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Isaac Koppenhaver – Hotel Proprietor of Millersburg

Posted By on July 11, 2016

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Isaac Koppenhaver (1849-1900) was a well-known businessman of Millersburg and was a Civil War veteran.

The Harrisburg Telegraph of 26 September 1900, told of his funeral:

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Isaac Koppenhaver Buried

Millersburg, 26 September 1900 — All that was mortal of the late Isaac Koppenhaver – genial “Koppy” to a thousand friends – was laid to rest in Oak Hill Cemetery yesterday afternoon.  Services at the house were conducted by the Rev. Lantz, assisted by Rev. Isenberg, the Rev. Dickerson and the Rev. Bougher and at the grave by Harrisburg Lodge of Elks of which he was a member; Millersburg Castle, K. G. E.; and Kilpatrick Post G.A.R., attended with full ranks and a delegation from the P.R.R. Veterans’ Association.  There were a large number of friends from Lykens and Lykens Valley, Harrisburg, Sunbury and Williamsport.  The funeral was the largest ever held in Millersburg and evidence of the esteem in which Mr. Koppenhaver was held here and elsewhere.

 

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Isaac Koppenhaver’s Civil War records indicate that his surname name was spelled in several ways including Koppenheffer, Kopenhaver, and Koppenaver.  The Pennsylvania Veterans’ File Card from the Pennsylvania Archives gives the date of 7 March 1865 for his enrollment in the 103rd Pennsylvania Infantry at Harrisburg.  Two days later he was mustered into service at the rank of Private in the 2nd Company G of that regiment.  Previously on this blog, the reason for the formation of these “2nd companies” was given, as was a history of that regiment.  In particular, the short length of service as well as the location of service was explained in those posts.  See: The Second Company G of the 103rd Pennsylvania Infantry.

When Isaac Koppenhaver enrolled in the 103rd Pennsylvania Infantry, he gave his age as 17, although he was more likely 16 as several sources give his birth date as March 1849.  He was 5 foot, 4 inches tall, had a fair complexion, gray eyes, and brown hair.  His residence at the time was Lykens, Dauphin County, and his occupation was laborer.

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On 17 November 1897, Isaac Koppenhaver applied for a pension, which he received and collected until his death, which according to the Pension Index Card from Fold3, occurred on 10 Dec 1900.  This date is incorrect.  The description of his funeral (above), indicates that he died in late September.  The grave stone record, shown above from Findagrave, only gives the year of death and not the month and day.

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On 23 September 1887, it was reported in the Harrisburg newspapers that Isaac Koppenhaver purchased the Freeland Hotel in Millersburg from the estate of James Freeland who was Col. James Freeland, who died in 1881, and is buried at Millersburg.  In the ensuing years until the death of Isaac Koppenhaver, his named appeared regularly in applying for various operating licenses for the hotel, which was frequently referred to as the Freeland House under his proprietorship.

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In 1894, a panoramic map of Millersburg was published as a part of a series of views of many Pennsylvania towns.  The map key indicates that an “I. Coppenhaver” was the proprietor of the Freeland House, which is noted as building “2.”  However, because of the resolution of the map image, the “2” has not been located, so the actual location of the Freeland House cannot be determined.  If a reader of this blog can locate the Freeland House from a better copy of the map, please send the information via e-mail of add a comment to this post.  An interesting feature of the above map is that it shows the Northern Central Railroad running horizontally across near the top, and along the left side, the Lykens Valley Railroad, running vertically.  Note:  The panoramic map is from the Ancestry.com map collection.

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For his Civil War service, Isaac Koppenhaver was recognized on the Millersburg Soldier Monument.

However, the name of Isaac Koppenhaver does not appear on the Lykens G.A.R. Monument.  Considering that he gave his residence as Lykens when he enrolled, this is another name missed by those at Lykens who should have included him on that monument as well.

After the death of Isaac Koppenhaver, his widow, Mary R. [Light] Koppenhaver, applied for a pension, which she received and collected until her death in 1932.  The hotel remained in the family after Isaac’s death.

Census returns for 1910 show that Mary was the proprietor of the hotel, while her son Homer G. Koppenhaver was its manager. Census returns for 1920 indicate that Mary was working as a hotel cook, while her son Homer G. Koppenhaver was managing the hotel. Also in the same household in 1910 and 1920 was Catherine, the mother of Isaac Koppenhaver.  Homer died on 12 April 1931, about a year before his mother.

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From the Harrisburg Evening News of 2 July  1932:

MRS. MARY KOPPENHAVER

Mrs. Mary Koppenhaver, widow of Isaac Koppenhaver, of Union Street, Millersburg, died yesterday in a local [Harrisburg] hospital.  Funeral services will be held Tuesday afternoon at 2 o’clock at the W. J. Minnier Funeral Parlors, Millersburg.  Burial will be in the Millersburg Cemetery [Oak Hill].  The body may be viewed Monday night after 7 o’clock at the funeral parlors.

Some unfinished research:

  1. The mother of Isaac Koppenhaver was Catherine Koppenhaver, who was still alive in 1920.  However, her maiden name has not been discovered as of this writing nor has the first name of Isaac’s father. Has anyone located her death certificate?
  2. Although Isaac Koppenhaver claimed he was a resident of Lykens in 1865, he has not been located in an 1850 or 1860 census.  Likewise, he has not been located in an 1870 census.
  3. Was Isaac Koppenhaver related to the other men named Koppenhaver who are named on the Millersburg Soldier Monument?  If so, how?
  4. Was Homer Koppenhaver the only child of Isaac & Mary?  Did he have any descendants?

News clippings are from Newspapers.com.

 

“It would have been better if Mr. Ryan had not seized the pistol….”

Posted By on July 8, 2016

On 14 March 1901, a Civil War veteran, Charles W. Ryan was shot and killed during a robbery at the Halifax National Bank in Halifax, Dauphin County, Pennsylvania, by one of the two men committing that robbery.  Ryan, who was serving as cashier at the bank, was also one of the bank’s founding shareholder members.  The president of the bank, Abraham Fortenbaugh, who was also present during the robbery, was slightly injured in a scuffle that took place in capturing and restraining the robbers, but he witnessed the death of his friend Charles W. Ryan and later lamented that he wished that Ryan had not attempted to break up the robbery by seizing one of the robber’s guns.  Both robbers were subdued and captured and quickly tried for Ryan’s murder and in January 1902 were hanged in Harrisburg. The story of the bank robbery and the eventual trial and execution of the perpetrators, as well as the Civil War connections of those involved, was told in a series of previous posts, which can be found here on this blog under the keywords “Halifax Bank Robbery.”

Abraham Fortenbaugh‘s reflections on the incident at the Halifax National Bank were told in story that appeared in the Harrisburg Daily Independent, 16 March 1901:

MR. FORTENBAUGH’S EXPERIENCE

The President of the Halifax Bank Tells the Story of the Affair

The Hon. A. Fortenbaugh, President of the Halifax National Bank, is one of the most amiable men in this section of the state.  He has served the people as a school director, member of council, burgess and representative in the legislature.  As a member of the General Assembly he was known as among the most thoughtful and conscientious men on the floor.  His counsel was sought by his party associates in important emergencies and by men of all parties when questions of moment were under consideration.  He served in the first legislature under the new constitution, and participate in the legislation to adapt the affairs of the state to conform to the new organic law.

Mr. Fortenbaugh was a trifle the worse for wear yesterday.  He was in the bank on Thursday when the raid was made and was covered by revolvers in the hands of Keiper, just as the other burglar leveled guns on Cashier Ryan.  Mr. Fortenbaugh threw up his hands, according to order and obeyed the directions of the robbers generally, for a time. “Did you ever hold up your arms in that fashion for a considerable time,” Mr. Fortenbaugh asked an old friend, yesterday, and on receiving a negative answer continued, “Well, it’s very tiresome. Every now and then my arms would come down part way and the robber would put the pistol closer to my head and profanely demanded that the hands be put up higher.  Of course, I promptly obeyed.”

I have always felt afraid of firearms,” continued Mr. Fortenbaugh, talking among friends last evening, “and in this crisis realized the full measure of the danger.  But when I saw Ryan make the dash for Rowe’s pistol I knew that there would be trouble and got into the scrimmage.  I seized the robber around the body, pinioned his arms.  But my strength was unequal to the task.  After a few struggles he threw me off and I landed between the vault and the washstand, some eight or ten feet away from the encounter.  The singular thing, however, was that when Ryan was in imminent danger I forgo all about all my own fears, and got into the fight head over heels.

“It would have been better if Mr. Ryan had not seized the pistol,” continued Mr. Fortenbaugh, with a sob in his voice.  “I would much rather the bank had lost the money than he should lose his life.  He was a splendid man and no doubt was influenced by his keen sense of duty to the bank.  I shall never forget his fidelity and courage.  If he had less of either the bank might have been out the money in the satchel, but it would have been the gainer by the preservation of his life and the continuation of his services.”

Mr. Fortenbaugh was a trifle lame yesterday and somewhat stiff from the rough usage he received in the encounter, but his nerves were all right and all things considered, he was in good spirits.  But he made a narrow escape and appreciated the fact.  The death of his friend and associate in business was his principal source of regret, and whenever that feature of the affair was referred to he was overcome with emotion.

 

 

June 2016 Posts

Posted By on July 7, 2016

A listing of the June 2016 posts on The Civil War Blog with direct links:

Obituary of Samuel W. Sheesley

Benjamin F. Harper’s Widow of Loyalton, Died in 1917

Elizabeth Imschweiler’s Obituary Connected Her to a Civil War Soldier from Tremont

May 2016 Posts

Was Henry B. Hoffman Excused from Military Service Because of a Diseased Eye?

Cornelius Hoke – Wagonmaker, Halifax Native – Died at Renovo

Believe It or Not – Wound Reopens After 52 Years Causing Death

Jonathan Hoover – An Exaggerated War Record

George W. Ely of Lykens – A First Marriage Discovered in North Carolina

Who Was Daniel Jenne of Reed Township?

Isaac Houtz – Correction and Addition

George W. Jury – Moved to Kansas and Died There in 1914

Tower City Veteran Discovered in Perry County Cemetery

George Jury of Halifax – 172nd Pennsylvania Infantry

James Kilrain – Irish Immigrant. Coal Miner, and Civil War Veteran

Isaac Kemble – “The devil can’t chase these little gnats….”

A Slightly Longer Obituary of Henry Kemble

John Kerstetter – Died of Disease in Tennessee, 1864

 

 

Adam Jury – Born Millersburg, Died Salisbury Prison

Posted By on July 5, 2016

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This is some of what is known about Adam Jury who was born near Millersburg and died while a Prisoner of War at Salisbury Prison in North Carolina.  He is another of the many veterans ignored by the Millersburg Soldier Monument, although there are two men with the Jury surname who are included on the plaque.

The following is based on a biographical sketch of Adam Jury (1814-1865) which was written more than 40 years ago and published in Portrait of Our Ancestors – Jury.  Some editing is provided from the original in order to supplement the information and correct a few of the errors.

Adam Jury, was the son of Abraham Jury (1780-1860), the grandson of Samuel Jury (1751-1816)  the immigrant from Switzerland, and the great-grandson of Abraham Jury (1718-1785), also an immigrant from Switzerland.  The family settled in Upper Paxton Township, Dauphin County, Pennsylvania, after arrival in America. At that time, Upper Paxton Township included what is now Washington Township, and Mifflin Township.

Adam was born on 2 June 1814 in Upper Paxton Township, near Millersburg, to parents Abraham Jury (1780-1860) and Anna Maria [Weise] Jury (1791-1845).  Sponsors at his baptism were his mother’s parents, Adam Weise (1751-1833) and Margaret Elizabeth [Wingert] Weise (1749-1818).

At some point prior to the 1840 Census, Adam Jury moved to Clearfield County, Pennsylvania, with his parents.

Adam first married Elizabeth Wetzel in Clearfield County, Pennsylvania some time prior to 1840.  Supporting evidence for this marriage includes Adam’s second wife’s pension application form:

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And she further declared that her said husband was previously married and had children as follows, viz., Eveline Jury, born 5 March 1840; Mary E. Jury, born 12 October 1841; Albert Jury, born 15 March 1848, now deceased; Barbara E. Jury, born June 1844; Lorenzo D. Jury, born 16 January 1846, now deceased; Sarah I. Jury, born 18 May 1848; Elmira Jury, born about 20 September 1849; and Katuras Jury, born 20 October 1851.

In the 1850 Census of Girard Township, Clearfield County, Pennsylvania, Adam Jury is enumerated as Adam Shurey as follows:  Adam Jury, age 36, farmer, $800; Elizabeth Jury, age 38; Evaline Jury, age 10; Mary Jury, age 8; Albert Jury, age 5; Barbey Jury, age 4; Lorenzo Jury, age 3; and Elmira Jury, age 5/12.

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There is evidence that Elizabeth, the first wife of Adam Jury was probably ill for some time before her death.  In the 1850 Census, seven of her children with Adam are listed with her sister Mary [Wetzel] Heise and brother-in-law George Heise in household #548, Girard Township, Clearfield County.  Additionally, daughter Sarah Jury was living with Peter Lamm in 1850 and the last child, Keturah Jury, was raised by Thomas Leonard and went by the Leonard surname.

Elizabeth [Wetzel Jury died on 2 December 1851 at age 39 years, 3 months, and 16 days.  She is buried at Congress Hill Cemetery, Lecontes Mills, Clearfield County, Pennsylvania.  Additional information about her is found at her Findagrave Memorial.  Note that her death occurred less than two months after giving birth to the last child, Keturah Jury, mentioned in the pension record above.

After the death of his first wife, Adam Jury married second to Sarah Ann [Hoop] Carr in 1852.  She was the daughter of Joshua Hoop and Sarah [Gibbony] Hoop.

In the 1860 Census of Girard Township, Clearfield County, the Adam Jury household consisted of the following:  Adam Jury, age 46, laborer; Sarah Ann Jury, age 42; Lorenzo Jury, age 14; Benjamin Jury, age 6; Pascaline-Paulina Jury, age 4; Newton Jury, age 2; and John Carr, age 18, the son of Sarah Ann by her first marriage.

Then came the Civil War.

At the time of the writing of the Jury history, research into the records of Civil War veterans was much more difficult than today.  It sometimes involved corresponding with state and federal agencies and waiting weeks for a reply.

Around 1957, a family member who was a descendant of Adam’s brother John Frederick Jury, gave information that when he heard that his brother Adam was in a Confederate prison, he immediately enlisted and was also taken prisoner.  There was a family legend that Adam starved to death in captivity.

She wrote to the Department of Military Affairs, Adjutant generals Office, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and received a response on 25 September 1957.

It is hereby certified that records on file in the Department of Military Affairs, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, indicate the military service of Adam Jury in the Pennsylvania Volunteers (Civil War) to have been as follows:

Enrolled as Private G, 35th Regiment Infantry, 6th Reserves at Lancaster, Pennsylvania, 16 January 1864.  [35th Pennsylvania Infantry]

Mustered into service at Lancaster, Pennsylvania, 16 Jan 1864.

Captured:  Died at Salisbury, North Carolina, 4 January 1865.

SEAL             A.J. Drexel Biddle, Jr, The Adjutant General

Based on the above information, she sent for the military records, which were pictured in the Jury history.

What was not told by the information received from the Adjutant General was that Adam Jury was transferred to the 191st Pennsylvania Infantry on or around 31 May 1864.  However, the records in the card file of the Pennsylvania Archives notes that.

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The first card (above) indicates the Bates reference “1-714” (Volume 1, Page 714) and the second card with difficult to read handwriting, indicates the Bates reference “5-319” (Volume 1, Page 319).  These Bates reference can be checked by clicking on the hyperlinks in this paragraph.  For further information about the 5 volumes of Bates, see:  Bates – History of Pennsylvania Volunteers, 1861-1865.

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On 3 November 1866, Sarah A. Jury applied for widow’s pension benefits and on 3 June 1869, a guardian, G. F. Hoop, applied for benefits for the minor children.  According to the Pension Index Card, shown above from Ancestry.com, the benefits were received.  Sarah collected them until her death which occurred either in 1867 or October 1868. The minor children collected through their guardian, a relative of Sarah.

Fortunately, 45 pages of Sarah’s pension application have already been uploaded to Fold3 and may be downloaded by researchers with a paid subscription – or free at a local library that has Fold3 service.  A small portion of one of those pages is shown above in describing Adam Jury‘s first marriage and the children born to it. [Note:  Of course they also can be obtained by going to the National Archives in Washington, D.C., or applying for and paying for copies by mail].

At this writing, the Findagrave Memorial for Adam Jury pictures Elizabeth’s grave marker and gives her date of death.  Perhaps a reader can get this corrected and locate Adam’s correct place of burial.

Finally, Adam Jury should be added to the list of Millersburg area Civil War veterans.  He is definitely not named on the Millersburg Soldier Monument, one of more than several hundred veterans not included although they did have a connection with Millersburg.

 

 

Edward Crabb – Victim of Bigotry in Gratz

Posted By on July 1, 2016

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Another Memorial Day has gone by and the grave of Edward Crabb, an African American Civil War soldier buried in Gratz Union Cemetery, continues to be un-decorated [no G.A.R.-Star-Flag-Holder and Flag].  In addition to being un-decorated, the Crabb family plot is one of the worst maintained in a cemetery which is known for its manicured grave sites and magnificent views of the Mahantongo Mountains to the north.  In the family plot photograph above, taken on Memorial Day 2016, two of the stones are broken and one is tipped so that it can not be easily read.  The broken stone at the left is for Lydian [Schoffstall] Crabb, later Witman, who was married to Henry Crabb (1817-1856), brother of Edward Crabb, and was the mother of a Civil War soldier, William P. Crabb.

The stone at the right, shown below in detail (also taken on Memorial Day 2016), is for Civil War soldier Edward Crabb.

These broken stones have been evident for many years.  Could it be that these grave sites were desecrated by vandals who knew that this was an African American burial plot?

It is not surprising that this has happened in a community that for at least the last 20 years has had a bigot as the chief interpreter of its history.  The disgraceful result of the promotion of her erroneous view that Blacks never lived in Gratz, is that a native of Gratz, a veteran, who happened to be African American, lies unrecognized, except for a damaged stone, near the front of the only cemetery in town!

Following a history of the honorable record of this Civil War veteran, a remedy will be proposed – which will include proper recognition of Edward Crabb at his gravesite in Gratz – and the removal of the bigots who are illegally operating the Gratz Historical Society.

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Edward Crabb was born on 12 November 1832 in Gratz.  He was the son of Peter Crabb (1787-1860), an African American who was one of the first settlers in Gratz shortly after the town was laid out by Simon Gratz in the early part of the 19th Century.  The descendants of Peter Crabb were numerous. By the time of the Civil War, Gratz had one of the highest populations of free Blacks in the Lykens Valley area.  Some of the sons and daughters of Peter Crabb married into the White families of the area, but others chose to marry into the numerous other African American families in a broader region – to Line Mountain in the north and to Peter’s Mountain in the south – a large triangular area which represents the geographical reach of this Civil War Research Project.  Most of the descendants who married White ended up passing, while those who married Black were usually unable to do so.  Edward Crabb was one of those who married Black and did not pass.

William P. Crabb, the Civil War soldier mentioned in the first paragraph of this blog post, was previously profiled in in a blog post here on 15 May 2015.  The conclusion of that post was that although he was the grandson of Peter Crabb, the African American pioneer settler of Gratz, because his mother was White and he was light-skinned enough to pass, he and his descendants chose to refer to themselves as White.  William died in 1917 and is buried at the Maple Grove Cemetery in Elizabethville.

In 1850, Edward Crabb, a laborer, is found in the household of Samuel Umholtz, a farmer of Lykens Township.  In that census, he was listed as mulatto.

By 1863, Edward had learned the craft of shoemaking and registered twice for the Civil War draft – once in Coal Township, Northumberland County, and once in Lykens Township, Dauphin County.  In both cases, he was listed as colored.

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A few days after the draft registration, Edward Crabb was in Harrisburg with his company and regiment, ready to serve for the Emergency of 1863, Lee’s invasion of Pennsylvania.  The 36th Pennsylvania Infantry Militia, Company C, was composed primarily of men from Lykens Township and Gratz and served from 4 July 1863 through 11 August 1863.  Prior to the Civil War, both Edward Crabb and his brother John Peter Crabb were listed among the members of the Gratztown Militia, a home guard unit that was organized under the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.  It was this Gratztown Militia that became Company C.  Edward and his brother John Peter were the only known African Americans in the company that consisted of about 76 men.  It is important to note here that these emergency forces were under Pennsylvania command, not Federal command and therefore there were no racial restrictions on the service of African Americans.  Most of the men knew each other from their “home guard” militia service and no evidence has been seen to suggest that there was any discrimination against the brothers who served in Company C.  Note:  The Pennsylvania Veterans’ File Card, shown above, is from the Pennsylvania Archives.

The brief history of this militia regiment in the war is recorded in Bates, Volume 5, page 1257, Pennsylvania’s official Civil War history, and therein is included the name of Edward Crabb.  The responsibilities of the 36th Pennsylvania Infantry Militia included the cleaning up of the Gettysburg Battlefield, which was hazardous due to the large number of decomposing bodies that needed to be properly buried as well as the un-exploded shells remaining there.  Bates reports specifically on the activity of the 36th Pennsylvania Infantry Militia beginning on page 1228 of Volume 5:

So rapid were the movements of the armies, and so soon after call for the militia was made the decisive battle fought, that the men had scarcely arrived in camp [at Harrisburg], and been organized, before the danger was past….

The militia was, however, held for some time after this, and was employed on various duty.  The Thirty-Sixth Regiment was sent to Gettysburg, and its commanding officer, Colonel H. C. Alleman, was made Military Governor of the district, embracing the battle-ground. It was engaged in gathering in the wounded and stragglers from both armies, in collecting the debris from the field and sending away the wounded as fast as their condition would permit.  Colonel Alleman, in his official report, gives the following schedule of property as having been collected from the battle-field:  “Twenty-six thousand six hundred and sixty-four muskets, nine thousand two hundred and fifty bayonets, one thousand five hundred cartridge boxes, two hundred and four sabres, fourteen thousand rounds of small-arm ammunition, twenty-six artillery wheels, seven hundred and two blankets, forty wagon loads of clothing, sixty saddles, sixty bridles, five wagons, five hundred and ten horses and mules, and six wagon loads of knapsacks and haversacks.”  The ordinance stores he shipped to the Washington Arsenal, and the remainder of the government property he turned over to an agent of the War Department.  From the various camps and hospitals on the battle-field, and in the surrounding country, he reports having collected and sent away to northern cities, “twelve thousand and sixty-one wounded Union soldiers, six thousand one hundred and ninety-seven wounded rebels, three thousand and six rebel prisoners and one thousand six hundred and thirty-seven stragglers….”

Following the Civil War, Edward Crabb returned to Gratz where he married Catherine “Rossie” Jones and began raising a family.  Rossie was a descendant of another of the many African American families of the Lykens Valley area.  Their first son, William Morris Crabb, was born in Gratz on 8 December 1866.  His death certificate, 30 December 1934, shown below, confirms his birthplace as Gratz, his race as Negro, and the names of his parents as Edward Crabb and Rossie Jones.

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Click on document to enlarge.

In the Census of 1870, the family appears in Gratz. Edward is a shoemaker and his race is mulatto.

In the Census of 1880, the family is in Hubley Township, Schuylkill County, where Edward was then working as a coal miner.  His race was given as Black.  It is not known at this time when the Edward Crabb family moved from Gratz to Hubley Township or why they moved.  In the post-Civil War years attitudes of the dominant population of Whites toward Blacks began to change in the Lykens Valley area and gradually, those Black families who had pioneered in the region, began to disappear, or if they were able to pass, some chose to remain.  Thus today, there are descendants of the pioneer Peter Crabb still living in the Lykens Valley, but all as White.  The erroneous view that African Americans never lived in Gratz could not have developed until after the last African Americans lived there – perhaps some time just after Edward Crabb moved to Hubley Township in the 1870s.

Following his death on 26 October 1886 in Hubley Township, Edward Crabb was buried in Gratz Union Cemetery (also known as Simeon’s Cemetery).  Two of his children are also buried in the same plot.  There is no evidence to suggest that he was ever recognized at his grave site as a Civil War veteran – by the G.A.R. (which in Gratz did not permit Blacks as members), by the American Legion, or by the current V.F.W.  More research must be done to determine when this racial discrimination first occurred and who was involved in promoting it.

So, the question now is, “Why isn’t Edward Crabb recognized as a Civil War soldier?”  He is recognized by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania as such.  He also is recognized as such in the “official” history of Gratz, page 341, which was published in 1997.  However, that Gratz history does not mention any race or national origin for the the Crabb family.

It can now be stated unequivocally that Edward Crabb is not recognized because he was an African American.  There has been a deliberate effort on the part of one person at the Gratz Historical Society, Lois Schoffstall, to hide and erase the fact that some of the earliest settlers of Gratz were African Americans and their sons and grandsons served honorably in the Civil War.  While Lois Schoffstall, who has only lived in Gratz for about forty years, cannot be credited with originating the erroneous idea that the Gratz area only ever had White people as residents, she must be blamed for perpetuating it. In the opinion of some in the area, she is the chief interpreter of local history.  But, the views she is promoting are racist and dangerous and a close examination of them reveals that she is anything but credible.

When this Civil War Research Project began [in 2009], a specific statement was made by Lois Schoffstall that it was not to be reported by the Project that the Crabb family was African American.  This led to the initial dispute between the Project and Lois Schoffstall which eventually erupted into the separation of the Project from the Society and the exposure by the Project of the then-discovered [2013] illegal activities at the Society conducted by Lois Schoffstall and her husband Charles Schoffstall.  The revealing of how the Schoffstall’s illegally seized control of the Society and its assets can be found in two prior posts on this blog.  See:  (1) The Illegal Takeover of the Gratz Historical Society, and (2) “Cooking the Books” at the Gratz Historical Society.  Those posts showed how the Schoffstall’s have been using the Gratz Historical Society for their own bigoted and financial purposes for the past 20 years.  Now, there is at least $30,000 missing from an endowment fund set up to perpetuate the Society.  This fact is denied by Charles Schoffstall, but is proven by the annual financial statements that he has himself issued and signed.  In addition, over the past 20 years, Charles Schoffstall has failed to collect and submit State Sales Tax on thousands of dollars of consumer transactions, has claimed that the Society is a 501(c)3 organization when it is not, has falsified annual financial statements which grossly underestimate the worth of the Society, and has presented falsified information to the Gratz Bank in order to maintain his personal control of the Society accounts.  All the while, the Society has not paid property and school taxes on two commercial real properties it owns.  It is also appalling that in the most recent annual financial statement of January 2016, the net worth of the Society is only given at about $141,000, when it it believed by many area residents that when all assets are accounted for, the net worth should be well over $500,000.  Where are the missing assets, why aren’t they accounted for in the official records, and why is no one concerned?

Despite the fact that the illegal takeover and the financial falsifications have been known in the Gratz community for almost three years, the Schoffstall’s remain in complete control of the Society and there does not appear to be any effort by anyone to remove them.  As recently as as this current week, the personal phone number of the Schoffstall’s was given in the local newspapers as the official phone number of the Gratz Historical Society.  Thus, there is no hesitancy to publish it here – (717) 365-3342.   Lois Schoffstall should be called and asked why she refuses to state that African Americans were among the pioneer settlers of Gratz.  But more importantly, for the purposes of the recognition of a native of Gratz who served honorably in the Civil War, why Edward Crabb‘s grave in Gratz goes un-decorated each Memorial Day, 4th of July, and Veterans’ Day.  Lois Schoffstall also should be asked whether the “shrine” to the Ku Klux Klan that she personally approved continues to be part of the Society museum and whether the offensive video which depicts a “Heil Hitler” salute to the Ku Klux Klan “shrine”, which she also approved, is still being sold.  See:  Why Are There Ku Klux Klan Uniforms in Gratz?

The Schoffstall’s are not the persons who, going forward, should correct this problem.  They should be removed from their control of the Gratz Historical Society, whether by the Society members or the law or both, and held accountable for what they have done – including re-payment of all missing money And, anyone who has supported them actively or by allowing their names to be used as members of a sham Board of Directors should also be held accountable.  Any further activities of the Gratz Historical Society conducted by the Schoffstall’s – from the date of this blog post-  will be questioned as to why the Schoffstall’s are allowed to continue to represent themselves as officials of the Society and who has allowed them to do so. This includes the use of any town facilities, including the Gratz Community Center, which they have scheduled for a program on Thursday evening, 7 July 2016.

Members of the Society and residents of the Lykens Valley area should stop supporting these bigots and their white supremacist interpretations of local history.  And, an effort should be made by decent members of the Gratz community to correct and repair the damage the Schoffstall’s have done – including giving proper recognition to the only known African American Civil War soldier buried in the Gratz Union Cemetery.  This includes the repair or replacement of his grave marker and that of his sister-in-law, who was the mother of a Civil War soldier.  But at this point, only a public act of reconciliation, including an apology to the extended family of this veteran, will suffice.

Constructive comments will be accepted by either adding them to this blog post or by sending them via e-mail to the Project.


Note:  Previously, the brother of Edward Crabb, John Peter Crabb, has been the subject of many posts here on this blog – including his service in the U.S. Colored Troops, his helping to charter a Colored G.A.R. Post in Harrisburg, and his role as a political and Civil Rights leader in the post-war years in Harrisburg.  He also has been recognized by at least one author who studied the Civil War pension system and how African American soldiers were able to become part of it. Like his brother Edward, John Peter Crabb was born in Gratz, and while he also served in the 36th Pennsylvania Infantry Militia, his longest Civil War service was in the United States Colored Troops, a fact not mentioned in the official history of Gratz – and he collected a pension as a result of that latter service.  To state that he served in the Colored Troops, would clearly identify him and his family as African American – precisely what Lois Schoffstall does not want known.