CHARLES TOWN – Collecting old photographs was a natural outcome of Ray Parks’ interest in Jefferson County’s history, an interest which began when he moved here 65 years ago.
For many years, he displayed some of the photos at his Ranson barbershop, and from time to time, customers would bring in their old photos to add to his collection. When customers wanted the originals back, Edwin Fitzpatrick, a local photographer, would make copies. By the time Ray retired in 1981, the collection had grown to about 400 photographs.
In 1992, he and his wife Natalie generously donated the collection to the Jefferson County Museum, where they have been a valuable and treasured part of the museum’s archives. Researchers and others interested in visual representations of the county’s history make good use of them.
The collection offers a fascinating look at the county from the latter part of the 19th century through the mid-20th century. Although far too many of the buildings and places are gone, the Parks’ foresight in collecting these photographs means that their images remain with us.
Churches represented, some of them gone or in ruins, include St. Andrew’s-on-the-Mount Mission, Halltown Memorial Chapel, old Charles Town Asbury Methodist Church, St. John’s Episcopal Church, Kabletown Union Church and Presbyterian churches in Charles Town and Halltown.
Other photographs in the collection show long-ago businesses, including Ranson’s Goetz Harness Factory, Powhatan Brass & Iron Works and Charles Town Mining, Manufacturing and Improvement Company; Aisquith and Company Pharmacists, Luxenberg’s Department Store, Jefferson and Carter House Hotels, Locke’s mill along Evitts Run, Thompson’s Barber Shop and Charles Town Steam Laundry building and horse drawn carriage (all in Charles Town); railroad stations in Shepherdstown and Charles Town; Hopewell Mill on the Shenandoah River; and Shannondale Springs on the Blue Ridge Mountain.
Street scenes in Harpers Ferry, Ranson, Charles Town, and Shepherdstown evoke the periods of horse-drawn carriages and early automobiles.
Homes shown include the Peter Burr House, Rion Hall, Elmwood, Samuel Washington’s Harewood, and several Charles Town homes belonging to the Wilson, McCurdy-Wysong and Coe families.
Among the events captured in images are the Independent Fire Company demonstrating a Theodore Button steam engine (1910), the devastation of the 1889 and 1936 floods in Harpers Ferry, the 1920s miners’ trials in Charles Town, and the first horse show held by the Charles Town Horse Show Association (in 1914, on the grounds of the current race track).
The Parks’ donation of their photograph collection was a tremendous boon to the museum and to researchers and others who use our archives.
The museum is grateful to the Arts and Humanities Alliance of Jefferson County for funds to preserve our collection of photographs and negatives.
The Jefferson County Museum houses a stunning collection of artifacts and documents on the history of the county. See a letter from George Washington, handwritten after his brother Charles’ death in 1799; the wagon that carried John Brown to his hanging; a large collection of Civil War artifacts; personal effects of Harriet Lane, first lady for President James Buchanan; toys and doll; and much, much more. We’re located at 200 E. Washington St., Charles Town, on the ground floor of the Charles Town Library building. Stop by 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday from mid-March to mid-December. Admission is free to children under 18 and patrons of the Charles Town Library. Otherwise, adult admission is $3. For information on the museum, call curator Jane Rissler at 304-725-8628 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.