May 2017 - How The Buzzard Gang Inspired A New Painting

May 2017

I was reminded recently by one of my Sisters-In-Law that I am woefully inconsistent (my words) in keeping up with my artist’s blog. I think she was “…speaking the truth in love”, but she has red hair, so I’m not completely sure. Plus she and a couple others made sport of me when I pointed out how busy I think I am. Anyway, after checking on the facts, I did realize that over the past two years I have only uploaded 2 or 3 updates, so I guess she might be close to being basically correct. Since we can’t have that, I have added today’s blog .

I love history. Especially true stories. Especially true stories of local history. When looking for inspiration for a new painting, sometimes it is as simple as reading or hearing about an event from the past. One painting came about after reading in the newspaper about a local man who lives in an 18th century house just a couple miles from where I live. He had the last remaining outhouse in my township and had been using it since the 1940’s. The township forced the 80 year old man to put in a septic system. He did so, but when I visited him, I discovered that the new toilet was installed in a corner of his living room. No walls, just a commode in the corner! Hello?!

Another was about a mansion that was razed in the 1950’s after it fell into disrepair. This colonial home was the site where George Washington breakfasted in the 1700’s. Today all that’s left is the barn and two tenant houses.

The painting I am currently working on began after hearing stories about the Buzzard Gang who terrorized the farmers and townspeople living around the Welsh Mountains in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. The Welsh Mountains are a hilly area running through eastern Lancaster County and were densely wooded in the 1800’s. The people living there were an eclectic mix of runaway slaves, free blacks, Native Americans and poor whites. Many lived in wood and grass huts. The poverty and deprivation they lived in helped fuel much of the criminal activities they engaged in.

Abe Buzzard was the early leader of the “Buzzard Gang”, an aptly named bunch of rouges who robbed and plundered the farming communities surrounding the Welsh Mountains. Abe’s father was killed in the Civil War and the family was left destitute. With 9 children to care for, the mother turned a blind eye when her eldest children began stealing chickens, breaking into homes, and out and out robbing the locals. Over the next 40-plus years, Abe, his brothers and sons & daughters committed armed robberies, were chased by posses, involved in shoot-outs with the law and local farmers (Abe was shot 5 times in his life), escaped from prison several times (once with the help of a canary!). Abe even feigned getting religion and held evangelistic meetings where the local people came to hear him “preach”. While they listened to this “reformed” hoodlum share his message, his gang broke into the homes of the folks attending his meetings and stole whatever they could! Abe would eventually spend more than half of his 80-year life behind bars. Newspapers from New York to Chicago carried stories of their crimes.

One incident occurred not far from where I live. It was March of 1885 when members of the gang showed up around midnight. Emma Linville was awakened by noises at the front door. When she opened the door, 3 masked men burst in, choking her. Her brother Edward heard her scream and came running from his bed chamber. There on the second floor, he was shot two times by one of the invaders, a bullet hole in the door that can still be seen today. The thieves got away with $70.00 and left Edward in critical condition. Unfortunately, Edward never fully recovered, dying about 6 months later from his wounds.

The home deteriorated over the years but in the 1980’s was restored and has much of its original architectural details intact. This is the historical property that is the subject of my latest painting. A compelling, yet tragic story that drew me to paint this now tranquil family home.

For me, art and history are perfect bedfellows. History provides the story, and art (hopefully) captures it in a way that blends beauty with truth to pass the story along to a new audience. I hope to unveil the painting in the next few weeks. Thanks for reading! Blessings, Chris


Buzzard Gang

I'm curious about the house you painted.I grew up on a farm about 2 miles from the Red Well homestead of the Buzzard family and knew some of their descendants.Ken


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