Gettysburg 1860’s: The Little Town That Never Says Stop

Authors spend hours creating their novels. Time, place and character roles all play a significant part in how the story reads. Knowing the book’s goal was to have a strong female lead in the middle of a man’s war was an important key for this novel. I needed a place to easily fit my character and her family’s beliefs; support their culture and allow them to “fit in”. This is why Gettysburg, Pennsylvania was the location of  The Cause: Love & War.

A famous real estate motto boasts Location, Location, and Location! This is exactly what Jacob Prescott was looking for when he made that fateful decision to relocate his family. Although he was not a self-proclaimed abolitionist, Jacob did not believe in the evils of slavery. He grew weary of running the plantation alone. It was time to move. Gettysburg was the perfect location for his family because in 1860, Gettysburg was the small town with all of the big city amenities.

Located seven miles north of the Mason-Dixon Line, the Prescott’s were as far south in the north as they could get. Once a Southerner always a Southerner, Jacob understood his family would not change by a simple geographic marker like the Mason-Dixon Line. Family ties and traditions were very important to them.

Gettysburg a bustling town of 2,400 people, the cultural make up consisted of Scotch-Irish, German, African Americans, Native Americans and others. Gettysburg established its presence as a settlement, with quality of life improving for its citizens as early as 1840. Gettysburg progressed quickly from the years 1840 to 1860. The community had many progressive personalities that ensured the town’s growth and prosperity. Grounded in faith and surrounded by education the community proudly stayed a progressive small town. The community boasted eight churches, German-Lutheran, German Reformed, Catholic and Presbyterian. Gettysburg had two colleges, a consolidated public school and many private schools.

The area boasted a great balance of industry and agriculture. Fertile farms included crops and orchards of wheat, corn, rye and plums, apples and peaches. Many farmers, whose crops became consumed or destroyed as the result of the battle complained to the government. Most received little for their losses. Industry and businesses kept the population in Gettysburg growing. Tanneries, butcher shops, shoemakers, hotels, restaurants and several mercantile provided citizens choice in merchandise. Industry boomed with carriage factories and the steam foundry that produced cast iron products. The Carriage factories contracted many jobs such as wheelwright, lace makers and cabinet makers. The carriage factories were Gettysburg’s leading industry and export business up to the war. Gettysburg had plenty of occupations and jobs to support its increasing population.

Growth and development of Gettysburg boomed around 1858 when railroad service linked Gettysburg to Harrisburg and Baltimore. The town progressed forward with gaslights and water system in town. In 1857, Gettysburg consolidated their schools into one public Union School. The Union School opened classrooms to male and female students. Soon after the Union School progressed, David Wills, lawyer of Gettysburg, focused on training teachers to improve the schools. Public schools, private schools, colleges and a Theological Seminary prepared Gettysburg to become forward thinking community.

The political environment in Gettysburg was actively boisterous. Politics played out in the Gettysburg newspapers. Citizens could read varying opinions on all political subjects. The town was sharply divided Whig, Republican and Democrat. Debates and political meetings kept the towns patriotism alive. It was this patriotic sentiment that raised many honorable and brave troops at Lincoln’s request.

Gettysburg was not all work and no play. Social events were just as important to make this community strong. The local churches provided picnics and socials for entertainment. Gettysburg had several visits from traveling circus. Unfortunate situations like barn fires and other tragedies gathered the community together to care for each other. During the war years, many relief groups pulled together to support the Union. It was this sense of community and strength that pulled Gettysburg through the horrific months of battle aftermath.

Jacob Prescott could not have made a better decision than to move to Gettysburg. The family was still close enough to the South to stay in contact with family. It removed them from the up close and very uncomfortable issue of slavery. Gettysburg had a thriving community of free blacks. The community by no means a utopia, segregation and negative black opinion was still quietly prevalent. Yet this culture was making headway for its time.

The 1860 August 20 note in the Compiler stated Gettysburg’s sentiment towards their success as a town.

“Gettysburg now has her railroad, her water works, her gas works, her cemetery, her college, her seminary, her public school. What will come next? We cannot say, but our enterprising little town never says stop”

Good soil, occupations a plenty and education for the family, are ideal qualities for a good place to live. The Prescott family was excited to begin a new life. Would a town so deeply steeped in political opinion, change their opinion of the new family from the South?



4 thoughts on “Gettysburg 1860’s: The Little Town That Never Says Stop

  1. Very interesting piece of history. Thank you for sharing this!

  2. You always have such great blogs! I never fail to enjoy! 😀

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