Local Civil War Collection Civil War Stories and Letters
A former group of history enthusiasts from the Greencastle area has met its goal of preserving local history by donating its extensive collection of Civil War items and other pieces to the Allison-Antrim Museum. The collection belonged to the former Greencastle Civil War Roundtable, a group established in September 1971 that remained active until 1995. The group changed its name in the late 1980s to the Greencastle Historical Society, according to the Rev. Ralph Geiman of Waynesboro, a former member.
According to Geiman, the Roundtable began when several people in a book club at the Lilian S. Besore Library realized they shared a passion for Civil War history and history in general. About a dozen people turned out for the first meeting, and the group never had more than 17 members, Geiman recalled.
The group's active membership roster included Geiman, Isabelle Barnes, Bonnie Bingaman, Lil Colletta, Glen Cump, Viola Ervin and Harold Roland. While small, the group completed several large projects, including reprinting the 1884 history of Franklin County and compiling a historical atlas of Franklin County. Various people in the area donated items to the group's collection, and the Roundtable used money from its book sales to buy items from local dealers and at public sales.
From a dealer in Gettysburg, the group bought the uniform of Lt. Col. Benjamin F. Winger of Greencastle, complete with his Civil War coat, visored cap, sash, saber, haversack, hand-carved wooden comb, lice comb, straight razor and brass USA rosette for the horse's bridal.
"That cost about $2,200. That was certainly our largest purchase - and that was 20 years ago," said Geiman.
Winger bought the Valley Echo newspaper in 1867. In 1876, he sold it and started The Greencastle Press.
As the years went by, the Civil War Roundtable accumulated items like books, manuscripts and the Civil War uniform, Geiman said.
One of the prized items in the collection was a series of newspapers from the assassination of President Lincoln that began with the president's assassination and covered two weeks afterward, said Geiman, who was pastor of Greencastle United Church of Christ for 28 years.
From the beginning, the Civil War Roundtable had hoped to one day have a place of its own to store the items for the collection, but that never happened.
"As people donated things, we had plenty of space to store them in the church parsonage," said Geiman. But when Geiman retired from the church and moved to Waynesboro, the storage space was no longer available, he said. The items were stored in the home of member Lil Colletta until her death. "We've decided it's time for something to be done," Geiman said. "The group members are getting up in age, and we were thinking about what we could do with the collection."
Their solution? Giving the collection to the Allison-Antrim Museum, which will preserve it for all to see and enjoy. "We wanted to make available to the people in the Greencastle-Antrim community these things from the past," Geiman said.
"The preservation of historic articles is essential because if not preserved locally, there are public sales and they go out of the area," he said. "Then, anyone local wanting access to the items can't get them."
Bonnie Shockey, president of Allison-Antrim Museum Inc., agrees the collection is one of great historical value to Greencastle.
"If it weren't for that group at that time, these things wouldn't be available to us."
During their 24 years of meeting together and collecting, members of the Roundtable amassed a sizable collection of rare and important Civil War artifacts, textiles and archives relative to Greencastle-Antrim and surrounding areas, as well as other items of historical value to Greencastle-Antrim.
A small sample of other items in the extensive collection include Lt. Col. Winger's signed copy of the Organization of the Army of the Potomac, the small U.S. flag from the Center Square reviewing stand when the 126th Regiment returned home in 1863, original Civil War letters of Samuel North.
Capt. Boyd's original copy of the history of the 126th, 125 dry glass slide negatives of the Greencastle-Antrim area that were taken by George Frederick and G. Fred Zeigler.
Books that belonged to Ambassador Henry P Fletcher' numerous World War II uniforms of Greencastle-Antrim veterans, an original copy of "The History of Franklin County" and Charles "King" Lear's manuscript for a book about the World Series.
"The collection is a small vignette from Greencastle¬Antrim's past. It will help make a connection between today's people and Greencastle¬Antrim's people in the 1860s. It will be a bridge that connects the two centuries."
Excerpts from a Recorld Herald article by Shari Sanger
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