The Gettysburg Homestead, Testimony To Who We Can Be

JPK Huson 1863

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Forum Host
Joined
Feb 14, 2012
Messages
18,403
Location
Central Pennsylvania
#1
orphanage children officers.jpg

" The Homestead ", unrecognizable from how it looks today, in 1866 as it was dedicated. Grant is supposedly one of the officers although Meade was there that day too. The building served as O.O. Howard's HQ 13 years before. Guessing he's in this indistinct image somewhere in the center clump. Gettysburg casualty Private Amos Humiston's , 154th New York, children, their mother possibly one of the dots floating behind the children on the right must be there, too.

Thread contains some of the awful history suffered by children in the still standing Homestead. Intent isn't to shock-horror, intent is to see hope come full circle. Gettysburg citizens did it again.

In 1866 the same station in Gettysburg, PA that welcomed Lincoln saw the arrival of more illustrious citizens.General Meade was back in Adams County, Pennsylvania. Simon Cameron, a couple of mayors, a governor and another general or two were entertained at the ( Edward ) McPherson home before retiring to recruit strength for the next day's celebration. Not happy with having risen to the challenge a few years previously, Gettysburg citizens were at it again. The Homestead, a home for orphans and initially, widows of the war was opening. Funding hadn't been difficult, how could it be with Private Amos Humiston's story a nationwide sensation? The anonymous death in July, 1863 of a man holding his children's photograph caused a nationwide search and nationwide support for the family discovered to be Humiston.

And so The Homestead, an orphanage for children of fallen men was born. The first ' matron ' was fittingly Philinda Humiston, her three children now housed where their father died. During her time there before remarrying and moving from Adams County, The Homestead fulfilled promises made. Indeed, it grew new, financial wings although the 1867 incorporation moved an onus of power to Philadelphia. It was an unwittingly fatal decision. Too much centralized power can be dangerous but it was an orphanage. Devoted to a promise made to dead soldiers everywhere because of one, a lovely monument to humanity evoked by tragedy, what could go wrong? And why would it?

orphanage children playing.jpg

This is generally accepted as an image of The Homestead's children playing in the back yard. I can't say either way?

orphanage news 1877 3.jpg

Rosa's treatment of the children was increasingly barbaric. Her demands to be vindicated fell on extremely deaf ears as horror story after horror story was confirmed. At the time of this article, an increasingly infuriated civilian population was still demanding the situation be addressed.

In 1877 David McCaughney ( remember him? Elizabeth Thorn's bury-em-quick boss and builder of hotels to house tourists? ) wrote a letter to The Compiler you just know he regretted. In it, he claims ' two large girls ' from The Homestead were irresponsible, guilty of tearing and otherwise destroying a perfectly nice set of clothing, challenged authority and were not deserving of being believed. They'd been forced to wear boy's clothing as bizarre punishment for some infraction. . Good old reliably oleaginous David claimed they mangled their clothing and just wore boy's clothing to replace it. He paid for it, Gettysburg citizens having been made increasingly aware of a situation now apparent inside their cherished Homestead. Heck, they'd been raising holy heck over it but were powerless to act. The power to investigate lay in the Philadelphia organization. I can't tell whether their refusal to act quickly lay in McCaugney's claims the abused children fleeing The Homestead were lying or if it was so bogged down by layers of beaurocrocy it became too cumbersome for swift action.

orphanage news 1877 2.jpg

Remember Jack Skelly? Another Gettysburg Skelly took action, the GAR being notoriously disinclined not to, when things became outrageous.

A Rosa J. Carmicheal had come to Gettysburg's famous orphanage as matron following Philinda Humiston's marriage. It didn't take long- and i'm going by civilian accounts of the era- to ascertain all was not well in the Homestead nearly from the start of her employment. Gettysburg civilians- a few big pants notwithstanding- had risen to the challenge of suffering humanity in their midst in 1863. They rose again.

Piteous cries coming from an outhouse attracted attention one cold night. A small boy was rescued, locked in as some punishment. The once pristine clothing typical of children at the home slowly became tattered, the orphans unkempt and they vanished from Gettysburg's various community gatherings and celebrations. Those ' two large girls ' escaped and their stories of the horrors endured by children inside the home were as awful as anything the town had seen since 1863. Carmichael's dismissmal was called for- instead, she pretty much barricaded herself inside the building. Refusing to budge and defensive, Rosa was permitted to stay despite the outrage now rampant among citizens. Until another Skelly war hero took action.
orphanage news 1877 4 bella.jpg

There are more examples of what happened inside The Homestead after Philinda's marriage and departure. A LOT more. The town had been familiar with this bright memorial to hope in their midst. It came as a shock when the tawdry, awful stories appeared one by one in the form of abused children.

orphanage news 1877 gar.jpg

It was left to the GAR and Gettysburg citizens in the end. Their sheer numbers, outrage, actions in arresting a child abuser and continued pressure made those in charge take action- and Carmicheal vanish. She did indeed vanish, poof- as if she never existed. That was probably fortunate for her- Gettysburg knew her for what she was. I can't find her and haven't tried. She's not our real history of who we are. May she rest somewhere, her story a repulsive distraction and you know she's accounting for it elsewhere.

It doesn't have to be an entirely tragic story. For a few years the pride of the town, for a few years shelter for fallen men's families, for a few years the home of the children on whose faces their father's eyes rested in his last moment on the planet, for a few years a place of refuge built by love- and it's what's best remembered. Despite the ghost tours through Rosa's cellar prison for ' bad ' kids a few laughing ghosts of the children cherished there and made welcome by an entire town remain.

humisted kids.JPG


We're familiar with Amos and Philinda's children and the photograph that began it all. It remains a haunting story, their home at Gettysburg as citizens opened their hearts a story of hope. The rest? Another lesson culled from time's vast vault- take care of the children. Always.

orhanage 1873.JPG
 

Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!
Joined
Jul 12, 2014
Messages
45
Location
Gettysburg, PA
#2
Hey, my friends live in the extension that was built in 1869 that's now the location of the Civil War Tails museum! (A shameless plug for my friends--if you like museum visits definitely make it a stop! You'll find a handful of to-scale dioramas depicting parts of the Gettysburg battles amongst others & if you look closely the soldiers are all cats!).

Anyway, their home was used as the girl's dormitory and you can see it in that second picture you posted--it's the building facing the camera with the porch across the front, built at the back corner of the homestead so that the two buildings formed an "L".

I hadn't known in detail about the abuse the children suffered there, though now that I'm thinking back, I do think my friends mentioned it when we first visited their home. My memory's not the best. I can tell you it's not haunted--I stayed there over the Christmas holiday right after my husband passed away in one of the 2nd floor rooms (probably a dormitory room, I would guess). It's my fondest memory of that time--the room was my little "sanctuary". I would have stayed there longer if it hadn't been for my darn plants! (I have a garden business).

I appreciate the detailed information even if it's a hard read.
 

JPK Huson 1863

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Forum Host
Joined
Feb 14, 2012
Messages
18,403
Location
Central Pennsylvania
#3
Hey, my friends live in the extension that was built in 1869 that's now the location of the Civil War Tails museum! (A shameless plug for my friends--if you like museum visits definitely make it a stop! You'll find a handful of to-scale dioramas depicting parts of the Gettysburg battles amongst others & if you look closely the soldiers are all cats!).

Anyway, their home was used as the girl's dormitory and you can see it in that second picture you posted--it's the building facing the camera with the porch across the front, built at the back corner of the homestead so that the two buildings formed an "L".

I hadn't known in detail about the abuse the children suffered there, though now that I'm thinking back, I do think my friends mentioned it when we first visited their home. My memory's not the best. I can tell you it's not haunted--I stayed there over the Christmas holiday right after my husband passed away in one of the 2nd floor rooms (probably a dormitory room, I would guess). It's my fondest memory of that time--the room was my little "sanctuary". I would have stayed there longer if it hadn't been for my darn plants! (I have a garden business).

I appreciate the detailed information even if it's a hard read.

No way! I'll take a shameless plug for anything in Gettysburg- from a rock to a museum. There's some terrific stuff in some of the less visited museums- I'm pulling this out of the air, is that the one with the stuffed horse too? Last year remember deciding to poke around- mostly devote time to the battlefield only.

IS it haunted? I USED to think the ghost tours couldn't turn up anything and said so here on CWT. Not that I don't believe they're around. Daughter went to Gettysburg College. College owns off campus housing, one hideous semester we got 4 am phone calls. A long-dead soldier seemed to like the place. Then a member here corrected me on the ghost tours- they do indeed see a LOT.

The thing is, like most houses in town it would have been a hospital after O.O. left that day. Between those poor children and soldiers who died there, could be crowded!
 
Joined
Jul 12, 2014
Messages
45
Location
Gettysburg, PA
#4
No way! I'll take a shameless plug for anything in Gettysburg- from a rock to a museum. There's some terrific stuff in some of the less visited museums- I'm pulling this out of the air, is that the one with the stuffed horse too? Last year remember deciding to poke around- mostly devote time to the battlefield only.

IS it haunted? I USED to think the ghost tours couldn't turn up anything and said so here on CWT. Not that I don't believe they're around. Daughter went to Gettysburg College. College owns off campus housing, one hideous semester we got 4 am phone calls. A long-dead soldier seemed to like the place. Then a member here corrected me on the ghost tours- they do indeed see a LOT.

The thing is, like most houses in town it would have been a hospital after O.O. left that day. Between those poor children and soldiers who died there, could be crowded!
I don't believe they have a stuffed horse (unless it's really, really small--then it's probably not stuffed, just one of their miniatures).

I seem to recall one of my first visits to Gettysburg in 2010 that there may have been a horse as such in the museum that used
to be right where Lee's HQ were on Chambersburg Rd (I think it's gone now with the restoration to how it looked orginally?). I recall being infatuated with what was purported to be General Reynold's saddle on which he was shot [I had a little liking toward him for a time (still think he's quite good-looking!)]. Thinking back, I thought it was draped upon a horse--but I could definitely be mis-remembering that, my mind likes to make up things like that when the memory of certain details is a bit vague (which tends to be often these days!).

You know I did have one experience when I was growing up (which would take too long to go into here right now) that has me convinced there can definitely be something like "ghosts" or what not around. Yet, outside of that, I haven't run into anything else. I do keep an eye out for it. When I bought my house out in Biglerville, it was built in 1860 and I moved into it thinking that maybe it was haunted--it even had one of those really creepy unfinished basements (I mean, like really really unfinished--dirt floor and rock/foundation-looking walls!). But there was nothing all the days my husband and I lived there! Nothing we saw at least.
 

JPK Huson 1863

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Forum Host
Joined
Feb 14, 2012
Messages
18,403
Location
Central Pennsylvania
#5
I don't believe they have a stuffed horse (unless it's really, really small--then it's probably not stuffed, just one of their miniatures).

I seem to recall one of my first visits to Gettysburg in 2010 that there may have been a horse as such in the museum that used
to be right where Lee's HQ were on Chambersburg Rd (I think it's gone now with the restoration to how it looked orginally?). I recall being infatuated with what was purported to be General Reynold's saddle on which he was shot [I had a little liking toward him for a time (still think he's quite good-looking!)]. Thinking back, I thought it was draped upon a horse--but I could definitely be mis-remembering that, my mind likes to make up things like that when the memory of certain details is a bit vague (which tends to be often these days!).

You know I did have one experience when I was growing up (which would take too long to go into here right now) that has me convinced there can definitely be something like "ghosts" or what not around. Yet, outside of that, I haven't run into anything else. I do keep an eye out for it. When I bought my house out in Biglerville, it was built in 1860 and I moved into it thinking that maybe it was haunted--it even had one of those really creepy unfinished basements (I mean, like really really unfinished--dirt floor and rock/foundation-looking walls!). But there was nothing all the days my husband and I lived there! Nothing we saw at least.

There are so many, many wonderful corners to be seen in Gettysburg I haven't hit them all in years of Gettysburg trips. We're ' only ' 90 minutes away, above Harrisburg. Now it's established the poor horse isn't at The Homestead, must get there! ( We're ' horsey ', the stuffed ones make me sigh - understanding Trigger isn't getting a decent rest after all that rearing and charging was traumatizing ) I ' think ' what got me so incredibly interested in citizen stories from the battle was the story behind all those homes. Christian Commission agent arriving said little red hospital flags were hanging from the windows of nearly ever house in town. Bet O.O. Howard's HQ was full of wounded besides the history of the orphans.

Maybe ghosts have given up on locals, thinking you've all had 150 years of enough. They just pick on us, as fresh victims. Daughter didn't want to have a ghost in her house, was committed to having nothing to do with ghosts, her science head told her they didn't exist and you'd swear she was as much annoyed as freaked out. She also spent 4 years there without knowingly setting foot on the battlefield ( I didn't tell her..... ), actually there for the courses offered! Most visited college student ever, poor thing. You go to school to get rid of your mother.
 
Joined
Jul 12, 2014
Messages
45
Location
Gettysburg, PA
#6
I ' think ' what got me so incredibly interested in citizen stories from the battle was the story behind all those homes.
I love learning about the farms and the families that owned them. I was just thinking--"I wish there was a book about all these farms," when I realized oh my gosh there is and I have it! I just totally forgot about it! Farms at Gettysburg. Some years ago I was going to read either that or the one about all the hospitals and I went with the hospital one. Great! Now I'm going to have to finish up my Jackson biography and get started on this one next!

I just love reading the "common" people's stories. To me everyone has a story to tell, and I generally find these peoples' lives to be so intriguing.

Maybe ghosts have given up on locals, thinking you've all had 150 years of enough. They just pick on us, as fresh victims.
Darn. Could be though. Ever since I moved into my duplex at the beginning of the year right in downtown Gettysburg, I said to myself "I've got to visit the battlefield at dusk now" thinking maybe that's a more prevalent time or something. I still have yet to do it and I'm supposed to closing on my new home next month. Yet once (that I can remember) on one of my visits here I was on the field at dusk, on the McPherson Farm. I remember taking a picture with a beautiful moon in view (it's so upsetting to me that I can't locate those pictures I took on my visits to Gettysburg. I think they were on my laptop that died a few years ago : (

Ghosts and things like that probably stay away from me. Which is probably a good thing for me; in reality I'd probably be scared more than like "Hmmm, that's neat" (like I imagine I would be). Especially in my house--'cause then you're like "When is it going to show up next??" Maybe on something like a battlefield it would be okay.
 

Michael W.

First Sergeant
Joined
Jun 19, 2015
Messages
1,258
Location
The Hoosier State
#7
I knew the home was used as an orphanage for the children of deceased soldiers, but was not aware of the horrible abuse that took place. I guess it should not surprise me, as pretty much ever orphanage in the 19th Century was pretty much the same. Thank you so much for sharing.
 



Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!
Top