Home | Mission & Goals | Meeting Schedule | Search | Contact Us | Submit A Story | Links

The life and times of Harney's
 Dr. John C. Bush

John B. Horner

The first things I saw as I rounded a curve that night were the dangling lanterns. As I drew nearer, their light pierced the darkness to reveal several horsemen armed with rifles. By now I could also discern 2 horses with their buggies, in tandem across the road completely blocking the way I said to myself, "It's now or never." Acting on instinct rather than good judgment, I dug my heels into the side of my horse and, shrieking at the top

of my voice, headed straight for the blockade.. At the last second, my ruse worked. The horse on the right bolted backward, the shaves of the buggy jacknifing with the buggy itself, leaving a small openimg between the rigs in the middle of the road. I headed straight

for that tiny space and much to my surprise, powered my way through. In the confusion that followed, I was able to get quite a distance down the road, but I knew they would soon catch me in pursuit as they no doubt had fresh horses whereas mine had been on the road most of the day.

Luckily I knew every bump and rut on this road and was aware that not far along there was an old logging trail, now almost entirely grown shut by tree limbs on either side. Most people did not even know it was there, let alone where it was. Guided by the faint light of the moon, I veered to the left at precisely the right place and soon was out of sight behind the foilage. I dismounted from my sorrel mare-and waited.

Before long, the several horsemen and the two buggies came clattering down the road at full speed. Just as they drew even with where I was hiding, my horse whinnied, loud and clear. There was a chorus of, "Whoas", they wheeled about and I was trapped.

My faithful horse had betrayed my hiding place, but it was not her fault-she was only reacting instinctively to the presence of the other horses. They dragged me back out onto the road and then I could see they were dressed in gray. As I lay on the ground, the Rebel Sargent aimed his bayonet directly at my heart and was ready to drive it home when he noticed I was wearing a Masonic ring.

"You are a Mason?", he asked incredulously.

"Yes, I am", was my reply.

"I too am a Mason", the Sargent stated.

After a moment of thought, he said, "Dr. Bush, we had orders to search out and kill. you tonight as a traitor to our cause, but I cannot bring myself to slay a fellow Mason. Your life is in great

danger. When I file my report, I will say we ambushed you, but by some miracle, you were able to escape. You must leave here immediately-tonight, and not return, at least until the war is over. Your wife and family will be safe here, but you must go-at once. I will see to it that your wife gets the message that you are gone".

As the detail reorganized to retrace their steps, I remounted my horse and headed north toward the bridge over the Potomac River and beyond that, an unknown destination.

It is the spring of 1862 and Dr. John C. Bush has been forced to leave his home near Lovettsville, Va., just across the line from Mary-land. He had not planned to wind up there, but his wife, the former Ellen Slater had something to do with it. She lived on a plantation in Virginia and loved that part of the countryside. When Dr. Bush graduated from the University of Maryland Medical School in 1854, Lovettsville seemed to be as good a place as any to begin a medical practice. By the time of the Civil War, he had established a good business. He was not sympathetic with the Southern cause and was never in favor of slavery.

He had a letter personally signed by Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederacy, 'inviting' him to join the Confederate Army in order to treat the considerable casualties being experienced in the fighting throughout Virginia, but graciously declined the 'invitation'. He had taken an oath to treat anyone who needed medical assistance. This would include patients in and around Lovettsville, wounded Confederate soldiers, but also wounded Union soldiers and even runaway slaves making their way to the North. Word went out through the community that he was a traitor and he became a marked man. He had learned through friends that his life was in danger and so he was not surprised to see, upon returning late from delivering a baby that night, the Rebels blocking the road.

The clouds had dispersed and the moon was shining full as he crossed the bridge over the Potomac at Point of Rocks. As he neared the northern end of the bridge, he remembered that as a boy growing up around Hampstead, Md., his family had visited distant relatives just across the Pennsylvania line from Harney, Md. Having no better place to go, he struck out in that direction.

The first rays of the morning sun were just reaching over the horizon when he arrived at what would later be known as the Nail] farm. He explained his situation and they graciously offerred him shelter. Later, they also allowed him a room in which to resume his medical practice. After a reasonable length of time, he re-turned to Lovettsville, gathered up his family and belongings and returned to a small house in Harney which he had rented in the meantime. They made do as well as they could, but his wife longed for the hills of Virginia. After the war was over, he returned

to the Old Dominion State to resume his medical practice, but he was now regarded as a 'Yankee', and no one would have anything to do with him. It was with a heavy heart that he returned to Harney. He felt so bad because he knew his wife had a strong desire to live in Virginia. She in turn respected him for his feelings about slavery and his decision to leave the South.

Reluctantly, he resigned himself to the life of a village Doctor. It was not always easy.

Mervin Benner, who married Dr. Bush's granddaughter, remembers, "He pulled my father's first tooth and delivered me when I was born". Dr. Bush pulled many teeth and delivered many babies in the ensuing years, as well as treating all kinds of illnesses, performing sugeries, setting broken bones, consoling families saddened

by death of a loved one and doing all the other many things a village doctor was expected to do, not because he was getting paid for it , but because he had answered the call to be a healing physician. Sometimes his pay was meat, or chickens, or apples, or potatoes, sometimes in the case of poor families, there was no pay at all. No matter, there wasn't anyone who could remember the good doctor re-fusing them medical attention. The average office call was $1, or if medicine was involved, the cost might rise to $1.25. The charge for a house call (a house call is when the doctor goes to the patient's home for the treatment) might depend on how far his horse had to trudge, how deep the snow was, how muddy the roads were or how high the waters had risen. A patient visited his office 17 times from October, 1887 to April 1888 and the total pay was 35 dozen eggs and some whiskey! An entry in his cash book for March 11, 1893 reads, 'S.S. Shoemaker, visit and services for wife, all night and all day, $10' When Dr. Bush died, there were so many unpaid bills that some of the people he owed money to received only 16c for each dollar they were owed.

Dr. Bush had a large family. He concluded a letter to his daughter, Medora, dated Dec. 14, 1880, regarding a work opportunity in Hanover, with these words, "I merely write these few lines to correct your fears. You are involved in this difficulty through your own impatience. I do try to keep my children out of difficulties, but it is a hard matter for them to obey me. Your loving father, Jno. C. Bush." In the early 1890's, Harney had 50 comfortable homes, a population of 177, 3 stores, 2 cigar factories, 3 blacksmith shops, I boot, shoe & harness repair shop, a barber shop, 2 hotels and 2 churches.

Dr. Bush had an important role in establishing one of the two churches. A committee appointed by nearby Mt. Joy Lutheran Church to consider the need for building a Lutheran Church at Harney met July 15, 1889. Dr. Bush was elected chairman. It was decided to build a church. A committee of two was appointed to find a suit-able site and on July 19, they reported that a lot 100' by 200' could be purchased for $150. Dr. Bush and two others were told to secure a deed for the property. Three fund raisers were appointed and it was decided that at least $1800 would have to be pledged before the building could be started, but on Nov. 6, the fund raisers reported they already had pledges totaling $2081.

Dr. Bush made a motion to build a Lutheran Church at Harney, and that a committee of eleven and the pastor be appointed to see that the church was built. The motion was passed and the committee was appointed with Dr. Bush's name at the head of the list. On January 6, 1890, at a congregational meeting, the church constitution was adopted signed by the 24 charter members (including seven women) with Dr. Bush's name at the top of the list, his son, Walter, seventh on the list and his wife's name near the bottom of the list. Now, over 100 years later, this church is still going strong.

In 1888, Dr. Bush built a new house on Conover Street which was the, most elegant house in the whole area. People from miles around came to see the new Bush home. It is still there today with some of the original stained glass in the windows. The Doctor didn't have very long to enjoy it though, as he died only 5 years later, on May 18, 1893.

The church he had worked so hard to build was filled to over flowing for his funeral. Each person attending received a card on which were printed these words:

"A precious one from us has gone, A voice we loved is stilled;
A place is vacant in our home
Which never can be filled.
God, in His wisdom, has recalled The man his love had given,
And thought the body is sleeping here, The soul is safe in heaven."

Read other articles by John Horner

Do you know of an individual who helped shape Harney?
If so, send their story to us at: history@emmitsburg.net