Dangerfield Newby


Hog Alley didn't get its name in a very pretty way.

During the John Brown raid, the first raider killed was a black man by the name of Dangerfield Newby. Dangerfield had been freed by his white father, but he had a wife and seven children held in slavery in Warrenton, Virginia. His wife's master had told him that for the sum of $1,500 he could buy his wife and his youngest baby, who had just started to crawl. Dangerfield earned that amount of money and went back to Warrenton to purchase his wife and baby, only to have his wife's master raise the price. The free black man then joined John Brown in the hope of freeing not only his wife and youngest baby, but his entire family.

There were a lot of guns in Harpers Ferry, since they were made in the town and stored in the 22 building armory complex near the train tracks. There was little ammunition for the guns, however, and townspeople would fire anything they could find for their guns. One man was shooting 6 inch spikes from his powder loaded gun.

When John Brown raided the town in October of 1859, it was one of those spikes that hit the throat of Dangerfield Newby. He was killed instantly.

The people of Harpers Ferry, frustrated and angered by John Brown and his raiders, took the body of Dangerfield Newby and stabbed it repeatedly with their rusty knives. They left the mutilated body in the alley to be eaten by the hungry hogs.

Some night, if you are walking down Hog Alley and see a man dressed in baggy trousers and an old slouched hat with a terrible scar across his throat, you will know you have met Dangerfield Newby. He is still roaming our streets, trying to free his family.

(From Ghosts of Harpers Ferry by Stephen D. Brown)


...and this comment, from Joseph Barry in his book The Strange Story of Harper's Ferry:

That Newby's body was torn by hogs at Harper's Ferry is too well known to require an apology for a relation of the facts, although the details are undoubtedly disgusting. Shortly after Newby's death a hog came up, rooted around the spot where the body lay and at first appeared to be unconscious that anything extraordinary was in its way. After a while, the hog paused and snuffed around around it and put its snout to the dead man's face. Suddenly, the brute was apparently seized with a panic, and, with bristles erect and drooping tail, it scampered away, as if for dear life.

This display of sensibility did not, however, deter others of the same species from crowding around the corpse and almost literally devouring it. The writer saw all this with his own eyes, as the saying is, and at the risk of further criticism he will remark that none of the good people of Harper's Ferry appeared to be at all squeamish about the quality or flavor of their pork that winter.

Hog Alley is where the "Coffee Mill," a hamburger shop, is now. You can't miss it: there's a coffee mill on a pole overlooking the alley. Stop by and have a bite to eat sometime. Bon Appetit! - Jonah