YOUR HOMETOWN: Museum A Real 'Appening' Place

Visitors To Port Republic Attraction Will Soon Be Able To Take ‘Smart’ Tours

Posted: February 27, 2014

Tamara Gibson, president of the Port Republic Museum, works on a new informational piece for the museum on Monday. The attraction will soon have a new app that visitors can use for self-guided tours. Gibson said the app should be available in April. (Photo by Nikki Fox / DN-R )
Ellen Kaylor, in a dress reminiscent of those worn in the 1860s, has been giving tours at the museum for 15 years. (Photo by Nikki Fox / DN-R )
A photo of McGuffey’s Reader, a textbook used in the 19th century, is on display at the museum. This one belonged to Mount View Academy student Elbert Miller. (Photo by Nikki Fox / DN-R)

PORT REPUBLIC — In a few months, tourists and Civil War buffs exploring Port Republic will have a new way to tap into the area’s local history.

Those taking the Port Republic Museum’s self-guided walking tour will be able to use their smart phones to get more information about each of the tour’s stops. The museum plans to initially have eight narrative stops but are planning more.

The museum, located at 8691 Water St., is open from April to October on Sundays from 1:30 to 4 p.m. so having a helping hand on the tours would be handy, says museum president Tamara Gibson.

“It’s wonderful for us because we are an all-volunteer organization,” she said. “We have limited hours so the mobile app will allow people to have a better understanding of Port Republic.”

The building in which the museum is housed was built around 1830 and was the former home of Benjamin Franklin Kemper. It became famous during the Civil War because Confederates, including Gen. Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, viewed the body of Gen. Turner Ashby as it lay in state in mid-1862.

The town is also known for the Battle of Port Republic, which occurred on June 9, 1862, three days after Ashby was killed in a skirmish between Confederate and Union troops outside Harrisonburg.

The historic home is divided into four rooms, each highlighting artifacts dating back to the 1700s.

The museum does offer guided tours to groups and school classes. Typically, Port Republic resident, Rebecca Challam, dressed in period clothes leads the way.

As she leads the walks, she performs as one of her ancestors. Her family has been in Port Republic since 1743.

“We feel this real pull to tell our ancestors stories,” said Challam.

Historian Ellen Kaylor has been giving tours inside the museum for nearly 15 years.

“It’s exciting to tell other people about the Port Republic history,” said Kaylor. “This was an important place.”

Gibson said the mobile app should be available in April. When it is launched, details will be available on the museum’s website,

Contact Pete DeLea at 574-6278 or

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