The Story of Joseph Winters

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The Story of Joseph Winters 1816-1916

Joseph Winters passed away in 1916 and was buried in Mount Vernon Cemetery located along Lincoln Highway west/US Route 30. His grave is part of the National Park Service Underground Railroad Network to Freedom Program

Citizen Gunsmith

Pioneer Inventor Machinist Land Owner & Born A Free Man By M.L. Marotte III

Pictured on the cover: “Joseph R. Winter” card de visite, circa 1915, promoting his autobiography, which is believed by local historians not to have been published, or on a limited basis. No copies have been found to date. It is unclear why his surname does not include the “s.” Courtesy, Franklin County Visitors Bureau. His gravestone also shows a birth year of 1828 which does not correspond to his own stated year of birth.

Joseph Winters began his life in Leesburg, VA. According to family tradition, he was the great-great-grandson, on his paternal side, of Powhatan chief Opechancanough. In 1834, his parents left Joseph with his maternal grandmother, Betsy Cross, in Waterford, VA where she had been born in 1767. Of Shawnee ancestry, Betsy Cross was known as the “Indian Doctor woman,” and she passed on some of her knowledge to her grandson Joseph. In years to come, Joseph Winters would be remembered for his knowledge of nature and especially his skill in fishing and

fly making. Joseph’s father James made bricks at Harpers Ferry for the expansion of the federal gun factory and arsenal, which began in 1845. When Joseph went to visit his parents, he was not allowed to return to Waterford and was put to work sanding brick molds. The family later moved to Chambersburg, and Joseph’s grandmother joined them. In 1859, Joseph Winters arranged the meeting between Frederick Douglass and John Brown at the quarry in Chambersburg. A machinist for the Cumberland Valley Railroad, Winters wrote poetry and an autobiography. Maurice Marotte III, a Chambersburg historian, collector

M.L. Marotte III 1999 Chambersburg, Pennsylvania Revised 2016 with permission by Franklin County Visitors Bureau. Additional information provided by Mike Rideout.


Old terminal warehouse of Cumberland Valley Railroad, built 1838, in this building John Brown stored arms and ammunition preparatory to his raid on Harpers Ferry in 1859. Brown was a close friend of Winters.


First scissor type aerial ladder with rescue basket. Friendship Fire Company #1 is helping with the demonstration. Mr. Winters is halfway upon the ladder tipping his hat to the onlookers. The scene is in front of the old Montgomery House on North Main Street, Chambersburg.

Winters’ patent for his fire escape ladder, patented May 7, 1878. Joseph formed a company known as the Winters Fire Apparatus Company and while he was acknowledged and praised for his work, he received little money for his design.


and author, recalled accounts of Joseph Winters relayed by his ancestors--Henry Ruby, who owned the Franklin Telegraph and Democratic Advertiser, and Jeremiah Senseney, who was a gun maker and a gunsmith in Chambersburg. Joseph Winters worked for both Ruby and Senseney in their businesses, learning about the publication business and gunmaking trade. Joseph learned the machinist’s trade at the Cumberland Valley Railroad in Chambersburg. Marotte’s grandfather, Maurice Marotte, Sr., remembered as a young man working with Joseph Winters at the Cumberland Valley Railroad, where he worked building first aid


for the steam locomotives. Joseph Winters was also an inventor and invented several pieces of fire department equipment: • In 1876, Winters improved the fire escape and fire alarm. • From 1877-1878, he invented the first aerial escape ladder and fire alarm. • In 1882, he invented the hose conductor. Joseph Winters obtained patents for his inventions in the United States, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Belgium, and Canada. He received much praise but little money from his innovative fire escape design.

Joseph formed a company known as the Winters Fire Apparatus Company. Shares were sold at $100 each. He was a man ahead of his time and very much a part of the community. The community knew him as “Indian Dick.” Joseph Winters passed away on November 26, 1916 and was laid to rest at Mt. Lebanon Cemetery on Lincoln Way West, Chambersburg. Today, the cemetery is a National Park Service Network to Freedom site, recognizing interment of Joseph Winters and numerous soldiers of the USCT. The following was recorded from the Public Opinion of November 26, 1916: “By his death, a familiar figure of Chambersburg history is removed, for “Indian Dick,” as he was called because of his claim that he was of Indian parentage, was engaged in a multitude of enterprises during his long life and performed many acts which helped make Franklin County History.”


Resources Edna Christian Knapper. “Outstanding Colored Citizens of Chambersburg—Past and Present: Joe Winters.” In John Brown Mysteries: Allies for Freedom , ed. Jean Libby. Missoula, Mont.: Pictorial Histories, 1999. First published in [Chambersburg, Penn.] Public Opinion , 1954. Westhaeffer, P. J. (1979). History of the Cumberland Valley Railroad 1835-1919. Falls Church, VA: Washington Chapter, National Railway Historical Society.

A Campaign Song By Joseph Winters

All you honest working men, wherever you may be, Away down in the coal mines Or on the raging sea And girdle on your armor, boys To be ready for the fight And vote for Bryan and Stevenson And gain your equal rights.

The Journey Through Hallowed Ground. (2016). Retrieved January 28, 2016, from https://www. Personal Collection of Franklin County photos and artifacts of Maurice Marottee III


Civil War Song

And den you’ll have plenty of fun, For he’ll give you a pitchfork instead of a gun!

By Joseph R Winters The Draft is might son comin’ along And its time for me to compose a new song, De copperheads are creeping out of their holes, And O, my Lord, but they’re getting bold. Den what’s de matter, Secesh! O, what’s de matter, Copperheads! Den what’s de matter, Secesh! I wonder what you’re goin’! About the Draft, you make a heap of fuss, But, to be drafted, that you must, Den if to be drafted, you don’t want to be, Just leab dis country and clime a tree. Dat is but one of, which I know— Ande de old man wants some fireman below; For if in dis ar you don’t to fight, Go down dar and git out of sight I lub dis Country, and de Guberment too, And, I don’t see de reason, Whey shouldn’t you? For from it you git de Staff of Life. An now, when in trouble, you try to make strife. De Work ain’t hard, but de wages are high So from de draft you should not fly;


In New York City, not long ago, De Copperheads tried to make a show; They armed themselves with guns and knives, And went round the City takin’ people’s lives. But Uncle Sam soon found it out, And sent a lot of soldiers to see what they were about, Their commander being a very brave man, And before him the Copperheads would not stand. To Governor Seymour the people did go, And asked his assistance the City to reso’, And all the satisfaction they could get— Gentlemen, I don’t think the riot bad yet. Now, if you want a good segar, I’ll tell you where to go, Just take a little walk to William H. Kalbefeisch’s sto’, His segars and tabacco cannot be beat, For everybody says so, all along the street. Buy a common segar and go down the street, And if, by chance, a Copperhead you meet— The smoke so sweet and smoke so long--They won’t let a Copperhead pass along. If you’re fond of enjoying a first-rate pipe, To keep the mosquitoes away at night. William H. Kalbefeish is always in the store— Just step in, at the front door.


From The Public Opinion, February 24, 2013 “Joe Winters: A man for all seasons” by M. L. Mike Marotte III


From The Public Opinion, 1954 “Oustanding Colored Citizens of Chambersburg - Past and Present: Joe Winters” by Edna Christian Knapper