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Program sponsoring historic walking tours

By Staff | Jul 22, 2011

Claudia Paycheff portrays ‘Mary Bender’ on historic walking tour of Shepherdstown. Paycheff led the tour Sunday, sponsored by the Historic Preservation program at Shepherd University. (Chronicle photo by Kelly Cambrel)

History has come alive as the historic preservation program at Shepherd University kicked off its “living history” summer tours last weekend.

Claudia Paycheff, a third year historic preservation student at SU, led the tour around Shepherdstown’s historic sites Saturday morning and Sunday afternoon.

Paycheff assumed the role of Mary Bender, the daughter of C&O Canal boat Captain Bender.

Paycheff, who also led tours last summer, said that each tour incorporates the history of different locations around town as well as the personal anecdotes of the character each tour guide has chosen to portray.

According to Paycheff, Bender was “a real woman who worked on the C&O.”

Paycheff researched the figure as a part her historic preservation class in preparation for the tour.

Roughly 45 minutes in length, Paycheff’s tour circled Shepherdstown’s historic district, beginning and ending at the Entler Hotel, Shepherdstown’s Visitors Center.

Tracing a path up Princess Street and back down German Street, Paycheff outlined the history of the town from its founding through the Civil War, with stops to discuss the significance of the Town Run, the graveyard where many members of the Shepherd family are laid to rest and the Shepherdstown Public Library, which still sits at the center of Shepherdstown’s downtown area.

According to Keith Alexander, who heads the historic preservation program at SU, the tours were made possible by a contribution from an anonymous donor to the Shepherd Foundation and the historic preservation program last summer.

Alexander explained that the donation was made following the success of the historic preservation program’s cemetery tours at Halloween to be used for additional walking tours.

In its second year, the “living history” tour is timed to coincide with the Contemporary American Theater Festival each summer.

“We have so many people visiting Shepherdstown. It’s a good time to share with them the historic resources we have here,” Alexander said.

Heidi Carbaugh, a senior history student, leads a second tour in which she portrays Mary Bedinger, the author of “A Woman’s Recollection of Antietam,” the famous first-hand account of Bedinger’s experiences living in Shepherdstown during the Antietam/Sharpsburg Civil War battle.

The tours are free to all members of the public and are given Wednesdays and Thursdays at 11 a.m., Fridays at 6 p.m., Saturdays at 10:30 a.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m. More information about the tours can be found at “Shepherdstown Living History” on Facebook.