National Homestead At Gettysburg
This historic Gettysburg building was constructed following the Battle of Gettysburg as a home for orphans and widows. Fundraising for the organization was boosted by photographs of casualties and newspaper articles about the search to find the identity of unknown soldiers that led to essays about their widows and orphaned children. Chief among these were the three children of Amos Humiston, a soldier whose body was discovered clutching a photo of his children. The three orphans captured the heart of America and became a symbol for the orphaned children of the Civil War while also helping fundraising efforts for this orphanage. After many successful years and the creation of a second building to house as many as seventy girls, the orphanage became known for the cruelty of a new manager who punished children by locking them in the basement. After the orphanage closed, the building became a museum and was later acquired by a tourist organization that markets the site as haunted.
Ulysses S. Grant with the boys and girls at National Homestead orphanage, June 21, 1867
Backstory and Context
The National Homestead at Gettysburg was created in 1866 as a home for children who had lost their fathers during the Civil War. Amos Humiston's widow, Philinda Humiston, went there to work with her three children. Amos Humiston became known as the "Unknown Soldier of Gettysburg", and the National Homestead was celebrated as a place of support for widows and orphans. In later years, a series of abuse scandals led to the closure of the orphanage. The girls dormitory that had been built next to this brick structure in 1869 was moved from the location in 1903. In recent years, that former dormitory was converted into a museum called the Homestead. In the 1950s, the original building was purchased by actor Cliff Arquette, a Civil War buff who operated a museum named in honor of Charley Weaver, a character he played on several popular shows of the era.
Amos Humiston, SBU Archives. Accessed May 12th 2020. http://archives.sbu.edu/civil_war/154th_g-o.html.
National Homestead at Gettysburg, Wikipedia. Accessed May 13th 2020. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Homestead_at_Gettysburg.