George Alfred Townsend, known by his pen name of "GATH," was born in Georgetown, Delaware, in 1841. One of the youngest and most renowned special correspondents of his time, he reported on politics and war in both the United States and abroad. In 1860, Gath's natural talent and classical education earned him a job with the Philadelphia Inquirer. In 1861 he transferred to the New York Herald, where he reported on the Civil War. Noted for investigative journalism, his reports and commentaries were accurate, informative, and descriptive. He had begun a prolific writing career.
After the war, in 1865, Gath married his high school sweetheart, Elizabeth Evans Rhodes of Philadelphia. Bessie, as she was known, loved his writing. In 1884, Gath observed that "mankind is always interesting, but is also fatiguing." Wanting a summer retreat, he built his baronial Gapland estate on this property over a ten year period. In 1896, Gath unveiled Gapland's crown jewel, his War Correspondents Memorial Arch. He dedicated it to his colleagues, both North and South, who reported on the Civil War.
Eventually Gath's prose style became less popular and no longer sustained his lavish lifestyle. In 1903, after the death of Bessie, he slipped into perpetual mourning to the detriment of his health. He became a virtual recluse. Townsend left Gapland in 1911 and moved to the residence of his daughter and son-in-law in New York. He began his memoirs but died in 1914 before he could finish them. Buried beside Bessie in a Philadelphia cemetery, he never returned to Gapland. Today, despite a rich literary legacy and this marvelous estate, Gath is a largely forgotten figure.
Donated to the people of the United States by The Friends of South Mountain Battlefield.