An 1830s Gettysburg Romance

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By Jane Malone

When Herman Haupt arrived in Gettysburg in June 1836, he expected to stay a few months, finish a job surveying and laying out a railroad line, and then move on. Instead he stayed 11 years. What kept him here? A girl. A marriage.

Haupt was a 19-year-old graduate of West Point Military Academy, newly hired by the Eastern Division of the Pennsylvania State Works. His job was to establish the route of a proposed railroad track to connect Gettysburg to the Potomac River across South Mountain. Gettysburg, in 1836, was a village of about 1,500 people. Haupt attracted the attention of the town’s matrons and their marriageable daughters. Here was a new eligible bachelor. Unfortunately, Haupt was shy and not comfortable in the presence of young women.

The residents who first welcomed Haupt included John Paxton and his family. The Paxtons took Haupt under their wing, invited him to attend the Presbyterian church with them, and even found space for him at Nancy Miller’s boarding house. Miller was John Paxton’s sister-in-law. Haupt spent enough time in the Paxton household to set the town’s gossip around Haupt and John Paxton’s daughter, Margeretta. A suggestion from William Reynolds, a fellow boarder and professor at Pennsylvania College, that Haupt should consider joining a local church moved Haupt out of the Paxtons’ sphere.

Haupt decided to join St. James Lutheran Church. In the spring of 1837, Haupt was baptized and later confirmed as a member of St. James by Rev. Benjamin Keller. In the confirmation class was Rev. Keller’s 16-year-old daughter, Anna Cecilia. Haupt caught her eye. By methods unknown, Haupt found himself invited to an event in a public room at a local hotel in which he was the only male with about 20 young females for company. He was there persuaded to “join a picnic the next afternoon as an escort to Miss Keller.” 

During the summer of 1837, Haupt and Anna Cecilia Keller found themselves more and more in each other’s company. That autumn, Haupt escorted her to the wedding of mutual friends in York. On the return trip, in the pouring rain, Haupt proposed marriage and Anna Cecilia Keller accepted.

Rev. Keller asked only one thing of the couple. He asked that they wait a year to marry, until his daughter was 17. They agreed. Haupt used the yearlong engagement well. He bought property west of the borough and built a substantial two-story brick home, Oak Ridge, for his bride. This home still stands at the corner of Middle Street and West Confederate Avenue. 

Haupt and Anna Cecilia Keller managed their engagement with patience and humor. In fact, the serious, shy groom-to-be wrote poetry that gave us insight into them as a young couple. In “Wooing,” Haupt wrote this playful verse:

Kiss me quick, no one is looking.

Give me one more.

Hark, Moll is coming.

Sit down quickly, look quite sober.

Hush! Be serious. She’ll suspect us.

Anna Cecilia Keller and Herman Haupt were married on Aug. 30, 1838 at 6 a.m. A breakfast followed. Why such an early hour? Years later, their granddaughter, Susan Haupt Adamson, suggested that her grandfather probably didn’t want many witnesses to this very private ceremony. He was still a rather shy young man. 

The couple remained in Gettysburg for 11 years before moving on for Haupt’s work. Haupt returned to Gettysburg in 1863 as a brigadier general tasked with the job of supplying the Union army in Gettysburg and restoring rail traffic to the region.   

The Haupts were married for 52 years when Anna Cecilia Keller died in 1891. They had 11 children, seven of whom survived to adulthood. Haupt died in 1905. They are buried, side-by-side, in the West Laurel Hill Cemetery in Philadelphia.

Jane Malone is a Gettysburg Licensed Town Historian. To learn more, visit www.gblth.com.        

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