It was heartbreaking to see the two historic witness trees in front of the Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church in Gettysburg being removed on Tuesday.

The trees are reported to be about 170 years old so were there to witness the Battle of Gettysburg. Church leaders announced their intention to remove the trees last year, citing a concern that the trees could fall onto the church or busy Chambersburg Street. Significant time and money had been invested in saving the trees over the years, but multiple experts advised the church that the trees were dying.

Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church is the oldest structure in Gettysburg continuously used as a Church. It was founded in 1835 to be the English-speaking Lutheran Church in Gettysburg (St. James Lutheran Church, in existence since 1789, conducted its services in German). The structure was one of the first hospitals established during the Battle of Gettysburg, and at its peak accommodated approximately 150 wounded soldiers.

If those trees could talk, they would have quite a story to tell from the Battle of Gettysburg. The plaque that you can barely see on the middle of the steps reads:

In Memoriam. Rev. Horatio S. Howell, Chaplain. 90th Penn’a Vols. was cruelly shot dead on these church steps on the afternoon of July 1st 1863.
“He delivereth me from mine enemies: Yea, thou liftest me up above those that rise up against me.” 18th Psalms 48th Verse.
“He being dead, yet speaketh.” Hebrews 11, 4th.

There are different versions of Howell’s death, but all concur that he was visiting the church which was then being used as a hospital on July 1, 1863. All also agree that he was shot as the Confederates came into the town that afternoon. The versions differ as to where he was shot from, the most popular now being that the Confederate was standing about where the plaque is now displayed.

If you visit Gettysburg, the church is located on Chambersburg Street, in the first block west of the square.


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