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John Brown's Trail
Item 2 of 8
Though it was torn down in 1919, the old Charles Town jail was where John Brown was held before his hanging, sitting diagonally across from the courthouse. John Brown was taken by Robert E. Lee and his men on October 17, 1859 and transported to the jail while awaiting trial. He remained there until his hanging on December 2, 1859. In it's spot now stands the Charles Town post office.

  • Old Jail in Charles Town; last photo to be taken before it was torn down in 1919

The Jefferson County Jail was constructed in 1806. After John Brown’s raid on Harpers Ferry in 1859, John Brown and his raiders were taken to the Charles Town jail. It sat diagonally across from the courthouse, where the post office now sits. Brown was beaten by Lt. Israel Green during his capture and requested a delay for his trial due to injury, which was not granted. He received medical attention while in jail and was carried to court on a stretcher. He refused rescue attempts and spent his time furthering the cause of abolition through letter-writing and interviews with journalists. While incarcerated he also developed a friendship with his jailer, John Avis.

During the Civil War the jail was destroyed and rebuilt on the same site in 1873. A new jail was constructed in 1919, one block north on George Street, and after the jail moved this lot was purchased by the United States Post Office. The current Post Office building was constructed in 1922.

The Post Office building is listed as part of the Downtown Charles Town Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places. 

“National Register of Historic Places Registration Form: Downtown Charles Town Historic District.” Accessed December 10, 2020. http://www.wvculture.org/shpo/nr/pdf/jefferson/97000263.pdf.

“Walking Tour of Charles Washington’s Town: Walk in the Footsteps of History.” City of Charles Town and Jefferson County Convention & Visitors Bureau. Accessed December 10, 2020. https://s3.amazonaws.com/discoveritallwv.com/JCHS_CTTourBrochure.pdf.

Image Sources(Click to expand)

West Virginia History On View; WVU