Civil War Blog

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John Townsend – Died from Injuries in Railroad Accident

Posted By on October 25, 2017

On 11 August 1894, the obituary of John Townsend appeared in the Harrisburg Telegraph:


He Was a Veteran Railroad Man and Good Citizen

John Townsend, for twenty-seven years supervisor of the Summit Branch Railroad, died yesterday at his home in Wiconisco after an illness of several months, aged 65.  A wife and two grown daughters survive.  Mr. Townsend was hurt in wreck on the above-mentioned road some five years ago and never fully recovered from the effects of it.  Before entering the service of the Summit Branch he was a railroad contractor in the west, where one of his daughters still resides.  He was an old war veteran and member of Heilner Post, G. A. R., of Lykens; Wiconisco Lodge, No. 533, I. O. O. F., also of the Odd Fellows Encampment.  He made an efficient supervisor.  Since the beginning of his illness, I. W. Holland, of Wiconisco, has been attending to his duties.  The funeral will take place Monday.  Interment in the Odd Fellow’ Cemetery, Lykens.

The accident referred to in the obituary occurred on 30 April 1886 and was reported in the Harrisburg Daily Independent of that date:

MILLERSBURG, 30 April 1886 — A slight wreck occurred on the Summit Branch Railroad, about a mile east of Wiconisco.  The engine struck a cow and all the cars passed over it except the last one, which was derailed.  John Townsend, supervisor of the road, was seriously injured.  The passenger and train men all received a good shaking up.

The military record of John Townsend is summarized on the Pennsylvania Veterans’ File Card, shown above from the Pennsylvania Archives.  He enrolled at Harrisburg in the 2nd Company G of the 103rd Pennsylvania Infantry on 9 March 1865 and was mustered in as a Private at the same place the next day.  At the time, he was 35 years old, stood almost 5 foot 8 inches tall, had brown hair, a light complexion, and hazel eyes.  He was an immigrant who had been born in England and he gave his occupation as track layer.  During his service he was promoted to Sergeant, but the date was was not given for the promotion.  On 25 June 1865, he was mustered out with his company.

The story of this second company of the 103rd Pennsylvania Infantry has already been told here in the post entitled The 2nd Company G of the 103rd Pennsylvania Infantry.    

On 8 August 1890, John Townsend applied for pension benefits, which he received and collected until his death.  His widow followed with an application and received benefits until her death.  The Pension Index Card, above, is from Fold3.

As of this writing, a grave marker has not been located in the Odd Fellows Cemetery in Lykens nor has a photo been seen of his grave site.

However, the name of John Townsend is recorded on the Lykens G. A. R. Monument in the category of Sergeants who were members of the Heilner Post.

Additional information is sought on this railroad man who was a Civil War veteran.  Please add comments to this post or contact via e-mail.


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