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Civil War Blog

A project of PA Historian

Williamstown Remembers the Civil War

Posted By on May 5, 2014

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The Williamstown-Williams Township Historical Society held its annual Open House yesterday, Sunday, 4 May 2014, at their headquarters and museum in Williamtown, Dauphin County, Pennsylvania.  Featured at the Open House was the presentation of a restored Civil War Officer’s Commission and an exhibit on Women and the Civil War.

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Diane Schreffler, presented to the Williamstown Historical Society the 1st Lieutenant’s Commission of Daniel Chester (1841-1873) who served first in the 5th Pennsylvania Infantry, Company I, as a Private, from 21 April 1861 through discharge on 21 July 1861.  Daniel then re-enlisted in the 55th Pennsylvania Infantry, Company A, on 1 January 1864, as a Sergeant. At the time of this second enlistment he was working as a mining engineer in Schuylkill County and living in Minersville.  Early in 1865 he received three promotions- to 1st sergeant, to 2nd Lieutenant, and finally to 1st Lieutenant – before his honorable discharge on 30 August 1865.  This final commission was kept in the family and passed down to Diane through her aunt, who married Daniel Bordner of WilliamstownDaniel Bordner was a direct descendant in one of the Chester lines. Note: The officer’s commission was restored and archivally framed by Norman Gasbarro, of the Civil War Research Project.

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Daniel Chester Grave in Williamstown

After the Civil War, Lt. Daniel Chester resided in Williamstown and worked in the mines as an engineer and in management.  He died young, at the age of 32, and is buried in Seybert’s Cemetery, a few blocks from the historical society building.

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Two members of the Daniel Chester family were also present for the presentation.  At right (above) is Darlene [Chester] Schaffner, the great-great-granddaughter of Lt. Chester.  At left (above) is June Chester, Darlene’s mother and the wife of Robert Chester, the great-grandson of Lt. Chester.

Robert Chester, of Washington State, sent in photographs of his family for display.

Four Civil War soldiers with the surname Chester were mentioned – with the possibility that they were all brothers:  Joseph Chester ( 1828-1864), a mining engineer who died at Fredericksburg; Holden Chester (1833-1889), a blacksmith who entered the service as a private and rose to the rank of veterinary surgeon in the cavalry – later a mining engineer in Shamokin; John Chester (1834-1903), a mining engineer who lived in Wiconisco and Williamstown, and whose name appears on the Lykens G.A.R. Monument; and Daniel Chester, previously mentioned.  Another possible brother, Matthew Chester (1831-1892), also a mining engineer, registered for the draft, but was not called into service.   Extensive information files were donated to the historical society on each of these men.

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In addition to the Daniel Chester Commission Presentation, a exhibit was opened on Women and the Civil War.  The exhibit consists of pictures and stories of over 170 women who were in some way connected to Civil War soldiers – mothers, daughters, wives, etc.  Nearly all the women portrayed in the exhibit had some connection to the Lykens-Williams Valley area.  Copies of the pictures in the exhibit are available on request from the historical society.  The exhibit will run through July with a special opening on Memorial Day in connection with the American Legion’s dedication of a Prisoner of War Memorial.  The museum and exhibit will also be open at other times as posted on the society Facebook page.

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Janice Culton, President

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