Life in Emmitsburg in the mid 1800's
Recollections from 1833 to 1849 - Early Physicians
Dr. Levi Sheets
[Originally published in July 1908 in
the Emmitsburg Chronicle]
I have been quite
interested in reading the reminiscences of some of your
old citizens, which vividly bring to mind the scenes and
events of days long buried in the past. As stories of
the long ago are now in vogue, I feel it incumbent to
contribute my quota. But as
Mr. J. A.
Helman has so thoroughly covered the ground, in his
history of Emmitsburg, there is not much, that
is new, left for me to write: consequently I must
repeat much in my contribution of what may be found in
his book. I deem it highly proper, here, to render my
thanks to Mr. Helman for the service his book has been
to me, in that I have had to make frequent reference to
it to save myself labor. I would strongly advise every
old Emmitsburgian to supply himself with a copy.
My recollections date from 1833 to 1849, when I left
the old town to seek my fortune in the West. I was
imbued with the spirit of the dictum of Horace Greeley,
who had said years previously, "Go West young man!" I
went: but I was disappointed. I found that the West was
more largely supplied than the East with men in the
vocation I had chosen: but I remained to take my
chances with the rest.
Emmitsburg has not enlarged its boarders, nor
increased its population, since I first knew it. At that
early date the last two houses on East Main street were
Sponseller's on one side and old Tone's (as we used to
call him) on the other; the last two houses at the West
end were Dr. Annan's and Henry Rickenbaugh's. Gettysburg
street had very few houses and Green street had still
The physicians I first remember were Dr. Shields,
(who was succeeded by my late lamented preceptor, Dr. J.
W. Eichelberger), Dr. Taney, Dr. Annan, Dr. Patterson,
and Dr. Shorb near Mt. St. Mary's College. I have a dim
recollection of a Dr. McNeal, who lived, about where
Eugene L. Rowe's house now stands.
druggist I have a faint recollection of was a
Mr. Boyle, whose name does not appear in Mr.
Helman's book. His store was on the Square, opposite the
Spangler Hotel. When, he retired I do not know. The next
druggist was William McBride, whose store was in a small
building adjoining Dr. Patterson's residence.
We had no resident dentist. Visits to the town were
made by dentists living at a distance. Teeth were
extracted by all the doctors and others. I remember
seeing Mr. Armstrong, the gunsmith, extract a tooth from
a man, who was seated on a chair in the open air in
front of his shop!
There was only one lawyer, I. E. Pearson. He had
previously been a school teacher and, I think, also a
harness maker. I once went into the shop, afterwards
occupied by McBride's drug store, for a piece of
leather, which Mr. Pearson cut for me.
Of churches we had
Elias Church (where both Lutherans and German
Joseph's Roman Catholic, and the
Church, which was located on a back alley, not
far from where the present structure stands. The
Church was one mile out of town, a few rods from
the Gettysburg road. My father removed it to its present
location in 1839. I assisted in tearing it down, and
hauled all the bricks to town, with one horse and a
small wagon. I was then thirteen years of age.
The clergymen I remember of the Lutheran Church where
Mr. Finckle, Dr. Keller, and Mr. Sentman. I remember
only one priest at St. Joseph's Church, Father Hickey.
The first Reformed minister was Mr. Bassler, who was
succeeded by Rev. Mr. Heiner, Rev. Mr. Fisher, Rev. Mr.
Freeze, Rev. Mr. Phillips (who subsequently entered the
Catholic Church,) and Rev. Mr. Aughinbaugh. During all
my time Mr. Grier was pastor of the Presbyterian Church.
The merchants I remember were Isaac and Joseph
Baugher, then Isaac Baugher, then Baugher, Moritz & Rea,
again Isaac Baugher, and then J. W. Baugher. Lewis
Motter had a store in the West end of the old Motter
homestead; he was succeeded by Joshua Motter, who
afterward removed it to the store previously occupied by
Joseph Danner. Grover's store was in the room now
I. S. Annan. He was succeeded by Grover &
Pittinger, then Landes & Abrams. Joseph Danner occupied
the store above mentioned until his death. Michael Wise
kept store in the building at the foot of the old alley
leading to the Lutheran Church until his death. J. M.
Kerrigan afterwards occupied this store.
One of your correspondents said that liquor was kept
free for customers in Baugher's store. I think that is
an error. It was surely not so in Isaac Baugher's store.
I was well acquainted with the store, having been a
clerk there I would have known all about it if such had
been the case. Wines were kept for Sacramental and
medicinal use; cigars (tobies) were always free.
Hotels were kept by Mrs. Agnew, Mrs. Black, and
Johnzee Hooker. Mrs. Agnew was a born landlady, a
regular major domo! During the summer her house was
filled to overflowing, so that she had to find sleeping
accommodations for her guests outside of the hotel. Her
husband was living: but I never saw him do anything but
read and play checkers! Thomas Welch kept the bar and
attended to the routine duties of the office.
Unfortunately he was too fond of the bottle, and
indulged in it to such an extent that he would sometimes
see visions and dream dreams. But "De Mortuis nil nisi
Mrs. Black's house was intended more for the
accommodation of teamsters. They carried their bedding
in their wagons, and at night they would spread it upon
the barroom floor and sleep there. Hooker's was more on
the saloon order, as was also the place kept by William
Otter, commonly called "Big Bill the Plasterer," to
distinguish him from his son, William, and another
William yelped, "Fish Bill." Otter's saloon was located
near Eyster's jewelry store. It was while there that
from his dictation, Mr. S. Baumgardner wrote his life.
For school teachers we had R. Crooks, L. F.
Coppersmith, 0. 0. McClean, D. Eyster, William Gerhardt
(now Rev. Dr.) J. Knauff, I. E. Pearson, Mr. Donnelly,
Mrs. Reid, Miss Troxell and Miss Jane Maloney. The best
teachers we ever had were McClean and Gerhardt; under
the last my school life closed.
McClean revolutionized teaching with us. His school
was limited to 26 pupils, so that each one could receive
proper attention. He first inaugurated the roll call, at
the opening of every session. His teaching was so
interesting that many a time when he had a class at the
blackboard I ceased my studies to listen to the
recitation of classes below me, and hear them give the
rationale for their work; especially in Arithmetic. He
would sometimes give the class a series of figures to
write upon the board, which they were unable to do, and
in which we older ones failed. The reason we failed was
because we had not been properly taught numeration. We
had not been taught correct pronunciation of words, nor
was sufficient care taken with our Grammar; in the
agreement of nominatives with their verbs; the proper
case after prepositions, etc., all of which I had to
learn since, and have not finished yet! Syntax is along
study; and how few educated people are perfect in it. We
did very well in orthography; much better than the
children of the present day.
But I see there is a growing tendency to pay more
attention to this branch. Mr. Crooks had very little
system about his teaching. I would sit at my desk, and
when I had solved an example would call out, "Mr. Crooks
I've got the answer;" he would reply, "Very well, go on
to the next." He taught the classics very well. It was a
treat to listen to that fine scholar, Joseph Adlesberger,
read his translations of Caesar's Commentaries on the
Nearly all my education was received in the little
old brick school house, which, alas is now no more! I
wish that old building had been spared. It stood on the
ground now occupied by the Lutheran cemetery.
Among the magistrates I only remember, as
officiating, Maj. Mooney, M. C. Adelsberger, J. Knauff
and G. W. Troxell.
The carpenters were Storm & Shorb, Jeremiah Black,
John Sheets, Jacob Sheets, Joseph Hughes, John Miller
and S. Flautt.
I barely remember the hatter, Major Harrit, A. Welty,
afterwards a barber, Hiteshue, and H. Winter, were the
rest of the hatters.
The newspapers, in my time, were the Banner, and the
Helman says the Banner was sold to Duphorn,
Troxell and McTale. I do not remember this last name and
think it is a mistake, or a typographical error, and
should be McClean.
I remember once hearing Dr. Shields say to McClean,
after the performance of a waltz, he had composed: "You
write much better poetry (referring to a poem which McClean had written for the Star) than music, and you
had better stick to poetry!"
Well do I remember Mr. Armstrong, the gunsmith; but
better, still my old and genial friend, his apprentice,
Mr. N. Rowe, who still
survives and who became the drummer of our old band. May
his shadow never grow less!
Mr. Helman mentions an incident which happened to Ned
Crummel (we always called him Ned Gilson), of which I
was an eye witness. Ned was seized by two men who tied
his hands behind his back and put him upon a horse. Dr.
Annan, coming down town to his office, observed Ned; and
after inquiring into the matter took out his knife and
cut the cords. He would have done it as fearlessly if a
regiment of kidnappers had been there!
A few words about the military companies which were
organized during the Mexican War. I can only remember
one company of infantry; of which Henry Winter was one
of the lieutenants. How we did torment him ! We had
canes, sticks, corn stalks, and any old thing we could
find for arms. Do as he would he could not form a
respectable line much less dress the line. While he got
one end of the line straight the other end would be all
crooked. Falstaff mustering his recruits was not "in
The troop of cavalry did much better. Dr. Annan was
captain, Dr. Patterson and John Picking were
lieutenants, and I was, the bugler.
Now about pole raising. The first I remember was
raised by Whigs in 1840, in front of Hooker's tavern,
which stood where the Bank now stands. This was during
the great "Tippecanoe and Tyler too" campaign. The pole
was successfully raised; but a rope used in raising it
was tied at the top and the question was how to get it
down. We had no steeple jacks or electric climbers in
those days. Some one suggested that Slagel Gelwicks, an
excellent marksman, be asked to cut it off with a
bullet. I have forgotten just how the difficulty was
solved, but I remember the rope was removed.
The Hooker house had a long balcony in front, covered
by a tolerably flat roof and I being somewhat of a
singer was put up thereto sing some campaign songs.
William Webb was a very good singer and he and I were
the chief singers of campaign meetings.
The large ball mentioned by one of the old citizens
was made in the Winter barn during this campaign, and
was rolled to Frederick. Another one may have been made
as stated in 1844 but I was in Pittsburgh then, I know
nothing about it. The first I can recall of music was on
the occasion of a celebration one Fourth of July. The
following persons marched up and down Main street
playing as they went: Samuel Flautt and Jeremiah Black,
violins; Joseph Hughes, flute; William McBride, octave
flute; William Tyson, clarinet; and Frederick Crabbs,
French horn. I think they must have had a drum and if so
it was played by William Rowe. I was out on Poplar Ridge
picking raspberries; and I think I must have heard a
drum for I immediately scampered to town to hear the
music, about which I was always crazy and not much
Soon after this I got a flute and Joseph Hughes wrote
me a gamut; but I was not very successful in learning
to play and I learned that I would be obliged to have a
teacher. Mr. McClean then gave lessons to four of his
school boys, J. V. Danner, D. C. Danner, E. H. Baugher
and myself. One-quarter's instruction was all we ever
had. Sometime afterward Mr. Samuel Motter, who had
graduated from Princeton and returned home, heard us
play. He discovered we were lacking in time, so he took
charge of us and taught us to beat time. We then decided
to form a band, and engaged Major Andre, professor of
music at Mount St. Mary's to 'teach us.' The band
consisted of P. Haley, cornet; Simon Shaver, clarinet;
J. V. and D. C. Danner, flutes, and L. D. Sheets, French
horn. I soon gave up the French horn for a bugle, and E.
H. Baugher. l took the French horn. I have now a copy of
the Euterpean March, composed by Major Andre, which
was the first piece we learned.
In the Spring of 1844 I went to Pittsburgh and
returned to Emmitsburg in the Fall of 1845. In the
meantime the band had been continued with the addition
of some new members. D. C. Danner got an E flat
clarinet, but he could not make it accord with the other
instruments. The band called in Mr. S. Baumgardner to
help them solve the difficulty, but he was unsuccessful.
Finally he said, "Throw away the damn clarinet and get a
piccolo." While in Pittsburgh I had played in two fine
bands and had learned all about the different
instruments and how to arrange music from them. I
transposed the music from the E flat clarinet and we had
no more trouble. Now we had the following players: D. C.
Danner, E flat clarinet; Joshua Rowe and Lewis Gelwicks,
B flat clarinets; William Gerhardt and George Sayler,
bugles: John Nickum, B flat trombone; E. H. Baugher,
ophecleide; William Troxell and L. D. Sheets, cornets,
nets, and N. Rowe, bass drum. This organization remained
the same until my final departure from Emmitsburg in
Mr. Helman said in his book that J. V. Danner and I
are the only ones living of the old band. Mr. Gerhardt,
who is close to ninety years of age, E. H. Baugher, D.
C. Danner and N. Rowe are still living.
There are many other topics, which I have not touched
and which it might be interesting to recount, but it
would involve a great deal of writing, and to a man in
his eighty-third year the latter is something to be
But I must not slight the old street pump! Many a
time I have played around it and drank of its water.; I
have painful recollections of it. One night during the
Harrison campaign I was asked to play the fife for a
Whig procession. I found my fife was very dry and it
would not play easily, so I took it to the pump to
moisten the inside. The pump had a heavy iron handle and
in taking hold of it to pump some water into my fife I
caught too high and brought it down on my finger! But
didn't I dancer around that old pump for a few minutes!
After the pain had abated; somewhat I went in and played
for the procession.
Finally, I must say a word about Mount St. Mary's
College and the many pleasant times I spent there in
rehearsals with Dr. Dielman and his orchestra, and after
the rehearsals show I enjoyed the lunches in the
refectory, consisting of cold boiled ham, bread and
butter, butter milk, lettuce with a dressing prepared by
Dr. McCaffrey, such as his grace only could do it, and
cold; sparkling, pure water; fresh from the fountain in
the rear of the cottage.
In 1848 I played cornet with the orchestra at the
commencement. General Harney (then Colonel) was the
guest of honor. Dr. Dielrnan composed for the occasion
the "Battle of Cerro Gordo," a splendid representation
of an engagement, and which gave, the Colonel much
pleasure. He was the hero of Cerro Gordo, having
gallantly ascended the heights to the summit and planted
thereon "Old Glory."
And now I am warned to stop ere I tax the patience of
yourself and your readers. Vale!
- L. D. S.
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