Monday, October 22, 2012

The Timbers Farm

The Timbers Farm: Through the Thick of It

     On July 2nd, 1863 a number of important landmarks dotted the southern end of the Gettysburg Battlefield that still stand to this day. Names like Weikert, Sherfy, Rose, Klingel and Codori still remain today through the edifices that withstood the hailstorm of shot and shell on that horrific day nearly 150 years ago. In fact, the historic structures of Gettysburg have in and of themselves become a sort of monument.
But what about those places that have since been forgotten? Obviously with the passing time and a need for bigger and better creature comforts, some old shells have been completely overhauled, if not obliterated, to create the needy homes of our modern era. There are though still remnants of the past that are all but forgotten by those individuals lucky enough to stumble across their humble remains.
     One such ruin is that of the Wentz House which still guards the east side of the Emmitsburg Road just north of the Peach Orchard. All that remains is the beautiful stone foundation, but it is truly amazing how many visitors go to a place such as the famous Peach Orchard at Gettysburg and probably don't even know that it exists. There is also the even lesser known Tawney House across from Culps Hill on the east side of Rock Creek. At the center of sharpshooting in the area of the battlefield that saw the longest sustained combat of the entire battle, those old foundation walls surely have some stories to tell. Both of these old houses were most definitely used as field hospitals for the maimed and dying throughout those horrible days in July of 1863.
     There is another old farm that probably receives the least attention of all the farms at Gettysburg while sitting in the shadow of July 2nd's famous landmarks such as Devils Den, The Wheatfield, Big and Little Round Top. That farm is more commonly known today as the Timbers Farm. Truth be told, during the battle it was owned by George W. Weikert and occupied a beautiful piece of ground just south of Rose Run on a hillside that might remind one of the images of the Welsh countryside. All that remains of the farm is the original stone foundation of the house. On July 2nd this farm was in the midst of a terrible inferno that was Longstreet's famous attack towards the previously mentioned sites of fame. Two, possibly three of the Confederate brigades that made that fateful attack passed around and through the yard of this house. As I finally stumbled across this site after a couple days of searching last winter, I couldn't help but imagine the poor souls that rested upon the dirt floor that I was now perusing. Anderson's Georgians surely used the structure for their wounded and maybe even as cover during their advance early on. Commanded by the guns of Smith's Batteries on Houck's Ridge only a few hundred yards away, they probably quickly headed for the ravine in their front until his guns were silenced.
     Through all the terrible carnage that the farm witnessed, it survived the battle although scarred like many of Gettysburg's dwellings. After the war, the farm took new ownership in the form of an African American man named John Timbers. When General Warren came back to survey the field for creation of an accurate terrain map published in 1888, the farm took its new owners name. Curiously much of the historical record after the change in ownership is scant. There is a lot of lore that resides in the rest of the story. One thing that is for certain is that John Timbers hung himself in the barn. The legend that surrounds his downfall rests on stories of being haunted by spirits of the men that fought for the ground on that steamy July 2nd, 1863.
     Whatever the story may be, it certainly is interesting to sit on the foundation at that vantage, searching out the terrain details and contemplating all that happened at such a hallowed place. There are plenty of treasures still to be found, even on such trodden places as the Gettysburg Battlefield.

Foundation of the "Timbers" (Weikert) Farm near Roses Woods

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