Jacob Rohrbach Inn (Sharpsburg, Maryland)

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The Farmsteads of Antietam – Jacob Avey Farm

July 31, 2021 by jacobrohrbach

Avey farm view

View of the Avey farm from the 9th NY Monument. cir. 1897

 We continue the story of the Farmsteads  of Antietam with the Jacob Avey farm that sits at the southern edge of Sharpsburg. The D.R. Miller cornfield, the Poffenberger woods, and the Piper orchard; when we hear these the names of these places we know where they are on the Antietam battlefield and the action that occurred there.  But very few people have heard of the Avey farm, know where it is or even understand what happened there.  Like the copse of trees at Gettysburg for the Confederate High Water Mark, the Avey farm is the “High-Water Mark” for the Union at Antietam and is critical to understanding the Battle of Antietam.  

land patents

Location of land patents around Sharpsburg

In the early 1700’s very few people lived west of Frederick. To entice immigrants into western Maryland, land was being offered at very low prices; and people with disposable wealth began to purchase large tracts of land. In 1736, Joseph Chapline, Sr. moved west and began acquiring hundreds of acres of land along the Potomac River through grants and purchases.  In 1747 he patented the 250-acre tract “Hunting the Hare,” located just south of present-day Sharpsburg. Earlier that year, Chapline also purchased an adjacent 150-acre tract originally patented by Francis Abston in 1742 known as “Abston’s Forrest.” When the French and Indian War erupted in 1754, Chapline was called upon to assist his friend and Maryland Governor, Horatio Sharpe. As a Captain, Chapline would help finance and build forts along the frontier.  

land tracts

The land tracts around Sharpsburg

With the war over, Joseph Chapline sought to take advantage of the influx of new settlers coming into the valley. In 1763 Chapline founded the town of Sharps Burgh (present-day Sharpsburg) in honor of Maryland’s provincial governor Horatio Sharpe. This new town would be located on a 200-acre tract that Chapline had purchased known as “Hickory Tavern”. What made the “Hickory Tavern” tract such an appealing place for a town was the presence of a fresh water spring (Garrison’s Spring) and its location along the wagon road to Philadelphia.  This parcel was located close to his plantation and adjacent to two other parcels he owned, “Resurvey on Abston’s Forest” and “Hunting the Hare.”  In August 1764 Chapline patented “Joe’s Lot,” which consisted of 2,127 acres on the south and east sides of Sharpsburg. The parcel included over 1,680 acres of vacant land along with the original surveys of Resurvey on Abston’s Forest and Hickory Tavern.

Joseph Chapline died in 1769. In his will he divided his vast holdings among his children. His eldest, Joseph Chapline, Jr., received the majority of his lands, including Sharpsburg and the surrounding land. In 1789, Joseph Chapline, Jr., applied to the land office in Annapolis for a resurvey of his lands into a single tract he wished to be known as Mount Pleasant, and this patent for 2,575 acres was received on July 15, 1791.  Over the next several years, the Chapline children and other land owners divided these large land tracts into smaller family sized farms and sold them to the settlers moving into the Sharpsburg area.

Joseph Avey's home near Taylor's Landing

Joseph Avey’s home near Taylor’s Landing

One of these families was the Avey or Eavey family. Henry Avey immigrated with his family to America in 1732 from Rotterdam. It is believed that the Avey’s were from the Berne, Switzerland area and were escaping religious persecution.  The Avey’s landed in Philadelphia and by 1746, Henry Avey owned 200 acres of land in what is now Washington County, Maryland.  Henry had three sons; John, Joseph and Jacob. The three brothers all assisted in the defense of the colonies during the French and Indian War.  In 1783, Joseph purchased part of the track known as Spriggs Delight along the Potomac River near where Taylor’s Landing is today. It appears that Joseph’s son, Michael  inherited his father property after he died in 1799.  According to the 1803-04 Washington County tax record, Michael Avey owned 150 acres of Spriggs Delight. Michael’s oldest son, Jacob was born on May 12, 1791.  Jacob was a farmer and in the 1820’s he began to purchase properties around the Sharpsburg area.  Jacob would marry Catharine Palmer in January 1815 and together they would have ten children. 

Notice of the John J. Hays estate.

Here our story goes back to Joseph Chapline, Jr. He and his wife, Mary Ann had no children, but other family members filled their home at Mount Pleasant.  Joseph’s nephew, Dr. John J. Hays was residing at Mount Pleasant and came into his favor.  Just a few months before his death in 1821 Joseph Chapline Jr., sold 1,000 acres of Mount Pleasant, including the house, to his nephew and named Hayes the executor of the estate.   Dr. Hayes also owned other properties in and around Sharpsburg. To settle the estate of his uncle, Hays held a public sale to sell farming equipment , livestock and household affects. Unfortunately, Dr. Hayes died shortly after Chapline in 1823.  The executor of his estate was William Price.  Not only did he have to settle John J. Hays’ estate, but now he also had the unfinished business of the Chapline estate. Within a matter of a few years the Hays and the Chapline estate was settled and most, if not all the property including Mount Pleasant and the land south of Sharpsburg was sold.

property owned by Avey

Approx. property line of the land owned by Jacob Avey

In October, 1826 Jacob Avey purchased 22 acres from the executors of the John J. Hays estate for $550. This property was just southeast of Sharpsburg near the Joseph Reel mill (this property was sold in 1831).  Two years later in September 1828, Jacob purchased another property from the John J. Hays estate for $500. This was an 86 3/4 acre farm known as the Bower Farm adjacent to Sharpsburg between the road to the Antietam Iron Works (the Harpers Ferry Road today) and the Reel Mill road (the Burnside Bridge Road today). Jacob may have owned more land, but those records have not been found. Over the next 30 plus years, Jacob and Catharine Avey raised their family on this farmstead at the edge of Sharpsburg. According to the 1860 census, the Avey farm was valued at $4,800 with $300 in personal property and three of their adult children still resided at home. 

1860 census

Jacob Avey family, 186o Census

 

1859 Taggart map of Sharpsburg.

1859 Taggart map of Sharpsburg.

Avey farm in 1862

Jacob Avey farm in 1862

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Avey house is a two-story ell shaped dwelling with brick and frame construction.  Just to the back of the house is a board and batten out kitchen with stone chimney and to the east of the house near the road leading out of Sharpsburg is a stone springhouse.  South of the house was a large Swisser bank barn and a number of other out buildings and dependencies.  Today only the ruins of the barn still exist. 

house

Avey House

out kitchen

Out kitchen

spring house

Springhouse

 

 

 

 

 

On September 15, 1862 Confederate forces under General Robert E. Lee were withdrawing back toward the Potomac River after their defeat at South Mountain.  Receiving word from General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, that the Union garrison at Harpers Ferry was going to surrender, Lee decided to consolidate his army at Sharpsburg using the high ground east of town to position his defensive line. Throughout the day Confederate soldiers from David R. Jones’ division moved into Sharpsburg and onto the Avey farm.  D.R. Jones was responsible for the center and southern end of Lee’s line.  Jones stretched his small division from the Boonsboro Pike at Cemetery Hill to the Rohrbach Bridge road with two brigades and five artillery batteries; across the road the brigades of Walker, Drayton, and Kemper covered the raise across the Avey farm. Between the Avey house and their orchard, Captain Hugh R. Garden’s four gun battery was parked.  To his front, Jones positioned Robert Tombs’ brigade  to cover the Rohrbach Bridge with three batteries of artillery for support and part of Nathen Evan’s brigade was forward on the Joseph Sherrick farm. Later the next day, the division of John Walker arrived to Jones’ left to cover the flank and the Snavely’s Ford on the Antietam. 

With an impending battle on their doorstep, the Avey’s most likely packed up some of their belongs and left their home.  It is possible that Jacob’s family went to stay with their son Samuel, daughter in law Kate, and their 5 children in Porterstown just east of the Antietam Creek.   Their son, Jacob (named after his grandfather) who was 12 yrs old at the time, remembered “sitting on a fence beside the road, watching the soldiers striding down South Mountain” on their way to toward Sharpsburg.  When fighting began on the 17th, young Jacob was standing near the smokehouse when “a Rebel shell tore through and wrecked the building but spared his life“.

Carman-Cope Battlefield Map, 7:30am, Sept. 17, 1862

Carman-Cope Battlefield Map, Daybreak, Sept. 17, 1862

That Rebel shell most likely came from the artillery D.R. Jones had posted on the heights at the edge of Sharpsburg.  According to his battle report, “Daylight of September 17 gave the signal for a terrific cannonade. The battle raged with intensity on the left and center, but the heavy masses in my front–repulsed again and again in their attempts to force the passage of the bridge by the two regiments before named, comprising 403 men, assisted by artillery I had placed in position on the heights–were unable to effect a crossing”.  Throughout most of the morning the fighting was raging north of D.R. Jones’ position.  Early into the battle Lee directed John Walker’s division to move to the north of Sharpsburg to support General Jackson’s command near the Dunker Church. General Daniel H. Hill was directed to shift his defense to the north as well and Jones was ordered to send G.T. Anderson’s brigade to support General Hood.  Around 10am the Union Ninth Corps began attempts to force a crossing over the Antietam at the Rohrbach Bridge and the ford.  By 1:00pm the Union forces had taken the bridge and were crossing over Snavely’s Ford as well.  General James Longstreet said, “Brigadier-General Toombs held the bridge and defended it most gallantly, driving back repeated attacks, and only yielded it after the forces brought against him became overwhelming and threatened his flank and rear”.  

This redeployment of forces to the north and the loss of the bridge and ford forced Jones to realign his small division in order to defend the Confederate right.  Garnett’s brigade was left to guard Cemetery Hill. Walker’s brigade and Garden’s battery moved to the left of the Avey farm to watch the draw up into Sharpsburg along the Rohrbach Bridge Road. Captain James S. Brown, in command the four guns of the Wise (VA) Battery redeployed from the Otto farm to the hill at the edge of the stone fence on the Avey farm along with a couple of guns from Capt. James Reilly’s battery.  Kemper and Drayton moved their brigades forward to the fence at the hill to await the impending Union advance.  John Dooley of the 1st Virginia Infantry recalled, “We are moved to meet this attack almost between the advancing enemy and the town of Sharpsburg.  A few of our men are in the orchard afore mentioned, and behind a stone wall, and the majority behind a rail fence on the borders of a cornfield. Two pieces of artillery are all that can be spared to keep the enemy back”.   The Confederate artillery on the Avey farm was taking it’s toll on the Union infantry trying to move upon the Rebels along the fence line.

Carman-Cope Battlefield Map, 4:20pm, Sept. 17, 1862

Carman-Cope Battlefield Map, 4:20pm, Sept. 17, 1862

By 3:00pm, Burnside’s Ninth Corps was in position to begin their assault toward Sharpsburg.  Colonel Harrison Fairchild, a brigade commander in General Isaac Rodman’s division wrote, “We continued to advance to the opposite hill under a tremendous fire from the enemy’s batteries up steep embankments. Arriving near a stone fence, the enemy – a brigade composed of South Carolina and Georgia regiments – opened on us with musketry. After returning their fire, I immediately ordered a charge, which the whole brigade gallantly responded to, moving with alacrity and steadiness. Arriving at the fence, behind which the enemy were awaiting us, receiving their fire, losing large numbers of our men, we charged over the fence, dislodging them and driving them from their position down the hill toward the village,”. 

 

9 NY assaulting the high ground south of Sharpsburg.
sketch by Edwin Forbes

Next to the New York brigade on their left flank was the lone 8th Connecticut Regiment, advancing toward the Harpers Ferry Road. As the Fairchild’s New Yorkers were reaching the heights, Orlando Willcox’s Union Division advanced astride the Rohrbach Bridge Road. His left brigade under the command of Colonel Thomas Welsh advanced across the Avey fields and pushed into the orchard.  Col. Welsh reported, “I moved my whole command over a steep hill, immediately charging the enemy and driving them rapidly in the direction of Sharpsburg, my troops advancing to the edge of the town and capturing the rebel Captain Twiggs and several soldiers”. Welsh was referring to two of his regiments, the 8th Michigan and the 100th Pennsylvania that had driven the Rebels out of the orchard and to the outskirts of Sharpsburg.

Carman-Cope Battlefield Map, 5:30pm, Sept. 17, 1862

Carman-Cope Battlefield Map, 5:30pm, Sept. 17, 1862

The Confederate line was breaking, Fairchild’s men could see the spires of town.  Dooley remembered, “The Yankees, finding no batteries opposing them, approach closer and closer, cowering down as near to the ground as possible, while we keep up a pretty warm fire by file upon them as they advance. Now they are at the last elevation of rising ground and whenever a head is raised we fire. Now they rise up and make a charge for our fence. Hastily emptying our muskets into their lines, we fled back through the cornfield.”  Just as the end seemed to be in sight for the Union forces advancing across the Avey farm, Confederate brigades from General A.P. Hill’s division arrived on the left flank of the Ninth Corps.  A.P. Hill’s sudden arrival on the Union left forced them to withdraw from the Avey farm back to the Sherrick and Otto farms where they began their advance. 

S.G. Elliott map 1864

S.G. Elliott map of the Antietam Battlefield marking the graves on the Avey farm, 1864

 

Although there was no major fighting on September 18, sporadic gun fire occurred across the fields on the southern end of the lines as both sides tended to the wounded and began to bury their dead.  The Confederates buried about a dozen men on the Avey farm.  The Union would have to wait until the 19th, after the Rebels withdrew back across the Potomac for their burial details to begin the dating task of burying the almost 200 dead Union soldiers across the Avey farm.

 

Like many of their neighbors around Sharpsburg, when the Aveys returned home they found death, destruction and devastation.  Across their fields lay the dead from both sides, with guns and equipment scattered about. Most of the split rail fencing was gone, their cornfield was trampled down, and hay was either used for the wounded or fed to the horses. A claim had been filed for the damages and items taken for his farm in the amount of $477.95, but it would take until 1902 for the government to find the the claim was justified.  In 1905. the reparations were paid in the amount of $318 to the executors of the estate, Samuel and Elizabeth Avey. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just over a year after the battle, Jacob Avey died on October 12, 1863 at the age of 72 and Catharine died on July 14, 1870.  Although they are both buried in the Methodist Cemetery in Sharpsburg only Catharine’s head stone still remains.

 

 

 

 

Four years after Jacob died, Catharine and the children sold the 86 3/4 acre farm to John Ecker in 1867. John Ecker’s daughter married a Benjamin Miller and it is believed that they lived on the farm. The reasoning for this is when the Bowie List of the Burial Places of the Remains of Confederate Soldiers was completed in 1868 it indicted Confederates had been buried on the Ben Miller farm referring to locations near the Sherrick farm and the John Highbarger lot at the edge of Sharpsburg.  Further evidence of this is that the farm was sold to William Thomas in 1876 and this is indicted on the 1877 map of Sharpsburg.

1868 Bowie List identifying the Rebel dead on the Avey Farm

1877 Map of Sharpsburg. W. Thomas was the owner of the Avey Farm.

 

 

 

 

 

At some point before the turn of the century the spelling of the Avey name had changed to Eavey.  Four of the ten Avey children (Jacob and Catharine) would move west, settling in Illinois and Nebraska, while the rest remained a little closer to home. Their son, Jacob stayed in Sharpsburg and married Elizabeth Marker.  They would have a son named John Wesley Eavey who would become a prominent Sharpsburg figure.  John Wesley Eavey was the principal of the Sharpsburg school where he taught for over twenty years, he served as president of the Sharpsburg Bank, and was a member of a number of local organizations.

Veterans of the 9th NY at the monument dedication.

In October 1894, veterans of the 8th Connecticut Volunteer Infantry Regiment had returned to Sharpsburg to dedicate a monument on the ground where they had fought.  Earlier that year, a small plot of ground near the stone wall was purchased from John Otto, who now owned the Avey farm, for the placement of the 8th Connecticut’s monument.  The War Department has also placed a mortuary cannon on the ridge to indict where Union Brigadier General Isaac Rodman was mortally wounded during the battle. Three years later on Memorial Day 1897, members of the 9th New York Volunteer Infantry Regiment returned to dedicate their monument on a plot next to the 8th Connecticut’s monument. The 9th New York (Hawkins Zouaves) Monument stands at the “High Water Mark” of the Union final attack at Antietam.

Aerial photo over the Avey farm looking toward Sharpsburg.

After changing ownership a half a dozen times, it appears that in the 1940’s small parcels of the farm were sold off along the Harpers Ferry Road and High Street. The same is true for a handful of lots along the Burnside Bridge Road. Over the years, the northern section of the farm was not being cultivated and trees began to take over and the orchard was cut down. In 1976, Stephen Whilden had acquired the farm and parceled off 20 acres of the property that included the original farmstead and structures near the town of Sharpsburg. This property was purchased by Robert Stransky, the current owner of the Avey farmstead. When the Stransky’s took ownership of the farmstead, only the house, out kitchen and springhouse remained.  The Avey farm remains private property, but it is a critical piece to understanding the Battle of Antietam and is an eyewitness to history.

*We are very grateful to Linda Irvin-Craig for taking the time to talk with us about the history of the Avey/Eavey family and sharing the information about her ancestors.  We also want to thank Mr. Robert Stransky for allowing us to visit him at the Avey farm (Thanks to Dr. Tom Clemens for arranging the visit).

Sources:
  • Ancestry.com, Jacob Avey Family, Census Data 1840-1940.  Retrieved from: https://www.ancestry.com\.
  • Avey, Michael Garland, The Cultural Resources of the Avey Family Phase 1, Dept. of Archeology, Pierce College, Fort Steilacoom, WA, 1986. https://archive.org/details/TheCulturalResourcesOfTheAveyFamilyPhase1
  • Beeler, Ed and Michael J. Chapline, Searching for Joseph Chapline Maryland Frontiersman and Founder of Sharpsburg, Maryland, 2013
  • Irvin-Craig, Linda. Personal interview. May, 2021.
  • Maryland. Board of Trustees of the Antietam National Cemetery, and 1869-1873 (Oden Bowie) Maryland. Governor. A Descriptive List of the Burial Places of the Remains of Confederate Soldiers: Who Fell In the Battles of Antietam, South Mountain, Monocacy, And Other Points In Washington And Frederick Counties, In the State of Maryland. Hagerstown, Md.: “Free press” print, 1868.
  • Maryland State Archives. Maryland Land Records On-Line, Washington County, April 25, 2021. https://mdlandrec.net/main/dsp_search.cfm?cid=WA.
  • Maryland Historical Trust, Avey-Stransky House, WA-II-151, Maryland Inventory of Historic Properties Form, 1977.
  • Nelson, John N.  “As Grain Fall Before the Reaper”, The Federal Hospital Sites and Identified Federal Casualties at Antietam.  Hagerstown, MD. 2004.
  • Recker, Stephen J. Rare Images of Antietam: And the Photographers Who Took Them. Another Software Miracle; Sharpsburg, Maryland 2012.
  • Recker, Stephen J. Virtual Antietam; Final Attack Trail. Retrieved from http://www.virtualantietam.com/sites/default/files/field/image/1897_9thNYmonDed.jpg. 
  • Schildt, John W. Monuments at Antietam. E Graphics, Brunswick, MD 2019.
  • Taggert, Thomas, Map of Washington County. L. McKee and C.G. Roberton, Hagerstown, Maryland 1859.
  • The Morning Herald (Hagerstown, Maryland) Jacob Eavey Obituary, 16 Aug 1948.  Retrieved from https://www.newspapers.com/
  • The Touch Light and Public Advertiser (Hagerstown, Maryland) Estate of John J. Hays deceased, 28 August 1823.  Retrieved from https://www.newspapers.com/
  • Tracey, Dr. Arthur G. “Land Patents of Washington County, MD. Showing their location on the land-their adjoining tracts- the relationship one to another-plus other related information“. MDLANDREC. Maryland Historic Trust. Retrieved from http://mdhistory.msa.maryland.gov/tracey_fr_wa_cr/html/index.html
  • Washington Historical Trust, Architectural & Historic Treasures: 43 – Stone Hill circa 1800-1825, North of Sharpsburg, MD. Hagerstown, Maryland February 7, 1993.  Retrieved from  http://washingtoncountyhistoricaltrust.org/3-stone-hill-circa-1800-1825-north-of-sharpsburg-md/.
  • Washington Historical Trust, Architectural & Historic Treasures: 113 – Mount Pleasant, circa 1790, Sharpsburg, MD.  Hagerstown, Maryland September 7, 1997.  Retrieved from  http://washingtoncountyhistoricaltrust.org/136-mount-pleasant-circa-1790-sharpsburg-md/.
  • Western Maryland’s Historical Library. Washington County, Maryland, Taxes 1803 Lower Anteatum Hundred, Washington County, Maryland, 1803 https://digital.whilbr.org/digital/collection/p16715coll46/id/82/rec/11.
  • U.S. War Department, Atlas of the battlefield of Antietam, prepared under the direction of the Antietam Battlefield Board, lieut. col. Geo. W. Davis, U.S.A., president, gen. E.A. Carman, U.S.V., gen. H Heth, C.S.A. Surveyed by lieut. col. E.B. Cope, engineer, H.W. Mattern, assistant engineer, of the Gettysburg National Park. Drawn by Charles H. Ourand, 1899. Position of troops by gen. E. A. Carman. Published by authority of the Secretary of War, under the direction of the Chief of Engineers, U.S. Army, 1908.” Washington, Government Printing Office, 1908.   Retrieved from https://www.loc.gov/resource/g3842am.gcw0248000/?sp=5.
  • United States Congressional Serial Set. Court of Claims for Jacob Avey, 1902.. United States: U.S. Government Printing Office, (n.d.). Retrieved from: https://www.google.com/books/edition/United_States_Congressional_Serial_Set/iA1HAQAAIAAJ?hl=en&gbpv=1&kptab=editions

 

 

Italian Egg Bake

July 11, 2021 by jacobrohrbach

Italian egg bakeAre you looking for an easy, colorful breakfast casserole that looks amazing and tastes great?  Well, we have the answer for you with our Italian Egg Bake.  This is one of our favorite savory dishes, especially when we have a full house. 

 

 

 

 

This recipe makes approx. 10 servings and here are the ingredients you will need:ingredients

  • 8 Eggs
  • 1 cup half and half
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon McCormick Italian Seasoning
  • 1 teaspoons turmeric
  • 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, cut into cubes and softened to room temperature
  • 4 oz. cream cheese, cut into cubes and softened to room temperature
  • 1 16 oz. Container of small curd cottage cheese
  • 4 cups of four Mexican cheeses, shredded tomatoes and parsley
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 tablespoons of chopped parsley, divided
  • a few Roma tomatoes

 

 

Preheat oven to 350F and spray a 9″ by 13″ pan with Pam.

In a large mixing bowl, beat eggs and mix in half and half, salt, pepper, sugar, Italian seasoning and turmeric. 

Beat in softened butter, and the softened cream cheese.  Now beat in cottage cheese, thoroughly.

egg dish

 

Add four shredded cheeses; mix in flour and baking powder, 1/2 tablespoon of parsley then mix all that in thoroughly.

 Pour all into greased pan; sprinkle with remaining parsley and place some thin slides of Roma tomatoes on top.

 

baked egg dish

Cook at 350F for approximately 45 minutes or until set and ever so slightly browned around edges. 

Let cool for about 5-10 minutes, cut into 8-12 pieces. Serve with a side of breakfast sausage  and of course a homemade Southern Biscuit.

 

Italian Egg Bake Recipe

 

Tolson’s Chapel and School

July 7, 2021 by jacobrohrbach

Emancipation Proclamation

Emancipation Proclamation (LoC)

When we think of the Battle of Antietam, many think of the 23,100 casualties that resulted in the twelve hours of ferocious combat. We also relate Antietam to the battle that ended the Confederacy’s first invasion into the North.  Seldom do we connect this strategic victory to President Lincoln’s announcement of the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation and what that meant for the enslaved African Americans right here in the Sharpsburg area.  We are so fortunate to have a new National Historic Landmark site in Sharpsburg to tell the story of our African American community. This beacon of hope shares their experiences during the Civil War, their new found freedom, and their efforts to build a community around their religion and education.  The Tolson’s Chapel and School is that symbolic beacon.

The beginning of Tolson’s Chapel

The Emancipation Proclamation did not grant freedom to the enslaved African Americans in Maryland on January 1. 1863.  They would have to wait until the state of Maryland changed their constitution on November 1, 1864.  Soon after, a Black Methodist preacher named John R. Tolson, organized members of the local Methodist Episcopal Church and they established their independent congregation by 1866. That year, they built a small log and frame church on land that was deeded to the trustees of the church by Samuel Craig, who was a free African American before the war and owned property on the south side of Sharpsburg.

tolson's chapel

Tolson’s Chapel on the 1922 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map of Sharpsburg

The start of a school

Seeking ways to provide education to their children and adults, the African American community of Sharpsburg offered the use of their church to the Freedman’s Bureau in 1868. For two years the church was used as a school, with as many as 25 students. After Congress discontinued the Freedman’s Bureau operations in 1870, Washington County School Board assumed the responsibility of providing educational opportunities to its black residents.  The school continued to be operated at Tolson’s Chapel until 1899, when the county built a frame schoolhouse on High Street called the Sharpsburg Colored School.

The Cemetery

Along with supporting the school, the congregation grew both in numbers and activities. In the latter half of the 19th century the chapel continued to hold Sunday services, Sunday school, fairs, and festivals. In 1883, the trustees purchased the back half of the lot behind the chapel to be used as a cemetery.  It’s believed that it may have been used for burials as early as 1871.  The Tolson’s Chapel cemetery holds many of the earlier members including Hilary Watson, Jerry Summers, David B. Simons and his son, Rev. James F. Simons.

Preservation, Restoration and Interpretation

Tolson’s Chapel

Tolson’s Chapel in 1988

Although the Tolson’s Chapel congregation remained active through the early 1900’s, by the 1950s, the number of members declined as African Americans moved out of Sharpsburg. The church was deconsecrated in 1998, two years after the death of the last surviving member, Virginia Cook.  Soon after this the building fell into disrepair. Fortunately in 2002, the Baltimore-Washington Conference of the United Methodist Church sold the building to a local preservation group, the Save Historic Antietam Foundation (SHAF).  By 2004, the Friends of Tolson’s Chapel (FOTC) was established as a 501(c)(3) non-profit association dedicated to the restoration and interpretation of Tolson’s Chapel. Since then, the deed was transferred from SHAF to FOTC and a remarkable amount of restoration has been completed. Through the efforts of  the FOTC, Tolson’s Chapel was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 2008 and designated a National Historic Landmark in January of 2021.

 

Tolson’s Chapel

Tolson’s Chapel today (NPS)

Become a Friend of Tolson’s Chapel and School

The chapel is just a short walk from the Inn and part of the Sharpsburg Historic Walking Tour.  FOTC hold special events and activities throughout the year.  We look forward to their annual “Christmas by Candlelight”.  Tours are available by appointment. To become a member or to support the Friends of Tolson’s Chapel go to their website and follow along their Facebook page for all the latest news and events.

Directions

Turn off Main Street (MD 34) in Sharpsburg onto South Mechanic Street.  Turn left on High Street and the pull in front of the chapel on the left.

Tolson’s Chapel and School
111 E. High Street
Sharpsburg, MD 21782

John Schildt – “Roads to Gettysburg”

June 11, 2021 by jacobrohrbach

Rev. John Schildt (photo credit: fredericknewspost.com)

John Schildt hardly needs an introduction. He is well known for his many books relating the various aspects of the Maryland Campaign of 1862 and local history. Reverend Schildt graduated from Shepherd College, Wesley Theological Seminary and has studied at Western Maryland College, Gettysburg Seminary and West Virginia University.

Rev. Schildt was introduced to Civil War history by his great-grandmother who fed Union troops on the way to Gettysburg when she was a little girl. John has been a lecturer and guide for the Gettysburg College Civil War Institute, Bud Robertson’s “Campaigning with Lee”, the Chicago Civil War Round Table, and many other groups. He was the main speaker at the 125th anniversary of Antietam. Outside of Civil War history, John has led three educational excursions to Normandy and took part in the American and French commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the D-day landing in 1994. While leading explorations, he likes to make history come alive by sharing human interest stories about people and places. Having been a lifelong student of Antietam, John has written many books on the subject, including “September Echoes,” “Drums along the Antietam,” “Roads to Antietam,” and several others.

Lee crossing the Potomac

Lee crossing the Potomac into Maryland, 1863

Rev. John Schildt will present “Roads to Gettysburg” on Wednesday, August 4th.  Everyone know s about Gettysburg. But how did the troops get there? This is an epic story of 175,000 men and all the equipment of war covering , in some cases, 200 miles in two weeks, from the Rappahannock River to the fields of Gettysburg.. 100,000 men, wagons and caissons crossed on two pontoon bridges, spanning 1600 feet, resting on 64 boats.  It is the story of rain , heat, thirst and sunstroke, as they marched through Maryland and Pennsylvania towns.

 

Come join leading historians and Antietam Battlefield Guides as they discuss intriguing topics of the Maryland Campaign of 1862 and the Civil War during our Civil War Summer Lecture Series.

These outdoors programs will be held at the Jacob Rohrbach Inn on Wednesday evenings at 7:00 p.m.  Even though those programs are outdoors, guests are encouraged to wear face coverings and to social distance as much as possible. To ensure adequate seating, please bring a chair.  In case of inclement weather, lectures will be held at the Sharpsburg Christ Reformed UCC Church at 117 Main Street.  For updates and a full schedule of presenters & topics check our Facebook page.

Darin Wipperman – “‘Such a Bloody Set of Men:’ The 35th Massachusetts in the Antietam Campaign”

June 9, 2021 by jacobrohrbach

Darin Wipperman

On Wednesday, August 18th, Darin Wipperman will present his Summer Lecture Series talk,  – “‘Such a Bloody Set of Men:’ The 35th Massachusetts in the Antietam Campaign”

The new soldiers of the 35th Massachusetts Infantry left Boston in late August 1862, not knowing how quickly their world would be shaken to the core. Joining Ferrero’s Brigade in the 2nd Division of the Ninth Corps, the 35th, under the command of Col. Edward Wild, moved up South Mountain in the late afternoon of September 14. Devastating events then occurred, impacting the regiment’s very foundations. Three days later, a far greater tribulation befell the unproven regiment west of Antietam Creek. In the same brigade as the 51st Pennsylvania and 51st New York — the troops who seized Burnside’s Bridge – the 35th Massachusetts suffered more casualties at Antietam than those two regiments combined. Somewhat forgotten today, the rookies’ stubborn stand north of the 40-acre cornfield did not go unnoticed at the time. After the engagement, a brigade comrade from New Hampshire, admiring the immortal bravery he saw from the rookies, noted that he had never seen “such a bloody set of men.”


This presentation, Darin Wipperman’s third for the Summer Lecture Series at the Rohrbach Inn, includes research used in his next book, currently titled Burnside’s Boys: The Union’s Ninth Corps and the Civil War in the East.  In December, Stackpole Books published First for the Union: Life and Death in a Civil War Army Corps from Antietam to Gettysburg, in which Darin focuses on the 11 months of the First Corps’ most intense service. In the 1990s, he earned B.A. and M.A. degrees in political science. After nearly 17 years as a federal employee, Darin and his wife moved to northern New Hampshire, where he was a reporter and editor for weekly newspapers for more than four years. When not geeking out on the Civil War, Darin spends a great deal of time managing the 64-acre forested parcel he and his wife live on in Lancaster, NH.

Come join leading historians and Antietam Battlefield Guides as they discuss intriguing topics of the Maryland Campaign of 1862 and the Civil War during our Civil War Summer Lecture Series.

These outdoors programs will be held at the Jacob Rohrbach Inn on Wednesday evenings at 7:00 p.m.  Even though those programs are outdoors, guests are encouraged to wear face coverings and to social distance as much as possible. To ensure adequate seating, please bring a chair.  In case of inclement weather, lectures will be held at the Sharpsburg Christ Reformed UCC Church at 117 Main Street.  For updates and a full schedule of presenters & topics check our Facebook page.

Perry Jamieson – “Maj. Gen. Winfield Scott Hancock: The First Day at Gettysburg”

June 9, 2021 by jacobrohrbach

Dr. Perry Jamieson

Perry Jamieson earned a PhD in history and worked for about thirty years as a civilian historian for the U.S. Air Force. He is the author of two books on Air Force history, one on the U.S. Army during the late 1800s, and four on the Civil War. He retired as the senior historian of the Air Force in the spring of 2009, and he and his wife Stephanie have lived in Sharpsburg since then.

On Wednesday, August 11, Perry will present his Summer Lecture Series talk – “Maj. Gen. Winfield Scott Hancock: The First Day at Gettysburg”

Maj. Gen. Winfield Scott Hancock’s biographer David Jordan claimed that “Gettysburg was Hancock’s field.” He was the only general who made a major contribution to the Union cause on all three days of that crucial engagement. Perry Jamieson’s presentation will focus on Hancock’s role during the first day of the Battle of Gettysburg.

Come join leading historians and Antietam Battlefield Guides as they discuss intriguing topics of the Maryland Campaign of 1862 and the Civil War during our Civil War Summer Lecture Series.

These outdoors programs will be held at the Jacob Rohrbach Inn on Wednesday evenings at 7:00 p.m.  Even though those programs are outdoors, guests are encouraged to wear face coverings and to social distance as much as possible. To ensure adequate seating, please bring a chair.  In case of inclement weather, lectures will be held at the Sharpsburg Christ Reformed UCC Church at 117 Main Street.  For updates and a full schedule of presenters & topics check our Facebook page.

Steve Stotelmyer – “The Insolence of Epaulets”

June 9, 2021 by jacobrohrbach

Steve Stotelmyer

Steven R. Stotelmyer, a lifetime student of the Maryland Campaign, is a native of Hagerstown, Maryland. After a stint in the U.S. Navy he earned a Bachelor of Science Degree from Frostburg State College and a Master of Arts from Hood College. Mr. Stotelmyer currently serves as a volunteer and tour guide at the Antietam National Battlefield. From time to time Mr. Stotelmyer has also served as a part-time volunteer and historical consultant for the South Mountain State Battlefield. In 1992 he published The Bivouacs of the Dead: The Story of Those Who Died at Antietam and South Mountain, Toomey Press, Baltimore, MD. With the recent publication of Too Useful To Sacrifice: Reconsidering George B. McClellan’s Generalship in the Maryland Campaign from South Mountain to Antietam, Savas Beatie LLC, New York, NY, Steven R. Stotelmyer provides a fresh examination and debunking of the negative stereotypes surrounding this capable commander during one of most crucial phases of the Civil War.​

McClellan and Lincoln

On Wednesday, August 25, Steve will present his Summer Lecture Series talk – “The Insolence of Epaulets”. One of the most often cited criticisms of the Bad General consensus regarding George B. McClellan centers around personality and has absolutely nothing to do with military ability. As the story goes, McClellan purposely disrespected President Lincoln by ignoring him during an unannounced visit.  Steve will explore the context and circumstances surrounding one of Little Mac’s most famous peccadilloes.

Come join leading historians and Antietam Battlefield Guides as they discuss intriguing topics of the Maryland Campaign of 1862 and the Civil War during our Civil War Summer Lecture Series.

These outdoors programs will be held at the Jacob Rohrbach Inn on Wednesday evenings at 7:00 p.m.  Even though those programs are outdoors, guests are encouraged to wear face coverings and to social distance as much as possible. To ensure adequate seating, please bring a chair.  In case of inclement weather, lectures will be held at the Sharpsburg Christ Reformed UCC Church at 117 Main Street.  For updates and a full schedule of presenters & topics check our Facebook page.

Kevin Pawlak and Joe Stahl – “Casualties and Chaos Command Attrition at Antietam”

May 22, 2021 by jacobrohrbach

Mortuary cannon for Gen. Rodman

 

The Battle of Antietam produced casualties on an unprecedented scale in a single day of combat. Officers were a group of men that was particularly hit hard. When officers fell on a battlefield, it produced even more confusion and chaos. This talk will examine the effect of these officer casualties on the battle and its outcome. On Wednesday, July 28, Antietam Battlefield Guides –Kevin Pawlak and Joe Stahl will present, “Casualties and Chaos Command Attrition at Antietam”  

 

 

Kevin Pawlak

Kevin Pawlak is a Historic Site Manager for the Prince William County Historic Preservation Division and works as a Licensed Battlefield Guide at Antietam National National Battlefield. He graduated from Shepherd University in 2014, majoring in History with a concentration in Civil War and 19th Century America and minoring in Historic Preservation. Kevin previously worked at Harpers Ferry National Historical Park. He is on the Board of Directors for the Shepherdstown Battlefield Preservation Association, the Save Historic Antietam Foundation, and the Friends of the Ball’s Bluff Battlefield. He is also a regular contributor to the Emerging Civil War online blog. Kevin is the author of Shepherdstown in the Civil War: One Vast Confederate Hospital and co-author of To Hazard All: A Guide to the Maryland Campaign, 1862.

 

Joe Stahl

Joseph W. Stahl retired from the Institute for Defense Analyses where he authored or co-authored more that 50 reports on defense issues. Since his retirement he has become a volunteer and NPS Licensed Battlefield Guide at Antietam and Harpers Ferry. He grew up in St. Louis. He received BS and MS degrees from Missouri University of Science And Technology and an MBA from Washington University in St. Louis. He is a member of the Company of Military Historians, Save Historic Antietam Foundation (SHAF), Hagerstown Civil War Roundtable and is co-author of the first book on ID discs Identification Discs of Union Soldiers in the Civil War. His second book “Faces of Union Soldiers at Antietam will be published this summer. He has spoken to various Civil War groups including the Northern Virginia Relic Hunters, South Mountain Coin and Relic Club, Rappahannock, York, Chambersburg, and Hagerstown Round Tables, Chambersburg Civil War Tours, SHAF and the NPS Antietam. In addition Joe has authored more that two dozen articles about items in his collections for the Gettysburg Magazine, the Washington Times Civil War Page, Manuscripts, America’s Civil War, Military Collector & Historian: the Journal of the Company of Military Historians, the Civil War Historian and the Skirmish Line of the North-South Skirmish Association. Displays of items from of his collection have won awards at several Civil War shows.  He has been a member of the North-South Skirmish Association for more than 25 years and has shot civil war type muskets, carbines and revolvers in both individual and team competitions.

 

Come join leading historians and Antietam Battlefield Guides as they discuss intriguing topics of the Maryland Campaign of 1862 and the Civil War during our Civil War Summer Lecture Series.

These outdoors programs will be held at the Jacob Rohrbach Inn on Wednesday evenings at 7:oo p.m.  Even though those programs are outdoors, guests are encouraged to wear face coverings and to social distance as much as possible. To ensure adequate seating, please bring a chair.  In case of inclement weather, lectures will be held at the Sharpsburg Christ Reformed UCC Church at 117 Main Street.  For updates and a full schedule of presenters & topics check our Facebook page.

Justin Mayhue – “Col. Mobley, 7th Maryland Volunteer Infantry in the Civil War”

May 22, 2021 by jacobrohrbach

Edward Mobley

 

Colonel Edward M. Mobley was a local hero.  He was a Civil War veteran, volunteer firefighter and served as sheriff of Washington County. After the war Mobley was active in the local G.A.R. post.  On Wednesday, July 21st, Antietam Battlefield Guide, Justin Mayhue will present his Summer Lecture Series talk, – “Col. Mobley, 7th Maryland Volunteer Infantry in the Civil War”, which was the subject of his latest book. 

 

 

Justin Mayhue

 

Justin Mayhue is a retired Battalion Chief of the Hagerstown, MD Fire Department, docent at the Hagerstown Fire Museum, author five books.  He is the past president of the Hagerstown Civil War Roundtable and he has been an actor in God’s and Generals, Ladder 49 and numerous History Channel projects.  Justin is an Antietam Battlefield Guide certified at Antietam, Harper’s Ferry and South Mountain. Justin has conduct over 1.000 career tours.

 

Come join leading historians and Antietam Battlefield Guides as they discuss intriguing topics of the Maryland Campaign of 1862 and the Civil War during our Civil War Summer Lecture Series.

These outdoors programs will be held at the Jacob Rohrbach Inn on Wednesday evenings at 7:oo p.m.  Even though those programs are outdoors, guests are encouraged to wear face coverings and to social distance as much as possible. To ensure adequate seating, please bring a chair.  In case of inclement weather, lectures will be held at the Sharpsburg Christ Reformed UCC Church at 117 Main Street. For updates and a full schedule of presenters & topics check our Facebook page.

Richard P. D’Ambrisi – “Military Board Games of the Maryland Campaign of 1862”

May 22, 2021 by jacobrohrbach

Experience the American Civil War Maryland Campaign of 1862 from a different perspective. This presentation will review military strategy board games along with some digital versions published from 1972 to 2021. The South Mountain and Antietam battles will be discussed showing examples of original packaging and the contents used to recreate history on a game board. War game simulation that follows historical accuracy while incorporating elements of chance is a unique way to explore the battlefields. As a commander, you make decisions that can affect the outcome of the game.

Richard D`Ambrisi

On Wednesday, July 7th, Richard P. D’Ambrisi will present his Summer Lecture Series talk “Military Board Games of the Maryland Campaign of 1862”.  Richard D’Ambrisi has been a Civil War civilian living historian since 1986 and is a Certified Interpretive Guide with the National Association for Interpretation. He has developed characterizations of a mid-19th Century ballist, apothecary, phrenologist, and railroad employee.

Come join leading historians and Antietam Battlefield Guides as they discuss intriguing topics of the Maryland Campaign of 1862 and the Civil War during our Civil War Summer Lecture Series.

 

These outdoors programs will be held at the Jacob Rohrbach Inn on Wednesday evenings at 7:oo p.m.  Even though those programs are outdoors, guests are encouraged to wear face coverings and to social distance as much as possible. To ensure adequate seating, please bring a chair.  In case of inclement weather, lectures will be held at the Sharpsburg Christ Reformed UCC Church at 117 Main Street.   Parking is available on Main and Hall Streets.  For updates and a full schedule of presenters & topics check our Facebook page.

Sharon Murray – “The Union Cavalry During the Maryland Campaign”

May 22, 2021 by jacobrohrbach

B. F. Davis spearheaded a “valiant coup that compared favorably with anything” his classmate JEB “Stuart had ever done” when he instigated and helped lead the breakout of Union Cavalry from Harpers Ferry on  Sept. 14, 1862.  This presentation will address the status of the Union Cavalry at the start of the Maryland Campaign, their activities prior to the Battle of Antietam, their actions on September 17, 1862 and a brief overview of the cavalry breakout and capture of Longstreet’s Train near Williamsport, on September 15.
On Wednesday, July 14, Antietam Battlefield Guide Sharon Murray will discuss – “The Union Cavalry During the Maryland Campaign”
 

Sharon Murray

As a native Idahoan, Sharon Murray moved east in 2010 to volunteer at Antietam National Battlefield.  She has multiple degrees in mining engineering and history from the University of Idaho. Sharon has published a number of articles on Idaho mining history and won awards for photographs from the International California Mining Journal and the American Battlefield Trust. She is currently working on a book about a career army officer Colonel Benjamin Franklin Davis and has been a guide at Antietam since 2014.

 

Come join leading historians and Antietam Battlefield Guides as they discuss intriguing topics of the Maryland Campaign of 1862 and the Civil War during our Civil War Summer Lecture Series.

These outdoors programs will be held at the Jacob Rohrbach Inn on Wednesday evenings at 7:oo p.m.  Even though those programs are outdoors, guests are encouraged to wear face coverings and to social distance as much as possible. To ensure adequate seating, please bring a chair.  In case of inclement weather, lectures will be held at the Sharpsburg Christ Reformed UCC Church at 117 Main Street.  Parking is available on Main and Hall Streets.  For updates and a full schedule of presenters & topics check our Facebook page.

Brad Gottfried – “The Confederate Cavalry During the Maryland Campaign”

May 4, 2021 by jacobrohrbach

JEB Stuart

On Wednesday, June 30th, Antietam Battlefield Guide and renowned author, Brad Gottfried will present his Summer Lecture Series talk – “The Confederate Cavalry During the Maryland Campaign”.

Jeb Stuart has become a legend among the leaders of the Civil War and he and his three brigades were tasked with important functions during, before, and after the battle of Antietam. Brad’s presentation will cover Stuart’s responsibilities and how well he and his men accomplished them. The fights prior to the battle of Antietam– along National Road (Wade Hampton’s brigade), the battle in the streets of Boonsboro (Fitz Lee’s brigade), and at Crampton’s Gap (Thomas Munford’s brigade)– will be covered.

 

Brad Gottfried

After receiving his doctorate in 1976, Brad Gottfried worked in higher education for over 40, retiring as the President of the College of Southern Maryland in 2017. He has written 13 books on the Civil War, including the Maps of Antietam. Brad became an Antietam Battlefield Guide in 2019 and also serves as a Gettysburg Town Guide. He is married and has four children and six grandchildren.

Come join leading historians and Antietam Battlefield Guides as they discuss intriguing topics of the Maryland Campaign of 1862 and the Civil War during our Civil War Summer Lecture Series.

These outdoors programs will be held at the Jacob Rohrbach Inn on Wednesday evenings at 7:oo p.m.   Even though those programs are outdoors, guests are encouraged to wear face coverings and to social distance as much as possible. To ensure adequate seating, please bring a chair.  In case of inclement weather, lectures will be held at the Sharpsburg Christ Reformed UCC Church at 117 Main Street.  Parking is available on Main and Hall Streets.  For updates and a full schedule of presenters & topics check our Facebook page.

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