Civil War Blog

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Godfrey Sammet – Dies After Breaking Ground for Halifax School, 1913

Posted By on June 16, 2017

An interesting story appeared in the Harrisburg Telegraph, 18 August 1913, about Civil War veteran, Godfey Sammet:


Halifax’s Oldest Citizen Starts Boyer Memorial Building with Informal Ceremonies

Halifax, Pennsylvania, 18 August 1913 – Ground for the new Boyer Memorial High School building to be erected by the local school authorities was broken on Saturday afternoon.  Godfrey Sammet, Halifax’s oldest resident, and said to be one of the oldest Odd Fellows in the state, turned the first spadeful of dirt. A small crowd of people surrounded the site as the veteran sank the spade into the earth.  There was no formal ceremony.  The new building, a three-story brick structure, is to cost $25,111, and will be erected by W. S. Raebuck, a Harrisburg contractor, who was awarded the work last week. The building will contain eight large rooms, one of which will be used as a high school.  A gymnasium will be provided in the basement.  The erection of the structure is made possible through the bequest of W. Harris Boyer, a former resident, who died in New York City sometime ago and directed that $30,000 be turned over to the school district.  The contractor will soon start work and with a large force of men on the job hopes to have the building completed by 1 February 1914.


A similar story had been reported in the Harrisburg Patriot on 2 August 1913:


Halifax, 11 August 1913 — Ground for the new $30,000 school building to be erected by the local school authorities was broken on Saturday afternoon.  Godfrey Sammet, the oldest resident of the borough, and said to be the oldest Odd Fellow in the state, having turned the first spadeful of dirt.

A large crowd surrounded the site as the veteran sank the spade into the earth.  The Rev. C. A. Funk, pastor of the United Brethren Church, made a prayer, invoking God’s blessings upon the new building soon to be erected.

The Rev. D. W. Bixler, pastor of the Trinity Reformed Church, made a short address.  Prof. S. C. Beitzel read as a Stripture lesson Proverbs 4, after which all  present joined in singing “America.”

Rev. Clarence B. Felton, pastor of the Methodist Episcopal Church, made a short address appropriate to the occasion.

Then, on 25 November 1914,when the school was completed, the Harrisburg Telegraph again reported on the “turning of the dirt” to begin construction of the school.  During the construction Godfrey Sammet, the dirt turner, had died:


Special to The Telegraph

Halifax, Pennsylvania, 25 November 1914 — At the exercises at the dedication of the new Boyer Memorial School building on Thursday, J. C. Marsh of this place will present to the school board for display in the building the shovel which Godfrey Sammet, aged 84 years, now deceased, turned the first spadeful of earth for the foundation, 9 August 1913.   Mr. Marsh had this shovel polished and put in a neat glass case at a considerable expense to himself and will present it in honor of his two great-grandsons, Raymond Barron and Austin Barron of Atlantic City, New Jersey.

The Certificate of Death, shown below from Ancestry.com, gave the date of death as 28 August 1913 – just 17 days after the school ground breaking:

The Civil War record of Godfrey Sammet is noted below:

On 2 March 1865, a 26-year old Godfrey Sammet, who was born in Germany, was mustered into service in the 192nd Pennsylvania Infantry, Company H, as a 2nd Lieutenant.  He served honorably through his discharge on 24 August 1865.

In 1866, during the Pennsylvania Governor’s race, Godfrey Sammet was one of the Civil War veterans who actively supported the racist, white-supremacist candidate, Heister Clymer.  Previous blog posts on this election include the following:

Heister Clymer – White Supremacist Candidate for Governor, 1866

Pennsylvania Gubernatorial Election of 1866 – The Defeat of a White Supremacist

Reflection on the Victory of John W. Geary Over the White Supremacist Heister Clymer

It is interesting to note that there was no mention in any of the articles on the school ground-breaking that Sammet was a Civil War veteran.  Whether this was done intentionally or inadvertently is not known at this time.  It is curious though that Sammet was one of many returning war veterans who rejected the major end-result of the war, i.e., the end of slavery and the granting of citizenship and voting rights to the freedmen, and instead of referring to him as the longest surviving war veteran of Halifax, he was referred to as one of the oldest Odd Fellows (I.O.O.F.) in the state.

The Pension Index Card, shown above from Fold3, also gives Godfrey Sammet‘s death date as 28 August 1913.  He applied for pension benefits on 23 August 1890, which he received and collected to his death.

Godfrey Sammet is buried at Long’s Cemetery, Halifax, Dauphin County, Pennsylvania.

Additional information about this veteran is sought.  Please add comments to this post or send via e-mail.


News articles are from the on-line resources of the Free Library of Philadelphia and from Newspapers.com.



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