meander by some scenic farms, historic buildings and then drift under the old stone arched bridges of the Antietam.
3. Go Antiquing – If you’re looking for that rare, unique or special item than we have a few places to search. Try the Boonsboro Antiques, Memory Lane Antiques & Collectibles, Valley Antique & Uniques, The Olde Homestead and Beaver Creek Antique Market.
4. Take in Dinner and a Show at the Washington County Playhouse – Year-round you can experience a Broadway-style show or musical comedy with a buffet dinner at the Playhouse. A great place for ‘Date Night’.
5. Spend the day at Harpers Ferry – At the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers, a walk through Harpers Ferry is like stepping into the past. Take a stroll along the picturesque streets, visit exhibits and museums, or hike the trails and battlefields.
6. Explore the Crystal Grottoes Caverns – The caverns offer a beautiful display of natural rock formations. Take the guided tour to learn about the cavern’s history and geology.
7. Learn about regional history at the Washington County Rural Heritage Museum – Stop by the museum during your weekend stay and travel back to a time when the pace was a bit slower and life centered around the farm, family, and community. See what life was like in Washington County, MD prior to 1940.
8. Bike the C&O – This 185 mile path follows the Potomac River from Georgetown DC to Cumberland MD. Here the terrain is gentle, and along the scenic tree-lined path you will find historic ruins, cliffs and caves, and some good riverside picnic spots. Shady biking conditions make this trip a great option for those hot summer days. In the fall the trail becomes radiant with the colors of changing leaves. Rent your bikes at the Inn and enjoy the day biking the canal.
9. Visit Fort Frederick – Built in 1756 to protect settlers during the French and Indian War, the fort host a number of interpretive programs and events throughout the year. The park is a great place for an afternoon picnic and hike along the C & O Canal.
10. Stop by the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts – Located in historic City Park in Hagerstown, the museum has over 7,000 works of art. The Washington County Museum of Fine Arts has been recognized as one of the finest small museums in the nation.
11. Explore Area Dining – Enjoy casual pub fare at Captain Benders Tavern, sit down with a farm to table dinner at Domestic, delight in upscale contemporary American dishes at The Press Room, or savor fine dining at Old South Mountain Inn. These are just a few of the many dining choices in the surrounding area. You will be sure to find a new ‘favorite’ restaurant during your stay!
12. Visit Gathland State Park – The park is located on the site of the Civil War Battle of South Mountain and was once the mountain home of George Alfred Townsend, a Civil War journalist. Two of the structures serve as a museum, one to Townsend and the other to the Civil War. The park is a great place for picnicking and hiking along the Appalachian National Scenic Trail which traverses the park and passes the monument base.
13. Go Horseback Riding with Elk Mountain Trails – Take a relaxing horse ride on the trails near historic Harpers Ferry, down on the banks of the Potomac River and along the C & O Canal. Plan ahead and sign up for their romantic Potomac River Moonlight Dinner Ride. After riding along the canal you’ll stop and have dinner around the campfire watching a full moon rise over the valley.
14. Eat Fresh and Buy Local at a Farmer’s Market – Shepherdstown has two Farmers’ Markets; Morgan’s Grove and Shepherdstown Farmers Market. Operating every weekend from early spring to early winter, they provide visitors with ample opportunities to engage in the local food and craft experience. Boonsboro also has two Farmer’s Markets, providing a variety of local fare. Boonsboro Farmers Market has great community and farming support offering ‘no spray’ fruits, grass fed meats and cheeses and vegan breads. For over 90 years the Cronise family at the Cronise Market Place has provided the freshest local fruits and vegetables, as well as gorgeous flowers, plants, decor and sweets.
15. Hike the A.T. – The Appalachian Trail in Maryland follows the ridgeline of South Mountain and you can access the trail at the Washington Monument State Park or from Gathland State Park. Whether you’re looking for some scenic beauty and wildlife, a taste of history, or a little exercise, the A.T. offers all these things and much more.
16. Go shopping at the Premium Outlets – If shopping is on your list of things to do during your stay, then stop by the Premium Outlets. Retailers range from jewelry to women’s apparel to sporting goods, with over 100 designer and name brand outlet stores including Banana Republic, Coach, Guess, Kate Spade New York, Tommy Hilfiger, Under Armour and more.
17. Enjoy Nutter’s Ice Cream – A stop at Nutter’s Ice Cream is a MUST while you’re staying at the Inn. With over 32 flavors of hand-dipped and soft served ice cream you will get a generous portion for a very affordable price. Be sure to go there hungry!
18. Take a Sharpsburg Civil War Ghost Tour – The best attraction in town, next to the battlefield, is the Sharpsburg Civil War Ghost Tour. Based on of the lives of Sharpsburg citizens who lived through the Battle of Antietam. Mark and Julia Brugh will take you through the Confederate Soldiers’ Passageway or the Children’s Alley as they explain the ghostly images that still linger in the town, possibly remnants of souls who never crossed over.
19. Go rafting with River & Trails Outfitters or River Riders – Experienced guides will take you on an exciting trip down Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers near Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, where Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia come together. As you’re splashing through the white water rapids you’ll see some of the most breathtaking scenery of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
20. Take the Antietam Highlands Wine Trail – Enjoy the day driving through the rolling hills of the Antietam Valley to each vineyard, like BIG Cork Vineyards or Orchid Cellar Meadery and Winery . Don’t forget about visiting our favorite cidery; Distillery Lane Ciderworks. Sample their cider, pick your own apples or take a tour of the orchard. Be sure to stop by Sharpsburg’s newest vineyard – Antietam Creek Vineyards, located right at the edge of the Battlefield.
21. See Washington Monument State Park – Located atop South Mountain, Washington Monument State Park is named for the first completed monument dedicated to the memory of George Washington. Initially erected by the citizens of Boonsboro in 1827, the rugged stone tower provides a magnificent vista to the valley below.
22. Witness the aftermath of the Battle of Antietam at the Pry House Field Hospital Museum – The Philip Pry farmstead would be transformed from an army headquarters to a field hospital within 24 hours. See exhibits relating to the care of wounded, the effects on the civilian population in the area and the innovations of Civil War medicine, which continue to save lives today.
23. Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races is the place for a total entertainment experience, practically in our own backyard! Hollywood Casino has exciting Vegas-style casino gaming, first-class entertainment that is up close and personal, and live thoroughbred racing. Before heading back to the Inn, Hollywood has five restaurants that offer a variety of cuisine that is sure to satisfy.
24. Discover Discovery Station – This is a great stop for families. How can you go wrong with dinosaurs, Lego’s and airplanes… this hands-on museum allows youngsters to discover, explore, and investigate a wide variety of exhibits and programs that stimulate their curiosity and create lasting experiences.
25. Just relax at the Inn. After experiencing the first 24 activities on this list, you will be sure to appreciate the tranquility of relaxing on your porch, listening to the chirping birds and enjoying the views of the gardens.
Find Your Park
We continue the Find Your Park in our backyard series this month, featuring the Harpers Ferry National Historic Park. The historic town of Harpers Ferry is located at the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers in West Virginia. Each year nearly 500,000 visitors come to experience the cultural and recreational attractions of Harpers Ferry.
Around 1750, Robert Harper, an early settler to the area was given a patent on 125 acres at the present location of the town. By 1761 he had established a ferry across the Potomac, which made the town a starting point for the flocks of settlers coming into the Shenandoah Valley and points west. In 1763, the Virginia General Assembly would establish the town of “Shenandoah Falls at Mr. Harper’s Ferry”. Robert Harper’s original house is the oldest remaining structure in the lower part of the park. The town grew as new Americans moved west, and in 1783 Thomas Jefferson visited Harpers Ferry. When he climbed to the heights overlooking the town he stood on a rock, which bears his name today, and was so impressed he wrote that, “this scene is worth a voyage across the Atlantic.
As a new nation looked to the West, the the power of the rivers came under the view of George Washington who choose Harpers Ferry as the site for a US Armory. With the construction of the US Armory and Arsenal the town quickly became an industrial center. In 1803 Meriwether Lewis traveled to Harpers Ferry to procure the weapons and equipment he would need for his transcontinental expedition. By the 1830’s both the C&O Canal and the B&O Railroad had reached Harpers Ferry, connecting it with Washington D.C. and the growing cities to the west. Today visitors can explore the old US Armory site, see the remains of the Industrial Revolution along the Virginius and Halls Island trail and tour the Industry Museum.
As the nation grew so did the divide over slavery. In October 1859, abolitionist John Brown attempted to initiate an armed slave revolt by capturing the armory. Although Brown’s raid failed, the issue of slavery was brought to the forefront and would propel the country toward civil war. Due to its strategic location, Harpers Ferry would change hands several times between the North and the South during the war and it would play a significant role during the Maryland Campaign.
After the Civil War, Harpers Ferry would be in the front line of the civil rights movement. Storer College was founded on Camp Hill, as part of the Freedman’s Bureau, to help educate the thousands of freed African Americans. In 1906, Storer College would host a conference of the Niagara Movement, an effort to eliminate discrimination based on color. The Niagara Movement would lead to the foundation of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) which continued the fight against discrimination and segregation. In 1955, Storer College would close its doors after the 1954 US Supreme Court decision in the Brown v. Board of Education case which ended public school segregation. Today the campus is used as a training center by the National Park Service, named in honor of its first director – Stephen Mather.
With over 20 miles of trails, Harpers Ferry is one of the best walking parks in America. Trails will take you through the restored town, along the scenic Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers, and through the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains. From Harpers Ferry you can hop on the the C&O Canal Towpath to bike or just stroll along the river. Hikers can also pick up the Appalachian Trail for a day hike. The Lower Town offers a number of museums, exhibits and historic sites for visitors to see with great shopping and restaurants nearby.
Now get out and Find Your Park – Visit Harpers Ferry!
Find Your Park
This month we continue our Find Your Park in our backyard series, featuring the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historic Park. The C & O Canal is a pathway that spans 184.5 miles along the north bank of the Potomac River from Washington, D.C. to Cumberland, Maryland. Each year over five million hikers, campers, bicyclists and history enthusiasts visit the C & O Canal NHP to discover its historical, natural and recreational treasures.
The idea for a canal along the Potomac River was first realized by none other than George Washington in the mid-1700’s as a young surveyor. He dreamed of connecting the tidewater of the Chesapeake with the Ohio Valley. However, Washington would have to wait until after the Revolutionary War to promote his idea which led to the creation of the Potowmack Canal Company and the building of skirting canals around the major falls on the river. This made the river navigable downstream, and in good conditions, but a more effective way was needed to navigate the Potomac.
In the 1820’s the Potowmack Canal Company transferred the rights to the new Chesapeake and Ohio Canal Company. Construction on the canal began July 4, 1828 when President John Quincy Adams turned the first spadeful of earth during ceremonies at Little Falls, Maryland. Over the next twenty-two years the construction of the C&O Canal would include 74 lift locks, 165 culverts, 11 aqueducts, 7 dams, and a canal tunnel. Financial difficulties, right-of-way disputes, floods, epidemics, and disputes among the workers delayed the construction of the canal. The canal was finally completed and opened on October 10, 1850 at Cumberland, Maryland. The total costs for the canal was more than 11 million dollars.
The canal was in operation from 1850 to 1924. Hundreds of canal boats, just 92 foot-long by 14 1/2 foot wide and pulled by teams of mules along the canal towpath, transported thousands of tons of coal, grain, and lumber. The average trip on the canal typically took about seven days. The fastest known time from Georgetown to Cumberland for a light boat was 62 hours, set by Raleigh Bender from Sharpsburg, MD. Today, Captain Bender’s Tavern, named in his honor, serves as the perfect meeting spot for locals, C & O Canal and Antietam Battlefield visitors
Construction of the C & O Canal reached the Sharpsburg area around 1836 and provided additional employment opportunities for the townspeople and the already flourishing commercial community. Many local families worked a boat on the canal and it required everyone to pitch in together to get the job done. Augustus and Minnie Hebb were one of those families. Augustus, better known as Gus, was the boat captain. Since his family was wasn’t big enough, Gus hired his brother Ira as part of the crew to help. The Hebb children were responsible for tending to the mules and cleaning the boat. They usually went to school only in the winter, when the boats weren’t operating. Years later, after the end of World War II, one of the Hebb children, Theodore (on the far right of the picture below) would purchase a house in Sharpsburg, which would later become the Jacob Rohrbach Inn.
Unfortunately, at the same time construction of the canal began, so to did work on America’s first railroad, the Baltimore and Ohio. Competition from the B&O Railroad and destructive floods eventually put the canal out of business.
In 1938 the entire canal was sold to the U.S. Government, which placed it under the supervision of the National Park Service. The Park Service did some restoration under the emergency work programs of the 1930s, but projects were halted when the United States entered the Second World War.
After the war there was talk of turning the canal into a vehicular parkway to ‘see’ the beauty and recreational opportunities of the Potomac River Valley. However, U.S. Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas, an avid outdoorsman, opposed this idea. He felt that the long-neglected canal, like the river, was rich in beauty, history, wildlife, and recreational opportunities and needed to be protected. Through his actions, Justice Douglas and other concerned citizens helped save the C&O Canal. In 1961 President Eisenhower proclaimed the canal a national monument and in 1971 Congress established the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park.
Guests at the Inn can access the canal at five nearby points:
- Taylor’s Landing at Mile 80.9
- Snyder’s Landing at Mile 76.8
- Shepherdstown / Lock #38 at Mile 72.8
- Millers Sawmill at Mile 70.7
- Antietam Campground & Aqueduct at Mile 69.4
Our two closest visitor centers at Williamsport and Ferry Hill Plantation are excellent wayside stops to see support structures of the canal’s operation and the small communities that once thrived alongside the canal.
Come join the millions of hikers, campers, bicyclists, and others that visit the C&O Canal to experience the rich history, wildlife, and geology of the Potomac Valley. From Georgetown to Cumberland, you can examine how the locks work, take rides in canal boats pulled by mules, and bike and walk along much of the canal’s 185 mile route.
Now get out and Find your Park – Visit the C & O Canal.
Welcome Cyclists and Hikers, The Jacob Rohrbach Inn is located just off the C&O Canal Towpath, and is the ideal base-camp while exploring Maryland.
Eastbound we are 1.5 miles from Snyder’s Landing – mile 76.6 Westbound we are 3 miles from Antietam Aqueduct – mile 69.4 Just a short ride into town via quiet country roads or call for pickup! Check current towpath information and closures here.
Traveling along the canal, a highlight of your journey is the Antietam area near the halfway mark. The Antietam Battlefield preserves the hallowed ground at Sharpsburg, a tribute to our nation and an appropriate way to honor those who fought here on September 17, 1862 when over 23,000 men fell in battle, the bloodiest day in American history.
In the 1830’s the C&O canal was completed from Georgetown to Sharpsburg, and many Sharpsburg residents went to work for the canal company or operated canal boats. Snyders Landing at Sharpsburg had a warehouse and a tie-up where cargo was loaded and boats were wintered. On the towpath just downstream from Snyders Landing are several caves in the cliffs lining the river. In 1862 some Sharpsburg residents took shelter in Killiansburg Cave during the battle.
Captain Augustus Hebb and his family operated a canal boat from Sharpsburg for many years. In 1944, one of his children purchased the home now known as the Jacob Rohrbach Inn. In 1992, Ted Hebb, recalled his boyhood experiences growing up on the canal in a National Park Service interview. Today the canal towpath, where mule skinners once coaxed the boats along, is a 184 mile hiking/biking trail from Washington, DC to Cumberland, Maryland. A new trail, the Great Allegheny Passage, now allows continued travel through the Allegheny Mountains from Cumberland to Pittsburgh. For other accommodations along your route see BBBiking.com, a guide to bike-friendly bed & breakfast inns.
At Antietam’s Jacob Rohrbach Inn you will find:
- A warm welcome for the weary
- Complimentary beverages and homemade cookies
- Hearty full breakfasts included each day
- Beautiful quiet accommodations
- An area to clean and service your bikes
- Your bikes securely locked in our garage
- Restaurants, taverns, deli, ice cream parlor, bakery and convenience store within a few blocks
- Available laundry service
- Pick up/drop off service for Canal points between Williamsport and Harpers Ferry