Blessing farm (Minick tannery)-TDN-p.3-23 May 1961

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Blessing farm (Minick tannery)-TDN-p.3-23 May 1961 - Civil War Commentary Tales Of Civil War Period...
Civil War Commentary Tales Of Civil War Period Contributed By Our Readers. DELATES INCIDENT EV SHADE GAP NARROWS A little known happening, which is now almost forgotten by everyone, is this incident caused by the invasion of Pennsylvania by the Army of Northern Virginia under General Robert E. .Lee in: 1863. It .took,place e, f • 4--V, rt " - 'V'*--- '"" • '•• ' -• '•' at" the Shades of Death During some'prehistoric period, probably the Ice Age, nature re- ship you my the as be anc We for a up all in in moved a small section of Shade Mountain to form a water channel from the valley south of, to the valley north of, that mountain in southern Huntingdon County This channel forms a small valley roughly half a mile long, rangingfrom about 300 feet to 600 feet wide in places, and has a generally flat, level floor. 'The east wall of this valley is very steep, approaching- vertical in places. The west wall slopes gently and its southern end is well covered with huge boulders ranging in size from a foot or so to five or six feet cubed. Enormous Trees Following .its formation many ages ago, this valley was densely forested with • hemlock trees standing close together. In time the trees grew to enormous size having trunks in the order cJ four to six feet in diameter and heights ranging from 150 feet and upward. The foliage of these trees was so dense, bright sunlight seldom penetrated to the floor of the valley making it a dark, wild, weird, repulsive, forbidding place. suggestive spirits to of the devils "red and evil man." A place of death in his mind; a place to be shunned and avoided. Scared Indians. No Indian would travel alone through this valley. Only war parties large enough to ward off evil spirits would venture the hazard," and they wasted no time in completing their journey. Even the ancient "Kittarining Trail," the most heavily traveled Indian thoroughfare to cross'the state from John Harris Trading Post and Ferry (now Harrisburg) to the large and important Indian village of Kittanning, that straddled the Allegheny River near the center of Armstrong County, shunned this evil place. Corning down the western slope of Conococheague Mountain in Perry County to the vicinity of Blairs Mills in Huntingdon Coun;y it digressed slightly to climb by steep and torturous mountain jrades, over Tussey, Shade and Black Log mountains, rather than go through the "Shades of Death" at an easy and gentle water grade only ten or twelve miles farther west. Tellico Johnson Among the students at Pennsylvania State University, ten miles south of Bellefonte and five miles or so west of Mount Nit;any, recorded as members of :he classes of 1861 and including 1865, Tellico Johnson is men- Pays Farewell Visit However, .Tellico, Johnson made a farewell visit 'to Perm State in 1921 or 1922, J. L. Minnick being president of the 'General Alumni Association during- those'.years. He was fortunate in being able to talk with Mr. Johnson'concern- ing the conditions that existed at Penn State during "the construction of the various buildings during the Civil War Period. Shortly after .1915, Mr. Minnick became acquainted with J. Henry Isett of Arch Sprin'g in Blair County. Mr. Isett "was a member of the class of 1861 and some time after 1921 he confirmed much of the information obtained by Mr. Minnick. ' The narrative that follows is basec largely on the.information given by these two early students at Penn State. To Invade State In 1861 and' 1862 it became evident that General Lee was planning to invade Pennsylvania with his Army of Northern Virginia, to disrupt .recruiting anc assembly of- troops for the Northern Army at Harrisburg, and. to impede the shipment of troops and supplies to General Meade then' protecting the Nationa. Capitol from attack from the South. General Lee arid crossed the Mason" his army and Dixon line into Pennsylvania on July 1 1863 attd immediately ordered General J. E. B. Stuart, with his cavalry, to destroy the Pennsylvania Railroad Shops at Altoona, and as much trackage as possible, botlv west and east -of Altoona. Unfortunately for Lee, his progress toward Harrisbu.vg was temporarily blocked at Gettysburg and it was necessary for him to slow up and wait for reinforcements. Only 2 Choices There were only two places in the fooothills of the Allegheny Mountains where Stuart's Cavalry could hope to get through to carry out his raid on the railroad company's property. McKee Gap, a mile or so north of Roaring Spring in Blair County, and the "Shades of Death" in Huntingdon County. The railroad closed all of its activities in the vicinity of Altoona and sent its employees, with arms and ammunition, to defend McKee Gap. McKee Gap is a short valley, possibly half a mile long, with a steep mountain wall along its east side commanding the roadway passing through it. Numerous "foxholes" and gun pits were dug in this vail, thirty feet or more above :h« highway. The not slow up caught some ioned on several 'outstanding." No mention is occasions as made of the ocation of his parental home, lis age, or the date of his regis- ration as a student, nor is there any mention of his activities as student. No Cavalry Confederate cavalry did they having been distance north of Bedford and ordered back to Gettysburg to reinforce General Lee. Unfortunately for the local farmers, the retreat of the cavalry to Gettysburg was riot made known to the defending troops promptly, s o they remained in their gun pits for several weeks. In a short time they ran short of food, so when the opportunity presented, raids were made on the farmers' chicken coops for breakfast, lunch and dinner, giving this engagement the name of th« "Chicken Raid." Remembered The story of that raid is well •emenibered and is told as 'a legendary tale of Civil War days, nearly a century ago. None of these troops were recruited into the Northern army. They merely served temporarily several weeks to "do their bit for Uncle Sam" as.an emergency task. Conditions were , somewhat different at , the "Shades of Death." Tellico Johnson had given military instruction to some sixty or more' members of the .student body at Perm State, over a. period of four or .five weeks. -When it became known that Stuart's cavalry had been ordered to disrupt railroad service east of Altoona, Johnson arid his .company went to Bellefonte to be sworn into emergency service, many of his men being below .army military age. To Defend "Shades" They were immediately assigned to defend the "Shades of Death" in Huntingdon county. Conditions there were favorable to the construction of- a barricade across - the southern end of the "Shades" that-would impede the movement of. mounted -troops. This barricade consisted of huge boulders rolled into position to form a stone wall, beginning well up on the west .wall and 'extending across the valley, to the base of the east wall. This east wall was very : steep, too steep, for. horse travel, but a few large trees were felled to prevent travel at critical locations. Here .and.there sites were selected for a few gunpits commanding 'the highway through the "Shades,".if time would permit their construction. Johnson and his men were bivouaced north of the barricade, a few reirinants- of which were standr ing a generation or so ago. • Cavalry Approaches It was. not'necessary to wait very long. A day or two after the completion of the barricade, seven or eight Confederate cavalrymen were seen approach- .ng the "Shades" from the. south, ilany of -Johnson's men immediately sought places of safety, some fifteen or twenty hiding behind larger boulders in the barricade on the. floor of the valley. When the Confederates, reached the vicinity of the grist mill, at the south.end of.the "Shades," fohnson ordered his drummer and fifer to sound the assembly; and his men marched in figures eight, circles, etc., their heads be- ng visible to the Confederates, who, hearing the music, stopped and presumably counted the leads they" could see across the >arricade. Rode Away They evidently were convinced, the barricade was too strongly defended to hazard an attack, so ;hey turned their horses and quickly disappeared in the direc- 'ion of Gettysburg. And thus ended the engagement between the North and louth Li the "Shades of Death," vithout a shot being fired and no >ne injured, just a complete vie- 1 tory for Tellico Johnson, and hi* Penn Staters. -. Operated Tannery , The preceding story was.taken from an article written by J. L. Minick of Narbe'rth, Pennsyl; vania.. He is .a member of the Minick family who lived on, and operated, the tannery), which, was about one and one-half miles south of Shade Gap. . Two of his brothers lost,their lives in the Civil War and are buried in .the.Presbyterian.ceme- tery, at . Shade 'Gap. Dr. John Minick of SL Petersburg, 'Flq.r-- ida, is a nephew. They are, however, about the same age. and were .raised together at the. old homestead. . Used By Blair Family ,. This homestead " was' 1 - among the first taken up in, this-section, being taken up - by George Croghan, the Indian, trader, and later purchased by Alexander Blair. It had, thereon, 'a large one story house which Mr. Blair improved with windows arid doors for his family dwelling.. Mr; .Minick attended State, College (now Pennsylvania State University) and later 'Was employed by the Pennsylvania Railroad at Altoona, where he made his home. He personally knew Tellico Johnson and was familiar with both Shade Gap Narrows and McKees Gap in. Blair County. His narrative is carefully written arid should be filed with the Historic Society of Huntingdon and Blair Counties. Saw Breast Works The late Thomas A. (Alexander) Appleby of Mount Union, who was reared near Shade Gap, has written of seeing the breastworks thrown up . by Tellico Johnson and his men and about the reason .for it. He talked to an army officer about it, following the war, and. the officer's comment was, ""Well,, all that would,have happened is that you would have gotten your little town burned." '.' - '" ore 'FLOATING-HE^' CLIFFORD BENSON, JEWELER THREE SPRINGS Ph. HI 8-2011 Corbuosco Flowers and foliage in various arrangements! Beautiful, so real! Washable, easy to care for! See them! CLARA'S FLOWERS 809 MAIN ST. DIAL ME 5-2111 SAXTON

Clipped from
  1. The Daily News,
  2. 23 May 1961, Tue,
  3. Page 3

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  • Blessing farm (Minick tannery)-TDN-p.3-23 May 1961

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