Our grandfather, Martin I. Smith,
lived with his children several years before his death in 1939. While he was in
our parents' home, my sister and I were often reminded of Grandpa's childhood
as he reminisced. Mart, as he was familiarly known, was a lad of eight or nine
years, living in Maryland's Washington County
when the armies of the Blue and the Gray were encroaching his father’s, Solomon
Smith, farm on Elk Ridge Mountain
in Pleasant Valley not far from Rohrersville. Troops
– Confederate and Union both traveled the area – converged and looted his
family's mountainside home during confrontations at Antietam in September 1862
and during the advance to and retreat from Gettysburg in mid-1863.
One incident was that the family was forced to leave the
home, the house was ransacked, and belongings and personal effects were taken.
When they returned, the Northern Army shared bedding and food until the family
could stock up again. Another encounter was the use of the little farmhouse as
a temporary infirmary, and this curious youngster peeking through a window
witnessing amputation of a limb from a wounded soldier.
To escape troops marching to or retreating from Gettysburg, his mother,
Sophia, took refuge up the side of the mountain and got lost in a briar
thicket. She struggled for an hour or so before reaching a clearing.
Three-month-old daughter, Emma, was carried in her arms, 6-year-old Sam and 9-year-old
Mart held onto her skirts.
Helen C. Dingler
Back in 1955 a call
went out from the editors of the then CAPPER’s Weekly asking for readers to send in articles on true pioneers. Hundreds of
letters came pouring in from early settlers and their children, many now in
their 80s and 90s, and from grandchildren of settlers, all with tales to tell.
So many articles were received that a decision was made to create a book, and
in 1956, the first My Folks title – My
Folks Came in a Covered Wagon – hit the
shelves. Nine other books have since been published in the My Folks series, all filled to the brim with true
tales from CAPPER’s readers, and we are proud to make those stories available
to our growing online community.