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Civil War Blog

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Fetterhoff’s Church & Cemetery – Pvt. John C. Zimmerman

Posted By on March 8, 2011

St. Peter’s Lutheran and Reformed Church (Fetterhoff’s)

The current Fetterhoff’s Church in Enterline, Dauphin County, Pennsylvania, was built in 1858 and the building dedication took place the next year.  At the time of construction, this Union church was served by Lutheran pastor, Rev. F. Waltz, and Reformed pastor, Rev. N. E. Bressler.

The first church on this site had been built in 1788.  Meticulous records of baptisms and communions were kept mostly in German through the year 1858 and the congregation has kept the record book through the present.  In order to get volunteer labor to build the first church, the men were invited to work until noon and then in the afternoon, participate in shooting matches for bear and panther.  It is said that the womenfolk came across the ridge and fields barefoot, carrying babies on one arm and shoes on the other – as it was the custom to travel barefoot, but when they got to the church door, they put on their shoes out of respect for the house of worship.

The cemetery lies along side and behind the church as can be seen from this aerial view taken in the mid-twentieth century.  The attached building at the left of the church is an educational building which was added about the time of the aerial view.

Previously stated in a post on Halifax area Civil War veterans, were the names of those veterans who were buried here.

One of those Civil War soldiers is John C. Zimmerman.

Clearly marked on this stone is “John C. Zimmerman, 1830-1885, Private, Company A, 210th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry.”  A Civil War (G.A.R.) Star-Flag-Holder is in the ground adjacent to the grave marker.   However, something is amiss, as both the birth and death dates appear to be incorrect.

In an entry on Find A Grave, Russ Ottens provides the information that Pvt. John C. Zimmerman (1829-1888) was the son of Christian Zimmerman (1799-1868) and Elizabeth [Enders] Zimmerman (1804-1886).  His birth date is given as 21 October 1829.  John was married to two women, Mary Ann and Sarah, surnames unknown for either.  Ottens repeats the information about John C. Zimmerman‘s military service: Company A, 210th Pennsylvania Infantry.  Then he states:  “Though his headstone has his death in 1885, records of fatalities at the Short Mountain Colliery in Lykens state he died in a mining accident on May 14, 1888. John fathered five children, Jacob, Lucy, and three other daughters. ”  Why would the stone have both the birth and death date incorrect?  Could there be two or more persons confused here?

Further compounding the confusion is that biographical sketch of John C. Zimmerman appears in Captain Enders Legion, authored by Russ Ottens.

On 7 September 1864, John enlisted at Camp Curtin in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, in the 210th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry Regiment, Company A.  James [sic] fought in various battles such as Hatcher’s Run, Bellefield Raid, the Destruction of the Weldon Railroad, Dabney’s Mills, Gravelly Run, and a final skirmish at Appomattox Court House, Virginia.  They were upon the front line to the last, the flag of truce proclaiming the Confederate surrender, passing through the lines of the Brigade in which it stood….

On 14 May 1888, John was killed in a mining accident at the Short Mountain Colliery in Lykens, Pennsylvania.  He was buried in Fetterhoff’s Cemetery with his two wives.

Note the reference to John as “James” in the above text, which is cited from p. 242 of Captain Enders Legion.

Knowing that John C. Zimmerman had wives named Mary Ann and Sarah, a search was made of the pension index cards to see if there was a pension application for a John  C. Zimmerman who served in the 210th Pennsylvania Infantry.

From the Pension Index Card, we learn that John C. Zimmerman served in the 210th Pennsylvania Infantry, Company A, and he also served in the 172nd Pennsylvania Infantry, Company C.  His wife Sarah (we know from other information that John had a second wife named Sarah), applied for a widow’s pension and a pension was applied for a minor child or children by a guardian named William.  The dates are difficult to read due to the poor quality of the microfilm copy. John C. Zimmerman, at least according to this card, did not apply for a pension.  Sarah did not receive a widow’s pension, but a pension was awarded for a minor child or children.

The new information here is John C. Zimmerman’s service in the 172nd Pennsylvania Infantry, Company C.  Looking up that information in the Pennsylvania Veterans’ Card Index, and the following card was found:

Unfortunately, no personal information is on the card.

In searching for the regimental registries at the Pennsylvania Archives, the following was determined:  (1) John C. Zimmerman enrolled in the 172nd Pennsylvania Infantry, Company C, at age 33 years, on 2 November 1862.  If he was honest about his age, he would have just been 33 years old if he was born on 21 October 1829.   (2) John C. Zimmerman enrolled in the 210th Pennsylvania Infantry, Company A, at age 34 years, on 7 September 1864.  If he was honest about his age, he would not yet have turned 35 if he was born 21 October 1829.

Fortunately, there is a pension file on John C. Zimmerman. The following pertinent documents were found that shed some light on the accurate birth and death deaths of John:

Testimony of Sarah Zimmerman indicating her husband John C. Zimmerman was killed in the mines, 14 May 1888.

From testimony of Nelson Enders for widow’s pension for Sarah Zimmerman, date of death given as 14 May 1888

Tentimony (unknown person) indicating John C. Zimmerman died in a mine accident, no date given.

Unfortunately, there are no documents in the file that confirm the birth date.  It is clear from the examination of the documents that the John C. Zimmerman who was killed in the mines on 14 May 1888 is the same John C. Zimmerman who is buried in Fetterhoff’s Cemetery.  It is not known why the death date is so incorrect on the grave marker as to be off by three years.

This is another case where “official” records often provide conflicting information.  Cross checking information is always important so as to present the most accurate story.  Anyone with additional information is welcome to present it.  Especially needed are newspaper articles describing the mine tragedy and pictures of John C. Zimmerman and family.

Information for this post was taken from Captain Enders Legion, co-authored by Russ Ottens; Ancestry.com (Pension Index Card); the aerial view of Fetterhoff’s Cemetery is from the Halifaz Area Bicentennial Book; the Pennsylvania Veterans’ Index Card and information from the regimental registers are from the Pennsylvania Archives; and  Find A Grave.


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