Our house indirectly tied to the Gettysburg Address

*July 25, 2017 note: this page is being edited and updated as more information is found and added!  However, because it is extremely time-consuming to research the history and requires a lot of concentration, we will be posting information in chunks when appropriate and am planning on researching more of the history within the next few weeks as time permits.  *

Apr 11, 2015 @ 12:07  As a recent update, I was prompted to start researching some more history on the house today, focusing on the years that David Wills and Hiram S. Wright owned it.

1885 HD_willsD

Who is David Wills?  To summarize, he was a prominent lawyer (and later judge) in Gettysburg who wrote to Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War and requested he come to the area and speak to the people here.  This is part of the letter:

david wills letter to abraham lincoln

His brick house in Gettysburg, now owned by the National Park Service, was where Abraham Lincoln put the finishing touches on the Gettysburg Address.  He was also born in Menallen Township.

This is from the deed when we had the title researched back when we first purchased the house and was our starting point:

1872 map of Menallen township featuring David Wills and Hiram S. Wright as “Wills and Wright” on the map:

Originally, we had assumed that because Hiram was a local quaker and David Wills was a prominent attorney and (later judge) who lived within Gettysburg proper, David had helped Hiram purchase the home for his family to live there as he was the director of Gettysburg National Bank.  Per History and Directory of the Boroughs of Gettysburg, Oxford, Littlestown, York Springs, Berwick, and East Berlin, Adams County, Pa:

However, after signing up for an account with Newspapers.com and searching for both men, it appears that David Wills may actually have purchased this home as sort of a “rural retreat” second home?  Perhaps away from mainstreet Gettysburg where his house is located and had Hiram care for the property?  I’m not sure but this is the information I found so far that leads me to believe this…

From the Gettysburg Compiler, October 21, 1870

Above is the original purchase of the property, dated in the newspaper months before the written documentation attached to the deed.  Again, David Wills actually being tied to the property is not new, but the fact that they purchased the property for $39.75 per acre is interesting.  The next piece of information is what leads me to believe he may have actually been actually involved with the house in some way…

From The Gettysburg Times, January, 19, 1932

Above is a “repost” of a snippet in the local newspaper that ran 50 years before.  I haven’t located the original yet.  However, in it, it acknowledges Judge Wills gifting Hiram S. Wright with a “present” of $50 for the “personal care of ‘Mountain View’ farm”.  I believe Hiram Wright also owned another property, his personal residence, that can be viewed on the 1872 map as “H.S. Wright”.

It’s rather funny and interesting how the house is referred to as a mansion.  It surely is not and, sadly, no longer has that acreage associated with it.

judge wills letter full front pagedavid wills letter to louisa russel

Above are two images.  The first is the front page of The Gettysburg Times, February 12, 1941 which discusses David Wills’ letter documenting the Gettysburg Address.  The second is an enlargement snippet of the portion in which David Wills communicated with the daughter of Hiram Wright about the Gettysburg Address, very interesting indeed!

Hopefully I can uncover more as time goes on.  Unfortunately, the Gettysburg David Wills house, which is now a museum, was not very helpful when we went there a few years ago but will be contacting them again in the future after I obtain more information.  When we visited the Adams County Historical Society April 2, 2015, we obtained the tax records for Menallen Township from the period of time that David Wills and Hiram Wright owned the house, they jointly paid taxes on the property the entire time they owned it.

1874 menallen tax book

1874 menallen tax

Above are two images from one of the tax books, dating 1874 and lists Wills and Wright at the bottom.  If you look closely, back then one of the things you could be taxed for was watches…who knew?!  I certainly didn’t.

At some point, we may pursue putting the house on the National Register of Historic Places, we will see!  Having a bunch of kids and an old house that needs a LOT of work consumes time, but am slowly piecing together more of the history of this place.  This page will be edited and added to as more information is uncovered.