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July 2013

Jerry Desko Submits
Winning Name for Newsletter

CTHS board members considered several entries in their “Name This Newsletter” contest and ultimately chose “The Courier” as the winner.

Society member Jerry Desko submitted the suggestion. While not a resident of the township, Desko studies and writes about history, especially military history, and he became interested in the CTHS since much of the Battle of Gettysburg was fought in the township.

After retiring as a police officer in New York state, Desko moved to Gettysburg with his wife, Kathi. Both volunteer with the Adams County Historical Society, but Jerry still finds time to embark on historical adventures with his German shepherd pal, Max. The two are shown taking a break in the photo at left.

From the Chairman:
The State of Your Society

I am amazed! This fledgling society is growing. The public quarterly meetings have been well-done. We have a newsletter and a website. The humble beginning of the “Historical Committee” has paid off by giving birth to the Cumberland Township Historical Society. Long may it last.

It was suggested that each board member be featured in our newsletter. This month’s feature will be the chairman: me. I was born in Bloomsburg, Pa., in 1964 and moved to Gettysburg in 1968. My home was the apartment above my father’s museum. I’ve made it to the ground floor and live in a house on Baltimore Pike with my wife, Nancye.

Being a museum worker for 40 years, I have swept the floors, performed maintenance and repair duties, curated, been a sales person, and many more small-business endeavors.

I have worked on dozens of TV, movie, and theatrical productions. Thirty years ago, I formed a company that provides historical research, consulting, and re-enactor supplies. I have been fortunate to have customers from all over the world.

Please look forward to the quarterly meeting on Sept. 9.

Your chair,
Speros Marinos

CTHS Gets the Word Out with Newsletter, New Website, More

Communication is key for any organization. That’s why the Cumberland Township Historical Society has made a concerted effort to reach out to members and the entire community in a variety of ways. The Board thanks CTHS Secretary-Treasurer Judy Metheny and members Kathi Desko, Jennifer Florer, Cindy Fox, and Linda Clark for getting these efforts off the ground.

The Courier  
This quarterly newsletter shares information on recent and upcoming events and opportunities in between the quarterly meetings.

It’s published in January, April, July, and October and currently goes to almost 150 CTHS members and nonmembers. It's also available for viewing on the "Newsletter" page of the Society's new website.

CTHS member Jennifer Florer (at right), who moved to Cumberland Township from Carlisle in 2011, edits the newsletter. She works in communications for a local government association and has found the Society a great way to learn about the history of her new community.

The website 
Until recently, information about the Society and its events was available only through mailings and notices in the local newspapers. Now, anyone in the world can learn about CTHS through its new website,

We have CTHS member Cindy Fox (at left) to thank for that. After 15 years of visiting her parents in Cumberland Township, Cindy moved here last year with her family from Mesa, Ariz. She and her husband, Mark, own the candy store Sweeet! in downtown Gettysburg. Cindy also owns Butterfly Consulting LLC, which provides database and web design, programing, training, and more.

The Gettysburg Times column
Watch for the “Historic Cumberland Township” column in the Gettysburg Times on the fourth Tuesday of every month. CTHS welcomes contributors to this column, which discusses historic sites and events in the township. If you would like to write about or suggest a topic, please email or call CTHS at (717) 334-7110.

Mark Your Calendar for Upcoming Events

Everyone is invited to the Cumberland Township Historical Society’s quarterly public meetings. Each features a special presentation that explores the township's history. It's also a great time to meet and greet others who share your interest in the history of our community.

The events are free and include refreshments! Special programs are also offered on occasion at other sites throughout the township.

See the schedule of events below and plan to join us. All will be held at the Church of the Brethren, 1710 Biglerville Road, Gettysburg, unless otherwise noted.
  • Sept. 9 at 7 p.m. — Explore the history of the Lincoln Highway in Cumberland Township with speaker Fred Gantz.
  • Dec. 2 at 7 p.m. — Learn about early taverns in Cumberland Township with speaker John Winkelman.

***Special event for CTHS members only***
  • Aug. 29 at 7 p.m. — CTHS Chairman Speros Marinos will give members a free tour of the Marinos Battlefield Museum at 900 Baltimore Pike, Gettysburg. Members who plan to attend should RSVP by email to or call CTHS Secretary-Treasurer Judy Metheny at (717) 334-7110. Each member may bring one guest.

Adopt-a-Position Cleanup Date Still to Be Determined

As soon as the National Park Service completes a survey of the Emmanuel Harmon (also spelled Harman) farm in Cumberland Township, staff will provide CTHS with a date when volunteers can tackle cleanup of the site. The NPS has approved the Society to clean up the area around the bridge there as part of the NPS Adopt-A-Position Program, which engages volunteers to help maintain the historic setting of the battlefield.

If you are interested in volunteering for the cleanup, please email or call CTHS at 334-7110. Thanks to all those who have already signed up!

Thanks to the CTHS refreshment crew

Attend a quarterly meeting of the Cumberland Township Historical Society, and you’ll see that it’s about a lot more than sitting down and listening to a speaker.

Much mixing and mingling takes place toward the back of the room, around the refreshment tables, before and after the main event. The snacks and beverages are always a treat for the eye as well as the palate, and the CTHS Board would like to recognize the efforts of the Refreshment Committee members who make that happen: Sandra Breighner, Carolyn Greaney, Dale Molina, Linda Seamon, and Vicki Rex.

Suggest a meeting topic for 2014

Do you have an idea for a presentation on some aspect of Cumberland Township history? Whether it’s something you’d like to learn about or present during a quarterly meeting, let us know! Email your idea to or call CTHS Secretary-Treasurer Judy Metheny at (717) 334-7110.

Jacob Weikert Farm Welcomes CTHS on Annual Walking Tour

“We’re not homeowners. We are curators.”

Those words sum up the philosophy of Gerry and Elizabeth Hoffman, owners of the Cumberland Township property known as the Jacob Weikert Farm on Taneytown Road. The Hoffmans opened their home to more than 30 guests on May 20 for the Cumberland Township Historical Society’s annual walking tour.

The couple retired to the area 11 years ago, a time that has turned into one big history lesson for two people who were admittedly never history buffs. A listener would never know that now as they share their knowledge of the place they call home.

At the time of the Civil War, Jacob Weikert owned about 140 acres of land. The property is now about 14 acres and includes a house (shown above) and barn that were witness to the Battle of Gettysburg.

The Hoffmans have worked hard to maintain their property’s historical integrity while still making it comfortable by 21st-century standards. They’ve done much research, consulting with experts, gleaning information from historical records, and treasuring the memoir of Matilda “Tillie” Pierce Alleman.

Tillie was sent to the farm during the battle to escape the fighting in town and entered a world she never could have imagined. The farm became the hospital for the Fifth Corps of the Union Army, and between 750 and 900 soldiers were treated or died there. The garden became a temporary burial ground, and the yard was covered with bodies and the limbs from seemingly endless amputations.

The dining room then is the dining room today, and the original wooden floor tells the tale of its other use, too. This was the surgical room, and the dark splotches on the planks are a constant reminder of the blood that was lost there. In fact, the drop-leaf table that was in the room at the time is now on display at the Gettysburg National Military Park Visitor Center, Elizabeth Hoffman said. (Elizabeth is shown here talking with the CTHS tour group.)

Tillie wasn’t just a witness to the drama but an active participant, working to feed and comfort the men who were brought there.

“Tillie’s mom didn’t recognize her when she went home,” Elizabeth told the group. “She said Tillie had grown up over those three days.”

Despite being in the line of fire, Gerry Hoffman says, there is no evident damage to the house and barn. Tillie even got a first-hand look at the battle by climbing to the attic and peeking out a trap door to watch the fighting below. (Jerry is shown sharing facts about the Weikert barn.)

Today, the view is peaceful and the property is a reminder of the resilience of land and people. The Cumberland Township Historical Society offers special thanks to the Hoffmans for sharing a glimpse into this piece of history.

Click here for a link to more tour photos, courtesy of  CTHS member Lynn Heller, and click here to read Tillie’s story in her own words.

Click here to find the Jacob Weikert Farm on Facebook.

The photos below show the inside of the historic barn and a basement oven in the house.


Resident teaches, learns about Penn family deed

At the June 3 CTHS meeting, John McCleaf displayed and spoke about a deed from the William Penn family selling off part of the Manor of Maske (which includes what is now Cumberland Township) in 1798.  “The Manor was 43,000 acres,” McCleaf said, “and it was more than they could handle.” The signatures on the deed read “John Penn” and “Richard Penn” and are accompanied by the family seal. McCleaf surmises that John and Richard were the grandsons of William Penn.

By John McCleaf

On June 3rd, I was invited to attend a meeting of the Cumberland Township Historical Society by an old friend, John Horner. It was an honor to show a historical document that’s been in the family since my grandfather bought the farm in 1921. I was born in the house and lived there my first 18 years.

At the meeting, I told what I believed to be facts about this document, with my main concern being that the Penn signatures on the document were William’s grandsons, not his sons.

At the end of the evening, a gentleman from Littlestown asked me why the Penns’ signatures looked alike. “They went to the same school,” I said. He suggested the signatures were actually by the Penns’ lawyer.

I was shattered! Driving home gave me time to think about what he said.  Why would the Penns leave a comfortable life, sail to America — a long and dangerous journey across the North Atlantic in winter — to sign a deed to sell 131 acres? The answer is:  They would not.

As hard as it is to research early American history, you sometimes have to read between the lines to get the truth, and that is always more important than the “story.”

Thanks to everyone.

Speakers Explore ‘Harvest of Death’ Photos

Approximately 75 CTHS members and guests filled the meeting room June 3 when three presenters offered their thoughts on a long-standing question: What was the location of the “Harvest of Death” photos made famous in the days immediately following the Battle of Gettysburg?

The photos depict the ravages of war, from the loss of life to the loss of property. Cumberland Township figures prominently in the list of possible locations.

Cumberland Township Historical Society chairman Speros Marinos (above) spoke in detail about how the clothing and possessions of the soldiers shown in the photos, combined with existing knowledge about troop locations, offer clues to the photos’ place of origin.

Photographer Rob Gibson (at left), well-known for his extensive knowledge of Civil War-era photography, used an authentic camera and props to discuss how the setup of a photo, the geography, and the wet-plate process used during the war could inform conclusions as to a photo’s actual location.

Marinos and Gibson suggest the photographs may have been taken close to the Trostle Farm off Emmittsburg Road.

Tom Marracino (at right) rounded out the discussion with a look at the land near the new Gettysburg Area Middle School. His research has shown evidence of battle there across a wider area than previously thought, creating another possible setting for the Harvest of Death photos.

The question is more than academic to Marinos. “I would love to know their names and give them the respect they deserve,” he said of the men in the photos. “To me, they’re our ‘MIA.’ ”

Society Welcomes New Members, Makes Memorial Contribution

The  Cumberland Township Historical Society has welcomed three new members since April: Russell Campbell and Col. John and Lisa Burt.

If you're interested in membership, please contact us at or learn more at

The Society also recently presented the Adams County Historical Society with a gift of $200 in memory of Dr. Charles Glatfelter. Dr. Glatfelter was a well-known historian and author who died in February at the age of 88.

Dr. Glatfelter was a member of the faculty of Gettysburg College from 1949 until 1989, where he served as dean of the college, chairman of the history department, a Franklin professor of history, and professor emeritus since 1989. He also served as the executive director of the Adams County Historical Society and was a life member and former officer of the Pennsylvania Historical Association.

Publication Offers Civil War-Era Census Information

A transcription and index of  The Inhabitants of Cumberland Township During the Civil War, compiled by Andrew Dalton, is now available from CTHS for $15.

Data from the 1860 census and septennial 1863 census provide information about residents who witnessed the Battle of Gettysburg.

Copies will be available at the Society’s Sept. 9 public meeting, or you may call Judy at (717) 334-7110.
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