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The Farmsteads of Antietam – Joseph Parks Farm

April 16, 2018 by jacobrohrbach

Joseph Parks Farmstead

While traveling on the roads running through the battlefield you can see most of the farmsteads at Antietam except for one – the Joseph Parks farm.  In order to see this farm, visitors have to walk out the Three Farms Trail from the Newcomer House.  Although the land had been cultivated for more than 100 years before the battle, in 1862 the house and farm were fairly new.  Originally part of James Smith’s property and patented “Smiths Hills”, this 160 acres is known today as the Joseph Parks Farm.

Smith Hills

Plat map of Smiths Hills and surrounding region.

In 1739, James Smith, a planter from Prince George’s County received a patent of 208 acres.  It’s believed that Smith lived in the area, as he was surveying lands in the future Frederick and Washington counties and was an attorney for the Frederick courts.  Over the next fifteen years, Smith continued to add land to his holdings.  In 1754, Smith surveyed 12 acres of Porto Santo, another nearby patent. In 1756, a  “Resurvey of Smiths Hills” was done adding 302 acres for a total of 510 acres and a Resurvey of Porto Santo was done to correct several errors which increased its size to 23 acres.  During the resurvey it was found that the Porto Santo “included ‘improvements’ of one acre of cleared land, 400 fence rails and a log house”.  Smith’s holding of these two patents would become the properties of what we know today as the Newcomer and Park Farmsteads.

 

Knowing that colonial interest and the French and Indian War led to more permanent inroads into the backcountry, Smith petitioned Frederick County in 1755 for the building of both a ford across the Antietam Creek and a new road, because he intended to build a mill along the creek on his land.  Smith also knew that an improved roadway through his property would not only increase the value of his land but that of the surrounding area.  Although Smith did not build a mill, “he had set the groundwork for the future development of the milling industry on the property” and a new road would eventually be built from Red Hill to Swearingen’s Ferry on the Potomac at Shepherdstown.

As the French and Indian War was ending, Christian Orndorff, a millwright from Lancaster County, arrived in the area in 1762.   Now that the region was safe and open for settlement, Orndorff was looking for a suitable site to build a grist mill, and he found it along the Antietam Creek.  Christian Orndorff purchased 503 acres of Resurvey on Smiths Hills and 11 acres of the Porto Santo. 

Over the next thirty years the Orndorff family turned the property into a substantial industrial complex.  In addition to a large house and barn, there was a grist mill, a saw mill and a workshop near the Antietam Creek.  The mills were powered by water diverted from the creek through a mill race that Orndorff built.  They also farmed crops of wheat and corn and later established a plaster mill, a cooper shop and other tooling shops.

In 1796, the Orndorff’s sold 324 1/4 acres  for £5500 to Jacob Mumma.  This purchase included portions of several patents, but 303 acres were part of the Resurvey of Smiths Hills.  The Mummas had arrived in Philadelphia in 1732 and settled in Lancaster County.  Like other Germans settling in the area, the Mumma family traveled down the Wagon Road to Sharpsburg.  They were accompanied by Joseph Sherrick, Sr. and his family.  Sherrick would also purchase property along the Antietam from the Orndorff’s.

Photograph taken on Sept. 22, 1862, by Alexander Gardner’s assistant, James F. Gibson. The Parks Farmstead can be seen in the upper right hand corner. (LOC)

Jacob Mumma and his sons continued to run the mill and farming operations.  Over the next several years Mumma would acquire “two-thirds of the large land tract amassed by the Orndorff family decades earlier”.  This area incorporated what is known today as the Mumma Farm, Newcomer Farm and the Parks Farm.   In 1831,  Jacob Mumma and his wife Elizabeth transferred ownership of the mill property to their son John.  Around this time, it is believed that a house and barn were constructed just north of the mill along the creek for John’s eldest son – Elias Mumma. This became known as the “lower farm”, the future Parks farmstead.   Business at the Mumma mill was booming, but John Mumma died suddenly in 1835 and without a will.  His father, Jacob purchased the property back from John’s estate and resold the mill and farm to his younger son, Samuel in 1837.

 

Barn

Main House (vinyl siding covering original wood siding)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Summer Kitchen

Kitchen

Cooking Fireplace

 

 

 

 

 

 

Parks farm

Parks Farm layout in 1862

 

Samuel and his wife had been living at the house on the Mumma Farmstead, but they moved back to the mill complex and continued the operations of the mill and farm.  Samuel sold 151 acres of the mill complex portion of the property to Jacob and John Emmert in 1841 to pay off debts, but he retained 190 acres of the “lower farm”.  By 1843, Samuel was forced to put the “lower farm” into a Deed of Trust to pay off other creditors.

 

Parks property

The “lower farm” that Phillip Pry named Bunker Hill Farm. The red line shows the property line.

In 1850, the property was returned to Samuel Mumma by the trustees and it believed that Samuel’s son, Jacob H. Mumma was living on the farm as a tenant at this time.  According to the 1860 census, Jacob had moved to Boonsboro and the farm was tenanted by a Jacob Myers (Meyer).   In 1861, Samuel Mumma sold the “lower farm” for $10,500 to Phillip Pry who renamed the 166 acre property the “Bunker Hill Farm”.   Phillip and his brother Samuel already owned a large amount of land north of the Bunker Hill Farm along the Antietam Creek, including a large grist mill.  Phillip and his family continued to live at his farm just across the Antietam but rented the Bunker Hill Farm to a tenant named Joseph Parks and his family.

Parks had owned a house in Porterstown which was just on the other side of the creek.  According to the 1850 census he lived there with his wife, Mary and their young children Rosean, Elizabeth, Mary and Martha.  His wife Mary would pass away in 1855 and shortly after that Joseph married Aletha Ann Harmon and they would have six more children together.

On the morning of September 15, 1862, as they withdrew from the Battle of South Mountain, Confederate soldiers marched along the turnpike and across the Antietam toward Sharpsburg.  General Robert E. Lee had decided to make a stand along the Antietam Creek to consolidate his divided army.  Later that day as the Union army advanced to the east side of the Antietam Creek, the Bunker Hill Farm and the Parks family stood between the two warring parties.

Daybreak map of the Battle of Antietam.

The next morning, three companies of Federal troops crossed the bridge and deployed across the Newcomer property, securing the bridge as a future crossing point for the next day’s battle.  Throughout the day the Bunker Hill Farm was in the center of a cannonade between the Union artillery on the east side of the Antietam and the Confederate guns along the ridge east of Sharpsburg.  It is not known where the Parks went during the battle, but most certainly they departed like their neighbors, to the safety of friends or relatives in the area.

 

1030 am map of the Battle of Antietam as Union forces begin to move across the Parks farm.

The next morning on September 17, as the battle raged to the north of Sharpsburg, more Union forces were sent across the Pry Mill ford just north of the Parks farm.  Two divisions of the Second Army Corps moved west toward the East Woods and then pushed into the West Woods and southward across the Mumma and Roulette farms.  About an hour later Major General Israel Richardson’s division crossed the creek just below Phillip Pry’s house and marched toward the Neikirk and Kennedy Farms before turning toward the fighting in the Sunken Road.  Brig. Gen. John Caldwell’s brigade marched in a line of battle across the upper fields of the Parks farm before shifting to the right to support Gen. Meagher’s Irish Brigade.

1:00 pm map of the Battle of Antietam with Union artillery positioned on the Parks Farm.

 

Once the Confederates were driven out of the Sunken Road, Union artillery arrived to help hold the line along the high ground of the Parks farm and the Newcomer fields.

 

 

This enlarged 1862 Gibson photo shows five buildings and the fence surrounding the main house.

Although no specific source has identified the Parks farm as a field hospital, it seems likely that the 5th New Hampshire Volunteer Infantry Regiment of Caldwell’s brigade would have used it as a temporary one.  Col. Edward Cross, the commander of the 5th New Hampshire reported the situation of his surgeon, Dr. William Child and described the conditions of the battlefield hospitals, “The barns and sheds in all this region were occupied as hospitals by the Union army, and many Confederate wounded were retained here, and I believe were as well cared for as the Union Men.  The barns were filled with flies, and wounds were sure to gather maggots about the dressings and even within the raw surfaces. To avoid this disgusting evil Assistant Surgeon Child personally gathered a few scores of shelter tents left on the battle-field, brought them to a suitable location, and with them built very comfortable hospital quarters and into them moved all the wounded of the Fifth, where they remained until able to be sent to Frederick city or were sent to Antietam hospital, which was finally established upon the western borders of the battle-field. Child was detailed for service in this Antietam field hospital, where he remained until about December 10…”

In this magnified photograph, soldiers can be seen walking along a road leading to the Parks farm.

 

Through the trees on the right the Observation Tower can be seen just beyond the Parks barnyard.

There are no known damage claims submitted by Joseph Parks, but several were submitted by Phillip Pry starting in 1865 and another in 1872.  It is believed that the Quartermaster claim was for his home farm only and not the “lower farm’ or Bunker Hill Farm.

Union artillery and infantry units go into position on the evening of Sept. 17, 1862 across the Park farm

Although Phillip Pry received some payment, his claims became bogged down in legal proceedings and in 1874 he sold the remainder of his property and moved his family to Tennessee.  During the investigation into Pry’s claim it was uncovered by Agent Sallade about Pry’s Bunker Hill farm and he reported, “Mr Pry owned two farms, one the [“Home”] farm containing 170 acres, and one the “Bunker Hill” farm of 166 acres separated by the Antietam Creek, and 1/2 mile apart… all his fencing was burned, his corn and wheat fed, together with a large quantity of hay… His wheat I find was cut in 1862, and put in 4 large stacks, some was in the barn.  These stacks contained not less than 800 bushels this quantity was arrived at by the number of loads – 40 – averaging 20 bushels per load, placed in the stacks. Messrs Joseph Parks, Henry Gettmacher and Wm. Lantz who cut, hauled, and put up this wheat fully confirm this fact. The Affidants of other parties, neighbors and ex-soldiers also confirm this, and also that a portion of the wheat in the barn was used.  Mr. Pry lost about 150 bushels on the farm across the Antietam Creek.  Mr. Pry fully sets this forth in his affidavit”.

Parks grave

Joseph and Aletha Parks grave at Rose Hill

According to records, a few years after the battle Joseph Parks had “to mortgage his household furniture and personal belongings against a debt that he owed to Phillip Pry” most likely for the tenancy.  Joseph Parks had moved several miles north of Sharpsburg, probably to Fairplay or Hagerstown, and became a full time shoemaker.  He died in 1891 and is buried in Rose Hill Cemetery in Hagerstown along with his second wife Aletha.

 

 

The 1877 Illustrated Atlas of Washington County, Maryland, District 1, Sharpsburg. The red dot shows the J. F. Miller properties

In 1867 Bunker Hill Farm was sold to Jacob F. Miller.  Jacob Miller’s son, Otho H. Miller was living at the farm according to the 1870 census.  During this time “a gabled dormer was added to the forebay of the barn  most likely to accommodate improved threshing machines” and a second story was added to the north section of the main house.

In 1884, Jacob Miller sold the Bunker Hill farm to Henry and Laura Rohrer.  The Rohrer family would operate the farm for the next 76 years.  According to the 1910 census, their son-in-law Harry O. Clipp, his wife Stella and their two daughters, Ruth and Edna were living at the farm.  Harry Clipp’s occupation was listed as a “House Carpenter” and he may have been the one who made improvements on the farm.   During the Rohrer’s time at the farm a tenant house is built around 1905 and a corn crib / wagon shed was added onto the barn along with some other out buildings.  In 1914, Henry Rohrer died leaving the farm to his wife Laura, who died in 1919.  The farm was then transferred to her daughter and son-in-law.

Foundation of the tenant house.

The Clipp’s continued to make improvements to the farm, shifting their operation to dairy farming with a
concrete milking area added.  Ruth Clipp and Edna (Clipp) Dorsey who inherited the farm from their parents, sold the farm to William Cunningham in 1960.  In 1988, Cunningham sold the farm to the National Park Service with a life estate for himself.

After the death of Mr. Cunningham in 2000, the Park Service  removed post-war out buildings including the tenant house, repaired the log out-kitchen, restored the barn, stabilized the farm house and recently replaced the roof on the house.   A new recreational trail, the Three Farms Trail was created in 2006 that connects the Parks Farmstead to the Roulette Farmstead and the Newcomer Farmstead.

The Parks Farmstead is a another eyewitness to the history of the battle and the families that lived in the Antietam Valley.

Sources:
  • Find A Grave, Joseph Parks and family, Retrieved from: https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/49395745/joseph-parks
  • Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division; Historic American Buildings Survey/Historic American Engineering Record/Historic American Landscapes Survey, Antietam, Md. Another view of Antietam bridge. Washington, D.C. Retrieved from  https://www.loc.gov/resource/cwpb.01133/
  • Library of Congress Geography and Map Division; W.S. Long and Washington A. Roebling/Battle of the Antietam fought September 16 & 17, 1862/Washington, D.C./ Retrieved from https://www.loc.gov/resource/g3844a.cw0246000
  • Maryland Historical Trust, Cunningham Farm, WA-II-331, Maryland Inventory of Historic Properties Form, 1978, 24 March 2018
  • U.S. National Park Service,  Joseph Parks Barn,  Antietam National Battlefield, Historic Structures Report Washington D.C.: Government Printing Office, 2008.
  • U.S. National Park Service, Parks Farmstead Cultural Landscape InventoryAntietam National Battlefield, Washington D.C.: Government Printing Office, 2011.
  • U.S. National Park Service,  Newcomer Barn,  Antietam National Battlefield, Historic Structures Report Washington D.C.: Government Printing Office, 2004.
  • Walker, Kevin M and K. C. Kirkman, Antietam Farmsteads: A Guide to the Battlefield Landscape. Sharpsburg: Western Maryland Interpretive Association, 2010.
  • Western Maryland Regional Library, The Illustrated Atlas of Washington County, Maryland was published in 1877. Lake, Griffing & Stevenson of Philadelphia, 1877.  Retrieved from http://whilbr.org/Image.aspx?photo=wcia053s.jpg&idEntry=3497&title=Sharpsburg+-+District+No.+1
  • 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.
  • U.S. War Department, The War of the Rebellion: a compilation of the official records of the Union and Confederate armies. Pl. XXVIII: Antietam, Suffolk, Gettysburg, Franklin Washington, Government Printing Office, 1880-1901.  Retrieved from  https://www.loc.gov/resource/g3701sm.gcw0099000/?sp=53

The Farmsteads of Antietam – Joshua Newcomer farm

August 9, 2017 by jacobrohrbach

Some of the earliest land patents of the future Washington County are dated between 1730 and 1740, and they were granted to men who never intended on live on the land.  One of these men was Dr. George Stuart of Annapolis who was granted 4,450 acres of land in western Maryland on March 7, 1732.  In 1739, Stuart transferred 208 acres to a planter from Prince George’s County named James Smith.  It’s believed that Smith lived in the area, as he was surveying lands in the future Frederick and Washington counties and was an attorney for the Frederick courts.  This 208 acres was patented “Smiths Hills” and was the future location of what we know today as the Newcomer Farm.

Plat map of Smiths Hills and surrounding region.

According to the patent, “Smiths Hills” began at “a bounded white oak standing on the side of a hill with a quarter of a mile of the Waggon Road that crosses Anteatom and running thence south“. Over the next fifteen years, Smith continued to add land to his holdings and by 1756 the “Resurvey of Smiths Hills” contained 510 acres.  By the 1750’s, colonial interest and the French and Indian War lead to more permanent inroads into the backcountry.  Smith  petitioned Frederick County for the building of both a ford across the Antietam Creek and a new road, because he intended to build a mill along the creek on his land.  Smith also knew that an improved roadway through his property would not only increase the value of his land but that of the surrounding area.  Although Smith did not build a mill, “he had set the groundwork for the future development of the milling industry on the property” and a new road would eventually be built from Red Hill to Swearingen’s Ferry on the Potomac at Shepherdstown.

As the French and Indian War was ending, Christian Orndorff, a millwright who was from Lancaster County, arrived in the area in 1762.   Now that the region was safe and open for settlement, Orndorff was looking for a suitable site to build a grist mill and he found it along the Antietam Creek.  Christian Orndorff purchased 503 acres of Resurvey on Smiths Hills and 11 acres of Porto Santo, another nearby patent, from James Smith. “The deed conveys property with orchards, gardens, feeding woods, and underwoods in addition to the rights and profits associated with its location along Antietam Creek“.

Looking across the Antietam Creek at the Joshua Newcomer farm and mill. The house was the original Orndorff dwelling and no longer exists. (Alexander Gardner; LOC)

Orndorff built a large house of logs and sheathed it with weatherboard siding.  This large three-story home had two chimneys and six fireplaces.  Just in front of the house he constructed a large barn, a grist mill, a saw mill and a workshop along the Antietam Creek.  The mills were powered by water diverted from the creek through a mill race that Orndorff built.  He also farmed crops of wheat and corn.  Christian Orndoff named his property “Mount Pleasant”.

“With the new road providing access for farmers to bring their grains to the mill, as well as a route for Orndorff to get the milled grain to market, Orndorff’s business prospered.”  Christian expanded his land holding toward Sharpsburg and helped with the construction of other mills along the Antietam.  Besides the grist mill and sawmill, Christian established a plaster mill, a cooper shop and other tooling shops which turned his crossing point on the Antietam into a substantial industrial complex.

By the 1770’s resentment of the British government was growing in the colonies, and in the Antietam region Christian was very active in the cause.  He helped organize, equip and train men, including the first company west of the Blue Ridge Mountains which was led by Captain Cresap.  Christian would become a Major in the Washington County militia and all three of his sons would serve in the army during the American Revolution. His oldest son Christopher was a Captain helping supply the Continental Army with flour and grain.  His second son, Christian III was a 2nd Lieutenant in Capt. Reynold’s “Flying Camp” serving in New York.  He was taken prisoner on Manhattan Island in November 1776 and was held in New York until exchanged in November 1780. He then joined the 6th Maryland Regiment for the remainder of the war.  Henry Orndorff, the third son of Christian II  also served as a captain.  In 1781, Christian II would return home at the request of General George Washington to operate his flour mill and furnish supplies to the Continental Army.

Looking east down the turnpike at the Newcomer Farm and Mill.

In the 1780’s Christian II hired a miller to assist with the operations and constructed a house on the east side of the Antietam Creek for the miller and his family. With the war over, Christopher followed in his father’s footsteps and took over the milling operation.  Christopher would expand and remodel the mill in 1786.  He also built a new dwelling house next to his father’s.  It is this house that known today by its 1862 owner – Jacob Newcomer.  With Christopher now running the mill, Christian II built a new house just to the northwest of the mill on a piece of his property, which is known today as the Samuel Mumma farm.

In 1796, Jacob Mumma purchased 324 1/4 acres from Christopher Orndorff for £5500.  The Mummas arrived in Philadelphia in 1732 and settled in Lancaster County.  Like other Germans settling in the area, the Mumma family traveled down the Wagon Road to Sharpsburg.  They were accompanied by Joseph Sherrick, Sr. and his family.  Sherrick would also purchase property along the Antietam from the Orndorff’s.

The Newcomer Farm layout in 1862

Jacob Mumma and his sons lived in the houses and continued to run the mill and farming operations.  According to census data the Mummas had a number of farm hands as well as ten slaves.  Over the next few years Mumma would acquire “two-thirds of the large land tract amassed by the Orndorff family decades earlier”.  Jacob’s son, John began farming on his own at the current site of the Samuel Mumma farm.  Tragically, his wife passed away and John moved back to the mill site where he took on the milling operation.   “By 1820 the ‘John Mumma’ mill processed 20,000 bushels combined of wheat, rye, and corn as well as sixty tons of plaster”.   In 1821,  Jacob Mumma and his wife Elizabeth transferred ownership of the mill property to their son John.  Around this time, a house and barn was constructed just north of the mill along the creek for John’s son – Jacob, known today as the Parks farm.

The Orndorff or Middle Bridge looking north. The Parks farm can be see in the upper right corner of the photo. (Alexander Gardner; LOC)

After the turn of the century major improvements in transportation in Washington County began to affect the farming community and the local economy.  With the plan to build a National Road from Baltimore to Wheeling, “turnpike fever” spread into Washington County with a number of macadamized toll roads being constructed including “a turnpike leading from Boonsboro through Sharpsburg to the Potomac River” that was completed by 1833.  With the chartering of the turnpikes came the need for better bridges across the Antietam Creek.  In 1824, Silas Harry built a three-arched stone bridge over the Antietam, replacing the wooden bridge just upstream from the mill.  With the construction of the turnpikes and bridges in the county along came the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal and the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad and the ability to transport products from Western Maryland farms to market east.

Approximate property line of the Newcomer Farmstead.

Business at the Mumma mill was booming but John Mumma suddenly died in 1835 and without a will.  His father, Jacob purchased the property back from John’s estate but resold the mill and farm to his younger son, Samuel in 1837.  Samuel and his wife Barbara had moved to the farm that John had vacated after his wife died in 1822 (the Mumma Farm).  Samuel continued the operations of the mill and farm from there until 1841 when he sold 152 acres to Jacob and John Emmert.  The Emmert partnership was short lived and by 1846 the property was purchased by Jacob Miller for $3,000 in a Sheriff’s sale.  Miller conveyed the property to Lewis Watson in 1848.

Newspaper clipping of the sale of “Mumma’s Mill” to Joshua Newcomer from The Baltimore Sun (Baltimore, Maryland) · Tue, Jan 10, 1854

It is believed that Lewis Watson and Joshua Newcomer were partners in the milling operation. The 1850 U.S. Census of Manufactures called the property the “Watson and Newcomer Mill”.   Not much is known about the Newcomer family.  Joshua married Mary Ann Ankeney in 1837 and together they had seven children.  In 1850, Joshua had an young man named David Barkman, a miller, living with them at the farm.  That year the mill had processed 31,000 bushels of grain.  “Joshua became the owner and proprietor of the complex in 1853 when he purchased it for $19,180” from Lewis Watson.  “Between 1850 and 1860 grain production increased in Washington County, especially corn and rye, but also in wheat”.

By 1860, Joshua’s five sons were all working at the mill or on the farm.  22 year-old William, was a miller and his younger brother Clinton, was a clerk.  Like his neighbors, Joshua grew corn and wheat, had an orchard,  and produced butter, hay, clover, and honey valued at $200.  Even though his property was worth over $10,000,  with the clouds of war on the horizon,  the economic prosperity of both the region and the Newcomer family would fall on hard times.

1860 U.S. Census – Joshua Newcomer Family

In 1861, a hailstorm destroyed the fields, including Joshua’s wheat crops.  “Newcomer had taken out a loan from [Jacob] Miller’s mother and when it was called in he transferred it to someone else”.  With the Newcomer property situated along one the main thoroughfares in the area, and at the crossing of the Antietam Creek, soldiers naturally gravitated to the barns, mills, houses, and other buildings at the farmstead for protection and food.  This would be the case during the Maryland Campaign as Confederate soldiers were moving along the turnpike toward Sharpsburg on the morning of September 15, 1862.  Later that day Union soldiers advanced up to the east side of the bridge and the Antietam Creek.

Newcomer Farm, Sept. 17, 1862 at daybreak

The next morning three companies of Federal troops crossed the bridge and deployed across the Newcomer property, securing the bridge as a future crossing point for the next day’s battle.  Throughout the day the Newcomer property was in the center of a cannonade between the Union artillery on the high bluffs on the east side of the Antietam and the Confederate guns along the ridge east of Sharpsburg.  It is not known where the Newcomer’s went during the battle, but most certainly they departed, like their neighbors, to the safety of relatives in the area.

 

 

Newcomer Farm, Sept. 17, 1862 at 12:30 pm.

The next morning, September 17, as the battle raged to the north of Sharpsburg, Union Horse Artillery was pushed across the Antietam and deployed on the hills of the Newcomer farm.  According to Captain John Tidball, of Battery A, 2nd U.S. Artillery,  “About 10 a.m., I was ordered to cross the turnpike bridge over the Antietam, where I took a position on the right side of the road. In front, the enemy’s sharpshooters were posted, and there being no infantry at hand to drive them back, I opened fire upon them with canister and gradually worked my guns by hand up a steep ploughed field to the crest of the hill, where I placed them in a commanding position, not only for the enemy directly in front, but for an enfilading fire in front of Sumner’s Corps on the right and that of Burnside on the left of me”.

Newcomer Farm, Sept. 17, 1862 at 3:00pm

By mid-day Union infantry had pushed the Confederate skirmishers back up the hill across the Newcomer fields toward Sharpsburg and more artillery occupied the heights to support Gen. Burnside’s advance to the south.  By nightfall the Union forces held the high ground along the Antietam Creek and across the Newcomer farm.

 

 

 

Looking west at the Middle Bridge. The Newcomer farm and mill complex are on the far bank to the left of the turnpike while the two houses are on the opposite side of the pike. (Alexander Gardner; LOC)

Looking southwest toward the Middle Bridge and Newcomer barn. The small house with the garden still exists and may be the house built for the miller while the stone house across from it is thought to be the toll house which no longer exists. (Alexander Gardner; LOC)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Although the Newcomer farmstead did not witness the heavy fighting like some of their neighbors, they did suffer significant property losses and what was not damaged or destroyed during the battle would be gone in the days and weeks after.  Joshua Newcomer  testified that his pasture fields had been “pretty much used up” by the troops and they, “fed to their horses all my corn and pasture that had not been previously ruined by the soldiers during the skirmishing and progress of the battle on Wednesday (Sept 17). The troops on the adjoining farms fed to their animals his corn and fodder… a great deal of his fences were used for fuel by McClellan’s Army before and after the battle of Antietam. His farm was divided into eleven fields and after the troops left, he had barely enough rails left to fence three fields“.  Newcomer estimated that the damages totaled more than $3097.15.  Despite having testimony from a number of individuals backing his claim, Joshua Newcomer only received $145.oo from the government because he “had not made clear distinctions between damage caused by Confederate and Union troops”.

From The Herald and Torch Light (Hagerstown, Maryland) on Wed, Sep 23, 1868 by a man named ‘Tom’ who was travelling through Illinois when he ran into Joshua Newcomer.

By the end of the war the Newcomer family, farm and livelihood was devastated.   Now deep in debt, and not wanting to burden his sons with the necessary and significant repairs required, Joshua vacated the farm and the Newcomer family moved to Haldane, Illinois, possibly to live with family or friends from Washington County.  By 1880 the Newcomers  returned to Washington County, but lived near Clear Spring.  In August 1887, Mary Ann passed away, followed by Joshua just four months later in December. They are buried in Saint Paul’s Lutheran Church Cemetery in Clear Spring, Maryland.

Gravesite of Mary Ann and Joshua Newcomer at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church Cemetery in Clear Spring.

 

The iron bridge can be seen in the distance with remains of the mills along the mill race.

After the Newcomers departed, the property fell to a County Circuit Court Trustee and the property was put up for public sale in March, 1866.  On August 1, 1867, David Myers purchased the property for $19,050.  Within two years he sold it to Jacob Myers and Frederick Miller.  Myers and Miller continued farming and operating the mill.  By the 1880’s the water-powered flour milling industry was declining and in 1889 the dam was washed away during the “Johnstown Flood”.

 

Postcard of the bridge at Myers Mill, early 20th century.

The piers of the stone bridge weakened and began to settle in the high water.  The bridge was torn down and replace with an iron bridge.  By this point Jacob Myers was the sole owner of the property buying Miller’s share of the estate.  Jacob Myers continued to reside on the farm until he died in 1901.

 

 

Over the next century the property would change hands ten times.  During this time the dilapidated old mill was demolished and “the farm’s focus eventually shifted to milk production”.  The original Orndorff dwelling was also gone by the mid 1950’s.  In 1956 part of the property was transferred to the State Roads Commission as a right-of-way for the improvement of the ‘old turnpike’ into MD Route #34. With the widened road some of the out buildings were removed as the road cut through the property.  With the new road came the need to develop acres of the once rich farmland into housing developments.  In 1965, Brightwood Acres Inc. purchased the property and planned to “create another suburban community”.  Fortunately the Newcomer farm escaped this fate and the property was sold the next year.

Monument to Gen. R. E. Lee near the Newcomer House.

By 1999, a new owner had plans for the farmstead. William F. Chaney purchased the property for $290,000.00 with the intent of turning the farmhouse in a museum and giftshop.  The following year Chaney began to restore the farmhouse to Secretary of the Interior standards and in October he sold 56.83 acres to the National Park Service.  This parcel included the barn and the land south of the turnpike.  Chaney, who traced his roots to Gen. Robert E. Lee, also wanted to erect sculptures of Lee, Stonewall Jackson and J.E.B. Stuart around the house which was now the War Between the States Museum.  In 2003 a statute to Lee was erected just west of the house, but within two years Chaney sold the surrounding 42.6 acres to the Park Service, including Lee’s statue.  Chaney retained ownership of about 2.2 acres, including the Newcomer House.  Finally in 2007 he sold this last piece to the National Park Service.

 

In 2010 the Heart of the Civil War Heritage Area opened an Exhibit and Visitor Center at the Newcomer House, working in partnership with the Antietam National Battlefield and the Hagerstown-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau.  The Newcomer House is very unique because it is one of two period farmhouses that visitors can go into on the battlefield, the Pry House Field Hospital Museum being the other.  The Newcomer barn has recently been restored and the house is due for future external restoration.

 

 

 

 

 

From the early settlements along the Antietam Creek, to the milling industry and agricultural operations the Newcomer Farm has witnessed the the expansion of America.  This expansion improved the transportation in the region with the building of the bridges and turnpikes through the property.  It has seen the scars of war, from the French and Indian War through the American Revolution to the turbulent times of Civil War.   The property escaped the urban development of the day to become one of the preserved landmarks on the battlefield at Antietam.   The Newcomer Farmstead is a unique eyewitness to the history of the Antietam Valley for over 250 years.

The Newcomer House today.

 

 

Sources:

  • Ancestry.com, Joshua Newcomer Family, Census Data 1850-1880.  Retrieved from: https://www.ancestry.com\
  • Ernst, Kathleen A., Too Afraid to Cry: Maryland Civilians in the Antietam Campaign, Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 1999.
  • Hayes, Helen Ashe, The Antietam and Its Bridges, The annals of an historic stream. G.P. Putnam’s Sons New York 1910. Retrieved from: https://archive.org/stream/antietamitsbridg00haysuoft#page/n121/mode/2up/search/Orndroff
  • Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division; Historic American Buildings Survey/Historic American Engineering Record/Historic American Landscapes Survey,  The Middle Bridge,  Sharpsburg, Washington County, MD. Washington, D.C. Retrieved from  https://www.loc.gov/resource/hhh.md1099.photos/?sp=1
  • Lundegard, Marjorie,  Mills and Mill Sites of Western Maryland, September 20, 2000 Retrieved from:  http://www.spoommidatlantic.org
  • Maryland Historical Trust, Mount Pleasant or Orndorff’s Mill – Mumma’s Mill, WA-II-106, Maryland Inventory of Historic Properties Form, 1975.
    https://mht.maryland.gov/secure/medusa/PDF/Washington/WA-II-106.pdf.
  • Newspapers.com, Newcomer Farm clippings retrieved from: https://www.newspapers.com.
  • 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.
  • Schildt, John W., Drums Along the Antietam. ParsonMcClain Printing Company, 2004.
  • U.S. National Park Service, Antietam National Battlefield, National Register of Historic Place, WA-II-106, Washington D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1990.
  • U.S. National Park Service,  Newcomer Barn,  Antietam National Battlefield, Historic Structures Report Washington D.C.: Government Printing Office, 2004.
  • U.S. National Park Service, Parks Farmstead Cultural Landscape InventoryAntietam National Battlefield, Washington D.C.: Government Printing Office, 2011.
  • Walker, Kevin M and K. C. Kirkman, 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.

 

The Farmsteads of Antietam – Henry Piper Farm

July 11, 2017 by jacobrohrbach

Today the Henry Piper farm sits back off of the Old Hagerstown Pike.  It is one of the oldest farmsteads in Washington County and the only historic farmhouse on the Antietam National Battlefield that is currently occupied by a tenant.  On the morning of September 17, 1862, the Piper Farmstead sat in the center of Robert E. Lee’s battle line and would be engulfed by the fighting along a sunken country road that would be forever known as the “Bloody Lane”.

The Henry & Elizabeth Piper Farm

In 1790, Joseph Chapline, Jr. had the lands that he received from his father surveyed and patented into a new single tract. This 2,575 acres became known as Mount Pleasant.  On the eastern side of this tract, between the old Hagerstown Road and north of the Boonsboro Pike, the surveyor noted that there had been improvements on the property “as being 5,200 old rails, two old cabins, and seventeen apple orchard trees”.  The property known as “Elswick’s Dwelling” had been cultivated and grazed on and it is possible that it was first used as a farm in 1740.  Although the location of the ‘two old cabins’ remains a mystery it is believed that a section of the building next to the current house, later used as a summer kitchen and servants quarters, is the first dwelling on the Piper Farm.

Summer kitchen and slave quarters

Fireplace of the summer kitchen

 

 

 

 

 

 

1803 Tax record highlighting John Miller’s property

 

 

John Miller, a Pennsylvanian German from Franklin County migrated to Washington County with his parents around 1791. His father, John Johannas Hannas Miller, was a member of the Church of the Brethren, also known as Dunkers.  John Miller was a farmer and he started buying land along the Hagerstown Road, including several tracts that would become the Samuel Poffenberger farm, the William Roulette farm and the Henry Piper farm.  According to the 1803 tax assessment for the “Sharpsburg Hundred”, John Miller owned 632 acres on two patents located north of Sharpsburg.  When John Miller died in 1821 without a will, his estate was divided among several of his children.  His one son, Jacob Miller received a portion of “Elswick’s Dwelling

 

 

 

 

 

Whether Jacob Miller lived here at the time or not is unknown.  Jacob was very wealthy and “very successful in his enterprises. He managed several farms, a grist mill, a saw mill and a flour mill”.  Jacob had built a house in Sharpsburg and it is likely that he rented the farm out to tenants. It was also around this time that the icehouse, or cave house, was built into the side of a small bank from fieldstone.  The two-room structure was used to store produce in one side and ice storage in the other.  The southern end of the large stone and frame bank barn was built around 1820 as well.  A wooden addition would be added to the northern end of the barn in 1914, doubling its size to 144 by 44 feet.

Icehouse or cave house

Southern end of bank barn

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Daniel Piper

In 1843, Henry Piper and his family moved to the farm as tenants of Miller.  Henry was the son of Daniel Piper, a well known resident of Sharpsburg.  Daniel Piper was the son of (John) Jacob Pfeiffer (later Piper) who emigrated from Germany to the Sharpsburg area in 1763. Daniel raised his family on a farm west of Sharpsburg, including a daughter, Martha Ann who married Henry Rohrbach in 1835 and lived on the Rohrbach family farm just east of the Lower, or Burnside, Bridge.  Daniel Piper purchased the property from Jacob Miller in 1846 for his son.

 

 

 

 

Henry Piper

Elizabeth (Betsy) Piper

Henry Piper married Elizabeth (Betsy) Keedy on November 18, 1828 and together they would have six children.  By 1854,  Henry and Betsy had purchased the farm from his father.  Henry was known “as a rather austere man with a penchant for fashionable hats. He was rarely seen in town without his tall brimmed hat” and was nicknamed ‘Old Stovepipe’.

 

 

 

 

The red line represents the approx. boundary of the Piper property

The Piper family lived on a prosperous 231-acre farm stretching between the Hagerstown Pike to the west; the Hog Trough Road to the north and east; to the Boonsboro Pike and the edge of Sharpsburg to the south.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jerry Summers, cir 1922.

 

The Piper family were “typical of the region in being both avowed Unionists and slaveholders”.  In 1860, Henry owned six slaves, five of them children, one of the slaves on the farm in 1862 was Jeremiah (Jerry) Cornelius Summers.  He was born on the farm in 1849.  A 16 year-old free black farm hand named John Jumper also worked on the farm.  The slave quarters, thought to be the first dwelling on the farm, served as the kitchen as well.

 

 

 

 

Piper apple trees

The 40×15 feet two-story farm house

It is unsure who built the main house, but by 1860 the 40 x 15 feet two-story frame farm house consisted of five or six rooms with a smokehouse and several other outbuildings around.  Just  north of the house was a 17-acre apple orchard and by the barn, Henry had an apple press to produce cider.  The Piper orchard “was one of the largest in Sharpsburg and the only commercial orchard in the area at the time of the battle”.

 

 

 

 

 

The Piper Farm layout

Just beyond the orchard the Pipers, like their neighbors, had a twenty-five acre cornfield that still needed to be harvested in September 1862 and most of Henry’s other fields “were freshly plowed, ready for planting winter wheat”.  That year the family had grown bushels of Irish potatoes, sweet potatoes, onions and cucumbers.  The farm had a variety of livestock, such as horses, milk cows, cattle, sheep, swine, chickens, geese, and turkeys.

 

 

Piper Farm, Sept. 17, 1862 at daybreak

On September 15, 1862 the Piper family farmstead was inundated by Confederate soldiers as they prepared their positions on the ridgeline northeast of Sharpsburg and along the Hog Tough Road.  During the afternoon, Confederate Generals James Longstreet and D.H. Hill had arrived and chose to use the Piper house as their headquarters.  That evening, the Piper daughters served dinner to the generals and offered them wine.  Gen. Longstreet initially refused, by seeing that it had no ill-effect on Daniel Harvey Hill, Longstreet accepted the offer saying, “Ladies, I will thank you for some of that wine”.  After dinner, the Pipers heeded the general’s advice to leave the farm.

 

 

Mr. Piper and his daughters “quickly packed what they could carry into a wagon, and Elizabeth buried her dishes in the ash pile“.  Mary Ellen Piper remembered as they were leaving, “We left everything as it was on the farm, taking only the horses with us and one carriage“.  The Pipers traveled to Henry’s brother’s farm and mill.  Samuel Piper’s mill was just northwest of town along the Potomac where the family could seek shelter from the impending battle.

Piper Farm, Sept 17, 1862 at approximately 9:30am.

At the center of Robert E. Lee’s battle line just north of Sharpsburg was the farmstead of Henry Piper.  Along the Hog Trough Road at the edge of his farm, Confederate infantry were posted.  To the south of the house on the ridge leading to the Boonsboro Pike, four artillery batteries were positioned in Henry’s freshly plowed fields.  As the battle began at daybreak, these Confederate units began moving across the Piper farmstead to confront the advancing Union forces from the north.  By 9:00 a.m. the battle had shifted from the Miller and Mumma farm and the Piper farm was soon engulfed by the fighting at the Sunken Road.

For two days the Pipers waited, listening to the sounds of the fighting and the distant rumbling of army wagons traveling to Shepherdstown.  On September 19, the Pipers departed for home.  Mary Ellen Piper recalled, “On our return the Union forces were encamped upon the farm and in the vicinity, and the Union cavalry were moving along the Hagerstown pike in great numbers towards Sharpsburg“.   As they neared the farm, death and destruction was all around them. Their barn had been shelled, but unlike their neighbors the Mumma’s and the Reel’s barns that had burned, the Piper’s was saved from destruction possibly due to the green hay stored inside.  “Wounded soldiers were lying on the floor of every room. One had the family bible propped up in front of him, tearing out each page as he finished reading“.

Mary Ellen recounts that, “We brought back the horses with us, and they were put in the barn.  A large number of cattle, sheep and hogs belonging to father still remained on the place.  I saw the Union soldiers butchering some of the cattle, when we came back…. The Union forces were encamped in the vicinity for several weeks after the battle – at least some portion of them. During this time… all the cattle and sheep on the farm were taken and used by U.S. military forces. The sheep were all taken the day after we returned home. The hogs and cattle were slaughtered at different times.  I remember four of the calves were slaughtered in the orchard back of the blacksmith shop”.

Initially Henry Piper only filed a claim for $25 for the damage to the house and barn but soldiers had not only slaughtered and taken a lot of the livestock but had “ate two hundred of Piper’s chickens, fifteen geese, along with twenty-four turkeys”. They also took “one hundred bushels of Irish potatoes, thirty bushels of sweet potatoes,…  six barrels of vinegar, eight hundred pounds of bacon, five sacks of salt, four bushels of onions, pickles, one bushel of dried cherries, two hundred bushels of apples, six gallons of cherry wine, and one hundred and ten jars of fruit. They took thirty dollars worth of men’s clothing, and sixty dollars worth of lady’s clothing”.  Henry would later amend his initial claim and the board of survey would assess the damage to the Piper farm as follows:

Henry Piper claim for damages

  • Damage to house and barn                                  $25.00
  • Hay and straw                                                        108.00
  • Stock                                                                       666.00
  • Vegetables and fruits, etc.                                     157.00
  • Grain of different kinds                                         484.00
  • Bacon, lard and tallow                                           117.00
  • Groceries                                                                   78.85
  • 2 bee-hives at $10                                                    20.00
  • Wines and condiments                                            72.00
  • Poultry                                                                        39.00
  • Household, kitchen furniture, clothing, etc.        373.00
  • Lumber, tools                                                             49.00
  • Damage to fencing                                                    300.00

          Total: $2,488.85

Although the board awarded Henry Piper this amount, no payment followed because he did not produce any certificate of loyalty.   Twenty-four years later in November 1886, Henry Piper sued the U.S. Government for the damages to his farm and Mary Ellen Piper Smith’s descriptions of the damages were part of her testimony given in support her father’s claim.

Henry & Elizabeth Piper gravestone at the Mountain View Cemetery

 

 

 

In 1863, Henry and Betsy moved into Sharpsburg to the house that Henry acquired in 1857 following his father death.  The house sits on the corner of Main and Church Streets across from the Holy Trinity Lutheran Church.  Elizabeth Piper died on January 19, 1887.  Almost five years to the day of her death, Henry would pass away  They are buried at the Mountain View Cemetery in Sharpsburg.

 

 

Henry’s son, Samuel, took over the farming operation and would continue farming until 1898 when he moved to Hagerstown.   During this period a wing was added to the house and additions and improvements were made to the servants quarters.  In the 1890’s, the War Department began purchasing property in order to build a road through the battlefield.  In an attempt to preserve the historic part of Bloody Lane as best they could, a road was built to the south of it, in what would have be been Henry Piper’s cornfield at the time of the battle.  In 1896, the War Department constructed the Observation Tower at the end of Bloody Lane.  In 1966, Richardson Avenue, as it was named, was moved farther away from the lane and expanded to include parking areas at both the center of the lane and at the Observation Tower.

Bloody Lane with Richardson Ave. along the lane.

The new Richardson Avenue being constructed in 1966.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The farm would remain in the Piper family until 1960 but rented out over those years.  Samuel’s son, Elmer E. Piper owned the property from 1912 until 1933, and then his son, Samuel Webster Piper held it until 1960.  Webster sold the land to the Antietam-Sharpsburg Museum, Inc.  According to local historian, John Schildt, a log cabin building was constructed across from the National Cemetery which housed historical and educational displays.  Unfortunately, shortly after the 100th year anniversary of the battle the company was forced to closed due to financial difficulty and the construction of the new Park Visitors Center.

Antietam-Sharpsburg Museum

In 1964 the farm was sold to the National Park Service for $75,000.  Over the next twenty years the buildings would be restored and at one time the Park Service operated “the farm as a ‘living farm’ growing crops, raising livestock and using farm implements and conservation practice similar to those employed in the early 1860’s”.

Piper house and out buildings

Piper Barn

 

 

 

 

Piper orchard

Piper cornfield

 

 

 

 

 

 

Additions to house

Corn crib and blacksmith shop

 

 

 

 

 

 

In 1985, Doug Reed signed a 56-year lease with the National Park Service with intention of restoring the farmhouse and using it as a Bed and Breakfast.  In 1994, Regina and Louis Clark took over as the Innkeepers of the Piper House Bed and Breakfast and continued to operate it for ten years.  Today they still live at the farmhouse and entertain ancestors of the Piper Family from time to time. The “surrounding fields remain an active farming operation” that is leased out by the National Park Service to local farmers.  They cultivate the crops, care for the livestock, and maintain the orchard; keeping the agricultural landscape thriving on one of our oldest farmsteads in the area, and an eyewitness to the fighting at the Bloody Lane.

Henry & Elizabeth Farm today.

A special thanks to Regina & Lou Clark for taking the time to show me around the Piper Farm and sharing a wealth of information about the Piper family and the farmstead.

Sources:

  • Ancestry.com, Henry Piper Family, Census Data 1850-1900.  Retrieved from: https://www.ancestry.com\
  • Clark, Lou and Regina Clark, Personal Collection of the Piper Family History. Sharpsburg, reviewed July 2017.
  • Ernst, Kathleen A., Too Afraid to Cry: Maryland Civilians in the Antietam Campaign, Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 1999.
  • Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division; Historic American Buildings Survey/Historic American Engineering Record/Historic American Landscapes Survey,  Piper Farm, House, Sharpsburg, Washington County, MD. Washington, D.C. Retrieved from  https://www.loc.gov/resource/hhh.md1099.photos/?sp=1
  • Maryland Historical Trust, Piper Farm, WA-II-335, Maryland Inventory of Historic Properties Form, 2009.
    https://mht.maryland.gov/secure/medusa/PDF/Washington/WA-II-279.pdf.
  • 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.
  • Schildt, John W., Drums Along the Antietam. ParsonMcClain Printing Company, 2004.
  • The Piper House, photos of Henry & Elizabeth Piper. Retrived from http://www.pathsofthecivilwar.com/piperhouse/history.htm.
  • The Morning Herald, Piper Farm: Employing methods of the 1860’s. Hagerstown, MD, July 13, 1976. Retrieved from https://www.newspapers.com/newspage/23053138/.
  • Trail, Susan W., Remembering Antietam: Commemoration and Preservation of a Civil War Battlefield, Ph.D. diss., Univ. of Maryland, 2005.
  • U.S. National Park Service, Antietam National Battlefield, National Register of Historic Place, ANTI-WA-II-477, Washington D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1990.
  • Walker, Kevin M and K. C. Kirkman, 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.

 

The Farmsteads at Antietam – William Roulette Farm

June 3, 2017 by jacobrohrbach

Roulette farmstead

For over 260 years the property on which the William Roulette Farmstead would be established, has been under cultivation.  The surrounding pristine countryside provides visitors to the Antietam National Battlefield a feeling of what the landscape looked like in September 1862 with the stone walls, wood lots, and old farm roads.

 

 

Anderson’s Delight

During the 1730’s Thomas Cresap had been a land agent for Lord Baltimore of  Maryland.  As Cresap began moving beyond the frontier, up the Potomac River valley, he began acquiring land.   Cresap patented about 2,000 acres of land in Maryland along Antietam Creek, where he established a store and Indian trading post.  In 1748 Cresap received a 212 acre patent named “Anderson’s Delight”  from Lord Baltimore’s Land Office.  As Thomas Cresap continued to move west he sold “Anderson’s Delight” to William Anderson, a Virginia farmer,  in 1751.   It is very likely that Anderson established the first dwelling on the land that would become the Roulette Farmstead.  Anderson would only own the property for ten years before selling it to John Reynolds.

 

 

Spring house / Kitchen

In 1761, John Reynolds, an Anglo-Irishman who migrated to Washington County from Lancaster County Pennsylvania, acquired the 212 acres of Anderson’s Delight for 235 pounds.   In 1764, Reynolds would add another 138 acres to his holdings from Joseph Smith from three other land grants. In 1765, Reynolds had acquired another 35 acres from Joseph Chapline.  According to the Washington County Assessment of 1783, Reynolds’ farm had “76 acres of arable land, 4 acres of meadow, and 112 ½ acres of woodland. In addition, he had 5 horses and 32 “black cattle” or beef cattle.  Some of the crops grown most likely included corn, wheat and rye.

The house was constructed from left to right

During this time it is likely that Reynolds built one section of the extant farmhouse, but the family had been living in the dwelling that Anderson built, possibly the springhouse / kitchen.  John Reynolds continued to farm this property until his death in 1784.   According to Reynolds’ will, the 385 acres was divided between his two sons, Francis and Joseph.  Joseph had acquired the family farmstead while Francis’ acreage just north west of the farm would later become the Samuel Mumma farm.

 

Joseph Reynolds quickly added two additional parcels; in 1785, he acquired 45 acres from Joseph Chapline and in 1789, he acquired 51 acres from James Vardee.  Both were part of a patent called “Joe’s Lott“.  Also in 1789, Joseph Reynolds added another 240 1/4 acres to his holdings through a land grant he obtained directly from the Land Office which was named, “Joe’s Farm“. Over the twenty years that Joseph owned the property, he would continue to expand his agricultural operations and continue on the construction of the the main house and the spring house.  It is believed that Reynolds owned slaves, but that he had set them free in 1794.

In 1804, Joseph Reynolds sold off several parcels of his property, so the farm totaled 262 acres when John Miller purchased it.  Miller was a Pennsylvanian German from Franklin County.  He had migrated to Washington County with his parents around 1791.  His father, John Johannas Hannas Miller, was a member of the Church of the Brethren, also known as Dunkers.  Like Reynolds, John Miller was a farmer and he continued to cultivate the land.

Store house and beehive oven

Ice House

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spring house / Kitchen

John Miller completed house

 

 

 

 

 

 

During this time, Miller would most likely complete the building of the farmstead. He added the northern section of the house,a log kitchen addition which include a unique beehive oven.  Miller added onto the springhouse, constructed the icehouse and a smokehouse  as well.  The Miller family would also update the interior of the house, adding molding and trim of the period.

 

Roulette Farmstead property

Roulette farm layout in 1862

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By 1840, the farmstead had passed to John Miller IV who continued the family farming until his death.  In 1851, his widow Ann Miller would sell 179 1/4 acres of the farm to the husband of Margaret Ann Miller, a sister of John IV.  Her husband’s name was William Roulette.   The Roulette family had been in Washington County since before 1774 and William was raised on a nearby farm.  Margaret had lived on this property her entire life.  They were married in 1847 and their first child was born in 1849.  When they moved into the farm and set up housekeeping their second child arrived. By 1862 they had six children ranging from age 14, to their youngest, Carrie May who was just 19 months old.

 

William Roulette

Margaret Ann Miller Roulette

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Roulette bank barn

It is almost certain that William Roulette constructed the large bank barn to sustain his growing  agricultural operations. The Roulettes had a variety of livestock on the farm such as horses, milk cows, cattle, sheep, swine and poultry.  William had a slightly larger herd of beef cattle than most farmers in the Sharpsburg District.  They also grew a variety of grains including corn, wheat, oats and rotated rye.  The Roulette’s had established a four-acre orchard near the house and their vegetable garden stretched between house and barn.

 

 

To help with the farming operations, William Roulette most likely had hired hands.  Although it is not sure when it was constructed, there was another 1 1/2 story structure on the property located along the Roulette Lane near the southwest corner of the orchard.  This may have been used by a tenant farmer or hired hand by the name of A. Clipp.

View of the Roulette Farm from the Observation Tower. Clipp house near the barn just below the farm house. cir. 1900

The Roulette’s did not own any slaves but employed two free blacks.  According to the 1860 Census, 15 year old Robert Simon was a farm hand and 40 year old Nancy Camel (Campbell) worked as a servant.  Nancy was born a slave on a farm in Washington County owned by Andrew Miller, Margaret Roulette’s uncle.  Miller had freed Nancy in 1859.

1860 United States Federal Census for William Roulette

Nancy Camel (Campbell)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Battle lines being draw on the morning of September 17, 1862 around the Roulette Farm

On Sunday, September 14, 1862  the Roulettes, like their neighbors the Mummas, were becoming increasingly concerned over the sounds of battle coming from South Mountain.   By Tuesday morning, as soldiers from both armies began to converge on their farming community, William took his family to safety at the Manor Church of the Brethren, six miles to the north.  With his family safe with the Dunker congregation, William Roulette returned to his farm to check on his property, gather some supplies and tend to his livestock.  Once at the farm, William found himself caught between the Confederate and Union lines as the battle erupted on his property.

 

 

Mr. Roulette’s bee hives near the house were knocked over by the 132nd PVI.

 

By mid-morning the battle lines had shifted past the Dunker Church plateau. Union forces were now moving across William Roulette’s property toward the rutted farm lane known as the Hog Trough Road or Sunken Road, to strike the center of the Confederate line.  Confederate skirmishers were using some of the outbuildings as cover when the Union forces pushed them back to their position at the Sunken Road.  William Roulette, a pro-Union man, had been hiding out in his cellar  away from the Confederates.  Now that the Federal forces had begun to push them back, William came out in the midst of the fighting “to see what was happening, and he cheered the men in blue on: ‘Give it to ’em! Drive ’em! Take anything on my place, only drive ’em!’ he yelled”

 

Union forces advance across the Roulette farm toward the Sunken Road.

As more Union troops moved through the Roulette backyard, a Confederate artillery shell landed, shattering the rookies of the 132nd Pennsylvania Infantry Regiment.  In their flight to get out of the area they knocked over Mr. Roulette’s apiary. “Yelping Pennsylvanians scattered as thousands of angry honeybees swarmed over them”.   Over the next three to four hours, Union attacks struck the Confederates in the Sunken Road, finally breaking their line and pushing them back to the Henry Piper farm. Over 5,000 casualties of both sides laid in and around the road now forever known as “Bloody Lane”.  Union casualties were taken back to the Roulette barn and the farm road intersection by the barn was used to pick up casualties to transport them to other Union hospitals nearby.

 

 

 

Burial detail by Sunken Road

Like their neighbors, the Roulettes were left with damage to their buildings and devastating losses to the crops, fields and fencing. The traumatic sight of dead bodies strew across their property and in the road was unbearable.  After the battle Union soldiers began burying their dead across the fields, near the roads and hedgerows and marking the graves.  Two days later, Union burial crews drug the bodies out of the lane and buried the Confederate soldiers in long shallow graves on both side of the Roulette Farm Lane.  Mr. Roulette would say that over 700 bodies were buried on his property.

 

Several weeks later William Roulette would file a claim for damages and loss of property requesting $2496.27 for an “inventory of goods, chattels, and personal effects belonging to me which were destroyed and carried off by the Armies during the late battle of Antietam”.  According to the quartermaster of the Army of the Potomac, the claim was rejected stating, “I am well aware that the loyal people of this section of Maryland have suffered severely during the campaign… I regret that they cannot receive full compensation now for their losses, but no disbursing officer with this Army is authorized to pay claims for damages. Such claims can only be settled by express authority of congress.”  William would continue to submit claims into the 1880’s but would only receive $377.37 from a hospital claim.

On October 21, 1862, tragedy struck the Roulette family when they lost their youngest daughter Carrie May to typhoid fever.  She was one of a number of Sharpsburg residents that would die as a result of the battle.  Despite the great loss he suffered, William Roulette remained a strong Union man.  After the war was over, Margaret and William would have another son, Ulysses Sheridan Roulette – born on October 15, 1865.  As time went on the Roulettes would rebuild their farmstead.  Although the older children had moved off the farm, the two youngest sons – Benjamin and Ulysses helped with the farm work and Susan, the youngest daughter who was still living at home, helped with chores.  Nancy Camel would continue to work for the Roulette family until she died in 1892.

In 1883, Margaret Ann passed away. Four years later, William retired from farming and moved into the Town of Sharpsburg, turning over the farming operation to his son Benjamin.  William died in 1901 at the age of 75.  Margaret and William are buried together in the Mountain View Cemetery with their children, Carrie May and Otho.

 

Otho & Carrie May Roulette are buried with their parents

The Roulette grave at the Mountain View Cemetery

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In 1890, the Antietam National Battlefield Site was established by the War Department.  They would construct a road to the south side of the Sunken Road, called Richardson Avenue, and build a sixty foot stone observation tower on the southeastern edge of the Roulette farm adjacent to Bloody Lane.  Over the following years the war veterans would return to the Roulettes to hold reunions and reminisce about that day in September, 1862.

 

Roulette Farm lane at Bloody Lane with 132nd PVI monument and the Observation Tower in distance.

Although William died without a will, the family conveyed the property to Benjamin Roulette.  Benjamin married Elizabeth Brown Rhoades in 1886 and together they had four children. Benjamin was said to be “a progressive farmer whose crops were consistently among the best in the local market.”  He also specialized in raising market hogs.  Benjamin owned the property from 1901 until his death in 1947.  Like his father before him, Benjamin died intestate, but the property managed to stay in the family when it was conveyed to his youngest son, Samuel Patterson Roulette.

Samuel and his wife, Leoda, continued to live and farm the property until 1956.  For the first time since 1804, the property passed out of the Miller-Roulette families when they sold it to Howard and Virginia Miller (a different Miller family).   The Millers lived on the property for forty-two years and were good stewards of the land.  In 1998, the Richard King Mellon Foundation purchased the farm for $660,000, and donated it to Antietam National Battlefield.

Looking across the Roulette farm to Sunken Road

Today the Roulette Farm fields are leased to local farmers, who continue to utilize the property for it agricultural production.  The William Roulette Farmstead remains an icon on the battlefield, displaying the architectural history of the developing farmsteads of the area.  It reminds us of what the agricultural landscape looked like before it was an eyewitness to the bloody fighting along the Sunken Road.

 

The William and Margaret Roulette house today.

 

  • Ancestry.com, 1860 United States Federal Census for William Rowllett.  Retrieved from: https://www.ancestry.com\
  • Archives of Maryland (Biographical Series), Nancy Campbell (Camel). Retrieved from  http://msa.maryland.gov/megafile/msa/speccol/sc5400/sc5496/024600/024669/images/campbell_nancy_01_001.pdf.
  • Burrows, Jim, Anderson Papers: Anderson’s Delight. Retrieved from  http://www.eldacur.com/~burrowses/Genealogy/Anderson/AndersonsDelight.html
  • Ernst, Kathleen A., Too Afraid to Cry: Maryland Civilians in the Antietam Campaign, Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 1999.
  • Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division; Civil War Glass Negatives and Related Prints, Washington, D.C. Retrieved from http://www.loc.gov/pictures/related/?fi=subject&q=Antietam%2C%20Battle%20of%2C%20Md.%2C%201862.&co=cwp
  • 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.
  •  Reynolds, Marion, H. Ed. , The Reynolds Family Association, Annual Report. Brooklyn, NY, Press of Brklyn Eagle 1922. Retrieved from https://books.google.com/books?id=4iFMAQAAIAAJ&pg=PA200&lpg=PA200&dq=John+Reynolds,+Sharpsburg&source=bl&ots=Tf_25HO2wU&sig=v9Y17b6ZDnb8ejGvAWP5E4FCfAg&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwif4O794pXUAhUGQyYKHelzDE8Q6AEILTAC#v=onepage&q=John%20Reynolds%2C%20Sharpsburg&f=false
  • U.S. National Park Service, Roulette Farmstead Cultural Landscape Inventory, Washington D.C.: Government Printing Office, 2004.
  • Walker, Kevin M and K. C. Kirkman, 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.

 

The Farmsteads at Antietam – Samuel Mumma Farm

April 28, 2017 by jacobrohrbach

The most well known farmstead at Antietam is the Samuel Mumma farm.  A number of accounts during the battle from both armies make reference to the farmstead and it was the only one to be deliberately destroyed during the battle.  It is a vivid reminder of the destruction of war and the rebirth in its aftermath.

The property that would later become the Mumma Farmstead was comprised of at least three separate land grants to various settlers.  The largest land grant was known as Anderson’s Delight.  In 1761, John Reynolds, an Anglo-Irishman who migrated to Washington County from Lancaster County, Pennsylvania acquired 212 acres of Anderson’s Delight.   In 1764 and 1765, Reynolds would add another 173 acres to his holdings from parts of two other tracts known as Abston’s Forrest and John’s Chance. He farmed this property until his death in 1784.  According to Reynolds’ will, the 385 acres was divided between his two sons, Francis and Joseph. Joseph’s portion would later become the William Roulette farm.

As the French and Indian War was ending, Christian Orndorff, a millwright who was also from Lancaster County, arrived in the area in 1762.   Now that the region was safe and open for settlement, Orndorff found a suitable site along the Antietam Creek to build a grist mill.  Today we know the site as the Joshua Newcomer farm.

In 1785, Francis Reynolds’ portion (182.5 acres) was conveyed to Christopher (Stuffle) Orndorff.  In 1791, Christopher (Stuffle) Orendorff sold the Reynolds property to his father Christian Orndorff.  After Christian moved to his new property, he turned the the mill over to his son, Christopher.

springhouse

The original springhouse

Christian Orndorff would build the first dwelling on the property (Mumma farm) and the springhouse.  In 1796, Christian passed away and the property was divided between his wife Elizabeth and another son.  That same year, Jacob Mumma purchased the mill complex from Christopher Orndorff.  Like many of the settlers coming to America, the Mummas were fleeing religious persecution in Germany’s Rhine River valley.  They arrived in Philadelphia in 1732 and settled in Lancaster County.  The Mumma family was not alone traveling down the Wagon Road to Sharpsburg, they were accompanied by Joseph Sherrick, Sr. and his family.  Sherrick would also purchase property along the Antietam from the Orndorff’s.

After purchasing the Orndorff Mill, which included two houses, a grist mill, a saw mill and more than 324 acres, Jacob Mumma began to buy other properties in Boonsboro and Sharpsburg .  In 1805, Jacob would purchase 182.5 acres from Elizabeth Orndorff.  This property, now known at the Mumma Farm, included a house, barn, springhouse and other outbuildings that had been built by the Orndorff family in the 1790’s.  Over the next six years, Jacob acquired the remaining parcels of the Orndorff land.

It is believed that Jacob’s son, John was the first Mumma to live on the farm.  During this time a two-story brick addition was constructed, doubling the size of the house.  In 1831, Jacob sold the 182.5 acre parcel to his son, Samuel Mumma Sr.  Samuel moved to the farm with his young wife and two children.  Samuel had married Barbara Hertzler in 1822.  Tragedy had struck the young couple shortly before moving to the farm in 1830 with the death of their third child, John.  Three years later, Barbara died giving birth to their fifth child, Catherine, who died just three weeks later.  Samuel was left with three sons and a large farm to take care of.  Before the end of the year Samuel would marry the daughter of a neighbor, 18-year old Elizabeth Miller.  Together they would have eleven children including a son who died in infancy.

The red line represents the approx. boundary of the Samuel Mumma property.

As the Mumma family grew, so did the community.  For years the German Baptist Brethren, or “Dunker”, congregation had met in the private home of Daniel Miller, the father of Elizabeth Miller Mumma.  In 1851, Samuel donated a small 4.5 acre tract at the edge of a woodlot that would become known as the West Woods.  Over the next several years a new church was constructed of bricks that were made and donated by another Dunker and close neighbor of the Mummas, John Otto.

 

 

 

 

The Mumma farm layout

By 1860, the Mummas owned a very diversified farm valued at $11,000.  They had large yields of wheat, Indian corn, rye, Irish potatoes, clover seed, and hay.  Their livestock included 8 horses, 5 milch cows, 17 other cattle, 11 sheep, and 20 swine valued at over $900. From these the Mummas were “able to obtain, 500 pounds of butter, 60 pounds of wool, and $200 worth of meat”.  The orchard was producing $30 worth of apples.

 

 

September 14, 1862 started out as most Sundays, but as the members of the Dunker Church met for worship, the Battle of South Mountain erupted near the mountain gaps just six miles to the east.  Later that day the Mummas invited some members of the congregation to their house for lunch.  The children went up the hill above the farm to watch as the battle raged, they could see the smoke and hear the sound of guns like thunder on the mountain.  The next morning as Confederate soldiers started to cross the Antietam, neighbors began meeting at the farm to see what Samuel Mumma thought they should do. He told them, “Go with me for we must get you out of the battleline.”

The Confederate battle line stretches across the Mumma farm at daybreak on September 17, 1862

One of the older Mumma boys was told to take the horses away to safety as the rest of the family prepared to leave.  Samuel Mumma, Jr. remembered that, “Some clothing was gotten together and the silverware packed into a basket, ready to take but in our haste to get away, all was left behind.  Father and Mother and the younger children left in the two-horse carry-all (the older children walking as there was a large family) going about four miles, and camped in a large church (called the Manor Church), where many others were also congregated.”   Samuel, Sr. was the last to leave as he was carrying his 3-year old daughter, Cora who was upset.  Samuel had noticed his gold watch over the mantle.  He grabbed the watch and hung it around Cora’s neck to settle her down.  Little did he realize that beside the clothing the family was wearing, the watch would be the only item saved from their belongings.

As the battle rages around the farm at around 7:30a.m., the house is set afire by Confederate forces.

Samuel Mumma, Jr. returned to the house on Tuesday evening, but found that the house had been ransacked and everything of value taken. Later, skirmishing erupted just beyond the farm across the Smoketown Road in the woods.  The next morning the battle would begin in earnest.  As the fighting shifted from the Miller Cornfield toward the Mumma farm, Brig. Gen. Rosewell S. Ripley’s brigade was forced back.  Ripley ordered the farm burned because he feared the buildings would be taken over by advancing Federal troops and sharpshooters would occupy the buildings to pick off his officers.  James Clark of the 3rd North Carolina Infantry regiment took charge of a squad of volunteers to set the Mumma farm buildings on fire.  Clark “recalled throwing a torch through an open window and onto a quilt covered bed.  Within a few moments the whole house was in flames.”

 

Throughout the day the battle swirled around the burning Mumma farm.  The next evening Robert E. Lee’s Confederate forces withdrew back across the Potomac, but the “embers from the ruins of the Mumma buildings continued to smolder.”  As the smoke cleared the devastation was visible, the Mumma farm was completely destroyed.  “The Hagerstown Herald reported that Samuel Mumma had suffered the greatest loss as a result of the battle. In addition to his house and barn and their contents, the family lost all its furniture, clothing, grain, hay and farming implements. The fences were all destroyed, the fruit trees were striped, and the fields were trampled flat.”  

The ruins of the Mumma house taken by Alexander Gardner. (Note the photographer’s studio wagon)

When the Mumma family returned they could not believe the destruction to their farmstead.  Only the brick walls and a chimney were still standing among the ruins of the house.  The smokehouse was still intact and the springhouse survived, although the roof had been burned.  Photographer Alexander Gardner, who worked for Matthew Brady, arrived at the Mumma farm a few days after the battle to capture the scene of not only the destruction of the buildings but of the carnage that remained on the Mumma fields near the Dunker Church.

The carnage of the battle by the Dunker Church showing dead men and animals from Stephen D. Lee’s artillery position.

Devastation at the western corner of the Mumma Farmstead, 19 September 1862. This area is now the site of the Maryland Monument Park.Monument.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Over the next several weeks the Union army encamped on Samuel Mumma’s fields.  The quartermaster would requisition his “firewood, 592 bushels of corn, 75 bushels of wheat, and sixteen ton of hay which somehow escaped the fire.”  Samuel attempted to get a voucher from the quartermaster, but he was told that a government commission would come around to settle his claims.  The commission never came.  When he did filed a claim for just the firewood and grain he was told his “losses were a direct result of the battle and therefore ineligible for reimbursement”.

The rebuilt farmhouse from 1863 to 1919.

Until the Mummas were able to rebuild their home, they stayed at the home of their neighbor, Joseph Sherrick, Jr.  In the spring of 1863 they started to rebuild the house and the family moved back in June of 1863. As time went on the rest of the farm buildings were rebuilt and additions to the house were added.

 

Of course Samuel Mumma’s postwar claim for damages was extensive.  The property and building included:

One house destroyed by fire($2000), one barn ($1250), one spring house and hog pen ($100), household furniture and clothing ($422.23), farming implements included McCormick reaper, a wheat drill, two grain rakes, a wheat fan and a wheat screen, six plows and a threshing machine, in addition to the usual pitch forks and other tools. He also lost 2 wagons ($457), fence destroyed ($590), land damaged by traveling and burial ($150), and fifteen cords wood ($37). 

For the damages  of crops, food stores and livestock, the claim included:

46 tons of hay (valued at $508), 80 bushels of wheat ($100), 20 bushels of rye ($15), 25 bushels of corn ($16.25) and 75 bundles of straw ($88). Another 75 bushels of wheat ($93.75) were plundered,
and Mumma lost 16 acres of corn ($355), 16 acres of fodder ($88), 100 bushels of Irish
potatoes ($100), 10 bushels of sweet potatoes ($15), and 15 tons of straw ($97.50). Destroyed
in the farmhouse or outbuildings were a bushel each of dried corn ($2) and dried apples ($1), a
half-bushel each of dried peas ($1.50) and beans ($.75), 1¾ bushels of dried cherries ($4), 12
crocks of preserves ($12), 12 crocks of marmalade ($12), 8 crocks of apple butter ($6), 4
barrels of vinegar ($20) and 16 gallons of wine ($24) and a half-barrel of pickles ($4). Two
household gardens, valued at $10 each, were devastated. [6] Mumma also lost a wide variety
of livestock in the aftermath of the Battle. In his claim he listed 6 steers ($150), 2 calves ($12),
2 colts ($60), a horse ($100), 9 hogs ($90), 9 shoats ($27) and 8 sheep ($40). He also lost 200
chickens ($30), a dozen turkeys ($6) and 2 ducks ($.50).

The claim was one of the only ones refused by the government, which said the Confederate forces did the damage, so the Federal government was not responsible.

In 1876,  Samuel Mumma, Sr sold the farm to his son, Henry C. Mumma.  Samuel died on December 7 of that year.  His wife Elizabeth passed away ten years later on August 25, 1886.  They are buried together in the Mumma Cemetery beside the farm, along with many of their family and friends.

The gravestones of Elizabeth & Samuel Mumma at the Mumma Cemetery.

In 1885, Rezin D. Fisher acquired the farm from Henry Mumma.  In 1890, Congress established the Antietam National Battlefield Site which would be supervised by the War Department. As the battlefield site was being developed, “Fisher sold off small parcels of land to various states for the erection of commemorative monuments” like the Maryland Monument and New York monument parks.   Fisher would sell the property to Walter H. Snyder in 1923, who owned the farmstead for just over a year.  In 1924, he sold the property to Hugh and Hattie Spielman who would farm the property until 1961. “With the passage of the Congressional authorization for additional land acquisition for the battlefield in 1960, the Park Service quickly moved to purchase the Mumma property. The 148.5 acre tract was acquired from Hugh and Hattie Spielman in December 1961 at a cost of $51,570”.   The Spielman’s would remain on the property with an agricultural lease until the mid-1980s.

As part of the “Mission 66” program the National Park Service built a new visitor center in 1962 on the newly acquired Mumma farm near the New York Monument Park.  After the Spielman’s moved off the property, the Park Service performed a stabilization and preservation project of the house in the 1990s.  In late 2001 the preservation work on the exterior of the farmhouse began and the interior was restored.  Today the Mumma Farm is used by the National Park Service for ranger-led educational programs for school groups and other youth groups coming to the battlefield.  The Samuel Mumma farmstead was an eyewitness to history and a tragic reminder of the impact of the battle on the local population.

 

The Samuel Mumma farm today.

 

  • Ernst, Kathleen A., Too Afraid to Cry: Maryland Civilians in the Antietam Campaign, Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 1999.
  • Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division; Civil War Glass Negatives and Related Prints, Washington, D.C. Retrieved from http://www.loc.gov/pictures/related/?fi=subject&q=Antietam%2C%20Battle%20of%2C%20Md.%2C%201862.&co=cwp
  • 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.
  •  Schildt, John W., Drums Along the Antietam. ParsonMcClain Printing Company, 2004.
  • U.S. National Park Service, Historic Preservation Training Center, Historic Structures Report for the Samuel Mumma House, Washington D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1999.
  • U.S. National Park Service, Mumma Farmstead Cultural Landscape Inventory, Washington D.C.: Government Printing Office, 2004.
  • Walker, Kevin M and K. C. Kirkman, 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.

 

The Farmsteads at Antietam – Alfred Poffenberger Farm

March 31, 2017 by jacobrohrbach

Perhaps one of the least known and seldom visited farmsteads at Antietam is the Alfred Poffenberger farm also known as the Mary Locher cabin.  One of the oldest historical structures in the area, many visitors traveling to or from Antietam along Route 65 do not realize that this farmstead was at the center of the most ferocious fighting in the West Woods.

In the 1730s and 40s, settlers from Pennsylvania began passing through Maryland on their way to Virginia.  To entice these German settlers to stay in Maryland’s backcountry, Lord Baltimore issued a proclamation in 1732, “offering 200 acres of land in fee, subject to a four shilling per year quitrent per each 100 acres to any family who would settle and work the land.”  The opportunity for large land tracts attracted speculators like James Smith, Dr. George Stuart, Col. Edwin Sprigg and Richard Sprigg.

As the migration of settlers traveled south from the Cumberland Valley into the valley of the Antietam, they would follow a trail that would lead them to a ford on the Potomac River.  Today this ford is known by a number of names: Pack Horse Ford, Boteler’s Ford, Blackford’s Ford or the Shepherdstown Ford.  The trail that the early settlers traveled became known as the “Waggon Road” and was referenced in many of the land patents of the day. In 1734, Richard Sprigg was granted 500 acres called ‘Piles Grove‘ which was located between Antietam Creek and the Potomac River, just north of the area that would become Sharpsburg. Also sometimes referred to as ‘Piles Delight‘, the property was described as “beginning at a White Oak near a small branch and near a larger spring.. about a mile from a road called the Waggon Road…”  The tract of land on which the Alfred Poffenberger farm is located, was first surveyed and patented by Richard Sprigg.

The Alfred Poffenberger farm or Mary Locher cabin.

Less than ten years later, in 1743, Colonel Edwin (Edward) Sprigg was granted a portion of the Piles Delight tract.
In 1750, Col. Sprigg had two patents resurveyed into a tract called Piles Delight (Addition and Resurvey) which totaled 2,617 acres.  It was very typical of eastern Maryland land speculators to lease or sell smaller parcels of land to the arriving settlers.  During this time parcels of the property were probably leased to tenants. Although nothing is known of the builder, it is believed that the log structure on the property today was constructed before 1760. When Col. Sprigg died, his will divided the tract to his children, but his son Frederick would later sell the entire tract to David McMechen in 1791.

Following the death of David McMechen in 1811, the final 600 acres of the Resurvey of the Addition of Piles Delight was put up for sale.  The parcel was quickly purchased for $19,300 by John McPherson and John Brien, both well-known land speculators and owners of the nearby Antietam Iron Works. By 1814, they had sold 225 acres 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.

 

The Jacob Grove homestead was just west of Sharpsburg.

The Grove family in Maryland had descended from the German settlers of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Hans Groff had emigrated to Pennsylvania in 1695.  His grandson, Jacob had moved to Maryland in 1765 and 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 had purchased the property in 1821 and completed the building of the house, which became the Grove homestead.

 

 

 

 

Mary Grove Locker parcel

The red line represents the approx. boundary of the Mary Grove Locker parcel and the blue boundary was the Joseph Grove parcel.

Upon Philip’s death in 1841, Mount Airy was acquired by 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. The eastern half of the property, that Mary received, included a dwelling, a large bank barn, a root cellar and several outbuildings.  Joseph was most likely already living in the large house on 112 acres on the western portion of the property.  The house still stands today.  Joseph Grove’s property would eventually become the Jacob Hauser farmstead.

 

 

 

 

The foundation of the bank barn recently restored by the NPS.

The root cellar by the dwelling.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Westerly view to the Hauser farm.

The log constructed cabin, pre-circa 1760.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mary Grove had married Jacob Locher of Lancaster, Pennsylvania. The young couple may have lived at the farm she inherited from her father, but most likely it was leased to tenants. By 1860 the original 16 x 16 foot round-log cabin had been expanded with additions to its north and south end.  The southern end was probably a large parlor with a sleeping loft and the northern addition including a large working fireplace and wainscoting which suggests it was built as a kitchen.  A set of winding box stairs in the kitchen led up to another sleeping chamber.

 

Alfred Poffenberger Farm

On March 2, 1858, Alfred Poffenberger married Harriet Hutzel.  According to the 1860 census they were residing at the Mary Locher farm along with a one year old son, William.  Also listed was a 10 year old named Emma Ziah, and Peter Krutzer, a 28 year old farmhand.  Alfred’s uncle, Joseph, had a farm about a mile to the north of the Locker house.  His cousin Samuel was soon to be married and they would then move to an established farm just a half a mile to the east of Alfred, off the Smoketown Road.  Like his relatives on the surrounding farms, Alfred had harvested his crop of wheat, rye, corn and hay before Confederate soldiers started to occupy his farm on September 16, 1862.

 

Sept. 17th – 9:00-9:30AM

It is unknown where Alfred Poffenberger and his family went during the battle, but it is certain that they left in a hurry.  According to one Confederate soldier who found “the cabin” abandoned just hours before the fighting, he found two loaves of fresh bread which relieved his hunger.  By the early morning hours,  Confederate forces were rapidly moving across Alfred Poffenberger’s fields.  Artillery had set up near the barn and other positions were established by Jacob Hauser’s house and the ridge overlooking the Nicodemus farm. Around mid-morning the fighting was creeping closer to the Poffenberger farmhouse through the West Woods.  As Major General John Segdwick’s Union division was about to break out of the woodlot, Confederates under Major General Lafayette McLaws and Brigadier General John Walker struck the federal forces. The farmstead was engulfed in the confusing battle for the West Woods.  The  ebb and flow of the battle was happening along the lane in front of the cabin.  Finally the Confederates pushed the Union soldiers through the West Woods and back across the Hagerstown Pike.

15th MASS monument

View across MD Route 65 in front of the A. Poffenberger farm to the 15th Mass. monument

The Poffenberger barn had become an ambulance station for the Rebel forces.  As the wounded gathered,
ambulances and wagons arrived to transport them to a field hospital that had been established outside of Sharpsburg on the Shepherdstown Road at the David Smith farm.  Two days later after the Confederate Army retreat back across Shepherdstown Ford, a burial detail from the 15th Massachusetts dug a 25 foot trench near the cabin by the garden to bury their comrades.

 

The 5,300-man Union  division that advanced through the West Woods was wrecked, suffering over 2,200 casualties in less than thirty minutes.  The Confederates  would suffer almost 2,000 casualties as well.  One Rebel soldier attempted to describe the fighting in the West Woods stating,  “We were in the hottest part of the fight under Jackson, and for me to give an idea of the fierceness of the conflict, the roar of musketry, and the thunder of artillery is as utterly impossible as to describe a thousand storms in the region of Hades.”  

The amount of damage to the Alfred Poffenberger cabin and buildings must have been very substantial considering the fighting that occurred there, however Alfred’s claims do not reflect that.  It is possible, that since it would be very hard to determine whether the damage was caused by Confederate or by Union troops, Alfred did not include structural damage in the two claims he submitted to the Federal government.  He would receive $144.30 for stores that included wheat, hay, and corn taken between September 20-27, 1862 and another $661.40 for corn, rye, and hay that was taken September 30, 1862.

 

Survey of the property of George Poffenberger and Mrs. Nicodemus by S.S. Downin, in 1883.

After the battle, the Poffenberger’s briefly moved into a tenant house at his Uncle Joseph’s farm.  He continued to be a tenant of the Locher farm until after 1870, when he moved his family to Iowa.  The next tenant of the log house may have been his younger step-brother George Poffenberger, but only for a short period.  By 1883, George had purchased 65 acres from David R. Miller.  This parcel included the entire West Woods east of the cabin to the Hagerstown Pike.  George immediately built a house there, while renting the Locher farm.  In 1898 George Poffenberger would purchase the Locher farm from the heirs of Mary Locher.

 

The property would remain in the Poffenberger family until 1991 when it was sold to the Conservation Fund and donated to the Antietam National Battlefield.  Since that time the National Park Service has conducted archaeological investigations around the house site and constructed a temporary canopy in order to protect the cabin during the stabilization and restoration process.  In the future, the National Park Service would like to create an interpretive hiking trail through the Alfred Poffenberger farmstead to continue to tell the story of the West Woods and the civilians involved.  The Alfred Poffenberger farm was an eyewitness to the history of this desperate fight in the West Woods.

 

The Alfred Poffenberger farmstead today.

 

  • Barron, Lee and Barbara Barron, The History of Sharpsburg, Maryland: Founded by Joseph Chapline, 1763. Sharpsburg: self-published, 1972.
  • Buchanan, Jim,  Walking the West Woods, 20 March 2017.   Retrieved from http://walkingthewestwoods.blogspot.com/search?q=Mary+Grove+Locher+Cabin%2C+Poffenberger+Farmstead
  • Curci, Jane. Mary Poffenberger: Information about the Poffenberger Family, 20 March 2017. Retrieved from http://www.genealogy.com/forum/surnames/topics/poffenberger/210/
  • Gallagher, Gary W., Editor, The Antietam Campaign. Chapel Hill, University of North Carolina Press, 1999.
  • Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division; Historical American Building Survey MD,22-ANTI.V,2- (sheet 1 of 5) – Mary Locher Cabin, Washington, D.C. Retrieved from  http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/md0837.sheet.00001a/
  • 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.
  •  Schildt, John W., Drums Along the Antietam. ParsonMcClain Printing Company, 2004.
  • Williams, Thomas J.C., A History of Washington County, Maryland. From the earliest settlements to the present time. Vol. 2: Hagerstown, 1906. Retrieved from https://books.google.com/books/about/A_History_of_Washington_County_Maryland.html?id=c9AwAQAAMAAJ
  • Early Colonial Settlers of Southern Maryland and Virginia’s Northern Neck Counties  Edward Sprigg. Retrieved from  http://www.colonial-settlers-md-va.us/getperson.php?personID=I013535&tree=tree1
  • Walker, Kevin M and K. C. Kirkman, 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.

The Farmsteads at Antietam – David R. Miller Farm

March 3, 2017 by jacobrohrbach

Map

Daybreak on September 17, 1862.

On the morning of September 17, 1862, Major General Joseph Hooker rode out from the Joseph Poffenberger barn where he had spent the drizzly night.  When he reached the edge of the North Woods and looked to the south he could see the objective of his Union First Corps – a small rise of ground at the junction of Smoketown Road and the Hagerstown Turnpike.   Nearly a mile away, this intersection was next to a small whitewashed building, thought to be a schoolhouse but was actually the Dunker Church.  Confederate forces under Stonewall Jackson defended the intersection in a line extending from the Mumma farm northwestward across the Hagerstown Pike through the woods to Nicodemus Heights.  Halfway between Hooker’s First Corps and his objective at the Dunker Church stood the farmstead of David R. Miller.  During the morning of September 17, the majority of the fighting would take place surrounding D.R. Miller’s farm – at the Cornfield, in the East Woods, along the Hagerstown Turnpike, in the West Woods and around the Dunker Church.

Miller farm

D.R. Miller Farmstead today.

Like the Joseph Poffenberger farm, the D.R. Miller property was once part of the tract granted to Joseph Chapline called ‘Loss and Gain’ that was bequeathed to his son, James Chapline.  In order to satisfy his creditors, James began leasing and selling parts of his land in the late 1790’s.  Although there is no recorded lease or deed, it is believed that a John Myers was occupying on a portion of Chapline’s tract, now call “Addition to Loss and Gain“.  In 1796, James Chapline sold 40 acres to Jonas Hogmire and that deed refers to “the part of Addition to Loss and Gain that John Myers now lives on..”  Hogmire would also purchased another 40-acre lot from Chapline in 1797.

floor sketch

Sketch plan of the first floor of the D.R. Miller farmhouse.

In 1799, Hogmire sold 81 3/8 acres to John Myers for £610, 6 shillings and 3 pence.  Around this time the main house was built.  The log structure sat on a limestone foundation with a central chimney system.  “The chimney served the fireplaces of several rooms on each floor and was indicative of traditional Pennsylvania German floor plans”.  The additional ell on the north side of the building would include a dining room, kitchen and porch.   By the end of 1812, John Myers would acquire another 150 acres and several other smaller lots from James Buchanan, who was the Trustee for the sale of James Chapline’s land.

John Myers lived on the property until his death in 1836.  According to his will, he directed that the farm be rented out for five years and that his daughter Kitty, “is to have and enjoy the free entire use and benefit of the mansion house in which I reside”.   Based on the information in the will, the property included the “mansion house” and the “old house”.  It is likely that the “mansion house” was referring to the house that is standing on the property today and the “old house” may have been a dwelling first occupied by John Myers, but being utilized as a tenant house in the 1830’s.  Other improvements on the property included a second tenant house, a blacksmith shop, an out-kitchen, a spring and two gardens.  The farm was divided by the “big road” referring to the Hagerstown-Sharpsburg turnpike.  Across the turnpike stood the barn, a stable, a corn crib-wagon shed and hog pens.

Miller famr

The red line represents the approx. boundary of the farm based off the 1859 Taggert map.

In January, 1842 the property was put up for sale by the executors of John Myers will.  An advertisement in the Hagerstown Mail stated that the farm consisted of “265 Acres of first-rate Limestone Land; about 150 Acres of which are cleared, the balance in thriving timber.  In addition to the buildings there was an orchard of “fine Fruit Trees”.   On April 24, 1844, David R. Miller purchased the farm for $53.00 per acre.  That same day, David transferred the property to his father, John Miller, who was one of the executors.  Although John Miller continued to own the farm until his death in 1882, his son David, known as D.R., would live there.

D.R. Miller was given his name in honor of his grandfather David Miller.   David Miller and his wife, Catherine Flick, were from the Rhinepfalze region of Germany.  In the 1760’s they emigrated to Maryland  and established the first store in the new town of Sharpsburg in 1768.

David’s son John, followed in his footsteps  operating not only the store, but the town post office, a hotel, a gristmill and also owned several farms.  During the War of 1812, John was a colonel in the militia and continued to be referred to as Colonel Miller.

Farm layout

D.R. Miller Farm in 1862.

The very wealthy Col. Miller helped establish his sons on farms throughout the Sharpsburg area. On April 2, 1846, his son D.R. married Margaret Pottenger.  Together they set up housekeeping and started to raise a family on the recently purchased farm.  By September 1862, they had seven children and like the neighboring farms, they worked hard to harvest their crops that fall.  Near the west side barn a number of haystacks stood and the garden was “sprawling with pumpkins, potatoes, and beans.”  Just to the south of the farm was  Miller’s 24-acre cornfield with “stalks higher than a man’s head” standing ready to harvest.

As the converging Union and Confederate armies neared Sharpsburg, Miller had his livestock driven to safety before they arrived, “all except one angry bull that refused to be herded”.  The day before the battle, D.R. and his family left the farm and moved closer to safety at his father’s house on the other side of Houser’s Ridge.  They made sure to take along the family’s pet parrot – Polly.  As the fighting raged closer and the family moved into shelter, they realized that Polly was still in her cage on the porch. Just as D.R. ran out to rescue the petrified parrot on the porch, a shell fragment sliced through the leather strip and the cage fell to the ground as the squawking parrot cried, “Oh, poor Polly.

While the Miller’s were sheltered at his father’s house, the battle raged back and forth across their farm, the fields and in the woods.  Some of the most vicious fighting occurred in and around D.R. Miller’s cornfield.  Gen. Hooker would write in his official report that, “every stalk of corn in the northern and greater part of the field was cut as closely as could have been done with a knife, and the slain lay in rows precisely as they stood in their ranks a few moments before. It was never my fortune to witness a more bloody, dismal battle-field”.  When Miller and his family returned to their home, the field was exactly how Hooker had described it, “not a single stalk left standing”. D.R. Miller’s field would forever be known as The Cornfield.

 

Dead Confederates

Confederate soldiers along Hagerstown Pike. D.R. Miller’s cornfield is just over the top of the fence rail in the distance.

Hagerstown Pike

Modern view of the photograph on the left.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

During the battle Union casualties gathered at the farmstead, but were quickly moved to an established hospital further to the north. The days following the battle, Union burial details swept across Miller’s property, first to bury their comrades, than to bury the Confederates.

burial detail

Union burial detail on the D.R. Miller farm. The barn roof can be see on the far right of the photo.

site of burial detail

Modern view of the photograph on the left.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

90 PA monument

Modern view of the photograph on the left.

Burial detail

Union Burial detail on the Miller farm where the 90th PA monument is today.

Surprisingly there was very little damage to the house and barn, only the blacksmith shop was destroyed.  The crops in the fields were ruined and the stacks in and around the barn were used for the wounded and feeding the horses.  David R. Miller filed a claim of $1,237.75 for damages of which he received $995.00 from the Federal government for his losses on July 6, 1872.

D.R. Miller house - 1862

Photograph of the Miller house taken shortly after the battle.

Miller house

Modern view of the photograph on the left.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

D.R. Miller and his family continued to live and work on the farm for the next twenty years.  When Colonel John Miller died in 1882, he left a large amount of real estate, with eight children and no recorded will.  This would place D. R. and Margaret against several of the other surviving heirs.   After a bitter court battle it was agreed to sell the property and divide the money among  the heirs.  In November of 1882, 150 acres around the house and the farm buildings were put up for public sale. It is unclear what happened to the remaining 100 plus acres at the southern end of the property, but it is possible that they were parceled off and sold as well.

Survey of Miller farm

Survey of the southern parcels of the D.R. Miller property by S.S. Downin, in 1883.

Eventually a year later, in November 1883, D.R. and Margaret purchased the farm they had been living on for almost forty years.  A little over two years later they would sell the farm to Euromus Hoffman on March 29, 1886.  Unfortunately the Miller’s did not enjoy a long retirement from the farm, for on November 13, 1888, Margaret passed away at the age of 63.  D.R. survived until the age of 78, when he died on September 10 1893, almost thirty-one years after the battle.  Margaret and David R. Miller rest together at the Mountain View Cemetery in Sharpsburg, near their neighbors, Joseph and Mary Ann Poffenberger.

The Millers

Daguerreotype of David R. and Margaret Miller

Millers gravesite

David R. and Margaret Miller’s gravestone at Mountain View Cemetery

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The farm stayed within the descendants of the Hoffman family until 1933 when it was sold to John C. and Emma F. Poffenberger.  In 1950, a widowed Emma Poffenberger would sell the farm to William and Lucy Barr who would only own it for two years before they sold the property to Paul and Evelyn Culler in 1952.  On July 3, 1989, Paul Culler sold the farm to the Conservation Fund which would donate the property to the National Park Service in 1990.

Today, the D.R. Miller house has been stabilized and restored to its post-war appearance.  A large portion of the farm is utilized by the National Park Service for their Living Farm program.  The post-war outbuildings and fields are leased to local farmers to raise crops and livestock, generating some revenue but more importantly preserving the agricultural landscape of the battlefield.

The D.R. Miller farm was at the epicenter of the battle.  According the a National Park Service ranger, the carnage here was some of the worst of the entire war. “There was a soldier killed or wounded every second for four hours straight”.  This hallowed ground became the “bloodiest square mile in the history of the United States.”   The D.R. Miller farmstead is a true eyewitness to history.

The Bloody Cornfield

D.R. Miller’s Cornfield

Sources:
  • Barron, Lee and Barbara Barron, The History of Sharpsburg, Maryland: Founded by Joseph Chapline, 1763. Sharpsburg: self-published, 1972.
  • Dresser, Michael, (September 13, 2012). 150 years later, Preservationists see victory at Antietam. The Baltimore Sun.  Retrieved from http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/bs-md-antietam-anniversary-20120913-story.html.
  • Ernst, Kathleen A., Too Afraid to Cry: Maryland Civilians in the Antietam Campaign, Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 1999.
  • Downin, S. S., Survey of the property of George Poffenberger and Mrs. Nicodemus in Washington County, Md, 1883. Retrieved from https://www.loc.gov/item/2005625029/.
  • Gardner, Alexander,  Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, Selected Civil War Photographs Collection, Washington, D.C., 1862.  Retrieved from http://www.loc.gov/pictures/related/?fi=name&q=Gardner%2C%20Alexander%2C%201821-1882
  • 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.
  •  Reed, Paula S., History Report: The D.R. Miller Farm, Hagerstown, MD: Preservation Associates, 1991: Retrieved from  https://www.nps.gov/parkhistory/online_books/anti/miller.pdf.
  • Walker, Kevin M and K. C. Kirkman, Antietam Farmsteads: A Guide to the Battlefield Landscape, Sharpsburg: Western Maryland Interpretive Association, 2010.
  • U.S. War Department, The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, 128 vols, Washington, D.C.; Government Printing Office, 1880-1901.
  • 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.

The Farmsteads at Antietam – Joseph Poffenberger Farm

January 30, 2017 by jacobrohrbach

Antietam is said to be one of the most pristine and well preserved Civil War battlefields.  When you look across the landscape little has changed since that fateful day of September 17, 1862.  The preserved fencelines, fields and woodlots help us understand the ebb and flow of the battle.  The details of the Battle of Antietam are well known to students of the Civil War, but as you survey the battlefield, you see scattered across the countryside the proof that battles are not fought in a vacuum.  Several farmsteads dot the landscape as well.  We tend to forget about the civilians that are caught up in the events swirling around the homes where for generations families lived, worked, played, and died.  One of the most frequently asked questions from our guests is about the families that lived in and around Sharpsburg.

Each month we will explore one of the farmsteads at Antietam to help answer some of these questions: What did the farm look like?  Who lived there before the battle?  What did the families do during the battle?  What happened to the families after the battle?

In the early 1700’s very few people lived west of Frederick.  To induce immigrants into western Maryland, land was being offered at very low prices; and people with disposable wealth began to purchase large tracts of land.  Since 1738, Joseph Chapline, Sr. had been acquiring hundreds of acres of land along the Potomac River through grants and purchases.  When war with the French and Indians 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.  For these efforts, Captain Chapline received over 10,000 acres adjacent to his existing estate from Governor Sharpe after the war in 1763.  In honor of his good friend, Chapline established the town of Sharpes Burgh.  Totaling more than 15,000 acres, or 24 square miles, in the Antietam Valley, Joseph Chapline was one of the largest landholders west of Frederick town.

The Joseph Poffenberger House

Joseph Chapline died on January 8, 1769, and in his Last Will and Testament, the huge estate was divided among Joseph’s nine children.  Just east of Chapline’s plantation estate, known as Mount Pleasant, lay a 1,484 acre tract called ‘Loss and Gain’ that was devised to his son, James Chapline (the Joseph Poffenberger Farmstead was originally part of the large estate).  It is almost certain that it was occupied by a tenant when James inherited the property.  Although there is no record, the architectural evidence  indicates that the construction of the 1 1/2 story log house dates to 1770 with a 2nd story added circa 1790.

Wash House

During this period James began leasing and selling family farm-sized tracts of 100 to 300 acres.  Robert Smith purchased a number of these 100-acre tracts and in 1813 sold 272 acres to Christian Middlekauff.  In addition to the house, the farm consisted of a shed, the wash house, and a wagon shed & corn crib.   In 1820, Middlekauff’s daughter Rosanna married Daniel Finifrock and according to the census, it appears that Rosanna and Daniel moved onto the property.  Over the next thirteen years they would have seven children together.

Bank Barn & Corn Crib / Granary

In 1828, Rosanna’s father, Christian Middlekauff died and her brother-in-law, David Neikirk was left in charge of the estate.  The following year Neikirk sold the farm to Daniel, presumably to settle the estate.  In 1833, Daniel mortgaged the property to his neighbor, Jacob Coffman, obtaining a $3,000 loan and given ten years to repay him.  Several other structures were built around this time, suggesting that Daniel used the loan to pay for some improvements to the farm.  The bank barn and equipment shed were built and an ice house and smokehouse were added completing the farm complex.

Location of Ice House

Tragedy struck that same year with Rosanna dying in August, followed by Daniel just two months later in October.  With no disposition of the property recorded after the Finifrocks’ passing, it’s believed that the seven orphaned children remained on their parents farm for the next ten years.  With the loan not satisfied, Jacob Coffman assumed ownership of the property in 1843. It’s possible that the Finifrock children remained for a while as tenants but by the 1850 census, Joseph and Mary Ann Poffenberger were living on the 124-acre farm.

On February 8,  1838, Joseph Poffenberger and Mary Ann Coffman were married. The youngest son of Adam Poffenberger, Joseph was born on July 26, 1812.  Joseph’s grandfather, John was Washington County’s first resident with the Poffenberger name.  As a skilled artisan, John operated blacksmith shops and forges which produced such a large volume of smoke, that the village built up around his works was called Smoke Town.

Location of tenant house at southwest corner of property

In 1852, Mary Ann’s father, Jacob Coffman sold his son-in-law the 124-acre area plus an additional 20 acres he had most likely parceled off his property along the Hagerstown turnpike to increase the farm to 144 acres.   Over the next ten years, Joseph would increase the size of his farm to 166 acres.  Mary Ann and Joseph had no children,  but with the substantial number of Poffenbergers in the Sharpsburg and Washington County area, they would have taken in relatives in need.  His nephew, Josiah Poffenberger is listed on the 1860 census as a farm hand and the couple also took in a young boy named Isaac Mallet.  They had a tenant, Samuel Kretzer who most likely lived in a tenant house on the southwest corner of the property along the Hagerstown Turnpike.

Joseph Poffenberger Farm 1862

Joseph Poffenberger Farm 1862

Over the summer and into the fall of 1862, Joseph Poffenberger, like all of his neighbors had worked to harvest their crop of wheat, flax, corn and clover.  Straw was stacked high in the barnyard and the produce from the orchard around the house filled Mary Ann’s cellar with “apple, peach, and plum butter, barrels of pickles and preserves of all kinds. Hundreds of pounds of smoked meat hung in the storehouse, and there was even a barrel of whiskey.”  Unfortunately they would not stay to enjoy the fruits of their labor knowing that Union and Confederate forces were quickly approaching Sharpsburg.

Position of Union forces across the Joseph Poffenberger farm as the battle erupts on the morning of September 17, 1862.

 

Before leaving the farm Joseph moved all his horses and locked up the storehouses and cellars.  It is unclear where the Poffenbergers went during the battle but with both having family in the area they may have stayed with relatives at a nearby farm.  By the afternoon of September 16, the Union First Corps occupied the whole Poffenberger farm, with artillery taking up positions on the ridge directly behind the house.  Major General Joseph Hooker, the First Corps commander, made his headquarters in the barn as the battle erupted in the East Woods at the southern edge of the Poffenberger property.  As day broke on the morning of the 17th, Confederate artillery fire from batteries on Nicodemus Heights and near the Dunker Church began raining down on the Union positions.   As the battle ebbed and flowed to the south through D.R. Miller’s cornfield, the Union First Corps soldiers found themselves back where they started twelve hours before; at the Poffenberger farmstead.

The red line represents the approx. boundary of farm when NPS acquired the 120 acre farm in 2000. Additional acreage was to the east across Hagerstown Pike and on the west along the Smoketown Road.

When Joseph returned that evening he recalled, “… my house it was completely empty. I had nothing left. I lived on army crackers that I found on the battlefield for five days.”  The damage was significant according to Jacob Eakle, who visited shortly after the fighting ended, and he stated the “farm was a perfect wreck after the battle, crops destroyed, house riddle and every thing taken out.”  The most significant damage occurred in the days after the battle as Union soldiers plundered his farmstead using his fields for horse’s of the army’s wagon trains, taking up the fences for firewood, and carrying off forty-ton of straw and hay for army stock and bedding for soldiers.

 

The Union army encamped on the farm until October 20, 1862, and used up the resources that Joseph and Mary Ann Poffenberger had stored for the coming winter months.  According to Poffenberger’s claim against the Federal government, his losses included:

• 500 bushels of wheat
• 60 bushels of rye
• 150 bushels of oats
• 80 bushels of potatoes
• 20 tons of hay
• 240 pounds of bacon
• 28 acres plus 200 bushels of old corn
• 18 loads of fodder
• 14 tons of straw
• 20 acres of pasture
• 7 beef cattle
• 20 swine
• 13 sheep
• 5 cords of hickory wood
• 7 cords of oak wood
• over 5,350 fence rails (described as a worm fence, nine rails to the panel),
• 50 bushels of apples
• 4 four barrels of cider
• 4 bushels of peaches
• grapes on the vine
• 2 bushels of dried cherries and plums
• 10 gallons each apple, plum and peach butter

This claim of $2,277.55 was “disallowed” by the government “because the proof of the stores and supplies was insufficient” and they were “not convinced that the stores and supplies were actually taken and used by the United States Army.”  Joseph would go to his grave without receiving reimbursement from the government. Five years after his death in May 1893, Lawson W. Poffenberger, the executor of Joseph’s estate was awarded $1918.00 for a resubmitted claim of $2,721.50.

Joseph and Mary Ann Poffenberger’s gravestone at Mountain View Cemetery

The greatest loss of the Poffenberger family would be the death of Mary Ann, just two years later, on August 12, 1864.  Like many of Sharpsburg residents, it is possible that her death was a result of the rampant disease that took many of Mary Ann’s neighbors following the battle.  Joseph never remarried but continued to live and work on his farm.  With help from his nephew Alfred Poffenberger, who had leased the Mary Grove Locher farm in the West Woods at the time of the battle, Joseph was able to increase production and add another 28 acres to the farm.

By 1880, Alfred had moved to Iowa and Joseph turned over the operation of the farm to his nephew, Otho J. Poffenberger and his wife Elizabeth.  Joseph would move to the tenant house to allow Otho and Elizabeth room in the main house to raise their children.

Joseph Poffenberger passed away on June 13, 1888 at the age of 76.  Joseph and Mary Ann Poffenberger rest together at the Mountain View Cemetery in Sharpsburg.

 

Otho had purchased the farm, updating the house and building on a rear addition.  In 1895, the War Department purchased property from Otho in order to build a tour road known as Mansfield Avenue, which allowed for the placement of monuments, tablets and markers.

Otho Poffenberger family in front of Joseph Poffenberger’s house, c. 1880.

Newly constructed War Department road, Mansfield Avenue, looking east from Hagerstown Turnpike.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Otho would continue to live and manage the farm until his death in 1932, when his son, Joseph W. Poffenberger purchased the farm.  In 1944, Joseph and his wife Bertha deeded the property over to Elmer L. Poffenberger who would later sell the farm to Fred and Renee Kramer in 1966. The last transfer of the Joseph Poffenberger farmstead occurred on June 8, 2000 when the National Park Service purchased the property from the Kramer’s.  Since that time the Park Service has stabilized the structures and restored the landscape to its post-war appearance.  Like the other farmsteads throughout the battlefield, the Poffenberger farm is an eyewitness to history.

Joseph Poffenberger Farmstead today

 

 

Sources:
  • Barron, Lee and Barbara Barron The History of Sharpsburg, Maryland: Founded by Joseph Chapline, 1763. Sharpsburg: self-published, 1972.
  • Maryland Historical Trust, Joseph R. Poffenberger Farm, WA-II-279, Maryland Inventory of Historic Properties Form, 1978, 24 January 2017
    https://mht.maryland.gov/secure/medusa/PDF/Washington/WA-II-279.pdf.
  • Tuomi, Suanne, One REALLY Big Family!: Information about John Poffenberger, 25 January 2017
    http://www.genealogy.com/ftm/t/u/o/Suanne-Tuomi/WEBSITE-0001/UHP-0172.html
  • U.S. National Park Service, Joseph Poffenberger Farmstead Cultural Landscape Inventory, Washington D.C.: Government Printing Office, 2007.
  • Walker, Kevin M and K. C. Kirkman, Antietam Farmsteads: A Guide to the Battlefield Landscape Sharpsburg: Western Maryland Interpretive Association, 2010.
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