Civil War Blog

A project of PA Historian

Obituary of a Civil War Widow, Mrs. Joseph W. Knouff

Posted By on January 29, 2016


During the Civil War, Joseph W. Knouff served in Company H of the 130th Pennsylvania Infantry, for nine months.  He died on 10 April 1902 and is buried at the Fairview Cemetery in Enders, Dauphin County.

On 21 July 1890, Joseph W. Knouff applied for a disability pension, which, according to the Pension Index Card (shown below from Ancestry.com), he did not receive.  His widow, Isabella [Enders] Knouff, applied for widow’s benefits in 1902, which she received and collected until her death on 22 November 1939.


Isabella Knouff‘s obituary appeared in a local newspaper at the time of her death:



Mrs. Isabella E. Knouff, age 84 years, widow of Joseph W. Knouff, died at the home of her son, J. Byron Knoff, in Harrisburg, last Wednesday evening. She had been a resident of the Enders community most of her life and was a member of the Enders United Brethren Church.

In addition to her son, she is survived by two grandsons, Robert P. Knouff of Harrisburg and Joseph W. Knouff, Camden, New Jersey, and four great-grandchildren.

Funeral services were held from the C. C. Baker Funeral Home, Harrisburg, Monday morning with further services in the Enders United Brethren Church, with the pastor, Rev. W. E. Sheriff, officiating.  Interment was made in Fairview Cemetery, Enders.

Previously on this blog, Joseph W. Knouff was featured in a post on the Knouff Family Civil War veterans of Enders and Millersburg and in a later post entitled Obituary of Joseph W. Knouff.

This obituary of Mrs. Knouff was also previously featured on this blog.

Jennie Kissinger – Buried in Her Ku Klux Klan Robes

Posted By on January 27, 2016

Today’s post will begin to document numerous instances of hate and violence in Dauphin County which occurred before, during, and after the Civil War.  This includes actions by individuals, by political parties, by social groups, and by terror groups.  A new blog topic, “Hate,” is being introduced with this post and other posts on this topic can be found by clicking on the word “Hate” in the “topics” category in the 2nd column of any page of the blog.

The presence of the Ku Klux Klan in Pennsylvania in the 1920s and 1930s has been briefly discussed here in past blog posts.  What has not been mentioned before is that there were almost as many members of the Klan in Pennsylvania during that period than there were men from Pennsylvania who served in the Civil War during the early 1860s.  The Klan had as members both men and women.

Jennie Kissinger was a member of the women’s auxiliary of one of the many the Ku Klux Klan groups in Dauphin County in the 1920s.  When she died in 1925, her request that she be buried in her full Klan robe was honored by her husband Irvin Kissinger and by other members of her Klan group.  Her funeral at the East Harrisburg Cemetery was attended by 250 Klan members, 50 of whom were in full regalia.  As noted in one of the articles, the Harrisburg Mayor refused to grant permission for the Klan to hold the public ceremony, but no city officials interfered with the Klan ceremonies at the cemetery.

The Death and Funeral of Jennie Kissinger


The following article was from The Evening News (Harrisburg), 31 March 1925:

Woman Buried Here in Klan Regalia With Fifty Others in White Robes at Grave

The dying request of Mrs. Jennie Kissinger, of 623 North Eighteenth Street, 55, that she be buried in the full regalia of the women’s order of the Ku Klux Klan, of which she was a member, and that the complete ritual ceremonial of the order be observed at her funeral, was carried out when she was buried here yesterday afternoon.

Fifty women of the women’s branch of the Klan made their appearance in the East Harrisburg Cemetery, where the burial took place, dressed in the long white robes and hoods of the order.  Each flowing robe contained, at the breast, a red cross, — the order’s emblem.  Long red tassels waved from the tops of the hoods.  The faces of the women were not covered.

Several hundred spectators, besides 200 members of the Klan, men and women, witnessed the ceremony.

The uniformed women, with their State official, carrying a large American flag at their head, formed an avenue through which the funeral procession passed to the grave.  They then arranged themselves in the form of a cross and advanced to the grave.

Body in White Robe

A beautiful floral cross, made of red and white roses, bearing the inscription, “The Women of the Ku Klux Klan,” was placed at the head of the grave by one of the white-robed figures.  The American flag was placed at the foot of the grave.

The body was dressed in the white robe of the order with the design of the red cross over the heart.  The hood was placed on her head with the face uncovered just before the coffin was closed.

Following funeral services conducted by the Rev. H. F. Rhoad, Pastor of the United Brethren Church, Eighteenth and State Streets, Klan officials read from the Scriptures.  The organization then sand in unison, “The Tie That Binds.”

The men’s branch of the Klan placed a large basket of white carnations, formed in a cross, on the grave.

Mrs. Kissinger died at her home Thursday morning.  It was to her husband, Irvin Kissinger, at the final moment, that she made the request that the members of her order take charge of the funeral.

Her Dying Request

Kissinger said he first notified the order of his wife’s request and that members of the organization went to Mayor Hoverter to ask permission to hold the funeral.  It was explained to the Mayor, he said, that it was not the intention of the Klan to parade through the streets in their robes but only to place them on at the cemetery.

“The Mayor refused to grant permission,” Kissinger continues, “but no efforts were made to interfere with the ceremony.”

Besides her husband, Mrs. Kissinger is survived by one son, Lawrence M. Kissinger.

Mrs. Kissinger died on 26 March 1925 and one of her obituaries referred to her Klan membership euphemistically as “connected with the Fraternal Organization” and did not mention the Klan ceremony that would be conducted at the cemetery.  From the Harrisburg Telegraph, 27 March 1925:


Mrs. Jennie C. Kissinger, wife of Irvin M. Kissinger, died yesterday at her home, 623 North Eighteenth Street.  She is survived by her husband.  Death was caused by complications, following a brief illness.  The funeral service will be private and will be held Monday afternoon at 3 o’clock in the chapel of Hoover and Son funeral parlors, 1413 North Second Street.  The Rev. H. F. Rhoad, of the State Street United Brethren United Brethren Church, will officiate.  Mrs. Kissinger was a member of the State Street, United Brethren Church, and was also connected with the Fraternal Organization.  The body may be viewed Sunday night from 7 to 9 o’clock in the Hoover and Son Parlors.  Burial will be in the East Harrisburg Cemetery.

Shortly after the death of his wife, Irvin Kissinger moved to Michigan and re-married.  It is not known whether he moved there voluntarily or because he was ostracized for his and his wife’s support of the Ku Klux Klan in Dauphin County.  Irvin Kissinger’s obituary appeared in the Harrisburg Telegraph, 6 March 1948:



Irvin Kissinger, 77, Grand Rapids, Michigan, a former resident of Harrisburg, died 25 February in Grand Rapids.  He left Harrisburg about 20 Years ago.  He was the son of the late Emanuel Kissinger, Harrisburg, and is survived by a grandson, Lawrence Kissinger, Harrisburg; a granddaughter, Mrs. Catherine Harley, Illinois, and two nieces, both of Harrisburg.  He was buried in Grand Rapids.

Attempts at this juncture to connect either Jennie Kissinger or her husband Irvin to any Civil War soldiers in their ancestry have not been successful.


John Gemmell, Alias Price – Not Named on Lykens G.A.R. Monument

Posted By on January 25, 2016


When John Gemmell died, his obituary that appeared in the 3 March 1903, his obituary that appeared in the Harrisburg Patriot did not mention his Civil War service.

John Gemmill

After an illness of only a few days John Gemmill of 323 South Fifteenth Street, died yesterday morning at 3 o’clock.  He was sixty-three years of age and was a former resident of the Ninth Ward.  For eleven years he had been a resident of Harrisburg.  The funeral will take place to-morrow, the interment being made at Interline [Enterline], six miles east of Halifax.

However, on 7 March 1903, the Patriot did note that Gemmill was a war veteran:


The body of John Gemmill was brought to this place Thursday and taken to Bowerman’s Church for interment.  Mr. Gemmill was a veteran of the Civil War and a resident of Harrisburg for many years.

In the 1890 Veterans’ Census for Wiconisco, Dauphin Co., Pennsylvania, the name David W. Gimmell appears as shown below, with service noted in the 8th Maryland Infantry.  On the line above, the name John Price appears, with service in the 203rd Pennsylvania Infantry.  Note:  click on documents to enlarge.


In the corresponding boxes on the bottom half of the census sheet, there is an explanation that John Gemmill served as substitute for his brother.


To show that “Price” was an alias used by John Gemmell, a Pension Index Card is presented below from Fold3:


The card, which shows both the Pennsylvania and Maryland regiments, also has the three “aliases” at the top.  This indicates that the person who applied for the pension on 21 August 1889 was John Gemmill.

During 1892 and 1893, John Gemmell spent some time living at the Soldiers’ Home in Dayton, Ohio.  The home record page, shown below from Ancestry.com, also notes his alias, but credits John Gemmell for service in both state regiments.


Click on document to enlarge

John’s closest relative was his son, Harry E. Gemmill, of Enterline, Dauphin County, and according to the home record, John was released in April 1893, whereupon he returned to Harrisburg.


After the Civil War, John Gemmell worked as a peddler.  An example of the type of work that he did was found in the Harrisburg Telegraph advertisement placed by John C. Graham, 25 July 1878, owner of the Harrisburg Grocer (see above).  That ad states that “by close attention to business, and the assistance of Mr. John Gemmill, the affable and accommodating gentleman, I hope the old, as well as many new customers, will call and see what we can do for them.”

How John Gemmill got his “alias” of Price is unknown.  But it is clear that he was well-known by that name as well as his own, for not only does it appear in the military records, but also in the records of the courts of Harrisburg:


John Gemmill, alias Price, was drunk on Sunday, paid his fine on Monday morning, became drunk, and disorderly on Monday evening, and this morning, in default of fine, returned to his quarters in the lock-up.

More information is sought on this Civil War soldier who apparently served his country well and should be recognized in the communities where he lived.  Comments may be added to this post or sent via e-mail.

Note:  His name is omitted from the Lykens G.A.R. Monument which includes men from Lykens and Wiconisco and the surrounding area.  It’s clear from the 1890 Census that, at least for a time, he lived in Wiconisco.

Note:  His name is not omitted from the list of Civil War veterans produced for the Halifax area, including Enterline, where he is buried, but at the time of this writing, his Findagrave Memorial neglects to mention that he was a Civil War veteran.


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

John J. Swab – A Record for the Soldier Homes?

Posted By on January 22, 2016


On the 9 March 1919, the Leavenworth Post of Leavenworth, Kansas, reported on a new admission to the National Soldiers’ Home there – that of John J. Swab, indicating that he was transferred from Battle Mountain Sanitarium and stating that he had been in “nearly every other National Military Home in the United States, but this is the first time he has been here.”

A question has now come up as to whether this is the same John Swab who was born about 1848, the son of Daniel F. Swab (1813-1871) and Sally [Heller] Swab (1817-1901).  John appears in the 1850 Census for Washington Township, Dauphin County (2 years old), and in the 1860 Census (12 years old) of the same place – living with his family.

Also, if the John J. Swab who was an inmate in the soldier homes was a member of the Swab family of Elizabethville and Washington Township, Dauphin County, then he needs to be added to the list of Elizabethville area Civil War veterans that is being compiled for the Elizabethville Bicentennial which will take place in 2017.

A summary military record for the John J. Swab who arrived at the Leavenworth Home in 1919, can be found in the home records, in the Military Index Card available on Fold3, and on the Pension Index Card also from Fold3.  First, the latter two records are presented below:


Military Index Card



Pension Index Card

Summarizing the information in the two cards, John J. Swab served in the 1st Pennsylvania Cavalry, Company D, and the 2nd Pennsylvania Provisional Cavalry, Company H.  The Pension Index Card also gives the date of death as 10 July 1923, and the place of death as National Military Home, Ohio.

The dates of service are not found on the above two records, but can be found in the National Soldier Home records, six pages of which pictured below.  In those home records, available through Ancestry.com, two pages of a ledger book are pictured, but only one page contains John J. Swab‘s records.  Click on any thumbnail to enlarge.

SwabJohnJ-USNHDVS-004Record #1





SwabJohnJ-USNHDVS-005Record #2





SwabJohnJ-USNHDVS-003Record #3





SwabJohnJ-USNHDVS-006Record #4





SwabJohnJ-USNHDVS-002Record #5





SwabJohnJ-USNHDVS-001Record #6





In addition to the military information which confirms the service of John J. Swab in the aforementioned cavalry regiments, the home record sheets give the veteran’s age, his physical description, ailments, next of kin, residence and occupation prior to admission and a history of known transfers from one home to another.  Rather than writing out the full name of the home, the branch name was given in initials.

On several of the home sheets, Miss Carrie Dockey (later as Mrs. Carrie Bair) is given as next of kin (a niece) living in Millersburg.  This niece connects John J. Swab, to the Lykens Valley area – but it is not known at this time how Carrie Dockey is his niece.  A brother, Samuel D. Swab is also named in the home records.  The brother’s address appears as Oklahoma and as California.  It is also not known at this time how Samuel D. Swab is connected to John J. Swab.  If John J. Swab was the son of Daniel Swab and Sally [Heller] Swab, there was no sibling named Samuel who has been found, nor is there a descendant of a sibling of Daniel and Sally named Carrie Dockey who has been located who could qualify as a niece.  Help is therefore requested from blog readers in determining the exact genealogical relationship of John J. Swab to these two individuals – Carrie Dockie and Samuel D. Swab.

Another curious fact found in the home records is that this John J. Swab lived in Pittsburgh prior to his admission to the soldiers’ home system – and that he was a widower.  This would indicate a marriage and a spousal death prior to his first home admission – and a re-location to Pittsburgh.  No record has yet been located of the marriage or the name of a possible wife.


More clues as to whether John J. Swab is an Elizabethville area veterans can be found on the Pennsylvania Veterans’ File Card, shown above from the Pennsylvania Archives.  His enrollment on 25 March 1864, at Eldred Township, Schuylkill County, where he was a resident, places him in proximity to Elizabethville – and certainly within the geographical area of the Civil War Research Project – but not exactly in the area covered by the Elizabethville Bicentennial.   His age at enrollment, 15 years, is approximately correct for the John Swab who was the son of Daniel Swab and Sally [Heller] Swab.

Much still needs to be discovered about this John J. Swab and more evidence needs to be located before he is definitely placed in the Elizabethville Bicentennial list.  However, his confirmed residence in Eldred Township definitely allows him to be added to the Civil War Research Project.

A pension application was first made in March of 1908.  Most of the answers to the above questions will most likely be found in that application file which is available from the National Archives in Washington, D.C.  However, the cost of obtaining those application files is too prohibitive for this Project, and, as in the past, the Project has to rely on the generosity of those who have already obtained the records to share them.  Therefore, the plea goes out to anyone who has obtained the pension file – please share it with readers here!

Another question that needs to be resolved about this John J. Swab is why so many transfers?  Typically, a veteran moved about from one home to another only a few time, but John J. Swab transferred more times than any other inmate thus far encountered by this Project.  Was he an unmanageable person who was transferred because of some unwillingness or inability to conform to home rules?  Or, was he just trying to see the country at the expense of the government?  From the prior research done on these soldiers’ homes, a veteran voluntarily went in and could leave (go to another facility or go home) at any time on his own say so – or, as in the case where the home could no longer manage a individual, the home management could transfer the individual.

There could be an interesting story here for anyone willing to research it further.


John J. Swab is buried at Dayton National Cemetery, Dayton, Montgomery County, Ohio.  His Findagrave Memorial gives little additional information about him.


The new clipping is from Newspaper.com.


William J. George – New York War Veteran, Carpetbagger & Harrisburg Publisher

Posted By on January 20, 2016


At the death of Captain William J. George on 24 September 1911 in Harrisburg, the following obituary appeared in the Harrisburg Telegraph:



Was Secretary of Soldier’ Orphans’ School Commission


After a long illness Captain William J. George, aged 64 years, chief clerk to the Soldiers’ Orphan’ Schools Commission, died last night at his residence, 1001 North Second Street.

Captain George was born and educated in Albany, New York, and at the outbreak of the Civil War enlisted and served as correspondent for several newspapers, afterward taking a conspicuous part in the Lincoln-McClellan campaign.

Locating in Richmond after the war, Captain George became active in politics and served as chairman of the Republican city committee.  Removing to Harrisburg in 1877, he became affiliated with the silk industry of New London and later was one of the firm of George and Farnum, proprietors of the News, a defunct newspaper of this city.

Thomas G. George, former Chief of Police and at present a candidate for Recorder, is a son.

The funeral will be held Wednesday afternoon.  Arrangements have not been completed.

Two days later, a report on the funeral appeared in the same newspaper:


Funeral Services for Capt. Wm. J. George

The funeral services of Captain William J. George, aged 64, who died Sunday night, were held this afternoon at the home of his son, Thomas G. George, 1001 North Second Street.  The services were in the charge of the Rev. John D. Fox, pastor of Grace Methodist Church.  The funeral was attended by officers of the Soldiers’ Orphan School Commission, of which he was chief clerk.  [From:  Harrisburg Telegraph, 27 February 1911].

William J. George was profiled in the Commemorative Biographical Encyclopedia of Dauphin County, which was published in 1896:


William J. George, of the firm of George & Farnum, sole proprietors and publishers of The News, was born in Albany, New York, 6 August 1847.  He was educated in the public schools and private academies of that city.  At the age of sixteen years he entered the Union Army and served until the close of the Civil War, being finally mustered out in July 1865.

During the war, Captain George was correspondent in the field for several newspapers, among them being the well-known Albany Journal.  He took an active part in the campaign of the Army of the Potomac, although not a voter, in the memorable Lincoln-McClellan presidential contest in 1864.  He distributed thousands of pamphlets and circulars on which were printed the platforms of the parties.  These circulars had as much as any one other agency to do with the large Lincoln vote, owing to the stand taken by the Republicans on the war, and the neglect of the Democrats to uphold the Union, and their declaration that “the war was a failure.”

At the close of hostilities the Captain settled in the South and for many years was located in Virginia, where he took an active part in politics, being chairman of the Republican City Committee of Richmond when he left there in 1877 for Harrisburg.  In Richmond he was connected with various newspapers, and also acted as special correspondent for a number of northern newspapers during reconstruction days.  His letters at that period were very interesting, owing to the great efforts to make the South solid for Democracy – no matter what the means used.

Since Captain George resided in this city — up to 1 July of this year — he was connected with the Brainerd & Armstrong Company, the celebrated manufacturers of New London, Connecticut.  His son, Thomas G. George, took his place with the above company on that date in order to allow Captain George to give his undivided time and attention to The News.

The Captain served the city as councilman in both branches and is one of its most active and progressive citizens.  He has been and is connected with a number of leading enterprises and is an up-to-date business man.  He is a member of a number of organizations and a leader in the Republican politics of the State capital.

He was married at Albany, New York 20 January 1867, to Miss Annie Henley, daughter of Robert Henley and Jennie Henley, of Albany, where Mrs. George was born.  To their union have been born two children, Thomas G. George and Jennie B. George, both residing in Harrisburg.  He also has two grandchildren residing with him, Annie M. Goodwin and Gertrude Goodwin.  The father of Mr. George is deceased; his mother still survives and resides in Binghampton.

The term “carpetbagger,” although considered pejorative, referred to northerners who went South during the reconstruction period, mostly with a desire for personal gain and/or for the purpose of assisting in bringing democracy to the region.  In the case of William J. George, his biographical sketch suggests that his motives were the latter rather than the former – although his departure from the South in 1877 did coincide with the end of the reconstruction period – perhaps indicating that his safety may have been in danger when the Federal troops were withdrawn because of actions he took against local populations.  His letters, referred to in the biographical sketch, may give some indication as to some of the  “means” used to make the South comply and the extent to which he took part in them.  Those letters were not consulted in writing this blog post.

It is not known why he chose to settle in Harrisburg.


Neither the obituary nor the biographical sketch give a description of the actual military service of William J. George – except to say that he served from the time he was sixteen until the close of the war.  The “New York Military Abstract Card” (shown above from Ancestry.com), notes that on 10 February 1864, he was mustered into service as a Private in Company M, 50th New York Engineers, and served until his discharge on 13 June 1865 at Port Berry, Virginia.  At the time of his enrollment, he was working as a gardener, was 5 foot, 4 inches tall, had brown hair, blue eyes and a fair complexion.  At the time of the writing of this blog post, it was not known how and why William J. George obtained the rank of “Captain.”


That the 50th New York Engineers was the only Civil War service located for William J. George, is confirmed by the Pension Index Card (shown above from Fold3).  On 29 July 1904, he applied for pension benefits, which he received and collected until his death.  On 29 September 1911, his widow applied and received benefits which she collected until her death.

William J. George is buried at the Paxtang Cemetery, Paxtang, Dauphin County.  His Findagrave Memorial, as of this blog post writing, needs to be updated to include information on his Civil War service.

For more information on the 50th New York Engineers, see the post entitled The 50th New York Engineers at Gettysburg, although the dates of service for William J. George do not include the Gettysburg Campaign.


News clippings are from Newspapers.com.