Before the Civil War, almost every farm had a small apple orchard that was used to produce cider, fruit for the home, and food for pigs. With new roads, canals and railroads providing better transportation, many farmers in the Gettysburg area began expanding their orchards in the 1840s and 1850s to produce fruit for the growing urban markets.
Joseph and Mary Sherfy and their six children were ready to help when the Union army reached Gettysburg on the first of July 1863. Joseph dragged a large water tub out to the road and kept it filled for the thirsty soldiers. Mary and her mother baked loaf after loaf of bread and handed them over to the army. The next day they were forced to evacuate their home. Their home ended up being the center of the whirlwind of war on July 2nd and 3rd, which is the reason I chose to put the fictional McCoombs farm right next to Sherfy’s farm.
When Sherfy returned to his land on the 6th, he discovered that his house had been ransacked. At least seven artillery shells had hit it. The yard was covered with the family’s possessions, churned into the mud with body parts left over from the Confederate field hospital that had been in their barn. Bodies of dead men and horses lay strewn about everywhere. The ruins of the barn were filled with the charred remains of the men who had been unable to escape the fire that occurred when shells of the Union batteries scored a direct hit.
Undaunted, the Sherfys cleaned, replanted, and rebuilt, and for years sold peaches from the famous orchard.It was a popular destination for veterans who had fought in its fields and wanted to relive their experiences. One wall of the house supposedly was covered with photographs of veterans who had fought there. The farm today, which still has some holes from artillery shells, is owned by the National Park Service. At some point in the late 19th or early 20th century the peach trees were all removed, but the National Park Service restored them about 15 years ago, and Sherfy's Peaches are again being sold at Gettysburg.