Friday, May 15, 2009

The Legend of "Blind Davey"

Tourism for Gettysburg began literally just days after the great battle had ended in July 1863. Locals took this opportunity to make some money in compensation for their strife. Thousands flocked to the previously unknown town and the Devil's Den area quickly became one of the major hubs of the new tourist trade.

At one point, there was an amusement park, dance hall, pavilion, wells, snack stands, small relic museums, souvenirs, and yes, a casino, in the Devil's Den/Little Round Top area. These largely jump started in 1884 upon the completion of the Gettysburg & Harrisburg Railway (which destroyed many sections of the battlefield).

The geologic anomaly of Devil's Den attracted many, thus it became a hot spot for photographers to work their trade. The small stand shown above was first used by the Mumper Family, who used it as a photographic studio. It was later used by famed battlefield photographer William Tipton as his place of business. Finally, it was eventually moved to a spot adjacent to Warren Avenue in front of Little Round Top. (It was located in the general area of the modern restrooms between the hill and the den.)

Here, it became "Blind Davey's Souvenir Stand." David M. Weikert became "Blind Davey" when injured in an explosives accident as a worker on the Gettysburg Railroad. However, his story was not marketed as such. Rather than telling the true story of his blinding, it was said that Davey lost his sight after striking an unseen unexploded artillery shell with his farming plow. Because citizens and local officials felt badly for the man, he was permitted to operate his souvenir and snack stand on prime battlefield real estate with tons of tourist traffic.

Davey was sometimes photographed at his shop with his dog and a gun. (Perhaps the dog aimed the weapon for him.) Needless to say, Mr. Weikert could be considered one of Gettysburg's most colorful entrepreneurs...and there have been many!

To learn more about "Blind Davey," check out Devil's Den: A History and Guide by Garry Adelman and Tim Smith. Also, to find out more about rock carvings and unique sights in the Devil's Den area, I encourage you to get the very new book The Complete Gettysburg Guide by JD Petruzzi and Steve Stanley. There is a lot of good buzz about this upcoming work.

Eight days until the big move to Gettysburg. Can't wait!


  1. Jared,

    Wonderful story and thank you for the plug for J.D.'s and my new book. It should be in stores the first week of June. I look forward to meeting you sometime this summer.

    Steve Stanley

  2. Yes, thank you Jared! Very cool post about Davey.


  3. Hi JD and Steve,

    I ordered your book tonight online. Do you know when I might be receiving it? Thanks.

  4. Is your U-Haul packed? Or are you on a 50lb limit? When are the folks having the big party after you go????

  5. Nah. I can fit everything in one car.