Civil War Blog

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Aaron Schoffstall – Part of Oil Boom at Titusville

Posted By on June 23, 2017

Aaron Schoffstall was born about 10 April 1842 in Jordan Township, Northumberland County, Pennsylvania, the son of Henry Schoffstall (1808-1867) and Margaret Rebecca [Wells] Schoffstall (1808-1878).  In 1850, the family was living in Lykens Township, Dauphin County, Pennsylvania, where Henry was a farmer.  In 1860, Aaron was working as a teamster in Gratz.

According to the Pennsylvania Veterans’ File Card, shown above from the Pennsylvania Archives, Aaron Schoffstall enrolled on 30 August 1861 at Gratztown in the 50th Pennsylvania Infantry, Company A.  He was mustered in at Harrisburg as a Private on 9 September 1861.  At the time of his enrollment, he was 19 years old, he was a laborer, and his residence was Gratz.  Physically, he was nearly 6 foot tall, had blue eyes, light hair, and a florid complexion.  According to the card, he deserted on 30 August 1862.  However, he must have returned because the card also indicates that he was discharged by order of the War Department at Philadelphia, 20 June 1865.  At this time, not much more is known about his military service, including whether his discharge was honorable.  No Pension Index Card has been located for him, probably indicating that an application was not made.

The photograph at the top of this page is believed to be of Aaron Schoffstall and his wife Elizabeth (or Lizzie).  The date of their marriage has not been confirmed, but some of the children named on Ancestry.com trees have a different mother.  For example, one child, Henry Aaron Schoffstall, born about 25 November 1861, identified Amanda [Troutman] Schoffstall as his mother (death certificate and obituary). Another child Franklin St. Clair Schoffstall, born about 26 April 1868 in Titusville, Crawford County, Pennsylvania, identified Eliza Coxson as his mother.  And, Edith Mary [Schoffstall] Murray, born about 4 September 1875 in Titusville, identified Mary Cox as her mother.

When Aaron Schoffstall of Lykens Township registered for the draft in July 1863, he indicated he was single and that he was a laborer.  He correctly identified the service regiment and company in which he was serving as the 50th Pennsylvania Infantry.

Additional research need to be done to determine if Aaron Schoffstall had more than one wife – or if the records of more than one Aaron Schoffstall have been co-mingled.

According to Findagrave, Aaron Schoffstall is buried at the Roses Cemetery, Roses, Forest County, Pennsylvania.  He was born on 10 April 1842 in Jordan Township and died in Pennsylvania on 24 April 1898.  The parents named in the Findagrave Memorial are Henry and Rebecca, which confirms the parents named at the top of this post.  The spouse is named as Eliza, and two of the children, Franklin and Edith, are also referenced.  There is no mention in the Findagrave Memorial that Aaron Schoffstall was a Civil War veteran.

In 1870, Aaron and Eliza appear in the Census for Titusville, Crawford County, Pennsylvania. Petroleum was discovered in the Titusville area in the early 1850s, but there was no practical way to extract it from the ground until the late 1850s, whereupon Titusville became a boom town.  It is believed that Aaron and Eliza arrived there some time in the early to mid-1860s since son Franklin’s birthplace in 1868 was given as Titusville. At first Aaron worked as a laborer, but quickly rose in level within the industry.  By 1880, the family had moved to Kendall, McKean County, Pennsylvania, where Aaron was working as an oil producer.

Efforts to find Aaron Schoffstall in the 1890 Veterans’ Census have not been successful.

While this information is not confirmed by multiple sources, it is presented here so that a reader who knows more accurate information can add it.  Did Aaron have more than one wife?  Was he honorably discharged from the service?  Why didn’t he apply for a pension and why is he not found in the 1890 Census?  Are there any news articles available on Aaron’s exploits in the oil industry?  Is there an obituary?

Please add information as comments to this blog post – or send via e-mail.



John W. Sausser – Died in Millersburg in 1932

Posted By on June 21, 2017

John W. Sausser is buried at the Oak Hill Cemetery, Millersburg, Dauphin County, Pennsylvania.  His grave marker indicates that he was born in 1842, died in 1932, and served in Company A of the 15th Pennsylvania Cavalry during the C. W.[Civil War].  Alongside his marker is a G.A.R. star-flag holder. Not far away from the cemetery is the main square of Millersburg where a prominent feature is the Civil War Soldier Monument, with its tablet of names of those from Millersburg and area who served in the war.  The name “John W. Sausserdoes not appear on the monument tablet.

A summary of John W. Sausser‘s Civil War service is found on the Pennsylvania Veterans’ File Card available at the Pennsylvania Archives (shown above).  On 11 August 1862 he enlisted at Harrisburg in the 15th Pennsylvania Cavalry, Company D, and was mustered into service on 22 August 1862 as a Private at Carlisle, Cumberland County, Pennsylvania.  On an unknown date he transferred to Company A with a promotion to Saddler.  On 10 September 1863, John W. Sausser was discharged on a Surgeon’s Certificate of Disability.  Also noted on the card is that the muster rolls show his surname as Sauser.

On 3 August 1886, John W. Sausser applied for an invalid pension, which he received, based on his war service.  The card above, also notes that he died on 26 March 1932 at Millersburg, Dauphin County, Pennsylvania.  There is no record that a widow applied.

On 31 March 1932, the Elizabethville Echo published the following obituary:


John W. Sausser, age 90 years, did at the home of Mr. and Mrs. George Sites in Millersburg Saturday, of heart trouble.

He was a son of the late Mr. and Mrs. William Sausser and a native of Millersburg. Early in youth, he learned the harnessmaking trade from his father and was engaged in that trade when he enlisted with the 15th Pennsylvania Cavalry at the outbreak of the Civil War.  He sustained a broken knee during his service and given an honorable discharge after spending some time in an army hospital.  After this, he re-enlisted with a New York Engineer Corps until the close of the war.

Leaving the army, Mr. Sausser returned to his trade and worked in more than twenty states traveling extensively.  During that time he had become a resident of thirteen states.  He returned to Millersburg several years ago and had made his home with the Sites family.  He was a member of the Carrolltown, Illinois G.A.R. Post.  All members of the family preceded him in death.

Funeral services were held from the Minier Funeral Parlors in Millersburg Tuesday afternoon.  Rev. C. F. Salkeld of the Millersburg Methodist Church officiated and interment was made in Oak Hill Cemetery.

Not much time after John W. Sauser was laid to rest, Letters of Administration for his estate were issued, as reported by the Elizbethville Echo, 14 April 1932:

Letters in the estate of John W. Sausser, late of Millersburg were applied for last week by the Millersburg Trust Company. The estate is represented in personal property to the amount of $10,000.

When the will was probated, the distribution was reported in the 8 April 1932, Harrisburg Evening News:

Relatives Will Share Millersburg Man’s Wealth

Relatives of John W. Sausser, late of Millersburg, share his estate valued at $10,000, according to the terms of his will, probated in the Courthouse today.  The Millersburg Trust Company was granted letters of administration by the register of wills.

The beneficiaries and the amounts are:  Charles E. Forney, Chester, nephew, $1500; Anna Bonawitz, Chester, niece, $1000; Alda Kircher, this city [Harrisburg], niece, $500; Clayton Sausser, $500; Alice Bressler, $200; Anne Frederick, $100; Charles Sausser, $200; Frank Shoop, nephew, $100; Margaret M. Novinger, $100; Katie Kramer, $100; Anna Wert, $100; and Phyllis Margerie Wert, $500, to be held in trust until she becomes 18 years old.  The residue is to be divided among the same beneficiaries in same proportion.

At the time of this writing, the relatives who were inheritors of the estate of John W. Sausser, have not all been genealogically connected to him.  It also remains to be seen as to why his name was not included on the Millersburg Soldier Monument.  It is possible that he was not included because he was not living in the Millersburg area when the monument was erected – or because he was a member of an Illinois G.A.R. post as stated in the obituary.  However, if any of the beneficiaries of his estate were living in Millersburg or area at the time the monument was erected, did they suggest that his name should be included?  We may never know.

Nevertheless, as a native of Millersburg and a veteran who died there and is buried there, he certainly should be included in any lists of men who served from that community.


News clippings are from Newspapers.com.

Ku Klux Klan Day in Williamstown, 1926

Posted By on June 19, 2017

An October 1926 Ku Klux Klan rally in Williamstown, Dauphin County, Pennsylvania was reported by the Elizabethville Echo.

This post is a continuation of the reporting on hate groups that were active in the Lykens Valley area in the years following the Civil War.  It was a widely known fact that the third iteration of the Ku Klux Klan had a significant presence in the Lykens Valley and adjacent valleys during the early years of the 20th Century.  This third iteration of the Klan was strongly white supremacist and was opposed to equal rights for African Americans, Catholics, Jews, and immigrants.

The reporting by the Echo seemed to normalize a group that was under investigation at the time by both federal and state authorities.

From the Elizabethville Echo, 21 October 1926:


On Saturday, October 23rd, from noon until midnight, the Ku Klux Klan of Williamstown and Lykens Valley will hold a demonstration at that place.  National speakers will be present to address the gathering and an invitation is extended to the public.

From the Elizabethville Echo, 28 October 1926:

Williamstown Has First Klan Day

Several Hundred Brave Inclement Weather to Participate; Dr. Hartranft Speaker of the Day

WILLIAMSTOWN, Pennsylvania., 27 October 1926 — This town celebrated its first public Ku Klux Klan Dy last Saturday when members of the organization from all parts of the state gathered to take part in the town’s first public demonstration.

Festivities began at noon and lasted until near midnight.  A feature of the day’s celebration was the parade in early evening in which half a thousand participated with an equal number standing on the sides, who arrived arrived too late from nearby towns to participate.

With visors lowered the men, women and juniors of the organization passed thru the streets of Williamstown with steady pace; there was not a word from the rank and file nor from the sidewalks where thousands viewed the procession; solemnity reigned, and the march of the hooded organization has gone down in history in Williamstown as one of the most orderly ever conducted there.

After parading the streets of the borough, the organization went to the athletic field on the Zimmerman farm in West Williamstown, where an interesting program was presented.  The main speaker of the evening was the Rev. Dr. Harry Hartranft of the Klan Haven Home at Harrisburg.  In an excellent address he implored the Klansmen and Klanswomen to “keep the faith” as they have in the past since the organization was founded and to abide by the principles of the Order.  His address was received with much enthusiasm.

Picturesque was the scene about the speaker’s stand because of the numerous camp fires blazing which helped make the listeners comfortable, for it was a miserable evening, rain falling intermittently and a raw wind blowing from all sides, but these, however, did not dampen the spirits of the Klan; their program was carried out in its entirety and a fitting climax to the day after naturalization was a monstrous display of fireworks, one of the prettiest witnessed in the valley in a long time.  [– Lykens 3302].


News clippings are from Newspapers.com.

Godfrey Sammet – Dies After Breaking Ground for Halifax School, 1913

Posted By on June 16, 2017

An interesting story appeared in the Harrisburg Telegraph, 18 August 1913, about Civil War veteran, Godfey Sammet:


Halifax’s Oldest Citizen Starts Boyer Memorial Building with Informal Ceremonies

Halifax, Pennsylvania, 18 August 1913 – Ground for the new Boyer Memorial High School building to be erected by the local school authorities was broken on Saturday afternoon.  Godfrey Sammet, Halifax’s oldest resident, and said to be one of the oldest Odd Fellows in the state, turned the first spadeful of dirt. A small crowd of people surrounded the site as the veteran sank the spade into the earth.  There was no formal ceremony.  The new building, a three-story brick structure, is to cost $25,111, and will be erected by W. S. Raebuck, a Harrisburg contractor, who was awarded the work last week. The building will contain eight large rooms, one of which will be used as a high school.  A gymnasium will be provided in the basement.  The erection of the structure is made possible through the bequest of W. Harris Boyer, a former resident, who died in New York City sometime ago and directed that $30,000 be turned over to the school district.  The contractor will soon start work and with a large force of men on the job hopes to have the building completed by 1 February 1914.


A similar story had been reported in the Harrisburg Patriot on 2 August 1913:


Halifax, 11 August 1913 — Ground for the new $30,000 school building to be erected by the local school authorities was broken on Saturday afternoon.  Godfrey Sammet, the oldest resident of the borough, and said to be the oldest Odd Fellow in the state, having turned the first spadeful of dirt.

A large crowd surrounded the site as the veteran sank the spade into the earth.  The Rev. C. A. Funk, pastor of the United Brethren Church, made a prayer, invoking God’s blessings upon the new building soon to be erected.

The Rev. D. W. Bixler, pastor of the Trinity Reformed Church, made a short address.  Prof. S. C. Beitzel read as a Stripture lesson Proverbs 4, after which all  present joined in singing “America.”

Rev. Clarence B. Felton, pastor of the Methodist Episcopal Church, made a short address appropriate to the occasion.

Then, on 25 November 1914,when the school was completed, the Harrisburg Telegraph again reported on the “turning of the dirt” to begin construction of the school.  During the construction Godfrey Sammet, the dirt turner, had died:


Special to The Telegraph

Halifax, Pennsylvania, 25 November 1914 — At the exercises at the dedication of the new Boyer Memorial School building on Thursday, J. C. Marsh of this place will present to the school board for display in the building the shovel which Godfrey Sammet, aged 84 years, now deceased, turned the first spadeful of earth for the foundation, 9 August 1913.   Mr. Marsh had this shovel polished and put in a neat glass case at a considerable expense to himself and will present it in honor of his two great-grandsons, Raymond Barron and Austin Barron of Atlantic City, New Jersey.

The Certificate of Death, shown below from Ancestry.com, gave the date of death as 28 August 1913 – just 17 days after the school ground breaking:

The Civil War record of Godfrey Sammet is noted below:

On 2 March 1865, a 26-year old Godfrey Sammet, who was born in Germany, was mustered into service in the 192nd Pennsylvania Infantry, Company H, as a 2nd Lieutenant.  He served honorably through his discharge on 24 August 1865.

In 1866, during the Pennsylvania Governor’s race, Godfrey Sammet was one of the Civil War veterans who actively supported the racist, white-supremacist candidate, Heister Clymer.  Previous blog posts on this election include the following:

Heister Clymer – White Supremacist Candidate for Governor, 1866

Pennsylvania Gubernatorial Election of 1866 – The Defeat of a White Supremacist

Reflection on the Victory of John W. Geary Over the White Supremacist Heister Clymer

It is interesting to note that there was no mention in any of the articles on the school ground-breaking that Sammet was a Civil War veteran.  Whether this was done intentionally or inadvertently is not known at this time.  It is curious though that Sammet was one of many returning war veterans who rejected the major end-result of the war, i.e., the end of slavery and the granting of citizenship and voting rights to the freedmen, and instead of referring to him as the longest surviving war veteran of Halifax, he was referred to as one of the oldest Odd Fellows (I.O.O.F.) in the state.

The Pension Index Card, shown above from Fold3, also gives Godfrey Sammet‘s death date as 28 August 1913.  He applied for pension benefits on 23 August 1890, which he received and collected to his death.

Godfrey Sammet is buried at Long’s Cemetery, Halifax, Dauphin County, Pennsylvania.

Additional information about this veteran is sought.  Please add comments to this post or send via e-mail.


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


Charles Noblet Buried in Pillow with Ku Klux Klan Rites, 1927

Posted By on June 14, 2017

In April 1927, Charles N. Noblet, an accident victim, was buried at Pillow‘s Grandview Cemetery, with full Ku Klux Klan honors conducted at graveside.

This post is a continuation of the reporting on hate groups that were active in the Lykens Valley area in the years following the Civil War.  It was a widely known fact that the third iteration of the Ku Klux Klan had a significant presence in the Lykens Valley and adjacent valleys during the early years of the 20th Century.  This third iteration of the Klan was strongly white supremacist and was opposed to equal rights for African Americans, Catholics, Jews, and immigrants.

From the Elizabethville Echo, 21 April 1927




Last Thursday afternoon, Charles N. Noblet and Moses Troutman, both of Pillow, were riding in a Ford Touring Car, and when they crossed the concrete bridge, north of that town, Troutman attempted to “take the steep grade on high.”  Some trouble developed with the steering gear the belief being that it buckles or locked, and the driver could not control the car.  About a hundred feet west of the bridge, the car plunged into a high rocky bank.  Pausing for a moment the car overturned and came to a stop, headed down hill.

Both men were thrown from the car and were taken to their homes in another automobile, by those who reached the scene soon after the accident.  Although Noblet was severely injured he had walked around the car and had attempted to aid Troutman extricate himself from the wreckage.  It was not until Noblet reached his home that he lost consciousness.

Dr. J. A. Blasser of Dalmatia was called and advised that Noblet be taken to the Harrisburg Hospital, after an examination that revealed a fractured scull, internal injuries, severe lacerations and one of his lungs punctured.  Mr. Troutman also suffered lacerations, a broken collar bone and other minor injuries, not serious.

Noblet was then rushed by motor for entrance into the hospital, but he died scarcely a mile south of Millersburg, and attendants returned to Pillow with the body.

“Kelly” as his friends best knew him, was not only well known in his community, but he had hosts of friends in this and adjoining valleys who regret the sudden passing of their friend.

Funeral services were conducted by the Rev. D. E. Fetterolf of Leck Kill, a former Pillow pastor, at the home of his parents on Monday morning at ten o’clock.  Members of the Ku Klux Klan conducted burial rites at the grave, interment being made in the Grand View Cemetery, Pillow.  Funeral Director, W. H. Bowman.

He was born in Pillow, 19 February 1894, the son of John F. Noblet and Isabella Noblet and passed his childhood there, and grew to manhood unable to do hard manual labor, and for the past ten years was in restaurant business, where he built up a very comfortable trade.  He was active in the affairs of the community, was a member of the P. O. S. of A….  [and] the Pillow Order [presumably the Ku Klux Klan]… and the Lykens…. [Note:  Lines of the obituary were transposed here, with at last one line left out].

He is survived by his parents, Mr. and Mrs. John Noblet of Pillow, one brother, Edgar Noblet of Philadelphia, and a sister, Mrs. Omega Bowman of Millersburg.


News clipping from Newspapers.com.