Posted By Norman Gasbarro on September 8, 2011
This is the eleventh in a series of posts on Gratz during the Civil War. The original house on Lot #85 on the north side of Market Street was built about 1832 at the time the land was conveyed to John Welker (1784-1854).
The earliest found picture of the house is shown above and is from the mid-twentieth century. The original shape of the house was retained through subsequent renovations which included the addition of a porch. The outbuilding, seen at left rear, is probably the barn that was added by John Welker.
John Welker was a weaver and operated his business from this site. John was one of the trustees of the group that helped establish Samuel’s Lutheran and Reformed Church on Lot #18 on the south side of Market Street in 1846. John Welker owned Lot #85 and the buildings on it throughout his life, and on his death from the flu in 1854, his son-in-law Henry C. Hoffman (1804-1875, a native of Ohio) took up residence there. In 1859, the property was sold at public auction in 1859 to Benneville Kissinger (1830-1880).
Records of the Welker family contain many conflicts. However, it can be determined that Sarah Welker (1818-1884) was the daughter of John Welker who married Henry C. Hoffman (1804-1875). It also can be determined that one of John’s sons, Jonas Welker (1809-1888) had three sons who served in the Civil War: William Welker (1835-1922), Josiah Welker (1837-1926), and Benjamin Welker (1849-1926). These grandchildren of John Welker would have been associated with this property in the pre-Civil War years.
William Welker (1835-1922) served in the 130th Pennsylvania Infantry, Company H from 12 August 1862 through muster out on 21 May 1863. He then joined the regular Army as part of the 16th United States Infantry, Company F, where he served from 29 March 1864 though the post-war period until 29 March 1867. William married Elizabeth Shoop and had about 11 children with her. He worked as a laborer, a farmer and a coal miner. He is buried in St. Peter’s (Hoffman’s) Cemetery in Lykens Township.
Josiah Welker (1837-1926) served in the 36th Pennsylvania Infantry, Company C, for the Emergency of 1863 (from 4 July 1863 through 4 August 1863). He later joined the 200th Pennsylvania Infantry, Company F, as a Private, and began service 23 August 1864 but was unaccounted for when the regiment mustered out. He married Catherine Spayd and had six children with her. Josiah worked as a sawyer, a farmer, and a grocer man. He is buried in Mt. Pleasant Cemetery, Middle Paxton Township, Dauphin County.
Benjamin Welker (1849-1922) served in the 200th Pennsylvania Infantry, Company F, as a Private. From his age, it appears that he lied in order to enlist early, 29 August 1864. Within a short time after his enlistment, he deserted but was caught. The penalty could not have been too severe because he received an honorable discharge with his company on 30 May 1865. Benjamin married Elizabeth Gunderman and with her had seven children. He worked as a peddler, a carpenter, a laborer, a farmer, and finally as a hotel owner in Wiconisco. He is buried in Fairview Cemetery in Williamstown.
The Welker family undoubtedly had other connections to the Civil War and research is still being done to determine all the veterans in this extended family. For now, it is believed that those mentioned above, were the only ones directly connected with this property.
After the death of John Welker in 1854, the conveyance of the property to Benneville Kissinger was made and for the actual Civil War years, it was in his possession. Benneville was a stone mason. The tax records for 1865 list the owner as Margaret Kissinger. Margaret was the mother of Benneville and was born Margaret Hawk.
In 1876, the property was sold to Benjamin Guise (1806-1884), a farmer in Lykens Township who raised livestock. He was married to Margaret Umholtz (1810-1896). Additional Civil War connections with this house can be made through the Guise or Gise family.
Sarah Gise (1845-1934), the daughter of Benjamin and Margaret, was first married to George Garber (1843-1873) who served in the 25th Pennsylvania Infantry, Company D, as a Private from 18 April 1861 through 26 July 1861; in the 36th Pennsylvania Infantry, Company C, as a sergeant, from 4 July 1863 through 11 August 1863; and the 210th Pennsylvania Infantry, Company H, as a 1st Lieutenant, from 14 September 1864 through 30 May 1865. After George died in 1873, Sarah moved into the house on Lot #85 owned by her father and opened a business selling sundries, sewing supplies, and children’s shoes. Later she married Benjamin Evitts (1822-1909), a tailor, and Civil War veteran of the 177th Pennsylvania Infantry, Company I, of which he was the Captain. Benjamin Evitts moved into the house and operated his tailor business from one of the outbuildings. For additional information on Capt. Evitts see previous posts: Pennsylvania Drafted Militia and the Draft of 1862 and Peace Cemetery, Berrysburg.
Sarah’s twin sister, Mary Gise (1845-1934) married Jacob Shiro (1843-1920), a German immigrant who took up farming in Lykens Township and was a merchant and dealer of implements in Gratz. Shiro first served under Capt. Evitts in the 177th Pennsylvania Infantry, Company I, as a Private, and then joined the 103rd Pennsylvania Infantry, Company G, as a Private and served from 14 march 1865 through 25 June 1865. He was mustered out at New Bern, North Carolina. When Capt. Evitts lived in the house on this lot, Shiro was probably a frequent visitor there.
Joseph D. Gise (1834-1908) was the older brother of Sarah and Mary. He served in the 177th Pennsylvania Infantry, Company I, as a 2nd Lieutenant, also under Capt. Evitts who would later become his brother-in-law. Joseph married Elizabeth Witmer of Pillow and had three children, one of whom became an attorney and another who became a school teacher, both in Schuylkill Haven. Joseph worked first as a laborer, but then attended an academy in Union County and became a school teacher in Lykens Township. He also had a long career representing the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) in the 14th Congressional District, of which Gratz was a part. Later, in retirement, he purchased a farm in Lykens Township and raised livestock. He is buried in Gratz Union Cemetery.
Additional information is sought on the Civil War veterans indicated as well as any others associated with this property. Readers are invited to contribute.
Some of the information for this post was taken from the book A Comprehensive History of the Town of Gratz Pennsylvania.