Civil War Blog

A project of PA Historian

Ambrose Rathvon – Emergency Man, President of Millersburg Planing Mill Company

Posted By on May 24, 2017

Two entries appear in the 1893 Harrisburg City Directory for the Millersburg Planing Mill Company, as seen in the page portion above.  In the first entry, the company is named in the alphabetical listing with officers given as follows:  Ambrose Rathvon, President; Ramsey E. Moyer, Treasurer; and H. Frank Sheetz, Secretary.  At the bottom of the page there is an advertisement which reads:

F. H. HANTZMAN, Agent for the Millersburg Planing Mill Co.  Corner of Briggs and Cowden Streets, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.  ALL KINDS OF BUILDING MATERIAL AND LUMBER, Sash, Doors, Shutters, Blinds, Porches, Store Fronts, Siding and Flooring.  All Orders Filled Promptly.  Estimates Furnished on Application.

In the 1850 census for Upper Paxton Township, Dauphin County, Pennsylvania, Ambrose Rathvon was living with his parents.  He was recorded as 10 years old.

In the 1860 census for Millersburg, Ambrose was still living with his parents, but was working as a carpenter.  He was recorded as 22 years old.

In the 1863 Civil War Draft, shown above from Ancestry.com, Ambrose Rathvon, living in Millersburg,  claimed he was 25 years old, was working as a carpenter, and was married.  At that time, he reported no current of previous Civil War service.

However, as documented on the Pennsylvania Veterans’ File Card from the Pennsylvania Archives (shown above), Ambrose Rathvon had already served in the 6th Pennsylvania Infantry (Emergency of 1862), Company E, as a Private, from about 13 September 1862 through discharge at the end of the emergency on 27 September 1862.  At the time, he enrolled at Halifax, claimed his residence as Millersburg, and his age as 24. No other Civil War service record for him has been found.

In 1870, Ambrose was living in Upper Paxton Township, where he was living with his wife, the former Catherine Heckert, two small children, and working as a farmer.

In 1880, Ambrose was back in Millersburg as a carpenter.  His wife Catherine and five children were members of his household.

In 1890, Ambrose Rathvon reported his Civil War service to the census, claiming he served with the “Emergency Men” and naming the militia regiment and company of his service, as well as his rank of Corporal.  In 1890, he was still living in Millersburg.

In 1893, according to the previously mentioned Harrisburg City Directory (see top of post), he was president of the Millersburg Planing Mill Company.

In 1900, Ambrose Rathvon had changed occupation to that of “florist.”  He was still living in Millersburg with his wife Catherine, but only one daughter remained in the household.

As of this writing, an obituary has not been found for Ambrose Rathvon, but his wife died in 1920 as reported by the 25 November 1920 Elizabethville Echo.


Mrs. Catharine Rathvon, widow of the late Ambrose Rathvon and daughter of the late Daniel Heckert, died at Millersburg last Saturday morning of congestion of the lungs at the age of 80 years. Funeral services were held on Tuesday afternoon by Rev. Mark. L. Burger of the Evangelical Church.  Burial in Oak Hill Cemetery.

Searching for Ambrose Rathvon in Findagrave, produced a photograph of his grave marker:

Ambrose Rathvon is buried at Oak Hill Cemetery, Millersburg, and his wife Catherine is buried next to him.  However, there is no indication in the photo that he was a veteran of the Civil War, nor is there any indication in the Findagrave Memorial.  There is also a problem with the birth date as recorded on the stone as 14 August 1827.  Ambrose Rathvon, according to all other records (census and Civil War included), was more likely born in 1837, not 1827.  Yet, it is clear that this is the same Ambrose Rathvon who served in the Civil War – and the same Ambrose Rathvon who was the president of the Millersburg Planing Mill Company.  The only place the date of death has thus far been found and verified, is on the grave stone – 12 July 1905.

What is possible here is that since the widow died 15 years after Ambrose, the stone was not placed on his grave until her stone was placed after her death, and whoever contracted the stone, did not accurately know what year he was born.

More information is sought about Ambrose Rathvon – in particular why he is not included in the list of those who served from Millersburg, and why he was not named on the Millersburg Soldier Monument?  Information can be added as a comment to this blog post or sent via e-mail.  Also, is there a picture available of him?


Note:  The brother of Ambrose Rathvon, John Rathvon, is named on the Millersburg Soldier Monument.  John served in the same emergency regiment as Ambrose.



Why Did John T. Pepper Serve in a Pennsylvania Regiment?

Posted By on May 22, 2017

The 50th Pennsylvania Infantry, Company A, was composed almost completely of men who lived in and around the Lykens Valley area.  However, there were some exceptions.

John T. Pepper was born on 5 November 1838 in New York.  About 1859, he married Emeline Bonham, who according to all records seen, was also born in New York.  The couple is found in the 1860 census for Tioga County, New York, where John is enumerated as a farmer.

On 18 January 1865, John T. Pepper was mustered into the service of the 50th Pennsylvania Infantry, Company A, as a Private, at Troy, New York.  The Pennsylvania Veterans’ Index Card, shown above from the Pennsylvania Archives, also notes that he was drafted, but no draft registration has been located.  At the time of his muster, he said he was 24 years old,  but other records indicate he was probably older.  According to the card shown above, he was mustered out on 30 July 1865, but he had been “absent sick” since 20 Jun 1865.

After the war, John T. Pepper returned to New York, where he raised a family.  He is found in both state and federal censuses up through 1900, where he is first working as a farmer, but later becomes a produce agent.  One record from about 1899, indicates he was a member of G.A.R. Post 529 in New York, was about 61 years old, and at the time was living in Nichols, Tioga County, New York, and working as an agent.

According to the Pension Index Card, from Ancestry.com, John T. Pepper applied for an invalid pension on 25 August 1894, from New York.  He received the pension and collected it until his death, which, according to the Fold3 version of the Pension Index Card, occurred on 29 November 1900.  Following his death, on 17 December 1900, his widow Emeline applied and received benefits which she collected until her death. Her Findagrave Memorial gives her death date as 14 May 1904.

At the time of this writing, John T. Pepper‘s Findagrave Memorial does not indicate that he was a Civil War veteran or a member of the G.A.R.

So, the question has to be asked – why did he serve in a Pennsylvania regiment?  Did he have some connection to the Lykens Valley?  Did he maintain any connection to the men who he served with in the war?  Perhaps a reader of this blog can provide the answers?

Joseph E. Peters Jr. – Located in Elizabethville Area After War

Posted By on May 19, 2017

Joseph Edwin Peters Jr. served in the 107th Pennsylvania Infantry, Company D, as a Private during the Civil War.  A brief sketch of him, edited from information found in Captain Enders Legion, pages 173-174, is as follows:

Joseph E. Peters Jr. was born 12 July 1843 in Mahantongo, Pennsylvania.  He was the son of Joseph Peters and Sarah [Lentz] Peters….  Joseph married Louisa Lyons in Millersburg, Pennsylvania on 1 May 1865.  Louisa was born 19 October 1845 in Klingerstown, Pennsylvania, the daughter of Edward Lyons and Angeline [Welker] Lyons. Joseph and Louisa were parents of seven children:  William H. Peters, George E. Peters, Joseph E. Peters III, Jacob Peters, Jennie Peters, Mamie Ellen Peters, and Charles Peters.  Joseph was a laborer…. Joseph died 26 April 1915 in Shamokin, Northumberland County, Pennsylvania, and is buried there.

However, the information given in Captain Enders Legion, was that Joseph Jr. served in the 200th Pennsylvania Infantry, which is incorrect, and has since been corrected by one of the authors (see below).

In 1860, Joseph Jr. was living with his parents, north of Millersburg in Dalmatia, Northumberland County.  The father was working as a laborer.  On 7 March 1862, Joseph Jr. was mustered into service in the 107th Pennsylvania Infantry, Company D, at Harrisburg.  At the time of his muster, he was working as a farmer, was 18 years old, and he gave his residence as Millersburg.  His physical description included that he was 5 foot 5 inches tall, had light hair, light complexion and blue eyes.  The military record notes that during his service, he was wounded at Fredericksburg, Virginia, 7 March 1862 and again at Dabney’s Mills, Virginia, on 6 February 1865.  Also, there is a record that he re-enlisted on 29 February 1864 at Mitchell’s Station, Virginia, and was discharged with his company on 13 July 1865.

Joseph’s service at Gettysburg is noted on the Pennsylvania Memorial there.  On the plaque (shown above), he is “J. E. Peters.”

The connection with Millersburg was first established at his enlistment, but it should be pointed out that Joseph Peters Jr. is not named on the Millersburg Soldier Monument – still another soldier ignored by that community on its Civil War memorial!

During the war, 1 May 1865, while he was still serving, but recovering from his wounds at Dabney’s Mills, he married Louisa Lyons at Millersburg.  Their first child, Joseph Henry Peters, was born on 12 August 1866.  According to this son’s records, that birth took place in Elizabethville, Dauphin County.

In 1870, the family is found in Upper Paxton Township, where Joseph was working as a laborer.

In 1880, the family had moved to Washington Township, Dauphin County, Pennsylvania, where Joseph was working as a laborer, and where his second son, George Ellsworth Peters, age about 10, was also working as a laborer.

By 1890, Joseph was living in Berrysburg, Dauphin County, Pennsylvania, where in the 1890 Veterans’ Census, he stated his service in the 107th Pennsylvania Infantry, and noted that he had a “right hip wound” during the war.

In 1900, the family was living in Shamokin, Ward 4, where Joseph was a laborer in a colliery, his son Jacob Peters, age 19, was working as a day laborer, and his daughter Jennie Peters, as working as a mender in a stocking factory.

In 1910, still living in Shamokin, Ward 4, Joseph was still working as a laborer in a colliery, his son Charles Peters, age 26, was working as a laborer for a lumber company, and his youngest daughter Maurice Peters, age 19, was working as a mender in a stocking factory.

Joseph E. Peters applied for an invalid pension on 4 February 1880, which he received and collected until his death.  However, the place of death noted on the card above from Fold3 is not the same as the place of death on the official death record shown below.  Louisa applied for widow’s benefits on 1 May 1915, received the benefits, and collected until she died on 15 March 1919.

Joseph Peters Jr. died on 26 April 2015 at Shamokin of a cerebral hemorrhage, with Bright’s Disease as a contributory factor.    He is buried in the Shamokin Cemetery.  The death certificate, shown above is from Ancestry.com.  Additional information about him can be found at his Findagrave Memorial, which is maintained by Russ Ottens, one of the authors of Captain Enders Legion.  The portrait of Joseph at the top of this post is courtesy of Russ Ottens.

For those compiling lists of Civil War soldiers from communities in the Lykens Valley area, Joseph Peters Jr. belongs in lists for:  Millersburg and Upper Paxton Township; Elizabethville and Washington Township; Berrysburg and Mifflin Township; and Shamokin and Coal Township.  The fact that he moved around quite a bit during his lifetime may be the reason that he has been ignored by those communities when lists of veterans were compiled.


John Powell – Killed in Powder Explosion at Kalmia Mine, 1877

Posted By on May 17, 2017

John Powell, who was born in England about 1844, enrolled in the 3rd Pennsylvania Heavy Artillery on 26 January 1864 at Philadelphia.  Although the above Pennsylvania Veterans’ File Card from the Pennsylvania Archives states that he did not muster into service until a year later, other records indicate that the card is in error and he was mustered in the same day he enrolled.  At the time of his enrollment he gave his occupation as miner.  He stood nearly 5 foot 6 inches tall, had dark hair, a dark complexion, and had grey eyes. He was honorably discharged on 9 November 1865.

While no Pension Index Card has been located for this John Powell, a card was found in the Headstones Provided database on Ancestry.com.  According to the card (shown above), John Powell died on 30 August 1877 and is buried in the Odd Fellows Cemetery (or Union Cemetery) in Lykens, Dauphin County, Pennsylvania.

His grave marker has been located and photographed at that cemetery (above).  A Findagrave Memorial has been created for him, but there is minimal information there, at the time of this writing, only from the Headstones Provided database.

Also in Lykens, his name appears on the Lykens G.A.R. Memorial as a veteran who was not a member of the Heilner Post there.

A search of Newspapers.com produced only one result, shown above, for the time period around his death.  The information from the Harrisburg Telegraph, 10 September 1877, states:

John Powell, of Williamstown, was injured by a powder explosion in the Kalmia mine on Tuesday Last.  He died on Wednesday evening.

The date of 30 August 1877 actually fell on a Thursday.  However, it would not be unusual for a death to be recorded a day later than it actually happened, particularly if it occurred late in the evening on Wednesday.

Was this miner who was killed as a result of the explosion at the Kalmia Mine the same person as the Civil War soldier who served in the 3rd Pennsylvania Heavy Artillery?  It likely is the same person, since no other person of that name and occupation has been located on or around that same death date.  Unfortunately, there are no copies of the Lykens Register that have survived from around that date, so there is no local story available about the mine explosion.  Whether other newspapers covered the explosion (newspapers not on Newspapers.com), is not known.   Perhaps a reader of this blog is aware of some other report of this mining accident which took the life of someone named John Powell.

A John Powell, a miner, born in England about 1844, was located in the 1870 Minersville, Schuylkill County census.  Was this the same person? He appears to be married, but there are others of the same surname in the household who could be his siblings.  And, where did John Powell live in 1860 and why did he enroll at Philadelphia?

So, questions still exist about this Civil War soldier, who is remembered in Lykens, and these questions should be answered.  Hopefully someone can provide the missing information so his story can be better told!







Grandson of John H. Primm Drowns in Susquehanna River, 1926

Posted By on May 15, 2017

John H. Primm, a Civil War veteran, lost his grandson to drowning in the Susquehanna River as a result of a capsized canoe in April 1926.  The son, Malcolm Primm, was born in 1908 in Wiconisco, Dauphin County, Pennsylvania, and was a tech student in Harrisburg.  Two companions escaped by swimming to the shore, where they collapsed from exhaustion.  The canoe overturned as a result of an oversized wave created by a passing steamboat.

John H. Primm is recognized on the Lykens G.A.R. Monument as a veteran who was a member of the Heilner Post there.  Later in life, he transferred his membership to Post 58 in Harrisburg, where he served as an officer of the post.

During the Civil War, John H. Primm served in Muchler’s Independent Artillery from 21 August 1861 through 12 October 1865. According to information found on his Findagrave Memorial, he spent some of his later years in Soldiers’ Homes in Hampton, Virginia, and in Dayton, Ohio.  For an unknown reason, he moved to Los Angeles, California, where he died on 16 January 1933.  He is buried there in the Los Angeles National Cemetery. Census information gives his birthplace as Virginia.

John H. Primm is found in the 1890 Veterans’ Census for Lykens, thus confirming that the man who served in this independent battery is the same person who is recognized on the monument there.

Shown below are the Pension Index Cards from Ancestry.com and Fold3, as well as the Pennsylvania Veterans’ File Card from the Pennsylvania Archives:


The newspaper front page of the Harrisburg Telegraph, 24 April 1926, is from Newspapers.com.