A House Divided


No conflict has had a longer or more pronounced effect upon American Christendom than the fratricidal Civil War. It was not only a “War Between the States,” but a war that ripped apart families and churches. Though faded, the indelible scars remain today, with denominations still denoted as “Southern” on the one hand, and “Northern” or Union” on the other. What follows is a brief history of a family whose branches stretched across time and borders to play roles that were played by thousands of their countrymen—members of a house divided. Painting above: A Ride to Liberty-The Fugitive Slaves by Eastman Johnson, 1862.


When Hans Bushong {footnote}Jean (Hans—German derivative, John—English) was born in France in 1692. A French Huguenot, he sailed from Rotterdam, Holland on the British ship ‘Britannia.’ The ship’s master was Michael Franklyn. He arrived in Philadelphia around 1731. Strasbourg, France in the Alsace-Lorraine area is rich in iron and coal deposits and historically has been the subject of border disputes between France and Germany. It lies at the convergence of the borders of France, Germany and Switzerland and has alternately been governed by France and Germany. Following WWI it became a part of France again.{/footnote} disembarked from the ship “Britannica” on the 21st of September, 1731, he could not have imagined how his family and the New World would change one another. Born in Alsace-Lorraine, a border region be-tween France and Germany, Hans and his family were of Huguenot{footnote}Gilbert Cope’s Genealogical & Personal Memoirs of Chester & Delaware Counties Pennsylvania (1904, p540-542) states that: “Jean Beauchamp, the progenitor of the American branch of the Bushong family, who changed the name from Beauchamp to Bushong, which in pronunciation has a somewhat similar sound to the original French name, was a member of a Huguenot family who probably fled from France to Holland to escape the religious persecution of that country. In any event, it was from Holland that Jean Beauchamp sailed to this country, landing in the year 1731.”{/footnote} stock and we find him on that September day arriving in Philadelphia with 270 Palatines, predominantly Reformed and Lutheran Protestants.{footnote}A letter written by F. W. Bushong 2/26/1937 Port Arthur, TX to Miss Myrtle Bushong of Richmond, VA. “…I was born near Lancaster, PA 73 years ago, near the place of my ancestry, who although a French Huguenot, signed his name on arrival in Philadelphia, Sept 21, 1731, in German script, which to my mind means that he might have been born in France, original Jean Beauchamp, but came from the Palatinate on the Rhine along with Johannes Bartholomay Rieger, a German Reformed preacher who also settled in Lancaster, and was buried there, but he (my ancestor) spelled his name Hans Boschung, evidently (Beau, French, and Champ) being nearly the same pronunciation. He settled immediately near Heller’s Church among Penna. Dutch, but colonial officials were English.”{/footnote}

SlaveEscapeThe ship’s records tell us that Hans, age 39, was accompanied by his wife Barbara, and their children. Those children, along with their siblings who would be born in the New World, would venture far and wide, and soon there would be branches of the Bushong family from Pennsylvania to Virginia and as far west as Indiana and Illinois. Although Hans and his family, hailing from the disputed territory of Alsace-Lorraine, would be no strangers to wars over geography and religion, he could not have imagined the bloody conflict that would swallow up his family and the nation in the years to come—the American Civil War.

In Pennsylvania, there would be Lutheran and Reformed Bushongs, but there would also be Quakers. Among Hans’ descendants we find passionately committed abolitionists who played vital roles in the Underground Railroad. To the South, the Bushongs of the Shenandoah would become farmers and machinists, blending in with the steady stream of German settlers that swept down from Pennsylvania. The church records of Woodstock, Virginia tell us that the Shenandoah wing of the family remained members of the German Reformed Church, while others in the Valley would be assimilated into the local Lutheran, Brethren or other “English” churches. The Bushong Farm near New Market, Virginia will be forever remembered as the site of the Civil War’s “Field of Lost Shoes.” Back home in Pennsylvania, the Northern wing of the family would be drawn, almost accidentally, into serving as a vital waystop on the Underground Railroad. We turn to the latter story first, recorded in Robert Clemen Smedley’s History of the Underground Railroad in Chester and the neighboring counties.

“Jacob Bushong, of Bart, Lancaster County, a quiet but devoted laborer in the cause of freedom, relates the case of one Hamilton Moore who settled in his neighborhood. He was peaceable and respected, and to all appearances a white man. Not a tinge of African blood was discernible in his complexion, nor had any one the least suspicion that there was any. He married a white woman and became the father of three children. After the lapse of several years a number of men came to his dwelling and claimed him as a runaway slave; the leader of this gang being Hamilton Moore’s father.

Although that was a pro-slavery community, the man’s purely Anglo-Saxon appearance and good character had so won the esteem of his neighbors that they would not submit to what they termed an outrage upon him, but arose en masse and rescued him from his captors. He was then taken to the house of Henry Bushong, Jacob’s father, in Adams county, who assisted him to a place of greater security.

About the year 1831, a person calling himself William Wallace, but whose slave name was “Snow,” came to Wm. Kirk’s in West Lampeter township, Lancaster county. Here he worked for some time, then went to Joshua Gilbert’s in Bart township, and afterwards was employed by Henry Bush-ong, who had now removed to Bart township, and whose place became one of the Underground Railroad stations. After remaining there two years, his wife and child were brought to him from one of the Carolinas. He then took a tenant house on the place, in which he and his family resided two years longer. While there another child was born to them.

In the summer of 1835 while he and Jacob Bushong were at work in the barn they observed four men in a two-horse wagon drive into the lane, accompanied by two men on horse-back. Jacob thought them a “suspicious looking crowd,” and told Wallace to keep out of sight while he went out to meet them. They inquired if Mr. Wallace lived there. Jacob replied in the negative, satisfying his conscience by means of the fact that William lived at the tenement house, but worked for him. Pointing towards Wallace’s house they asked if his family lived there; to which he made no reply. Leaving their horses in charge of two of the men, they went to the house, tied his wife, brought her and the oldest child to the wagon, loaded them in, took them to the Lancaster county jail, and lodged them there. The youngest child being born on free soil was left with a colored woman who happened to be in the house at the time. From there they went to John Urick’s, a colored man, whose wife had escaped from slavery with Wallace’s wife. They bound her, took her to jail also, and had the two women placed in the same cell while they started out on another hunt.

OnToLibertyThe startling news soon spread throughout the country, and was immediately carried to that foremost friend of the slave, Daniel Gibbons. Very early next morning the two women came to his house. The family would not have been more surprised had an apparition come suddenly into their midst. When ask-ed how they came, one of them said, “I broke jail.”

“How did you do it?”

“I found a case-knife, and got up from one room to another until I got next the roof, when I cut the lath and shingles and broke through; got out and down to the roof of an adjoining house, and thence from one house to another until I came to one that was low enough, and then I jumped from it to the ground.” They were taken to the wheat field and provided with blankets and food, and next night were taken by Dr. Joseph Gibbons, Daniel’s son, and Thomas Peart, several miles to the house of Jesse Webster. From there they were taken to Thomas Bonsall’s, thence to John Vicker’s, and thus on to other stations.

The account given by the women seemed so strange and incredible that Dr. Gibbons interviewed that eccentric character “Devil-Dave” Miller, who was then sheriff, and lived in the jail. When asked how it happened that he allowed two negro women to slip through his fingers, he winked and laughed. It was afterwards discovered that he opened the jail door and let them walk out. This was the only black woman known to Daniel and his son who persisted in keeping her own secret.

In 1832, a colored (sic) woman and her daughter came to Henry Bushong’s. The back of this poor wo-man was a most revolting spectacle for Christian eyes to behold. It had been cut into gashes with the master’s whip until it was a mass of lacerated flesh and running sores. Her owner was exasperated to this deed of cruelty on account of one of her children having successfully escaped, and she, knowing its whereabouts, refused to tell. To compel her to reveal this secret, they bound her down in a bent position, and five hundred lashes with a cat-o-nine-tails were inflicted upon her naked back. Yet with the faithfulness and devotion of a mother’s love she endured it all. Seeing that no amount of whipping could induce her to betray her child and thus return it from freedom to slavery, and fearing her own life might be lost by further infliction, they ceased plying the lash upon that quivering back, which was now a mass of mangled flesh and jellied blood. As soon as she had sufficiently recovered she determined to risk her life in an attempt to free herself from the cruelty and tortures of a slavery like this. After being kindly and tenderly cared for in the home of Henry Bushong she was taken to a station further east.

TubmanHarrietAbout the same year there came two slaves, named Green Staunton and Moses Johnson, belonging to different masters. They had been sold to slave-traders and lodged in the jail at Frederick, Md., for safe-keeping during the night; their owners sleeping in an apartment above them. With pocket-knives and other small im-plements they commenced at once picking out mortar and removing stones, determined if possible to escape before morning. They succeeded, and both men ran to the plantation of Staunton’s father, who had been his master. Mr. Staunton had not intended to sell him, but being on the brink of insolvency was compelled to do it. Having compassion for him he gave them both victuals and assisted them on their way to Daniel Gibbons. From there Johnson went to Allen Smith’s, and Staunton to George Webster’s, both in Bart township. After some time Johnson removed to Thomas Jackson’s, at the “Forest,” in the northern part of Lancaster county, and Staunton, remaining in the neighborhood, sent to Maryland for his wife, who was a free woman. In 1835 he removed to the tenement of Jacob Bushong. Just at daylight on the morning of August 31st, 1837, six men entered his house, tied and gagged him. His wife, infuriated at this assault, seized an axe and was about to deal a blow upon the head of one of the assailants, when she was caught, thrown to the floor, and held there until her husband was borne away. He was placed in Lancaster county jail to await further action.

The news of his arrest was conveyed at once throughout the neighborhood. Several of his friends who had long known him as an honest, peaceable and industrious man, could not allow him to be carried back into slavery, deprived of the rights of manhood, to be sold and driven to work like beasts of the field, if any effort of theirs could prevent it. Accordingly Lindley Coat-es, George Webster, George Webster, Jr., William Rake-straw, Henry Bushong, Jacob Bushong, John Bushong, Samuel Mickle, Gainer Moore and John Kidd, Esq., agreed to contribute whatever sum might be needed to purchase his freedom. They went to Lancaster, had an interview with his master, and secured his manumission upon the payment of six hundred and seventy-five dollars. He returned to his home, and resolved to compensate his friends as far as possible for the amount they had paid for him. Shortly after this, his wife died. He married again. He remained at that place several years and then removed to Canada, and died. Before he left, he had reimbursed his friends to the amount of one hundred and forty dollars.

Moses Johnson returned from the “forest” in the spring of 1836, and was working for Henry Bushong at the time of Staunton’s capture. Hearing of it, and knowing the party was searching for him, he requested some friends to negotiate with them for his freedom. An interview was had with the slaveholders, and as he was not yet in their possession, and there was a doubt lingering in their minds as to whether or not he would be, they agreed to accept $8,400, which was paid. In a few years, by industry and economy, he returned the full amount, and then acquired sufficient capital to purchase a small farm with good buildings. He died in 1873.

About the year 1848 there lived in “Wolf Hollow,” near Pine Grove Forge, Lancaster county, a free colored man, who had married a slave woman. They had several children. Early one morning, after he had gone to a neighbor’s to work, some men drove up in a covered wagon, entered the house, dragged the wife and children out of bed, bound them, loaded them in the wagon with others they had kidnapped, some of whom were free, and drove off at a rapid rate toward Maryland, eight miles distant. Their actions were witnessed by a person nearby, who immediately informed the neighbors, and Joseph C. Taylor, James Woodrow, Joseph Peirce and others mounted their horses and gave chase. Overtaking them near the Maryland line, Taylor dashed by, then wheeling his horse and facing them, he raised to his shoulder an old musket without a lock, and ordered them to surrender. Not liking the appearance of the deadly looking weapon pointed at them, they halted, and the others of the party just then coming up took the kidnappers, with the colored people they had stolen, prisoners. They locked them up in Lowe’s tavern and went to Lancaster to procure legal authority to arrest them for kidnapping free negroes. Before they re-turned the kidnappers had escaped, carrying with them their load of human plunder.”