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Giant twins (Gortner) page 8

Click on the MEDIA ITEMS below for more information


Grandfather Gortner wrested his farm from the wilderness, not by Negro slaves or machinery but by the courage, skill and might of his own hands. No man, unless he has had experience, can have the slightest idea of the superhuman labor required in hewing a field for crops out of a stand of virgin timber. He daily faced the hazards of falling trees and flying limbs as they were chopped and sawed. He was often lacerated, bruised and torn. Mother told us of our good neighbor Henry Schaeffer who was killed by a falling tree. Sometimes the settler would be cut severely by the axe, and before obtaining help would expire from the loss of blood. Sometimes gangrene would settle in the wound. There was insufficient medical treatment to be found in the backwoods then. The settlers had to be their own physicians. Some of this knowledge of healing was derived from the Indians.

In the autumn of 1853 Peter Gortner wrote in his Journal: "It is seed time now—and oh, so much work yet to be done in clearing the land." He most surely earned his bread by the sweat of the brow. His physique was not that of an Hogarthian robustness, but more like an austere El Greco powerful leanness.

"Oft did the harvest to his sickle yield,
His furrows oft the virgin soil hath broken;
How burdened did he drive his ox afield,
How bowed the woods beneath his sturdy stroke."


Rev. J. C. Breuninger

Nicholas Gauer (1764-1826) built this cabin about 1803. Here also lived Peter Gortner (1819-1903), an old order Amish-Mennonite, who purchased this cabin and farm in 1848. Three of his children appear in the picture—Peter (1858-1935), Frederick (1852-1928) and Mary (1856-1934). Photograph furnished by Rev. J. C. Breuninger, son of Mrs. Mary Gortner Breuninger.


Collection Location:
Ruth Enlow Library, Oakland

Original Size:
22 x 15 cms

Editor: Felix G. Robinson

Maryland, History

Western Maryland, 1750-1963

Western Maryland Regional Library
100 South Potomac Street
Hagerstown, Maryland 21740

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