Civil War Blog

A project of PA Historian

Gratz During the Civil War – Rebecca Alspach Buffington House

Posted By on September 6, 2011

This is the tenth in a series of posts on Gratz during the Civil War. The original house on Lot #66 on the south side of Market Street was built before 1838.  In 1838, a property transaction was made whereupon Conrad Schreffler, a blue dyer, who had been in Gratz for about 20 years, obtained the house and land.  But actual possession was never taken and within a short time, the property was conveyed to Solomon Laudenslager and Schrerffler moved to Ohio; Laudenslager owned it from 1838 to 1845.  Between 1845 and 1850, it was owned by John Salada and John Bower (1791-1847).  In 1850, it was purchased by John Alspach (1780-1864) who retained ownership through most of the Civil War years.

The above picture is from the late twentieth century and no earlier pictures of the house have been yet located.  Its basic appearance is probably similar to the original construction, minus the porch.

Not much is known about John Alspach except that his children were grown and had their own families when he moved here.  One of his sons, Jacob Alspach (1805-1894), married Sarah Erdman (1814-1879).  Sarah’s sister, Esther Erdman married Philip McKinney who died young in 1846 leaving Esther with a small child, Philip McKinney (1845-1906), whereupon Jacob and Sarah invited Esther and her son to move in with them.  Although this extended Jacob Alspach family did not live at the house on Lot #66, they undoubtedly visited the John Alspach‘s who lived there and the young Philip McKinney was most likely welcomed as an “adopted” grandchild.

Philip McKinney (1845-1906) is the only person with a Civil War military connection thus far identified in any way with this house.  Philip served in the 103rd Pennsylvania Infantry, Company G, as a Private, from 14 March 1865 through 25 June 1865, and spent much of his service time in North Carolina with other members of his company, most of which were from the Gratz area.

Philip McKinney was a laborer and farmer and spent most of his post-war years in Lykens Township.  He married Katie Klinger (1849-1892) and together they had eight children.  He is buried in Pomfret Manor Cemetery, Sunbury, Northumberland County, Pennsylvania.

When John Alspach died in 1864, his will stated that his daughter Rebecca Alspach (1819-1902) should be allowed to purchase the house and property, which the heirs conveyed to her in December 1964.  Rebecca was married to Jacob Buffington (1818-1885) and she and her husband moved into the house and raised their only child there, Mary Buffington, who later married Jacob McNoldy.  Rebecca’s situation was strange for the times in that she had been married to Jacob Buffington in 1842, but deserted him in 1846.  Jacob was a sarsaparilla bottler in Gratz and received a divorce decree in 1849 and in 1850, Rebecca was living with her parents at this house.  But by 1858, Rebecca and Jacob had apparently settled their differences, re-united in marriage, and were the parents of Mary.

After Jacob’s death in 1885, Rebecca, who had retained title to the house throughout her later years with Jacob, conveyed the title to her daughter Mary, but Rebecca continued to live there until her death in 1902.  Rebecca’s daughter Mary and son-in-law Jacob McNoldy lived in the house and raised a son William there.  Jacob McNoldy operated a cabinetmaking business in a shop in an outbuilding in the rear.  Later, William McNoldy, who was a hunchback, opened a photography studio in the outbuilding.  The outbuilding is no longer there.


Some of the information for this post was taken from the book A Comprehensive History of the Town of Gratz Pennsylvania.


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