1840s: The Crimes of Captain James Wade

One of Gettysburg’s most prominent ghosts, supposedly, is Captain James Wade who, according to legend, is frustrated that he was not on hand when his daughter Jennie was killed during the battle. If you take a ghost tour, you will learn that Captain Wade was in the Adams County Almshouse during the battle.

Captain Wade’s troubles long predate the battle. The following clip from a list of Adams County Criminal Complaints shows two separate charges the captain faced in the late 1830s and early 1840s.

In other records, the 1839 charge is also referred to as “forcible fornication.” The Mary Kuhn who made the complaint is unclear—there were at least two or three Mary Kuhns in Adams County of sufficient age to have been subject to Captain Wade’s conduct. The result, however, is James Wade, the captain’s firstborn. The charge of bastardy indicates the captain’s unwillingness to marry the mother of his child.

The younger James spent time in the almshouse, presumably because Captain Wade and his eventual wife Mary Ann Filby could not afford to keep him. He was then “bonded out” to Samuel Foulk in town. Being bonded out means that the county paid the family of Samuel Foulk to take young James and that James would then “work” for the family and earn his upkeep (not unlike our foster system today, honestly). (You may recall another period piece—Anne of Green Gables. In this case, Anne was adopted, but the principle motivator of the original adoption was the same for both parties originally—the orphanage or almshouse unloaded a mouth to feed, and the family got a farm laborer who, it turns out, wasn’t a boy.) James was seven when he was bonded out to Samuel. Who was Samuel Foulk? Like Charles W. Hoffman, he was a carriage maker in town with a number of businesses. We will revisit the younger James in other articles.

Captain Wade’s arson charge related to a pub owned by Charles Myers. The same Charles Myers and his pub would figure prominently in the murder of Samuel Mars by Jim Green. We don’t know what issue Captain Wade had with Myers, but Myers charged him with attempting to burn down a barn and some other property.

Captain Wade went on to marry Mary Ann Filby, though poverty and privations did not disappear with marriage. Instead, as we will see, the Wades struggled to make ends meet.

One response to “1840s: The Crimes of Captain James Wade”

  1. […] the captain and Mary Ann would add Samuel to the family as well. But early in the new decade, as they had at the start of the 1840s, Captain Wade’s problems with the law surfaced […]

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