The Meisenhelter / Meisenhelder family was one of the more prominent families in Dover and Conewago townships during the 19th century. The private family cemetery is dotted with the names of men and women who played a key role in the agricultural economy of the region during the Civil War years. Descendants still live in the area, and many of the old farmsteads still exist, including two on Bull Road that I will discuss briefly in today’s Cannonball blog entry.
These folks were prime targets of Confederate raiding parties, as Bull Road was (and is) a quick route for people to get from northern York County to York without using Carlisle Road (State Route 74). Four members of the large family are known to have lost horses to the Southern foragers.
Let’s take a look at the losses of the four Meisenhelters…
Daniel Meisenhelter (1796-1870) – On the morning of Tuesday, July 1, 1863, a patrol from J.E.B. Stuart’s Confederate cavalry division paid a visit to Dan Meisenhelter’s place and emerged with a 6-year-old dark bay horse valued at $200 (in 1863 money). In the 1860 census, he is listed as a 63-year-old farmer worth $12,000. His family is listed as his wife Elizabeth 53; and children Anna 31 (deaf & dumb, can’t rd. or write English); Jacob B. 21; Daniel 19; Israel B. 17; Lovina 13; William Nathan 10; and Orphila 8. That’s quite a lot of kids for an older gentleman!
David Meisenhelter (1820-1886) – He was the first family member to suffer a loss when on Sunday, June 28, members of the 17th Virginia Cavalry stopped by and took his bay horse, leaving a played out nag in exchange. He later sold the nearly worthless Rebel horse for $25. York Daily Record editor, author, and fellow blogger Jim McClure, in his excellent book, East of Gettysburg, mentions that some of French’s men, on their way to destroy the Conewago Creek railroad bridges, dismounted at the Meisenhelter farm and ate a meal. One trooper attempted to steal a horse. Mounting and riding away, he tried to jump a wooden fence, but the horse balked. The rider fled on foot, and the horse found its own way back to the stable. It is not known if this is the same horse for which David and Anna May filed their $140 state border claim (perhaps they lost it later to other Rebels), or if this is a second horse that they managed to save.
Henry Meisenhelter (1824-1897) – This Dover Township carpenter and farmer suffered the most in monetary losses, with a claim of $265. He was visited on Monday, June 29, by French’s troopers, who rode off with his 6-year-old dark bay mare and an 12-year-old light bay. The Johnnies also took a leather riding saddle. The 1860 census lists Henry Meisenhelter, 34, carpenter, $70 in personal property; wife Rachel 29; children Crispinus 4 and Tempest 2. Also living with them was his mother-in-law, Catharine Kochenour, 69.
Samuel H. Meisenhelter (1795-1872) – The War of 1812 veteran was also hit on June 29, very likely by the same patrol that hit Henry’s nearby farm. Sam lost a 7-year-old roan he valued at $175. He reported that Rebels entered his stable and emerged leading away his horse.
Dover historian Ron Botterbusch tells the story that at one of the Meisenhelter farms on Bull Road, Rebels missed several other fine draft horses which were concealed under a large apple tree with branches that hung to the ground, providing good cover. The animals were gagged, and the farmer used a fly brush to keep them from stomping their feet and attracting attention.
Whether this was Henry or Samuel remains unknown.
I drive by the Meisenhelter farms on Bull Road most mornings, and the old houses are still in very good condition. I often wonder of the current owners know anything about the Civil War events that took place there in the early summer of 1863?