Posted By Norman Gasbarro on January 24, 2013
A death at the mines at Mahanoy City, Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania, occurred on 7 November 1904. Though not reported as such in the brief notice that appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer, the man who was killed, Samuel Wesner, was a Civil War veteran.
Car Off Track; Kills Man
Special to The Inquirer
MAHANOY CITY, Pennsylvania, 7 November 1904 – Hurrying to avoid a loaded car in its ascent of an incline at Boston Run Colliery today, Samuel Wessner, 60 years old, was caught and killed by the car jumping the track and falling upon him.
Previously, Samuel Wessner (or Samuel Wesner as he is most often found in the records), had not been identified for inclusion in the Civil War Research Project of the Gratz Historical Society. Ongoing research into the 50th Pennsylvania Infantry, led to the discovery that when he had enlisted at Schuylkill Haven, Schuylkill County, in Company C, as a Private, he gave Foster Township, Schuylkill County as his residence. Foster Township, which is located just east of Tremont, has been included in the project’s geographic area of study.
Foster Township has historically been a coal mining area. Today, Interstate-81 cuts diagonally through the township from its northeastern to its southwestern border. The map above, from the 1875 atlas of Schuylkill County, shows the coal operations in existence at the time (click on map to enlarge). Today, the area is mostly strip-mining.
Samuel Wesner‘s first enlistment was in the 6th Pennsylvania Infantry, Company C, as a Private. He enrolled at Llewellyn, Schuylkill County, on 22 April 1861 and was mustered into service the same day at Harrisburg. He gave his age as 22 (although he was probably closer to 27), his occupation as laborer, and his residence as Llewellyn. This three-month service ended in July 1861.
Samuel Wesner‘s second enlistment was as a Private in the 50th Pennsylvania Infantry, Company C. This occurred on 14 August 1861 at Schuylkill Haven, Schuylkill County. This time he gave his age as 23 (although, again he was probably closer to 27). On 9 September 1861, he was mustered into service at Harrisburg. There is no indication on the Pennsylvania Veterans’ Index Card (below) that he re-enlisted, but he probably did so at Blaine’s Crossroads, Tennessee, on 1 January 1864, because his discharge date is beyond the three-year period of his initial enlistment. There is also no indication on the Register of Pennsylvania Volunteers (not shown here) of a re-enlistment.
At the time of Samuel Wesner‘s enlistment in the 50th Pennsylvania Infantry, his residence was given as Foster Township and he was employed as a laborer.
In researching Samuel’s military service, it was discovered that he deserted in September 1861 and was arrested for desertion in the 10th District of Pennsylvania by the Provost Marshal and was taken to Philadelphia. This is probably the reason that there was no indication in the records that he had re-enlisted. He appears on the muster rolls of the company from June 1864 to the time of discharge and his discharge papers appear to indicate honorable service – noting only “by reason of S.O. No. 178.” He was vouched for by his Captain Charles E. Brown, a recipient of the Medal of Honor, in a letter he wrote from the camp of the 50th Pennsylvania Infantry on 29 May 1865:
I have the honor to report that Private Samuel Wesner of my command has been 13 months in arrest charged with desertion, the above named is a good soldier and has done his duty through the greater part of last campaign. I deem it my duty to say that this said soldier is not worthy of such treatment and would most earnestly beg that he immediately be tried on the above charges. Or at once restore to duty with his company. Charges have forwarded in the month of September 1864. Several requests have been made for his trial but as yet no answer received, please to note the reason of delay, or instructions how to act in this case.
Samuel Adam Wesner appears in the 1860 census for Foster Township. At the time he is working as a laborer and living with his family. His father Charles Wesner is also working as a laborer and there are two brothers of Samuel who wage earners in the household: Charles Wesner, age 24, a miner; and Andrew Wesner, age 16, a laborer.
Samuel Wesner married Elizabeth Mary Swank after the Civil War and raised a family, Children, who have been named in the subsequent censuses are: James Wesner, born about 1866; Sarah J. Wesner, born about 1869; Barbara Jane Wesner, born about 1876; Susetta “Lucetta” Wesner, born about 1879; Samuel Wesner, born about 1891; and Louise Margaret Wesner, born about 1886.
Notwithstanding the desertion charge, which apparently was dropped, Samuel Wesner did receive a Civil War pension as can be noted by the Pension Index Card (above) which references the application files at the National Archives in Washington, D.C. The application was not made until 1890 and he was able to collect the pension until his death date of 7 November 1904, which is noted at the bottom of the card. His widow, Elizabeth [Swank] Wesner collected the benefits until her death.
n 1870 the family was living in Mahanoy City, Schuylkill County, and Samuel was employed as a laborer. In 1880, they were living in Gilberton, Schuylkill County, and he was still employed as a laborer. in 1890, still in Gilberton, Samuel reported no Civil War-related disabilities. In 1900, in Gilberton, he stated that his occupation was coal miner. As previously noted, he was killed at the Boston Run Colliery in 1904.
The Boston Run Colliery was one of many coal operations in Schuylkill County. It had been established by men from Boston in 1862 and later was acquired by the Reading and Philadelphia Iron and Coal Company. Prior to 1900 the homes of the workers were around the colliery in the village of Boston Run were very basic; the women had to to walk about a mile to get well water. After 1900 a road was constructed from Mahanoy City to Gilberton and better homes, with electricity and water, were built along the road. A few pictures exist of the colliery and slope where Samuel Wesner lost his life.
An in-ground military marker notes the burial place of Samuel Wesner in the German Protestant Cemetery in Mahanoy City but for some unknown reason the dates are wrong. As noted above, if Samuel enlisted in 1861, he would have been born about 1838 according the the age he gave at the time – and if he died in 1892, why is he named in the 1900 census (below) for Mahanoy City? And why does the Pension Index Card note the date of death as 7 November 1904?
Samuel Wesner had a son Samuel, previously mentioned, who was born about 1881. In the page following the above census entry for the father, the son is listed (below):
The son, Samuel Wesner, was living in the household of the parents, was single and was working as a mine laborer.
In 19 October 1905, the following article appeared in the Harrisburg Patriot:
EXPRESS PASSENGERS HURT
By Associated Press to the Patriot.
Reading, Pennsylvania – 18 October 1905 – While one freight train on the Reading Railroad was trying to get around another at Monocacy this morning the two engines met on the frog at the cross-road and both were derailed.
A moment after this happened, the Williamsport Express, leaving here for Philadelphia at 4:55 a.m., came along. The engine of the passenger train and all of the cars in the train were badly scraped, Several persons were cut by flying glass.
Samuel Wesner of Mahanoy City, was most seriously injured, being cut about the face. All were able to resume the journey.
It is assumed that the injured was the son of the Samuel Wesner who, the year before had died in a rail accident in the mines.
Additional information is sought on Samuel Wesner, the veteran, and his family. A digital file has been established for his records and his name will be added to the project list of veterans when the update is made in April of this year.
Registers of Pennsylvania Volunteers are available from the Pennsylvania Archives. Pennsylvania Veterans’ Index Cards are also available from the Pennsylvania Archives. The information on Samuel Wesner‘s desertion and subsequent restoration came from a blog on Schuylkill County Military History. Pension Index Cards are available from Fold3. News clippings are from the on-line resources of the Free Library of Philadelphia. The grave marker photo is from Findagrave.