Fields of Conflict II: The Rose Farm 1844-1979

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Tipton Photograph of Rose Farm (house on left, barn on right)
Photo Credit: ACHS/HSR Rose Farmhouse

This is the second post on the Gettysburg battlefield farms.  This post will cover the Rose farm from its purchase by the Benner family in 1844 until it became park property in 1979.  A subsequent post will give greater focus to the claims process and the claims filed by Charles Ogden, John Rose, and George Rose. For a refresher, please read the August 2, 2013 post Fields of Conflict I.   https://npsgnmp.wordpress.com/2013/08/02/fields-of-conflict-the-sherfigh-property-before-1742/

The Sherfigh estate sold the property known during the battle of Gettysburg as the Rose Farm to Jacob Benner in 1844.  Benner, who had been the legal guardian of two of Sherfigh’s grandsons, purchased a two-story stone house with a porch and an attached log building, a stone bank barn, a wagon shed, a corn crib, a carriage house, a stone wash house, and a log stable.  The acreage included apple, peach, and pear orchards along with 140 acres of timber and a meadow.  Unfortunately, no photographs or drawings of the property exist to delineate the placement of the buildings.  Benner paid $5316 for a property surveyed at 312 acres, 113 perches—about $17/acre.  According to the 1850 Census, Jacob Benner was 44, his wife Catharine was 32, and they had five children 1-13, the two eldest being sons.  In need of farm labor, Benner hired his neighbor Philip Snyder, the son of the property owner Philip Snyder.  The Benner’s removed the log building next to the farmhouse and replaced it with a one and a half story stone unit which appeared on the 1852 tax assessment.  During his ownership of the property Benner sold 8 acres to John Houck, 39 acres to the partnership of John Houck and Samuel McCreary, 3 acres to George Wilson in 1844, 13 acres to David Essick in 1845, 7 acres to John T. Weikert, and 9 acres to John Wentz in 1847 amounting to an alienation of almost 80 acres.  In 1858 the Benner’s sold their farm and bought a house and lot in the borough of Gettysburg.

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George W. Rose Farm Boundaries, 1858
Photo Credit: NPS/HSR Rose Farmhouse

On March 22, 1858 George and Dorothy Rose of Germantown, PA bought a 230 acre farm just south of Gettysburg for $8050.  Given that Benner did not advertise the sale of his farm locally, and that no business or familial relations have been discovered between the Rose’s and the Benner’s, one park historian concluded, “One of the larger unsolved mysteries concerning the farm is, how did the Roses learn about the sale of the farm?”  Rose, a 49 year old butcher from Germantown did not take up permanent residence on the farm until 1868.  Instead, it appears that his brother John, who had been listed as a grocer or butcher in the Philadelphia directory prior to 1861, occupied the property.  Some uncertainty exists on this point because John claimed that he moved into the farmhouse on April 1, 1863, but the 1860 census placed him and his family in Gettysburg, and no evidence suggests that John Rose owned his own property.  The February 28, 1859 Gettysburg Compiler noted “the first cattle shipment by railroad last Thursday by Mr. Rose,” suggesting one of the brothers occupied the property within a year of purchase.  According to the 1860 Census, the John Rose family consisted of John, his wife Elizabeth, and seven children, three under age 10 and four teenagers, the two eldest of whom were daughters.  The census also listed the elderly Elizabeth Lippincott as a ‘domestic,’ a young Martha Welsh as ‘help,’ 50 year old John Miller as a ‘farmhand,’ and 14 year old Eli Leech as a ‘hireling’ on the Rose farm.  By the battle, a professional tenant farmer, Francis Ogden (44), his wife, a son Charles (17) who was listed as a laborer, and three younger sons lived on the Rose farm, probably even sharing the farmhouse.  The arrangement between the Rose brothers allowed John to live on the property rent free and provided George with a 50% interest in all crops.  Ogden was given full right to two wheatfields—not the famous wheatfield—on the property southeast of the house.  In August 1862, Charles F. Ogden, believed to be the “C.F.O.” autographed into one of the quoin stones on the farmhouse, joined Captain John F. McCreary’s Company B of the 138th Pennsylvania Infantry and went off to war.  As the war reached his most recent home, there may have been up to seven adults and eleven children living in the Rose farmhouse.

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“C F O 1861” Autograph on Quoin Stone
Photo Credit: Jim Flook

The Rose property was occupied during all three days of the battle of Gettysburg and featured fighting on July 2nd.   Buford’s Union cavalry fell back to this vicinity after their July 1st fighting.  On July 2nd, after Sickles moved forward, the Union army took up a defensive position all around and on the Rose property.  Ward’s brigade was placed along Houck’s ridge, just south of the Rose property and through Rose Woods.  De Trobriand’s brigade posted in the Rose Wheatfield where they were briefly joined by Tilton’s and Sweitzer’s brigades.  Graham’s Brigade selected a position in the Sherfy Peach Orchard which shared southern and eastern boundaries with the Rose property.  McGilvery’s artillery took up a position (along the modern Wheatfield Road) at the northern boundary of the Rose property.  As Confederate soldiers launched their attacks, Anderson’s, Kershaw’s, and Semmes’ brigades fought almost entirely on the Rose property along with elements of Robertson’s, Wofford’s, and Benning’s brigades.   Union brigades led by Brooke, Zook, Cross, and Kelly counterattacked into the Wheatfield and brigades led by Burbank, Day, McCandless, and Nevin fought on or near the eastern edge of the property.  Between 5391 – 9943 Confederate soldiers fought on the Rose property, with 1807 -3261 of those soldiers becoming casualties, of which 398 – 680 men were killed.  Approximately 6784 – 13,870 Union soldiers fought on the Rose property, with 2317- 4047 of those soldiers becoming casualties, of which 341 – 609 men were killed.  In addition to the human desecration, the Rose farm suffered severe physical damage as evidence by the damage claims of Ogden, J. Rose, and G. Rose which exceeded $7,000.

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Charles Reed’s  Sketch “The Twenty-second at Gettysburg”
Photo Credit: John L. Parker, Henry Wilson’s Regiment, (Boston, 1887)/ HSR Rose Farmhouse

Very little information exists on the Rose families after the battle of Gettysburg.  Damage claims, deeds, mortgages and sales notices describe personal and real property, but to the exclusion of any details on the family.  The records of Dr. John O’Neal show that he visited the Rose farm on four different days in March 1870 to treat one of the Rose daughters, for which the prescribed treatment was the use of a straightjacket.  While it would be reasonable to speculate madness associated with the scenes around the Rose farm following the battle of Gettysburg, nothing concrete is known about the situation.  John Rose attempted to sell his household belongings in 1875, but it appears the sale did not occur.  He later sold those items and moved back to Philadelphia where he appeared in the city directory beginning again in 1879.  Records do not appear to indicate what became of the Ogden family or how long they maintained their association with the Rose family.  George Rose, who had lived at the farm since 1868, returned to Germantown, PA in 1875. His financial history is traced in detail through a series of mortgages, but little else is known about him or his wife other than that he passed away from stomach cancer on January 20, 1882.

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Rose Farm from the Right Flank marker of the 22nd MA on Stony Hill in 2013Photo Credit: Jim Flook

The Rose farm was mired in debt and mortgage agreements, especially after the Civil War.  In 1861, George Rose placed the farm in the trust of James R. Tool for $1 while the terms of the trust gave Dorothy Rose near absolute control of and responsibility for the farm suggesting that Rose was sheltering the farm from creditors.  Rose attempted to sell his farm in May 1866 and again in August, but could not find a buyer.  At the time he was $338 in debt and took out a mortgaged on his Gettysburg farm.  A trend of mortgaging the farm, paying a debt, obligating more debt, and mortgaging the farm again seemed to recur for the remainder of Rose’s ownership as he had not less than seven creditors.  In 1867, creditors won a judgment against Rose in court, but he managed to pay it off and save the farm.  However, in 1871 the Adams country sheriff seized the property to pay Rose’s debt, but despite two notices the property did not sell.  In 1873 another creditor obtained a writ of Alias Exponas and the sheriff seized the Rose farm again.  A public sale conveyed the deed to Charles Hagy after he paid the court a remarkably pitiful amount of $100. Records do not indicate whether this was a full purchase prices, but only that $100 was sufficient enough to give Hagy possession of the deed.   In the following year, Hagy sold a 50% interest in the farm to Roses and a year later another buyer was found.  On March 25, 1875  Charles Hagy and George and Dorothy Rose (with James R. Tool as the trustee) sold the Rose farm to Rosanna Wible for $9,000.  A month and a half later, George and Dorothy Rose bought the property back for $9,000.  Although the transaction appears to remove Hagy and Tool from the deed, the question remains as to where the Rose’s got $9,000 unless Hagy got no money in the first transaction and the Rose’s simply returned the Wible’s money.  More perplexing is the fact that the Rose’s had outstanding debt and a $4,000 mortgage.  On March 10, 1880 the Roses sold their farm to Rosanna Wible for a second time, this time for $4,000 cash and the assumption of a $4,000 mortgage.  The farm, re-surveyed at 222 acres, left Rose family ownership permanently after 22 years.

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Earliest known photograph of the Rose Farmhouse by Tipton, ca. 1870s
Photo Credit: ACHS/HSR Rose Farmhouse

The Rose farm had five owners between the Rose family and the National Park Service over a hundred years.  Rosanna (Boyer) Wible owned the Rose farm, while her husband William was assessed the taxes.  The 1880 Census gave William’s age as 54 and Rosanna’s as 52.  They had a ready supply of labor in the form of six sons, ages 27, 21, 19, 17, 14, and 10 along with a 12 year old daughter.  Wible had been a farm machinery agent, deacon and elder in the Lutheran church, school director, master mason, and finally a farmer.  During their ownership, the Wible’s transferred 58 acres to the Gettysburg Battlefield Memorial Association—the first land preservation entity at Gettysburg—“including the Wheatfield, part of Rose Grove, and the immediate surroundings.”  They also turned the morass, a low marshy area northeast of the farmhouse alongside the Wheatfield and Stony Hill, into a pond stocked with German Carp.  It was also during the Wible ownerships that the Gettysburg Electric Railway Company created railroad beds for a trolley line that was stopped by the Secretary of War through the use of condemnation proceedings.  In 1898, Samuel Bushman who held $5850 in Wible debt, obtained a writ of fieri facias causing the sheriff to seize both the personal property and real estate of the Wible’s to settle the debt.  J. Emory Bair bought 173 acres for $7650. (As is frequently the case the acreage numbers do not add up; 222-58= 164 not 173).

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Tipton Photograph #36, View from Loop to Rose buildings, ca. 1886-9
Photo Credit: ACHS/HSR Rose Farmhouse

A cashier for the Gettysburg National Bank and receiver for the Gettysburg Springs and Hotel Company, J. Emory Bair was frequently involved in land transactions and his name appeared on a number of mortgages as a witness or creditor.  Bair sold land to the Park Commission—the land preservation entity which replaced the GBMA and preceded the NPS—as a businessman and as a private owner.  He sold the land necessary to create Birney Avenue around the Sherfy Peach Orchard to the park commission followed by 32 acres of Rose woods for $2850 in 1905.  Additionally, Bair removed the Wible pond and may have changed the location of smaller outbuildings.  In April 1908, Mary C. Bair petitioned the Orphan’s Court to appoint her as her husband’s guardian because illness prevented him from managing his property.  The court, with both Bair’s present, consented and a year later allowed Mary to sell the 139 acre farm that he owned to pay debts.  During the 1909 sale of the property, it was discovered that Bair has only a 50% owner; the other owner was W.W. Hafer who had died a few years earlier.  Hafer’s estate sold his 50% interest to Maggie Wible, who also bought Bair’s 50% interest on April 16, 1909 for $2604.47.

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East side and south end of Rose Barn, February 16, 1969
Photo Credit: E. Nett/NPS

Maggie Wible, the wife of David Wible, was the daughter-in-law of William and Rosanna Wible, the first Wible’s to own the Rose farm.  Maggie secured a $4,000 mortgage at a 5% interest rate from Harriet S. Toot, which was satisfied in 1919 to pay for the property.  The Wible’s sold 15 acres of the Loop (Stony Hill) to the Park Commission ca. 1910.  Late in her tenure on the property, Maggie considered selling the barn to the school district as foundation stone after a windstorm blew the roof off.  However, the NPS successfully lobbied her to change her mind.  In 1937 unable to keep up the farm as a widow in the midst of economic disaster, Maggie Wible sold the farm to John A. and Ann Austin of Dayton, OH. The Austin’s secured a $2,000 mortgage to Gettysburg National Bank and a mortgage of $850 to Maggie Wible payable in annual increments of at least $100.  The Austin’s never resided at the farm, choosing instead to rent the property out.  Cumberland Township records shows that the last renter was an adjacent landowner named A. A. Hutcheson.  In 1946, after her husband’s death Ann Austin sold the Rose farm.

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Rose Farmhouse, 1982
Photo Credit: NPS/HSR Rose Farmhouse

Gettysburg natives Reverend Luther  and Matilda Slifer purchased the remnants of the Rose farm in 1946.  They acquired 50 acres along with a $5000 mortgage from Mrs. Austin and a $4000 mortgage from the Gettysburg National Bank.  Frequently abroad as international missionaries, the Slifers did not occupy the farm until 1962, but rented it out to friends or relatives.  Amongst the changes the Slifers made to the house, they added bathrooms on the first and second floors and installed large windows on the south side of the first floor.  In 1958, the Slifers sold 24 acre and 20 acre tracts of the farm located north and south of the farm entrance lane.  In 1969, they sold the remaining 6 acres to the National Park Service with a life estate, which allowed the Slifers to remain in the house until they deceased.  In 1979 upon Rev. Slifer’s death, the farmhouse became the property of Gettysburg National Military Park.

Jim Flook, Park Ranger

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Rose Farmhouse, 2013
Photo Credit: Jim Flook

Two significant sources found in the Gettysburg National Military Park library have been used:  Kathy Georg Harrison, “Historic Structure Report – Rose Farmhouse,” National Park Service, 1982; Rose Farm File. Additional research completed at the Adams County Historical Society in their farm files and family folders.

About The Staff

Staff of Gettysburg National Military Park
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5 Responses to Fields of Conflict II: The Rose Farm 1844-1979

  1. Fascinating post! I’m the type who loves to know everything about historic homes. I confess, I’ve always loved old stone houses, and the modern photo of the Rose farmhouse is wonderful!

  2. I have *always* wanted to know if it’s possible to visit the Rose farm without some sort of permission, i. e. can anyone just come take photos on the grounds or is that forbidden? I don’t want to disturb anybody and I know folks are living there. It’s definitely my favorite battlefield farm! If it’s not too much trouble I’d love if some kind soul could reply via email🙂

  3. I believe the last renter referred to as “A. A. Hutcheson” is a misspelling of my great-grandfather’s name, Arthur E. Hutchison. Arthur was married to Rosa Jane Wible, who grew up on the Rose Farm and was a daughter of David & Maggie Wible (the last Wibles to own the farm).

    • Elisabeth says:

      Hi, I’m Charles Wible’s great granddaughter. Jane was one of his sisters. Bill Hutchison was first cousins with my grandmother Patricia. I’m trying to track down information on the Wible branch of the family.

    • Nancy Craig says:

      I am a descendant of Sarah Rose, sister of George and John Rose
      I believe George wife Dorothy Hagey mother was a Shifigh also
      Henrietta Toole maiden name was Rose a sister to George & John
      Nancy

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