Adams County Bicentennial Tidbits

September, 1999 


9-8-99-          Mason and Dixon go to work

The second of two parts

          The temporary line of 1739 between Pennsylvania and Maryland was never intended to be more than that. At last, in 1760 the proprietors entered into an agreement to draw a permanent line. Apparently recognizing the serious difficulties which previous surveyors had experienced in staying on course and taking into account the differences in elevation from place to place, the two sides agreed to put mathematicians and astronomers, rather than surveyors, in charge if the task. The men chosen were Charles Mason (1728-1786) and Jeremiah Dixon (1733-1779), both young and experienced Englishmen.

          Arriving in Philadelphia in November 1763, they began by holding frequent meetings with designated commissioners from both provinces and by building and observatory near a point both sides agreed was the place from which to start. It was the summer of 1765 before they were ready to proceed west of the Susquehanna River.

          On July 9 they crossed the main branch of Deer Creek in southeastern York county; on July 18 they were near one of several roads leading from York to Baltimore; and on July 24 they crossed what they called the "lower road" from York to Baltimore, and in July 29 hey were less than a mile south of what they identified as the source of Codorus creek. On the same day they crossed the "upper road" from York to Baltimore, in the area of what is now Route 516. On July 31 they crossed a road leading "from Baltimore to M’Allister’s Town."

          On Aug. 1 the surveying party was at the western most branch of the Codorus creek and the next day at the eastern-most branch of the south branch of the Conewago. At noon on Aug. 8 they experienced what they described as "a great storm of Thunder, Lightning, Hail and Rain." The hail was mixed with pieces of ice, one of which was 1 3/5 inches long, 1 1/5 inches wide, and inch thick.

          As they continued their progress through the present Adams county, Mason and Dixon crossed the Monocacy road (Aug. 21), Marsh Creek (Aug. 24), Middle Creek (Aug. 26), Tom’s Creek (Aug. 29), and Friends Creek (Aug. 30). Upon reaching springs flowing into the Antietam creek (Sept. 4), they were in the present Franklin County.

          The task of Mason an Dixon was to run the permanent boundary line through five degrees of longitude, which was the length of the southern boundary of Pennsylvania specified in the 1681 charter. With time out for meetings with the commissioners, for setting stones (imported from England) a mile apart of the line, and for side trips serving various purposes, they pressed on. Concerned about the possibility of Indian hostility as the survey continued, they asked the Six Nations to approve what they were doing. In June 1767 the commissioners informed them that the confederacy had chosen a number of Indians to meet then in York and accompany them as they continued. The commissioners cautioned that "as the public Peace and your own Security may greatly depend on the good Usage and kind Treatment of these Deputies," you should "not only… use them will yourselves but… be careful that they receive no Abuse or ill treatment from the Men you may employ," as indeed from anyone else. About a month later 14 Indians with an interpreter joined the survey party. When they reached a war path near Dunkard creek, Greene County, in October 1767, the Indians informed Mason and Dixon that their instruction from the Six Nations did not authorize them to go beyond that point. Accordingly, about a month later they left for home.

          After widening and clearing the path through which they had drawn the line, and after setting up more boundary stones, Mason and Dixon returned to Philadelphia and prepared their final report. They had marked about 230 miles of boundary along 39 degrees 44 minutes north latitude. Although they had moved beyond the western boundary of Maryland, they had stopped about 30 miles short of the five degrees of longitude which was their goal. It remained for a 1779 agreement with Virginia to extend the Mason Dixon line to the full five degrees and set the western boundary of Pennsylvania due north from that point.

          Fortunately for our knowledge of their work, the detailed journal kept by Mason and Dixon has been preserved and is now in the National Archives. It was transcribed by A. Hughlett Mason and published by the American Philosophical Society in 1969. The preceding quotations have been taken from this work.

          How far apart were the temporary boundary line of 1739 and the later Mason Dixon line? Because of the problems both sets of surveyors encountered, the answer to that question depends upon where one wishes to measure the difference. In 1776 Deputy Surveyor Archibald McClean, who had just been named to that post by the proprietors, surveyed for Frederick Keaver, or Keefer, a tract of 96 acres 144 perches in Germany Township, present Adams County. He rested this survey, to which he gave the name Silver Spring, on the Mason Dixon line and placed its westernmost point on the 68th mile post. Notice that the new line at this point is more than a degree short of being a 90 degree line. With a fine regard for future investigators such as us, McClean identified on the survey where the "Old Temporary" line was in relation to what he called the "Provincial Line." At this point, the latter was about 1/3-mile south of the former. The Keefer survey was located southeast of Littlestown; the 68th mile post was just west of Route 97 on the line.

          One very important step remained to be taken before one could say that the Maryland and Pennsylvania boundary dispute had been settled. Both provinces needed to proclaim the Mason and Dixon line in force. Since the Maryland authorities declined to participate in a joint declaration, on September 15, 1774, Governor John Penn acted unilaterally.

          His proclamation began by noting the 1732 and 1760 agreements by the two proprietors, as well as the 1769 "Royal allowance, Ratification and Confirmation" of all steps taken up to that point to put "a final end to that Period" to all "Contests and Litigation" between the provinces. Penn required all persons north of the Mason Dixon line "to yield obedience to the Laws" of Pennsylvania "and govern themselves according thereto."

          (Caption reads: this drawing shows the outline of a property owned by Frederick Keaver (or Keefer) in Germany Township. Archibald McClean surveyed the tract in 1766 and recorded the "Old Temporary Line," which was established in 1739, and what he called the "Provincial Line," Mason and Dixon’s line.)


9-12-99-          Francis Scott Key admitted to Adams County bar

          We can expect on more than one occasion during the Adams County bicentennial observance to hear the music of our national anthem. We can even expect to be invited to add our voices to the rendition. Some of us many even accept the invitation.

          The next time you hear the music of "The Star-Spangled Banner," whether or not you join in singing it, remember that Adams County, Pennsylvania, has a distinctive association with its author, one which it shares – to the best of our knowledge – with no other county in this country.

          Francis Scott Key (1779-1843) was born on an estate between Keysville and Middleburg in what was then Frederick and is now Carroll County, Md. He was graduated by St. John’s College and studied law with a judge in Annapolis. In 1801 he was admitted to the Frederick County bar.

          Key’s first association with Adams County came on Aug. 25, 1802, when he was admitted to practice law in its courts. The county was then less than three years old and in August 1802 the first court house, built in the Gettysburg square, was not yet ready for occupancy.

          Whatever might have been Key’s motives in seeking admission to the Adams County bar, along with a dozen or more attorneys who took the same step in the early years of the county, he had no apparent intention of locating in Gettysburg. There is no evidence that he ever practiced law here. Instead, he soon moved from Frederick to Georgetown, D.C., where the prospects for a young lawyer were much brighter than in either Frederick or Gettysburg. He soon became one of the area’s most respected and wealthy attorneys.

          Roger B. Taney (1777-1864), who was chief justice of the United States from 1835 until he died in 1864, married Key’s only sister. The two men had studied law together. They became and remained very close friends.

          On March 12, 1856, in a long letter to Key’s son-in-law, Taney replied to a request for an account of why and how Key wrote "The Star-Spangled Banner." In the summer of 1814, during the War of 1812, the British attacked and burned Washington and Alexandria. Then they threatened Georgetown. As a volunteer in an artillery company, Key stood ready to join in its defense.

          When Key learned that a British detachment had seized William Beanes, and Upper Marlboro physician, and were treating him roughly, he agreed to seek his release. Armed with a letter from President James Madison and joined by an American agent, John S. Skinner, who handles flags of truce and exchanges of prisoners, Key boarded a British vessel, as it was preparing for the attack on Baltimore. The British officers received the Americans courteously enough, but strongly opposed releasing Beans until information arrived describing his good treatment of British prisoners in American hands. By the time the decision to release was made, the British informed Key and Skinner that the attack on Baltimore was imminent. The three Americans would have to remain with the British fleet until its outcome was known.

          According to Judge Taney, Key and Skinner "thought themselves fortunate in being anchored in a position which enabled them to see distinctly the flag of Fort McHenry from the deck of the vessel" to which they had been transferred. During the night of Sept. 13-14, 1814 – 185 years ago tomorrow and Tuesday – "they remained on deck…, watching every shell from the moment it was fired until it fell, listening with breathless interest to hear if an explosion occurred." With the dawn, they learned that the American Flag was still there, the attack had failed, and British army and fleet were retreating.

          Later, Key told Taney that he had begun composing a song on the deck of their vessel, in the fervor of the moment," then finished it in the boat on his way to the shore, and wrote it out, as it now stands, at the hotel on the night he reached Baltimore." He then handed it to his brother-in-law, a Baltimore judge, who has it printed. It was soon widely distributed in the city.

          At the call of the governor, a company of Adams County militia, numbering about 100 men, was mustered into service in late August 1814 to defend Baltimore. Their services not being needed, they were discharged about three weeks later.

          Seventeen years after the attack on Baltimore and the composition of his famous song, Francis Scott Key came to Gettysburg for what was probably his second and last trip to that place. On Oct. 3, 1831, he appeared before Justice of the Peace Sampson S. King and acknowledged as "his act and deed" the following document, bearing the same date:

          Whereas I, Francis Scott Key of the District of Columbia, being the owner of a certain man of colour called Clem Johnson, now is in Gettysburg in the State of Pennsylvania, and being desirous for divers good causes and considerations to emancipate the said Clem Johnson and having agreed with him to leave him in the State of Pennsylvania and free to continue there, or to go wherever he may please, now therefore in consideration of five dollars to me in hand paid and for other good causes and considerations I hereby do manumit and set free the said Clem Johnson aged about forty five years, forthwith and hereby release and discharge the said Clem Johnson from all services to me my heirs exers andadmrs. – F.S. Key

          The witnesses to his act of emancipation were William N. Irvine, an attorney who later was president judge of York and Adams counties, and William McClellan, keeper of what became Hotel Gettysburg. To underscore the serious intent of his act, Key has the document recorded, in Adams County Deed Book M, p. 429, on the very day it was executed.

          Years later, John H. McClellan, long a clerk in the Bank of Gettysburg, told the editor of a Gettysburg newspaper that he had witnessed these proceedings in 1831. "Clem wept and said he did not care to have the papers," McClellan remembered, "and was unwilling to leave the services of Mr. Key." In response, Key assured him he could remain with his family as long as he lived, as servant, but no longer as a slave. What became of Clem is not known, but the recorded copy of the manumission eventually found a permanent home along the collections of the Adams County Historical Society. Nor is it known why Key wanted to free Clem in 1831. Granted that he did want to, Pennsylvania rather than either Maryland or the District of Columbia was the place to do it.

          In the years after 1814, the song written by a man who came to Adams County to be admitted to the bar and then returned 29 years later in order to free a slave slowly gained acceptances what has been called a national air, but it was only in 1931 that Congress declared it our national anthem. It is regrettable that when it is used for its intended purpose, very few ever get beyond the first verse to the fourth, which looks far beyond the wartime events of 1814.


 9-19-99-          Germans labor in Adams during WWII

          In early Spring 1944 as World War II was in its third year, the farmers, orchardists and processing plant owners of Adam County recognized that the county’s supply of available labor could not possibly handle the expected large harvest of vegetables and fruits. The county’s Emergency Farm Labor office, in cooperation with growers and processors, acted to assist in securing an adequate supply of workers.

          As had been done in Summer 1943, teenagers from Pennsylvania were invited to spend various lengths of time in the county to work in the fields and orchards. For example, In June 1944, 300 teenagers arrived at three Adams County Emergency Farm labor camps for the cherry picking season. Females were housed at the Arendtsville Vocational School building and the Cross Keyes Inn; males in the Biglerville grade school building. The young people were expected to work but half-days.

          Clearly, more laborers were needed. One possible solution was quickly "vetoed." The possibility of utilizing American-Japanese who were confined in detention camps was discussed. One farmer responded that he would "rather let the stuff rot in the fields than bring Japs into the county." Others expressed that they could not assure the safety of American-Japanese in the fields and orchards.

          Though there was some apprehension among many citizens about the German Prisoner of War camp just south of Gettysburg, very few objections were raised concerning the use of Germans as Laborers. A major purpose for establishing the prisoner of war camp on the battlefield was to provide a supply of laborers for the farms and orchards. Through the season, more than 300 German prisoners worked in both the harvesting and processing of peas, beans, tomatoes, cherries and apples.

          In late June 1944, under the sponsorship of the War Food Administration, 100 young Jamaican men, British subjects, arrived for work in the county and were later joined by 50 more of their countrymen. Housed in the Old Forge Civilian Conservation Corps building near Mt. Alto, they remained until November, working in the areas of Fairfield, Orrtanna, Cashtown, Arendtsville and Flora Dale.

          To add to the labor force, growers and processors urged the county’s unemployed residents to share in the work in the fields, orchards and plants. During a time of gas rationing, the employers were able to provide bus transportation to the residents, and established "pick-up" points throughout the county.

          While seeking adequate workers, the growers and processors had to determine wages. In the discussion, "Most were of the opinion that ‘we don’t want a John L. Lewis method of saying just what will be paid and what won’t’." The United States Government, in accordance with the Geneva Convention, required that the German prisoners be paid the "prevailing wage for agricultural work" and so the expectation for the Jamaicans. Apparently, the "prevailing wage" directive gave the flexibility desired. Of the wages paid, German prisoners could retain 80 cents a day for personal use with the remainder going to the U.S. Government. In the case of the Jamaicans, one dollar a day was deducted from the pay and sent to the family in Jamaica; $7.50 a day was deducted for room and board with the remainder given to the worker in cash.


 8-20-99-          THE FIRST FIVE TOWNS

          Within the space of two short years (1763-1765), entrepreneurs founded the first five towns in what is now Adams County. The fact that this occurred and that it was matched by similar developments elsewhere in Pennsylvania and Maryland, all at about the same time, indicates that the economy, indeed the whole society, had developed to the point at which it could support persons willing to leave the farm and go where they could spend their time as merchants or craftsmen. Practically speaking, would –be town founders had to determine whether they had enough land, a full and clear title to it, location along a main public road, and a well enough settled area so that townsmen could expect to make a living there. In the next five articles, we will follow five entrepreneurs as they assumed the role of town founders during 1763-1765.


8-21-99-          ABBOTTSTOWN

          Abbottstown is the oldest town in Adams County. Its founder, John Abbott (1700-1786), made his first formal claim for land, in Berwick Township, in 1745. In the early years of York County, he held several public offices and had a tavern license. Soon after securing a clear title in 1762 for his 506 acres, located along one of the main roads through the county, he took steps to found a town. On October 19, 1763, he made a number of formal promises to lot purchasers and issued the first deeds. He named his town Berwick. Although it was soon being called Abbottstown, the legal name was Berwick until 1911. It was the second Adams County town to become an incorporated borough.


8-22-99-          HUNTERSTOWN

          Hunterstown is the second oldest town in Adams County. Its founder, David Hunter, was an officer in the Pennsylvania service during the French and Indian War. In 1760, he bought 182 acres of land along the Black’s Gap road in Straban Township. Four years later, the Penns awarded him a clear title to this land. Within a few weeks of getting it, on April 2, 1764 he issued the two earliest deeds on record for lots in the new town. Hunter sold out in the fall of 1769 and left the area. He named the town Straban, but people soon began calling it Hunterstown. After the revolution it was, in a real sense, founded again. It is the only one of the first five towns which has never become an incorporated borough.


8-24-99-          MCSHERRYSTOWN

          McSherrystown is the fourth oldest town in Adams County. Its founder, Patrick McSherry (1725-1795), procured a 300acre tract from the Digges Family in 1763 (they already had a clear title, albeit a Maryland one) and proceeded to lay out a number of five-acre lots. The first known deed for one of these lots was dated June 27, 1765. Although McSherry may have intended his effort to be used primarily as outlots for Hanover residents, where they could keep their animals at times and obtain wood, it soon developed into a full-fledged town. Tax records for 1778 name 26 taxables there. McSherry, who lived in Mount Pleasant Township in 1765 and was later tavern-keeper in Littlestown, may never had lived in the town which bears his name.


9-26-99-          Railroads crisscross the county in the mid-1800s

          The first U.S. railroad to offer service to the general public, the Baltimore and Ohio, began laying track in 1828. Not until 30 years was the first railroad constructed in Adams County.

          In 1855, a route for rail service between Hanover and Littlestown was surveyed. Work began in July 4, 1857. On July 1 of the following year, the completed seven-mile railroad was greeted with band music, a picnic dinner an speeches. The railroad brought new life to Littlestown. More lots were laid out and sold; two warehouses and a hotel were erected. The line was extended to Frederick, Md., in 1871 and acquired by the Pennsylvania railroad in 1875.

          Less than a half year later, the county had its second railroad, the Hanover Junction, Hanover and Gettysburg Railroad. On Dec. 16, 1858, "a crowd estimated at eight to ten thousand people" gathered at the Carlisle Street station in Gettysburg to celebrate the railway’s formal opening. Citizens were invited to dinner and a round trip to Hanover for 25 cents. Abraham Lincoln traveled over this line to Gettysburg in 1863.

          With 25 miles of railroad, the southeast section of the county has fast and efficient transportation to outside markets, especially to Baltimore by way of Hanover Junction. Baltimore was a primary market for the county’s goods and products.

          Not until after the Civil War were additional rail lines constructed. In 1875, a group of investors received a charter to construct a spur from Hanover and Gettysburg Line north to East Berlin. The route of eight miles ran from Round Hill just south of New Oxford through Abbottstown to East Berlin. Completed in 1877, the Berlin Branch railroad or the East Berlin railroad continued both freight and passenger service until 1940.

          The county’s northern residents called for a convenient connection with Harrisburg. A spur line from Carlisle to Hunter’s Run just north of the Adam’-Cumberland County line was already in place. In 1883, work commenced of an 18-mile extension of the spur to Gettysburg with stations at Idaville, Gardners, Bendersville Station, Sunny Side, Biglerville, Table rock and Goldenville. The Gettysburg and Harrisburg Railroad began regular service on April 12, 1884. Round trip fare between Gettysburg and Harrisburg via Carlisle was $2.50. A record of 137,000 passengers, many of them tourists on way to the Gettysburg battlefield, used the train in 1888.

          The Baltimore and Harrisburg Railroad, the result of several name changes and considerations going back to the Hanover Junction, Hanover and Gettysburg Railroad, was extended seven miles west of Gettysburg in 1885, giving rise to the village of Wortzville-Orrtanna today. The track was extended to Maryland in 1889. This line was the favorite route for thousands of visitors to Pen-Mar Resort astride the Pennsylvania-Maryland line.

          The Railroads greatly reduced reliance of wagon-trains and stage coaches for transportation. In early twentieth century their importance began to wane with the coming of the automobile. By 1948, 72 miles of track serves freight transportation needs.


 8-27-99-          CAMP COLT

          The U.S. War Department, April 1917, chose a section of the Gettysburg battle field along Emmitsburg Road for a military camp site. By June, more than 2,000 infantry trainees had arrived. By the time the camp was terminated as winter 1917 approached, more than 15,000cmen had trained there.

          Camp Colt, an army tank training school, was established on the battlefield in spring 1918, with the first contingent of men arriving March 19. By Armistice Day in November, its population approximated 8,000. The facility had been named for Samuel Colt, inventor of the revolver bearing his name. Captain Dwight Eisenhower was commander of the camp.


8-28-99-          EAST BERLIN

East Berlin is the third oldest town in Adams County. Its founder John Frankelberger (d.1777), had lived along the Menallen Road in paradise Township since the 1740s. He was a tavern keeper and was often called upon to fill township and county offices. In 1758-1759 he was a York County commissioner. A 186-acre survey made for him in September 1764 along the Menallen Road in Berwick Township, several miles west of where he lived, stated that he had already laid out a town on this land. A "Plan of Berlin," dated April 1765, showed 84 town lots available for sale. Frankelberger named his town Berlin. It became East Berlin only after the United States post office changed the name in 1827 to distinguish it from Berlin in Somerset County, but for many years thereafter people continued to use the old name. The 1858 Adams County map calls it Berlin at one place and East Berlin at another.


8-29-99-          SERVING PROUDLY

          On June 5, 1917, the first day of World War I draft registration, 2,441 men between 21 and 31 registered in Adams County. The county’s first contingent of 121 draftees went to Camp Meade, Maryland, September 1917. The last draftees were sent November 10, 1918 but returned home the next day, Armistice Day. In all, the county draft board called up 548 men.

          A total of 1,078 Adams County residents served in the war. Fifty-three died while in service. Their names appear on a memorial shaft located in front of the G.A. Post Building, Gettysburg. From the county, 12 nurses served, seven being members of American Exposition Forces.


8-30-99-          COMPANY M

          Most residents of Adams County approved of the war to free Cuba, the Spanish American War. The 5th Pennsylvania Volunteers received permission to recruit additional companies, On July 20, 1898, 72 recruits from the county were mustered into federal services, thus the formation of Company M. The following day, having gathered in Gettysburg’s square and surrounded by music and cheers, they marched to the train station, for departure to Camp Thomas, Chickamauga Park, Georgia.

          Thought enduring the hardships of camp life, the possibility of malaria and drills in Georgia’s mud of sand alternately, Company M saw no action in battle. It was sent home September 17, 1898.


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Copyright 1999 Adams County Bicentennial Committee