Camp Martin Travels

These entries will be a combination of historical day trips, graduate level travel courses, and just little stops along the way. I have been teaching 8th grade American History for over 25 years. I am also a Civil War Reenactor and have traveled to Germany and Austria with several groups of exchange students and written about our adventures. Please check all my posts by using the monthly Blog Archive tabs shown below. I have posted over 150 Blog Episodes since 2009... Please explore them all!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

National Civil War Museum

National Civil War Museum
Gettysburg Battlefield at Dusk

Civil War Drum Artifacts
The weekend had finally arrived and it was a sunny Saturday morning.  A perfect opportunity for a couple of social studies teachers to head off for a well deserved day trip of checking out historical artifacts at the National Civil War Museum in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.   I was joined by two of my social studies colleagues from Warwick Middle School for a fun filled day of browsing man-tiques!  I had visited the museum before for a quick walk-through tour during a graduate class field trip and wanted to explore the impressive museum in more depth.  My two accomplices were Dan Gwinn, a seventh grade World Cultures teacher and his student teacher from Millersville University, Matt Kemble, also known as... The Boy Wonder.  

Moment of Mercy
With our combined advanced geography skills (GPS) we found the museum with relative ease.  The National Civil War Museum is located on top of a steep hill in the middle of Reservoir Park just outside the city of Harrisburg.  The building was beautiful and we were greeting by a sculpture entitled Moment of Mercy, which fully captures the emotional vibe of the Civil War.  The sculpture portrays two soldiers from opposing sides, who come together on the battlefield, which transforms into a moment of compassion despite their differences.  The sculpture depicts a real event in history when Union forces were overwhelmed by Confederate forces outside Fredericksburg in December of 1862.  A young Confederate sergeant named Richard R. Kirkland risked his life by offering water from his canteen to wounded Union soldiers.  The opposing Union soldiers held their fire and respectfully watched the moment of mercy unfold before them.

The Scorn of Injustice
After entering through the front door into the impressive foyer, we began our tour on the second floor where the museum's story of the Civil War begins.  Instantly you are confronted with the ugly truth of the roots of the conflict... A slave auction brought to life within a life size diorama.  The reality of slavery is the one topic that is often missing from the story of the Civil War.  A recent issue of Time magazine confronted America's problem with denial concerning slavery and the Civil War in an article entitled, Why We're Still Fighting the Civil War.  The article states that one of the last politicians to openly admit that slavery was the one true simplistic cause of the Civil War was none other than Abraham Lincoln, who appears on the cover shedding a single tear.  You can argue that the war was caused by differences in climate, geology, states rights, economics, etc.  However, if you take an additional step from any of the suggested complex causes in any direction, slavery is always present and the true single cause of the war.

Attack on Fort Sumter
You step into the auction scene and can't help but feel instantly uncomfortable.  Voices echo through the space with the disturbing dialogue that sold human souls like livestock.  A newly arrived slave from Africa is contained within a prison cell after surviving the Middle Passage across the tropical Atlantic.  His expression and direct gaze through the bars stare right through you.  The setting is accented with a single bale of ginned cotton, symbolizing the acquired wealth through corporate farming harvested on the backs of the enslaved.   It is the only museum that I have visited so far that hits you right between the eyes with the ugliness of slavery as soon as you walk through the door.  It sets the tone for your entire visit and exposes the true cause of the war for all to see.  Slavery is often called the Peculiar Institution because even though the injustice of the practice was obvious, people enforced it anyway. 

View from Observation Deck
Next, you step into the section of the museum that recreates the attack on Fort Sumter; the action that officially started the Civil War.  The scene puts you within the fort as Confederate forces shell the outer walls from shore artillery batteries.  The flashes of bright light, cannon sounds, and vibrations create an impressive fabrication of the famous event.  The museum consists of a series of rooms that allow you to visit topics of the war individually and semi-privately.  The museum touts itself as the only museum in the country that tells the story of the Civil War without bias toward either side.  We all agreed that it was well designed and seemed to give equal representation of the two armies and their accompanying stories.  One of the highlights was the Observation Deck, which gave us an amazing view of the distant Susquehanna River, where Camp Curtain once received fresh recruits from the four corners of Pennsylvania for the Union Army. 

 Union Field Surgeon at Work
The National Civil War Museum collection exceeds more than 24,000 total items, which were purchased and donated since the museum was conceived in 1994.  Most of the items in the vast collection are document artifacts but the star of the show for the general public are the 850 three dimensional artifacts on permanent display.  The remaining items are archived for historical research and are only accessible to members of the museum who are granted special access by appointment with the Library and Archives Collection Curator.  We were all impressed by the quality of the items on display including weapons, maps, models, life size dioramas, and even a rare hospital ambulance wagon.  The most obscure item was a lock of hair that was sent by Confederate General George E. Picket to his beloved wife Sallie in a letter home.  For some reason, I don't think my wife would appreciate receiving such an item from me in the mail.  Maybe next time when I trim my beard...

Slave Ankle Collar Artifact
On my previous trip to the museum as a graduate student, our group was given rock-star access to some of the items reserved for scholarly research.  Brett Kelley, who was the Curator of Collections for the museum, gave us a presentation and allowed us to handle some rare artifacts in the private collection.  The most memorable was an ankle collar designed for a slave who was at risk for becoming a runaway.  We were allowed to try it on and attempt to walk across the room.  The weight and extended bars in both directions made movement almost impossible.  It was more than eerie to think this once had been used on fugitive slaves who might have been caught after an escape attempt by way of the Underground Railroad.  It was more than inhumane in design and elicited emotions of helplessness, sorrow, and despair.  It was one of the most powerful artifacts I have ever seen or had the privilege to actually handle.  The power of touch...
Two Die Hard History Nerds
Well, we completed our tour and headed off to the gift shop which had a lot of high quality historical souvenirs if you had disposable income to spare.  Not today... Ironically it was Abraham Lincoln's birthday and we couldn't help but try on the iconic stovepipe hat and fake beard to celebrate the occasion.   Several pictures were taken but have since been permanently destroyed to prevent the images from falling into the wrong hands and winding up on someone's wall on Facebook!  Who's hungry?  It's time for lunch.  We decided to hit a place less than a mile away that I discovered on my previous stay in Pennsylvania's capital.  The Appalachian Brewing Company was in a reclaimed warehouse in the old industrial area of the city.  We each had a delicious sandwich and ordered a "root beer" to wash it down... Just Say No Kids!  Sometimes it's hard being a role model!

Artillery on Little Round Top
The original plan was to head for home after lunch but how far away was Gettysburg?  It was Lincoln's birthday after all!  Calibrate the GPS and we're off!   About an hour later we were driving up the main drag on Steinwehr Avenue counting the number of businesses offering ghost tours to tourists.  We lost count after about a dozen and soon pulled into a parking spot to explore on foot.  Mixed in with the run of the mill tourist shops selling the quintessential low grade souvenir crap are some high quality shops.  A General Robert E. Lee snow globe... Really?   I navigated us through the labyrinth of cheesy tourist traps to one of my favorite stores, frequented by Civil War reenactors like myself.  The Quarter Master General sells high quality reproductions and authentic artifacts.  It's kind of like shopping at a museum where everything is for sale.  If we had more time, The Drummer Boy and Dirty Billy's Hats are also worth a visit, just to name a few. 

Rocky Rise of Little Round Top
After a quick walk through the new visitor's center and the expansive gift shop, we headed out to the battlefield as the sun began its slow decent toward the horizon.  We examined the monuments along the rolling avenues through quiet fields and dormant woods of hallowed ground.  We stopped at a few locations including the 30th PA Monument, Little Round Top, and Devil's Den.  It was interesting to see Devil's Den from the heights of Little Round Top where the Union dug in to hold the high ground from the persistent Confederate charges launched during the second day of fighting.  Union General Joshua Chamberlain famously led a bayonet charge down the hill when his troops ran low on ammunition.  The Swinging Gate strategy took the Confederate troops by surprise and were quickly overwhelmed, captured, or retreated.  It was one of the few bayonet charges in the war.

Devil's Den Artillery at Dusk
Devil's Den is an outcropping of large rocks a short distance from the base of Little Round Top that was occupied by both sides during the three day conflict.  The sun began to set and filled the space with the yellow and orange hues of dusk.  We all explored the cracks and crevices of the unique rock formation and couldn't help but look for a hiding spot that would have protected you from Union rifles.  Desperately thirsty men may have braved enemy fire periodically for a quick sprint to nearby Plum Run for a drink.  The small creek acquired a second name in the wake of the fighting when it ran blood red after overflowing during heavy rains on July 4, 1863 when the water came in contact with Confederate dead that had yet to be collected for burial.  Bloody Run, was the creek's new name and it ran through what would be described as the Valley of Death where thousands of brave men lost their lives in the gap between Little Round Top and Devil's Den.

Home of a Rebel Sharpshooter / Devil's Den
Photo Credit / Library of Congress / Andrew Gardner
One of the most famous photographs of the Battle of Gettysburg and in fact, of the entire Civil War is the image captured of a fallen Confederate sharpshooter behind a make-shift stone wall within Devil's Den.  The image was taken by photographer Andrew Gardner who studied the new art form of photography under Mathew Brady who sent him and other understudies out to document the Civil War. Gardner arrived well after the battle was over and captured images of the violent aftermath including the image entitled Home of a Rebel Sharpshooter that chronicles the lonely death of an unknown Confederate soldier.  However, the photograph is not all what it appears and most historians now consider it a staged shot.  The soldier in the picture is believed to also appear in other photographs of the fallen at Gettysburg.  It is believed the body was carried on a blanket from the southern slope behind Devil's Den nearby and positioned for the picture.  Also, the rifle leaning on the wall is not a sharp shooter's weapon and may in fact be a photography prop that also appears in several other shots in the Battle of Gettysburg series.  Nonetheless, it is a haunting image of the ultimate sacrifice paid by so many during three days in July of 1863.

Sunset Over Devil's Den
Well, the sun was about to disappear from the sky and the ghost tour circuit was about to engulf the streets of downtown Gettysburg so we decided to skedaddle!  It was a really a fun day of Civil War themed travel with two good friends who share an interest in history to match my own.  Thanks to Dan and Matt (Boy Wonder) who were my copilots on this adventure and my final episode of Camp Martin Travels for the 2010-2011 season.  It is time to take a summer break from posting and do some more traveling and taking photographs to be ready for next year.   Thanks to everyone who follows and reads my blog.  I really appreciate your support and encouragement.  See you in September!

Please See My Additional Photographs at...

Driving off into the Sunset

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Arlington House / Robert E. Lee Memorial

Arlington House / Robert E. Lee Memorial
Arlington National Cemetery / Washington D.C.

General Robert E. Lee
(Painting Credit / Rick Timmons)
On the evening of April 19, 1861, Robert E. Lee faced a difficult decision.  Tensions between northern free states and southern slave states had erupted into secession and war between the two regions was imminent.  Virginia was about to follow in the footsteps of South Carolina and secede from the United States of America.  The previous day, the new President of the Confederate States of America, Jefferson Davis, asked the highly acclaimed general to side with his home state and lead the military of the CSA.  Earlier, President Abraham Lincoln had asked that Lee continue his career serving the United States Army as he had faithfully for the previous thirty-two years.  Lee wrestled with the decision privately in the upstairs bed chamber of his home known as Arlington House.  Around midnight, he emerged from his private council to announce to his family that he made his decision and would support his home state of Virginia.  In his hand he held his letter of resignation that would be sent to President Abraham Lincoln.  Several days later, Lee left Arlington House and traveled to Richmond, Virginia, the capital of the Confederacy.  He would never see his home again.

Arlington House Mansion
Robert E. Lee did not believe in the institution of slavery and did not own any slaves.  The slaves his wife inherited along with Arlington House, following the death of her father, were freed.  Lee believed the institution was inhumane and evil.   He looked to the future with the dawning of new technology, such as the mechanical reaper invented by Cyrus McCormick, to ease the need for manpower in agriculture.  In his opinion, the institution of slavery was now unnecessary.  Despite this attitude toward the slavery issue, Lee could not take up arms against his beloved home state and thus had no choice but to lead the Army of Northern Virginia for the Confederacy.  Lee's conflict with Lincoln was in the president's unwillingness to accept some form of compromise to avoid violence but there was no bend in Lincoln's attitude concerning the subject.  Diplomacy had failed time and again to find a solution and now war would ultimately determine the outcome.

 George Washington Park Custis
(Photo Credit / Library of Congress)
The Arlington House estate was built by the adopted grandson of President George Washington, George Washington Parke Custis, who intended the mansion to be a memorial to his famous grandfather.  Upon his death, the property was inherited by his only surviving child, his daughter Mary Anna Randolph Custis, who later married Robert E. Lee.  It is ironic that the man who would lead armed resistance against the United States had family connections to the man who helped create the United States of America, George Washington, better known as the Father of his Country.  Arlington House included 1,100 acres of land just outside the nation's capitol city of Washington in the District of Columbia.  The Greek revival style home took sixteen years to construct on a hill above the Potomac River with a beautiful view overlooking Washington.  

Union Troops Occupy Arlington Heights
(Photo Credit / National Archives)
Robert E. Lee left his home to join the cause of the Confederacy and his family soon followed, vacating Arlington House within a month's time.  His wife Mary and their daughters also disagreed with the institution of slavery and were active in abolitionist-like causes.  They sponsored an illegal school, teaching slave children how to read and write on the Arlington Plantation.  They also raised funds for the American Colonization Society, an organization that purchased land in northern Africa to create a homeland for emancipated slaves, which later became the nation of Liberia.  Lee was supportive of his wife's work which included the freeing of the Custis family slaves in 1862.  Later in the war, Lee even pushed the idea of enlisting slave soldiers into the Confederate Army in exchange for their freedom at the end of the war.  Lee was full of internal conflicts concerning the true purpose of the war throughout the four year conflict.  However, his steadfast allegiance to the State of Virgina never wavered.

General McDowell and Staff at Arlington
(Photo Credit / National Archives)
The Army of the Potomac immediately occupied the Arlington property and stationed guns on the heights by the mansion overlooking the city to prevent the Confederacy from using the high ground to launch an assault against Washington.  Trees were cut down to make room for batteries of cannon, creating an unobstructed line of fire against a potential enemy invasion from the south.  Over time, a total of five forts were built on the large property along with newly constructed roads to deliver supplies.  Mrs. Lee, now safe in Richmond, was worried about her family's ancestral home and actually wrote a letter to Union General Irvin McDowell.  She respectfully asked General McDowell, who led the First Corps of 40,000 troops assigned the task of defending Washington, if he could spare Arlington House and not to disturb their private residence.  He responded promising to do what he could to protect the house.  However, with the necessities of war, the house was later opened up as a military headquarters.  The interior space of the house was now violated by the Union.

Union Graves at Arlington
 (Photo Credit / Arlington National Cemetery)
As the war dragged on, the South's unwillingness to bend to the might of the Union was blamed on Lee's gifted abilities as a military commander.  The increasing number of Union dead needed a place to rest.  The veteran's cemetery outside the Soldier's Home in Washington D.C. was at capacity.  Therefore, it was decided to begin to bury the Union dead at Arlington as a means of punishing General Lee for siding with the South and causing so many deaths.  General Montgomery C. Meigs, who commanded the garrison at Arlington Heights is credited with creating Arlington National Cemetery in 1864.  The first grave created was a massive tomb in the Lee family's rose garden that contained 1800 Union dead from the Battle of Bull Run. The spiteful intention was that General Lee and his family would now, never be able to come home to Arlington House again and ultimately, they never did.

Endless Gardens of Stone
Since its inception, the military cemetery has grown to encompass 624 acres and remains an active cemetery to the present day.   After 1900, veterans from previous wars were recovered for reinturment within the sacred space so Arlington National Cemetery now contains the remains of veterans from all of America's wars, including Iraq and Afghanistan.  More than 300,000 veterans have been laid to rest at Arlington with an average of 28 funerals taking place every weekday, equating to almost 7,000 per year. The most well known grave at Arlington is that of President John F. Kennedy, along with his wife Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, and their infant son, Patrick Bouvier Kennedy.  The grave site is located at the base of Arlington House and is marked by an eternal flame.  The slain president's brothers Robert F. Kennedy and Ted Kennedy were laid to rest nearby. 

Freeman's Village
(Illustration Credit / Harper's Weekly)
In June of 1863, a portion of the Arlington estate to the south was set aside to create a model community for former and fugitive slaves.  The federal government gave over 1,100 freed slaves tracts of land to farm in what became known as Freeman's Village.  It originally started as a tent city for southern slaves running to Washington for freedom and protection but grew into a community that lasted more than thirty years.  Some of the residents were former slaves of the Arlington Estate, owned by the Custis family.  A school was soon created that grew in attendance, containing a child and adult enrollment of over 900 students.   In a strange twist of fate, the Lee family's vision of what life could be like for the former slaves of Virginia, came to be on the grounds of their former home.   

George Washington Custis Lee  / Robert E. Lee / Walter Taylor
Photo Taken Days Following Lee's Surrender to Grant
(Photo Credit / Andrew Gardner / National Archives)
The federal government officially seized the Arlington estate because taxes had not been paid on the property.  Mary Custis Lee sent an agent from Richmond to pay the ninety-two dollar tax but was turned away by government agents.  Following the death of his parents, George Washington Custis Lee, the oldest son of the Lee family, sued the federal government for seizing the Arlington property illegally.  He argued that he was the rightful owner according to the family will and in a 5-4 decision, Lee won his case and regained control of what was left of his family's estate.  However, the following year he agreed to sell it back to the federal government for $150,000 on March 3, 1883.  The deed was ceremoniously transferred from George Washington Custis Lee to Secretary of War, Robert Todd Lincoln.  Both men were the oldest sons of their famous fathers, who were the opposing leading figure heads of the Civil War conflict.  Ironically, Arlington House is now considered an official monument, dubbed the Robert E. Lee Memorial and looks out over the Lincoln Memorial, located in direct line on the opposite side of the Potomac River.  

The Eternal Flame
(Photo Credit / Sharpresolution, LLC)
I have visited Arlington National Cemetery several times and each visit brings out the real emotional cost of war.  It is a humbling reminder of how hollow statistics found in books can have true measure with the visual representation of endless fields of neatly spaced stone markers.  It is a quiet place, one of reflection, and private personal thoughts.  I vividly remember my first visit to the site when my mother and I traveled to the nation's capital.  It was a gloomy day in May with a cold steady rain, which added to the sad atmosphere of the cemetery.  As we stood in front of the eternal flame, my mother recounted the emotional story of the events, as they unfolded in late November of 1963.  Her tears were a testimony to the weight of grief, burdened by a nation in mourning.   It is impossible to describe the impact of Arlington with words.  It is something everyone should take the time to experience, as a tribute to all who rest here within hallowed ground. 

 Taps at Arlington
(Photo Credit / Arlington National Cemetery)

"Get correct views of life, and learn to see the world in its true light.  It will enable you to live pleasantly, to do good, and, when summoned away, to leave without regret." 

Quote / Robert E. Lee

"In this sad world of ours, sorrow comes to all; and, to the young, it comes with bittersweet agony, because it takes them unawares."

Quote / Abraham Lincoln


My Mother / Wanda Martin
Vietnam War Memorial / Washington D.C.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Hessian Prison Camp / Part # 3

Hessian Prison Camp
 Brickerville, Pennsylvania
PART # 3

Down the Dirt and Gravel Lane
Two weekends after Donnie Miller and I explored the deteriorating house in the woods and trench, my daughter Katelyn asked me if I might be interested in traveling up to the Pretzel Hut north of Lititz for some soft-serve peanut butter ice-cream.  That was a dumb question... we were in the car in less than five minutes and backing out the driveway.  In between the question and turning the key in the ignition of the car, I hatched a quick plan in my mind and grabbed my camera on the way out the door.  I'm not in the habit of knocking on the doors of strangers, especially when you have to drive down a lane into the woods.  I hate the idea of imposing on someone's privacy and didn't know if I would have the courage to make the turn when the time came.  Nonetheless, we were on our way to another potential adventure with an ice-cream happy ending as the only guarantee.  

Surrounded by Colonial History
As we approached Brickerville, I asked Katelyn (who was still in the dark) if she minded if we made a quick pit-stop on the way to the Pretzel Hut.  When she asked... Where to Sherlock? I gave my token reply of... Don't ask... and she let out her usual sigh and rolled her eyes.  It is a routine conversation we have had many times in the past.  I reminded her of the ice-cream ending and she was game!  She plays the role of Dr. Watson for food!  We approached the small brick house along Route 501 and with no cars behind us, I slowed to glance down the lane.  I thought I could see several vehicles parked in the distance suggesting someone might be home.  I made the turn and slowly descended down the lane toward a large pick-up truck parked by several historic structures.  As I prepared to muster up my courage to go knock on the door, I realized I had forgotten my cell phone and Katelyn had left hers at home as well.  I have seen several made-for-television horror movies start off this way and was more than a little nervous when I left Katelyn locked within the car to see if anyone was home.  Remember kids, I am a professional... don't try this on your own without a police escort!

Historic Steigel-Coleman House
I turned the corner and was surprised by the size of the house that was actually a mansion of two large homes joined together.  As I approached the first door of the stone constructed half of the house, I passed by a huge bronze plaque the size of a pizza box designating the Steigel-Coleman House as an official National Historic Landmark.  The house appeared dark inside but I knocked on the door and soon heard sounds from within that eventually led to the door opening before me.  The man looked a little started and I couldn't judge whether he was annoyed or curious.  I doubt he had many uninvited door knockers to contend with.  I recited my rehearsed speech of introducing myself as a local social studies teacher in constant search of local history... yada yada yada... watching his expression carefully and preparing for a quick flight to safety should the need suddenly arise. 

 Elizabeth "Barrett" Browning
I was in the process of explaining my childhood memory of being here before and describing my recent visit to the Hessian Trench when he finally spoke with the question... Do you want to see where the prisoners slept?  Green Light!  Turns out the man who answered the door was none other than William Coleman who was the eighth generation of his family to live in the historic house.  He turned out to be a really nice man who was kind enough to spend a few minutes with me and give me a tour of the historic property.  After releasing Katelyn from the protection of the car, we made our way around the corner of the house toward a stone barn-like building that butted up to the rear right-hand corner of the mansion.  We were joined by a small white dog named Barrett, named after the poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning, who did a good job of keeping Katelyn entertained during our visit. 

Hessian Prison Barracks Exterior
Mr. Coleman explained the history of how the Hessian prisoners had been bartered by General Washington in exchange for desperately needed munitions for the Continental Army forged at the Elizabeth foundry on site.  He walked us over to a red doorway on the stone barn-like structure with a white cupola on top.  When he opened the door and the outside light flooded the space below, my childhood memory suddenly came back into clear focus.  This is the exact spot where I stood over thirty years ago when I was a kid, frightened by the description of a dungeon.  It was an amazing feeling to be here once again peering into the depths of the sunken space that had not changed since it was used to house prisoners.  Mr. Coleman explained that the red slats on the exterior of the outside windows were actually iron bars that prevented the prisoners from escaping from their cells 234 years ago.

Hessian Prison Cell / Left Side View 
The wooden floor at ground level had been removed and the prisoners had been housed in quarters about ten feet below the surface.  Note the large wooden beam in the upper left hand corner of the photo above that marks where the floor had previously been supported before the Hessians arrived.  The two smaller beams halfway down may have been used to support the prisoners bedding at night to keep them above the damp dirt floor.  There were a few small iron barred windows below ground level to provide fresh air to the prison cells.  There is no way to tell how many men might have been confined in this single room.  A doorway on the left suggested additional cells and the red cellar door in the photo of the building's exterior  suggests how the prisoners would have gained access to and from their sleeping quarters.  Members of the local Lancaster Militia may have been assigned the task of guarding the prisoners.   If these walls could talk...

Hessian Prison Cell / Right Side View
Over time, most buildings are reinvented again and again for new purposes as the need arises but this space seemed untouched since it served in the role of prison over two centuries earlier. Looking down to the right in the submerged space was a fireplace that supplied the inmates with warmth and possibly a method for cooking daily food rations.  It would also have provided some comfort after spending long days on Cannon Hill, digging the trench, while exposed to the sharp biting teeth of winter winds.  It is unclear if some of the 70 men were also housed in other outbuildings on the property that still remain or others that are lost to time.  Mr. Coleman continued to lead us on a walking tour of some of the other nearby buildings including a large barn where charcoal fuel was stored for the foundry.  By the way... Where exactly is the foundry?

 Former Location of Furnace
It turned out the furnace was no longer there.  After more efficient coal fired furnaces put charcoal fueled furnaces out of business, the forge was deconstructed and the stone was recycled to construct the Coleman Memorial Chapel on the opposite side of Route 501 (AKA: Furnace Hills Pike) about a hundred yards south from the gravel lane Katelyn and I turned down to enter the Coleman property.  The chapel was built in 1877 by George and Deborah Coleman as a memorial to their son James who tragically died at age fourteen in 1874.  Today the beautiful stone chapel is an operating evangelical church, serving the local community.  The location of the previous foundry site is now an active archeological dig by students of Millersville University, who are working to connect Elizabeth Foundry with the sugar refining industry in the West Indies.
Under the PA Turnpike
Mr. Colman offered to give us the nickel tour of the property that was now mostly an expansive Christmas tree plantation.  We climbed into his pick-up truck that was bigger than my first apartment in college.  Katelyn and I were both a little hesitant for a few seconds... again, not something we would normally do with a stranger we just met ten minutes ago...  But we risked it... What were the odds that a guy who owned a Christmas tree farm and a cute little white lap dog named after a poet was also a serial killer?  The highlight of the ride was when we pulled into a creek and drove through a tunnel that passed beneath the Pennsylvania Turnpike that went right through the middle of the property.  The truck seemed to just fit within the curved walls of the tunnel.  We exited out the other side into the light and pulled onto dry land and continued on the crude dirt road though the woods.  

Colonial Horse Barn
He showed me several small stone homes that had been remodeled to house the migrant workers who arrived in early November each year to help with the Christmas tree harvest.  The one interesting characteristic that caught my attention was the design of a corner chimney on at least one of the buildings.  It was similar in size and design, which prompted me to ask Mr. Coleman about the mysterious house to the east of where we were driving.   However, he was unaware of the existence of the decaying stone house with the corner hearth Donnie and I had explored two weeks earlier.  The Coleman Family had gifted a large tract of land to the Pennsylvania Game Commission several years ago and the abandoned house was contained within the donated acreage.  More investigation would be needed to unravel the mystery.

Iron Plantation Quarters
Mr Coleman steered his pick-up truck "on steroids" through the Christmas tree farm that now provided the family income and many others seasonal employment.  We pulled out onto Hopeland Road and made our way back to the mansion.  I learned that the famous draft horses that pull the wagons of trees and patrons to make a memorable holiday event are actually leased each year for two months from a horse broker in Philadelphia.  The horses are housed in the well-maintained18th century stone barn while in residence.  It was time to say goodbye and leave the beautiful property.  I can't thank Mr. Coleman enough for giving up part of his Saturday afternoon to give Katelyn and I a tour of his family's beautiful historic property.  I hope to visit him again before it is time to get our next Christmas tree to learn more of the history of the Elizabeth Iron Foundry.  Katelyn was sad to say goodbye to Barrett but her puppy Max was anxiously waiting for her at home! 

Elizabeth Christmas Tree Farm
Following the digging of the irrigation trench, the Hessian men became more like employees and seemed less like the enemy.  The men liked the area, it reminded them of their homeland without forced military service.  Their exact fate is unknown but it is believed that most stayed in the Lancaster County area, married into the local population, and became respected members of the community.  In a strange twist of fate, their capture and prisoner sentence may have been the best thing that ever happened to them.  It might have been their ticket to the Land of Opportunity that pulled people across the Atlantic as indentured servants, who served in temporary bondage for centuries.  It was a rare win-win situation in a time of conflict and violence.  It is said that many of their descendants continue to live in the Brickerville area today. 

Please See My Additional Photographs of the Historic Site at...

The Pretzel Hut's Famous Ice-Cream


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Hessian Prison Camp / Part # 1

Hessian Prison Camp / Part # 2


Coleman Memorial Chapel

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