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Soldiers National Orphanage

Soldiers National Orphanage paranormal

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Location submitted by: sdonley on 12/15/2013
DBA Approved: Y

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PANICd#: 1316

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Formerly the Soldier's National Orphanage, the Museum is now home to a number of unique exhibits.

777 Baltimore Street
Gettysburg , PA 17325
Phone: 717-334-4890
Open to the public: No


Lat: 39.822274
Lon: -77.23097999999999

Database Summary:

Demographic Rank: 6
History: 2
Stories: 2
Claims: 6
Evidence: 0
Resources: 1
Retrievals: 11780
Vistor Rating: 5.0
Votes: 1

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History information is some background and history about the location. This is meant to be a basic summary. Below the history records you will find sources in which you can click on to find out more information. There may be multiple history records per location.

Formerly the Soldier's National Orphanage, the Museum is now home to a number of unique exhibits. This is the natural landing spot for any aficionado looking to glean Civil War facts and browse relics of one our nation's most defining conflicts.

At the Soldiers National Museum discover such Civil War artifacts as a battered drum that rolled beneath the roar of many battles and a Yankee Rifle that can be "loaded on Sunday and fired all week!" We also feature artifacts and memorabilia from several other major American conflicts.

What was it like to be a Confederate soldier? Walk through a full-scale recreation of one of their campsites and see the men washing their clothes, cooking their dinner, playing cards, or just trying to relax in the face of oncoming battle.

Experience the Civil War in miniature through a beautifully crafted, exquisitely detailed collection of dynamic dioramas that look ready to come to life at any minute.

Follow every battle, from the first shot fired on Fort Sumter to Appomattox and surrender. Your visit will be a thrilling experience and you'll leave with a greater appreciation and understanding of the Civil War era, as well as insights, facts, impressions and unforgettable memories.

Experience the building's history through a free exhibit telling about the circa 1863 Orphanage that this historic building once hosted.

Look into the past with an exhibit featuring the authentic wood carvings of Cliff Arquette, better known as Charlie Weaver.

Added by: sdonley on 02/01/2015 DB#:216

For weeks after the Battle of Gettysburg, the dead still lay in the town and its surrounding fields and hills. Northeast of the Square, near present-day Stratton Street, another slain soldier was found, shot through the lungs. His only means of identification was an ambrotype of three small children, his own, clutched tightly in his hand.

The soldier was identified through the photograph by his widow, Philinda Humiston of Portsville, New York. Sergeant Amos Humiston left three children: Fred, Frank, and Alice. The ambrotype had been published widely in newspapers, magazines, and periodicals.

The photograph of Humiston's three children caused a national stir. Thousands of children had been left fatherless because of the war, and in 1865, many people of means in the town of Gettysburg decided to create a home for these destitute children. In September 1866, the Soldiers' Orphan Homestead was created, and 30 orphans moved into the structure that had been used by Union General Oliver Howard during the Battle of Gettysburg, on Cemetery Hill on the Baltimore Pike. By the spring of 1867, it had become officially incorporated, with trustees including illustrious names such as George Meade, Oliver Howard, David McConaughy, and Edward McPherson. The Humiston children were among many who came to live there, with their mother as an assistant manager. In all, children from sixteen states, from New England to Illinois, called the orphanage at Gettysburg home.

Mrs. Humiston remarried in 1873. According to historian Ruth Scott Wisler, there were "nine golden years" for the orphans at Gettysburg. The atmosphere was "strict" according to one orphan who lived there in the beginning, but "good". The children wore clean and comfortable clothing. They were schooled in learning a trade, and were educated in mathematics, history, and music. Benefactors from all over the nation paid for the upkeep of the orphanage. Many churches throughout the country donated funds - and by doing so were able to send orphans of their own congregations to the orphanage.

Among those who came to the orphanage were General George Meade, who visited twice before his death to a sudden bout of pneumonia in the late autumn of 1872, Generals Ulysses S. Grant, Samuel Wylie Crawford, John Geary, Horace Porter, and Oliver Howard.

Local newspapers chronicled events sponsored by the town of Gettysburg to make life more enjoyable for the fatherless children of the war. Christmas dinners, ice cream socials, sleigh rides across the battlefield, and celebrations of holidays that included Washington's birthday and Decoration Day were just a few special occasions held for the orphans at Gettysburg. During one event on February 22, 1868, after a large reception of song, poetry readings, and food, Lt. Norton, veteran of a New York Zouave unit, drilled his veteran soldiers on the grounds of the Homestead, "in presence of the orphans, much to their gratification."

Philinda Humiston is credited with the notion of commemorating one of the earliest Memorial Day remembrances by allowing the orphans to place flowers on the graves of the Gettysburg slain in the Soldiers' National Cemetery, a tradition begun in 1867. Sergeant Humiston was one of those who were buried on Cemetery Hill, in the New York section. As the years passed, the children felt a sense of honor in understanding that their fathers had given their lives so that the nation would survive, and they always looked forward to Decoration Day each year to pay homage to their fathers and other soldiers laid to rest at Gettysburg, all of them taken far too soon.

George Meade, after visiting the orphanage when it was first established, wrote to Reverend Richard Norton, chairman of the Executive Committee at the Orphans' Homestead: "I saw enough to satisfy me that the children placed there are well cared for, and their wants, physical and mental, properly attended to. The selection of Gettysburg for the location of the Homestead, I deem eminently judicious, not only from its being the scene of one of the great battles of the war, but on account of its salubrity of climate, the resources of the place, and the facility with which it can be visited."

In 1874 these sentiments, held by most throughout Gettysburg and the nation, would abruptly change.

With the remarriage of Philinda Humiston and the change in the lives of the others who managed the Homestead, another manager was sought. Rosa Carmichael was selected to care for the orphans at the Homestead, whose numbers at times had swelled to over 120 children in 1870. The requests to place children at the orphanage had become so copious, that in 1869 another building was erected to house the girls. The original building, which was already two dwellings in one, continued to house the boys.

Rosa Carmichael's tenure at the Homestead was not at all salubrious or honorable, and reports of abuse soon circulated around town. According to one newspaper report, Carmichael proved to be "the Jonah to the institution." Mrs. Carmichael fashioned a 5 x 8 foot walled room, dubbed the "dungeon" by the children, in the cellar. No light penetrated this nineteenth century black hole, and Carmichael shackled children whom she deemed incorrigible into this horrifying pit. There was no age limit for this punishment, children as young as four or five years old were thrown inside, shackled and suspended in the darkness. She also employed a nineteen-year-old taskmaster, an orphan who was infamous for bullying other orphans, and allowed him to beat the children when she felt they warranted it. Newspaper reports also verified that the taskmaster beat boys and girls, many of them at "a very tender age." Amazingly the abuse did not stop there.

On Christmas Eve, 1875, two men were walking home and passed the vicinity of the orphanage near midnight. They heard terrified shrieks on the bitterly cold night, and rushed to an outbuilding, which they discovered was the source of the "piteous screams". Breaking into the small outhouse, they found a four-year-old orphan boy, scantily clad in a thin nightshirt, who was "scared almost out of his senses." Mrs. Carmichael had locked the child inside as punishment for an infraction. The incident caused a public outcry, and an investigation was made. Mrs. Carmichael was able to find people who would lie for her, swearing false affidavits. Children with marks and bruises were hidden until the inspections were ended, and the abuse continued, unfettered.

Carmichael's cruelty finally caught up with her in the fall of 1876, when an orphan, George Lunden, brought charges of assault and battery against her. She called the charges "slanderous" but the volume of witnesses was overwhelming. Carmichael was found guilty and charged $20 plus "the cost of her arrest". Then, unbelievably, she was allowed to return to the Homestead, and her abuses continued.

The following May, in 1877, the orphans were forbidden by Mrs. Carmichael to participate in the Memorial Day ceremonies. They watched forlornly from locked rooms as other children placed fresh flowers on the graves of their fathers. Mr. Wilson, the caretaker of the Soldiers' National Cemetery at the time, watched the orphanage regularly with a spyglass and saw Mrs. Carmichael personally dunking children in a barrel for punishment. In June, a youth escaped from the Homestead and made his way to Waynesboro, where he reported the actions of his notorious headmistress to the townspeople.

The Waynesboro Record printed the accusations: "A youth, about 19 years of age, who gave his name as Richard Hutchinson, who had part of his left arm off, passed through our town the other day. He said he came from the Orphan's Homestead at Gettysburg, and he made some statement in reference to the treatment of orphans there, which, if correct, would seem to show that the Home in question is no credit either to Gettysburg or to whoever manages it."

The charges were investigated and found to be true. The children were shoeless, in rags, girls were forced to wear boys' clothing as punishment for minor infractions such as tearing their dresses accidentally. A reporter from the Gettysburg Star and Sentinel wrote: "She has gone from bad to worse until the institution has become a public disgrace beyond the tolerance of decent people."

Mrs. Carmichael was again arrested and soon left town, never to be seen again. But the damage had been done and it was irreparable. By this time the number of orphans was less than twenty. By September, when Mrs. Carmichael left, only nine orphans remained, dejected, malnourished and broken in spirit. In December 1877 the last orphans were taken out of the Homestead and the doors were forever closed on its once noble and now soured legacy. Three orphans were adopted, one of them by Mr. Wilson the cemetery caretaker. Three were sent to live with distant relatives, and three were sent to the "Home of the Friendless" an orphanage in Philadelphia. The sad fate of the latter three was that they truly must have felt friendless, alone in a world they likely felt cared nothing at all for them or their slain fathers. Upon the closure of the orphanage, members of the GAR found the secret dungeon in the cellar, and the shackles that had harnessed many a child within its dark stony walls.

The property was sold in 1878 to Isaac Hereter, Henry Fahnestock, and George Stover. They in turn sold the Homestead to John Myers, the first person to use the home as a private residence since the orphanage closed. In 1881 Hugh Scott purchased the property for $3,100 and lived in it with his wife until his death in 1915. At that time the Evergreen Cemetery caretakers, Harry and Mary Pfeffer Trostle purchased the Homestead. In the early 1920s they turned the home into an inn for travelers. Their great niece, Mary Collins, who owned one of the Homestead buildings until her death a few years ago said that the Homestead was "the first bed and breakfast inn in Gettysburg".

Many visitors to Gettysburg find the story of the Civil War one of the saddest chapters in American history. While that is true, the rest of the story - the fate of many orphans who attempted to piece together their shattered lives at the Homestead after 1874 is even more distressing. Their treatment at the hands of Mrs. Carmichael was more than dishonorable, it was a sacrilege to the memory of the Civil War slain, who had entrusted the care of their orphaned children to the nation they had saved at the highest of costs.

The story of the Homestead is one of the dark chapters in the long and storied history of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. It is another sad reminder of the great cost of war, a price that for decades, reached across the years to plague the generations that followed.

Added by: sdonley on 02/01/2015 DB#:217


Stories are just that. Stories and personal accounts that have been reported about the location.

Dark history abounds in one part of Gettysburg for reasons outside of the battle itself. The next site on your list - an orphanage once headed by Rosa Carmichael - is one such place. You get a sinking feeling in your gut as you enter the fabled basement of the site.

The orphanage in Gettysburg was the source of injustices suffered by children at the hand of an abusive headmistress, Rosa. Julie Griffin, author of Ghostly Photographs, visited the orphanage herself and spoke about Rosa's ill treatment of the orphans.

"Rosa was known to have abused some of the children in her care by placing them in shackles in the basement or in the outhouse, and hiring older boys to beat the disobedient ones with a stick… Being in the cold, damp, confined area intensifies how restrictive this place would have been. After only a few minutes in there I wanted to get out of this space."

Indeed, prolonged imprisonment in a dark, musty basement just might do the trick for creating something residual and unexplainable. The tightness of the room makes you feel uneasy, so you pack up shop for an encounter with a happier spirit at the Jennie Wade House.

Added by: sdonley on 02/01/2015 DB#:1170

National Soldier's Orphan Homestead: During the battle of Gettysburg, this building was the headquarters of Union General Howard. In 1866, it was turned into an orphanage and at one time housed 130 boys and girls. The head mistress was Rosa Carmichael, who was infamous for her cruelty and was eventually convicted of child abuse. The orphanage closed in 1877, but Rosa's dark spirit is said to be lurking in the basement, trapped and angry.

Added by: sdonley on 02/01/2015 DB#:1171

Paranormal Claims

Here are the paranormal claims for this location. These have been found through Internet research, reports from members, or reports from personal interviews. To add a claim, please contact, and we will review and add your information.

Claim # Added Added By Claim
1992 02/01/2015 sdonley Toys have been seen to move on their own.
1993 02/01/2015 sdonley Voices have been heard and recorded of children playing.
1994 02/01/2015 sdonley Photos have been captured showing faces of a mean women.
1995 02/01/2015 sdonley Photos have been captured showing faces of children.
1996 02/01/2015 sdonley Cold spots have been felt throughout the basement.
1997 02/01/2015 sdonley The feeling of uneasiness has been reported by visitors in the basement.

Paranormal Evidence

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Additional Resources

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Paranormal Investigation
Added: 02/01/2015 By: sdonley
Paranormal investigation report by Big Bend Ghost Trackers.

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