For the Cause

  |  Gettysburg Histories

Sarah Cook Myers

Recalling Lincoln at Gettysburg

In this stirring living history performance, you’ll meet Sarah “Sallie” Cook, a birthright Quaker, member of the Menallen Friends Meeting, and teacher in Adams County schools. Sallie and her family were deeply affected by the issue of slavery and the ensuing war that came nearly to their doorstep. Her father, Jesse, was involved in the Underground Railroad that helped bring those enslaved in the South to freedom. On November 19, 1863, 20-year-old Sarah and her sister met Abraham Lincoln at the home of their cousin, Gettysburg attorney David Wills. Recalling the event Sarah wrote, “He was so tall that he stooped to take my hand, which seemed so small in his. Silently he smiled down upon me.” Before the President’s procession began, the sisters walked to the Cemetery and found a place to sit on the steps of the roughly-built speaker’s platform. “I was close to the President and heard all of the Address, but it seemed short. Then there was an impressive silence, like our Menallen Friends Meeting. There was no applause when he stopped speaking.”

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Jessie Mathews Vann

From Rags to Riches

After her parents died in the 1890s, Jessie Mathews was shunted from relative to relative, once even abandoned in the street. After being beaten by an aunt, she moved in with her brother and in 1904 graduated with honors from Harrisburg High School. Jessie married Robert Vann, editor of The Pittsburgh Courier, the nation’s premier Negro newspaper. After Vann’s death, Jessie assumed many of his duties at the Courier while serving on several national boards. A frequent White House guest, she was appointed by President Eisenhower to represent the United States at the inauguration of President Tubman of Liberia and was offered a post at the UN. Jessie’s remarkable life story was featured on the ’50s television show This is Your Life.

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First to Fall

The Life and Death of George W. Sandoe

Adams Countian George Washington Sandoe died on June 26, 1863, as Confederate troops made their first assault on Gettysburg. Mustered in just three days earlier, 20-year-old Sandoe served Capt. Bell in Company B, Pennsylvania Independent Calvary. While scouting roads around town, Company B encountered the enemy at McAllister’s Mill, an Underground Railroad stop along Rock Creek. There Pvt. Sandoe was struck by a bullet and killed. He is the only soldier of his rank to whom a battlefield monument is dedicated.

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Yellow Hill and the Quaker Valley

Stories of the Underground Railroad

Decades before the Civil War began, abolitionists and sympathizers were active north of Gettysburg in the areas we call Quaker Valley and Yellow Hill. Here, just a few miles north of the Mason Dixon line, members of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) worked with local freedmen Edward Mathews and Basil Biggs to bring escaping slaves to freedom along the Underground Railroad. The Quaker Valley and Yellow Hill areas also provided safe haven for Gettysburg’s African American community during the 1863 Confederate invasion. Today the only evidence of the once-thriving African American community is the neglected and abandoned Yellow Hill cemetery.

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Freedom Lies Just North

Tour the Underground Railroad in
Adams County’s Quaker Valley

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Before the Civil War Gettysburg’s African Americans worked with Quaker neighbors to bring more than a thousand slaves to freedom. See Yellow Hill, where African-American families refuged during the 1863 Confederate invasion. Sit in an 1880s Quaker Meetinghouse. Visit sites along the National Network to Freedom. To reserve your tour, contact Deb McCauslin by phone at (717) 528-8553, by email, or by completing and returning our presentation request form.

“[This tour] brings local Underground Railroad history to life . . . fascinating, upsetting, inspiring . . . kept us spellbound. Recommended!”

“Deb’s bank of information on local history seems endless . . . [and] she communicates with a passion that touched our group.”

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Echoes from the Past

African-American Voices at Gettysburg

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Every year thousands visit Gettysburg to learn about the Civil War battle and how it shaped American history. But visitors seldom hear the story from the viewpoint of local people of color whose lives were irrevocably altered by those events. On this tour you’ll hear echoes of the past in the voices of Gettysburg’s African-American citizens and others who struggled to free themselves from centuries of bondage and rise to position of common equality. To reserve your tour, contact Debra McCauslin by phone at (717) 528-8553, by email, or by completing and returning our presentation request form.

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Mary Jemison

Captivating Captive of the French & Indian War

Born aboard ship en route from Ireland, Mary Jemison (née Jameson) was just 15 when she was abducted in 1758 from her Buchanan Valley home. While her Shawnee captors killed other members of her family, they spared Mary, later trading her to a Seneca tribe where she was adopted by two Seneca women. After the war Mary lived on with her Seneca family, becoming a leading member of the tribe. Twice married to Seneca chiefs, she acquired substantial property in New York state. Although she had chances later in life to leave the Seneca, she chose not to. Mary died at age 90.

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A Taste of Freedom

The Plight of Kitty Payne and Her Children

The 1845 kidnapping of Kitty Payne, a freed Virginia slave living in Pennsylvania with her children, offers evidence of why the War Between the States had to be fought. Early one morning, five men entered the family’s cabin on Bear Mountain, forced them into a wagon at knifepoint, and fled to Virginia. There Kitty languished in jail while Adams County friends and neighbors struggled to regain her freedom in the Virginia and Pennsylvania courts. After long imprisonment, Kitty and her children were freed, but because Kitty by then lacked the means to care for them, her children were separated from her and from each other, and sent to live with other Adams County families.

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Unexpected Roots

Artists with Adams County Connections

You might be surprised to learn that famous artists have local links, including “the handsomest man in the world,” a Pulitzer Prize–winning poet, novelists, stars of the silver screen, and artists who studied with the Impressionists. Some were born here, had relatives here, lived, or died here.

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A Century Ago

Ralph Sandoe’s War Journal

Travel right across America and on to the Philippines with an Adams County man who saw duty during the 1899 Insurrection that followed the Spanish American War.

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