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The Farmsteads of Antietam – Jacob Houser Farm

January 29, 2021 by jacobrohrbach

Houser Farmstead on ridge. looking west from Alfred Poffenberger farm.

One of the newest farmsteads added to the park inventory at Antietam is what we refer to as the Houser or Hauser farm.  This small 7.6 acre parcel had been in private hands until 2006 when the National Park Service acquired it.  Unfortunately there is very little semblance of the period buildings visible today and not that much has been written about the Houser farmstead, but we will do our best to tell the story of this eyewitness to history.

1859 Taggert Map showing the Grove farms

 

This farmstead was part of the land tract known as the Resurvey of the Addition of Piles Delight owned by John McPherson and John Brien, both well-known land speculators and owners of the nearby Antietam Iron Works. In 1814, they sold 225 acres of this tract to Philip Grove for $13,500. Michael Havenar also purchased a parcel just to the north of Grove, which would eventually become the Nicodemus Farm.  This property lies west of what we know today as the West Woods and the Alfred Poffenberger farm.  Within the deed there were indications that there were buildings located on this tract and a farm lane bordering the property to the south. 

 

The Maryland branch of the Grove family descended from the German settlers of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Hans Groff emigrated to Pennsylvania in 1695 and his grandson Jacob moved to Maryland in 1765 where their last name was changed to Grove.  Jacob’s son Philip would become one of the leading merchants in Sharpsburg, owning large estates in and around town.  One of these estates was known as Mount Airy, a large farmstead just west of town which had been originally owned by the Chapline family.  Philip purchased the property in 1821 and completed the building of the house, which became the Grove homestead.

The 225-acre farm on Resurvey of the Addition to Piles Delight was divided between his daughter Mary Grove Locker and his son Joseph Grove.

The divided 225-acre farm. Joseph Grove on the west, .Mary Grove Locker on the east.

Upon Philip’s death in 1841, Mount Airy was willed to his youngest son, Stephen P. Grove.  The other tracts of land in Philip’s estate were divided among his other children.  The 225-acre farm on Resurvey of the Addition to Piles Delight was divided between his daughter Mary Grove Locker and his son Joseph Grove.  Since Mary resided in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, the eastern half of this property that she now owned was leased.  Joseph on the other hand was most likely living on the 112-acre farm when he inherited it.

Joseph Grove was born in 1810 and married Susan Houser in 1836 when he was 25 years old.  Susan was the daughter of Isaac and Barbara Mumma Houser.  Over the next several years they had four children: Jacob, Lavinia, Jarrett, and Francis, or Frank.  By the 1840s, most of the Grove property had been cleared of the old growth forest making way for cultivated land but small parcels of woods were retained and managed like the farmers crops.  These woodlots provided lumber and cord wood as well as fence posts and shingles.  There were still two small woodlots remaining on the Grove’s property and it bordered David R. Miller’s woods to the east. 

Like most of the farmsteads around the area, Joseph Grove’s farm had a large bank barn and a number of outbuildings surrounding the house.  They also had an apple orchard just to the north side of the farm along the road leading to Mary Grove Locker’s farm.  There is very little documentation of the farmstead or it’s layout except for a 1930 aerial photograph.  Even though this photo was taken many years after this period, I believe it is fairly accurate of the mid 1800’s farmstead.

1930 Houser farm

1930 aerial photo that shows the Houser farm in the upper left.

Farm house, 1976

 

 

 

 

 

Photo of barn – 1976.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In addition to Joseph and Susan’s four children, there were two other people living with them in 1850.  Fifteen year old, Eliza Bussard and Jacob Houser.  Jacob was a younger brother of Susan.  At 25 years old, Jacob was a farmer working with Joseph.  Later that year Jacob would start his own family with his marriage to Harriet B. Grove, a niece to Joseph Grove. 

1850 Census Joseph Grove

1850 Census Joseph Grove

Unfortunately, there are many missing pieces in this story but we know tragedy struck the Grove family in late 1850.  According to the Washington County death records, “Mrs. Joseph (Susan) Grove and child, died on Oct. 31, 1850”.  They would be buried at the Reformed Cemetery in Sharpsburg. While we do not know the cause of death, it may have been due to childbirth or some disease like cholera.  Sadly, Joseph died a few months later on December 7, 1850 and was also buried at the Reformed Cemetery.  The following year the records show that a son of theirs died as well, and although a name is not listed it is believed to be Jarrett.

After the death of their parents it appears that the children went off to live with nearby relatives. Jacob Grove went to live with his uncle Stephen P. Grove at Mount Airy and became a silversmith. Lavina moved to Martinsburg to stay with Houser relatives, most likely her uncle Isaac Houser, and Frank Grove stayed in Sharpsburg to live with a relative Jeramiah P. Grove. 

Jacob Houser 1860 census

1860 Census of the Jacob Houser Family

After the death of Joseph Grove in 1850, it appears that Jacob Houser took over stewardship of the farm until the children would come of age to take over or sell the property.  Over the next several years, Jacob and Harriet Houser had eight children ranging in age from 10 years old to just under a year.  Since the children were still young, Jacob needed a farm hand to help out around the farm, so 20-year old Samuel Piper was living with them.  According to the 1860 census Jacob’s farm was valued at $5,000 and his personal property at $400.   Sometime before September 1862, the three youngest Houser children: Joseph, Jacob, and Henry died and tragedy struck the Houser’s again on August 20, 1863 when the next youngest child George also passed away.  Again the record is vague but it is reflected in the Sharpsburg death register and the census data. 

 

houser farm layout

Houser farm in 1862

 The onset of the Civil War in 1861 tore many families and communities apart, especially in the border states and towns like Sharpsburg.  Many men in the area would join the newly organized “Sharpsburg Rifles”, a Union militia company that would become part of the Maryland Potomac Home Brigade; while a number of young men traveled across the Potomac to Shepherdstown, Virginia to join up with Confederate units. 

Frank Grove was just one of more than a dozen young men from Sharpsburg  along with Henry Kyd Douglas,  who lived just outside of town at Ferry Hill,  that crossed over to join up in the Hamtramck Guards from Shepherdstown.  Before leaving the Shenandoah Valley, they were tasked with the mission of destroying the covered bridge at Shepherdstown. Their unit became Company B, of the 2nd Virginia Infantry and would be part of the famed Stonewall Brigade under Thomas J. Jackson.

On September 16th, 1862 as the civilians in the Sharpsburg area were advised by the Confederate army to leave before the battle, roads quickly became crowded as families packed up some belongings and valuables to flee for safety.  “The Houser family was among the refuges on the road that day.  As the Housers shepherded their children along, a few stray bullets whistled past, and a shell hit a nearby fence, marking a lifelong impression on William Houser, then nine.” 

Carman-Cope battlefield map at 7:20 am

After ensuring his family was safe at nearby relatives away from the threat of the battle, Jacob returned to the farm to keep an eye on his property.  At daybreak on the 17th, the Confederate artillery just north of the Houser farm, on the ridge at Nicodemus Heights, opened fire on the Union forces positioned around the Joseph Poffenberger farm.  The battle had begun.  Jacob spent the day hiding in his cellar as more Rebel troops moved up from Sharpsburg across his fields as they were fed into the fighting at the West Woods.  Confederate artillery batteries repositioned around the farm to stop the ensuing Union forces from getting around the flank of Robert E. Lee’s fragile line.  Sometime during the battle eight Confederates also sought shelter in the cellar with Jacob but then a “shell came through the wall and burst, killing four of the soldiers and wounding the others.”

Carman-Cope battlefield map at 9:00am

 

Confederate Brigadier General Paul Semmes’ brigade of Virginians and Georgians advanced across the Houser farm and weighed in on the Federal troops at the Alfred Poffenberger farm.  Semmes’ men, with help from the rest of Lafayette McLaws’ division, were able to push the Union troops though the woods to the edge of the D.R. Miller farm, but this gallant action cost his brigade dearly. Suffering over 50% casualties, including three of the four regimental commanders, the brigade was pulled back to a reserve position to replenish their ammunition on the Houser farm. 

 

Elliot burial map of Houser farm

 

Antietam Battlefield Guide, Jim Buchanan points out on his blog, that many of the men from Semmes’ brigade would be buried right here on the Houser farm. Young William Houser remembered that the soldiers had been “buried very shallow, often were ploughed into, and of others in gutters being covered with brush and leaves, on the farm”. Many of these Confederate soldiers would be reintern into a Confederate cemetery at Rose Hill Cemetery in Hagerstown in 1872.

 

 

 

After the battle, Jacob said nothing had been disturbed by the Confederates but even though “Jacob Houser was described as being pro-Union, neighbors told the Federal soldiers camped on the Houser farm that he was a Confederate. The troops destroyed much of the Housers’ personal property, ‘and what was left was hauled away by their neighbors and kept.  Mrs. Houser was so terrified by that turn of events that she became ill, and kept to her bed for weeks.”

Before the Houser family could move back into their home extensive work had to be done to the house and the other buildings.  “They had lost all of the food stored up for the coming winter as well as eight hundred bushels of threshed wheat.  Soldiers had turned a drove of cattle loose in the Houser cornfield, and their hay had been lost, as well.  ‘The only thing my wife and I had left’, Mr. Houser said, ‘was five hungry children.’ Jacob totaled his loses and submitted a bill for nearly $3,000.  After years of fighting with the government, he received a little over $800.”

It is unknown how long after the battle the the Houser family moved off the farm, but they continued to live in the Sharpsburg District according to the subsequent census data.  In 1881, Jacob Houser died and was initially buried in the Lutheran Cemetery but was later moved to Mountain View Cemetery to be interned next to his wife, Harriett who died in 1887.

houser grave

Graves of Jacob and Harriet Houser at Mountain View Cemetery

In 1868 the farm was sold to George Burgan by Frank and Lavina Grove, the heirs of Joseph Grove.  Less than ten years later, George Burgan would sell the farm to William Roulette in 1879.  William was the grandson of Margaret and William Roulette. In 1880, the Shenandoah Valley Railroad was extending its service northward to Hagerstown.  The line was to be built just to the west of Sharpsburg and William sold a small easement to allow for the railroad to go along his west property line.  The farm stayed in the Roulette family until 1970, when the heirs of William Roulette sold the property to Leon Price. The following year, Price had sold a 7.6 acre parcel that encompassed the original house, farm buildings and orchard to Joseph Bell.  In the late 1990’s, Price had sectioned four, 1-acrce parcels off to be sold off and developed for single family homes.  These four lots along Mondell Road were part of the 112-acre farm.  

Jacob Houser Farmstead today.

In 2006, Joseph Bell entered an agreement with the National Park Service to sell his property with a clause to stay on for twelve years. After the Bell’s departed, the National Park Service became the full owners of the Houser farm.  Like all the other farmsteads on the field, the Houser farmstead is just one more eyewitness to history and the Battle of Antietam.

 

Sources:
  • Ancestry.com, Joseph Grove Family, Jacob Houser Family, Census Data 1850-1880.  Retrieved from: https://www.ancestry.com\
  • Buchanan, Jim,  Walking the West Woods, 20 January 2021.   Retrieved from https://walkingthewestwoods.blogspot.com/2012/02/searching-for-lavinia-grove-some.html
  • Ernst, Kathleen A., Too Afraid to Cry: Maryland Civilians in the Antietam Campaign, Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 1999.
  • 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, January 5, 2021. https://mdlandrec.net/main/dsp_search.cfm?cid=WA
  • Lionel Pincus and Princess Firyal Map Division, The New York Public Library. “Map of the battlefield of Antietam” The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1864. https://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/185f8270-0834-0136-3daa-6d29ad33124f
  • Maryland Historical Trust, Frame Farmstead, WA-II-398, Maryland Inventory of Historic Properties Form, 1976.
  • Piper, Samuel W. Washington County, Maryland, Cemetery Records. before 1935-36. Western Maryland Historical Library. https://digital.whilbr.org/digital/collection/p16715coll31/search
  • O’Connor, Bob.  Introducing the soldiers of Shepherdstown, Apr 15, 2011. Shepherdstown Chronicle  https://www.shepherdstownchronicle.com 
  • Reilly, Oliver T. The Battlefield of Antietam. [Hagerstown, Maryland: Hagerstown Bookbinding & Printing Co., 1906.
  • Taggert, Thomas, Map of Washington County. L. McKee and C.G. Roberton, Hagerstown, Maryland 1859.
  • Walker, Kevin M., Antietam Farmsteads: A Guide to the Battlefield Landscape. Sharpsburg: Western Maryland Interpretive Association, 2010.
  • War Department. Army Air Forces. photographer. Antietam Battle Field, Md. The Hagerstown Pike. United States, 1930. December. Photograph https://catalog.archives.gov/id/23940809
  • 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.

Crunchy French Toast

January 25, 2021 by jacobrohrbach

Crunchy French Toast recipeHere is a delicious twist on an old classic. Crunchy French Toast is a cereal crusted french toast recipe.  Thick slices of bread are dipped in a cinnamon batter and then coated in crushed cereal.  It’s light and fluffy on the inside, crunchy on the outside and super easy to make.  This is a sure bet to become your family’s new favorite breakfast!

 

 

This recipe makes four servings and Crunchy French Toast recipehere are the ingredients you will need:

  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup half-and-half
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • 3 cups coarsely crushed cornflakes cereal
  • 8 (3/4 inch think) diagonally cut slices of French or challah bread – We use Texas Toast

 

Crunchy French Toast recipe

 

In a shallow bowl, combine eggs, half and half, sugar, vanilla cinnamon and nutmeg; beat well.

 

 

 

Crunchy French Toast recipe

Place crushed cereal in another shallow bowl.

Dip each bread slice in the egg mixture. making sure bread is well soaked egg mixture is absorbed.

Then coat each slice with cereal crumbs.

 

 

 

Crunchy French Toast recipe

Place on 15x10x1 baking sheet; cover and place in freezer for 1 – 2 hours or until firm.  

Heat oven to 400 F.  Bake bread slices 15-20 minutes or until golden brown, turning once.

To serve, slice baked French Toast on the diagonal; serve 2-3 piece per person.  Garnish with powdered sugar, syrup, fresh berries and/or whipped cream.

 

At the Inn we often whip up a batch of cannoli dip to serve on the side.

  • 2 cups ricotta chees
  • 1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese
  • 1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup miniature semisweet chocolate chip

Beat ricotta cheese and cream cheese together in a bowl until smooth then add the sugar and vanilla.  Continue to stir mixture until sugar is completely incorporated.  Fold chocolate chips through the cheese mixture.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate until chilled, at least 10 minutes.  To serve with Crunchy French Toast, scope into a small bowl, garnish with some additional chocolate chips.  

 

Try our Crunchy French Toast and Cannoli Dip

Crunchy French Toast recipe

Changes in 2020

January 21, 2021 by jacobrohrbach

Like many people this past year, home improvement projects took on new focus with the Coronavirus and the shutdown.  Initially at the beginning of the year we had closed to complete a few planned projects like the Antietam Room renovation, the painting of the Generals Quarters and the back foyer entrance.  These projects were finished just in time for guests to return in February; and then the shutdown occurred.  So we decided to take advantage of the ‘time off’ and complete some smaller projects as well.  

Antietam bathroom

generals quartersnew foyer

 

 

 

 

 

While Amy went to work full time at the hospital, Chris focused on outside yard work.   First was cleaning out flower beds with a little help from Maya and Zoey.

new flower bed

rabbit in garden

dog laying in sun

 

 

 

 

 

Next came some repair work of the brick sidewalk. Really Chris was just playing in the sand.

brick work

brick sidewalk

sand bucket

 

 

 

 

 

Since we were not able to go forward with our patio project, we decided just to turn it into a grass seating area.  We cleared out the old flower bed and laid 25 rolls of sod.  Chris was having flashbacks to his golf course days and was really hoping to build a putting green, but Amy said ‘NO’.

old garden

new grass area

new sitting area

 

 

 

 

 

Fortunately, we were able to wrap up these projects before things started to open up again in late summer and only had one more on the schedule.  Since purchasing the Inn in 2015 we had been wanting to pave the parking area and recoat the driveway and 2020 was the year.  It looks more inviting when pulling in and is so much easier for guests to park.  It is definitely much easier for the snow removal then the old gravel was.

parking lot work

rolling parking lot

Parking stalls

new driveway

welcoming entrance

 

 

 

 

 

As usual we have a few projects lined up for this year so stay tuned and we’ll see what 2021 brings.

 

2021 Civil War Lecture Series

January 18, 2021 by jacobrohrbach

 

We are excited to begin our sixth year of hosting the Civil War Lecture Series.  Since we started, we’ve raised over $1800 for the Save Historic Antietam Foundation through our summer fundraiser.  We have several returning guest speakers presenting and another outstanding slate of lectures scheduled at the  Jacob Rohrbach Inn.  Come learn from Antietam Battlefield Guides and other leading historians as they discuss intriguing topics of the Maryland Campaign and the Civil War during our summer lecture series.

June 2 – Jim Smith – “The most successful in its work”: Orlando Willcox’s division in the Maryland Campaign”

June 9 – Tom Clemens – “Meet the Original Iron Brigade“

June 16 – Joseph Stahl – “Faces of Union Soldiers at Harpers Ferry” 

June 23 – Gary Rohrer – “William B. Franklin and his impact on the 1862 MD Campaign.”

June 30 – Brad Gottfried – “The Confederate Cavalry During the Maryland Campaign”

July 7 – Richard P. D’Ambrisi – “Military Board Games of the Maryland Campaign of 1862”

July 14 – Sharon Murray – “The Union Cavalry During the Maryland Campaign”

July 21 –Justin Mayhue – “Col. Mobley, 7th Maryland Volunteer Infantry in the Civil War”

July 28 –Kevin Pawlak and Joe Stahl – “Casualties and Chaos Command Attrition at Antietam” 

August 4 – Steve Stotelmyer – “The Insolence of Epaulets”

August 11 – Perry Jamieson – “Maj. Gen. Winfield Scott Hancock: The First Day at Gettysburg”

August 18 – Darin Wipperman – “‘Such a Bloody Set of Men:’ The 35th Massachusetts in the Antietam Campaign”

August 25 – John Schildt – “Hunter Holmes McGuire: Doctor in Gray”

These lecture series will be held at the Jacob Rohrbach Inn on Wednesday evenings at 7:oo p.m.   Even though those programs are outdoors, we require attending guests to wear face coverings and to social distance as much as possible. To ensure adequate seating, please bring a chair.  Due to COVID-19 restrictions of large indoor gatherings, in case of inclement weather, lectures will be postponed until a later date in September.  Parking is available on Main and Hall Streets.  For updates and a full schedule of presenters & topics check our Facebook page.

 

 

 

 

 

The Farmsteads of Antietam – the Henry Rohrbach Farm

October 29, 2020 by jacobrohrbach

We continue our series on the Farmsteads of Antietam with the first farm located off of the park which is the Henry Rohrbach Farm. One of the largest farms in the area at the time of the Battle of Antietam, this farm sits just north of the Lower Bridge off the Burnside Bridge Road. It cannot be seen from the road and is private property, so please do NOT go up onto the property without permission.

ship like the Phoenix

Passenger ship like the Phoenix

The Rohrbach family line goes back to Zweibrucken in the Palatinate region of Germany. Peter Rohrbach was born between 1720 and 1730. In 1754 Peter, most likely a farmer  arrived in Philadelphia aboard the ship Phoenix.  The spelling of the last name included “Rorabaugh”, Rohrbacher”, Roarabaugh”, or “Rohrback”. It is believed that Peter had seven children and they belonged to the Reformed Church.

One of Peter’s children, John, or Johannes, Rohrbach, was born in 1757 near Philadelphia. In 1778, John married Catherine Kinead from New York. They resided in Bucks County until 1782, when they moved to Washington County, Maryland with their first born son, John, Jr.

It is not known where the Rohrbach’s lived once they arrived in Sharpsburg, but it’s possible that they rented property near the Antietam Creek from John Smith. Here John and Catherine would have three more sons; Henry, William and Jacob, all born two years apart. In 1807, John Rohrbach had passed away.  That same year John and Mary Smith sold fourteen acres of Jacob’s Ladder to John Rohrbach, Jr.. This is the first recorded land acquisition in Washington County involving the Rohrbach family.

muster roll

Militia Muster Roll Captain Miller’s men 1813

During the War of 1812, militia units were called upon from the area to defend Washington and Baltimore. In 1813, Captain John Miller recruited a company of militia. Of the 73 men organized from the Sharpsburg area, William Rohrbach served as 1st Lieutenant and Jacob Rohrbach was the Ensign in the company. By 1812, their brother, Henry and his wife just had their fifth and sixth child, so it’s very possible this is the reason he did not join up with the militia.

Henry B. Rohrbach was the first child of John Rohrbach to be born in Washington County in 1783. Henry would marry Barbara Barks on January 22, 1806 and before the end of the year, the first of their thirteen children were born. Their first born son was named in honor of Henry’s father, John. The large Rohrbach family included: Elizabeth (1807), Mary (1809), Catherine (1810), twin sons – Henry Jr. and Jacob (1812), Daniel (1815), Barbara (1817), Caroline (1819), Elias (1820), Noah (1822), Ann (1824) and Cornelius (1827).

As the family grew in size so did the Rohrbach land holdings. Starting in 1818, Henry purchased 24 acres of Jacob’s Ladder. During this time the Rohrbach farm was built into a thriving farmstead on the hill overlooking the Antietam. A root cellar, springhouse and kitchen surrounded the two-story brick house. Unlike his neighbors, Henry built a large brick-end bank barn just a little further up the hill. To add to the uniqueness of his barn, a decorative pattern of open ventilators were added along with his initials “H’ “R” high on the gable peak. A number of other domestic and agricultural outbuildings completed the complex with a farm road leading down to the Maple Swamp Road along the Antietam Creek.

Henry Rohrbach house

Henry Rohrbach house cir. 1920

Henry Rohrbachbarn

Henry Rohrbach barn cir. 1920

barn

H R and decorative brickwork on barn

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

springhouse

Spring house

smokehouse

Smokehouse

outbuilding

Outbuilding

 

 

 

 

 

 

Burnside Bridge

Rohrback Bridge, cir 1862

In 1833, the Washington County Commissioners contracted John Weaver to select a location to construct a bridge over the Antietam Creek on the Sharpsburg and Maple Swamp Road. This road traversed along the Town Run past the Rohrbach’s neighbors’, the Sherrick and the Otto families, to the Antietam. Weaver selected a site near the Rohrbach property line, most likely due to the fact that limestone could be quarried off the hillside. The bridge was completed by 1836 for a cost of $2,300. The Maple Swamp Road would become the Sharpsburg – Rohrersville Road and the bridge was named the Rohrbach Bridge.

Sharpsburg area map

1859 Taggert Map showing the large Rohrbach estate

 

Just before his death in 1851, Henry had acquired well over 500 acres stretching on both sides of the Antietam Creek. The 1859 Taggert map shows how extensive this was. The property stretched from the Antietam Creek to the west hillside of Elk Ridge. After the death of their father, it appears that the property was divided among the Rohrbach children. But according to land records, Henry Jr. and his twin brother Jacob Rohrbach would acquire most of that property back from their siblings and spouses.

 

 

 

Noah Rohrbach Farm

In 1855, it appears that a portion of this land holdings, approximately 140 acres, was conveyed to Henry’s younger brothers, Noah and Elias Rohrbach. The Noah Rohrbach farm to the east of the Antietam Creek and along the road dates to this period as does the farm to the east of the Rohrbach farm along what is today Churchy Road. According to the Carman-Cope maps, Jacob F. Miller lived at this property in 1862.  More research will have to be done to determine if this was another Rohrbach dwelling before the war and when it was acquired by Jacob Miller.

 

In 1835, Henry B. Rohrbach, Jr courted Martha Ann Piper, the daughter of Henry and Elizabeth Piper. The Pipers lived on a large farm just north of Sharpsburg. They were married in 1836 and the following year they had their one and only child, Mary Jane. They most likely lived in a small house on the family farm as the 1850 census indicates the other brothers were still living with their parents, but Henry Jr. and Martha are the next dwelling entry. There is no record of Henry’s brother Jacob being married so Jacob continued to live and work on the family farm which was known as Walton’s Grove.

Rohrbach farm

Approximate boundary of the Rohrbach farms in 1862.

Rohrbach farm layout

Henry Rohrbach farm layout in 1862

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By 1860, Henry and Jacob Rohrbach owned 275 improved acres and 100 unimproved acres. Walton’s Grove was a prosperous and diversified farm. The Rohrbach farm was valued at $17,000 with a value of $1,500 in livestock. “The farm produced 1700 bushels of wheat, 100 bushels of rye, 1200 bushels of Indian corn, 40 bushels of oats, 150 pounds of wool, 50 bushels of potatoes, 15 bushels of sweet potatoes, $50 of orchard products, 900 pounds of butter, 40 tons of hay, 12 bushels of clover seed, and 80 pounds of honey”. As compared to the neighboring farms, it appeared the Rohrbach’s were moving away from grain production and focusing on dairy operations and other forms of crops like sweet potatoes and honey production.

Rohrbach census

1860 Census shows both the Rohrbach families.

In 1862, Walton’s Grove was not only home to Henry, Martha and Jacob Rohrbach, but Mary Jane’s family as well. She had married Henry C. Mumma, whose parents, Samuel and Elizabeth Mumma, lived near the Dunker Church and the Hog Trough Lane. Mary Jane and Henry had a little girl named Martha Ada, who went by just Ada. Mary Jane was also pregnant and expecting in the fall.

Like the rest of the farmers around the Sharpsburg area in the late summer early fall of 1862, their store rooms were filled, cellars were stocked and most of the crops were in with the exception of a 20-acre cornfield. On September 15, the Rohrbach’s “received word from their neighbors, John Otto and Joseph Sherrick that the Confederates were occupying the west bank of the Antietam Creek and that the soldiers were helping themselves to everything they could lay their hands on: eggs, bread, jam, etc. Henry should take some precautions”. The next day, the Union Ninth Corps moved onto the Rohrbach farm. Union artillery took up positions on the high ground, the infantry made camp on the east of the hills in the fields and soon the fence rails began to disappear for their fires.

At day break on September 17, the battle began. According to young Ada, “the noise of the battle was plainly heard, the popping of the guns, the rattling of the sabers , and the roaring of the cannon”. She recalls seeing General Ambrose Burnside riding up to their house and telling her grandparents to leave, stating, “your buildings will all be destroyed as you are directly in the line of fire”. The Rohrbach family minus Henry and Jacob left in a carriage to the safety of a neighbor, possibly the Geeting farm, which would soon become a hospital as well.

Antietam map

Carman-Cope Battlefield map of the Rohrbach farm

The Rohrbach farm had become the headquarters for the Union Ninth Corps and a staging area for infantry who began marching across the farm to get into position to assault the bridge. Around 10 a.m. the first failed attack began and Union casualties were coming back to the farm, this included Colonel Henry Kingsbury who led the 11th Connecticut. Finally, after two more attempts the Union had taken the bridge by 1pm and the division of General Isaac Rodman had forded the Antietam Creek down at Snavely’s Ford.

The Ninth Corps quickly moved to the other side of the creek to get into position to begin their advance toward Sharpsburg. Around 3:00 p.m., the Union soldiers moved across the Otto and Sherrick farmsteads. But just as their advance had reached the hill overlooking the town of Sharpsburg, the Union right flank was hit by one more Confederate counterattack – Gen. A.P. Hill’s Confederate division arrived from Harpers Ferry. As it happened, General Rodman was struck by gunfire from the attack and taken to the Rohrbach farm. Throughout the afternoon and into the evening, Ninth Corps wounded were taken back to the Rohrbach farm, to the Jacob F. Miller farm, to Chrystal Springs and others hospitals in Keedysville.

According to Ada, when her grandmother Martha Rohrbach returned to the farm she “rejoiced to see all the buildings standing, but the front porch was occupied with the doctors who were amputating, and the house filled with wounded and dying soldiers. Grandfather was busy helping the doctors, in every way he could… Grandmother told me she went to the rear of the house but all around the porch and yard the dead soldiers lay so think she could not reach the porch”.  Like Henry, Martha Rohrbach did what she could to help the wounded; baking bread and providing water for the soldiers.

henry kingsbury

Col. Henry Kingsbury, 11th CT Vol. Inf.

Isaac Rodman

Gen. Isaac Rodman
3rd Division of the IX Corps

 

Later that evening a tearful General Burnside came to the house to visit Colonel Kingsbury and sat on the couch next to him. Kingsbury lingered on throughout the night but died of his wounds on the 18th. General Rodman’s wife Sally came from Peace Dale, Rhode Island to be at his side, but he too would succumb to his wounds 12 days later at the Rohrbach house.

 

 

Claim record

H.B. Rohrbach received $504 according to the Herald and Torch Light. March 12, 1891

The Rohrbach farm buildings had suffered only minor damage, but Henry filed a claim with the Federal Government for the use of his house, two barns, and outbuildings as hospitals for five days.  According to an agent of the Army Quartermaster Department that testified in support of Rohrbach’s claims, “the corn, wheat and hay were fed to the horses of General Burnside’s command at a time when it seems forage could not readily be procured from regular services… After the battle a portion of Major General Burnside’s command occupied claimants farm, using house and barns, and consuming forage on the farm.” The Rohrbach’s losses had totaled $3,097.80 and included three milk cows, one large bull, 400 bushels of apples and two gallons of old grape wine for the wounded. There is very little evidence that he ever received any compensation before his death in 1890.  According to a newspaper article in March, 1891, Jacob E. Thomas, executor of the estate received $504.  Like his brother, Noah Rohrbach’s farm was used as a hospital as well. However, of the $907.95 claim that Noah submitted in 1873, he received $339.60.

Although there were no civilian casualties during the battle, many Sharpsburg residents died soon after the fighting due to all the death and disease around their once peaceful home. The Rohrbach’s daughter, Mary Jane Mumma then 25, had “taken ill and died in November and a daughter who was born a few days before her death, also passed away”.

As a result of the decimation of their farm, the Rohrbach farm was divided the following year. Part of it was conveyed to Noah and part was sold to Henry Mumma. Henry and Martha Ann Rohrbach purchased a home in Sharpsburg. Henry’s brother Jacob and their grand-daughter Ada, would also move in with them in Sharpsburg

On July 4, 1864 during Jubal Early’s third invasion into the North, Confederate soldiers, believed to be Mosby’s Rangers, stopped at the Rohrbach house in Sharpsburg looking for horses in the middle of the night. A confrontation occurred between the raiders and Henry’s brother Jacob and he was shot and killed in his bedroom.   

parlor throw

Parlor throw made by Martha Ada Thomas, 1880 – 1890. Donated to the Smithsonian

The Rohrbach’s continued to live on Main Street in Sharpsburg after the war. In 1879 the wedding of Ada and Jacob E. Thomas was held at the Rohrbach house. Although Ada and her husband moved to Baltimore to raise a family, Ada continued to return to visit her grandparents. Henry died in 1890 and Martha passed away in 1904 at the age of 87. They are buried together at the Mountain View Cemetery in Sharpsburg. The house remained in the Rohrbach family until Ada passed away in 1943. The Rohrbach house would be turned into a bed and breakfast in the late 1980’s and eventually named in honor of Jacob Rohrbach.

Rohrbach grave site

Gravesite of the Henry and Martha Rohrbach at the Mountain View Cemetery

Soon after the battle the Rohrbach Bridge was renamed the Burnside Bridge. Over the years, parcels of the Rohrbach farm were sold off. On the west side of the Antietam, the National Park Service would eventually acquire that portion of the Rohrbach farm from the Washington County Historical Society in 1940. On the east side of the creek the NPS owns a 24-acre parcel near the bend in the creek, locally known as Molly’s Hole. The rest of the once large Rohrbach farmstead is all private property today but the Henry Rohrbach and the Noah Rohrbach farms remain an eyewitness to the history of the Battle of Antietam.

 

henry rohrbach house

Henry Rohrbach house

noah rohrbach house

Noah Rohrbach house

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sources:
  • Ancestry.com, Henry Rohrbach Family, Census Data 1850-1890.  Retrieved from: https://www.ancestry.com\
  • Biscoe, Thomas Dwight and Walt Stanley. The view from the Conf. side of Antietam Creek near Burnside Bridge looks probably about North,. DeGolyer Library, Southern Methodist University, 1884.  Retrieved from: http://digitalcollections.smu.edu/cdm/singleitem/collection/civ/id/132/rec/25
  • Damman, Gordon and John W. Schildt. Hospitals in the Maryland Campaign, 1862,. E. Graphics, Brunswick, MD, 2019
  • Ernst, Kathleen A., Too Afraid to Cry: Maryland Civilians in the Antietam Campaign, Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 1999.
  • Find a Grave Website. Rohrbach Family, Isaac Rodman.  Retrieved from https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/5896745/isaac-peace-rodman
  • Lauver, Fred. Lauver and Davis Family Trees, John Rohrbach Retrived from http://www.timevoyagers.com/lauver01/d62.htm
  • Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division; Historic American Buildings Survey/Historic American Engineering Record/Historic American Landscapes Survey, Antietam, Maryland. Battlefield near Sherrick’s house where the 79th N.Y. Vols. fought after they crossed the creek. Group of dead Confederates, MD. Washington, D.C. Retrieved from https://www.loc.gov/resource/cwpb.01112/
  • Maryland Historical Trust, Henry Rohrbach Farm, WA-II-330, Maryland Inventory of Historic Properties Form, 1976.. Noah Rohrbach House, WA-II-363, Maryland Inventory of Historic Properties Form, 1994
  • Nelson, John N.  “As Grain Fall Before the Reaper”, The Federal Hospital Sites and Identified Federal Casualties at Antietam.  Hagerstown, MD. 2004
  • Reardon, Carol and Tom Vossler, A Field Guide to Antietam: experiencing the battlefield through history, places and people, Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 2016.
  • Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of American History  1880 – 1890 Martha Thomas’s “Fan” Parlor Throw.  Retrieved from https://womenshistory.si.edu/object/1880-1890-martha-thomass-fan-parlor-throw:nmah_556411
  • Taggert, Thomas, Map of Washington County. L. McKee and C.G. Roberton, Hagerstown, Maryland 1859.
  • U.S. National Park Service, Burnside Bridge Area Cultural Landscape InventoryAntietam National Battlefield, Washington D.C.: Government Printing Office, 2016.
  • U.S. National Park Service, Burnside Bridge Area Cultural Landscape ReportAntietam National Battlefield, Washington D.C.: Government Printing Office, 2018.
  • Walker, Kevin M., Antietam Farmsteads: A Guide to the Battlefield Landscape. Sharpsburg: Western Maryland Interpretive Association, 2010.
  • Western Maryland’s Historical Library. Photographs Sharpsburg, Henry Rohrback Farm, aka Walton/ Walnut Grove Farm, photo circa 1920 from the Marcia Swain collection  Retrieved from https://digital.whilbr.org/digital/collection/p16715coll42/id/16/
  • 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.

Whistling Wren Farm

October 27, 2020 by jacobrohrbach

whistling wren farm logoAre you looking for the perfect wedding venue?  A place for a corporate gathering or family reunion?  Look no further, the newest event venue is just  down the road in Keedysville  – Whistling Wren Farm!  This beautiful 35-acre farm is nestled between Elk Ridge and South Mountain; making it the ideal location for your special event.

 

About Whistling Wren Farmwhistling wren farm

Whistling Wren Farm is owned and operated by Kelly and Lee Drosdak.  Kelly has called Whistling Wren Farm home for over 48 years. Growing up on the farm, she shared her childhood with show horses, black angus cattle and her pig  named – “Uncy”.  After being gifted the farm, Kelly and her husband, Lee wanted to continue it’s legacy so they set out to preserve the 1857 bank barn and create a unique venue.

 

The Barn at Whistling Wren Farm

whistling wren farm barnOriginally built in 1857, the wonderfully restored bank barn sits as the centerpiece on a lovely 35-acre manicured country farm.  The wood and stone contrast nicely with the arched windows that line the barn making it ideal for a ceremony or receptions.  Adjacent to the barn is the fully-restored stable which has been modified to accommodate guests in a relaxing setting.

 

whistling wren farm inside barn

The 19th-century crystal chandelier adds a sense of elegance while the wooden plank floor provides a unique farm-like atmosphere.  With 2,400 square feet, the bank provides ample space to accommodate 100 friends and family.

 

Whistling Wren Farm Services

whistling wren farm outside fireplaceThere are several outdoor event spaces for ceremonial and other functional uses. The 25,000 square foot lawn offers the perfect location to accommodate rental tents, play lawn games, or for simply socializing during  your festivities.

The majestic outdoor grand fireplace offers 25 feet of seating walls.  The courtyard is also accented with string lighting and wine barrels.  A portable Bluetooth sound system and patio heaters are available for use as well

For more information about Whistling Wren Farm, what they have to offer or scheduling future events you can check out their Facebook  Page or their Website

 whistling wren farm wedding decorDirections

Near Boonsboro on Alternate Route 40, turn south onto Route 67, the Rohrersville Road for 1 3/4 mile.  Turn right onto Mt. Carmel Church Road for 1/2 mile.  Turn left into farm to parking area. (Click here for Google Maps)

Whistling Wren Farm
5601 Mount Carmel Church Road,
Keedysville, MD 21756
(240) 815-7131

 

Fig, Walnut and Goat Cheese Scones

October 27, 2020 by jacobrohrbach

Fig-Walnut Cheese  SconesEach year we try to add a few new varieties of scones to our selection list, especially for our returning guests.  This year one of our favorites is a Fig, Walnut and Goat Cheese scone.  It is perfect for the holiday season.

Fig, Walnut and Goat Cheese  Scones  – serves 16

3/4 C cold butter (1 1/2 stick)
1 C buttermilk
2 sample bags of Original Scone mix
1/2 C  dried chopped figs – *soak in 2T balsamic vinegar for 15 minutes
1/4 C  walnuts, chopped
8 oz. crumbly goat cheese*

 

 

making Fig-Walnut Cheese  SconesPour contents of bags into mixing bowl. Cut in 1 1/2 sticks chilled butter until mixture is fine and crumbly.

Now add the crumbled cheese and chopped walnuts. Drain chopped figs and add to mixture.

Stir in buttermilk.  Dough will form a soft ball. Turn dough out onto floured board, and knead gently 3-4 times

Pat out the ball of dough into a flattened circle, 6-7” in diameter, approximately 3/4- 1” thick.

 

 

Using a sharp knife, cut circle into eighths.cutting out Fig-Walnut Cheese  Scones

At this point you may freeze the dough to be used later.

Place scones on parchment lined cookie sheet. Bake in preheated oven at 425 degrees for 13-18 minutes (time will vary with scone size). Top should be light golden brown when done.

Lightly powder scones and serve warm with a to small scoop of cinnamon butter.

 

Tips:
– Butter should be really cold, the colder the better
– Treat scones like biscuits, the less you play with them the better
– Place cut scones on parchment/wax paper and freeze, then store in a plastic bag in the freezer. This allows you to remove and bake only what you need.
– Bake from frozen, no need to thaw

*May substitute gorgonzola for a more savory taste

(Recipe adopted from our friends at Victorian House Scones)

 

Print the recipe
Fig Walnut and Goat Cheese Scones

The Farmsteads of Antietam – John Otto Farm

August 6, 2020 by jacobrohrbach

The John Otto farm is the last farmstead on the battlefield and is often overlooked as you drive to the Burnside Bridge.  Although the main house is the only period structure still standing on the property, the Otto farm is full of history.

In 1763, Joseph Chapline, Sr., founded the town of Sharpsburg. Upon his death in 1769, his sons inherited much of his property in the area.  In 1789, Joseph Chapline, Jr., applied to the land office in Annapolis for a resurvey of his lands into a single tract. This 2,575 acres became known as Mount Pleasant.  With the migration into Western Maryland in the 1790’s, Joseph Jr., began to sell off some of this land.

John Otto Farm

 

In 1815, Joseph, Jr. conveyed a portion of Mount Pleasant to Peter Ham, about 133 acres.  Ham lived in Sharpsburg and operated a tannery.  “When Ham died in 1819, he willed all his property except the tanyard, to his wife Margaret”.   According to an 1828 advertisement the property was placed for public sale and it described the farm as “A Valuable Plantation, containing about 145 acres of first rate Limestone Land, with common improvements and a never-failing spring thereon .. ,”  The farm never sold so in 1831, Mrs. Ham sold half of the estate, 66 acres, to Joseph Sherrick and the other half to John Otto.

 

 

John Otto was the son of John David Otto who emigrated from Hanover, Germany in 1795.  After landing in Philadelphia, he remained there for about eighteen months learning the trade of a tailor.  John David Otto moved to Sharpsburg “and opened a tailor shop in a small building near the Reformed Church”.   After moving to Sharpsburg he married Maria Catherine Bowlus with whom they had two children: Elizabeth and John.  John was born on November 25, 1802. As a young man, John worked as a farm hand and sometimes in his father’s tailor shop.

In 1825, John married Dorcas Miller and they lived on a small farm outside of Sharpsburg.   John and Dorcas would have six children together: Mary Ann, David, Ann Catherine, John, Joseph, and Daniel.  To make room for their growing family John purchased the property from the widow Ham in 1831.

Otto House

 

 

Over the next several years John and Dorcas worked to turn the property into a thriving farmstead.  John built a substantial two-story frame dwelling with clapboard sliding and a stone cellar foundation.  Near the house was an orchard containing apple, pear and cherry trees.

 

 

 

Back of house

Site of kitchen

Looking toward the barn and outbuildings

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ruins of barn

Possible site of spring

 

 

 

 

 

 

Down the hill from the house near the Rohrbach Bridge Road, a spring-house was built over the ‘never-failing spring’.  Just to the rear of the main house, the Otto’s constructed a large log kitchen and a root cellar was built into the hill where the cool temperatures provided storage of vegetables.  Further up the hill from the house was the large Pennsylvania style bank barn.  A hog pen and various other outbuildings and dependencies surrounded the farm as well.  Across from the farm, post-and-rail and worm fences divided the fields and along the bridge road was a well-constructed stone wall.

John Otto was a stanch Democrat and served as a county commissioner in 1842 -44.  The Otto’s also owned several slaves. One of them was Hilary Watson.  Born in 1832, Hilary was less than a year old when John Otto purchased him and his mother, whom the family called Aunt Nancy.   The Otto’s were also members of the German Baptist Brethren Church or Dunkers.  After Samuel Mumma donated some property to the congregation to build a church in 1851, the Otto’s made bricks on the farm and donated them for the construction of the building which was completed in 1853.

 

Otto Family on the 1850 Census

In 1845, Dorcas passed away from unknown causes.  John would remarry in 1849 to Catherine Gardenour, who was born on the old Belinda Spring farm, on the Antietam Creek.  John became a successful farmer and “By 1862 he owned and cultivated three farms, including his 66-acre home farm, totaling over 300 acres, with over 500 head of cattle” which was a large number of livestock for the time.  According to the county records in 1860, “John Otto’s farm was valued at $4,000, and his livestock was valued at $500. In the year ending June 1, 1860, the farm produced 800 bushels of wheat, 100 bushels of rye, 400 bushels of Indian corn, 70 pounds of wool, 20 bushels of potatoes, $25 of orchard products, 500 pounds of butter, 15 tons of hay, and 12 bushels of clover seed”.

Looking toward the Otto farm on the left from hill above bridge. Circa 1884

By mid-September 1862, the winds of war swirled around the Antietam Valley as Confederate soldiers from Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia began to consolidate around Sharpsburg.  To the southeast of town on the Otto farm, Georgians from Brigadier General Robert Toomb’s brigade were positioned on the bluffs overlooking the Rohrbach Bridge and along the Antietam Creek.  Before long, hungry Confederates came looking for food.  According to Hilary Watson, “the Rebels came in hyar, and the hill at our place was covered with ’em.  They’d walk right into the house and say, ‘have you got anything to eat?’ like they was half starved.”  Hilary’s mother and the Otto’s provided them some bread, bacon, and milk.  The next morning, Mr. Otto took his family and Aunt Nancy away to safety.  We’re not sure where they went to, maybe to relatives but young Hilary remained behind.

Otto Farm taken circa 1900.

 

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

The next day the fighting along the Antietam Creek began about mid-morning.  Confederate artillery batteries positioned on the heights across the fields south of the farm.  Soon after noon, the Union IX Corps took control of the Rohrbach Bridge forcing the Confederates to pull back to the heights outside of Sharpsburg.  It took almost two hours, for the Union forces to reorganize and move into position to began their advance.  At approximately 3PM, the IX Corps attack began. Colonel Thomas Welsh’s brigade advanced through the Otto farmstead with Issac Rodman’s Division on the left flank.   Two Union artillery batteries moved into the position vacated by the Rebel guns.  As the Union pushed the Confederates beyond the farmstead toward Sharpsburg, other Union brigades advanced across the Otto farm in support.  Just as the objective seemed within sight for this final Union attack, Confederate General A.P. Hill’s Light Division arrived on the field.  Hill’s men drove the Union forces back to the Otto farm where the battle would end as darkness fell.

 

Of course after the battle the Otto farm like so many others was used as a hospital.  John Otto would write, “My House, Barn, and Granary were taken possession of September 17th and used for Hospital purposes til the 4th of Nov. 1862, during which time everything in and around it that could be of any service, was taken and used, including Beds, Furniture, Commissary stores, condiments and anything that would contribute to the comfort of the wounded, being either consumed entirely or rendered unfit for further use.  The surgeons in charge at my house was I think, Dr. Warren and Dr. McDonald.”  One Union soldier, William Mitchel of the 9th New York had engraved his name and unit in a windowsill in an upstairs bedroom of the Otto house.  In 1873, Otto filed a claim for $2350.60, he would only receive $893.85 for his losses.

Hilary and Christina Watson grave

 

In 1864, after slavery was abolished in Maryland, Hilary Watson continued to work on the Otto farm as a hired laborer.  John Otto paid $300 when Hilary was drafted to serve in the Union Army in order to keep him on the farm.  Years later, Hilary and his wife Christina would buy a lot on East High Street in Sharpsburg near Tolson’s Chapel, and build a house there.  Together they helped build the African American community in Sharpsburg in the post war years.  Both Christina and Hilary Watson are buried in the Tolson’s Chapel Cemetery.

 

 

Following the war John Otto retired from farming leaving the the tending of the farm to his son.  He moved into Sharpsburg where his second wife, Catherine died in 1867.  After her death, he made his home with his son David on Antietam Street.  John died on December 8, 1884.  John and both his wives, are buried in the Mount Cavalry Lutheran Cemetery in Sharpsburg.

Dorcas Otto

John Otto

Catherine Otto

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In 187o, the Otto’s sold the 66-acre property to Jacob B. Stine.  Stine would acquire the other half of the original farm in 1891 and then sold the whole 131 acres to James and Susan Dorsey in 1908.  The property remained in the Dorsey family until 1968, when the farmland was sold to Paul and Twila Shade.  In 1971, the Dorsey’s sold the 2+ acres containing the Otto buildings to Charles and Orpha Mae Kauffman who would in turn sell it to the National Park Foundation five years later.  In 1984, the National Park Service purchased the 2+ acres from the foundation and in 2003 the remaining parcels of the Otto farm and the Sherrick farmland were acquired by the National Park Service from the Shade estate.

Today, the farmland has been turned into grassland for wildlife and a habit for migrating Monarch butterflies.  Although only the main house and some ruins are all that remains of the Otto farmstead, it continues to be an eyewitness to a unique history of the Farmsteads of Antietam.

 

Sources:
  • Ancestry.com, John Otto Family, Census Data 1850-1880.  Retrieved from: https://www.ancestry.com\
  • Banks, John, John Banks Civil War Blog retrieved from:  http://john-banks.blogspot.com/2013/05/antietam-panorama-ruins-of-john-ottos.html
  • Biscoe, Thomas Dwight and Walt Stanley. The view from the Conf. side of Antietam Creek near Burnside Bridge looks probably about North,. DeGolyer Library, Southern Methodist University, 1884.  Retrieved from: http://digitalcollections.smu.edu/cdm/singleitem/collection/civ/id/132/rec/25
  • National Park Service, Antietam National Battlefield Survey Report, Paula S. Reed and Associates, Inc., Hagerstown, MD. Form, 10-900. 1999.
  • Nelson, John H., As Grain Falls Before the Reaper: The Federal Hospital Sites and Identified Federal Casualties at Antietam, Hagerstown: John H. Nelson, 2004
  • Reardon, Carol and Tom Vossler, A Field Guide to Antietam: experiencing the battlefield through history, places and people, Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 2016.
  • Schmidt, Alann and Terry Barklery. September mourn: the Dunker Church of Antietam Battlefield, El Dorado Hill, CA: Savas Beatie LLC. 2018.Taggert, Thomas, Map of Washington County. L. McKee and C.G. Roberton, Hagerstown, Maryland 1859.
  • U.S. National Park Service, Hilary and Christina Watson. Retrieved from:  https://www.nps.gov/people/hilary-and-christina-watson.htm
  • U.S. National Park Service, Burnside Bridge Area Cultural Landscape InventoryAntietam National Battlefield, Washington D.C.: Government Printing Office, 2016.
  • U.S. National Park Service, Burnside Bridge Area Cultural Landscape ReportAntietam National Battlefield, Washington D.C.: Government Printing Office, 2018.
  • Walker, Kevin M., Antietam Farmsteads: A Guide to the Battlefield Landscape. Sharpsburg: Western Maryland Interpretive Association, 2010.
  • 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.

 

 

Amish Baked Oatmeal

August 4, 2020 by jacobrohrbach

Amish Baked Oatmeal

 

As we close out the Dog Days of Summer and start dreaming of the cool weather of Fall, here’s a perfect breakfast or brunch dish to get you in that Autumn mindset.

Baked oatmeal is a traditional and comforting Amish breakfast dish . Unlike regular oatmeal, which is made on the stove-top and has a porridge-like consistency, baked oatmeal is made in the oven and has a consistency similar to bread pudding.

 

These recipe makes six servings and here are the ingredients you will need:
• 2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats (not instant) 
• ¾ cup light brown sugar 
• 1 cup walnuts or pecans, divided
• ½ cup raisins 
• 1 teaspoon baking powder 
• 2 teaspoons cinnamon 
• ½ teaspoon salt 
• 2 eggs 
• 2 cups milk
• 1 teaspoon Vanilla extract
• 4 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus more for dish 
• 2 tart yet sweet baking apples, like Honey Crisp, peeled and cut into ½-inch chunks (about 2 cups)

Dry ingredients

Wet ingredients

 

 

 

 

 

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Grease an 8 or 9-inch baking dish with butter (we use individual ramekins).

 

In a medium bowl, combine the oats, brown sugar, ½ cup of the nuts, raisins, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. Mix well.

 

 

In another bowl, break up the eggs; then whisk in the milk and vanilla until well combined.

 

 

 

Add the milk mixture to the oat mixture, along with the melted butter.

 

 

 

Scatter the apples evenly on the bottom of the prepared baking dish. Pour the oatmeal mixture over top and spread evenly. Sprinkle remaining ½ cup nuts on top. Bake for 40-45 minutes, until the top is golden and the oats are set.

 

Serve warm or at room temperature. Dust with powdered sugar.

Yummy!

Try our Amish Style Baked Oatmeal

Sharpsburg Civil War Ghosts Tours and Tarot

August 1, 2020 by jacobrohrbach

Julia & Mark Brugh

Shortly after purchasing the Inn in 2015 we received a call from a couple that wanted to discuss the possibility of using a photo of the Inn for the cover of their upcoming book.  Later that week we meet with Julia and Mark Brugh to discuss their book and what photo they wished to use.  The Brugh’s were getting ready to publish their first book, which describes some of the more popular stories that they tell during their ghost tours of Sharpsburg. Well, not only did they have an amazing picture of the Inn for the cover, but the the story behind the namesake of the Inn would forever be told in their book.  Needless to say, we were both honored and humbled, as new innkeepers to have this publication partly about the Inn.  We instantly struck up not only a business relationship, but a lasting friendship with Mark and Julia.

 

 

Mark & Julia in period attire

Mark and Julia Brugh are the owners and operators of the Sharpsburg Ghost Tour and Tarot which they started in 2011.   Julia is a native of Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, and grew up surrounded by local folklore and Civil War legends. Julia not only grew up with this rich history of the area but developed a love of the oral history and mythology of common folk.   Since the early 80’s Mark had been studying the Civil War but started to drift away from the Battle of Antietam and began focusing on the lives of people who lived in Sharpsburg during the battle. He found it fascinating to learn more about their trials, suffering and the long-lasting effects that the battle had on the citizens of Sharpsburg.  Together they decided to turn this passion of history and story telling into their tour company.  They offer both historical tours of the town and family friendly ghost tours with a strong historical foundation.

 

Mark telling the saga of   Jacob Rohrbach

 

The tour starts at Captain Bender’s Tavern on the Main Street of Sharpsburg. After a brief introduction, Mark and Julia will lead you out and around the back streets and alleys of town stopping periodically to point out significant buildings or locations along the route.  At the half dozen stops on the tour you may hear some of these stories: The Woman in Black, The Haunted Home of Aaron Good, Charley King’s War; and of course our personal favorite – The Rohrback House Remembers.

 

 

 

 

Ghost stories around the campfire

During the month of October, Mark and Julia put together special tours and we are fortunate to have them speak at the Inn for our “Ghost Stories around the Campfire” program.  Together they put on a great program covering some of these favorites and always talking about the history of the Sharpsburg civilians.  In 2018, they added Saturday night tarot readings to their event calendar.  Julia has studied tarot since the 1980s, and knows the cards forwards, backwards, and upside down.  So before most tours, May through November, be sure to take advantage of this special offer for the best, most affordable reading of your life.

 

 

So the next time you’re planning a stay at the Jacob Rohrbach Inn, look into taking a Sharpsburg Ghost tour with Mark and Julia.  If it’s October, then take advantage of our Weekend Special. If you just can’t make it for one of their outstanding tours, you can take home a signed copy of the Civil War Ghosts of Sharpsburg that is always in stock and for sale at our store, the Antietam Mercantile Company.

 

 

Available Tours

  • Confederate Soldiers’ Passageway Ghost Tour
  • Children’s Alley Ghost Tour
  • Graveyards, Cemeteries and Soldiers Ghost Tour
  • Specialty Tours are ran in for St. Patrick’s Day and the month of October

Currently the tours run about 90 minutes long and the cost is very affordable at just $15.00 for adults, $10 for students 9-18, and for  children under 9 there is no charge.

Tarot readings are offered on Saturdays when tours are scheduled. Usually that’s almost every Saturday from May to November. Readings cost just $10 and take about 15-20 minutes.

Sharpsburg Ghost Tour and Tarot
Email: hauntedsharpsburg@gmail.com
Website: www.sharpsburgtours.net
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“The ‘What Ifs’ of the Maryland Campaign” – John Schildt

July 12, 2020 by jacobrohrbach

John Schildt

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.

Rev. John Schildt will be our final speaker of the season on Wednesday, August 26th.  Many historians tend not to discuss the hypothetical, but John often asks, “What if…”.  John will present his Summer Lecture Series talk – “”The ‘What Ifs’ of the Maryland Campaign”.  John will contemplate, what if Order No. 191 had not been found;  what if Franklin had moved more swiftly on September 13 and 15; what if Reno had not be killed; what if Lee had withdrawn to Virginia after the capture of Harpers Ferry and many more ‘What Ifs’.

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, we require attending guests 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 101 W. Main Street at Town Square.  Parking is available on Main and Hall Streets.  For updates and a full schedule of presenters & topics check our Facebook page.

A Very Personal Fight- Alex Rossino

July 12, 2020 by jacobrohrbach

Although he is known for personally leading troops on the field during the Overland Campaign in 1864, the first time General Robert E. Lee actually took an active, direct role in tactical field operations was at the Battle of Antietam/Sharpsburg in September 1862. In this presentation, Alexander Rossino will document Lee’s movements during the fight at Sharpsburg and weigh the impact the general’s decisions had on the outcome of the battle.  ​On Wednesday, August 19th, Dr. Alex Rossino will present, “A Very Personal Fight: Robert E. Lee’s Role on the Field at Sharpsburg, September 17, 1862”.

Dr. Alex Rossino

Dr. Rossino earned his PhD in History at Syracuse University in 1999. He is the author of Hitler Strikes Poland: Blitzkrieg, Ideology, and Atrocity, a study of German policies against Polish Christians and Jews during the Nazi invasion of Poland in September 1939. He worked for 9 years as an historian at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum before moving to the private sector to provide market analysis for the government contracting community, work he continues to this day. Following a long hiatus from writing, Dr. Rossino moved to Western Maryland in 2013 and turned his studies to the American Civil War, a subject of interest to him since childhood. In 2017 he published Six Days in September: A Novel of Lee’s Army in Maryland, 1862 with Savas Beatie. The novel examines the history of the second half of the Confederate invasion of Maryland from a first-person perspective, combining history and fiction to help general readers better understand the importance of the 1862 Maryland Campaign to Robert E. Lee and his army. A sequel to the book giving the same treatment to McClellan’s army is due out in 2019. Dr. Rossino is also the author of two new articles on the Civil War in Maryland: one on the Confederate Army in Frederick and the other on George McClellan’s handling of Lee’s Lost Orders in September 1862, which he co-authored with Cartographer Gene Thorp. Last, but not least, he is the editor of Savas Beatie’s new Civil War Spotlight essay series, a service publishing historical essays on issues of importance to Civil War studies. His talk today is based on the inaugural offering in that series.

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, we require attending guests 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 101 W. Main Street at Town Square.  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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