Dec 24



The Farnsworth House is one of the best known stuctures in the Borough of Gettysburg. The property on which the house is located was originally owned by the Reverend Alexander Dobbin. The property is located at the corner of Baltimore Street is in the foreground, and South Street which is on the right of this picture. This view was taken facing west at approximately 2:20 PM on Saturday, December 20, 2008.

Gettysburg’s Farnsworth House at 401 Baltimore Street was named after 25 year old Brigadier General Elon J. Farnsworth who was killed near Big Round Top on July 3, 1863. The building was not named the Farnsworth House until the 1970s when the present owners purchased it. At the time of the Battle of Gettysburg, this was the home of Butcher Harvey Sweney, and sometimes of his family.

Much of the information for this post was supplied by Gettysburg Licensed Battlefield Guide Timothy H. Smith’s fine booklet, In the Eye of the Storm: The Farnsworth House and the Battle of Gettysburg, which was published this year (2008). The booklet is 64 pages and retails for $9.95, and may be ordered from the Farnsworth House Bookstore (717) 334-8838.  Their website is www.farnsworthhouseinn.com.



In the 1810s, Tanner John F. McFarlane purchased the property. This southern part of town was the home of two tanneries, a slaughterhouse, a brickyard, and the Gettysburg Water Company. Some sections in the rear of the Farnsworth House appear to date from 1810. South Street is in the foreground. This view was taken facing southeast at approximately 2:20 PM on Saturday, December 20, 2008.



John McFarlane was a prominent member of the Gettysburg community in the 1820s and 1830s. He was an active supporter of African Colonization for freed slaves, and Elder of the Gettysburg Presbyterian Church, and was on the first Board of Trustees of Gettysburg College. This view was taken facing southwest at approximately 2:20 PM on Saturday, December 20, 2008.



McFarlane built this brick structure in 1833, and Gettysburg Tax Records valued his “new house” at $700. This view was taken facing southwest at approximately 8:00 AM on Monday, December 22, 2008.



In the early 1840s, McFarlane’s wife, Martha, died, and John McFarlane suffered financial setbacks. His property was taken over in 1842 by the Bank of Gettysburg, and it was owned by the bank until 1852. Baltimore Street, on the left in this view, is climbing Cemetery Hill, which appears in the left background. This view was taken facing south at approximately 8:00 AM on Monday, December 22, 2008.



On April 7, 1852, the property was purchased by Harvey Sweney. Sweney was the youngest son of a Revolutionary War soldier, who died when Sweney was one year old. Sweney’s older brothers and sisters died before him, and he inherited their and his father’s properties. In the 1840s, Sweney was a school teacher in Gettysburg, and was said to have a “quick temper.” This view was taken facing southwest at approximately 2:20 PM on Saturday, December 20, 2008.



Harvey Sweney married Catharine McAllister in 1838, and the couple had seven children, two of whom died as infants. This view was taken facing west at approximately 8:00 AM on Monday, December 22, 2008.



The 1860 federal census showed that Harvey Sweney (1812-1870) was “white,” a Butcher, that his named was spelled “Sweeney,” and that he lived in the same dwelling and was part of the same family with Catharine H. Sweney (1818-1908), born in Pennsylvania; James H. Sweney (1839-1920), born in Pennsylvania; Elizabeth Sweney (1843-1885), born in Pennsylvania; Henry C. Sweney (1844-1862), born in Pennsylvania; John M. Sweney (1846-1909), born in Pennsylvania; Emma Collins (1846-), born in Pennsylvania. This view was taken facing west at approximately 8:00 AM on Monday, December 22, 2008.



His real estate had a value of $7300, and his personal estate had a value of $1000. His total wealth of $8300 made him the 80th wealthiest person in Gettysburg according to the 1860 federal census. This view was taken facing northwest at approximately 2:20 PM on Saturday, December 20, 2008.



A total of $8300 isn’t too bad for a Butcher, but Harvey Sweney was the third wealthiest Butcher in Gettysburg in 1860. Nicholas Codori was the wealthiest Butcher, and 37th richest person in Gettysburg, and James Pierce was the 69th wealthiest person in Gettysburg in 1860. This view was taken facing west at approximately 2:20 PM on Saturday, December 20, 2008.

Gettysburg, Pennsylvania Butchers according to the 1860 Federal Census:

Bormuth, John (circa 1835-) (White) Gettysburg, Adams County, Pennsylvania resident in 1860
Codori, George A. (circa 1836-) (White) Gettysburg, Adams County, Pennsylvania resident in 1860
Codori, Nicholas (circa 1809-) (White) Gettysburg, Adams County, Pennsylvania resident in 1860
Degraft, Henry (circa 1801-) (White) Gettysburg, Adams County, Pennsylvania resident in 1860
Pierce, James (circa 1808-1896) (White) Gettysburg, Adams County, Pennsylvania resident in 1860
Pierce, James S. (circa 1836-) (White) Gettysburg, Adams County, Pennsylvania resident in 1860
Pierce, William H. (circa 1841-) (White) Gettysburg, Adams County, Pennsylvania resident in 1860
“Sweeney,” Harvey (circa 1812-) (White) Gettysburg, Adams County, Pennsylvania resident in 1860



The 1860 tax records for Gettysburg show that Harvey “Swenny” owned two lots in the Borough. One lot was valued at $50, and the other lot at $800. He also owned one horse, valued at $40, a cow valued at $12.00, and a “pleasure carriage” valued at $25.00. This view was taken facing west at approximately 2:20 PM on Saturday, December 20, 2008.



Gettysburg,until the recent past, charged an occupation tax. Some thought that it was unfair, and it was finally repealed. The unfairness was apparent in the 1860s. James Pierce, Nicholas Codori, and Harvey Sweney were listed as Butchers. The 1860 tax records valued James Pierce’s occupation as a Butcher at $100. It valued Nicholas Codori and Harvey Sweney’s occupation as a Butcher at $150. This view was taken facing southeast at approximately 2:20 PM on Saturday, December 20, 2008.



Harvey Sweney spent time between Illinois and Gettysburg in the 1860s, and when the Civil War broke out, his sons James and Henry joined Illinois military units. This view was taken facing south at approximately 8:00 AM on Monday, December 22, 2008.



James Sweney joined the 17th Illinois Infantry Regiment in 1862 and served in that unit for the remainder of the war. The 17th Illinois was involved in the Battle of Shiloh and the Vicksburg Campaign. The 17th Illinois was mustered out in 1864 and the members whose terms of service had not expired joined the 8th Illinois Infantry Regiment. This view was taken facing northwest at approximately 2:20 PM on Saturday, December 20, 2008.



Henry Sweney joined the 4th Illinois Cavalry Regiment. While in camp at Corinth, Mississippi on June 30, 1862, he was accidentally shot in the back by one of his fellow soldiers. He died the next day. This view was taken facing northwest at approximately 8:00 AM on Monday, December 22, 2008.



By 1863 Harvey was not living with other members of his family in the town, including his wife. The reasons aren’t exactly known, but it may have something to do with Harvey’s “quick temper” which we mentioned earlier. A letter from his son James to Catharine in April of 1863 mentions the word “abuse” a couple of times. This view was taken facing west at approximately 8:00 AM on Monday, December 22, 2008.



A closer view of the wayside exhibit in front of the Farnsworth House. This view was taken facing west at approximately 8:00 AM on Monday, December 22, 2008.



In the summer of 1863, Harvey Sweney lived in part of the home on Baltimore Street. He rented out the rest of the house to Joseph Weikert and his family. Harvey Sweney’s wife and daughter Elizabeth lived at the home of Solomon Powers across the street from the Gettysburg Academy Building at the corner or Washington and High Streets. It is not known with whom their son John was staying when the Battle of Gettysburg occurred. This view was taken facing northwest at approximately 8:00 AM on Monday, December 22, 2008.



During the Battle of Gettysburg, Confederate Sharpshooters from Louisiana, Georgia, and Alabama occupied buildings in this area. However, documentation is scarce to which Confederates occupied the Sweney House, including the attic with the small window at the top of the building. Union troops returning fire from the Cemetery Hill area to this location made the bullet holes (light colored marks) on this south wall. This view was taken facing northwest at approximately 8:00 AM on Monday, December 22, 2008.



Sometime in the 1940s or 1950s the bullet holes were covered over. After the present owners purchased the Sweney House they sandblasted the walls, and again exposed the bullet holes to the public. The Sweney House is one of the Gettysburg locations to claim that a bullet fired by a Confederate Sharpshooter might have killed Jenny Wade in the McClellan House on Cemetery Hill. This view was taken facing northwest at approximately 8:00 AM on Monday, December 22, 2008.



The John Slentz family, who were renting the Edward McPherson Farm at the time of the battle refugeed to the Sweney House and stayed there from July 1-4, 1863. John Slentz reported that there were wounded United States soldiers brought into the house following the battle. Harvey Sweney died in Illinois on March 27, 1870. This view was taken facing northwest at approximately 2:20 PM on Saturday, December 20, 2008.

See the following related posts:

Licensed Battlefield Guide Rich Kohr:  The Bucktails on McPherson’s Ridge on November 26, 2008.
Gettysburg Diamond Christmas Lights on December 8, 2008.
Christmas Wreaths in the National Cemetery on December 9, 2008.
Some Christmas Decorations at the Nicholas Codori House on December 17, 2008.
Christmas Decorations at the Alexander Dobbin House on December 18, 2008.
A Couple of Christmas Decorations at the Henry Baugher House on December 19, 2008.
Christmas Decorations at the Gettysburg Academy on December 21, 2008.
Christmas Decorations on the Shriver House on December 22, 2008.
Some James Pierce House (Tillie Pierce House) Christmas Decorations on December 23, 2008.


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