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  • Writer's pictureGordon Thorsby

Close Family Ties, Rarely Connected in the Gettysburg Story

by Gordon Thorsby

Slyder Farm, taken October 2020

We write of the soldiers who fought here. For the people around Gettysburg, they lived it, before and after. It is difficult where to start this blog about some of the residents that became clear while researching other items. It starts with the most known.

At Gettysburg, Union Gen, Meade's headquarters was located at the Lydia Leister House east of Cemetery Ridge. Today, it is a frequented stop on the battlefield tours, etc., etc. Etc.

The Leister story is interesting. James Leister married Lydia Study around 1830 (not precisely known) in Silver Run, MD, fifteen miles southeast of Gettysburg and where Lydia Study (maiden name) was from. James and his brother ran a textile mill given to them by their father. According to the family genealogy, the boys, "liked their corn makings,” and dad disliked their hobby and resumed ownership. The Leisters then moved into Pennsylvania to Greenmount where they started anew and eventually had six children. James continued his ways and he also contracted consumption, passing in 1859. That is partly why the headquarters house has always been named to Lydia Leister house. James had been gone four years.

Lydia had a huge challenge and her upbringing kicked in to figure out how to make a go of it, widowed and with four children. She was a tough lady. She had a sum of money given upon her father’s death that was held in trust for her until James' death. "Her father was aware of James’ drinking habits and sought to protect Lydia’s inheritance, as women could not own property at that time."

A month after James’ death, the new widow sold her late husband’s carpenter tools, lumber, and some household furnishings. The proceeds, combined with the money from her father, gave her enough to purchase a nine-acre property at the southern base of Cemetery Hill. The farm had a log barn, small outbuildings, an orchard, a pasture, and tillable fields. A spring burbled out of the southeast corner of her land.

At the time of the battle, Lydia had only two lived at home, but both were under ten. Lydia had five brothers and sisters and two of them lived nearby. Dr. David Study resided in Gettysburg (well known in Adams County History and the battle.) She also had a sister, Catherine who resided a couple of miles away at the base of Round Top. Catherine was married to John Slyder. They lived at "Granite Farm" and worked hard to farm 84 acres of very rocky ground. They also had four children, three of whom were living at home in 1863. (see note at bottom). John Slyder was also a Maryland man when he and Catherine married. They lived in Gettysburg doing various things (including collecting and selling wool) to raise money to purchase a farm that eventually became granite farm. Before the battle, John and others nearby had posted their land off limits to cutting. There was plenty of lumber on Round Top and lumber was life and it was revenue. Little Round Top had been heavily lumbered, especially the western side. On July 2, Hood's assault crossed over their field and the home became a Confederate hospital. On July 3, Farnsworth's tragic assault happened on their small acreage and around the barn. When over, only the structures were standing.

For David Study, Catherine and Lydia's brother, he was deeply involved in the aftermath of helping the blight the battle had left. He assisted tending to the wounded. His story is fairly well told. Other people in the area also came together.

The David Study House in Gettysburg

The Slyders and Lydia knew they had problems when they saw what the battle wrought to their families' homes. The Slyders' fences, furniture and animals were all gone. Crops were damaged beyond recovery in the middle of summer. Lydia Leister's situation was worse. The home was a victim of artillery shelling overshoots and dead horses in the yard. In later years, Lydia was asked about the fame her house had become. Her response was disgust for the sloppy care of Union officers.

For the Leister and Slyder families, they were all still alive including their grown children. Lydia's oldest son, Amos, married a nearby daughter, Margaret Trostle (of the Trostle farm).

William Slyder, the oldest of the Slyders was out of the house in 1863, a ropemaker in town had been widowed in 1862. His wife, Rebecca (died two weeks after giving birth). They had three children. The youngest child, Annie died in 1861 at three of coughing. William, recovering from the family loss met a neighbor girl of the Slyders and they married on October 1,1863. Her name was Josephine Miller, the exact young woman who baked bread

(granddaughter) for Union soldiers on July 2 as the battle raged near Emmitsburg rd. William and Josephine were married October1, 1863, at the Rose home of the Rose Farm on Emmitsburg Rd. The condition of the farm is unknown but based on descriptions of the farm, there graves of approximately 75 Confederate soldiers buried around the house and many over in the wheatfield.

The Slyders put the Granite farm up for sale placing an ad in one of the Gettysburg papers. Information appears that brother David Study purchased the property and leased it out by late 1863 to a tenant (Elliott map.) After the battle, their farm wrecked, with damage claims denied by the government, the Slyders with the three kids picked up and moved to western Ohio, around October 1, probably just after the marriage. The Slyders resettled in western Ohio where the family is mostly buried there now. William and Josephine Slyder also left town about the same time and resettled in central Ohio (near Tipp City.)

Amos and Margaret Trostle Leister made their lives in Gettysburg. Lydia? She boiled the bones of thousands of dead and decaying horses and sold the calcium in town. She earned a tidy sum to fix the farm, raise the kids and even purchase more property until her donation to the GBNMP service.

Today, Lydia is buried at Evergreen Cemetery next to husband, James. Amos and Margaret rest beside them. Civilian families that were witnesses to Gettysburg, had become related.

(Note 1: Rebecca and child reportedly buried in Evergreen Cemetery. Information on the location other two children is lacking. Shrivers?)

Note 2: The farm today is on a very quiet southern part of the park and is a great place to walk on any morning. If you see anyone, it might only be a resident who lives nearby, also taking a peaceful walk. If you can get a chance, be sure to walk the road to the farm. You will instantly be transported to 1863.

Primary Source: Adams County Historical Society Records

Photos: Library of Congress, Adams County Historical Society, Tipton Photo Collection, and Gordon Thorsby.

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