Oral tradition: Civil War stories from York County, Pa: Part 4
Early photograph of an old tavern and general store near Glen Rock, Pennsylvania, owned by the George Brodbeck family during the Civil War. The tavern / hotel is the left portion of the building (the general store was not yet in existence at the time of the 1863 Gettysburg Campaign). Photograph courtesy of Evelyn Kern of the Spring Grove Historical Society. Used by permission.
In December I spoke at the monthly meeting of the Spring Grove, Pennsylvania, Historical Society on the topic of the Confederate Invasion of Jackson Township during the Civil War. Afterward a number of people shared their family stories with me, some of which I will relate in future blog entries. Perhaps the highlight of the event was meeting Evelyn Kern, a charming lady who brought with her a typescript document from one of her ancestors, Mrs. Lettie May (Brodbeck) Rebert, who in her 90s dictated some memories of her family heritage. The notes were written down for posterity. Evelyn was kind enough to later send me a photocopy of that document, as well as the photo shown above.
Her is the portion of Mrs. Rebert’s account concerning the Civil War in the vicinity of Brodbecks, a small village west of Glen Rock along State Route 216 in Codorus Township…
Map of the region of Brodbecks Post Office in western Codorus Township, York County, Pennsylvania. Adapted from the 1876 Atlas of York County. Note the location of S. B. Brodbeck’s hotel near the intersection of today’s Smoketown Road and Blooming Grove Road (S.R. 216). In 1863 during the Gettysburg Campaign, this hotel / tavern was owned by S. B.’s father George Brodbeck.
“Three Brodbeck brothers emigrated from Germany. They were all single and bought all the land all around almost to Glen Rock. Sold it off as they could to different people.
Her grandfather’s name was George Brodbeck, and his two brothers left, one to Philadelphia, the other to Frederick, Maryland.
The Brodbeck men bought the property from a Mr. Cramer. Before Cramer someone else had it.
Her grandfather, Geo. Brodbeck, opened a Tavern where the bar is now. Had no store at the time. There is a trapdoor under the linoleum which drops down into the ground cellar. During the Civil War when the Confederate soldiers were coming, he was warned to lock it up and under no circumstances give them whiskey. So when he heard them coming, he locked it, dropped through the trapdoor into the ground cellar and escaped out through the ground cellar across the field and hid in a wheat field. They [the Rebels] bayoneted the door until they broke it down and got all the whiskey they wanted and stole the horses from the barn across the road, where Mrs. Bowman now lives in a brick home. The soldiers got into a scuffle and one was killed and is reportedly buried in the ground cellar.
Hanover Junction is where the two armies missed each other, or the battle would have taken place there. They then met at Gettysburg and that is where the battle took place.
The little girl, Eliza Weaver (who later was to become her [Mrs. Rebert’s] Mother) was picking cherries in a cherry tree when she heard the horses coming and the tinkling of swords, etc. [Editor’s note: This likely was a patrol from Lt. Colonel Elijah V. White’s 35th Battalion, Virginia Cavalry which was at Hanover Junction on Saturday afternoon, June 27, 1863]. She stayed very quiet in the tree until [the Rebels] were completely gone from the area, then came down and went home.”
Note that there are no Confederate records that I am aware of that state that a soldier was killed or missing in action in that part of York County, although there were numerous men listed as deserting. Perhaps the party of drunken Rebels were some of these deserters from Early’s Division? Also note that George Brodbeck’s neighbor did not file a damage claim with the state government for the loss of his horses, but many York Countians were reluctant to come forward and spend the time and money to file depositions in Hanover or York.
The next part of Lettie May’s narrative is at odds with other known facts. It concerns the murder of a Union courier sent with dispatches from General George Gordon Meade. Here is her oral tradition, which is quite different that the known facts of the case…
“‘Nother man reportedly killed at this time was a man by the name of Bair. He was at the Brodbeck Post Office about 1 1/2 miles from here by the W.M.R.R. [Editor’s note: The Western Maryland Railroad; in 1863 the tracks were owned by the Northern Central Railway] At that time was Green Ridge, Penna. The soldiers wanted to know something and he wouldn’t tell them, so they made him ride the horse till the horse’s back was sore under the saddle. They they killed the horse and shot the man also.”
Mrs. Rebert added a postscript on the history of the Brodbeck Hotel / Tavern…
“Her father, Samuel B. Brodbeck, built the big store, but his wife Eliza wouldn’t go along with the Tavern and made him close it… S. B. Brodbeck [the store’s owner by the time of the 1876 Atlas depicted above] is her brother…The Tavern business had been added again by S. B. Brodbeck, Jr. This part of the building is of old logs it is believed.”
Here is some background material on the Brodbeck family.
“S. B. Brodbeck, only son of George and Leah (Bossert) Brodbeck, of Codorus Township, was born May 21, 1851, in Jefferson, Codorus Township. After going to the public school of his township, and to Prof. Gray’s school at Glen Rock, he entered his father’s store, and at the death of his father, in 1874, continued the business for Brodbeck estate until 1879, when he began business in his own name. July 4, 1875, Mr. Brodbeck married Eliza Weaver, daughter of Jacob and Eliza (Gettier) Weaver, of Manchester Carroll County, Md. Four children have been born to this union: Rose E., George W., Lettie May and Sadie. Our subject’s father, George Brodbeck, was a prominent citizen and one of the leading business men of this section of York County. He was a postmaster and also treasurer of Codorus Township for many years, and was leader of the choir at the Stone Church from the time he settled in the township until his death. His success in life was due to his own efforts. Our subject, though comparatively a young man, is widely known and doing a large mercantile business, having a branch store and post office at Brodbeck’s (Green Ridge Station) on the Hanover & Baltimore Railroad. He is a member of the Stone (Reformed) Church.”
John Gibson, History of York County, Illustrated (1886).