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Fairfield Historic District

Fairfield Boro, Adams County, PA

The Fairfield Historic District [‡] was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2000.


The Fairfield Historic District is located on State Route 116 in southeastern Adams County. Nestled at the base of Jacks Mountain, part of the Blue Ridge, South Mountain range, Fairfield sits on the edge of a fertile limestone valley where apple orchards and fields of wheat and corn continue to dominate the landscape. The Daniel Musselman Farm, comprising the northeast corner of the historic district, maintains this agricultural context as an operating farm. Middle Creek runs through the pasture fields of the Musselman farm, where a Confederate hospital was located in 1863, and is crossed by State Route 116 approaching Fairfield from the east. The Landis Farm forming part of the northern boundary of the Fairfield Historic District, further emphasizes the rural character of the district. Both farms are included, within the current boundaries of the Fairfield Borough. The town of Fairfield is laid out in a main street/cross street pattern, each block being one lot deep, terminating along the back alleys. The historic boundaries of Fairfield as defined by the 1872 Atlas of Adams County, constitutes much of the historic district. Additional development along York St. (now Main St.) in the last quarter of the 19th century extends northeast to the nearby Musselman Farm, all of which is also included within the Fairfield Historic District. The district includes 117 contributing buildings, 1 contributing site (Confederate hospital) and 2 contributing structures (silos). Of the 166 buildings, site and structures counted within the Fairfield Historic District, less than one third, 46 buildings, are listed as non-contributing to the historic landscape. Out of the 46 non-contributing buildings, only 12 are dwellings or commercial structures, and only 9 of these modern intrusions front onto Main Street. The remaining 32 non-contributing buildings are listed as sheds or garages which are primarily located to the rear of the historic buildings and lots.

As Fairfield grew to the east along York St. throughout the 19th century, gable-front and asymmetrical late Victorian styles become more numerous. On the northeast end of town, outside of historic town boundaries but within the historic district, is the Daniel Musselman Farm (1858 and 1872 maps), the large Greek Revival house and stone/frame barn complex continues as an operating farm today. As Fairfield moved into the 20th century, new construction occurred on original town lots, either as infill or following demolition of older buildings. These buildings are located in somewhat isolated pockets throughout the town. Concentrations of later 20th century construction are located behind the original back alleys, and therefore do not intrude on the historic district boundaries.

This documentation of the Fairfield Historic District covers the buildings within the historic boundaries of the town of Fairfield, found on the 1872 Atlas Map. Fairfield is centered historically on the 1797 stone manor house and farm of John Miller, and the nearby buildings, mostly log or brick, with some stone construction. They date from the late 18th century to the first half of the 19th century, in the Greek Revival style, many with later Italianate and Gothic decorative elements added. Many of the brick buildings retain their original brick exterior enhancing the historic appearance of the streetscape. While much of the original weatherboard has been replaced with aluminum or vinyl siding, the decorative elements remain, again retaining much of the historic character. The district is expanded east and west by several lots beyond the 1872 boundary to include the late 19th century Victorian period brick and frame buildings which contribute to the overall character of the district. The few buildings which have been added within the historic town boundaries since the 1872 map was recorded include: a 1920s frame garage with pressed metal siding, which is relatively unaltered and currently used as an antique shop; a brick foursquare house at the center of town; a 1970s facade bank building; a new brick post office; a 1960s one story supermarket building and companion launderette. Each of the more modern intrusions is isolated from the others, making their impact on the historic landscape of Fairfield much less intrusive. Other potentially intrusive modern additions, garages, and sheds are generally relegated to the rear of the historic properties, so that the historic streetscape remains relatively intact.

The 1830s brick farmhouse located just north of Fairfield on Miller Rd., shown on the 1872 Map as that of H.M. Landis, which remains in the Landis family and includes the 1797 William Miller barn, is also included within the district boundaries. The farm adjoining the town of Fairfield on the northeast corner forms the northwest boundary of the Fairfield Historic District. This 1830s Greek Revival house, stone barn, and outbuildings, now known as the Village Farm, was listed as the Daniel Musselman farm on the 1858 Map of Adams County. The 1863 Sanitary Commission indicated the northeast field of the Musselman farm to have been used as a hospital site by Confederate troops under the name of "Johnson's Division." The modern field, used as pasture land, is crossed by Middle Creek, roughly north-south, and is bordered on the south by State Route 116, and on the east by properties facing onto Carroll Tract Road.

In addressing the issue of the integrity of the historic landscape of Fairfield within the context of the 1863 Civil War battle of Gettysburg, the question must be asked, would a Civil War soldier recognize the town if he walked through today? The approach to Fairfield, on Route 116 from the east, beginning at the boundary line of the Fairfield Historic District, presents a landscape very similar to that viewed by the Confederate Army as they made their retreat along this route in 1863. The open field of the historic Musselman farm, where the Confederate hospital was located remains free of modern intrusions. The character of the town of Fairfield continues to be that of a thriving rural village, primarily residential, with commercial establishments spread independently along the length of the main street. Despite the later 19th century and 20th century development within the town, many of the key buildings remain from the 1863 Confederate occupation of Fairfield. These key buildings tend to be in the center of the town. Specific buildings include, the Fairfield Inn which operated as an inn in 1863, the neighboring stone store building, now a realtor's office but relatively unchanged in appearance, and the Lutheran and Roman Catholic churches, physically changed but in their historic locations. These resources maintain the continuity of the historic streetscape. The dwellings of Mrs. Blythe (18 E. Main St.) and R.C. Swope (10 W. Main St.), where wounded Union officers were cared for, would present a familiar landscape to a returning soldier, as would the numerous Greek Revival and early Italianate style dwellings located along the length of Main St.


The Fairfield Historic District is significant as one of the main Confederate routes of retreat following the Battle of Gettysburg, July 1863. Several homes in the district were used as hospitals following the July 3rd 6th U. S. Cavalry skirmish, and the fields of the Daniel Musselman Farm (1858 Map) within the district served as the field hospital for Johnson's Division of the Confederate Army throughout the three-day Battle of Gettysburg. The Fairfield Historic District is significant as a concentration of residential, social, and commercial buildings associated with the local and rural population of the Borough of Fairfield and surrounding Hamiltonban Township through the late 18th century, 19th century, and the first half of the 20th century. The collection of buildings in Fairfield retains integrity of design, location, setting, workmanship, feeling and association, and reflects the appearance of the place in the early summer of 1863. The buildings are part of a cohesive whole that has association with the Battle of Gettysburg. The period of significance begins with the 1797 date of the district's earliest building, the John Miller house. Although the district contains buildings dating from after 1863, they are important to the development of Fairfield and are considered to be contributing to the architectural significance of the district although they were not present at the time of the battle. While some loss of integrity is inevitable and has occurred, the setting, natural and man-made features retain recognizable 1863 configurations. Portions of Fairfield have been recorded previously in the Adams County Historic Sites Survey.

Historical Context

In 1755, John Miller, an Irish settler from Delaware, purchased a 247-acre tract of land from Charles Carroll of Maryland. Miller's land was within a larger tract called "Carroll's Delight," part of the disputed territory between Pennsylvania and Maryland. The disputed tract eventually fell within Pennsylvania following the 1767 Mason-Dixon survey.[1]

John Miller built his stone manor house fronting directly on what was then known as the 'Hagerstown Road,' now known as State Route 116. The rich limestone farm land and streams made this area of the county attractive to early settlers, many of whom established a variety of mills, however the major markets were across the nearby South Mountain range. The well-traveled 'Hagerstown Road' was established in 1748 as a route to the markets of Baltimore and Hagerstown through Nicholson's Gap. By 1784, Miller had laid out lots along this road, with his own manor house at the center, and began selling town lots in "Fairfield, as many as 16 having been sold by the time of his death in 1794. His son, William Miller, also known as Squire Miller, continued selling town lots in what was then being called Millerstown. The post office was established in 1798, however the name was changed back to Fairfield due to the prior existence of another Millerstown in Pennsylvania.[2]

Squire Miller must have been faced with property disputes in his little village. In 1801 he had the town officially surveyed "to correct inaccuracies and to secure the privileges of waters, streets, and alleys for the benefit of the inhabitants."[3] This agreement established lots 60 ft. wide and 200 ft. in length, with Miller's manor house listed as #1 at the center of town. The town up to this point was settled almost exclusively by Irish and Scottish immigrants, as shown in a transcribed 1801 map of Fairfield establishing the streets and alleys, and the current lot ownerships.[4]

The town of Fairfield's economy, through the turn of the 19th century, was dependent on farms and mills. The next surge of growth came with the establishment of the Maria Iron Furnace in 1822, a short distance north-west of Fairfield, along the base of South Mountain, by Thaddeus Stevens and James D. Paxton.[5] The following year, in 1823, the Miller manor house was converted to a tavern and inn by Squire Miller's niece, Mary Wilson. The Maria Furnace was short-lived, closing in 1836, but it had provided the small town with enough growth to establish two churches, the Methodist and the Reformed, which had been built by 1827. In Daniel Rupp's 1846 history of Adams Co., Fairfield is described as having "50 dwellings, several stores and taverns, 2 churches, a school house, and a number of mechanics' shops."[6] Clearly, Fairfield had by this time established itself as the center for social and commercial activity for the surrounding agricultural district.

In the decade preceding the outbreak of the Civil War, Fairfield, located on one of the main routes west across the mountains, continued to thrive as a small town, providing the necessary goods and services required to support the rural population around it. The 1858 Map of Adams Co. indicates there were 4 churches, a school house, a shoe store, a confectionery, 2 general stores, a tailor shop, 2 tanneries, 3 blacksmiths, and the Mansion House Tavern. Fairfield's bountiful stores, workshops and surrounding farms, and more importantly, it's location on the Hagerstown Road, would determine the small town's role in the Civil War.

Immediately following the failed Maryland Campaign of 1862, General J.E.B. Stuart's cavalry raided the town of Fairfield, and the nearby farms, collecting horses, provisions, and even a few prisoners, before they quickly returned to Virginia.[7] One story recounted in local newspapers, tells of Stuart's October, 1862 raid: Stuart's cavalrymen appropriated the horses of Fairfield churchgoers as they attended services. When they came out of church they found to their surprise that their horses were gone and that all that was left at the hitching rails and posts were empty buggies.[8] This run-in with Stuart's cavalry would not be the last the people of Fairfield would see of Lee's Confederate Army.

Less than a year later, in the summer of 1863, the Confederate Army approached Gettysburg from the southwest and west, along the routes which passed through Fairfield and Cashtown. The town of Fairfield, with a population of only 218, was occupied by Confederate forces; again the rich farms around Fairfield became a source of resupply for the Confederates. The cavalry brigades of Gen. Jones and Gen. Robertson were at Cashtown, about four miles to the north, protecting the rear of Lee's army at Gettysburg. On July 3rd, 1863, the 6th U.S. Cavalry was sent to Fairfield on the Hagerstown Road to intercept a Confederate supply train reported to be in the area, on the Cashtown road near Orrtanna just north of Fairfield. The Union cavalry, already 10 miles behind enemy lines and without reinforcements, were soundly defeated by the Virginia Cavalry sent from Cashtown to protect the supply train.[9] The Union defeat left this all important route, which led directly from the Gettysburg battlefield, through Fairfield and Nicholson's Gap, to Maryland, in the hands of the Confederate army. Numerous wounded Union officers and men from the 6th U.S. Cavalry were brought to homes and churches for the people of Fairfield to care for. Wounded Confederate soldiers were brought out to Fairfield throughout the three-day Gettysburg battle. The 1863 Sanitary Commission Map of the Gettysburg area shows a Confederate field hospital, marked "Johnson's Division," located on the northeast edge of town on the Daniel Musselman farm. On July 6th, when the pursuing Union army passed through town on the Hagerstown Road, they found 871 Confederate wounded left in the buildings and fields of Fairfield.[10]

Two historic markers in Fairfield today indicate buildings used for the care of wounded soldiers. The first at the "McKesson House" (Mrs. Bly on the 1872 Map), the second on the R.C. Swope House (1872 Map), across the street from the Fairfield Inn (the Mansion House). Both describe the care of wounded Union officers following the Cavalry skirmish of July 3, 1863.

Following the battle at Gettysburg, on the evening of July 4th, 1863, Fairfield, because of its location on the Hagerstown Road, became the collection point for the retreat of the Confederate army. Maj. Gen. Jubal Early's cavalry division served as the rear guard, charged with protecting the army's slow retreat heavily laden with wagons full of pilfered provisions.

The report of Maj. Gen. Jubal Early says, "...The whole force having gotten on the road (to Fairfield) in front of me, I moved on slowly in the rear, Gordon's brigade bringing up my rear, followed by White's cavalry battalion, and on arriving in view of Fairfield ...I found the wagon trains in front blocked up ... I was preparing to fire a blank cartridge or two for the purpose of quickening their pace, when the advance of the enemy appeared on a hill in my rear, and it became necessary to open on him with shell; and a battery having been brought up by the enemy, and replying to my fire, the trains soon cleared the road. One of Gordon's regiments was deployed as skirmishers to hold the enemy in check, which it did effectually, driving back his advance, and my division was gradually moved forward beyond Fairfield..."[11]

They were closely followed by the U.S. Sixth Army Corps under the command of Maj. Gen. John Sedgwick, and supported by several batteries.

According to the report of Brig. Gen. Alfred T.A. Torbert, First Brigade, Sixth U.S. Army Corps, "July 5—...started about 11 a.m. to follow the rear of the rebel army; marching in line of battle about 6 miles, covered by a heavy line of skirmishers, came up with their rear guard about 2 miles from Fairfield, and had a sharp skirmish. About 5 p.m. drove the enemy to Fairfield, and at night fell back about 1 1/2 miles."[12] Capt. William A. Ham, Third N.Y. Battery reported, "July 5 —...our advance was checked by the rear guard of the enemy, which was supported by artillery. The battery moved quickly to the front, and took up position of the heights overlooking the town of Fairfield, and opened fire on the enemy, driving him from his position ...."[13]

The Confederate wagon trains and rear guard spent the night of July 5th on the west side of Fairfield, at the base of Jack's Mountain; the Union troops encamped on the east side of the town. July 6th, the armies moved toward Hagerstown and Emmitsburg, respectively. Gen. Meade, fearing the superior Confederate position on the mountain, chose not to mount an attack against the retreating army at Fairfield.

Clearly the 1863 Battle of Gettysburg had impacted the lives of the people of Fairfield. For four days they were occupied by 'foreign' troops. Forced to provide food and horses, and to care for the wounded, their daily routines were interrupted by the horrifying face of war. After the armies had left, not only were they left with hundreds of injured and dying men to care for, but they were also faced with ruined crops, stolen animal stocks, and property damage. Like their neighbors in Gettysburg, Cashtown, and numerous other small towns in Adams County, the people of Fairfield would have to clean up the armies' mess, and wait until next season to plant new crops.

In the years following the war, Fairfield appears to have prospered as the center of social and commercial activity for the agrarian community around it. Agriculture was still based largely on grain production, with fruit production quickly growing in importance. The construction of the railroad west from Gettysburg in 1885 insured the continued survival of the town. Orr Station, now the town of Orrtanna, was established as a depot, just four miles to the north of Fairfield, by Fairfield merchant G.W. Wortz. Wortz' fruit warehouse at Orr Station became an important transportation point for the steadily increasing orchard production of the area.[14] Train service allowed much faster access to the important city markets for the local farm produce. As the social and commercial center for the surrounding farm community, Fairfield would thrive as long as the farms thrived. By 1896 the town was incorporated as a borough, independent of Hamiltonban Township. Fruit production would dominate as the primary agriculture in the Fairfield area throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. Early in the 20th century one of the Musselman canning plants was located at Orrtanna. The Knouse fruit processing plant, also located near Orrtanna, began operation by 1952 and continues today.[15]

In addition to the agricultural economy of the area around Fairfield, several modern manufacturing industries have helped support the town's economy in the 20th century. Early in the century, shoe manufacturing provided jobs for local people. As the shoe business waned, a new industry developed, in 1975 Arcata Graphics came to Fairfield; a graphics plant just north of town boundaries continues to employ people from the area.[16] The nearby mountains also provide employment; the Ski Liberty resort area with skiing and golf has operated just west of Fairfield for more than twenty years.

Despite some changes over the years, Fairfield has retained its rural, market-town character which defined the town throughout the 19th century. Buildings erected since the 1863 Battle of Gettysburg, while exhibiting later stylistic elements, represent similar residential, social, and commercial functions. This functional continuity distinguishes the town of Fairfield's character, as a provider of essential goods and services to the surrounding rural community.

Military Significance

The Fairfield Historic District is significant as a Route of March, Hospital Site and Logistical Support and Staging Area property type. Fairfield, the Hagerstown Road which served as its main street, and the surrounding farms, were considered vital to the Confederate Army as a line of supply and, more importantly, their retreat. Wagon trains, combing the ripening fields for food and forage were pursued by the Union 6th U. S. Cavalry, resulting in the bloody July 3rd Cavalry action just two miles north of Fairfield. The Confederates occupied the town of Fairfield throughout the three-day Battle of Gettysburg to maintain their line of retreat along the Hagerstown Road. The rear guard of the Confederate column engaged in skirmishing with the vanguard of the pursuing Union Sixth Corps, including the exchange of artillery fire over the terrified town of Fairfield. The passage of the U.S. Sixth Corps through Fairfield in pursuit of the retreating Confederate Army on the morning of July 6, 1863, is commemorated on a U.S. Government plaque, placed in front of the St. John's Church by the Gettysburg National Military Park early in the 1900s.

The site type, Hospital Sites, can also be applied to the Fairfield Historic District. Hospital sites may be dwellings, barns, churches, schools, mills and other shelters large enough to house the wounded. There were also field hospitals in open areas with shelter being provided by military tents. These open air hospitals tended to belong to the various army corps and were larger, official stations. Good access to water was important for hospital locations, especially for the larger facilities. The open field of Daniel Musselman, conveniently watered by Middle Creek, was documented by the 1863 Sanitary Commission as used by "Johnson's Division," sited by Gregory Coco in A Vast Sea of Misery. Several existing homes in Fairfield were also used as hospital sites. The homes of Mrs. Blythe (18 E. Main St.) and R.C. Swope (10 W. Main St.) reportedly housed wounded Union officers following the July 3rd skirmish just north of Fairfield.

Architectural Significance

The Fairfield Historic District has a significant concentration of buildings which reflect the development of a rural village, based on an agricultural economy and the resulting commerce, through the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries. The architectural stylistic changes associated with different periods of the town's development are well represented along the main street of Fairfield, including the early Greek Revival and Italianate influenced buildings which would have been present during the 1863 Battle of Gettysburg. Thirty-six of the 117 contributing buildings and outbuildings are present from this period. The 1858 Map of Fairfield shows that there were a total of 48 buildings located within the boundaries of the town around the period immediately preceding the Battle of Gettysburg. The high percentage of these buildings still standing indicates a good retention of mid 19th century integrity in the Fairfield Historic District. The later Victorian Gothic influenced dwellings and shops associated with the railroad boom of the late 19th century are also well represented; early to mid 20th century buildings are also represented, but to a lesser degree. Most importantly, the buildings within the Fairfield Historic District, including the late 20th century buildings described as non-contributing, retain the rural, market-town character which Fairfield has maintained throughout its history.

Bibliographical References


  1. Robert L. Bloom, A History of Adams County. Pennsylvania 1700-1990, Gettysburg, PA: Adams Co. Historical Society, 1992, pp. 10, 48.
  2. Bloom, pp. 32, 48.
  3. Adams Co. Historical Society News Letter, article "Pennsylvania 300: Fairfield", Feb. 1982, Vol. 9, Number 2, Gettysburg, PA: Adams Co. Historical Society, p. 3.
  4. From Fairfield hanging file, Adams Co. Historical Society, Gettysburg, PA.
  5. Bloom, p. 104.
  6. A.C.H.S. News Letter, p. 3.
  7. Bloom, p.193.
  8. This incident was related in comments from Kathy 0. Harrison, Historian, Gettysburg National Military Park, August, 1998.
  9. Report of Brig. Gen.W.E. Jones C.S.A., War of the Rebellion Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies. Series 1, Vol. 27. part 11, (Washington D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1889), p. 752.
  10. Gregory A. Coco, A Vast Sea of Misery, Gettysburg, PA: Thomas Publications, 1988, p.156-158.
  11. O.R., Vol. 27, part 11, p. 471.
  12. O.R., Vol. 27, Part I, p. 669-70.
  13. O.R., Vol. 27, Part I, p. 692.
  14. Bloom p. 271.
  15. Ibid., p. 250, and p. 384.
  16. Bloom, p. 390.

Adapted From: Reed, Paula S., PhD., Fairfield Historic District, Adams County, PA nomination document, 1999, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.

Street Names
1st Avenue • 2nd Avenue • 3rd Avenue North • 3rd Avenue South • 4th Avenue North • 5th Avenue North • Centennial Street • Landis Drive East • Landis Drive West • Main Street East • Main Street West • Miller Street North • Miller Street South • Spring Street North • Spring Street South • Steelman Street • Wortz Drive