Jacob Rohrbach Inn (Sharpsburg, Maryland)


The Farmsteads of Antietam – Jacob Houser Farm

January 29, 2021 by jacobrohrbach

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

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

1859 Taggert Map showing the Grove farms


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

1930 Houser farm

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

Farm house, 1976






Photo of barn – 1976.








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

1850 Census Joseph Grove

1850 Census Joseph Grove

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

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

Jacob Houser 1860 census

1860 Census of the Jacob Houser Family

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


houser farm layout

Houser farm in 1862

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

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

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

Carman-Cope battlefield map at 7:20 am

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

Carman-Cope battlefield map at 9:00am


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


Elliot burial map of Houser farm


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




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

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

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

houser grave

Graves of Jacob and Harriet Houser at Mountain View Cemetery

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

Jacob Houser Farmstead today.

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


  • Ancestry.com, Joseph Grove Family, Jacob Houser Family, Census Data 1850-1880.  Retrieved from: https://www.ancestry.com\
  • Buchanan, Jim,  Walking the West Woods, 20 January 2021.   Retrieved from https://walkingthewestwoods.blogspot.com/2012/02/searching-for-lavinia-grove-some.html
  • Ernst, Kathleen A., Too Afraid to Cry: Maryland Civilians in the Antietam Campaign, Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 1999.
  • Maryland. Board of Trustees of the Antietam National Cemetery, and 1869-1873 (Oden Bowie) Maryland. Governor. A Descriptive List of the Burial Places of the Remains of Confederate Soldiers: Who Fell In the Battles of Antietam, South Mountain, Monocacy, And Other Points In Washington And Frederick Counties, In the State of Maryland. Hagerstown, Md.: “Free press” print, 1868.
  • Maryland State Archives. Maryland Land Records On-Line, Washington County, January 5, 2021. https://mdlandrec.net/main/dsp_search.cfm?cid=WA
  • Lionel Pincus and Princess Firyal Map Division, The New York Public Library. “Map of the battlefield of Antietam” The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1864. https://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/185f8270-0834-0136-3daa-6d29ad33124f
  • Maryland Historical Trust, Frame Farmstead, WA-II-398, Maryland Inventory of Historic Properties Form, 1976.
  • Piper, Samuel W. Washington County, Maryland, Cemetery Records. before 1935-36. Western Maryland Historical Library. https://digital.whilbr.org/digital/collection/p16715coll31/search
  • O’Connor, Bob.  Introducing the soldiers of Shepherdstown, Apr 15, 2011. Shepherdstown Chronicle  https://www.shepherdstownchronicle.com 
  • Reilly, Oliver T. The Battlefield of Antietam. [Hagerstown, Maryland: Hagerstown Bookbinding & Printing Co., 1906.
  • Taggert, Thomas, Map of Washington County. L. McKee and C.G. Roberton, Hagerstown, Maryland 1859.
  • Walker, Kevin M., Antietam Farmsteads: A Guide to the Battlefield Landscape. Sharpsburg: Western Maryland Interpretive Association, 2010.
  • War Department. Army Air Forces. photographer. Antietam Battle Field, Md. The Hagerstown Pike. United States, 1930. December. Photograph https://catalog.archives.gov/id/23940809
  • U.S. War Department, Atlas of the battlefield of Antietam, prepared under the direction of the Antietam Battlefield Board, lieut. col. Geo. W. Davis, U.S.A., president, gen. E.A. Carman, U.S.V., gen. H Heth, C.S.A. Surveyed by lieut. col. E.B. Cope, engineer, H.W. Mattern, assistant engineer, of the Gettysburg National Park. Drawn by Charles H. Ourand, 1899. Position of troops by gen. E. A. Carman. Published by authority of the Secretary of War, under the direction of the Chief of Engineers, U.S. Army, 1908.” Washington, Government Printing Office, 1908.   Retrieved from https://www.loc.gov/resource/g3842am.gcw0248000/?sp=5.

The Farmsteads of Antietam – the Henry Rohrbach Farm

October 29, 2020 by jacobrohrbach

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

ship like the Phoenix

Passenger ship like the Phoenix

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

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

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

muster roll

Militia Muster Roll Captain Miller’s men 1813

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

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

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

Henry Rohrbach house

Henry Rohrbach house cir. 1920

Henry Rohrbachbarn

Henry Rohrbach barn cir. 1920


H R and decorative brickwork on barn









Spring house











Burnside Bridge

Rohrback Bridge, cir 1862

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

Sharpsburg area map

1859 Taggert Map showing the large Rohrbach estate


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




Noah Rohrbach Farm

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


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

Rohrbach farm

Approximate boundary of the Rohrbach farms in 1862.

Rohrbach farm layout

Henry Rohrbach farm layout in 1862










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

Rohrbach census

1860 Census shows both the Rohrbach families.

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

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

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

Antietam map

Carman-Cope Battlefield map of the Rohrbach farm

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

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

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

henry kingsbury

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

Isaac Rodman

Gen. Isaac Rodman
3rd Division of the IX Corps


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



Claim record

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

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

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

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

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

parlor throw

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

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

Rohrbach grave site

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

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


henry rohrbach house

Henry Rohrbach house

noah rohrbach house

Noah Rohrbach house









  • Ancestry.com, Henry Rohrbach Family, Census Data 1850-1890.  Retrieved from: https://www.ancestry.com\
  • Biscoe, Thomas Dwight and Walt Stanley. The view from the Conf. side of Antietam Creek near Burnside Bridge looks probably about North,. DeGolyer Library, Southern Methodist University, 1884.  Retrieved from: http://digitalcollections.smu.edu/cdm/singleitem/collection/civ/id/132/rec/25
  • Damman, Gordon and John W. Schildt. Hospitals in the Maryland Campaign, 1862,. E. Graphics, Brunswick, MD, 2019
  • Ernst, Kathleen A., Too Afraid to Cry: Maryland Civilians in the Antietam Campaign, Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 1999.
  • Find a Grave Website. Rohrbach Family, Isaac Rodman.  Retrieved from https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/5896745/isaac-peace-rodman
  • Lauver, Fred. Lauver and Davis Family Trees, John Rohrbach Retrived from http://www.timevoyagers.com/lauver01/d62.htm
  • Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division; Historic American Buildings Survey/Historic American Engineering Record/Historic American Landscapes Survey, Antietam, Maryland. Battlefield near Sherrick’s house where the 79th N.Y. Vols. fought after they crossed the creek. Group of dead Confederates, MD. Washington, D.C. Retrieved from https://www.loc.gov/resource/cwpb.01112/
  • Maryland Historical Trust, Henry Rohrbach Farm, WA-II-330, Maryland Inventory of Historic Properties Form, 1976.. Noah Rohrbach House, WA-II-363, Maryland Inventory of Historic Properties Form, 1994
  • Nelson, John N.  “As Grain Fall Before the Reaper”, The Federal Hospital Sites and Identified Federal Casualties at Antietam.  Hagerstown, MD. 2004
  • Reardon, Carol and Tom Vossler, A Field Guide to Antietam: experiencing the battlefield through history, places and people, Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 2016.
  • Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of American History  1880 – 1890 Martha Thomas’s “Fan” Parlor Throw.  Retrieved from https://womenshistory.si.edu/object/1880-1890-martha-thomass-fan-parlor-throw:nmah_556411
  • Taggert, Thomas, Map of Washington County. L. McKee and C.G. Roberton, Hagerstown, Maryland 1859.
  • U.S. National Park Service, Burnside Bridge Area Cultural Landscape InventoryAntietam National Battlefield, Washington D.C.: Government Printing Office, 2016.
  • U.S. National Park Service, Burnside Bridge Area Cultural Landscape ReportAntietam National Battlefield, Washington D.C.: Government Printing Office, 2018.
  • Walker, Kevin M., Antietam Farmsteads: A Guide to the Battlefield Landscape. Sharpsburg: Western Maryland Interpretive Association, 2010.
  • Western Maryland’s Historical Library. Photographs Sharpsburg, Henry Rohrback Farm, aka Walton/ Walnut Grove Farm, photo circa 1920 from the Marcia Swain collection  Retrieved from https://digital.whilbr.org/digital/collection/p16715coll42/id/16/
  • U.S. War Department, Atlas of the battlefield of Antietam, prepared under the direction of the Antietam Battlefield Board, lieut. col. Geo. W. Davis, U.S.A., president, gen. E.A. Carman, U.S.V., gen. H Heth, C.S.A. Surveyed by lieut. col. E.B. Cope, engineer, H.W. Mattern, assistant engineer, of the Gettysburg National Park. Drawn by Charles H. Ourand, 1899. Position of troops by gen. E. A. Carman. Published by authority of the Secretary of War, under the direction of the Chief of Engineers, U.S. Army, 1908.” Washington, Government Printing Office, 1908.   Retrieved from https://www.loc.gov/resource/g3842am.gcw0248000/?sp=5.

The Farmsteads of Antietam – John Otto Farm

August 6, 2020 by jacobrohrbach

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

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

John Otto Farm


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



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

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

Otto House



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




Back of house

Site of kitchen

Looking toward the barn and outbuildings







Ruins of barn

Possible site of spring







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

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


Otto Family on the 1850 Census

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

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

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

Otto Farm taken circa 1900.


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

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


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

Hilary and Christina Watson grave


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



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

Dorcas Otto

John Otto

Catherine Otto









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

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


  • Ancestry.com, John Otto Family, Census Data 1850-1880.  Retrieved from: https://www.ancestry.com\
  • Banks, John, John Banks Civil War Blog retrieved from:  http://john-banks.blogspot.com/2013/05/antietam-panorama-ruins-of-john-ottos.html
  • Biscoe, Thomas Dwight and Walt Stanley. The view from the Conf. side of Antietam Creek near Burnside Bridge looks probably about North,. DeGolyer Library, Southern Methodist University, 1884.  Retrieved from: http://digitalcollections.smu.edu/cdm/singleitem/collection/civ/id/132/rec/25
  • National Park Service, Antietam National Battlefield Survey Report, Paula S. Reed and Associates, Inc., Hagerstown, MD. Form, 10-900. 1999.
  • Nelson, John H., As Grain Falls Before the Reaper: The Federal Hospital Sites and Identified Federal Casualties at Antietam, Hagerstown: John H. Nelson, 2004
  • Reardon, Carol and Tom Vossler, A Field Guide to Antietam: experiencing the battlefield through history, places and people, Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 2016.
  • Schmidt, Alann and Terry Barklery. September mourn: the Dunker Church of Antietam Battlefield, El Dorado Hill, CA: Savas Beatie LLC. 2018.Taggert, Thomas, Map of Washington County. L. McKee and C.G. Roberton, Hagerstown, Maryland 1859.
  • U.S. National Park Service, Hilary and Christina Watson. Retrieved from:  https://www.nps.gov/people/hilary-and-christina-watson.htm
  • U.S. National Park Service, Burnside Bridge Area Cultural Landscape InventoryAntietam National Battlefield, Washington D.C.: Government Printing Office, 2016.
  • U.S. National Park Service, Burnside Bridge Area Cultural Landscape ReportAntietam National Battlefield, Washington D.C.: Government Printing Office, 2018.
  • Walker, Kevin M., Antietam Farmsteads: A Guide to the Battlefield Landscape. Sharpsburg: Western Maryland Interpretive Association, 2010.
  • U.S. War Department, Atlas of the battlefield of Antietam, prepared under the direction of the Antietam Battlefield Board, lieut. col. Geo. W. Davis, U.S.A., president, gen. E.A. Carman, U.S.V., gen. H Heth, C.S.A. Surveyed by lieut. col. E.B. Cope, engineer, H.W. Mattern, assistant engineer, of the Gettysburg National Park. Drawn by Charles H. Ourand, 1899. Position of troops by gen. E. A. Carman. Published by authority of the Secretary of War, under the direction of the Chief of Engineers, U.S. Army, 1908.” Washington, Government Printing Office, 1908.   Retrieved from https://www.loc.gov/resource/g3842am.gcw0248000/?sp=5.



The Dunker Church – Alann Schimdt

May 17, 2020 by jacobrohrbach

The Dunker Church is one of the most iconic structures of the American Civil War. Few people know much, if anything, about its fascinating back story, the role it played within the community of Sharpsburg, and its importance during and after the Battle of Antietam.

On Wednesday, June 24, Alann Schimdt will discuss the subject of his new book, “September Mourn: The Dunker Church of Antietam Battlefield”.  Alann will look at the complete history of Antietam’s Dunker Church, including it’s background, role in the battle and aftermath, and the many ups and downs (figurative and literal!) it went through in the years since.



Alann Schmidt

Alann Schmidt spent fifteen years as a park ranger at Antietam National Battlefield. He earned degrees from theUniversity of Pittsburgh, Shippensburg University, Shepherd University, and the Pittsburgh Institute of Mortuary Science. While a severe case of Lyme disease forced him into early retirement, he currently serves as a pastor for the Churches of God, and lives with his wife Tracy (and their many cats) on their family farm near Fort Littleton, Pennsylvania.



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

UPDATE: In light of social distancing recommendations, the talks will be conducted via Zoom video conferencing until the guidelines and safety allow for public gatherings.   The Zoom sessions will begin at 7:00 p.m.  The Zoom meeting link will be sent out to those signed up on our SLS Member list each week.  For those that can’t attend live, the presentation will be recorded and posted on our Facebook page.

To sign up for the SLS Member list email us at: info@jacob-rohrbach-inn.com.  For updates and a full schedule of presenters & topics check our Facebook page.  The lecture schedule is subject to change.

The Farmsteads of Antietam – The Joseph Sherrick Farm

April 23, 2020 by jacobrohrbach

The one farm house on the Antietam Battlefield that looks the same as it did on September 17, 1862 is the Sherrick House. When you stand in front of the house and hold up the historic photograph taken of the farmstead, it’s as if you traveled back in time.  The photo captures the Sherrick Farmstead; the bank barn, out buildings, fences, garden and the unique brick house.  Looking at it you can imagine what life was like on the farm.

Sherrick House

Photo of the Sherrick farm taken by Alexander Gardner, 1962

The property we now know as the Sherrick Farm was once part of the Smith’s Hills patent that was granted to James Smith on January 26, 1756.  As the French and Indian War was ending, Christian Orndorff, a millwright from Lancaster County, arrived in the area in 1762. Orndorff purchased 503 acres from James Smith along the Antietam Creek.  Of course, Christian Orndorff would establish a successful milling operation at the location of the Middle Bridge on what is known today as the Newcomer Farm.  Prior to his death in 1797, Christian Orndorff divided his holdings among his sons Christopher, Christian and Henry.

passenger list of the James Goodwill

Joseph Schurgh was listed as a passenger on the James Goodwill

Over the years as the milling industry grew along the Antietam Creek. That prosperity drew more and more migration from Pennsylvania.  In 1796, Joseph Sherrick, his wife Barbara Hertzler and their young daughter also named Barbara, left Lancaster County, Pennsylvania with his brother-in-law Jacob Mumma and his family.  The traveled down the Wagon Road to Sharpsburg.  Joseph’s grandfather was also named Joseph but the last name was spelled Shrek or Schurgh.  Born in Switzerland, Joseph and his wife Catherine “left Rotterdam Harbor, Holland in early July on the ship James Goodwill, commanded by David Crockatt, and arrived at Philadelphia on September 27, 1727″. From Philadelphia, they moved to Hempfield Township, Lancaster County.  It was here that the Sherrick family became friends with the Mumma’s, the Hertzler’s and many other families that would move southwest into the Antietam Valley.

Once they arrived to the Antietam Valley, Jacob Mumma would purchase over 300 acres from Christopher Orndorff which included the site of the mill, while Joseph Sherrick purchased the adjoining property to the south, 194 acres from Christopher’s brother, Henry Orndorff.

According to the 1796 deed that land may already have been established as a farm. In the deed there is reference to existing “houses, outhouses, barn, fields, woods, under woods, meadows, orchards, hereditaments and appurtenances“, and there is reference to a “water ditch that is made for the use of watering the meadow.” That ditch was the Town Run, a small stream that ran down from Sharpsburg, past another mill through the farm as it made it’s way to the Antietam Creek.   The Sherrick’s most likely stayed with the Mumma’s until they could establish their home on the property the following year, but it’s presumed that a log or timber frame structure served as their house.  Soon after setting up the home, Joseph and Barbara would have two more children, Jacob born in 1798 and Joseph, Jr. in 1801.

Barbara Hertzler Sherrick gravestone

Barbara Hertzler Sherrick gravestone in the Mumma Cemetery



Tragedy stuck the Sherrick family a few years later when Barbara Hertzler Sherrick died at the aged of 37 in 1804 leaving Joseph, Sr. with three children.  She was buried at a nearby cemetery that would become known as the Mumma Cemetery.  Needing a wife and a mother to raise his children, Joseph, Sr. married Barbara Mumma, Jacob’s sister.




Rohrback Bridge, cir 1862

Stone wall near the Rohrback Bridge, cir 1862

In 1833, the Washington County Commissioners contracted John Weaver to select a location to construct a bridge over the Antietam Creek on the Sharpsburg and Maple Swamp Road.  This road traversed Sherrick’s land along the Town Run to the Antietam.  Weaver selected a site near the edge of Sherrick’s southern property line, most likely due to the the fact that limestone could be quarried off the hillside.  The bridge was completed by 1836 for a cost of $2,300.  Soon after it’s completion the Sherrick’s constructed a stone wall on the east side of the creek.

boundary of the Sherrick farm

Approximate boundary of the Sherrick farm



Joseph, Sr., subsequently enlarged the farm by purchasing additional nearby parcels of land in 1821, 1826, and 1833.  On April 15, 1828, young Joseph, Jr. married Sarah Hamm.  It’s believed that young Joseph and Sarah ventured west to Ohio according to the 1830 census.  Their stay in Ohio was not long-lived and by 1836 the young couple had returned home with a daughter, Mary Anna.  Joseph, Jr purchased tracts of property around the family farm and in 1838 he acquired the land owned by his father.



Sherrick house plan

Side view of house showing basement

It is around this time that the home the Sherricks had been living in for over thirty years was replaced with the brick structure we see today.  Like their neighbors across the Antietam, the Pry’s, this new house reflected the “most current trends in architectural design, incorporating vernacular elements of Greek revival style of the 1830’s”.   The Sherrick’s house would be very unique, it was built into the slope much like their traditional Pennsylvania bank barn but it was also constructed over a fresh water spring.  This fresh water flowed into a spring room in the sub-basement.  Water could be drawn from the  spring room to a kitchen just above in the basement.  Also in the basement was a large fireplace and an adjoining room that was used as a small pantry.


Sherrick floor plan

Sherrick House Floor Plan

Sherrick Hall

Park volunteers touring the large hall










The first floor consisted of a dining room, parlor, bedroom, a servery and large stair hall.  The impressive hall included a “wide entry door, crowned by a divided transom”, “high ceilings, gracious moldings, and wood grained doors”.   But the staircase was the most striking, as the broad staircase lead to a landing, “The risers of these stairs and the baseboard moldings throughout the hall were painted to look like marble, a technique common during the Greek revival period”.  (This style was replicated in the foyer at the Jacob Rohrbach Inn.) Three bedrooms and a nursery were on the second floor and another unique aspect included service stairs from the nursery to the servant room and down to the kitchen.  The Sherrick house “was one of the most well appointed farmhouses in the Sharpsburg area”.

Sherrick farm

Joseph Sherrick Farm, 1862

Behind the house was their 1 1/2 story brick summer kitchen with a large hearth fireplace, bake oven and a staircase to the upper story where meats were hung.  A stone-built smokehouse was located just behind the summer kitchen and was probably built as a “dependency of the original Sherrick house’.   The large 45′ x 90′ Pennsylvania-style bank barn sat on the hill beyond the house.  This was the original barn that was constructed by either Henry Orndorff or Joseph Sherrick, Sr. between 1790 – 1800. On the northwest side of the barn was a fenced 2-acre orchard and adjoining garden. A number of other outbuildings and structures were on the property but today there is only evidence of a few.


Sherrick side

Rebuilt walls


Barn Foundation

corn crib

Corn Crib







Kitchen Fireplace








The Sherrick farm prospered over the next decade.  According to the 1850 census the farm was valved at $12,000.  The Sherrick’s were members of the German Baptist Brethren or “Dunker” congregation.  The Dunkers had been meeting in the private home of Daniel Miller, the father of Elizabeth Miller Mumma. In 1851, Samuel Mumma donated a small plot of land at the edge of a woodlot that would become known as the West Woods.  Daniel Miller, Samuel Mumma and Joseph Sherrick supervised the construction of the new church. It was constructed with hand-made clay bricks from John Otto, Joseph Sherrick’s neighbor.

In May, 1858, Mary Anna Sherrick married Victor Newcomer, a merchant.  The following year they would have their first child and continue to live with her parents.  According to the 1860 Census, the family was still residing on the farm. A young female servant named Ellen Ward and Samuel Gift, a farm hand lived at there as well.

1860 census

1860 Census, Joseph Sherrick Family

Around this time Joseph Sherrick retired from farming and leased the farm to a young man named Leonard Emmert.  “At that time, the farm consisted of 200 improved acres and 20 unimproved acres and was valued at $14,000. Livestock was valued at $500. During the year ending that June, the farm produced 1,500 bushels of wheat, 20 bushels of rye, 1,000 bushels of Indian corn, 150 bushels of oats, 100 pounds of wool, 50 bushels of potatoes, $20 in orchard products, 500 pounds of butter, 25 tons of hay, and 12 bushels of clover seed”.  It is unsure where the Sherrick family moved to, possibility Boonsboro, but Leonard Emmert was still leasing the farm in the fall of 1862.

On the morning of September 15, 1862, Confederate forces under Robert E. Lee were falling back from their defeat at South Mountain.  But when Lee reached the Antietam Creek he stopped.  His small army went into a defensive mode around the town of Sharpsburg in order to wait for the rest of Lee’s men under General Stonewall Jackson to arrive from Harpers Ferry.  Near the Sherrick farm, Confederates under General David R. Jones’ division were positioned.  By the Rohrbach Bridge just down the road from the farmstead a Rebel brigade was posted on the heights above the bridge and along creek to prevent Union forces from easily crossing.  They were supported by Confederate artillery on hilltop across the Otto farm and on Cemetery Hill.  Confederate skirmishers were stationed across the fields waiting for the pending battle.

The battle on September 17 began at daybreak, but it seemed that it was happening to the north of Sharpsburg with the exception of the artillery batteries dueling back and forth.  About mid-morning, the Union Ninth Corps under General Ambrose Burnside began their assault against the Confederates to take the bridge and cross the Antietam Creek.  The Rebel forces were able to hold off the Federals for about three hours before they finally gave way and withdrew to the high ground along the Sherrick farm lane.  To the north of the Sherrick house Union forces crossed over the Middle Bridge at the Newcomer or Mumma Mill and began pressing skirmishers and artillery forward.

battlefield map

Sherrick Farm, Sept. 17, 1862 at 4:20pm

By 3:00 pm, the Union Ninth Corps was across the Antietam and in position to began their assault against the Confederate right.  The Union battle line stretched for almost a mile, from the Sherrick’s 40-acre cornfield in the south, to the Otto farm, across the Rohrbach Bridge Road and through the Sherrick farm. Burnside’s right flank tied into elements of the Union Fifth Corps as they advanced up the Boonsboro Pike through Sherrick’s fields north of the farmstead.  The 79th New York Infantry advanced in a double line of skirmishers across the farm as they spearheaded the advance of Colonel Benjamin Christ’s brigade.  When the 79th New York reached the Sherrick house and outbuildings they met stiff resistance from South Carolinian’s in an apple orchard and around the building of the Solomon Lumm mill.  Heavy artillery fire from Rebel guns on Cemetery Hill stalled the advance as Christ deployed his three other regiments to move west across the Sherrick farm.

With support from Union artillery batteries, Christ advanced as Col. Thomas Welsh’s brigade pushed up the Sharpsburg Road to his left, dislodging the Confederates, forcing them to withdraw.  As Welsh’s men continued to fight their way to the outskirts of town, the far right flank of the Ninth Corps line was being stuck by General A.P. Hill’s Confederate troops in the middle of the 40-acre cornfield.  With the line slowing collapsing and men running low on ammunition, the Union troops were forced to fall back to their starting point.

Union causalities were being treated at the Sherrick and Otto farms as ambulances evacuated the wounded further to the rear to field hospitals at the Rohrbach and the J.F. Miller farms back across the Antietam.  As the sun set on September 17,  both sides settled in posting pickets in and around the Sherrick farm.  Neither side renewed the battle on the 18th but there was substantial picket firing throughout the day.  That evening the Confederates withdrew across the Potomac and Union forces moved into Sharpsburg.  One young Union soldier, Private R.G. Carter of the 22nd Massachusetts Infantry  wrote about the scene at the Sherrick house.

Pvt. Carter

Private R.G. Carter, 22nd Mass.

“the sun came out bright and beautiful … The enemy had now, it was soon discovered, left our front … Upon visiting Sherrick’s house this morning, we found it quite a sumptuous affair. It had been hastily evacuated, as it was between the lines. The foragers ahead of us had pulled out what edibles it contained, and among them a splendid assortment of jellies, preserves, etc., the pride of every Maryland woman’s heart, but now scattered all about. The orchard was filled with the choicest fruit. What a feast! Our stomachs just beginning to become accustomed to “salt horse” and “hard tack,” earnestly opened and yearned for this line of good things. No crowd of schoolboys, Let loose from the confinement of a recitation room, ever acted so absurdly, as did these rough, bronzed soldiers and recruit allies, on that death-strewn ground about Sherrick’s yard and orchard. They would seize a pot of jam, grape jelly, huckleberry stew, or pineapple preserve, and after capering about a while, with the most extravagant exhibitions of joy, would sit upon the ground, and with one piece of hard bread for a plate, and another for a scoop, would shovel out great heaps of the delectable stuff, which rapidly disappeared into their capacious mouths …

Dead soldier at Anteitam

Photo taken by Alexander Gardner of dead Confederates near the Sherrick farm

The buildings did not suffer much structural damage but the crops were ruined, and soldiers from both sides pillaged personal possessions. Joseph Sherrick claimed damage to his home of $8 from an artillery shell and $1,351 in damages from occupying Federal troops.  According to a letter written by Jacob Miller in October 1862, the Otto and Sherrick farms were full of encamped troops.  Miller noted that he had sown nine acres of wheat on his land and if not for the army’s presence, he would have been able to sow upwards of a hundred acres.  The foraging of Union soldiers immediately after the battle caused more destruction to the Sherrick farm than the actual battle did.  Although the Sherrick farm was not used as a hospital the fields and farmland became a burial ground for soldiers from both sides.

But the damage that the Sherrick farm received was nothing in comparison to their close friends, the Mumma family.  Their house was deliberately set on fire by the Confederates and that fire bled to almost all the other buildings. Joseph opened the house up for Samuel and his family to reside until their home was rebuilt in June 1863.


Benner-Spong Farm cir. 1910. LOC

By 1863, Joseph and his son-in-law Victor Newcomer were living in Funkstown about ten miles north of Sharpsburg.  After the Mumma family moved back to their farm it is unsure who lived on the Sherrick farm.  The property was most likely rented out to other tenant farmers.  It’s also possible that in an attempt to recoup some of their financial losses the Sherrick’s sold some of their land holdings.  That year following the battle, John Benner had been purchasing property from the Rohrbach family on the west side of the Antietam Creek.  In 1866, Benner acquired 9 acres from Joseph and Sarah Sherrick for $730.  A new farmstead was constructed there near the bridge and would be known as the Benner-Spong Farm.

Joseph and Sarah Sherrick gravestone

Joseph and Sarah Sherrick at the Mumma Cemetery


Victor Newcomer continued to seek money for the damages long after Joseph died in 1871, but he received very little compensation from the Federal government.  Joseph Sherrick, Jr. died on August 10, 1871.  Almost three years to the day, Sarah passed away in 1874.  Joseph and Sarah Sherrick are buried in the Mumma Cemetery, with Joseph’s parent and their friends the Mummas.



Sherrick Farm 1940

Sherrick Farm 1940


Sherrick Farm 1958

Sherrick Farm 1958

Sherrick Farm 1967

Sherrick Farm 1967








Over the next several decades the property remained in the Sherrick-Newcomer family, eventually being inherited by Anna Newcomer’s children, Frank S. Newcomer and Virginia S. Nicodemus.  During this time, parcels were sold to both veteran’s associations and the Federal government for monument placements.  In 1925 the property was purchased by James A. Dorsey.  The property stayed in the Dorsey family until 1964 when the 186-acre Sherrick farm (known as the Dorsey tract) was sold to the National Park Service.  The following year, as part of the Mission 66 project, work began on the Burnside Bridge Bypass Road.  By redirecting local traffic past the Sherrick farm and off the bridge, the National Park Service was able to restore the bridge and complete an interpretive tour stop.

The Sherrick House remains as it was originally configured when it was build in 1835.  The summer kitchen was restored and the stone walls have been rebuilt.  Unfortunately the historic Sherrick barn was destroyed by fire in 1985, but the park service has been able to restore the foundation of the the barn.  Today the farmstead is beautifully maintained by the National Park Service and you can  hike the trails across the farmstead to the Burnside Bridge and walk the tour road around the Sherrick farm.  Not only was the Sherrick Farmstead an eyewitness to the terrible fighting that occurred there, but it is a reminder of how the families of Antietam were connected for generations and how they survived the ordeal of war.

Sherrick farm

Joseph Sherrick farmstead today

  • Ancestry.com, Joseph Sherrick Family, Census Data 1850-1880.  Retrieved from: https://www.ancestry.com\
  • Biscoe, Thomas Dwight and Walt Stanley. The view from the Conf. side of Antietam Creek near Burnside Bridge looks probably about North,. DeGolyer Library, Southern Methodist University, 1884.  Retrieved from: http://digitalcollections.smu.edu/cdm/singleitem/collection/civ/id/132/rec/25
  • Civil War Talk. Sherrick House at Antietam Interior Photographs/Tour  Retrieved fromhttps://civilwartalk.com/threads/sherrick-house-at-antietam-interior-photographs-tour.158270/
  • Carter, Robert Goldthwaite Four brothers in blue; or, Sunshine and shadows of the War of the Rebellion; a story of the great civil war from Bull Run to Appomattox. Washington, Press of Gibson Bros., Inc., 1913. Retrieved from: https://archive.org/details/cu31924032780623/page/n283/mode/2up/search/Antietam
  • Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division; Historic American Buildings Survey/Historic American Engineering Record/Historic American Landscapes Survey, Antietam, Maryland. Battlefield near Sherrick’s house where the 79th N.Y. Vols. fought after they crossed the creek. Group of dead Confederates, MD. Washington, D.C. Retrieved from https://www.loc.gov/resource/cwpb.01112/
  • Maryland Historical Trust, Sherrick House, WA-II-334, Maryland Inventory of Historic Properties Form, 1978.
  • Oehrlein & Associates Architects, Sherrick House Historic Structures Report. United States Department of the Interior, National Park Service, 1995.
  • Reardon, Carol and Tom Vossler, A Field Guide to Antietam: experiencing the battlefield through history, places and people, Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 2016.
  • Schmidt, Alann and Terry Barklery. September mourn: the Dunker Church of Antietam Battlefield, El Dorado Hill, CA: Savas Beatie LLC. 2018.Taggert, Thomas, Map of Washington County. L. McKee and C.G. Roberton, Hagerstown, Maryland 1859.
  • Summerfield, Mark. Sherrick House. Retrived from: http://msummerfieldimages.com/sherrick-farm/
  • U.S. National Park Service, Burnside Bridge Area Cultural Landscape InventoryAntietam National Battlefield, Washington D.C.: Government Printing Office, 2016.
  • U.S. National Park Service, Burnside Bridge Area Cultural Landscape ReportAntietam National Battlefield, Washington D.C.: Government Printing Office, 2018.
  • Walker, Kevin M., Antietam Farmsteads: A Guide to the Battlefield Landscape. Sharpsburg: Western Maryland Interpretive Association, 2010.
  • Wolfe, Robert and Janet.  Robert and Janet Wolfe Genealogy  – Joseph Sherk. Retrieved from: https://www-personal.umich.edu/~bobwolfe/gen/person/g5803.htm
  • 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 – Phillip Pry Farm

February 28, 2020 by jacobrohrbach

The Pry House built in 1844

As discussed in early Farmstead blogs, Joseph Chapline had been acquiring hundreds of acres of land along the Potomac River through grants and purchases.  After the French and Indian War ended, Chapline was rewarded for his contributions and service.  Maryland Governor Horatio Sharpe granted Chapline over 10,000 acres adjacent to his existing estate in 1763.  Joseph Chapline was one of the largest landholders west of Frederick town with more than 15,000 acres, or 24 square miles in the Antietam Valley, 



Map of the early land tracts including “Resurvey of Hills and Dales and Vineyard”

Joseph Chapline died on January 8, 1769, and in his Last Will and Testament, the huge estate was divided among Joseph’s nine children.  A large portion of the tract of land known as the Resurvey of Hills and Dales and Vineyard lay to the east of the Antietam Creek.  Several of the children sold parts of the land tracts that they received and Abraham Baker purchased 140 acres of the Resurvey of Hills and Dales and Vineyard tract on March 18, 1812.  Just over a month later on April 26, 1812 Baker sold 126 3/4 acres of the property to Philip Pry, Sr., a relative newcomer to Washington County.


Philip’s father was a German-born immigrant of Huguenot descent named John DeBrie.  John immigrated to colonial America with his siblings and mother as an indentured servant when he was six years old.  Unfortunately, John’s mother died on the voyage across the Atlantic.  In New York,  John served out his indenture and was raised by a gentleman named Mr. Rohrer. On his twenty-first birthday, John was given a horse and he moved to Pennsylvania.  Once there he changed his last name from DeBrie to either Bryen or Bryan and later to Bry.   John married and in 1760 had a son, Philip.

Philip’s first wife, Anna Elizabeth died early in their marriage leaving no children. His second wife Susannah would bear him three children: Samuel (1814), Susannah (1815) and Philip, Jr. (1817).  Philip arrived in Washington County, Maryland in 1810.  It was here that Philip changed his name to Pry, purchased the property from Abraham Baker, started farming and began his family.  Philip Sr. most likely farmed his lands until his death on May 1, 1823.  He was buried in Fairview Cemetery in Keedysville.  According to his will, he left this land to his wife, Susannah to manage.  When Philip Jr., who was six years old at the time, reached the age of twenty-one the estate would be divided between the two sons – Philip and Samuel.

Philip and Samuel Pry

Approximate boundary of Pry Farm


Philip and his brother Samuel would continue to add land to their family holdings.  In April 1839, the Pry brothers purchased an eighteen acre parcel of land from the tract of Resurvey of the Hill and Dales and the Vineyards owned by Catherine Hershey.  According to the land records, this was “adjoining the lands owned ‘by the heirs of Philip Pry deceased'”.



It is unknown if this addition included the rise of high ground just east of the Antietam Creek with a commanding view to the west, but it is on this crest where Philip and Samuel would build a two-story brick house in the summer of 1844.  This Greek Revival architectural style was very popular at the time.  The bricks were manufactured on site and Philip carved his name and date on two of them, one on each side of the main entrance.

The Pry House

Back ell of the house

Tree lined drive






Once the house was completed a large bank barn was constructed just down the hill from the house with stalls, feeding mangers, and “run ins”  to manage the livestock on the lower level.  The upper level was used to process field crops and storehouses for fodder and grain.  A spring was just off to the side of the barn.



Bank barn

Wagon shed and corn crib







Just to the west side of the house was the kitchen and domestic building.  To the front of the house at the bottom of the slope stood a few stone buildings and the root cellar.

Kitchen ruins

Root cellar

site of stone buildings






Samuel and Barbara Keedy Cost, a prominent Keedysville family were good friends of the Prys.  Samuel was a lifelong resident of the area, a successful shoemaker and farmer, and would amass a farm of more than 450 acres.  Samuel and Barbara had six children and two of their daughters – Mary Ann and Elizabeth Ellen, would eventually marry the Pry brothers.

Philip and Elizabeth Pry


On December 17, 1844 Mary Ann and Samuel would be married and have seven children.  Just three years later on December 2, 1847, Elizabeth Ellen and Philip were also married and had seven children, five by the time of the battle: Samuel Cost (1848), Alfred Luther (1850), Ellen Elizabeth (1853), Jacob Alexander (1857), Charles Webster (1859), Annie Deaner (1861) and Mary Elizabeth (1866).  All but Ellen Elizabeth survived to adulthood.



The Pry Mill

Just a year earlier, the property along the Little Antietam and the Antietam Creek, adjacent to the the Pry’s was subdivided into a 20.25 acre tract (with the Hitt mill) and a 130 acre tract (Hitt farm).  Mary Ann and Elizabeth Ellen’s older brother, Jacob Cost would purchase the 130 acre farm and on December 17, 1847, Samuel and Philip Pry purchased the mill property.  Samuel Pry would become the sole proprietor of the mill in 1850 and rebuilt the two-story stone mill with brick, and the mill assumed the shape it still has today . The first two levels are the coursed stone of the original mill.  The mill property would remain in the Pry family until 1941 although milling operations ceased in 1926.

Location of the “Bunker Hill Farm” that Philip Pry purchased

The Pry and the Cost families were members of the Reformed Church and very active in the congregation of the Mount Vernon German Reformed Church of Keedysville.  As the Pry’s raised their families, the farm and the grist mill prospered in the years prior to 1860.  According to the 1860 census, Philip’s farm was valued at $14,000 with another $1,800 in personal property.  Samuel’s mill was listed at $12,000 with $1,500 in personal property.  In 1861, Philip purchased more than 160 acres from Samuel Mumma, what he called “lower farm”, for $10,500.  Phillip renamed the 166 acre property the “Bunker Hill Farm”.  Phillip and his family continued to live at their farm just across the Antietam but rented the Bunker Hill Farm to a tenant named Joseph Parks. (Learn about the Joseph Parks Farm)

Philip had his two older boys to help with the work around the farm, but he also hired a farm hand that lived with them, 22 year old William Gitmaker.  It is unclear whether or not the Pry’s owned any slaves in 1860 but two African-American women lived in the household—Amanda Samper, age twenty, and Georgiana Rollins, age twelve.  Amanda served as the house keeper and  Georgianna served as a domestic servant.

Pry farm

Layout of the Philip Pry farm in 1862

Like many of the local families in the Antietam Valley, they began to gather at their places of worship on Sunday morning, September 14, 1862.  Just a few miles away on South Mountain, the Confederate Army clashed with Union forces moving west from Frederick.  Throughout the day and into the early evening the battle raged. Despite the Confederates attempt to hold the mountain passes, General Robert E. Lee’s army suffered heavy losses and was forced to withdraw back toward the Potomac River.  Wagons of wounded men moved down the Keedysville Pike past the Pry Farm heading to Shepherdstown, VA while the remainder of Lee’s army would hold up just across the Antietam Creek at Sharpsburg along the cemetery ridge.

The next day on September 15, the Union army under Major General George B. McClellan pursued the rebel rear guard through Boonsboro and Keedysville to the Antietam Creek.  There the Federals began to converge along the Keedysville Pike.  As it was getting too late in the day to begin any advance across the creek the Union Second Corp under Major General Edwin V. Sumner went into camp around the Pry farm.

The following morning a heavy fog blanketed the Antietam Valley as more Union troops and artillery took up positions along the east side of the Antietam.  By mid-day the fog began to burn off and Confederate gunners on Cemetery Hill started to shell the Union forces.  At the Pry farm, the family were in the middle of their daily chores when according to family lore a young captain by the name of George Armstrong Custer knocked on their door.  Captain Custer, being a staff officer on McClellan’s staff, informed them that their farm would serve as a forward command post for Gen. McClellan.

Battlefield map showing Union forces around the Pry farm

Soon the Pry farm became a hub of activity and a gathering place for Gen. McClellan, his staff and other officers.  A system of signal stations had been established at Red Hill, the high peak on Elk Ridge and other locations across the Union line to observe the Confederate positions and movement on the west side of the Antietam.  Couriers were continually riding in with reports and updates.  Telescopes had been set up on the bluff by the house to observe the field.  That afternoon, McClellan accompanied Major General Joseph Hooker and his First Corps as they crossed over the Antietam Creek at the Upper Bridge past Samuel Pry’s Mill and the Samuel Cost farm.  Later that evening McClellan returned to the Pry house after ordering the Union Twelfth Corps, under Brigadier General Joseph Mansfield, to take the same route of march to support Hooker’s men.  The stage had been set for the next days battle that would become the bloodiest single day in American history.

The battle began at daybreak on Wednesday, September 17 with some skirmishing in the East Woods that turned into a major engagement.  Soon the artillery joined in from both sides. Gen. McClellan and his staff watched the opening salvos from the bluff as Hooker’s men moved south from the North Woods.  Soon wounded officers and men began to arrive at the farm which was quickly being turned into a hospital.  McClellan ordered an ambulance to take Mrs. Pry and the children to the home of Jacob Keedy near Keedysville.  Philip Pry stayed at the farm during the entire battle.  During the early morning fight a Mr. Rohrer from Keedysville was brought to the bluff ‘to plot smoke from artillery burst on a large map in the yard’. It is said that several times during the fighting McClellan went up to the attic to stand on a barrel out the trapdoor to look over the field from this vantage point.

Alexander Garner photo of the Pry House

Around  7:30am, McClellan gave orders to Gen. Sumner to move the Second Corps over the Antietam to join in the fight.  Dr. J.H. Taylor, stayed behind to begin setting up hospitals not only at the Pry Farm but at the Cost Farm and Samuel Pry’s Mill.  Gen. Hooker arrived with a wound to his foot that morning.  He was treated in the parlor and taken to Keedysville. Soon the barn and outbuildings were filled with wounded soldiers and Union officers were being brought to the house.  Major General Israel B. Richardson, a Second Corps division commander was severely wounded by a shell burst near the Sunken Road.  Richardson was evacuated to the Pry Mill for initial treatment before taken to the Pry House.  He was taken to the large bedroom on the second floor.   “General McClellan sent Dr. Horace, a member of his staff, and Medical Director Dr. Jonathan Letterman to examine Richardson. Both men feared shrapnel had lodged in his left lung and deemed the wound mortal”  Two weeks after the battle on October 2nd, during a visit to the battlefield, President Abraham Lincoln stopped at the Pry house to visit the wounded General Richardson. Under the care of Dr. Taylor and Richardson’s wife Fannie, he started to recover but tragically Richardson succumbed to his wounds and died in the upstairs room of the Pry house on November 3, 1862.

By night fall on September 17 the battle would be over but the wounded were still coming to the farm.  An estimated 1,500 injured soldiers were cared for at the Pry farm.  Gen. McClellan left that night to return to his headquarters west of Keedysville. On September 19, the Union army pursued Lee’s retreating army to the Potomac and the campaign would come to an end with a battle at the Shepherdstown Ford the following day.   Like many, if not all the Pry’s neighbors and friends in the area, the war had come and gone but they were left with the remnants.  Several weeks later when Dr. Elijah Harris of the U.S. Sanitary Commission came to inspect the hospital, he reported that 250 wounded and sick men were still receiving attention.    The Pry farm would remain a hospital for at least two months.  Their crops had been eaten, fields destroyed, and their fences were cut down for firewood.

Damage Claim submitted by Philip Pry

The Prys would do their best to recover after the battle but it almost ruined Philip Pry.  According to Mr. Pry a board of appraiser would be around to appraise the value of the property used, but the army had moved on before the task could be completed. He had to wait until November 27, 1865 to receive his first payment in the amount of $2,662.50 for military damages.

When the claim was submitted, an agent came to investigate.  They questioned several individuals loyalty to the Union during wartime and character witness were interviewed.  “Jacob Cost, C. M. Keedy, Samuel Keedy, Alfred N. Cost, Ezra Lantz, F. Wyand, and David Bell testified that they were farmers and neighbors of the Prys. They reported visiting the Pry farm frequently in the fall of 1862, and personally knowing that Philip lost heavily.”  Philip stated that Union horses consumed 900 bushels of wheat and twenty acres of corn, 85 acres of the farm was used as a pasture by the Union horses, and fifteen hundred feet of lumber had been taken to build Union hospitals.  Phillip also sought rent for the use of his house as a hospital during and after the battle.

Two other claims were paid out seven years later in 1872 for a total amount of 1,581.03, a full decade after the Battle of Antietam. However there was a claim made by the government that this was an overpayment. Unfortunately, the government deemed part of this to be overpayment and Philip Pry was forced to repay $1,209.38.  With this financial burden of overpayment, legal fees, and attempting to get the farm back into shape the Prys were forced to sell the farm and move to Tennessee in 1874.

Maryland Senator, William T. Hamilton, writing from the U. S. Senate Chamber on February 25, 1874, said of Philip Pry:  “Before the war he was a prosperous man, owning one of- the finest farms in the county lying in the vicinity of the battlefield of Antietam. He is now in serious circumstances. I have known him for thirty years, an upright, honest man and good citizen. His loyalty is unquestioned”.

The Pry Memory Quilt

The farm was sold to Daniel W. Wyand of Washington County for the sum of $14,172.50 containing 141 ½ acres.  Before departing for eastern Tennessee, friends and family in the community gathered and made a Memory Quilt as a parting gift. Many of the friends and neighbors that Elizabeth and Philip had known all their lives personalized a block of the quilt with their signatures or brief sentimental notes.


Pry gravesite

Elizabeth and Philip Pry’s gravesite at the Fairview Cemetery in Keedysville

The Prys lived near Johnson City, Tennessee until Elizabeth passed away on February 1, 1886.  Upon her death, Elizabeth wished to return home to Keedysville, so Philip and their daughter Annie accompanied her remains back to Maryland to be buried next to her family at Fairview Cemetery in Keedysville.  After the service, Philip stopped one last time to visit the home he had built over forty year before on that bluff overlooking the Antietam Creek.  Annie’s daughter Elizabeth Jones wrote of this return visit, “As you enter the house to your left is a room then from that room you enter a room–that was where all the children were born. Mamma told me when she and her father visited the house he stopped in that room and cried“.  Philip passed away on February 3, 1900 and was buried alongside his wife.

The farm changed hands eight times until January 31, 1956 when Leo B. and Vila M. Wyand purchased the farm and 123 acres from Victor and Ruth Stine.  The Wyand’s continued to farm the property until 1971 when the land was resurveyed and a parcel of 155.68 acres was sold to Recreational Properties Associates.  Three years later on March 7, 1974, the Recreational Properties Associates sold a tract of land containing two acres around the Pry house and barn to the United States Government with 24.67 acres scenic easement for $62,500.

In the fall of 1976 an electrical fire damaged part of the first and second floors.  The National Park Service restored and renovated the structure.  In 2005 the Park Service partnered with the National Civil War Medicine Museum to establish the Pry House Field Hospital Museum.  Today the Pry House is one of the two farmsteads on the battlefield that are open to the public.  Visitors to the  Pry House Field Hospital Museum are able to explore the house, barn and grounds of the farm.  Here they learn about the medical aspects of the battle and they hear the tragic story of the Pry family and how their farm became an eyewitness to history on September 17, 1862.

The Philip and Elizabeth Pry Farm today.


  • Barron, Lee and Barbara Barron, The History of Sharpsburg, Maryland: Founded by Joseph Chapline, 1763. Sharpsburg: self-published, 1972.
  • 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
  • The National Museum of Civil War Medicine, Pry House and Family History, Frederick MD. 2020.  Retrieved from http://www.civilwarmed.org
  • Washington County Historical Trust, Pry Mill, circa 1820, west of Keedysville, MD, Hagerston, MD 1998. Retrieved from http://washingtoncountyhistoricaltrust.org/pry-mill-circa-1820-west-of-keedysville-md
  • Maryland Historical Trust, Hitt’s Mill Complex, WA-II-120, Maryland Inventory of Historic Properties Form, 1978, July 2003.
  • 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, ANTI-WA-II-477, Washington D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1990.
  • U.S. National Park Service, Philip Pry House, Antietam National Battlefield, Historic Structures Report Washington D.C.: Government Printing Office, 2004.
  • 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.
  • 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


The Farmsteads of Antietam Tour

October 29, 2019 by jacobrohrbach

The Dunker Church and debris after the battle

For those that remember the PBS series “The Civil War” by Ken Burns, the opening scenes begin with this statement:
“The Civil War was fought in 10,000 places, from Valverde, New Mexico, and Tullahoma, Tennessee, to St. Albans, Vermont, and Fernandina on the Florida coast. More than 3 million Americans fought in it, and over 600,000 men—2 percent of the population—died in it.  American homes became headquarters, American churches and schoolhouses sheltered the dying, and huge foraging armies swept across American farms and burned American towns. Americans slaughtered one another wholesale, right here in America in their own cornfields and peach orchards, along familiar roads and by waters with old American names.”

Lutheran Church in Sharpsburg after the battle

No where was this more true than here at Sharpsburg.  The Battle of Antietam had effected everyone living in and around Sharpsburg. The battle only lasted one day but for the civilians living in the wake of this man-made disaster, the effects of the battle were felt for weeks’, months’, and even years.

Sharpsburg was the first organized community in the United States to suffer widespread damage from both the combat and the sheer presence of two opposing armies of more than 120,000 Rebel and Yankee soldiers and some 50,000 horses & mules.


The debris of battle

This would led to a tremendous threat of disease from the thousands of dead men and animals rotting in the warm September sun and the thousands of wounded left to be cared for in the field hospitals.

Combat and disease were not the only threats posed by the large battle. Economic devastation loomed as an all-too-real possibility. At Sharpsburg  soldiers from both sides raided farms and homes, carrying off valuables, destroying property, and confiscating livestock and crops as provender for the armies.


Joseph Poffenberger Farm

The Antietam National Battlefield is said to be one of the most pristine and well restored Civil War battlefields. When you look across the landscape little has changed since that fateful day of September 17, 1862. The preserved fence lines, 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 were caught up in the events swirling around the homes where for generations families lived, worked, played, and died.

Now you can join the Antietam Battlefield Guides for a Specialty Tour of “The Farmsteads of Antietam”.  Chief Guide, Chris Vincent has formatted a 3-hour guided tour of the historic Farmsteads of Antietam to learn about the families, their history, the farmsteads and how they recovered from the battle.


The tour will take you to each of the eleven farmsteads across the battlefield to discuss:

Who lived on the farmsteads at the time of the battle?

David R. and Margaret Miller










What did the farm look like?








What did the families do during the battle?

Fighting around Roulette Farm










What happened to the families and farms after the battle?

Otho Poffenberger family, c. 1880








For more information about this tour and other Specialty Tours offered by the Antietam battlefield Guides, contact the Antietam Museum Store at 301-432-4329.

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.



Main House (vinyl siding covering original wood siding)







Summer 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.

  • 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