Saluting Guiding Centennial (3/15)

BY LINDA CLARK / MARCH 2015

Cumberland Township lies between Marsh Creek and Rock Creek, stretching from the Maryland line to four miles north of Gettysburg. Consequently, most of the battlefields within the boundaries of Gettysburg National Military Park are also within the borders of Cumberland Township. As a salute to the Centennial of Licensed Battlefield Guiding at Gettysburg, this month’s article features two historic township landmarks – the West End Guide Station and the South End Guide Station. For many of their 100 years of existence, guides began their tours at these two structures.

Like President Lincoln, early visitors to the Gettysburg battlefield arrived by train. As automobiles increased in popularity, traffic arrived on highways from the four points of a compass. A number of Guide Stations were established to welcome visitors to the area, as well as promote guided tours of the battlefield. The South End Guide Station along Business Route 15 once attracted a wealth of travelers arriving from the south when there was no by-pass. In recent years the lovely stone facility has been completely renovated inside with easily-assessable comfort stations, and informational wayside displays outside to orient visitors.

The West End Guide Station was built in 1936 by the Civilian Conservation Corps, or CCC, and is currently the recipient of a major modernization project similar to the South End Station. One of the former West End Guides, Druid Deitch, was a resident of Cumberland Township. His lovely home was located on Oak Hill, situated with the Peace Light in the backyard! The house, like many other non-historic structures on GNMP, has been removed, but each spring yellow daffodils from his yard still bloom, reminders of the not-so-distant past.

Mr. Deitch’s daughter, Drusilla Warner, shared information about a British couple who began their tour with her father at the West End. They had a famous guest with them, Carole Thatcher, daughter of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Mr. Deitch was quite impressed with Carole’s excitement about visiting the place where Lincoln delivered his Gettysburg Address. The visitors were so impressed with their tour that they sent LBG Deitch a complimentary letter and photographs of their tour. Imagine how many other famous people have visited our township!

The West End Guide Station was “home” to a number of the initial class of guides who took the first test for licensing in October of 1915, including Ralph Butt who guided for over 75 years. Current LBG Terry Fox shared a story told by his uncle, LBG Richard Fox, about a visitor seeking a guide at the West End Guide Station in the 1960s. Using the “striking” system to determine the order of rotation, Prof Wolf, who was over 90 years of age, provided his tour to a driver and one passenger who identified himself as “Bruce.”

At the end of the tour, after complimenting Prof on his very interesting and enjoyable tour, the visitor revealed his last name, Catton. Prof Wolf was so excited to have given a tour to the most famous Civil War author of the day that he needed help getting out of the car when they returned to the Guide Station!

All are invited to attend the next meeting of the Cumberland Township Historical Society on June 1, at the Church of the Brethren, 1710 Biglerville Road at 7 p.m. when the topic will be Camp Sharpe.

Linda Clark is a resident of Cumberland Township.