My posts have been few and far between of late. Besides life just getting busier and busier, the main reason is because last week, my wife and I left Gettysburg behind and settled in a new home about ten miles north of town, in the small village of Bendersville. Of course, I will miss Gettysburg. . .or at least some aspects of it. I will not miss the traffic, the college students carousing about at all hours of the night, and by no means will I ever get nostalgic about Bike Week (good riddance). But it was, in retrospect, a good five and a half years. I will miss the ability to walk to the battlefield. . .but it is time to move on.
Our new place has quite a history of its own. It was built by Nicholas George Wilson in 1869, on a foundation that dates to the late 1700s. It is a quaint two-story brick farmhouse, with a lot of character. Wilson’s ancestors were among the earliest settlers of that part of Adams County. Indeed, Bendersville, named for Henry Bender, was once known as Wilsonville. Born in 1832, Wilson served as a sergeant in Company G, 138th Pennsylvania Infantry. During his time in uniform, he participated in several battles, including the Wilderness, Spotsylvania, and Cold Harbor. However, at the battle of Monocacy on July 8, 1864, Wilson fell, seriously wounded. The wound prevented further service and left him crippled for the rest of his life. He was discharged in May 1865 and returned to Bendersville where, four years later, he built his home on what was known as Liberty Hill. In 1873, forty-one-year-old Nicholas Wilson became the Superintendent of the Soldiers’ National Cemetery in Gettysburg. Fourteen years later, he was named Superintendent of grounds for the Gettysburg Battlefield Memorial Association, a post he held until 1895, when the battlefield was transferred to the United States Government. In his position as Superintendent, Wilson planned and oversaw the construction of nearly all avenues/roadways along the Union lines of battle, and oversaw the placement and installment of more than 350 monuments on the battlefield.
An active member of the community, Wilson also served on the Gettysburg Town Council, the Gettysburg School Board, serving as president for three years, in the Pennsylvania legislature, and as an active member of the Corporal Skelly Post No. 9 of the Grand Army of the Potomac. Sergeant Wilson died in October 1907. His obituary read in part: “[Wilson] was a whole-souled fellow and popular with everyone who knew him. . . .He was a man of much native ability, thoroughly doing all work intrusted to him and the development of this town and battlefield owe much to him. Personally he was most companionable, possessing those qualities of heart and mind that made those who knew him best admire and highly esteem him. . .”
I am thrilled to be living in the home built by such a contributing and important figure in the development of the Gettysburg National Battlefield. By the way, the photograph of Wilson and the bibliographic information comes from On The Bloodstained Field II: 132 More Human Interest Stories of the Campaign and Battle of Gettysburg, by Gregory Coco, a former Park Ranger at Gettysburg. At settlement, I discovered that during the 1980s and into the early ‘90s, Coco resided in the same house.