Why support the Thaddeus Stevens Society?

In his 1939 biography about Thaddeus Stevens, Alphonse B. Miller wrote this: 

“It is an ironic commentary on fame that in so short a time as seventy years, Thaddeus Stevens has become little more than a name even to well-educated Americans. In his lifetime, which reached its climax during a major crisis in American affairs, he was the most powerful political figure in the land, and exercised a control over legislation never equaled before or since. At his death, he was accorded tributes very like those paid Abraham Lincoln himself. The effect of his policies persists down to the present. Moreover, he was an enthralling, idiomatic individual, about whom legends clustered which seemed to contain all the elements of permanent folk-lore. His blighting wit alone should have rendered his memory secure. Yet today, by some inexplicable quirk of fate, the emphases of history, of tradition, of common repute have somehow been diverted; and to mention Stevens is to loose a flood of shamefaced ignorance.”

Other Stevens biographies have echoed the same sentiment and that is why the Thaddeus Stevens Society was founded 25 years ago — to restore Stevens to his rightful place in American history. If you share this goal, you can join us by going to this web page,  https://www.thaddeusstevenssociety.com/become-a-member-1  or you can call 717-347-8159.

Despite what Miller wrote, it is clear that Stevens lost his fame as a result of the “Lost Cause” propaganda effort, which managed to convince people that racist traitors were heroes and abolitionists were villains. And even though this campaign has been reversed in many instances in recent decades, proponents of the Confederacy remain strong.

The Thaddeus Stevens Society is the only organization that is exclusively dedicated to promoting Stevens’s incredible legacy. The Society has spread information about Stevens through publication, social media and hundreds of educational programs. We have also worked with other groups to maintain the cemetery where Stevens is buried, to restore his house in Lancaster and to erect the first Stevens statue at the college named after him. Some of the Society’s greatest achievements include a Stevens statue in Gettysburg, one of the largest collections of Stevens artifacts, and an extensive collection of research material on Stevens.

Now the Society posed to tackle two of its most ambitious efforts: the establishment of a Stevens office, museum and research center in Gettysburg and restructuring Stevens’s cemetery in Lancaster so that it is on a sustainable basis.

Up to now, the Society has had a virtual office and its collection of Stevens artifacts have been kept in a private residence, viewable by appointment only. Now after a successful fundraising effort, the Society is looking for a suitable location, ideally close to the center of Gettysburg. Besides being the Society’s office, it would have exhibits about Stevens incredible life and provide research material.

The other project involves the Shreiner-Concord Cemetery in Lancaster, PA, where Stevens is buried. Despite its historic significance, the cemetery has not had an owner since the middle of the 20th century when descendants of the founder, Martin Shreiner, abandoned the graveyard. Since then, the cemetery has relied on volunteer groups and Lancaster city. This has left the cemetery in a precarious position. 

 The volunteer group now overseeing the cemetery, the Shreiner-Concord Cemetery Foundation, is doing a great job and is working with the Society to create a non-profit entity that could take possession of the cemetery and establish an endowment fund that would ensure that the cemetery is maintained indefinitely. 

This is an ambitious effort and will need the involvement of local, state and federal agencies to be successful. But it is absolutely necessary to ensure the preservation of this historic and inspirational cemetery.

If you agree with these goals, please join the Thaddeus Stevens Society and help us restore Stevens to his rightful place in American history.

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Charles (Chuck) Stangor is Gettysburg Connection's Owner, Publisher, and Editor in Chief. I would like to hear from you. Please contact me at cstangor@gettysburgconnection.org.

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Ross Hetrick is president and founder of the Thaddeus Stevens Society, which is dedicated to promoting Stevens's important legacy. Hetrick was a business reporter for 18 years in Baltimore and owned Ross's Coffeehouse & Eatery in Gettysburg from 1996 to 2004.

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