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The Poffenberger Cousins of Dauphin County

Posted By on August 27, 2013

Three members of the Poffenberger family of Dauphin County have been located in the Civil War military records.  They are Joseph H. Poffenberger (1835-1867), William L. Poffenberger (1847-1920), and William H. Poffenberger (1839-1893).  These three men were first cousins, since their fathers were brothers and they had a common grandfather, William Poffenberger (1783-1842).  Previously, a William L. Poffenberger had been named in the Halifax Bicentennial Book as a Civil War veteran, but there was some confusion as to his identify, since there was a “W. L. Poffenberger” (born about 1834) who lived in the Millersburg area and another “W. L. Poffenberger” who lived in Dauphin Borough (born about 1847).  It is now clear that the the MillersburgW. L. Poffenberger” was not a Civil War veteran and the “W. L. Poffenberger” from Dauphin Borough was the veteran who is named in the Halifax Bicentennial Book.  See:  Halifax Area Civil War Veterans.


William H. Poffenberger was the son of George Poffenberger (born 1813) and his wife Rachel Poffenberger (a distant cousin, who was born in 1818 in Frederick, Maryland).  William H.  Poffenberger was born on 15 August 1839 in Harrisburg.  At the age of 23, and with “clerk” given as his occupation, he enrolled in the 18th Pennsylvania Cavalry on 12 November 1862 as a Private in Company E.  On 14 June 1865, he was promoted to Sergeant, and from that position was promoted to Regimental Ordinance Sergeant.  On 14 July 1865 his regiment was consolidated into the 3rd Provisional Cavalry, and on 31 October 1865 he was mustered out of service.  After the Civil War, he enlisted in the 6th U.S. Cavalry, Company I, as a Corporal, and served until his discharge in Canton, Texas, on 4 April 1869.

Following his term of service in the U.S. Cavalry, he moved in with his widowed mother, Rachel Poffenberger, in Dauphin Borough (Enterline Post Office).  By 1880, he had married and was living in Harrisburg in the household of his brother-in-law and working as a grocer.

William H. Poffenberger was hurt in the right arm as a result of his Civil War service.  The application was made for an invalid pension in 1892, and after William’s death in 8 February 1893, his widow, the former Martha M. Stivers, applied for the benefits, which she collected until her death.  William H. Poffenberger is buried in the Harrisburg Cemetery.

Pension Index Card for William H. Poffenberger

The obituary of William H. Poffenberger, appeared in the Harrisburg Patriot, 8 February 1893:



A Market Street Resident Succumbs to Heart Failure

William H. Poffenberger, aged fifty-three years, died suddenly at his home, No. 406 Market Street, last evening about six o’clock from an attack of heart failure.  Mr. Poffenberger is a retired conductor, having been an employee a number of years ago on the Northern Central Railroad.  He is well known about town and has made many friends.  Last evening after supper Mr. Poffenberger went to a neighboring grocery store where he made several purchases.  On his way home from the store he spoke pleasantly with a number of his acquaintances.

He had not been well for the past few days, complaining of a peculiar feeling about his heart.  As he was passing through the long hallway of his residence, which ends at the top of a flight of stairs, he became faint, and by the time he had reached the sitting room on the second floor he was completely exhausted.  His wife and several of the occupants of the room hurried to his assistance but he was then dying.  A physician was immediately summoned but Mr. Poffenberger died before medicine could be administered.  He is survived by a wife.  Mrs. Poffenberger has kept a lodging house for a number of years.  The funeral will occur tomorrow afternoon and will be private.

The obituary did not note William H. Poffenberger‘s service in the Civil War, but a small item appeared in the Patriot on 10 February mentioned that him as an “old railroad and G.A.R. man.”




Joseph H. Poffenberger was born about 1835, the son of Daniel Poffenberger (1805-1872) and Margaret Heckert (1808-1889), probably in the vicinity of Dauphin Borough, Dauphin County, Pennsylvania. One of Joseph’s brothers was William Luther Poffenberger (1833-1905), believed to be the same William L. Poffenberger who lived in Millersburg and who did not serve in the Civil War.

During the Emergency of 1862, Joseph H. Poffenberger joined Hoffman’s Independent Cavalry Company as a Corporal.  His service was short, from 15 September 1862 to 26 September 1862, concluded with the end of the emergency.  Following his, he served in the 173rd Pennsylvania Infantry, Company K, as a Sergeant, under Captain Cornelius A. Harper.  Captain Harper is buried in the Halifax Methodist Cemetery.

Not much more is known about Joseph H. Poffenberger except that he was a blacksmith and died young.  He is buried in the Dauphin Cemetery, Dauphin Borough.



William L. Poffenberger was born on 10 January 1847, the son of John Poffenberger (1819-1861) and Elizabeth Rutter (about 1821-?).  At the time of the Civil War, he served in the 192nd Pennsylvania Infantry, Company H, as a Private, in which he enrolled at Harrisburg and was mustered into service on 23 February 1865 at age 18 and mustered out on 24 August 1865.  He was a blacksmith by trade.  In about 1870, he married Ann Elizabeth Light who was born about 1850.  In the 1910 census, he was conducting his own blacksmith business in Middle Paxton Township.


William L. Poffenberger died on 21 January 1920 at Dauphin Borough.  He had been collecting a Civil War invalid pension since 1900.  At his death, his widow applied for his benefits, which she received and continued to collect until her death.  In 1890, William and Ann were living in Middle Paxton Township, and although he indicated that his Civil War service was with the 192nd Pennsylvania Infantry, he did not state any disabilities that were associated with his service.


One final piece of information needs to be given here.  On 3 December 1912, an obituary appeared in the Harrisburg Patriot:


POFFENBERGER – On Sunday, 1 December 1912, at her residence on market St., Millersburg, Pennsylvania, Mrs. Manzella R. Poffenberger, widow of W. L. Poffenberger, aged 68 Years.  Funeral on Wednesday afternoon 2:30, from her late residence.  Relatives and friends are invited to attend funeral.

The Mrs. Poffenberger who died in Millersburg was the widow of William Luther Poffenberger, the brother of Joseph H. Poffenberger (above).  The Civil War veteran of the 192nd Pennsylvania Infantry was William Lewis Poffenberger.  The two Williams, cousins, can be distinguished in the records by their middle name, except when abbreviated as “L,” and by their dates of birth of death.


Additional information is sought on the Poffenberger cousins – particularly stories and pictures of them and their descendants.  Readers are invited to add comments to this post or send information and/or pictures by e-mail to the Civil War Research Project.


A excellent source for the genealogy of this family is the Commemorative Biographical Encyclopedia of Dauphin County, beginning on page 850 [Note:  Click on title for access to free download].  Pennsylvania Veterans’ Index Cards are from the Pennsylvania ArchivesPension Index Cards are from Ancestry.com.  News articles are from the on-line resources of the Free Library of Philadelphia.


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