Oh boy…this is going to be a busy one today. So much to see and do here so we decide that we will leave touring the actual battlefields for tomorrow morning and spend the day checking out the sites in the town of Gettysburg.
We head out to find some breakfast and coffee, and while eating we decide to find and book a ghost tour for this evening. I know it will be interesting and a fun way to walk through the town at night. I had no idea just how amazing it would turn out…are you scared yet?
After breakfast we drove to the Gettysburg National Cemetery, where over 3500 Union soldiers are buried. Situated on a portion of a battlefield, the cemetery contains the remains of 6000 people; 3512 soldiers and their spouses and children and 979 graves for unknown soldiers. There is a 60 foot tall granite statue right in the middle of the cemetery, known as the Soldiers National Monument. On November 19, 1863, the day the cemetery opened, President Abe Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address at its opening in Lincoln Square. This day is now annually observed by Gettysburg as their Remembrance Day, and is honored with a parade and Civil War reenactments. It is a very sad place to visit and for some reason it has left an impact on me. Rest peacefully.
After parking the car back at the hotel, we hit the streets and poke around in some of the shops and museums. There are many that have some interesting relics and historical pieces in them, and I found the owners very open to sharing some history and amuse us with great storytelling. It was a fun experience.
At lunchtime we head to the Blue/Grey Bar and Grill…a nice little pub style place with good food. We continued our stroll down the streets and two memorable spots for me were Rupp House History Center and Dobbin House Tavern.
Rupp House has a really interesting history. It was built in 1863 and the tour illustrates what life was like during and after the Civil War. Imagine cannons thundering on the outskirts of your town and soldiers are gathering right outside your front door? What would you do? John Rupp lived here with his wife Caroline and their six children aged six months to thirteen years. As the Battle of Gettysburg broke out on July 1st, John took Caroline and the children across the street to hid in the cellar of the home of Solomon Welty, their neighbor. The next day, as the fighting worsened, John had his father take Caroline and all of the children to his home. It was about eight blocks away and they had a perilous journey through the town which was now occupied by soldiers and sharp shooters. Meanwhile, John returned to his home and as the Union and Confederate armies exchanged gunfire, which went directly through the house, John stayed in the home and took refuge in the cellar until the battle ended 2 days later. This most interesting tour lets you see, hear and feel how the battle impacted the Rupp family and see the space that John hid in…now that is remarkable.
The Dobbin House Tavern is a must stop. We only walked around the grounds now, but we did make a reservation for dinner that evening. I can’t wait. I will share the history of this wonderful spot in a bit.
I want to mention the Farnsworth House here. In my previous blog,I had forgotten the name of the restaurant where we had eaten dinner last night, and just remembered that it was the Farnsworth House…thank gosh for my travel diary. The Farnsworth House is a beautiful spot for a meal, with a dining room filled with memorabilia from the movie Gettysburg, filmed in Gettysburg in 1993. There is also a beautiful outdoor beer garden and patio. The original house was built in 1810 and is intact, with of course some modern renovations. The building was occupied during the war by Confederate sharp shooters and on the outside of the building you can see over 100 bullet holes in the walls…it is an interesting moment to take yourself back in time when standing there and think of how it must have felt to be inside the building. Outside of being one of the more popular places to dine, it is also known for many hauntings which draws many a ghost hunter to this site.
On our way back up the street we happen across Reids Wine Tasting Room and Cider House…sounds like my kinda place. Reids has an orchard right outside of Gettysburg and their tasting room is here, on the main street in the town. What wonderful hospitality we received here and so many laughs. As it was getting late in the afternoon they were getting set up to close soon, but gave us samples of their hard ciders and wines. They also had two pieces of quiche that remained unsold from today, so they set us up on the patio with a glass of wine and the quiche…what a wonderful treat. I was loving one particular cider, Black Bear Hard Cider and decided I would buy some. The lovely server asked me if I wanted it in a growler…say what…what is that? Well, of course I said yes once she showed me what a nice moonshine type jug it was. I walked out with some treats for my family and some wines and my growler….happy me. I took a picture of the ladies that were so great with us and sent them a copy when I returned home. If you are in Gettysburg, be sure to stop in…you will love the products and atmosphere.
It was now time to return to the room and get ready for dinner. We, as I mentioned have a reservation at the Dobbin House Tavern and I can’t wait to see inside this beautiful building. Soon we are ready and we walk over to the restaurant.
Dobbin House is the oldest building in Gettysburg. Built by one of the founders of Gettysburg, Alexander Dobbin, in 1776 it is a magnificent building. Alexander purchased about 300 acres of land in 1774 around what is now Gettysburg, and on this land he built Dobbin House. He used the house as his home…he had 16 children and 9 step children (hence the big house, right?), and as a seminary, since he was a Presbyterian pastor. Mr. Dobbin resided here until his death in 1809. There eleven bedrooms in this house…plus…one small bedroom accessed only by a sliding cupboard…what a creative man Mr. Dobbin was. In some of the upstairs rooms, there are hiding spaces under the floors and in the walls that were used in the 1800’s as a stop on the Underground Railroad for escaping slaves. After the war, the home became a field hospital for both armies. The home now, appears entirely as it did when originally built, except of course for some modern kitchen amenities. There are seven original working fireplaces. The china and flatware used in the restaurant are exact replicas of those that were unearthed in the cellar pantry. The servers are all in period clothing that is remarkably exact from the 1800’s. The house is haunted, and it is wonderfully eerie inside. Many have seen Mr. Dobbin, smoking a cigar and walking the halls of his home, and there are also sightings of some of the slaves and infirmed soldiers. An odd occurrence is the reappearing blood stains on the floor, in the area that was once the operating room of the field hospital. Yikes. Upstairs, on the main floor, is the Spring House Tavern, which is named for the three springs that come into the house…it is a nice place to eat a meal or have a jug of beer. The dining room, where we ate, is in the cellar, and is delightfully quaint and cozy and so authentic in its decor. The food is hearty, delicious and oh my, that homemade bread. This is great place if you want to have a nice dining experience while in Gettysburg.
Directly beside the Dobbin House Tavern and used as a bed and breakfast is the Leister House. Built in 1861 by the widowed Lydia Leister, it was originally about half a mile south of Gettysburg. In 1863, Lydia’s house was surrounded by the Union army who had set up a fishhook formation in preparation for battle with the Confederate army…Lydia’s house sat right in the middle of this formation. General Meade decided to take over her home as his headquarters for this battle, and Lydia was forced out, along with her six children. When the war was over, Lydia moved back into the house, which she had to rebuild and she then added a two story addition to it. When Lydia reached the age of 79, she sold the farm to the Gettysburg Memorial Association (you can visit the site today at Little Round Top, on the battle fields of Gettysburg), and moved the original part of the home to the lot right beside the Dobbin home. Here she added a new two story addition to the home and she resided peacefully there until she died at the age of 84. This is now the Dobbin House Bed and Breakfast, and is right beside the Dobbin House Tavern.
With our bellies full, we head out towards the meeting point for our ghost tour….it was right beside the Dobbin House Tavern. We have booked with Sleepy Hollow Ghost Tours, and I would highly recommend them. It is now dark and the air is filled with the anticipation of who or what we will soon see. There are several other ghost hunters that join us, and we meet Steve, our knowledgeable and affable guide. Steve is great at sharing the history of the town and the battle that waged here and he knows a lot about the ghosts that are said to inhabit the areas we are walking in. The tour starts around 8:30 pm and is a two hour walking tour of the downtown, with some time spent in an eerie park under the trees, talking to a spirit…yes it really happened. We walk slowly listening to Steve and eventually end up in this park. It is here Steve tells us the story of William Pooler, an 18 year old boy who has been conscripted into the war from Virginia. William, as I recall only took one shot and then went to hide in the house right beside the park. It was here that he was killed by a sharp shooter, through the window of the second floor bedroom, facing the street…it was his first day of fighting….and sadly his last. At this point Steve asks if we would like to talk to William…Steve assures us that he talks to him and that William is very friendly and likes to answer questions about his life and the war. Steve then takes two dowsing rods out of his pocket and asks William to show us that he is with us and wants to talk. Ok…I am hugely freaked out and skeptical about this whole thing…until…the rods begin to move…really slowly but they move. Now if the rods open up wide, this indicates a yes and if they cross over each other, this indicates a no…the rods opened really wide…so, this apparently indicates that William is here and is open to speaking with us…great. Some people start asking questions to William, and he responds through the rods. Steve then asks one of us to hold the rods…I guess he senses my skepticism. I am volunteered by my travel partner to hold the rods and so I do. I have to admit that there was a certain humming sensation in my hands while I held them. Someone from the group asked a question…to be honest I waited for nothing to happen because I thought Steve had manipulated the rods…and then…without any interference from me…the rods moved and opened wide…a yes response to the question. I was shocked, thrilled, scared and you name it. This was actually real. Now I was hooked. I didn’t want to let go of those rods. So Steve let me hold them for the rest of our tour. The rods would spin quite often, apparently indicating the presence of a spirit. I am now really into this and so is the rest of our group.
Near the end of our tour, Steve tells us about an orphanage that used to be in the town. Let me share some of its history with you because it is important for the next ghost conversation I experience.
The orphanage had originally been opened by a very kind woman who had lost her husband in the war. She cared for and loved over 80 children until the day she remarried and moved out. A new woman came to run the orphanage….Rosa Carmichael. Now, Rosa despised children and was very cruel to these poor orphans…(maybe Rosa should have chosen a different career path). She would shackle them to the walls in the basement for days, or lock them in the outhouse in the dead of winter. She even built a pit in a deep alcove of the basement to lock the children in. Wow….what a piece of work she was. One night, in 1876, some men heard the pitiful cries of a young boy locked in the outhouse, and they reported this to the authorities. They came and freed the boy and saw the horror of what Rosa was doing to the orphans…they arrested her. She was held in jail with a bail set at $300.00, which she could not pay, so she stayed locked up…a little karma here for Rosa perhaps? She was charged and found to be guilty. She was eventually freed from jail for $20.00 plus court costs, purportedly because she was a female and needed to get back to taking “care” of the orphans. Rosa was soon arrested and charged again on another incident of cruelty to children and after she was released from jail the second time, she left town. There is no information to be found as to where she went or when she died.
Now, as Steve is telling us this story, about the horrid Rosa, we are cutting through an alley right beside the Adams County Court House and Jail….Rosa had been jailed and found guilty in this very building. At this point the air gets brutely cold…(remember this is summer)…and my dowsing rods are vibrating in my hands and spinning like crazy…Rosa has arrived and we have made Rosa mad. We all stand there in shock and likely some fear….and Steve yells, “Rosa, go away you cruel woman. Leave us alone and go away”. Okay, Steve…maybe you should have held onto the rods. The rods are spinning away, still really warm in my hands…and then…they just stop and the air is warm again. Cruel Rosa has gone. Wow…I am not making this up at all. I have a lot of ghost and spirit stories to share with you in future blogs, but this one I remember as my only experience with a truly angry, mean and vengeful spirit.
Well, after this experience, we all walk a little quicker to the end of the tour and say our goodbyes to Steve. I believe he was tipped really well by us all that night. I did return the dowsing rods to him…thought of buying my own…but was a little too shaken up still to be that brave.
We head to the room for a couple of stiff drinks on the balcony…I took quite a while to fall asleep…you can imagine why.
Tomorrow, we get up early to explore the battlefields. There is so much to see there we will take most of the morning. Then we will leave Gettysburg and head….well, I can’t tell you….you need to read the next blog. You won’t be disappointed.
Live Your Life…Jan
PS…I looooove writing these stories of my life for you to enjoy!