Civil War Blog

A project of PA Historian

Joel R. Spahr, Civil War Veteran- Not Buried at Urban!

Posted By on July 21, 2017

In a previous post here on this blog, the name of Joel R. Sparr was given as a Civil War veteran who is buried at St. Paul’s United Church of Christ Cemetery, Northumberland County, Pennsylvania.  That information was taken from the Klingerstown Bicentennial Album, 1807-2007, which was reviewed in relation to its Civil War references.  As a result of the naming in that book, Joel R. Sparr (sometimes found in the records as Joel R. Spahr or Spohr) was included in the Civil War Project list of veterans from the Lykens Valley area.  Subsequent research has now shown that the Joel R. Sparr buried at St. Paul’s Cemetery in Urban may not be a Civil War veteran and that he may have been confused with a Joel R. Spahr who is buried at Walnut Ridge Cemetery, Jeffersonville, Clark County, Indiana.

Based on information in the Klingerstown Bicentennial Album, 1807-2007, it was determined that Joel R. Spahr served in the 42nd Pennsylvania Infantry, Company B, first as a Private, but eventually promoted to the rank of 2nd Lieutenant.  Information on the card (above) from the Pennsylvania Archives, Joel was mustered into service on 4 June 1861 at Harrisburg.  At the time of his enrollment, he stood 5 foot 10 inches tall, had dark hair, a light complexion, grey eyes, and was 19 years old.  He claimed his residence was Petersburg [Perry County], Pennsylvania, and that he was a teacher.  His 1860 residence, as confirmed by the census, was Petersburg Borough.  Joel R. Spahr was honorably discharged at the end of his term of service on 1 June 1864.

Following this Joel R. Spahr in the census records, it can be noted that after the war, he appeared in various places including the Dakota Territory, Dodge City [Kansas], and finally Jeffersonville, Indiana.  Indiana death records show that Joel died in Indiana on 5 December 1903 and is buried at the Walnut Ridge Cemetery, in Jeffersonville.

Dennis Brandt, who has done extensive research on Civil War soldiers from York County and Adams County, Pennsylvania, supplied information on Joel R. Spahr to the Findagrave Memorial. Information from Brandt was confirmed by him by consultation with the pension application records at the National Archives.  Brandt concluded that the Joel R. Spahr who served in the 42nd Pennsylvania Infantry is buried at Jeffersonville, Indiana.  Brandt’s conclusions are not only borne out by the records he has examined, but also by further genealogical research on the family.  And, to date, no connection has been found to the Lykens Valley area for this veteran!

If there is a Joel R. Sparr buried at Urban, there is no Findagrave Memorial for him and no photograph has been seen of the grave marker there.

Epilogue:  In 1923, Joel’s son Howard H. Spahr applied for an emergency passport so he could work on U. S. graves registration for the army.  If his father is incorrectly “registered” as buried at Urban, Northumberland County, then this ironic twist can be added to the story of this veteran, who, from follow-up research does not belong in the Lykens Valley list of Civil War veterans!

Update on Edward Crabb, Victim of Bigotry in Gratz

Posted By on July 19, 2017

Almost exactly one year after an extremely critical blog post was published here on the Civil War Blog regarding the deplorable condition of an African American family grave plot at the Gratz Union Cemetery, a.k.a., Simeon’s Cemetery, Gratz, Dauphin County, Pennsylvania, a small change has now been seen the grave site of Edward Crabb, Civil War veteran!  A military star has been placed in the ground and a flag has been placed there next to the broken stone.

The picture above, taken earlier this month, was submitted by Jeremiah Umholtz, who is a descendant of the family with whom Edward Crabb lived in Gratz in 1850.  Jeremiah visited the grave site on 7 July 2017 and noted that a relatively new marker had been placed in the ground along with a flag.

Although it seems that proper recognition has now been given to this veteran, other issues remain unresolved.

The first and most important issue is to determine who acted on behalf of Edward Crabb to place the marker there?  And, is that person or persons going to follow-up with a repair to the grave marker and/or get a proper replacement?  And, when the replacement stone is set in place, will there be a dedication ceremony where African American descendants of this veteran are notified and be given an opportunity to attend?  Will there be an apology on behalf of the cemetery, the church, the historical society, the veterans organization, etc., for the treatment this veteran has received in his home town?

Edward Crabb was a son of one of the first settlers of Gratz.  The father, Peter Crabb, an African American, was a blacksmith who built one of the first houses in Gratz, and was a member of Simeon’s Church  Most of his children were born in Gratz, and one other son, John Peter Crabb, was also a Civil War veteran.

The burial plot at the front of the Lutheran section of the Gratz Union Cemetery was purchased by Peter Crabb at the time the cemetery was established in the 1830s.  It’s quite large compared to some others there, and it appears that Peter Crabb had every intention of having enough space for himself, his wife, and for all his children.  It is said by some that Peter Crabb and his wife are buried there, but no stones mark the location of their graves.  Was there ever a stone there marking the grave of this early settler?  If so, what happened to it?

Following the Civil War, African Americans gradually disappeared from the Lykens Valley.  Some moved to Harrisburg, as did John Peter Crabb, Edward’s brother, who when presented with the news that African Americans could not join the two white G.A.R. posts there, decided to help found a “colored” post.  It was not the policy of the national G.A.R. to exclude African Americans who had honorably served the Union.  Membership decisions were left up to local posts, most of whom used the “blackball” to deny admittance to anyone not white.

Edward Crabb died in 1886 in Hubley Township, Schuylkill County.  But he is buried in the family plot in Gratz.  It is not known when Edward’s wife, Catherine “Rossie” [Jones] Crabb died, or if she is buried in the family plot.  Two of Edward and Rossie’s young children who died in Schuylkill County are buried in Gratz, George E. Crabb (1877-1879) and Sadie Minerva Crabb (1880-1881), and their graves are appropriately marked with small stones.

Early in the 20th century, the Ku Klux Klan was very active in Gratz and in the surrounding area.  As late as 1997, when a history of Gratz was published, a Crabb family genealogy was included, but there was no mention made that the family was African American, although the ethnic roots of most other families were given.  Early in the 21st century, a video was produced by the historical society which featured a Ku Klux Klan “shrine” at the local museum.  See:  Why Are There Ku Klux Klan Uniforms in Gratz?  Shortly afterward, a cross was burned at the home of an African American woman in a neighboring town.  And, during the past year, a Hometown Heroes Project, solicited for banners recognizing individual veterans who had Gratz as their hometown; no one provided a banner recognizing either Edward Crabb or his brother John Peter Crabb.

So, when will the stone be replaced and when will the re-dedication ceremony be held?  The African American descendants and many others are waiting to hear.


Note:  Following the publication of the blog post, Edward Crabb, Victim of Bigotry in Gratz, several persons made contact with both U.S. Senators and the U.S. Representative for the 11th Congressional District of Pennsylvania, expressing their outrage over what has happened.  Did that result in the placement of the Civil War star at Edward Crabb‘s gravesite?


Funeral of James L. Seebold – Charter Member of Millersburg G.A.R.

Posted By on July 17, 2017

The Harrisburg Telegraph of 29 June 1927 provided information on the funeral of James L. Seebold.  He was a founding member of the Kilpatrick Post of the G.A.R. in Millersburg and was previously mentioned here in several blog posts.


MILLERSBURG, 29 June 1927 — James L. Seebold, 88 years, died on Saturday morning at the home of his daughter, Mrs. Joseph W. Hoffman, in Market Square.

Surviving are two daughters, Mrs. Joseph W. Hoffman and Mrs. J. S. Gilbert, both of Millersburg; three sons, Dr. Frank P. Seebold, of Millersburg, Prof. James G. Seebold, of San Diego, California, and John R. Seebold, of Harrisburg, and three sisters, Mrs. William Betender, of Michigan; Mrs. Ella Winter, of Williamsport; and Mrs. Frank Mohr, of Mifflinburg.

Funeral services were held at the Hoffman residence in Market Square, on Monday afternoon, at 4 o’clock, with the Rev. William H. Robinson, pastor of the Methodist Episcopal Church, officiating. Burial was in Oak Hill Cemetery.

During the Civil War, James L. Seebold served in the 51st Pennsylvania Infantry, Company E, where he rose in rank from Sergeant to 2nd Lieutenant.  However, nothing was mentioned in the funeral description that he had served in the war, nor was it noted that he was one of the longest surviving veterans from the Millersburg area.  He is memorialized on the Millersburg Soldier Monument in Market Square in Millersburg and on his grave marker in the Oak Hill Cemetery.  Both memorializations are pictured below.

The picture above was taken at the time of the dedication of the Millersburg Soldier Monument in 1914 and is displayed on the historical marker next to the monument in the square. It is believed that James L. Seebold was at the dedication and is therefore in the picture.  However, no identification key has been located.  If a blog reader is aware of either an identification key for this photo or of an individual photograph of James L. Seebold who lived more than thirteen years after the dedication ceremony, that information/picture would be greatly appreciated.


Was Joel Shearer a Civil War Veteran?

Posted By on July 14, 2017

Joel Shearer died on 9 November 1882 and is buried at St. Luke’s Parish Cemetery, Malta, Northumberland County, Pennsylvania.  At his grave, there is a G.A.R. star-flag holder.  However, no regiment or company has been located in which he served.  And, there is nothing on the grave marker itself to indicate that he served.

According to information located so far, Joel Shearer was born on 21 December 1828 in York County.  In 1880, he was working as a laborer and living in Upper Paxton Township, Dauphin County, Pennsylvania, living with wife Mary and children Charles Shearer, age 10; Miranda Shearer, age 6; and Sylvanus Shearer, age 3.  Mary’s maiden name was Ehrhart, and she was the daughter of George Ehrhart and Catherine [Shoop] Ehrhart, both of Upper Paxton Township.  Following the death of Joel Shearer in 1882, son Charles was located in the Tower City area, where he worked as a telegraph operator for the railroad; daughter Miranda, also in the Tower City area, where she worked as an operator in clothing factories; and son Sylvanus, in Tower City, who was a laborer in the coal mines.  No evidence has been seen that either Miranda or Sylvanus married.  Sylvanus died in Florida in 1940. Joel Shearer‘s wife Mary died in 1896 and is buried at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church Cemetery, Tower City.

No obituary has been located for Joel Shearer in Newspapers.com.

This possible veteran should be of special interest to researchers in the Millersburg area who are attempting to compile a complete list of all Civil War soldiers who had some connection to Millersburg and area.


Obituary of George F. Rhawn, 1896

Posted By on July 12, 2017

Two Harrisburg newspapers printed a brief obituary of George F. Rhawn when he died on 13 September 1896 at Halifax, Dauphin County, Pennsylvania.  The first was the Harrisburg Telegraph, 14 September 1896:

An Old Halifax Veteran Dead

George F. Rhawn, an old Halifax war veteran, died Sunday evening at the residence of County Commissioner Isaac Lyter, aged 74.  Deceased was a member of the Forty-third Regiment (First Artillery), Company G, and served three years [1st Pennsylvania Artillery].  his command was consolidated with Rickett’s Battery at Gettysburg.  Mr. Rhawn also participated in the engagements at Mechanicsville, Gaines’ Mill, Charles City X Roads, Second Bull Run, Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville.  He never married and leaves no near relatives.  A niece lives Chicago.  He lived alone until about a month ago, when his condition became such that Mr. Lyter had him removed to his home.  The funeral will take place tomorrow.

The Harrisburg Patriot, 15 September 1896, gave a similar but more brief version:

An Old Soldier Dead

G. F. Rhawn, an old soldier, died at his home in Halifax yesterday in his seventy-fourth year.  He had been residing for some weeks with County Commissioner Lyter.  Mr. Rhawn was a member of the Third Pennsylvania Volunteers [sic] in the Civil War, and fought bravely in the battled of Gettysburg, Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville.

For his service at Gettysburg, George Rhawn is recognized on the Pennsylvania Memorial tablet, shown below:

George Rhawn is buried at the Halifax United Methodist Church Cemetery in Halifax.  His grave marker is pictured at the top of this post.


News articles are from the on-line resources of the Free Library of Philadelphia and from Newspapers.com.