Thursday, September 10, 2009

Pennsylvania: Jeff King

I have been spending time on the roads of PA. Actually stumbled across a CW site or two. (Okay, 83, but who's counting besides me?)

PA sites mostly west of I-81

The Fairfield St. John Lutheran Church is the site of two historical markers. The large old cast iron plaque style Gettysburg Campaign markers describes Union troop movements in the area on 6 July 1863. A marker noting the church as a hospital site for all injured parties North and South in the fight of the 6th Virginia and 6th U.S. Cavalries. The church is at 13 E Main St (Route 116).
Blue Ridge Summit
Name the second largest battle in Pennsylvania.
Wrightsville and its burning of the bridge? No.
Hanover and JEB Stuart’s delay at the hands of Killcavalry, oops Kilpatrick, Custer, et al? Nope.

If you said the Battle of Monterey Pass, you are correct. Ten thousand fought here in the rain and lightning. The Confederates suffered significant losses (1,360 or more POWs) partially due to the help of a little girl. Sort of sounds like Bedford Forrest’s story of Emma Sansom during the Streight Mule Raid in Northern Alabama, doesn’t it?

This a well interpreted sight in a nice forested setting. However, there is no mention of CSA General Jenkin’s earlier skirmish on 22 June. There is not sufficient signage to lead the Civil War Traveler to the site. (Go west of Blue Ridge Summit about 1.5 miles (14223 Buchanan Trail East) and find Charmaine Road. The markers are a half mile north of Route 16, on the west side of Charmaine Road.)

Are there any directional signage/arrows on Route 30 to indicate where the CW Trails story stop is located? No. I am thrilled for any additional interpretation of the War Between the States. My problem here is that it seems no one from the Keystone Commonwealth bothered to tour other states and see how a true trails marker system is run properly. There is virtually no signage at the locations of the sites, and forget directional arrows to help a curious visitor find those off the main roads, like this one.

What is wrong with putting actual street addresses on the website ( for GPS users? Yes, there are GPS coordinates in one of the brochures and on one page of the website, but virtually every GPS box takes street addresses. How many take longitude/latitude? Groan, chortle, snort…. Use the website for help in converting to street addresses.

I would love for more visitors to come to Pennsylvania, but if they feel the same frustration I felt they’ll be headed south to well marked trails quickly. Luckily the local fire fighters were hanging out on a Saturday and could lead me to the location. Thanks to the Blue Ridge Summit fire personnel for their invaluable assistance. I only wish I could say this was the only spot requiring additional signage.
There is a state historical marker for the city’s occupation on 23 June 1863 by Jubal Early before he advanced through Gettysburg to York and back. The marker is located on the south side of Route 16/764 Buchanon Trail East/Main Street.
Mont Alto
As I found out later at the John Brown/Mary Ritner Boarding House site in Chambersburg, John Brown spent time in Mont Alto reading the Bible to black children and helping educate them. The Emmanuel Chapel sits just inside the entrance to the Penn State University Extension Campus and within sight of the state historical marker. Local lore has it that John Brown taught black children Sunday School in this church.

The state historical marker at 631 Park St. deals with one of his conspirators, Capt. John Cooke, who was given the same final necktie made of a strong rope as John Brown after being captured here.

Finally, slave catching was a lucrative business. 0.3 miles west of PA 233 on Slabtown Road is a brick house that was the home of Daniel Logan, who was the slave catcher that captured Capt. John Cooke.
The Caledonia Iron Works was destroyed by Jubal Early on his march east to York on 26 June 1863. The storyboard at the intersection of Routes 30 and 233 describes it as personal property being destroyed for political vengeance in violation of Lee’s order. The stone pyramid was rebuilt after the war, used for a few years, and remains today.

The story is similar to the one told at the Moratock Iron Works North Carolina Civil War Trails stop in Danbury. Moratock was destroyed by Stoneman. Wonder if Stoneman’s Raid was political vengeance?

There is information on signs about the employees and the process of iron making. There is also Lincoln Highway historical information. Across the walking bridge to the west over the road is the Thaddeus Stevens Blacksmith Shop in very good condition with a historical marker.

For the more adventurous swimmers, the public pool north of the iron works is spring fed and not heated according to my local sources. Sounds brisk, Baby. This is known locally as apple country and there are numerous orchards and roadside stands.

A.P. Hill’s Headquarters on 29 June 1863 is about one quarter of a mile north of Main Street, just off Woodstock Road on Font Hill. It is private property.

Gettysburg may get more than 1 million visitors a year, but Chambersburg has the attitude I seldom see north of the Potomac. There are several inviting sites here. My favorite is Mary Ritner’s Boarding House where John Brown stayed and you can visit his room, but all in due time.

The state marker for the spot Lee passed on 28 June on his way to Cashtown is on the east end of Chambersburg, east of Interstate-81, on the south side of the Route 30/Lincoln Highway near the Willowbrook Road intersection. There is supposed to be a state marker for Lee’s Headquarters a mile or so west of this marker to designate Messersmith’s Woods just east of the Hospital at the Coldbrook Avenue intersection, but I was unable to find anything in that area except the Lincoln Cemetery, which has many black veterans of the 21st-century wars.

Brochures on the Civil War and Black History are available at the Chambersburg Heritage Center, 100 Lincoln Highway East, to aid in your understanding and finding locations in Chambersburg and all over Franklin County.

Cedar Grove Cemetery (off North Franklin Street about two blocks north of Route 30 West) is the main local Union veteran cemetery. There is a small memorial in the northwest corner of the graveyard to local Union veterans. Proceed along the western perimeter road of the cemetery and about 100 yards from the bottom of the slight hill just to the east of the road, you can find the obelisk grave with GAR marker of Lt. Col. Peter Housom, who was killed at Murfreesboro/Stones River. The local GAR post was named for him.

Another must-see spot is about 150 yards northeast from the southwest entry gate. This is the area where those who died in local hospitals after Sharpsburg/Antietam and Gettysburg are buried. Almost all are known and the graves were well decorated when I visited. The soldiers rest just north of the south perimeter road.

There is a state marker for the conference between John Brown and Frederick Douglas at the Little Conococheague Creek Bridge on Lincoln Highway East just east of the Franklin Street intersection. In the discussion at the old stone quarry, Douglas was against the Harpers Ferry Raid. Brown did recruit Douglas’s companion, Shields Green, to participate.

Mt. Lebanon Cemetery is about 1 mile west of the “Diamond,” just south of Route 30 across the street from the Food Lion. This black cemetery houses Civil War USCT veterans including at least one 54th Massachusetts member; several USCT (3rd, 4th and 41st) soldiers from various brigades; locals Joseph R. Winters and Henry Watson, who aided John Brown and the Underground Railroad; and at least one headstone that says, “Born into Bondage, died Free in 1908.” This older section is in the lowest eastern area nearest to town.

Confederate Gen. John McCausland’s headquarters on 30 July 1964 is the Greenawalt House at the northeast corner intersection of Route 30 West and Warm Springs Road/Route 995. It is private property. Here is where the decision was made and ordered to torch Chambersburg in retaliation for Hunter’s actions in Lexington VA and the Shenandoah Valley.

If you ever get a chance, read The Burning by John L. Heatwole; it may be one of the saddest books ever written. It is one of my five favorite books. It isn’t sad on purpose. It is loyal to Shenandoah Valley historical facts of the fall of 1864. It is the action for methodically destroying private property that is sad whether it occurred north or south of the Mason Dixon Line.

Mary Ritner was the daughter in law of Pennsylvania Gov. Ritner and did very well until her husband, a conductor on the Cumberland Valley Railroad and the Underground Railroad, died. She decided that her location near the railroad station worked fine for her to take in boarders to support her children. One border hid under the name Isaac Smith and was a cold-blooded killer named John Brown. Of course, in this area Osawatomie Brown was more of a heroic revolutionary than the man hated and wanted for murder in Kansas.

One of the best parts about studying this War for Abolition is that even today you can begin to feel how compromise failed as the passionate people of the 1860s were willing to sacrifice anything for their beliefs. Here at 225 E King St in Chambersburg you are presented with the picture of John Brown, Hero, not Traitor ("Terrorist or Savior" is the title of the available brochure).

Tours of the Ritner house have been offered since May, Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. I whole heartedly recommend spending the $4 to support historic preservation here. My guide was in period dress and did as wonderful, passionate, and informative job as any guide I’ve tagged along with.

It is as politically polar opposite of my tour of the Bleak House in Knoxville TN as possible, and that alone makes it revealing and valuable. So many sites in the North have lost passion for the war in favor of attracting tourists or being politically correct.

The attitude and passion of the abolition fervor shows through here. Thank goodness. You begin to feel the uniqueness of this stop with the 10-minute video to begin the tour. Enjoy every room and story, including John Brown’s personal room. There is period furniture and accoutrements throughout the home. For more information on the Sesquicentennial of the John Brown Raid, go to

From here I went to the old Franklin County Jail. It is partially a Civil War site, and likely not for everyone focused on the first half of the 1860s. Still, the original jail cells that held the captured John Brown conspirators are available for “visiting.” There is one hallway dedicated to Civil War pictures and information. The three-story “add-on” area of the prison has an iron stove made in the Thaddeus Stevens Caledonia Iron Works, and there is a souvenir from the company where Lt. Col. Housom of local GAR and Stones River fame worked before he sacrificed his life for the cause. The tour of the dungeon is absolutely chilling. As a fundraiser, ghost tours are offered in October; you may choose to pay extra to stay overnight in the jail and eat like the prisoners of that period. There is an amazingly complete Genealogy Library with information from all 243 graveyards in Franklin County.

From here the “Diamond” is only a couple of blocks. This is the town center at the intersection of Route 30 West and Route 11 and has state markers for the Underground Railroad, Lee and A. P. Hill’s conference there, a fountain placed there as a memorial for all men that served for the Union, and a Bronze Union Soldier facing south forever guarding Chambersburg from Southern invasion again. This guy should hook up with John A. Parker from Parker’s Crossroads fame. Mr. Parker was purposely buried with his feet pointing north so that when the Angel Gabriel came he could arise and kick all the Yankees back north. There is a plaque showing Franklin County’s recruits/regiments. On the southwest corner of “The Diamond”, there is a large memorial stone maker to the Burning of Chambersburg in 1864 detailing value of destruction. The storyboard for the Burning of Chambersburg touches on the fact that this action caused the Yankee war effort to be more aggressive throughout the rest of the war. This struck me as another attitude declaration. There were dozens of southern cities destroyed (Jackson, MS was called Chimneyville as only four buildings remained after Sherman’s two visits) before this action, but now the north had “Remember Chambersburg” as a battle cry. Good to see some attitude coming through!

There is a state marker at the southwest corner of Main and Washington streets that discusses the Susserott House and the end line of the destruction during the Burning of Chambersburg stopped here. The Masonic temple was protected from the destruction by Confederate Masons. The temple is located at 74 S. Second St.

There are veterans from all the wars in the Norland Cemetery at far north end of Chambersburg on Route 11 (2295 Philadelphia Avenue) with a nice display of all wars markers at the entry gate including the familiar GAR Star. The GAR stars and American flags are easily identified throughout the cemetery.
Lee’s 17-mile-long train of wounded passed through Greencastle on Route 11/Carlisle Street after Gettysburg. There is a historical marker on the southeast corner of the town square, which is the intersection of Baltimore and Carlisle streets, honoring Ulric Dahlgren for a surprise attack on 2 July 1863 that captured important papers for Gen. Lee. Dahlgren staged another attack here on 4 July.

The large brick building on the southwest corner of the Town Square was the Union hotel. John Brown stayed here several times going from the Kennedy Farm in Maryland to the Ritner Boarding House in Chambersburg. From the intersection of Routes 16 and 11. go north to the Rihl Monument on the west side of the road on private property about 0.5 miles north of Walter Avenue. There is a state marker across the road. William Rihl was the first Union casualty on Pennsylvania soil during the Gettysburg Campaign. CSA cavalry Gen. Albert Jenkins used this house as temporary headquarters at the time.
There is a state marker near the state line on Route 75 (15053 Fort London Road) to JEB Stuart’s “Second Ride around McClellan” on 10 October 1862. I was able to download a very helpful map from the Mercersburg Chamber of Commerce. Stuart’s headquarters was at 120 N. Main and has a state marker in front of the Steiger house.

There is a storyboard about the ambush by two Union stragglers on three Confederate horsemen on 4 July 1863 at 17 Seminary St at the intersection with Main on the Square. One of those men, J.W. Alban, died and is buried at the Fairview Cemetery at the intersection of Routes 16 and 75. Enter the Fairview Cemetery then go to the right of the horseshoe-shape war memorial and stay on the western perimeter road and go to the first Y in the road. J.W. Alban and two captured Confederates from Lee’s wagon train are buried together. Three churches (101 First United Methodist and 129 East Seminary United Church of Christ, and the one across from Buchanan’s cabin Reform Seminary on Mercersburg Academy) served as temporary hospitals for those Confederates captured from Lee’s wagon train of wounded.

The Mansion House on the southwest corner of the Square was a place where James Buchanon made a speech in 1852. His statue is just south of the town square on the west side. There is a storyboard just up from the northwest corner of the town square about McCausland fighting a skirmish and taking civilians on 29 July 1864.

There is a state marker at 17 N. Main for the Buchanon Hotel, where the future president lived as a child. The president’s niece, Harriet Lane, served as his first lady/matron of the White House, because Buchanan was a bachelor -- our only bachelor president. She had a home at 14 N. Main with a state historical marker out front.

The Zion Cemetery at 13 Bennet Ave. is the eternal resting place of at least 36 of the 88 Mercersburg’s USCTs including another member of the 54th Massachusetts. The cemetery is at the end of Bennett Avenue accessible from Route 75 by going west on Fairview Street. Bennett is narrow and you may be forced to drive in reverse the entire length to leave, as I did.

The boyhood cabin of Buchanan, our 15th president who was from the mountains of Cove Gap at Stony Battery, now rests on the Mercersburg Academy Campus just south of the athletic fields on the east end of Mercersburg. Go east on Seminary Street until it ends; jog north to the next street, McFarland Road, and go east again until you see the athletic fields and turn south/right. The Reform Seminary will be on your left just before you get to the horseshoe drive for Buchanan’s cabin.
Cove Gap
Buchanan’s Birthplace State Park is on PA Route 16 West, 3.2 miles from Mercersburg on the north side of Buchanan Trail West at Stony Battery Road between Mercersburg and McConnellsburg. This was the western edge of civilization in 1791, and Cove Gap was the main route of travel for anyone trying to go over the Allegheny Mountains or in particular the Tuscarora Mountain.

Buchanan’s father operated a business with cabins, stables, storehouses, an orchard, and a store. This became the first state park in Pennsylvania, thanks to the efforts and generosity of his niece, Harriet Lane. It is small -- 18.5 acres -- but beautiful forested with a short walkway to the pyramid monument to President Buchanan.

Nearby Cowan’s Gap State Park offers camping and family cabins along with many other activities. We never will know if Buchanan’s pleas for a Constitutional Convention over slavery could have prevented the war. We do know he preserved the peace, and that Lincoln followed essentially the same policies until Fort Sumter. One was considered the greatest president ever, one the worst in many circles.

There is a beautiful view of the Bedford Valley at the top of the Tuscarora Mountain on Route 16 West of Cove Gap. Pull over to the south side gravel wayside view.
Okay, Quiz Kid, what town has the most Confederate monuments in Pennsylvania, besides Gettysburg?
  • Wrightsville, for the battle there that may have produced the first black casualty?
    Nope. There is only one grave marker.
  • Hanover, for the cavalry battle there?
    Nope. No markers found to date.
  • If you guessed McConnellsburg, with two, you would be right.
There is a state marker and a Daughters of the Confederacy marker where two confederates were killed and buried by locals on 29 June 1863 at about 575 Buchanan Trail/Route 16 southeast of town. There is also a state marker and monument to the Last Confederate Bivouac on Federal soil where Gen. Bradley T. Johnson camped on his way back to Virginia after burning Chambersburg 31 July 1864. It is located about 20387 Great Cove Road/PA 522 at the intersection of Confederate Lane about a mile out of town.

There is a state marker for the Gettysburg Campaign at about 1023 Lincoln Way East/Route 30 discussing all three times Confederates passed through McConnellsburg. The state marker at the courthouse, which is at the intersection of Second (US Route 522) and (115 East) Market, states that the first Confederate casualties of the Gettysburg Campaign occurred here. There is a small Civil War monument there also.

There are large plaques on the south side of the courthouse listing the names of every Fulton County man to serve in Mr. Lincoln’s War. Also, there is a unique monument there for the War on Terrorism or whatever this administration calls it.

I hope to visit the entrenchments at Loysburg Gap built to protect the key rail center in Altoona even farther north and west of McConnellsburg in Bedford County soon.
Fort London
There is a Confederate buried in the Stenger Hill Cemetery about 1 mile east of Fort London (accessible from modern Route 30 or old Route 30/about 12200 Main St) who came to a shocking end. He lies just inside the northwest entrance next to the stone wall. He was straggling after the Burning of Chambersburg because his horse threw a shoe. He asked for the help of the local blacksmith -- who was a Union Veteran. The blacksmith killed the Rebel with his hammer. Talk about chills up and down your spine…. Oh, my.

1 comment:

  1. My mother had an Uncle Jeff King, who married Mattie Ferguson. He was the son of
    George Washington King and Celia Mae Harrison King, who lived in York County and died about 1918. Mother knew George King. He was her grandfather, and we knew Aunt Mattie.

    Anne Davis Hood
    Hometown-Rock Hill, SC