TODAY IS 28 JUNE 1863
THE HILLS HAVE NAMES
General Winfield S. Handcock in command of the II Corps, Army of the Potomac, under orders from General George E. Meade, marched his troops, under a boiling hot sun, the thirty two miles from Monocacy Junction, near Frederick, to The Orchard. He marched up Bark Hill to enter the town from the west. Upon entering the town, a New Yorker in his company observed that it “was a pretty secluded village, patriotic, but paralyzed just now by the nearness of the rebel army.”
Had he turned left, upon entering town, he would have gone up and down Lazy Hill and arrived in Gettysburg long before he did. On a clear day he could see Little Round Top from the cemetery that rests on the crest of Lazy Hill. He was not headed to Gettysburg just yet. Handcock was looking for Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia instead he damn near found J.E.B. Stuart and three brigades of his Confederate cavalry. The Orchard’s town folks told him Stuart was camped four miles away in Westminster. General Handcock chose not to take action on this local intelligence and did not launch what may have been a surprise attack. Had he heeded this information and headed east to Westminster he would have gone down Meadow Branch Hill and changed history in the process. Local legend has it that he chose to bivouac his troops at Love Spring on Cool Spring Farm a short distance northeast of town, fresh water being the necessity.
28 JUNE 2016
It is still a pretty secluded village, and patriotic. The stars and stripes fly from the front porches of many of the homes, not just on holidays. A closer look will see the stars and bars on the back porch of some a testament to the politic of the day. The Segafoose Hotel where Hancock and his officers took their comfort is now a private residence with a historical marker in the front yard. Love Spring is still there, I reckon, there are lots of locked gates, wire fences and signs that are not welcoming. Holding pens are now front yards. When growing up here it was one of my favorite places to roam around with my black and white English springer spaniel, Jinx. Even if I had a dog I could not do it now.
The Rising Sun Tavern closed in 1842. The same year the Crossed Keys Tavern also closed leaving only the Segafoose Hotel which had gained and maintained a grand reputation for food and entertainment. My back porch was built in 1842 which also has developed a grand reputation for fine food and wine, respectful entertainment and very good 90 proof American whiskey. Maintaining the Orchard’s long lost tradition for fine food and drink is just about the only reason I can think of for living here. Brian and Frank arrived Easter weekend for our annual fly fishing outing to Friends Creek. We call it Trout Camp. Their arrival broke the monotony of two months of corn bread and ice tea.
The Orchard’s hay-day came to an end around 1885. The tannery had shut down. It was no longer the main road from Baltimore to Pittsburgh. There were three stores left, three churches and one bank to serve the four hundred residents. It pretty much stayed the same for seventy-five to eighty years. Today, all the stores are gone. The two that sold gasoline closed first. The one that survived housed the United States Post Office in a front corner each house had its own post office box. It was not self-service. Candy, cigarettes, gossip and everything else needed to live life in a small town including the world’s most delicious ice-cream. It was made in an outbuilding behind the store with the cream of local Holsteins unregulated, uncertified and not homogenized. It was the gathering place. The Great Fire of 1976 reduced one church and several houses to ashes. The bank got bought, got over staffed and closed due to lack of loans. I could have most probably enjoyed living here in its golden years, except for the lack of indoor plumbing.