Posted By Norman Gasbarro on November 30, 2015
Fisherville is a small community in Upper Dauphin County, near Halifax Borough, that in 1883 formed a local G.A.R. post. Much of the history of that post has been lost over time and now needs to be re-created through available resources, among those resources, the Harrisburg and other archived newspapers and the national Grand Army of the Republic records.
In 1994, with the publication of Halifax Heritage for the Halifax Area Bicentennial, some information was given on the area G.A.R. posts in a section on the military which began on page 113:
The Grand Army of the Republic, Post No. 523, G.A.R. of Halifax, was organized 28 June 1886, with twenty-three charter members. The Post was without a name until April 1894, after the death of General H. W. Slocum, when the Post in honor of the General assumed the name of General Slocum Post No. 523, G.A.R. Some of the charter members were: J. M. Brubaker, Isaac Lyter, Joseph Boyer, John Metzer, Joseph Whitman, A. M. Pike, A. F. Fairchilds, G. T. Leebrick, Dr. J. W. Swope, Daniel Reich, Levi Straw, and Samuel Pottieger.
G.A.R. – FISHERVILLE
About the same time that the Halifax Post No. 523, G.A.R. was organized, the veterans in Jackson Township organized a Post called the B.F. Miller Post No. 393. This is all the information available on this post at Fisherville.
While the date of 1886 for the establishment of the Halifax post appears to be wrong as it is reported in Halifax Heritage (per the post numbering) it is actually correct. The numbering of posts within a state was done in order of chartering, so Fisherville had to be established well before Halifax if it was given the number 393, not “about the same time.” Note: A listing of all posts in Pennsylvania can be found at the Sons of Union Veterans web site. [opens as pdf].
The post in Fisherville was one of the last posts established in Upper Dauphin County and the post in Gratz Borough (No. 376) was established just prior to Fisherville. Finding the actual date of the establishment of the Fisherville post is relatively easy since milestones of the G.A.R. were reported regularly in the National Tribune, its official newspaper. Fortunately, that newspaper is part of the Library of Congress digital newspaper project and is fully searchable on-line.
First, the Halifax Post 523 chartering date of 28 June 1886 was confirmed:
[New G.A.R. Posts mustered in:] Post 523, Halifax, Dauphin County, 28 June 1886, by Henry Cordes, Post 212 – C. A. Harper, Commander….
Second, the Fisherville Post 393 chartering date of November 1883 was determined:
From: National Tribune, 29 November 1883, the national newspaper of the Grand Army of the Republic.
B. F. Miller Post, No. 393 of Fisherville, Dauphin County, was mustered by Commander Henry Cordes of Post No. 212 Millersburg, assisted by twenty-three comrades of that Post. The Post is named in honor of the first man from the town who was killed in action [Benjamin Franklin Miller (1846-1862)]. The officers are: Commander C. Bixter; S. V. C. James Miller; J.V.C. W. Witman; Adjutant Jonathan K. McGann; Q.M. Isaac Hoffman; Chaplain, Daniel A. Shive; Surgeon G.W. Enders; O.D. Daniel Reich; O.G. John J. Gonder; S.M. J. F. Bowman; Q. M.S. J. T. Enders. Comrade Cordes says: “The Post starts out with a lot of hearty, robust, well-to-do men, and has a good field to work upon. I shall go over and assist them further soon.”
Thus, the Halifax G.A.R. Post was “mustered in” [chartered] more than two and a half years after the Fisherville post was chartered. It is not known at this time why Halifax was organized later than Fisherville.
The activities of the Fisherville post were sometimes reported in the Harrisburg newspapers. Occasionally, these reports were taken from newspapers in Lykens and Millersburg, but most often they appeared in columns specifically devoted to the news and “gossip” of Fisherville. Undoubtedly, there were many more reports than appear here, but a sampling is provided of those found in a simple newspaper search for the highlighted terms.
A Hall for the Post
The first set of three news clippings report the construction and opening of the G.A.R. Hall at Fisherville:
From: Harrisburg Telegraph (Lykens Register), 10 October 1884.
The new G.A.R. hall, at Fisherville, is nearly completed and will be quite an addition to the place. When finished B. F. Miller Post, No. 393, expect to have a gala day in dedicating their new place of meeting, and in greeting their sister posts. It is expected that Kirpatrick Post of Millersburg, Heilner Post of Lykens, Kissinger Post of Gratz, Chester Post of Williamstown, as well as delegations from the posts of Harrisburg, Steelton, Georgetown, Liverpool, and Oriental, will be present.
B. F. Miller Post, No. 393, Grand Army of the Republic, of Fisherville, will dedicate their new hall in that place on Saturday, 25 October 1884, at 2 o’clock.
B. F. Miller Post, No. 393, G. A. R., of Fisherville, dedicated their new hall on Saturday last at 1 P.M. There was quite a large gathering of people from the neighborhood, and the Posts from Williamstown, Tower City and Lykens were well represented.
Memorial Day Observance
Exercises at Memorial Day were a regular annual feature:
From: Harrisburg Telegraph, 21 May 1886.
B. F. Miller Post, of Fisherville, will celebrate Memorial Day on the 29th, and decorate the graves of their Comrades and fallen heroes of the late war at Halifax in the morning, the procession to proceed to the cemetery at 9 o’clock. The exercises at Fisherville will take place at 2 P.M.
From: Harrisburg Telegraph, 2 June 1896.
Fisherville, Pennsylvania – 1 June 1896 — Memorial Day was fittingly observed here. The town was beautifully decorated with the Stars and Stripes and at some places the streets were spanned by flags. Early in the afternoon the P.O.S. of A. Band, of Elizabethville, made its appearance and rendered several fine selections of music at the Fisherville House. A 2 P.M., the parade formed at G.A.R. Hall. Post Commander Miller acted as chief marshal. The parade lined up as follows: P.O.S. of A. Band, of Elizabethville; B. F. Miller Post, 352 [sic], G.A.R.; Knights of Pythias and Sunday Schools. After marching over the principal streets the parade moved to the cemetery where the graves of the departed comrades were strewn with flowers. The exercises were held in the Lutheran Church after the ceremonies in the cemetery. The band played an excellent piece of music, which was well suited for the occasion. “The Ride of Jennie McNeal” was read in a masterly manner by Miss Ida Frank. An address was given by Rev. Flick. The orator of the day, however, was Hon. John E. Fox, of Harrisburg. He held the audience spell-bound by his eloquence. The congregation was dismissed by the benediction by Rev. Flick. In the evening a festival, for the benefit of the Lutheran Church was held. It was well attended up till about 9 o’clock, when a heavy rain storm came up and dispersed the crowd. The band did justice to itself, and many words of praise were heard on all sides. Warren Swab, the drummer boy, was especially praised for his precision in the time.
The K. of P. and the G.A.R. have decided to have a parade on the 30th inst. Two bands and one speaker will be present. The K. of P. will will also hold a festival in the evening.
From: Harrisburg Patriot, 2 June 1903.
FISHERVILLE — Memorial Day was observed by having a parade composed of the following bodies: The B. F. Miller Post, 393; the Knights of Pythias Lodge, the Sunday School, the Halifax Band, and the Centerview Band. The parade marched around the town and then to the cemetery. Services were conducted there by the B. F. Miller Post. After strewing flowers on the graves the procession marched to the Lutheran Church, where Rev. M. H. Sangree and Mr. Beidleman made the addresses.
Saturday afternoon while C. M. Bowerman and family were taking part in the Memorial Day exercises thieves enter their house. They stole some money belonging to the Sunday School, Mr. Bowerman being treasurer.
Honoring the Dead at Funerals
When veterans who were members of the post died, their funerals were often supplemented with a special tribute from the surviving members:
William Sheesley, an aged wagon maker, died yesterday morning at the home of S. L. Hoffman in Halifax Township. He was a veteran of the Civil War and a member of Miller Post, G.A.R. of Fisherville. The funeral will be held to-morrow morning, with interment at Fisherville.
John G. Killinger
John G. Killinger, a prominent man of the Upper End of the county, died Saturday of pulmonary trouble at his home in Fisherville. He was fifty-eight years old and is survived by these children: Hiram W. Killinger, of Philadelphia; H. Frank Killinger; James Killinger; LaRoss Killinger; and Mary P. Killinger, at home.
Mr. Killinger served as Justice of the Peace in Jackson Township for twenty years and for an equal number of years taught school in the vicinity. In politics, he was a Democrat of the old school. He served in the War of the Rebellion, being a member of Company A, 210th Regiment [210th Pennsylvania Infantry]. He was a member of B. F. Miller Post, G.A.R., and Enders‘ Lodge, Knights of Pythias.
From: Harrisburg Daily Independent, 20 February 1904.
‘SQUIRE KILLINGER DEAD
Death of Prominent Citizen of the Upper End of the County
Mr. John G. Killinger, one of the best known and highly respected citizens in the Upper End of Dauphin County, died this morning at his home in Fisherville after an illness of several months with lung trouble. He was Justice of the Peace in Jackson Township for twenty years. He taught school for twenty-one terms and a number of people teaching school in the upper end of this county were pupils of Mr. Killinger. He was a prominent Democrat of the Jeffersonian stripe and always adhered to the principles of his party. He served in the Civil War and was a member of Company A, Two Hundred and Tenth Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteers [210th Pennsylvania Infantry], and at the close of the war received an honorable discharge at Arlington Heights, 31 May 1865. He was a member of B. F. Miller Post, No. 393, G.A.R., and of Enders Lodge, No. 359, Knights of Pythias.
Mr. J. G. Killinger was born in 1846 and is survived by a wife and the following children: Hiram W. Killinger, of Philadelphia; H. Frank Killinger, James LaRoss Killinger, and Mary P. Killinger, at home. The funeral will take place on Tuesday morning.
Messiah Lutheran Church
In later years, when it was difficult for veterans to conduct their own activities, area clergy were invited to conduct memorial services. Messiah Lutheran Church was often the place where these memorial services were held:
From: Harrisburg Telegraph, 27 May 1905.
FISHERVILLE — Rev. S. A. Garnes will preach to B. F. Miller Post, 393, on Sunday morning. All soldiers are requested to be present at these services.
From: Harrisburg Daily Independent, 8 May 1906.
FISHERVILLE — B. F. Miller Post, No. 393, G.A.R., has decided to observe Memorial Day and conduct the regular services in the morning at Enders and in the afternoon here in town. The Sunday Schools will participate in these exercises.
From: Harrisburg Daily Independent, 29 May 1906
FISHERVILLE — Rev. S. A. Garnes preached a sermon to the members of the B. F. Miller Post, No. 393, G.A.R., on Sunday.
Music and parades were also a feature of the Memorial Day observances. Others were invited to participate – including bands from neighboring towns, Sunday School students, and other fraternal organizations.
From: Harrisburg Daily Independent, 7 May 1907
FISHERVILLE — B. F. Miller Post, No. 232, have made arrangements to hold services on Memorial Day. The Berrysburg Band has been secured to furnish the music for the day. There will be a parade in the afternoon, at which time the Sunday School and the K. of P. Lodge will participate with the G.A.R. Post of town.
From: Harrisburg Daily Independent, 18 May 1909.
FISHERVILLE — A Union service will be held here on Sunday forenoon in the Lutheran Church by Revs. Messrs. Garnes and Ulrich for the benefit of the B. F. Miller Post, G.A.R.
From: Harrisburg Daily Independent, 17 May 1911.
FISHERVILLE — Memorial services will be conducted here on Sunday in the Lutheran Church in honor of the G.A.R. Post, No. 393. The services will be conducted by the Rev. S. A. Zimback, assisted by the Rev. G. W. Hess, of the United Brethren Church.
A National and State Perspective on Local Posts
The final news article located appeared in the Allentown Leader, 2 Feb 1901.
The article referred to the death of the G.A.R. due to the “death of its heroes.” Ironically, the B. F. Miller Post in Fisherville was mentioned in the article as one of the posts threatened with going out of business because of the rapid loss of members. Note: The article is out of chronological order with the others that appear above; activities conducted by the Fisherville Post after 1901 included fewer than 10 members.
Unfortunately, the official closing date of the Fisherville G.A.R. is not known, but by 1922-1923, virtually all G.A.R. posts in the country had gone out of business. Those veterans who were still living were welcomed into the American Legion posts that were formed by returning soldiers from World War I and soldiers from the Spanish-American War.
Some highlights from the Allentown Leader article are presented below:
GRAND ARMY GOING
The Death Roll Increases at an Alarming Rate
BUT 7 VETERANS IN ONE POST
All Schemes for Perpetuating the Famous Organization Have Been Abandoned.
It Will Die With Its Heroes.
At the rate of 1000 a month the members of the Grand Army of the Republic are being carried to their graves, and every post in the country has held its flag at half-mast during the year just ended. Statistics just completed show that the death rate has recently increased at an alarming rate, and already plans are under consideration for the merger of some of the smaller posts and to provide additional comforts for the needy, who practically rely upon the organization for support. Only 10 years ago the Grand Army was all that the name implies. It mustered 400,489 men at roll call, and every one of them could and did turn out on parade. Today the roster shows only 267,662 names, and the list numbers thousands of helpless old men who have attended their last encampment and participated in their last parade.
WILL DIE WITH IS HEROES
“All plans for the perpetuation of the Grand Army have been abandoned,” said Adjutant General Robert B. Wallace when discussing the future of the organization. “Some of the veterans may be here 20 years from now, but not many,” he continued, “and the number living today speaks well for the character of the men admitted to the army in ’61 and during the four years that followed. It took a good, strong man to go through the war and some of the finest specimens of American manhood followed the flag those days. In the Department of Pennsylvania, we numbered 46,115 in 1890, but today, the records show only 28,818 left. The death rate will increase from year to year until finally only a handful of men will be left…. It is a sort of last man’s club now. At every meeting of the big posts the death of some comrade is reported and it reminds one of a battle in the night where the soldiers fall all around us but we do not see the enemy or know who will be the next to drop. Those who are in their graves are beyond out help, but the time has come when adequate provisions must be made for the living.
“The calls for aid are multiplying. Last year we paid out $160,955.64 in relief, but the money came from those who now need it for themselves. In the organization throughout the country 31,016 comrades were identified with the Grand Army in 1878. The growth was continuous, and in 1883 the roster showed 215,446 names. In 1888, the roster showed 372,960 names, and the high water mark was reached in 1890, when 409,489 veterans were on the roll in good standing. Since that time the decrease in membership has been constant. We lost 1706 members in 1891, and in 1892 we lost 7901 men. The mortality has increased at a slow rate from year to year until it has now reached the rate of about 1000 a month throughout the country. The total membership is now 276,662….
The loyalty of the old veterans to their posts is well illustrated in the roster just published by the Department of Pennsylvania. It costs money, involves trouble and takes time to direct the affairs of a Grand Army Post….
Here are some posts that comply with all the requirements of the department, although they lack enough members to properly fill all of the offices provided for by the constitution…. [Note: 38 posts in Pennsylvania are named as threatened to go out business due to declining membership, the following 2 among them]:
Colonel James Cameron Post No. 185, Georgetown, Northumberland County, 9 comrades….
B. F. Miller Post, No. 393, Fisherville, Dauphin County, 10 comrades….
Nearly all of these posts assemble in dwelling houses, and the business of the organization is generally conducted by the post commanders, who reside at the post headquarters, the other members sometimes living 25 or 30 miles away, and seldom, if ever, attend meetings.
More Information Sought
Readers are invited to add additional information about the B. F. Miller G.A. R. Post in Fisherville. Since this G.A.R. post was closely connected with Fisherville, Jackson Township, and the surrounding community, including Messiah Lutheran Church and the fraternal organizations in the area, it is possible that pictures exist of some of the combined activities. Also, a picture is needed of the original G. A. R. Hall described in this post along with a history of what happened to it over the years as the post’s membership declined and the organization eventually closed down or was absorbed into a successor veterans’ organization.
A list of the post commanders and other officers, including delegates to national encampments, is also sought. Sometimes these men are named in the annual reports of the G.A.R., some of which are available on line, and sometimes they can be found in newspaper articles in the cities where the encampments were held. Artifacts from the post, such as badges, programs for events, official records (minutes, treasurer’s reports, etc.), are probably in personal collections (if they have survived the years).
Personal reminiscences of members are also valuable.
Sharing information helps to more rapidly reconstruct the post history. Comments can be added to this post or sent by e-mail.