Chapter VII: Remaining Years of Private Ownership

It was three months until the house was fit and furnished again for occupancy by the Slentzes. During that time the family stayed at the seminary and with John Slentz, Sr. According to Sarah Slentz, over 200 soldiers were cared for in the house and barn alone until they could be transported to other field hospitals. On their return to their home, the tenants found two soldiers buried in the garden adjoining the house, one of them wrapped in a quilt belonging to the family. 114Edward McPherson owner and landlord, was absent in Washington during the battle and did not return until one week after its close, "finding his farm in great dilapidation, as respects crops, fencing and buildings. 115 Since McPherson was the owner of the real estate, and had no rights to ownership over Slentz's crops, farming equipment and livestock, or household goods, he could file a claim for only the ground itself, the fencing, and the buildings. It is odd that he did not file for battle damages to the house and barn, especially since he commented that they were in a state of "great dilapidation" (although the 1863 Brady photograph does not indicate any severe battle damage on the south or west sides of the buildings). The Slentzes had also remarked that the stone and log house was "battle scarred and marked by bullets and shells on the exterior", 116 but there is no record that McPherson sought financial


redress for these injuries. He claimed damages to the fencing, only, but never received compensation for his claim even though it was an active file from 1868 to 1883. Slentz, on the other hand, may have received the $1080 he applied for, since the commissioners examining the claim approved it and all litigation ended in 1871 in his case.

Until Slentz received the $1080 (if indeed he ever did) it was a slow but steady road to recovery. The following year he was taxed for only one horse and one cow, as he tried to start over from scratch. By 1867, however, he had increased his livestock to a team of horses and seven cattle. Family records and newspaper accounts indicate that the John Slentz family never gave up on the tenant farm, and stayed on until the house burned down in the spring of 1895. Tax records, however, do not pick up John Slentz from 1871 until 1891, when he reappears on the tax rolls.

Edward McPherson, though, did abandon this farm altogether in 1868 when he sold it to Riley Hamilton and Jesse Emerson. Hamilton and Emerson were land speculators, who eventually found legal means to transfer the farm to the owners of the Springs Hotel. Unfortunately, through all the myriad of land transfers from 1868 until the U.S. Government acquired the McPherson farm buildings in 1904, 117 the only structure remaining of the war-time period was the stone barn.


On April 6, 1895, a fire, caused by a faulty flue in the kitchen part of the house ignited the roof and consumed the entire structure (as well, apparently, as a nearby shed). The kitchen section of the house was the original log part of the Breadon-McConaughy-Clarkson-McPherson farmhouse. This log kitchen adjoined a two-story yellow frame house on its northern gable end--where the old stone house originally stood. 118 (This frame structure stood on the same foundation as the stone structure it replaced, according to the Slentz children.) Although the article in the Gettysburg Star and Sentinel stated that the fire began in "the old stone house" (and not the log kitchen/house), it is relatively certain from an examination of 1880s-1895 photographs that the kitchen section was the self-same log kitchen of 1863, and not the stone house. The location and similarity of the exterior chimney on the south gable end of the kitchen appears the same in the 1863 photo as it does in the later-period photos of the two-story frame and adjoining one-story unit. 119 The site of the McPherson farmhouse (both the stone and log farmhouse and the log and frame farmhouse) is still visible to the untrained eye today. The cellar and foundation remains of the two-story frame are most apparent, while an earthen mound covering protruding stone and whitewashed brick are


evidence of the log kitchen remains. Any outbuildings which complemented the barn in 1863-1895 are now gone. After the 1895 fire, the buildings fell into disrepair and were evidently removed by the War Department between 1904 and 1905.

Footnotes For Chapter Seven

114 "Local Woman Fled with Mother to Seminary Here", p. 89.117
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115 Edward McPherson claims file. See Appendix B for transcription of his claims.
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116 "Local Woman Fled with Mother to Seminary Here", p. 89.
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117 See Appendix C, Chain of Title: McPherson Farm.
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118 "Historian's Report: Old McPherson Farm House"; "Two Dwellings Burned", Gettysburg Compiler, April 9, 1895, p. 3.
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119 See photos in Appendix F, nos. 1-2, 11-12, 8-9.
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Chapter Eight: The Federal Government and the Farm

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