Adams County Bicentennial Tidbits

May, 2000



          While liquor was frequently smuggled into the county during the prohibition years, bootlegging was an active and profitable "industry." Law enforcement agents were kept busy raiding stills and seizing and destroying illegal drink in the mountains as well as homes. One raid occurred at a home in Mt. Pleasant Township in May 1925. Swooping down upon the house, state police and the local constable found two stills in the cellar, one working with "three gallons of the finished product in a container." One hundred and fifty gallons of rye mash was also found and was quickly destroyed. The stills, containers, crocks, jars and many pint bottles filled with liquor were hauled to state police headquarters; two culprits were lodged in the county jail.


5-2-00-          NATURAL SPRINGS PARK

          "Five hundred persons danced and several hundred more stood on the porch and looked on when the large dance pavilion in the historic Hospital woods ... was thrown open to the public (August 1924)." Dancers from throughout the county, Waynesboro, York, Hanover, Hagerstown and Harrisburg filled the 4,800 square feet of dancing space. From the 400 entries in the name winning contest, the winning name, Natural Springs Park, was submitted by Samuel Scott of Straban Township. The name was deemed appropriate by many for in the Hospital woods there were no less than four springs "of pure water."



          Land prices can spark amazement. In Spring 1950, The Gettysburg Times noted the sale of four county farms, three in the Stone Jug Hill area and one at Round Hill. Two of the farms had acreage in both Butler and Straban townships; one in Butler Township only; and one in Reading Township. The total 151 acres had been sold to a Gettysburg attorney for an undisclosed person. The "undisclosed person" seems to have had no interest for the paper. However, it was the price of land that captured attention. The 46-acre farm in the Stone Jug Hill area sold for $39,000 or $848 per acre! The paper did not note that one farm brought only $100 per acre.


5-4-00-          MYSTERY MINING

          By June 1950, twelve farms totaling 1,000 acres in Straban, Butler, Reading and Latimore townships had been recorded as purchased for an "undisclosed person." They were but "a drop in the bucket compared with the total land purchases for the unidentified buyer." The mystery of the land purchases faded when crews began drilling for core samples of the earth. Whoever was buying land at hundreds of dollars per acre was interested in what is beneath the top soil. R.C. Stephenson, a state geologist, suggested that a search for iron ore deposits was responsible for the "secret" land purchases. And so another attempt for profitable mining in the county was projected.


5-5-00-          INFALLIBLE LINIMENT

          Throughout the 1860s the local newspaper with advertisements of health remedies made expansive claims of curative properties. One was Dr. Sweet's Infallible Liniment, the "Great Remedy" for rheumatism, gout, neuralgia, lumbago, stiff neck and joints, sprains, bruises, cuts and wounds, piles, headache and all rheumatic and nervous disorders, and even frosted feet. Not only would it eliminate pain but would cure toothache, quinsy and sore throat, sores, ulcers and many other conditons. It would cure rapidly and radically rheumatic disorders of all kinds. The Infallible Liniment was prepared from the recipe of Dr. Stephen Sweet, the famous bone setter.


5-6-00-          TEED OFF ON SUNDAYS

          Shall we have a round of golf on Sunday afternoon? At a special meeting called for August 23, 1924, the Quaker Valley Country Club of Guernsey membership was to vote on an amendment to its constitution permitting golf and other athletic activities at the club on Sunday afternoons. The Adams County Woman's Christian Temperance Union voiced its opposition to the amendment and urged the club "to remember the present tendency to forget the heritage of our fathers. Help Adams County express her faith in her Christian institutions by giving to her young people a continued example of proper observance of the Sabbath Day." At the appointed time the club voted 55-5 in favor of the amendment.


5-7-00-          Air show delighted crowds in 1929

          A crowd estimated at more than 20,000 filled all available parking and standing room at Gettysburg. Automobiles lined every highway and at one time the Lincoln highway was jammed with motor vehicles. Dozens of state troopers and highway patrolmen were directing traffic during the two-day program.

          Sunday's crowd was the peak crowd of the demonstration.

          These lines could describe one of the annual Civil War reenactments held during Gettysburg's Heritage Days, which commemorate the anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg. But in this case, those words appeared on the front page of the Monday, Oct. 21, 1929, Gettysburg Times, and described a two-day "Aerial Demonstration" held at the Gettysburg Airport that weekend.

          The Gettysburg Airport was operated by the Gettysburg Flying Service, and opened in August 1927 by businessmen from Washington, D.C., including Henry Berliner, an aircraft manufacturer. It was located on the Forney Farm, south of the Mummasburg Road in the shadow of Oak Hill on the first day's battlefield.

          The manager of the flying service was Howard C. Mittinger and his staff included a young pilot and flight instructor, Paul D. Charles, and a mechanic, Charles Doersom.

          The festivities during the two-day air show included stunt flying, two air races, "dead stick" (engine off) landing competition, parachute jumping, a night flying demonstration, and the dedication of a second hanger at the field.

          "The honors for the two-day program (went) to J. Shelly Charles (Paul's older brother), of Richmond, Va., and Henry Little of Norristown, who each won two large silver loving cups.

          "Charles won for stunt flying... putting his ship through every trick, twist and turn imaginable and (winning) the plaudits of the large crowd - and his dead stick landing expertise. Little won one each in racing competitions."

          Thunderbolt Knight, of Baltimore, thrilled the crowds with his daring parachute jumps.

          "The most thrilling performance was the delayed jump. Knight (leaped) from his ship at an altitude of 3,000 feet. After dropping several hundred feet he opens one chute. A few hundred feet farther down, he (cut) one parachute loose and (dropped) two hundred feet before opening his second chute."

          Apparently, the star of the show, one of the rising stars in the aviation field, was 23-year-old pilot Paul Charles, who "thrilled the large crowd Sunday afternoon with a series of rolls, wing-overs, nose-dives, falling leafs, upside-down flying, and other aerobatics" in his Whirlwind biplane.

          Other participants included A.C. Pottorf of Chambersburg and S.B. Slyder of Chambersburg. Notable visitors to the field included Gen. James E. Fechet, chief of the Army Air Corps; E. C. Brauer, chief photographer and "Chief Aviation Pilot Insley" of the Navy; J. Morgan Harding, of Hadley Field, N.J.; R.W. Thaw of Norristown; and Earl Steinhauer of Hoover Field, Washington, D.C. (now the site of the Pentagon).

          Nonetheless, a young army pilot was also present. His first claim to fame was piloting the "Question Mark," a- large biplane (now in the Air & Space Museum collections), that broke a record for endurance flight. But this aviator was destined for greater things. His name, Captain Ira C. Eaker, who, as the commander of the Army's Eight Air Force in Europe during World War II, helped bring Hitler's Third Reich to its knees through daylight bombing raids.



          In early 1917 the county apple growers documenting extensive damage caused by deer in the orchards began to campaign the state legislature for a bill repealing the game law against the killing of does. The does had been "accumulating at a terrific rate." A friendly paper in Franklin County took up the cause of the apple growers. "There, naturally, will be some opposition to this bill, as there are many people who bitterly oppose the slaughter (hunting) that has been going on of deer. But these people are not losers in any way and cannot appreciate what destruction is wrought by the animals." The question remains: What is to be done about the deer?


5-9-00-          $1.59 FOR EACH BODY

          It was a gruesome and exhausting labor of finding, exhuming and transporting the Union dead for reburial in the new soldiers cemetery. David Will, contractor for this task, published an advertisement in December 1863. "Farmers are requested to leave at my office in Gettysburg a description of the location on their lands of graves of Union Soldiers. Many have been buried in secluded spots, and persons will confer a great favor by making known to me, or to Mr. Samuel Weaver, the locality of such graves." Weaver directed the work of exhuming the bodies. Wills received $1.59 for each body removed to the cemetery.


5-10-00-          PLEA FOR 'OUR COMMON HUMANITY'

          The Adams Sentinel, February 2, 1864, made a plea for "our common humanity." There was a growing sentiment in the community that a place needed to be set apart "for the burial of the Confederate dead who are now buried promiscuously over the battlefield, or in the vicinity." The recent rains had "washed the places where they were buried, and the bones are exposed." With cultivation of the land, no trace of their last resting place will be left... "The hostility of the dead has ceased; let them be in a spot where a father, a mother, a sister or brother, can visit their last resting place, when this cruel war is over."


5-11-00-         RECEPTION

          The Board of Trustees of Pennsylvania (Gettysburg) College announced that the school would open for the reception of students on November 7, 1832. After listing the faculty the trustees carefully noted that the college would adapt "to the wants of the German population of our country" and would take measures to "render (the college) singularly advantageous to that respectable class of the community." Still, Gettysburg's proximity to Baltimore and Philadelphia, the healthiness of the area, the morality of its inhabitants... the cheapness of living (board in the village at $1.50 per week and tuition $24 per year), and the high qualifications of the Professors, all recommended the Institution to the patronage of parents.



          Even as the Theological Seminary and Pennsylvania College in 1865 were seeking funds to increase their endowments, there were efforts to secure the removal of both from Gettysburg. Allentown, Pa., had offered to contribute grounds, buildings and $50,000 to have the institutions there. Offers were expected. In July The Adams Sentinel declared, "The citizens of Gettysburg and Adams county ought to be stirring themselves, and see to it that they do not lose these institutions - so vital to the (social, moral and financial) interest of this County." To attest to the importance of retaining the college and seminary "in our midst" the town and county was urged to raise $10,000 for the endowments.



          Do you know how many rolls were consumed at the 75th Anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg? One hundred and fifteen Pennsylvania veterans of the battle attended, including Calvin Gilbert of Gettysburg and John Lower of Arendtsville. Of the 1845 Veterans attending, 150 represented California, and 22 were from Maryland. Pennsylvania at Gettysburg contains a signed note from President Franklin Roosevelt as follows: "To the Blue and the Gray Whose reunion at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania is the living symbol of a united nation." The veterans, by the way, consumed 155,525 rolls and 5,130 loaves of bread during the well organized event.


5-14-00-          A bit of feudalism in Adams County

          Although most people remember William Penn as one who wanted to establish in his vast American province a society in which more individual rights and privileges prevailed than almost anywhere else in the world, and although this memory is substantially an accurate one, the fact remains that when King Charles II granted Penn his charter in 1681 he conferred upon him some powers which were reminiscent of those once exercised by European feudal lords.

          Not only did Penn become both landlord and governor over more than 25 million acres of land and its people, but also he was authorized to establish tracts called manors, in which he could dispose of land on terms more favorable to him than elsewhere in the province. In addition, he could, and did, impose what was called a quitrent on all land he sold. After paying in full for a property, and then being given a deed, the purchaser was obligated to pay in perpetuity what was certainly a remnant of the feudal past. A simple definition of a quitrent reads: a rent paid in lieu of feudal services.

          If paid regularly, these quitrents would have assured the Penns a welcome annual income, not for years, not for life, but forever. As one might suspect, neither William Penn nor his successors ever developed an administration large enough to collect them promptly and in full from all who owed them. When the revolutionary government of Pennsylvania passed a sweeping measure in 1779 removing the Penn proprietors and vesting their former powers in the new state government, quitrents were abolished, not for years, not for life, but forever.

          Nothing in the powers enjoyed by the Penns prevented the founders of colonial Pennsylvania towns, including those in what is now Adams County, from assuming some of the attributes of feudalism for themselves. Between 1763 and 1765 John Abbott, David Hunter, John Frankelberger, Patrick McSherry and Peter Little all included in the deeds which they gave for lots in their new towns the requirement that, in addition to paying the stated price in full, purchasers and their heirs and assigns pay the founder and his heirs and assigns an annual ground rent. Note that there it was not called a quitrent. In 1763 John Abbott called for "yielding and paying" to him and his heirs every Oct. 19 "for Ever… the yearly Rent of Seven Shillings and Six Pence." A year later, John Frankelberger required of every purchaser of a lot in East Berlin ground rent on every March 1 of "one silver milled Spanish Piece of eight or so much lawful Money of Pennsylvania as will purchase" the same. In 1765 Peter Little demanded "every year for ever from the first day of May last past the yearly Rent or sum of seven shillings and six pence lawful money of Pennsylvania," payable "at the town of Petersburg," as he called his creation.

          In the decade after the Revolution, when the new towns of Fairfield, Gettysburg and New Oxford were founded, John Miller, required 13 shillings and four pence "as ground rent... yearly and every year forever."

          In the case of the eight towns already mentioned, the founder had employed surveyors to lay out an agreed-upon number of lots, which they could then offer for sale. This practice continued with some of the towns founded after 1800, such as New Chester, Hampton, Heidlersburg and Mummasburg. Other towns, however, such as York Springs, Arendtsville and Biglerville, appear not to have originated in so formal a fashion. Also, it is clear that the zest for ground rents in Adams County had run its course. There is no evidence that they were imposed in any of these later towns.

          In an effort to have their towns become the seat of Adams County, both James Gettys and Henry Kuhn promised that, if successful, they would transfer the ground rents due them to the new county. Gettys won the contest, and for many years thereafter the annual county report of income and expenditures listed income from what the auditor called quitrents. Even here, the amounts due appear to have been easier to impose than it was for the Gettysburg tax collector to collect. The annual report for 1920 listed rent due for 1917, 19 1 8 and 1919 of more than $400. Eventually, some of the owners of the 200 lots in Gettysburg on which ground rents were due paid the county one sum of money to relieve themselves of any further obligation.

          To learn what happened to ground rents in Adams County, one must study their fate in each of the eight towns in which present knowledge indicates they were imposed. This is a time consuming, but not impossible, task. The ability to collect ground rents was considered a taxable asset along with possession of real estate, horses, cows and the like. Thus, the annual tax lists reveal who the successive holders were in each town.


5-16-00-         REFUGEES

          Twenty-five Southerners, refugees from Southern conscription, came walking into the county on February 13, 1864. Residents of Rockingham county, Virginia, they had fled to the mountains to escape the conscription office. Moving northward through the mountains for about two weeks, they arrived at Union lines where they were given passes to proceed to Gettysburg. The men told the authorities that other refugees were on the way to the area and expressed their desire for work. "As laborers will be somewhat scarce, they will no doubt find employment... They appear to be much gratified that they have escaped conscription." Among the group were a father and four sons.


5-17-00-         "YOU CAN HARDLY EAT TOO MANY"

          Just prior to the December 1916 annual convention of the Fruit Growers' Association of Adams County, members were delighted to read the Philadelphia Sunday newspapers. Full page advertisements, sponsored by two wholesale firms, extolled the values of apples and urged their daily use. Declaring the apple "a master piece of nature's chemistry," the advertisements continued, "It is the friend of health and the foe of disease... It is a food, a tonic, condiment and cosmetic all in one. Its wine ... drives out the noxious matters which cause skin eruptions." It can renew "the essential nervous matter of the brain." "Buy apples now! Eat Apples now! can hardly eat too many."


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Copyright 1999 Adams County Bicentennial Committee