Chapter I: Early History of the Farm, 1790s-1846

The smoldering remains of the man's home and his adjacent corn crib lay at his feet while his wife searched through the ruins for anything salvageable. Fortunately, she was optimistic that everything of value had been saved through the timely arrival of her neighbors and some of the students from the Lutheran Theological Seminary. But for Charles Slentz and his wife the destruction of the farmhouse spelled the end of an historic connection with the farm. Over thirty years earlier, the father of Charles Slentz, lived at this same farmstead and was tenant on the land when his own tranquil life was subjected to disaster. The farm consisted of 119 acres when John Slentz applied to John B. McPherson to rent the farm sometime about 1858. Slentz, then 30 years of age, moved his wife and two daughters into the old stone and log house and set about acquiring livestock and preparing the fields for crops and pasture. Within a short while young Slentz had a team of horses and a pair of horned cattle with which to start his venture toward economic success. He was not, however, the first tenant or occupant of this McPherson Farm. The land comprising the bulk of what became known as the McPherson Farm can be traced back in ownership to at least 1798. At that time the tract included 118 acres east of Willoughby Run, and was owned by William Breadon (also spelled Breaden, Bredon). Breadon was using already a 50' x 17' log barn to shelter his horned cattle and horses, but was still working on his own dwelling house at the time the tax was assessed in the end of 1797. This one-story dwelling house consisted of a stone
and a log section with three windows and five lights. The building was in an unfinished condition at the time of the assessment, William Breadon probably adding the stone section at that time to accommodate his large family.

The log farmhouse was 20' x 18' in dimensions 1 and, as in most early settlements, probably antedated the other improvements on the property until the settler was accommodated sufficiently enough to proceed at a steady but less hurried rate. The stone section was added to enlarge the living quarters, but probably not until after the log barn was erected. The Pennsylvania farmer would overlook his own discomforts for a while in order to provide shelter for his source of income--livestock and harvested crops. When both family-related and farm-related matters were attended to, then the farmer could tackle modifying, enlarging, or otherwise improving his preliminary shelters. In the case of William Breadon, a fieldstone addition to the house complemented his original efforts. This section of the farmhouse was larger than the log--24' x 16'--and was attached to the north end of the log house.2 It was here, evidently, that Breadon lived with his family. Looking at the 1800 census for the western part of York County, we can understand why Breadon found it necessary to expand his living quarters.
The listing for William Breadon indicates that eight people were in residence in the stone and log farmhouse in 1800. 3

It is unclear when Breadon entered the "Marsh Creek settlement", but he is not listed in the appropriate section of the 1790 census, hinting that he did not move into the area until after that year. Since he was still building or improving his dwelling in 1797-1798, we can assume he settled here sometime after 1795. (With such a large family, Breadon surely could not have delayed the addition to his home any longer than two years.) What prompted him to come here is not certain, nor where he came from. Why he left the settlement is equally puzzling.

In 1802, however, William Breadon decided to call it quits. He sold his farm (then almost 130 acres) and went elsewhere. 4 It appears that he may have somehow been in debt to a Reverend David McConaughy, and McConaughy purchased the farm from Breadon at perhaps a reduced rate. In any event, Reverend McConaughy took over the farm 5 with its log barn and stone and log house built by his predecessor, and occupied the place for a quarter of a century--the longest ownership of that tract known as the McPherson Farm.

We know about as little about Reverend McConaughy, except that his son would one day become David McConaughy, Esquire. 6 The reverend must have been a decent sort of chap, prosperous and patriotic; after all, he produced one of Gettysburg's better-known sons. But McConaughy was surely a Scotsman, too. He knew the value of improved roads to transport merchandise to market in the distant cities, and must have understood the necessity for road development in order to insure the prosperity of Gettysburg. Yet he also knew that he did not relish the idea of a west-bound road bisecting his acreage. He expressed his displeasure through legal means when a turnpike was surveyed to do just that.

Within five years after his purchase of the Breadon farm, McConaughy learned of the approval of a proposed Gettysburg-Petersburg (Littlestown) turnpike. In April of 1807, the Pennsylvania Assembly enacted a bill for this corporation to "make an artificial road from the Court House in the borough of Gettysburg, through Petersburg, to the Maryland line. . . ."7 His neighboring landowner, Alexander Cobean, was named one of the original
commissioners of this Gettysburg-Petersburg Turnpike Company. McConaughy probably looked on this pike favorably, or even with indifference, since it did not concern him or his profession. But in 1809, it was proposed and granted that this same pike would continue westward from the Gettysburg square, to connect that town with Cashtown and Chambersburg.

The survey as laid out in that year was programmed to follow a route from the Diamond of Gettysburg to the "valley in Alexander Cobean's meadow", thence to the "stone fence line" between Alexander Cobean and Reverend Mr. McConaughy, and then through McConaughy's land 257 perches (or 2230 feet) to the fenceline between William McPherson and Thomas Sweeney's property.8 This road would become known as the Cashtown or Chambersburg Turnpike since it eventually reached those destinations from Gettysburg.

Prior to the construction of this turnpike there was no road running westward from Gettysburg. The Hagerstown road jogged off to the southwest after reaching the crest of the ridge west of Gettysburg, and the Mummasburg Road (constructed ca. 1767-1770) ran in a northwesterly direction from the town. An old dirt road connected these two and ran from the Hagerstown Road at the crest of the ridge in a northwesterly direction, towards the Upper Marsh Creek Presbyterian, or Black's, Graveyard. Later accounts reminisced that this old road to Black's Graveyard went "directly by the old stone building, then owned by Rev.
Mr. McConaughy . . . and up through the farms west of it, and crossed the present line of the turnpike." 9 McConaughy's house and barn, built by Breadon long before the Chambersburg Pike was contemplated "faced" this old dirt road10 i.e. faced eastward. The turnpike, surveyed to pass north of his farm buildings, would pre-empt the need for this old road. 11

McConaughy resorted to legal means to receive what he considered was just compensation for damages caused to his property by the new turnpike. Therefore, during the January 1815 session of the courts, 12 Reverend McConaughy presented a petition "for damages sustained occasioned by the Gettysburg and Petersburg Turnpike Road passing thro his Land."13 The pike was perceived as detrimental to McConaughy's property since it not only took over 2000 linear feet away from his farm and bisected it into northern and southern portions, but had the effect of "compelling the abandonment of the old road, or bringing his barn to the front and throwing his house in the rear, and of obliging him to supply a new approach to the highway".14 He supposedly received $100 for this
injury, but an examination of the Sessions Dockets up to 1827 15 (when McConaughy relinquished title to the farm) revealed no decision on this claim.

McConaughy had sold a tract of seventeen acres on the west side of the farm to Thomas Sweeney, land which eventually reverted to the ownership of both Abraham Spangler and the preacher's nemesis--the Turnpike Company. In fact, the toll house at Willoughby Run on Route 30 sits on this part of the old Breadon-McConaughy farm which was sold to Sweeney.

It may have been during the lengthy ownership of McConaughy that the original log barn gave place to the stone Pennsylvania bank barn which stood at the time of the Battle of Gettysburg and survives in an altered condition today. It is impossible to pin down an exact date for the construction of the so-called McPherson barn by using available tax records and legal documents. Generally, when an owner improved his acreage to the extent of building a new house or barn, the tax assessor made note of it for the first year of its appearance. By examining those yearly tax records for Cumberland Township there should be such a notation of the new stone bank barn. Unfortunately, the tax records for Cumberland Township are incomplete--there are no records for 1802-1804, or for 1812-1823. Since McConaughy acquired the farm in 1802, there is no record of the first three years of his ownership, nor for a long stretch of over a decade towards the last half of his term of ownership. It is likely that the stone barn was erected sometime during
those missing years of 1812-1823. 17 By that time the farm may have been productive enough in annual returns to convince McConaughy that the old log barn 18 could be replaced by a substantial stone one in lieu of attempting to repair a deteriorating log shed-like barn.

Reverend McConaughy, however much he was legally and financially committed to the farm, does not seem to have had a physically personal commitment to the operation. Census records for the period of his ownership reflect that he was residing in the borough of Gettysburg, and not on a farm in Cumberland Township.19 McConaughy was the farm's first known absentee landlord. It is not known to whom he leased the farm, if indeed he did. Perhaps it was occupied and worked by the two Negro slaves owned by this "man of religion".

After almost twenty-five years managing the farm, McConaughy decided to give it up. Somewhere between the ages of 50 and 60 years, he may have felt himself unable to devote himself to the farm's operation and condition, or perhaps he was unwilling to bear the financial burden of paying taxes on it yearly. In 1827, Reverend McConaughy retired as "gentleman farmer", selling his 110 acres to a group of speculative investors--David Ziegler, Michael C. Clarkson, and John L. Fuller, known through the tax records as Clarkson, Fuller, and Company.

For a period of three or four years the three men managed the farm jointly, perhaps all the while trying to find a buyer at profit. Indeed, they did manage to sell about nine acres along the way. 21 In 1831 or early 1832, David Ziegler and John Fuller relinquished their share of title in the farm, but Michael C. Clarkson retained full title to it from that time until he lost it in 1846. However, Clarkson remained, like his two former partners, a land speculator, 22 and an absentee landlord like McConaughy before him. Clarkson leased the old Breadon Farm to tenants probably throughout his ownership, since census records suggest that he also lived in the borough of Gettysburg. In 1830, about the same time he took over sole possession of the farm, Clarkson's family included himself and his wife (both under the age of 30 years), four children, and a resident older relative. 23 By 1840, Clarkson's wealth was such that he could sustain a fairly sizable family and household--twelve people in all, including two free black servants. During the 1830s Clarkson's local fame rose meteorically, as did probably his wealth. In 1832 he was a member of the borough council, and in 1834 he was elected burgess of Gettysburg, a post to which he was re-elected in 1839. 24 But one of the earliest
legal documents related to Michael Clarkson is perhaps a foreboding of the ill luck which befell him. In November of 1827 he was charged with assault and battery and fined $3 on the assault charge, a rather inauspicious beginning for the investor who had just purchased the McConaughy Farm.

Financial reverses had a drastic effect on poor Michael Clarkson, forcing him to find a buyer for his farm west of town. In order to pay off an $1800 debt, the court allowed him the month of November 1845 to raise the money, by selling part of his landholdings. November and December passed without an offer for the farm, probably much to the once-prosperous Clarkson's humiliation. Finally the court seized the farm and it was offered to the highest bidder at a sheriff's sale. The high bid was proffered by John B. McPherson at $2215.25 This high bid was more than sufficient to pay off Clarkson's debt of $1800, and causes the outsider to question why McPherson did not just buy the farm at $1800 directly from Clarkson two months previous.

What became of Clarkson and his large family after the sale is not known. Within three years they all disappeared from the borough of Gettysburg and did not take up residence in Cumberland Township either.26 Perhaps Clarkson was unable to live in a small town where he had been financially ruined, especially when his old partner David Ziegler continued to prosper in his land speculations and was even a respected judge.
Clarkson's contribution to the improvement of the farm were probably limited. No notice of such improvement is reflected in the tax records. We are, however, indebted to Clarkson for incurring his own indebtedness. Because the sale of his property was handled at a sheriff's sale, we have been left with a description, though sketchy, of the farm's structural and pastoral contents at the time it was purchased by John B. McPherson.

Enumerated within the deed of sale are the major structures on the 95-acre tract--"a one and one half Storey dwelling house, Bank barn, Wagon Shed and other outbuildings, with a well of water and an orchard of Fruit Trees. . . ." 27 This indicates that the 1798 house was still standing, and that the wagon shed and corn crib, house, and (most importantly) the stone bank barn which show up clearly in the 1863 Brady photograph were all there in late 1845 when Clarkson was selling the farm. 28

Footnotes for Chapter One

1 Entry for William Breadon, 1798 U.S. Direct Tax, Cumberland Township, York County, Pennsylvania. National Archives microfilm, (GNMP library).
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2 See Matthew Brady photograph, Appendix F, nos. 1 & 2.
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3 U.S. Census for 1800, Pennsylvania. National Archives microfilm (GNMP library). Breadon's family included one male between the ages of 16-26, and one male (head of household) 46 or over. Besides his wife, in the 16-26 years of age category, Breadon had an abundance of females in the house--a child under 10, one daughter between 10-16, and three older daughters between the ages of 16-26.
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4 Breadon disappeared from the Cumberland Township tax rolls after the sale of his farm to McConaughy.
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5 Deed Book B, p. 123, Adams County Courthouse.
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6 The younger David McConaughy is the guiding light for the early days of what became Gettysburg National Cemetery and Gettysburg National Military Park. Founder and president of the citizen's Evergreen Cemetery, it was young David who persuaded the churches and descendants of the deceased earliest settlers to abandon the multitudinous family and church graveyards around Gettysburg, and establish a central "depository" for the dead to facilitate and insure future care of the graves. He was also the visionary who clamored for a grand monument or national cemetery at Gettysburg to honor those Union dead who fell in the battle, and this less than three weeks after the Battle of Gettysburg. It was David McConaughy who pur- chased significant battle sites (East Cemetery Hill, Little Round Top) out of his own savings in order to insure their preservation and memorialization. It was he who proved the inspiration for the Gettysburg Battlefield Memorial Association, which would eventually acquire over 522 acres in partial fulfillment of McConaughy's dream.
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7 Edward McPherson "Local History", Star and Sentinel, May 14, 1895.
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8 Ibid.
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9 Ibid.
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10 "A Complete Loss", Star and Sentinel, April 9, 1895, P. 3.
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11 This old road may have been constructed a little after 1781, when two petitions were received to survey a road needed to connect residents of Cumberland and Hamiltonban Townships with Rev. John Black's Meeting House (Upper Marsh Creek Presbyterian Church). Charles Glatfelter, Extracts from the Road Docket and Quarter Sessions Docket, Lancaster and York Counties, Pennsylvania (Unpublished manuscript, Adams County Historical Society, 1974), pp. 195, 198.
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12 The turnpike was completed by that time.
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13 Session Docket, Book B, 1808-1815, Adams County Courthouse, p. 353.
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14 Star and Sentinel, May 14, 1895.
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15. Not available
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16. Not available
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17 Similarity in original style of construction with the Rose Barn seems to indicate that they may have been built about the same time, if not by the same mason. The Rose Barn also is believed to have been built sometime after 1812 and before 1820.
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18 This structure is referred to as an "old log barn" even in the 1798 tax records. Perhaps it had been erected by a settler previous to the ownership of William Breadon.
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19 U.S. Census Adams County, Pennsylvania, 1810-1830 (National Archives microfilm, Adams County Historical Society.)
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20 Deed Book L, p. 392, Adams County Courthouse.
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21 Cumberland Township tax records, 1828-1832, Adams County Historical Society.
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22 One of Clarkson's speculations was the battlefield Codori Farm whose farmhouse was built in 1833-1834 during his ownership.
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23 U.S. Census, Adams County, Pennsylvania, 1830 (National Archives microfilm, Adams County Historical Society).
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24 History of Cumberland and Adams Counties, Pennsylvania (Chicago, 1886), p. 192.
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25 Deed Book Z, p. 466, Adams County Courthouse.
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26 Clarkson died in 1874 at the home of his son, then Episcopalian bishop of Nebraska.
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27 Ibid.
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28 The McPherson Barn, then dates from at least 1845. If not built between 1812-1823 (as it most likely was) then the barn had to have been constructed prior to 1845 and Clarkson's financial reverses.
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Chapter Two: The McPherson's Acquire the Farm

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