An Update on the Adams County Historical Society’s New Exhibit Gallery, Archives, and Education Center

Book owned by Gettysburg attorney Thaddeus Stevens

With the anniversary of the battle of Gettysburg coming up next weekend, we thought we’d check in with our friends at the Adams County Historical Society to see how they were coming along on the construction of their new Exhibit Gallery, Archives, and Education Center. (We first told you about the project last December. They broke ground in March.)

This weekend, we have the privilege to share with you a look at some of the rare items in the Adams County collection.

But first, here’s the update:

With the conservation facility—their most urgent need—now under construction, they’ve hired a design firm to help create the museum facility. HealyKohler Design is an award-winning firm based in Washington, D.C. “Among HealyKohler’s best known projects,” says the ACHS, “are the Museum of the American Revolution in Philadelphia, the National Infantry Museum at Fort Benning, and a changing gallery at the National Museum of African American History & Culture in Washington.”

The museum will focus on showing off the ACHS’s collection, from pre-historic pieces through the modern day. “Utilizing thousands of breathtaking artifacts, images, and stories, our new museum will be custom-built to excite and inspire visitors of all ages and interest levels,” the ACHS says. “At ACHS, you’ll experience centuries of Gettysburg history like never before.”

Sallie Myers, Gettysburg nurse

The Adams County Historical Society’s Civil War-era holdings are among the rarest in the nation. Located in Gettysburg, ACHS has been collecting relics from the community since its founding in 1888. Highlights from the collection include:

More than 300 civilian accounts of the Battle of Gettysburg and Lincoln’s address including letters, diaries, manuscripts and published works. This collection includes exceptionally rare items like the diaries of Gettysburg nurse Sallie Myers (High Street), the July 1863 letter of John Rupp (Baltimore Street), and signed, first editions of published accounts by Tillie Pierce, Daniel Skelly, and many more well-known names. The ACHS also houses hundreds of original, period images of local citizens who witnessed the events of 1863.

An original program from the Dedication of the Soldiers’ National Cemetery/Gettysburg Address, Nov. 19, 1863.

An original cannonball removed from a cherry tree at the Joseph Sherfy Farm along the Emmitsburg Road. The ACHS also has a photograph of the projectile lodged in the tree before it was cut down.

A golden cane given to John L. Burns, citizen hero of Gettysburg, in 1866. ACHS also has several original photographs of Burns and a few of his personal belongings, including a rifle.

A bullet-ridden tailor shop sign that hung in the square of Gettysburg during the battle. The sign hung near the current ACNB Bank building.

A threatening note left by Alabama soldiers at the George Culp farm near Gettysburg explaining why they had “torn up” the home. 

A Confederate surgeon’s kit left behind by Dr. Thomas A. Means of the 11th Georgia. Means operated on the wounded of Hood’s Division at the John Edward Plank Farm west of town. Means ran out of bandages for the wounded and sliced into the back of his medical kit to pull out and utilize the cotton batting. The slash mark and a note about the medical kit are still visible.

Hundreds of artillery shells, fragments, bullets, swords and bayonets, and other debris gathered by local residents from the Gettysburg Battlefield.

William H. Tipton’s camera, used to take many of the most famous views of the Gettysburg Battlefield. The ACHS also has hundreds of original Tipton photographs and negatives, including three large “sample albums” from his shop.

The presentation sword of Congressman Edward McPherson, owner of the famous McPherson Farm. McPherson was the first captain of Company K, 1st PA Reserves, a unit of local men who fought at Gettysburg.  

Other goodies in the collection include:

  • The candle holder used to light the room at Daniel Culp’s carpentry shop when Culp and others were creating Jennie Wade’s coffin. Jennie was the only civilian killed during the three days of fighting at Gettysburg.
  • The original burial journals/notebooks of Gettysburg doctor J.W.C. O’Neal, a southern sympathizer, who recorded the locations of hundreds of bodies on the Gettysburg battlefield.
  • A flag that was flown from the roof of the Fahnestock House in Gettysburg to welcome the Union Army back into town after the Confederate retreat on July 4-5.
  • A bullet-ridden bed frame from the Harvey Sweney house (now the Farnsworth House) on Baltimore Street in Gettysburg.
  • A large set of law books owned by David Wills. These books were in the Wills house during Lincoln’s visit in November, 1863. We also have quite a few personal items that belonged to the Wills family, including china, silverware, and an autographed booklet from Edward Everett.
  • A mirror and side table from the estate of Lydia Leister, undoubtedly present in the home when it was used as Gen. George Meade’s headquarters.
  • An original church pew and lectern from the Gettysburg Presbyterian Church where Abraham Lincoln attended services on the evening of Nov. 19, 1863.
  • An Adams County Historical Society pen used by Dwight and Mamie Eisenhower when they registered as voters in Adams County.

To become a supporter of the project, visit where you’ll find endorsements from Ken Burns, Stephen Lang, and Jeff Shaara. Gifts can be made online or by mail to the Adams County Historical Society, P.O. Box 4325, Gettysburg PA 17325.

Please support the Adams County Historical Society’s effort to save millions of incredible Gettysburg artifacts currently at risk of being lost forever.

Please leave a comment and join the discussion!

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