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The Farmsteads of Antietam – Jacob Avey Farm

July 31, 2021 by jacobrohrbach

Avey farm view

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

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

land patents

Location of land patents around Sharpsburg

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

land tracts

The land tracts around Sharpsburg

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

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

Joseph Avey's home near Taylor's Landing

Joseph Avey’s home near Taylor’s Landing

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

Notice of the John J. Hays estate.

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

property owned by Avey

Approx. property line of the land owned by Jacob Avey

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

1860 census

Jacob Avey family, 186o Census

 

1859 Taggart map of Sharpsburg.

1859 Taggart map of Sharpsburg.

Avey farm in 1862

Jacob Avey farm in 1862

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

house

Avey House

out kitchen

Out kitchen

spring house

Springhouse

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

S.G. Elliott map 1864

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

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

1868 Bowie List identifying the Rebel dead on the Avey Farm

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

 

 

 

 

 

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

Veterans of the 9th NY at the monument dedication.

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

Aerial photo over the Avey farm looking toward Sharpsburg.

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

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

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

 

 

Tolson’s Chapel and School

July 7, 2021 by jacobrohrbach

Emancipation Proclamation

Emancipation Proclamation (LoC)

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

The beginning of Tolson’s Chapel

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

tolson's chapel

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

The start of a school

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

The Cemetery

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

Preservation, Restoration and Interpretation

Tolson’s Chapel

Tolson’s Chapel in 1988

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

 

Tolson’s Chapel

Tolson’s Chapel today (NPS)

Become a Friend of Tolson’s Chapel and School

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

Directions

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

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

The Farmsteads of Antietam – Samuel Poffenberger Farm

April 30, 2021 by jacobrohrbach

Sam Poffenberger farm in distance

Sam Poffenberger farm in distance, looking east across the Smoketown Road. 1891

On the late afternoon of September 16, 1862 Union soldiers pushed down the Smoketown Road as they pursued Confederate cavalry. Upon reaching the Samuel Poffenberger farm the 13th Pennsylvania Reserves, the “Bucktails”, deployed as skirmishers and crossed his fields meeting stiff resistance from John Bell Hood’s Confederates.  The Bucktails continued to advance to the edge of the woods exchanging volleys with Hood’s men.  Colonel Hugh McNeil, commander of the Bucktails, stood to encourage his men to push into the woodlot, “Forward, Bucktails, Forward!” just then he was shot through the heart and died. His angry men jumped over the fence rail into the woods but were checked by the stubborn Rebel battle line.  Other Pennsylvania Reserve regiments moved into the East Woods as support, but as darkness set in both sides settled in just yards apart from each other laying on their arms.  Just north of the house and barn Union soldiers from Brigadier General James Ricketts Division bivouacked for the evening.

The Battle of Antietam started on the Samuel Poffenberger farm in what is known today as the East Woods. The farmstead is still a working farm on private property and it remains in the stewardship of the descendants of the Poffenberger family. 

1803 Tax Assessment

1803 Tax Assessment for Sharpsburg Hundred

In 1791, German-born immigrant, John Miller arrival in Washington County, Maryland.  Miller was part of the wave of German farmers that moved from south central Pennsylvania into the area. According to the tax assessment for Sharpsburg Hundred, by 1803  John Miller owned 632 acres of “Alese [Ellwick’s] Dwelling” and “Joe’s Farm,” both located north of the town of Sharpsburg.

Land Patents around sharpsburg

Land Patents around the John Miller farm

Stone house

Stone house the John Miller built

Most of the acreage from Ellwick’s Dwelling would later be know as the Samuel Poffenberger Farm.  John and Catherine Miller first built a log house on the property, then a stone house was built between 1802 and 1804.  The 2 1/2 story field stone house had five bays with a wing built over the spring and contains the kitchen with a massive cooking fireplace.  Under the main house the cellar has three rooms and another large service fireplace. 

 

Like the other early farmers in the Antietam Valley, the Miller’s cleared more and more of the land for farming.   When John Miller died in 1821, his extensive land holdings were divided among several of his children.  Daniel Miller, the oldest son was living on a new farmstead to the east of his father (listed as D. Miller on the 1859 Map of Washington Co.). John Miller’s other son Abraham, received full interest in this farm.  After thirty years improving the farmstead, Abraham moved west to Illinois.  During this period a large stone bank barn was built, a number of dependencies, including a wagon shed and a fenced orchard north of the barn along the farm lane leading out to the Smoketown Road.

Poffenberger Farmstead

*Sam Poffenberger Farmstead

Poffenberger Barn

*Poffenberger Barn

 

 

 

 

 

 

In 1854, the property was acquired by Jacob Poffenberger who sold it the following year to his son Henry Poffenberger.  It is possible that Henry and his family lived at the farm during this brief period. On the 1860 Census, there is a Henry Poffenberger listed next to Michael Miller (Daniel’s son).  Sometime before 1860, a tenant house was constructed  just south of the house along the road leading north out of the woods.  The farm hand living next to Henry was a David Jacobs.  According to the battlefield maps produced by Ezra Carmen in 1908, and post war photos, the tenant house was occupied by a Simon P. Morrison in 1862. 

tenant house

Poffenberger tenant house, 1893.

Poffenberger Farm in 1862

Samuel Poffenberger Farm in 1862

 

 

 

 

 

 

Approximate property boundary of the S. Poffenberger farm in 1862

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Samuel and Catharine Poffenberger

*Samuel and Catharine Poffenberger

 

“On April 1, 1862, Samuel Doub bought the farm for his daughter Catharine and her husband, [Samuel Poffenberger] for $11,101.29”.  Samuel was one of several children of Jacob Poffenberger who lived east of Bakersville along the Hagerstown Pike.  At 24 years old, Samuel was still living and working on the family farm until he married Catherine on January 22, 1861. The following year, the young couple moved to the farm gifted to them from Samuel Doub.

 

The Samuel Doub farm was just off the Boonsboro Pike near Centerville or Keedysville (near Bonnie’s at the Red Byrd restaurant today).  At the time of the Battle of Antietam the Poffenberger’s did not have any children. Their first child was born in 1865  and they would have six children, unfortunately only three would survive to adulthood.  It is believed that the young couple went to Samuel’s parent’s farm north of the battle area for safety.

battlefield map

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

 

At daybreak, the Battle of Antietam resumed in the woods south of the farmhouse and spread to the west to the Poffenberger’s neighbors, David R. and Margaret Miller. Union forces pushed south into the Confederate battle lines. Back and forth the sides pushed the other back through the East Woods. Finally, the Union Twelfth Corps, under Major General Joseph Mansfield arrived on the field near the East Woods.

 

 

Gould Map of the Antietam Battlefield

John Gould Map of the Antietam Battlefield where the 10th Maine fought and Mansfield wounded.

 

Being new to command and short staffed, Mansfield moved forward to deploy his infantry regiments into position when another Confederate attack struck.  Mansfield had mistakenly thought the troops to his front were Union, yelling out to his men, “You are firing on our own men!” But the soldiers from the 10th Maine try to convince him otherwise. Suddenly with a heavy volume of fire from the woods, Mansfield replied, “Yes, yes, you are right,”. Mansfield’s horse was hit and a bullet caught him squarely in the right chest. 

 

 

Mansfield cannon

Location of Gen. Mansfield wounding near the East Woods.

 

Mansfield was taken back up the Smoketown Road to the George Line farm when he would die the next day.  A division of the Twelfth Corps continued to push the Confederates through the woods, beyond the burning Samuel Mumma farm to the Dunker Church plateau. With no more threat from direct fire, the Samuel Poffenberger farm quickly became a field hospital and would be known as the “Stone House Hospital”.

 

Union and Confederate soldiers would be treated at the Stone House Hospital. Dr. Elisha Harris noted on one of his visits after the battle, that “75 soldiers were hospitalized, but the house had a capacity for 225”.  The Union surgeons were Dr. Chaddock and Dr. Young; Dr. Pierra, a Confederate surgeon, assisted the wounded.  Dr. Harris said that the Stone House hospital was “faithfully managed, every patient properly and kindly treated. Success good. No ambulances. Dr, C. has been overworked: he had but one assistant except a Confederate surgeon, he has taken care of his patients very faithfully”.

Helen Plane

 

One of the Confederate soldiers that was treated at the Stone House hospital was Captain William F. Plane.  He was critically wounded while leading a company of the Sixth Georgia Infantry in the Cornfield.  On September 9, Captain Plane had written to his wife, Helen back in Baker County, Georgia just before leaving Frederick.  He had talked about the beginning days of their campaign into Maryland and that he would be sending “an enameled leather bag with shoes, button, needles, thread & pins” to her the first opportunity he had.  He closed with, “God bless you my dear, and our baby boy. Love to Ira & the children. I am hurried up & hardly have time to say a word more. God bless all & give us success and peace”. “Yr own Willie”

 

Capt. W.L. Plane on Bowie List

This was the last letter Captain Plane wrote to his wife. On September 21, Colonel Alfred Colquitt, the brigade commander and very good friend to the Planes, wrote to Helen to notify her of her husband’s death.  Col. Colquitt explained that her husband had been seriously wounded and fell while trying to carry Col. Newton from the field.  As much as Colquitt wished to believe  Capt. Plane was just wounded and in the enemy’s care, he had found out the he and another officer were buried.   According to the 1868, Bowie List, Capt. W. F. Plane, 6th Ga, was buried on the Samuel Poffenberger farm.

 

Edward N. Fulton jacket and photo

Edward N. Fulton’s jacket and photo

Private Edward N. Fulton of the 72nd Pennsylvania Volunteers was shot through both legs while fighting in the West Woods.  He was evacuated to the Stone House hospital for treatment.  On October 4, he wrote his mother from the Stone House hospital discussing his wounds and the care he is being given.  He closes with, “We are all to be moved to the General Hospital about 1 1/2 miles from here“. The next day, Fulton was moved to the General Hospital at Smoketown and the remaining wounded soldiers at Stone House hospital were moved to other locations as well.  The Samuel Poffenberger farm was appropriated for 19 days by the Union army and it is very possible that Clara Barton administered assistance to the soldiers there during her time at Antietam.

 

Poffenberger house

*Poffenberger house, ca. 1890’s
Samuel, Catharine and Edward on front porch

It is almost certain that claims were submitted for the use of the farm as a hospital and damage to the fields and fencing, but no record has been found. In 1868, Samuel paid $12,442 to his father-in-law,  Samuel Doub for the title to their property.  Over the next several years, the Poffenberger’s restored their farmstead as their family grew.  Around this time it is believe that a brick wing was added to the house, it may have encompassed a summer kitchen on that side of the home.

 

In 1870, Samuel Poffenberger’s farm of 178 acres was valued at $12,000.  They had “produced 1030 bushels of wheat, 57 bushels of rye, and 800 bushels of corn, with an annual labor cost of $500. Ten years later, even though Samuel had sold off a 12 acre section, the 165-acre farm saw an increase in production.  The farm “was valued at $10,000, produced 1,120 bushels of wheat, 75 bushels of rye, and 1,000 bushels of corn, with an annual labor cost of $60, and an additional cost of $125 for fertilizer”.

Samuel & Catharine Poffenberger grave

Samuel & Catharine Poffenberger grave in the Boonsboro Cemetery

 

 

 

By 1880, Samuel and Catharine’s son, Edward, took over the farm operations as his parents moved to Antietam Street in Sharpsburg.  Catharine passed away in 1897 and Samuel died in January, 1917. They are buried together in the Boonsboro Cemetery.

 

 

 

Edward & Bertha Poffenberger

*Edward & Bertha Poffenberger

Soon after the death of his father, Edward Poffenberger retired from farming.  Over the next thirty years he rented the farm out until his daughter, Erma U. Poffenberger Kefauver and her husband Millard bought the property in 1948. Erma and Millard completely restored the house and many of the “precious family heirlooms. Samuel Poffenberger’s rocker, dry sink, dining table and tall clock are still in use”.  (According to Nancy Kefauver, Samuel Poffenberger purchased the clock for $10. and it was a wedding gift to her and her husband.  It has always been in the corner of the dining room.)

 

clock and chair

*Sam Poffenberger’s Clock and rocker

Their son, Millard Kefauver, Jr., was raised on the farm and went off to Johns Hopkins to college.  It was here where Millard met his future wife, Nancy Neill. They were working on degrees in mechanical engineering and mathematics. The couple married in 1956 and shortly after their wedding Millard convinced Nancy to move back to the dairy farm.    Growing up in the city, Nancy know nothing about farming but loved animals. Nancy said that her husband [Millard] never took to the cows and that the feeling was mutual among the cows, so she became the primary milker and she officially retired from the milking job four years ago.  Nancy still lives on the farm.

For 166 years the farmstead has been in the Poffenberger-Kefauver family and will remain so as a great example of private stewardship of the land and an eyewitness to history.

 

Poffenberger-Kefauver Farm

The Poffenberger-Kefauver Farm                    (Nancy Kefauver standing just inside the door)

*We are very grateful to Nancy Kefauver for taking the time to talk we us about the history of the farm, her family and sharing the photos of the her family and Poffenberger-Kefauver Farm.

* Photos provided by Nancy Kefauver of the farm and family did not have dates when they were taken, most likely between 1885-1901.

Sources:
  • Ancestry.com, Jacob Miller Family, Samuel Poffenberger Family, Millard Kefauver Family, Census Data 1840-1940.  Retrieved from: https://www.ancestry.com\.
  • Banks, John, Antietam Time Travel: A Veteran of America’s Bloodiest Day Returns to Capture Photos of Scenes of Carnage. January 2019
      https://www.historynet.com/antietam-time-travel.htm.
  • Ernst, Kathleen A., Too Afraid to Cry: Maryland Civilians in the Antietam Campaign, Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 1999.
  • Fulton, Edward A. Edward A. Fulton Collection, American Civil War Digital Collections: Letters, Special Collections, University of Delaware Library, Newark, Delaware. Retrieved https://library.udel.edu/special/findaids/view?docId=ead/mss0218.xml;tab=print.
  • Goud, John M., Joseph K. F. Mansfield, Brigadier General of the U.S. Army A Narrative of Events Connected with His Mortal Wounding at Antietam, Sharpsburg, Maryland, September 17, 1862. Portland, Stephen Berry, Printer 1895. retrieved: http://www.gutenberg.org/files/32258/32258-h/32258-h.htm.
  • Kefauver, Nancy N. Personal Interview, 29 April 2021.
  • Lewis, S. Joseph. “Letters of William Fisher Plane, C. S. A. to his wife.” The Georgia Historical Quarterly 48, no. 2 (1964): 215-28. Accessed April 11, 2021. http://www.jstor.org/stable/40578464.
  • Maryland. Board of Trustees of the Antietam National Cemetery, and 1869-1873 (Oden Bowie) Maryland. Governor. A Descriptive List of the Burial Places of the Remains of Confederate Soldiers: Who Fell In the Battles of Antietam, South Mountain, Monocacy, And Other Points In Washington And Frederick Counties, In the State of Maryland. Hagerstown, Md.: “Free press” print, 1868.
  • Maryland State Archives. Maryland Land Records On-Line, Washington County, April 25, 2021. https://mdlandrec.net/main/dsp_search.cfm?cid=WA.
  • Maryland Historical Trust, Kef-Poff Farm (Kefauver-Poffenberger Farm), WA-II-346, Maryland Inventory of Historic Properties Form, 1976.
  • Nelson, John N.  “As Grain Fall Before the Reaper”, The Federal Hospital Sites and Identified Federal Casualties at Antietam.  Hagerstown, MD. 2004.
  • Recker, Stephen J. Rare Images of Antietam: And the Photographers Who Took Them Another Software Miracle; Sharpsburg, Maryland 2012.
  • Taggert, Thomas, Map of Washington County. L. McKee and C.G. Roberton, Hagerstown, Maryland 1859.
  • Troiani, Don. Edward A Fulton image, Don Troiani Historical Artist, Facebook. May 4, 20202. Retrieved https://www.face
  • book.com/104952196246190/photos/a.104962546245155/3626084537466254/.
  • Washington Historical Trust, Architectural & Historic Treasures: 95 – Kef-Poff Farm, circa 1802, Sharpsburg, MD Hagerstown, Maryland September 7, 1997.  Retrieved   http://washingtoncountyhistoricaltrust.org/95-kef-poff-farm-circa-1802-sharpsburg-md/.
  • Western Maryland’s Historical Library. Washington County, Maryland, Taxes 1803 Lower Anteatum Hundred, Washington County, Maryland, 1803 https://digital.whilbr.org/digital/collection/p16715coll46/id/82/rec/11.
  • U.S. War Department, Atlas of the battlefield of Antietam, prepared under the direction of the Antietam Battlefield Board, lieut. col. Geo. W. Davis, U.S.A., president, gen. E.A. Carman, U.S.V., gen. H Heth, C.S.A. Surveyed by lieut. col. E.B. Cope, engineer, H.W. Mattern, assistant engineer, of the Gettysburg National Park. Drawn by Charles H. Ourand, 1899. Position of troops by gen. E. A. Carman. Published by authority of the Secretary of War, under the direction of the Chief of Engineers, U.S. Army, 1908.” Washington, Government Printing Office, 1908.   Retrieved from https://www.loc.gov/resource/g3842am.gcw0248000/?sp=5.

Civil War Sharpsburg Tour

April 25, 2021 by jacobrohrbach

Lutheran Church after the Battle of Antietam, 1862.

The residents of Sharpsburg not only witnessed the bloodiest day in American history, but they faced the day-to-day hardships on their doorstep for duration of the Civil War. Before the war, Sharpsburg was a thriving community of merchants, clerks, laborers, farmers, and several canal men. Many of those who called it home were of English, German, Scots Irish, or Swiss descent; they were Methodist, Lutheran, and Dunkers.

 

 

Sharpsburg, looking west from cemetery hill. 1862

They were caught up in the social, economic, and political issues of the time.  Sharpsburg became a hotbed of turmoil during the Civil War. Three major military campaigns would pass through the region, with almost ¾ million soldiers. The Union soldiers garrisoned in the area would lead to numbers of small unit incursions by the by combatants. For the civilians living in the wake of these man-made disasters, the effects of the military actions lasted weeks, months and even years.

 

Kretzer cellar during the Battle of Antietam

Sharpsburg was the first organized community in the United States to suffer widespread damage from both combat and the sheer presence of the opposing armies during the Battle of Antietam in September 1862.  The men, women and children that lived in Sharpsburg were ordinary people like you and I, caught up in the extraordinary circumstances of the times. “The war exploded on their thresholds, and the wake from that explosion rippled for miles.” Their story is no less important than that of the soldiers who fought in their cornfields, along country roads or across the Antietam. The war had forever changed the lives of the residents of Sharpsburg and that legacy can still be seen today.

Men of Sharpsburg by the Great Spring, 1907

Now you can join the Antietam Battlefield Guides for a Specialty Tour of “Civil War Sharpsburg“.  Chief Guide, Chris Vincent and local historian John Schildt have formatted a 3-hour guided tour of historic Sharpsburg.   During the tour visitors will  learn about the history of Sharpsburg, examine how tragedy and hardship touched the lives of the citizens of town, reflect on their experiences and the legacy of the Civil War.

For more information about how to book this Specialty Tour or a battlefield tour of Antietam, contact the Antietam Museum Store at (301) 432-4329.

The Antietam Institute

April 25, 2021 by jacobrohrbach

We are excited to pass on some great news for all our Civil War enthusiastic guests – the Antietam Institute was established this year in Sharpsburg!

Now students and scholars of the 1862 Maryland Campaign have a resource that focuses solely on the education and scholarship of this important moment in America’s history.  The Antietam Institute is the leading member-based, educational, and philanthropic 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, dedicated to the education and scholarship of the Maryland Campaign. The Institute seeks to educate the public on the central role of the 1862 Maryland Campaign and Battle of Antietam as a major turning point of the Civil War that directly resulted in the issuance of the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation.

Antietam Institute sponsored conferences, symposiums, publications, leadership forums, and other activities are designed to facilitate collaborative learning and knowledge exchange, creating unique opportunities for discovery and to inspire further historical research.  The Institute is developing new educational opportunity programs and scholarships for students and teachers.   Funding will allow the Institute to support and advance further historical research of the Campaign and provide a repository for the dissemination of historical information related to the 1862 Maryland Campaign.

Members will have opportunities to participate in a variety of educational activities. This year the Institute will hold it’s first Annual Fall Conference in October.  This weekend long event features several presentations, three battlefield excursions, and a panel discussion.  One of the highlights of the conference is the keynote address provided by a prominent authority on the campaign.  This year, retired Harpers Ferry historian, Dennis Frye will be the guest speaker.  Next spring the Institute is planning a one-day symposium that will be held in April. The symposium will showcase a number of presentations and discussions about the campaign. Both events will be informative, interactive, and thought-provoking.

A core activity of the Institute is the publication of materials that enhance the knowledge and understanding of the Maryland Campaign. This includes a bi-annual publication called the Antietam Journal: Perspectives on the 1862 Maryland Campaign.  The journal features the latest research, interpretation, and stories of the Maryland Campaign, and a variety of other sections, such as book reviews, interesting/unusual areas of the battlefields, stories about relics, and interviews. The first edition of the Antietam Journal will hit the street just before the 159th anniversary of the 1862 Maryland Campaign.

The Institute will also serve as a publishing house for other research and scholarship. Later this year the Institute will publish the The Brigades of Antietam, with a follow-up volume, The Artillery of Antietam coming in 2022.

The Antietam Institute will also house the Historical Research Center (HRC), an online locus for collecting, preserving, and disseminating in digital form, historical information related to the 1862 Maryland Campaign.  Institute members will have direct access to these unique source materials.

The Journal, other publications, and the HRC will advance the scholarship of the Maryland Campaign by inspiring historical research, creating unique opportunities of discovery, and by facilitating collaborative learning and knowledge exchange.

In partnership with the George Tyler Moore Center for the Study of the Civil War at Shepherd University, the Institute is sponsoring an academic internship for one of their outstanding undergraduate students. Working with the Institute’s staff, these interns will gain invaluable experience in journal editing and formatting, the development and implementation of educational programs, interacting with the Antietam Institute’s scholars and audiences, and researching a special topics project.

Each year the Institute will make donations to the battlefield parks, local preservation groups and other historical organizations that support the Institute’s goals. As a member-based organization, the new Antietam Institute needs the support of individuals interested in the 1862 Maryland Campaign. Membership levels begin as low as $25 a year and rise to a lifetime membership of only $1000. Each category has increasing levels of membership incentives.

The Antietam Institute is excited to offer these new educational opportunities to the public, students and scholars who wish to learn and participate in the scholarship of the 1862 Maryland Campaign. If you’re interested in joining or learning about the Institute, check out their website at antietaminstitute.org or email them at info@antietaminstitute.org.

The 93rd New York Infantry Regiment shortly after the Battle of Antietam. (AOTW)

The Farmsteads of Antietam – Jacob Houser Farm

January 29, 2021 by jacobrohrbach

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

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

1859 Taggert Map showing the Grove farms

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

1930 Houser farm

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

Farm house, 1976

 

 

 

 

 

Photo of barn – 1976.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

1850 Census Joseph Grove

1850 Census Joseph Grove

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

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

Jacob Houser 1860 census

1860 Census of the Jacob Houser Family

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

 

houser farm layout

Houser farm in 1862

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

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

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

Carman-Cope battlefield map at 7:20 am

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

Carman-Cope battlefield map at 9:00am

 

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

 

Elliot burial map of Houser farm

 

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

 

 

 

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

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

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

houser grave

Graves of Jacob and Harriet Houser at Mountain View Cemetery

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

Jacob Houser Farmstead today.

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

 

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

2021 Civil War Lecture Series

January 18, 2021 by jacobrohrbach

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

August 4 – John Schildt – “Roads to Gettysburg”

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

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

August 25 – Steve Stotelmyer – “The Insolence of Epaulets” 

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

 

 

 

 

 

The Farmsteads of Antietam – the Henry Rohrbach Farm

October 29, 2020 by jacobrohrbach

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

ship like the Phoenix

Passenger ship like the Phoenix

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

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

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

muster roll

Militia Muster Roll Captain Miller’s men 1813

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

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

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

Henry Rohrbach house

Henry Rohrbach house cir. 1920

Henry Rohrbachbarn

Henry Rohrbach barn cir. 1920

barn

H R and decorative brickwork on barn

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

springhouse

Spring house

smokehouse

Smokehouse

outbuilding

Outbuilding

 

 

 

 

 

 

Burnside Bridge

Rohrback Bridge, cir 1862

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

Sharpsburg area map

1859 Taggert Map showing the large Rohrbach estate

 

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

 

 

 

Noah Rohrbach Farm

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

 

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

Rohrbach farm

Approximate boundary of the Rohrbach farms in 1862.

Rohrbach farm layout

Henry Rohrbach farm layout in 1862

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Rohrbach census

1860 Census shows both the Rohrbach families.

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

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

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

Antietam map

Carman-Cope Battlefield map of the Rohrbach farm

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

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

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

henry kingsbury

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

Isaac Rodman

Gen. Isaac Rodman
3rd Division of the IX Corps

 

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

 

 

Claim record

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

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

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

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

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

parlor throw

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

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

Rohrbach grave site

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

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

 

henry rohrbach house

Henry Rohrbach house

noah rohrbach house

Noah Rohrbach house

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

The Farmsteads of Antietam – John Otto Farm

August 6, 2020 by jacobrohrbach

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

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

John Otto Farm

 

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

 

 

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

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

Otto House

 

 

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

 

 

 

Back of house

Site of kitchen

Looking toward the barn and outbuildings

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ruins of barn

Possible site of spring

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

 

Otto Family on the 1850 Census

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

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

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

Otto Farm taken circa 1900.

 

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

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

 

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

Hilary and Christina Watson grave

 

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

 

 

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

Dorcas Otto

John Otto

Catherine Otto

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

 

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

 

 

Sharpsburg Civil War Ghosts Tours and Tarot

August 1, 2020 by jacobrohrbach

Julia & Mark Brugh

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

 

 

Mark & Julia in period attire

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

 

Mark telling the saga of   Jacob Rohrbach

 

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

 

 

 

 

Ghost stories around the campfire

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

 

 

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

 

 

Available Tours

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

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

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

Sharpsburg Ghost Tour and Tarot
Email: hauntedsharpsburg@gmail.com
Website: www.sharpsburgtours.net
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The 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

Barn Foundation

corn crib

Corn Crib

 

 

 

 

 

fireplace

Kitchen Fireplace

nursey

Nursery

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Bridge

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

Sources:
  • 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.
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