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Civil War Blog

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Some Basic Facts about the Civil War and Williamstown

Posted By on August 25, 2014

How many men from Williamstown and Williams Township were Civil War veterans?

One of the difficulties in answering this question can be illustrated by three historical maps of Williamstown and Williams Township, Dauphin County, Pennsylvania.

The 1858 Map

WiconiscoTwp-1858-001

Click on map to enlarge.

The 1858 map of Wiconisco Township shows the area presently known as Williamstown and Williams Township as not existing as a separate entity. The eastern part of the township, centered around the “O” in “Wiconisco” has no place names, only the names of the residents.  Central in the township are the towns of Lykens and Wiconisco.

The 1862 Map

WiconiscoTwp-1862-001

In the 1862 map of Wiconisco Township, the name “Beuhlerton” first appears along the eastern end of the road that crosses the township, west to east. Lykens and Wiconisco remain in the township as the main towns.  Some territory has been lost to the west and has become part of Washington Township.  A proposed railroad extension appears from Lykens to the Summit Branch Tunnel just north of Buehlerton.

The 1876 Map

WilliamsTownship-1876-001

The final change is the creation of Williams Township from the eastern end of Wiconisco Township and the expansion and development of Williamstown.  The central features of this new township are the collieries and the new Summit Branch Railroad which terminates at the depot near the Williamstown Colliery.

In examining the three maps, what cannot be ignored is the territory to the “east” – or Schuylkill County and Tower City.  Some of the orientation of the pre-Civil War residents of what eventually became Williamstown/Williams Township was to the east and to Tower City, not to the west and to Lykens and Wiconisco.  From Tower City, it was a relatively easy travel run to Pottsville, the county seat of Schuylkill County.

Thus, those who enrolled in Civil War regiments from the geographical area surrounding Buehlertown, could have chosen to enroll at Lykens or Pottsville depending on their orientation and mode of travel.  During the Civil War, there was no railroad connection at Lykens with points east, but as previously mentioned on this blog, the Lykens Valley Railroad (L.V.R.R.) ran west from “Lykenstown” to just south of Millersburg and there connected with the Northern Central Railroad which ran from its northernmost point of Sunbury, Northumberland County, through Harrisburg (the location of Camp Curtin), to its southermost point of Baltimore, Maryland.  Ironically, those from Buehlertown who chose to enroll at Pottsville, had to travel by wagon, coach or buggy to Pottsville, and then after they enrolled, were sent from Pottsville “over the top” in the railroad “cars” to Sunbury where they connected with the Northern Central Railroad and then headed south to Camp Curtin at Harrisburg.  It was not until after the Civil War that the Williams Valley Branch of the Reading Railroad extended into Lykens at a station in north Lykens (close to Wiconisco).  A trolley provided a connection from the Reading station in north Lykens to the L.V.R.R. Station in south Lykens.

In developing lists of Civil War Soldiers from specific places such as Lykens, Wiconisco, Williamstown, and Williams Township, it is important to keep these facts in mind.  Since the latter two places did not exist between 1861 and 1865, the place of residence for soldiers may have been reported as Lykens or Wiconisco Township.  The unwillingness of many veterans to associate with a place name that did not exist at the time of their Civil War service is reflected in the list of veterans who preferred to join the Heilner G.A.R. Post for Lykens-Wiconisco rather than the Chester G.A.R. Post for WilliamstownWilliams Township which was the actual place they lived at the time of their G.A.R. joining.   It is believed that about 1/3 of the approximately 400 veterans whose names appear on the Lykens G.A.R. Monument were actually connected with Williamstown and Williams Township.  Likewise, some Williamstown veterans chose to join the William Thompson G.A.R. Post at Tower City.  

Therefore, when compiling a list of Civil War veterans who had some association with Williamstown and Williamstown, always look carefully at those veterans who were associated with places such as Lykens, Wiconisco, Wiconisco Township, and Tower City including in the censuses of 1860 and prior, church records, and property records.


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