Our house indirectly tied to the Gettysburg Address

*Note, this page is being edited and updated as more information is found and added!*

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 make a few remarks.  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.

Family of politicians

As I do more research into what happened to the children of Joseph Lawrence (who were probably born in this house!) and update the Lawrence family portion of the site accordingly, I’m finding that all 3 of his sons were politicians at either the state or federal level.  Some of their sons and/or grandsons went on to become politicians, lawyers or judges as well.  Very interesting!  Pictured below is George Van Eman Lawrence, son of Joseph Lawrence II and grandson of Joseph Lawrence who built and owned the house.

According to FindAGrave.com:

Birth: Nov. 13, 1818
Death: Oct. 2, 1904

US Congressman. Elected to represent Pennsylvania’s 24th District in the United States House of Representatives, he served from 1865 to 1869, and 1883 to 1885. He also served as a Member of the Pennsylvania State House of Representatives in 1844, Member of the Pennsylvania State Senate from 1850 to 1851, 1861 to 1863, and 1876 to 1882, and Delegate to the Pennsylvania State Constitutional Convention in 1872. (bio by: K)
I have to wonder how closely George Van Eman Lawrence resembled his grandfather Joseph as well as his great grandfather John.  His father, Joseph Lawrence II (probably born in this house!) was also a US Congressman.  Here is his bio listed on the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress:

Member of the State house of representatives 1818-1824 and served as speaker 1820-1822; elected as an Adams candidate to the Nineteenth and Twentieth Congresses (March 4, 1825-March 3, 1829); unsuccessful candidate for reelection in 1828 to the Twenty-first Congress; again a member of the state house of representatives 1834-1836; state treasurer in 1837; unsuccessful candidate for election in 1838 to the Twenty-sixth Congress; elected as a Whig to the Twenty-seventh Congress and served from March 4, 1841, until his death in Washington, D.C., April 17, 1842; chairman, Committee on Roads and Canals (Twenty-seventh Congress); interment in the Congressional Cemetery.


There seem to be plenty more in addition to the 3 sons and grandsons, but I’m only going to research so much as it can become overwhelming.

Unveiling more logs

These pictures were taken back in November 2006, when we had decided we would attempt to start renovating the foyer (which as of this date, is still a work-in-progress!).  We started stripping the steps and exposing the right-hand wall, which would have been the exterior of what is most likely the original building before it was added on.  The ceiling was also exposed –

One of the logs had a signature written over the paint.  “A.N. ?

Unfortunately, I don’t think the pictures convey what a HUGE mess this was.  In addition to the obvious horsehair plaster and dust, there was a mixture of bedding, POOP, dead things, fur, and nuts within the ceiling because, at some point, creatures had managed to work their way into the house for a period of time.  The dust settled in the house for weeks.

Goodbye barn!

The dismantling of the barn across the street is part of the reason I was stirred to continue research the history of the house.  It was no longer tied to this piece of property, and the owner had sold it.  The barn has actually been down for more than a week, but a flatbed truck was finally loaded yesterday with all of the huge logs used to fashion the barn, which I can only assume was as old as our house.  It is a shame, but from what I was told the wood will be used to make new houses, among other things.  It’s certainly a better scenario than the barn continuing to remain abandoned and fall into further disrepair.  A couple from California flew out to personally oversee sections that were to be used for their own house.  Now the only thing that remains is the foundation, which will probably be dismantled at some point as well.  I will miss it.

The above pic was taken in 2010.  Here are some other pictures, most were taken from an iPhone, including some of the interior.


Some pics from when we moved in!

We moved into our house in 2005, I’ll try and post pictures of some of the work we have done but as a baseline, these are some pics from before we officially purchased the place.  The finished log room is what sold it!  We’ve uncovered some of the logs and I’ll post that soon :)  Unfortunately, restoring an old house is not always fun, but it can be fascinating.


Hello and welcome!

Well, I guess this is the first post on the website!!  I created it to help us keep track of the information we find relating to our house, which is constructed mostly of logs and has a cornerstone of 1760.  Also included would be anything interesting about its previous occupants, anything relating to the restoration of it, or anything interesting that we happen to find!!

(Image: some items found during installation of our HVAC system back in 2009.)

I had already been compiling my information in a small binder, as well as on my computer, but this way we can share with the world all the fascinating things that happen or we may discover while living in a house which was built before the United States was formed.