A visit with the Eisenhowers … 50 years in the making

IMG_1030By Brenda Staub – I was born in Gettysburg, Pa., in 1953, the daughter of hard-working dairy farmers on a farm located next to the battlefield, where on occasion, we would find Civil War relics when working the ground.  My father’s love of the land was extraordinary.  He lived to sow and harvest the crops together with the dairy operation. He, along with my mother, put their heart and soul into it. As a child, I knew living next to the Gettysburg battlefield was very special, but not quite how special. Growing up in Gettysburg, I did not really appreciate the history of my hometown and what took place here in 1863.  Today, I work for Destination Gettysburg and assist visitors who want to experience Gettysburg’s history and the many other amenities it has to offer.

My father, especially, loved Civil War history and he even wrote poetry about it.  I remember he grew a beard for the 100th Anniversary celebration and my grandmother made period dresses for my mother, sisters and I which we wore to the festivities that year.  My father and brother also wore period garb.  That same grandmother and my grandfather were also hard-working dairy farmers. Their farm was located next to the Eisenhower farm.  My grandparents were neighbors of President and Mrs. Eisenhower.

Whenever we would visit my grandparents, I knew that we were passing the Eisenhower farm and that it was a place of great importance because the President and his family lived there when not at the White House. I always stretched to look out the window hoping to catch a glimpse of him. As a little girl, I always wondered what it would be like to visit with the President and Mrs. Eisenhower and what their home and farm were like.  I remember feeling a little scared when passing the lane entrance to the farm and seeing the guard shack. The lane was lined with big trees, and I imagined there was a plantation estate at the other end.

As an employee of Destination Gettysburg, I recently had the opportunity to take a tour of the Eisenhower National Historic Site.  As I boarded the shuttle bus at the National Military Park Museum and Visitor Center to go to the farm, I began to feel like that little girl back in the 50s. I was sooo excited! Instead of going past the entrance to the site, I was actually going to tour the home and other buildings. I was going to stand on the very ground where President Eisenhower, his wife, Mamie, their family and other national and world dignitaries stood.

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It was a cloudy mild day following some early morning rain and as the shuttle bus entered the lane to the farm my heart was beating fast and memories of my childhood rushed in. We were passing under the majestic Norway Spruce trees which lined the lane which lead to the “plantation estate” I imagined as a little girl. My wish was going to come true after all these years!

It was just as I imagined it would be. The house from the outside was stately in appearance and the inside was filled with their personal treasures. As we walked among the barns we learned of President Eisenhower’s love of raising beef cattle, and as we viewed the farm equipment, I was revisiting my childhood days of living on a farm and days gone by when I visited my grandparents on their farm right next to President Eisenhower’s farm.

President Eisenhower was quoted as saying, “This was a chance, I thought, to prove that careful husbandry could restore land to its original fertility… Although we haven’t achieved the greatest success … there are enough lush fields to assure me that I shall leave the place better than I found it.” I think my parents and grandparents felt the same way.

This tour did not disappoint me – it was a grand “plantation estate!”


About the Author
Brenda Staub was born and raised in Gettysburg, PA.  Brenda enjoys discovering new things about Gettysburg and Adams County, Pennsylvania everyday so that she can share them with prospective visitors.  She and her husband, David, live in Gettysburg where they raised two daughters, Mandy and Sara, who still live in the area today with their families.  Brenda enjoys spending time with her granddaughters, Anna, Sophia and Grace and attending their sports and school events.  She also enjoys visiting other Civil War sights throughout the Journey Through Hallowed Ground with her husband, Dave, who also loves Civil War history.

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