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Learn to make bread

By Staff | Jun 5, 2015

Learn to make your daily bread… in a bee hive oven, in this historic trades baking workshop! On Saturday, June 13, Harpers Ferry National Historical Park will offer a two and a half hour workshop giving participants the opportunity to bake and eat leaven rolls or “street corner food,” large soft pretzels, in a large masonry “beehive oven.” A workshop fee of $15 for adult participants covers instruction, techniques in beehive oven baking, and bread ingredients. Visit the Harpers Ferry National Historical Park website for information about registering for this workshop. Pre-registration closes on June 6.

In the early 19th century, local flour production and fresh bread on the table of Harpers Ferry residents proved that the town was no longer the frontier, but a part of civilized society. Local bakers and confectioners, like German immigrant Frederick Roeder, helped to feed the growing industrial town.

In 1809, Harpers Ferry boating merchant John Wager, Jr., began a flour shipping business from Harpers Ferry mills into the federal capital 60 miles away, contributing to this region’s reputation during the early republic as the breadbasket, supplying larger cities with local grain and flour. At its height, 20,000 barrels of flour were staged along the Shenandoah for shipping down the river. In local businesses like Roeder’s Confectionery, Frederick Roeder and his wife Ann could track their flour consumption out of the family flour barrel of hard and soft wheat, today’s equivalent of “all-purpose flour.” From nineteenth century statistics, the average baker could yield quite an array of baked goods each month from their flour barrel: “34 loaves of bread, 17 6-quart pans of doughnuts, 17 messes of biscuits, 94 pies, 7 loaf cakes, 1 dozen tart crusts, 3 dozen gingersnaps, and one mess of pancakes.”