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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 less.

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.

The first 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 Reformed worshiped,) St. Joseph's Roman Catholic, and the Methodist Church, which was located on a back alley, not far from where the present structure stands. The Presbyterian 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 occupied by 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 bonum."

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 Gallic War.

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 Emmitsburg Star. Mr. 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 it"!

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 better yet.

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 1849.

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 considered.

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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life in Emmitsburg in the 1800's

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