But Gettysburg's newest Pennsylvania State Historical marker is about much more than mere words. It's about honoring a piece of forgotten history. A dedication ceremony for a new sign that will commemorate McAllister's Mill will be at 10 a.m. Saturday.
The mill, which was used as both a hospital during the Civil War and as a stop along the Underground Railroad, is located off of Baltimore Pike, behind Mulligan MacDuffer miniature golf course. All visitors will receive a voucher for a free ice cream from the course's ice cream parlor.
The ceremony will be followed by a tour of the site in which guides will share the mill's remarkable history. Visitors also will be able to see the remains of the old mill site, pieces of which still remain after 250 years. Although a small sign might seem like simple business, its installation will represent years of hard work and research by the preservation group Historic Gettysburg and Adams County, and by other local historians.
"The process for getting a marker in place is extensive," said Karen Galle, coordinator for Pennsylvania's historical marker program. "There has to be an adequate amount of scholarly documentation, but the best ones tend to be those that the public hasn't heard a lot about, but have made significant contributions."
McAllister's Mill is definitely one of those places. Tucked away in the woods, off the road and out of site, the grouping of stones that remain of the old grist mill are easily overlooked. But throughout the 19th century, the mill served as the host of some of the nation's most important events.
Preservation Chair Curtis Musselman marveled that in the area, "you had one of the most memorable battles of the Civil War, happening at the same time as slaves were escaping to freedom. It really shows you what the war was about."
In a town that is wholly encapsulated in military history and battle sites, the members of the historical preservation society found it important to contextualize the history and shine a light on a piece of the story that is often overlooked in Gettysburg.
"We are always talking about the battle and war, why not talk about the problem solvers, the people who tried to deal with the problem without guns?" Musselman said.
The McAllister family in particular was devoted to solving the problem of slavery in every way they knew how, which included fighting in the Civil War, heading anti-slavery societies, and allowing their mill to operate as a stop along the Underground Railroad. Despite all of these accomplishments, perhaps the most impressive asset of the McAllisters was their passion.
In an article written by Theodore McAllister for Miller's Review in 1912, he recalled his decision to fight in the war, "...'twere worth a hundred years of peaceful life to know that with an almost unerring rifle I helped to save the nation's life and made our 'Freedom's Flag' indeed and in truth."
Like the McAllisters who lived in Gettysburg 100 years before them, the historians devoted to preserving the former mill are equally devoted to the cause.
Not only did the members of the preservation committee need to fundraise in order to have the opportunity to share this piece of history, but they will also personally install the sign, even pouring the concrete in order to cut costs.
Dean Shultz, whose family has owned the land adjacent to the mill since 1847 and has spent most of his life seeking to preserve it, spoke of the importance of those seeking to conserve historical sites.
"Why did the McAllisters choose to be abolitionists? Why do I like history so much? I don't know. It must be something in our character."
IF YOU GO
WHAT: McAllister's Mill historical marker dedication ceremony and tour
WHEN: 10 a.m. Saturday
WHERE: Parking lot of Mulligan MacDuffer Adventure Golf, 1360 Baltimore Pike, Gettysburg
COST: Ceremony is free; tour is $5 for students, $10 for adults.
DETAILS: Parking is available at the military museum parking lot (across from the Pike Restaurant). A free shuttle bus will transport visitors to the site.