We continue our stay at Gettysburg by visiting Eisenhower’s Farm, formally called the Eisenhower National Historic Site. First a little history lesson, please bear with me.
Dwight David Eisenhower, “Ike” to his friends, was born in Dennison, TX on October 14, 1890. The family soon moved to Abilene, KS where he grew up and attended school. Although he had no long term desire to join the military, he wanted to go to college and learned that a free education was provided to those appointed to the US Military Academy at West Point. When he graduated from West Point, the US was just getting involved in WWI. He wanted overseas duty but instead was sent to Ft. Sam Houston in San Antonio, TX where he meet Denver socialite Mamie Doud. They were married in 1916 and soon transferred to Camp Colt, the Army Tank Corps training center near Gettysburg, PA. Eisenhower’s military career continued with increasing rank. A note of interest, he was once an assistant to General Douglas MacArthur and later would become his boss! When the US became involved in WWII, Eisenhower first commanded the Allied invasion of North Africa followed by the invasion of Italy. In 1943, he was appointed the Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Forces and “Operation Overlord”, the cross channel invasion of the European continent that began with D-Day, June 6, 1944. The efforts of this invasion eventually brought an end to Nazi Germany and peace to Western Europe.
His wartime success earned him adoration the world over. Eisenhower retired from the Army in 1948 and was asked to run against Truman in the 48 presidential election, a request he rejected. Instead he became the president of Columbia University and in 1950 at the request of President Truman the head of NATO forces in Europe. In 1952 Dwight David Eisenhower was elected the 34th President of the United States. During his administration, he ended the Korean War, established the cabinet of Health, Education and Welfare, signed a bill authorizing the interstate highway system, sent troops to Little Rock, AR to enforce desegregation, and signed legislation designating Alaska and Hawaii as the 49th and 50th states. Eisenhower died in 1969 at age 78, Mamie died in 1979 at age 82.
The Eisenhower’s purchased the farm at Gettysburg in 1950 as a retirement retreat. Over the years, they spent as much time as possible at the farm. They remodeled the farm house and added additional buildings to the farm. Ike maintained a successful herd of Angus cattle, winning championships at major livestock shows across the US. During his presidency, Eisenhower used the farm as a form of diplomacy with world leaders such as Winston Churchill, Charles de Gaulle, and Nikita Khrushchev. The visitors were treated to a tour of the farm and the cattle barns. The Eisenhower’s gifted the farm to the federal government in 1967 with the agreement they could live there for life. Mamie Eisenhower once remarked that it was their only home after living all of their married life in military housing or the White House.
The Eisenhower Farm was located on the Gettysburg Battlefield. Ike was fascinated with the Civil War and specifically Gettysburg. He admired some of the Generals, such as Robert E. Lee, that fought in the battle and critical of others. Eisenhower reserved his great admiration for Lincoln for his compassion, humility, patience, humor and desire and determination to win the war. On the 100th Anniversary of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, November 19, 1963, Eisenhower was asked to deliver the commemorative address. He said: “We read Lincoln’s sentiments, we ponder his words – the beauty of the sentiments he expressed enthralls us; the majesty of the words hold us spellbound – but we have not paid to his message its just tribute until we – ourselves – live it. For well he knew that to live for country is a duty, as demanding as is the readiness to die for it.” Less than a year later, he would visit Normandy to commemorate the 20th anniversary of D-Day and pay honor to his men who died on those beaches in France.
Eisenhower was a conservationist. He practiced contour farming to reduce erosion, rotational grazing, and planted crops that wouldn’t deplete the soil. He stated: “I shall leave the place better than I found it.” Below is a view of the fields, complete with snow from a recent storm.
On a personal note, I’m told I was in the presence (with thousands of others) of President Eisenhower in 1963 when he came to North Dakota to dedicate the Garrison Dam, one of the Corps of Engineers dams on the Missouri River. The Dam was constructed about 6-7 miles from our farm. Growing up, I do recall a few disparagements of one of Eisenhower’s cabinet members, Secretary of Agriculture Ezra Taft Benson. He was opposed to price supports and aid to farmers, considering it socialism. He was an ardent and outspoken opposer of communism and a supporter of the John Birch Society although not a member. After his government service, he was elected the president of the Mormon church. Regardless, he was not well liked in our household!
The following photo is of the gas pump on the farm. Note the price is the same as when the Eisenhower’s lived on the farm!
To tour Eisenhower’s Farm, visitors are required to take a bus from the Gettysburg National Military Park Visitors Center. The bus is met by a Park Ranger, below he’s pointing out sites of interest on the farm. Directly behind the ranger is the guest house. Field Marshall Bernard Montgomery, the Commander of British forces during the D-Day invasion, spent the night there when making a visit to the Eisenhower’s. I find this interesting because during the invasion Montgomery was a subordinate of Eisenhower. They had a challenging relationship during the war with Montgomery over promising and under delivering. Even though Eisenhower was encouraged to replace Montgomery, Ike stuck with him because he was so popular with the English people and his soldiers and eventually got the job done.
The following photo is of our son-in-law Daniel getting his National Parks Passport stamped and signed by the ranger. Daniel has the goal to visit as many National Park Service sites as possible.
Prior to our visit to the Farm, Donna and Melanie gravitate towards the woman demonstrating sewing and quilting at the Visitor Center. That’s Melanie inspecting how the old time sewing machine works.
We really enjoyed the tour of Eisenhower’s Farm. It takes about 2 hours including the bus ride from the Visitors Center. The current fee is $8 which essentially pays for the bus ride, National Park Passes or Senior Passes are not accepted at the Farm. Another enjoyable experience in Gettysburg. Hope you enjoyed the tour.
Until next week, travel safe,