Civil War Blog

A project of PA Historian

Isaac Darker – Accident at Short Mountain Colliery, 1874

Posted By on October 9, 2015

The Harrisburg Telegraph of 11 August 1874 reported the following death resulting from an accident at Short Mountain Colliery.


On Friday evening last Mr. Isaac Derker, of this borough, met with an accident in the Short Mountain Colliery from which he died about eight o’clock yesterday morning.  He was working on the “night shift” and had been in his breast but a short time, when a roll in the coal forced out one of the prop timbers which struck him across the back, knocking him down into the gangway.  He was taken out and brought home about half past seven o’clock.  It was ascertained that his spine was paralyzed, and inflammation of the bowels subsequently setting in, he expired as above stated.

Mr. Derker was one of the oldest miners in this place, an industrious man and a respected citizen.  He served honorably as a soldier in the late war, and was at the time of his death a member in good standing of the Odd Fellows, Druids and S.P.K.’s secret societies of this borough, by whom he will be buried, from his late residence on Main street, tomorrow afternoon at 2 o’clock.  He leaves a stricken wife and family to mourn his premature death.  His age was 48 years.


As stated in the news report, Isaac Derker [or Isaac Darker, as he was sometimes known] was a Civil War veteran.  On 30 August 1861, Isaac enrolled at Lykenstown in the 50th Pennsylvania Infantry, Company K,  and was mustered into service as a Private on 9 September 1861.  The personal information about him the Pennsylvania Archives Record Card, pictured above, included his age of 32, his residence of Lykens, and his occupation – a miner.  On 22 September 1864, seven days before he was mustered out of service at the expiration of his term, he was transferred to Company A.


On 14 January 1887, Isaac’s widow Mary  applied for pension benefits as shown on the above Pension Index Card from Fold3.  She was awarded a widow’s pension.  Isaac’s death date of 6 August 1874 is also noted on the card.

DarkerIsaac-LykensGAR-001aNot much more is known about Isaac Darker except that in the early 20th Century when the Lykens-Wiconisco G.A.R. Monument was erected, his name was included on the plaque.

Additional information is sought about Isaac Derker or Darker, including details about his Civil War service and more about his family.  Please add comments to this post or send an e-mail to the Civil War Research Project.


The news clipping is from Newspapers.com.

September 2015 Posts

Posted By on October 7, 2015

A listing of the September 2015 posts on The Civil War Blog with direct links:

Martin Koppenhaver – Was He a Civil War Veteran & Did He Have Two Families?

The Death of Mrs. Leonard Craig

John Crane of Millersburg and Lykens

Who Was George W. Clark, Musician?

The Death of Capt. William H. Crook

Daniel W. Tobias – Corrections and Additions

Samuel B. Pottiger of Halifax

William Orth of Perry County

Charles T. Dechant – Post Charter Member Not Named on Millersburg G.A.R. Monument?

Charles T. Dechant – Post Charter Member Not Named on Millersburg G.A.R. Monument?

What Ever Happened to Henry Dietrich of Millersburg?

Pope Francis Visits the United States

Who Was John Donnelly of Joliett?

Pope Francis Visits Philadelphia


Clifford H. Romberger (1947-2015) – Civil War Re-Enactor

Posted By on October 5, 2015

Word has been received of the death of Civil War Re-Enactor, Clifford H. Romberger.  His obituary, as it appeared in local area newspapers, and on the web site of Hoover-Boyer Funeral Homes, follows:

ELIZABETHTOWN – Clifford H. Romberger, 68, of Masonic Drive and formerly of Elizabethville, passed away Thursday, September 24th, 2015 at the Masonic Village. He was born March 18, 1947 in Harrisburg, son of the late Homer H. Romberger and Vera L. [Lesher] Romberger. Clifford was most known for his love of animals, especially horses. As a skilled horseman, Romberger wrangled horses for T.V. and film productions including Gettysburg (1993) and The Patriot (2000). Cliff was an avid Civil War re-enactor. He served as Company Commander of the 17th Pennsylvania Calvary, Company I.

Romberger was a member of the United States Air Force (1967-1971) and served during the Vietnam War. He was stationed at Da Nang from 1970-1971.

After the war in Vietnam, Cliff took up a life of public service. He worked as a deputy with the Pennsylvania Game Commission for 22 years. He also served as an elected Pennsylvania State Constable. He was a volunteer firefighter with Reliance Hose Company 1 Station 21, Elizabethville, Pennsylvania. Romberger also worked as the Washington Township Road Master.

A dedicated farmer, Cliff found great joy working his family’s farm in Elizabethville. During his life he raised and butchered hogs, steer, and chickens. He also used the farm to grow certified grain, corn, fruit trees, and Christmas trees.

He is survived by his son, Colt C. Romberger of Placentia, CA, his daughter Honesta C. Romberger and her husband Patrick McDonald of Silver Spring, Maryland, who are expecting his first grand-child in November. Also surviving Romberger; brother, Rodman H. Romberger, wife Cindy, and niece and nephews of Elizabethville; former wife and close friend Cheryl Romberger of Gratz.

Cliff was a member of Word of Grace Ministries in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania and United Methodist in Elizabethville.

The family will receive friends at Hoover-Boyer Funeral Homes Inc., Elizabethville on Tuesday, September 29, 2015 from 1-2 pm. Memorial Services starring at 2 pm followed by encryptment and Military Honors at the Maple Grove Cemetery Mausoleum, Elizabethville.


Philip Hoffman – Killed in Mines, 1878

Posted By on October 2, 2015


On 21 November 1878, Philip Hoffman of Lykens Borough, Dauphin County, was killed in a mine accident at Short Mountain Colliery.  The notice of his accidental death appeared in the Lykens Register and was reprinted in the Harrisburg Telegraph of 25 November 1878:

Killed in the Mines.

The Lykens Register of Friday says:  “Mr. Philip Hoffman of this borough, was almost instantly killed in Short Mountain Colliery, about four o’clock yesterday afternoon, by a fall of rock.  He was working in the east lower level, putting in a ‘jugular’ at the time.  His body was horribly crushed and life was extinct before he could be conveyed to his home, which was reached about five o’clock.  deceased has been employed in the Wiconisco mines from boyhood, having been born and raised in Lykens.  He was an industrious man, whose death will be generally regretted, and prove a severe shock to a devoted wife, who survives him.  He leaves no children”  Coroner Porter held an inquest on Friday, the jury rendering a verdict of accidental death.  The funeral took place yesterday from the Lutheran Church at Lykens.


Several comments can be made about the what is included or not included in the obituary:


First, Philip Hoffman was a Civil War veteran, not mentioned in the obituary.  As shown by the Pennsylvania Veterans’ File Card (above, from the Pennsylvania Archives).  On 16 February 1864, he enrolled at Harrisburg in the 9th Pennsylvania Cavalry, Company B, as a Private and was mustered into service the same day.  At the time, he claimed to be 18 years old, was about 5 foot, 5 inches tall.  He had black hair, brown eyes, and a fair complexion.  He was a farmer.  He state that he was born in Dauphin County and resided in Dauphin County.


For his service in the Civil War, he was recognized on the Lykens-Wiconisco G.A.R. Monument which was erected in the early part of the 20th Century.  However, since his death occurred in 1878, he was no a member of the Heilner Post at Lykens.


On 27 August 1878, Philip Hoffman applied for a Civil War pension, which according to the Pension Index Card (above, from Ancestry.com), he received.  However, we know that Philip died on 21 November 1878., so with the usual time lag between application and the actual awarding of the pension, Philip most likely never knew that the pension was awarded and the payment was collected by his widow as a lump sum and terminated the day of his death.  The obituary also stated that he was married and had no children.  Why then did no widow apply and why was a minor’s application submitted on 18 July 1890?  To answer that question we must research the guardian, Catherine Woland.


Katie [Rickert] Hoffman-Woland

Catherine Woland was Catherine “Katie” Rickert (1844-1909).  She was the wife of Philip Hoffman and was left his widow when he was killed in the mines in 1878.  At that time she was pregnant (not mentioned in the obituary), and a daughter, Hattie Hoffman was born in March 1879, several months after her father’s death.  In order to support the child, Katie [Rickert] Hoffman married John Woland (1830-1910).  Pension rules at the time prevented a widow who re-married from collecting benefits for herself and she would have to prove that any minor child born to herself and the deceased soldier actually was a legitimate child of the soldier and her.  However, she applied as guardian for her daughter Hattie, but was denied benefits.  A check of the minor’s application file (which has not been consulted for this post) will most likely give the reason for the denial.  There were no known children between John Woland and Katie, but John Woland was known to have had a daughter with his first wife who died in 1884.  That daughter, Mary Alice Woland, was an adult when her father remarried, and in fact, in 1884, had married Norman Seiler ManleyJohn Woland was not a veteran of the Civil War so he was ineligible for a pension.

The final issue is the birthplace and parentage of Philip Hoffman.  The only possible census records in the Lykens-Wiconisco area show a Philip Hoffman who was born in Germany, not in Pennsylvania.  There is no direct evidence that the Philip Hoffman who died in the mines is the same person as the German-born Philip Hoffman named in the census.  The main Hoffman family in the Lykens Valley area was descended from Johann Peter Hoffman, an early settler – but there were other Hoffman’s, some of whom were relatively recent immigrants from Germany.  Perhaps a reader of this blog can answer this mystery – was the Philip Hoffman who died in the mines born in Pennsylvania or Germany and who were his parents?

Fortunately, the Harrisburg Telegraph reprinted the obituary as it appeared in the Lykens Register.  Previously on this blog, on 7 January 2014, Jake Wynn posted an article entitled “Fire Destroys Lykens Register, 1900.”  Nearly all the back issues of the Lykens Register were destroyed in that fire and now, for the most part, only those articles that were picked up and reprinted by other newspapers are among those that were saved.


The obituary clipping is from Newspapers.com.

Who Was John Donnelly of Joliett?

Posted By on September 29, 2015


The above Pennsylvania Veterans’ Index Card from the Pennsylvania Archives give some of the information that is know about John Donnelly (sometimes referred to the records as John Donnely).

John Donnelly was about 24 years old (born about 1837) when he enrolled in the 96th Pennsylvania Infantry, Company H, as a Private, at Tremont, Schuylkill County, on 21 October 1861.  On the same day, he was mustered into service at Pottsville.  At some point during his service he was transferred to the Battery (Artillery) of the same regiment.  His discharge date is not stated on the index card.

From the 1890 Veterans’ Census (available on Ancestry.com), the same regiment and muster date is given, but the discharge date of 22 October 1864 is noted – indicating that John Donnelly served the full three years of his enlistment and then chose to be discharged rather than re-enlist.  From the history of that regiment, it is known that those who did re-enlist were consolidated into the 95th Pennsylvania Infantry.  John did not report any Civil War-related disabilities to the 1890 Census and he gave his post office address as Joliett, Schuylkill County.

From the Pennsylvania Memorial at Gettysburg, we learn that John Donnelly served as a Corporal at the Battle of Gettysburg.

From the two versions of the Pension Index Card, the following is determined:



  1. The Ancestry.com version notes that John Donnelly applied for a disability pension from Pennsylvania on 1 August 1890, which he received, and his widow Mary Donnelly applied on 9 March 1905.  She also received the pension, which she collected until her death.
  2. The Fold3 version confirms John’s application date and granting of the pension, notes that a widow applied (without giving her name) and also received a pension until her death, and gives the year of 1905 as John’s death.

For those who wish to research John Donnelly further, the pension application file numbers on the two above cards are necessary for locating the files at the National Archives in Washington, D.C.  Perhaps a reader of this blog has already obtained the pension application files and would be willing to share the information in those file with others – by adding comments to this post or by sending an e-mail to this Project.  Any other information about John Donnelly, from any source, will be greatly appreciated!