Civil War Blog

A project of PA Historian

The Tragic Death of Isaac Lyter’s Son, 1899

Posted By on May 12, 2017

Frank Lyter, the son of Civil War veteran Isaac Lyter, met a tragic death at Halifax in July 1899, as reported in the Elizabethville Echo of 20 July 1899:

Accident at Halifax

Frank Lyter, son of Ex-Commissioner Isaac Lyter shot and killed himself, at his home in Halifax on Monday evening.

He and his mother had been sitting on the veranda conversing for some time, when Mrs. Lyter left to call on some neighbors.  Shortly afterward the report of a gun was heard and the neighbors rushing to the scene found Lyter lying near the door of his father’s office with the whole front part of his head blown off.  Near the body lay an empty breech-loading shot gun which he had procured from the house, and the belief is that in handling the weapon it was accidentally discharged.

Thirteen years ago he received an injury on the head which resulted in paralysis of one side of his body,  He was twenty-eight years of age and unmarried.  He was a general favorite among the citizens and all regret his untimely death.

Isaac Lyter has been previously featured here on this blog, including in a series of post on the Halifax Bank Robbery.


Rev. Ephraim Potts – What Was His Connection to Lykens?

Posted By on May 10, 2017

Rev. Ephraim Potts was born in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, 23 May 1837.  He died in Williamsport, Lycoming County, Pennsylvania, on 22 April 1904, and is buried at the Atglen Methodist Cemetery, Atglen, Chester County, Pennsylvania.  The portrait of him, shown above, is modified from one found of him on a public tree on Ancestry.com.

The name Ephraim Potts appears on the Lykens G.A.R. Monument as a 2nd Lieutenant who served in the Civil War and who joined the Heilner Post after its organization.

The first card noting the service of Ephraim Potts in the war is shown above (from the Pennsylvania Archives).  It states that on 12 September 1862, he enrolled at Conestoga, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania in the 18th Pennsylvania Infantry (Emergency of 1862).  At the time he was 25 years old.  He served until the conclusion of the emergency on 26 September 1862.

The second card noting the service of Ephraim Potts states that on 17 August 1864, he enrolled in the 203rd Pennsylvania Infantry, Company A, as a 1st Sergeant, and on 14 February 1865, was promoted to 2nd Lieutenant.;  He was discharged honorably on 22 June 1865.   There are some other handwritten notation on the card, notably that he was from Lancaster County, and was nearly 5 foot 6 inches tall.

The Pension Index Card (above, from Fold3), shows that when Ephraim applied for an invalid pension on 17 January 1902, he did not report his service in the emergency militia of 1862.  The pension was awarded, and a widow applied and collected after he died.

Finally, the Pension Index Card (above, from Ancestry.com) shows that the widow who applied was Hattie C. Potts, and her application was made on 9 May 1904, a few weeks after her husband passed away.  She was awarded the pension and collected until her death, which according to other sources occurred in 1920.  Other sources also give her maiden name as Cately.

In 1860, Ephraim Potts was living in Lancaster County and working as a teacher in  public school.  By 1900, he was living in Cressona, Schuylkill County, where he gave his occupation as “preacher.”  In the intervening years, it must be assumed that he was in the Lykens/Wiconisco area, because he was a member of the Heilner G.A.R. Post there.  However, no documentation has been seen to prove that.

Can any readers identify the church or churches in the Lykens Valley where he was a preacher?



Aaron Ossman of Hegins – Spoke Out for Pension Rights

Posted By on May 8, 2017

Aaron Ossman was born on 8 December 1838 in Valley View, Hegins Township, Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania, the son of Philip Ossman (1796-1866) and Barbara [Friedlein] Ossman (1794-1860).

In 1860, Aaron was living with his parents in Hegins Township, where at age 22, he was working as a carpenter.  At the time he enlisted in Civil War, 19 August 1861, he was at the same place and still working as a carpenter.

On the same day he enlisted at Hegins Township, he was mustered into service in the 50th Pennsylvania Infantry, Company A, as a Private, along with many of his neighbors who also were enrolled in that same company.  Physically, he was nearly 5 foot 6 inches, had black hair, a light complexion, and hazel eyes.  The record of his service indicates that he received no major injuries up to the time he re-enlisted at Blaine’s Crossroads, Tennessee, on 31 December 1863.  The record also shows that as a result of injuries received at Alexandria, Virginia, he was discharged on 27 February 1865 on a Surgeon’s Certificate of Disability.

Specifically, the injury was a gunshot wound to the right arm – which was described in the 1890 census.  “G.S. Wd. R. Arm” as shown on the portion of the 1890 Census, shown above.

The injury was sufficient for Aaron Ossman to apply for a pension, on what appears to be 20 November 1864, prior to his discharge.  He was awarded the pension, which he collected until his death, which occurred on 8 May 1917 at Tremont, Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania.  Upon his death, a widow applied on 22 May 1917, which she was awarded and collected until her death.  Note:  Penson Index Card, above, from Fold3.

Aaron Ossman was first married to Henrietta “Harriet’ Header who died in 1876.  Then he married Margaret “Maggie” Bone, who survived him and was the recipient of the widow’s pension.  This fact is shown on the Pension Index Card from Ancestry.com (not shown here).

In 1870, Aaron Ossman was living in Tower City, Schuylkill County, and working as a carpenter.  He is not named on the Tower City All-Wars Monument, but should have qualified because of his residence there.

1n 1880, he was living in Hegins Township, and still working as a carpenter.

In 1890, he was living in Tremont, when he reported his war service to the census.

In 1900, he was still living in Tremont, and working as a land agent.

And, in 1910, he was living in Tremont, where he was no longer working, presumably living off his pension.

Four correspondences have been located between Aaron Ossman and the National Tribune, Washington, D.C., the official newspaper of the Grand Army of the Republic.  All were published in editions of that newspaper and attest to his interest in the issues of the day.

On 26 February 1903, in relation to the blanket issuance of pensions to all who served in the war, and in recognition that he was receiving a disability pension for severe wounds received to his right arm:

Aaron Ossman, Co. A, 50th PA., Tremont, Pa., does not favor a service-pension bill, unless it be in addition to disability pension.

On 2 April 1908, in relation to the women of the south erecting a memorial to Henry Wirz, commander of Andersonville Prison Camp:

Aaron Ossman, 50th Pa., Tremont, Pa., says that the Wirz Monument is the result of the continual dinging about it by the veterans until they stirred the ladies of the South to the present pitch.  It is absurd in the women of the South to honor this fellow when they have hundreds of true and faithful men who fought to the last for what they believed to be right.  The monument will be a disgrace to those who put it up, and to all generations to come as long as it shall stand.

On 11 February 1909, Aaron Ossman related what he believed to be the proper definition of the term “veteran.”


Comrade Aaron Ossman, 50th Pa., Tremont, Pa., inquires and remarks:  “What is the meaning of ‘veteran?’  I thought while were engaged in our spat with our neighbors of the South that a soldier was a ‘veteran’ only after he re-enlisted.  I am one who re-enlisted, and after re-enlistment, and not before, we were designated ‘veterans.’  I notice now that soldier of but a few months service in the Spanish-American or Philippine troubles are called ‘veterans,’ which I don’t understand.”

Finally, on 21 October 1909, Aaron Ossman wrote regarding the higher amount in monthly payment given to those who reached the age of 70 and were eligible, than to those who were severely disabled – arguing that those who were disabled should receive both amounts:

Gets No Advantage.

Aaron Ossman, 50th Pa., Tremont, Pa., approves of our proposition to raise the rates, but says that it would do him no good. He served three years and four months, got his left arm shot all to pieces, and is now 74 years old and gets $24 a month. Yet if his neighbor served only 90 days and was not crippled at all and was 70 years old, he would receive $30 a month.  He would have to drop his disability pension and take up the age pension.  He thinks that there should be some sort of a provision made for the cripples.

What may seem confusing after reading this entire blog post, is that it was reported in the 1890 census (shown above) that Aaron Ossman‘s wound was to the right arm, and in the 21 October 1909 letter to the National Tribune, he stated that the damage was done to his left arm.  A final piece of evidence as to which arm received the gunshot wound is shown below – the full picture of Aaron Ossman from which the portrait at the top of this post was cropped:

Unless the photograph was taken of a mirror, it is the left arm, hidden behind his back, that was most likely damaged.  For additional proof, an examination of the pension application file would be necessary.  That file, from the National Archives, was not available for this blog post.




The photograph of Aaron Ossman is from a publicly posted family tree on Ancestry.com.


April 2017 Posts

Posted By on May 7, 2017

A listing of the April 2017 posts on The Civil War Blog with direct links:

Nelson C. Meck – Charter Member of Millersburg G.A.R. Post

Was Charles Meckenstorm of Tremont a Deserter?

William Murphy of Tremont – Immigrant, Died at Vet Home in Virginia

Samuel Mumma or Samuel Mummy? – Confusion Over Ancestry of Lykens Veteran

Couple Married at Ku Klux Klan Meeting in Hebe

Death and Funeral of John E. Nace

Israel Neiman – Veteran of Mifflin Township

Lybrand F. Nolen – Lykens Veteran, Injured in Mines, Moved to Iowa

Robert Newton of Williamstown – Alias “Richard Noble”

Moses Nutt – Forgeman and Farmer

Moses Neyer – Another Missing Millersburg Civil War Veteran

George Noll of Tremont – Dies as Santa Claus

Obituary of James Neal of Rausch Creek – Served as James W. O’Neal

Abner M. Pike of Halifax – Some Tragic Stories

Posted By on May 5, 2017

The death of Abner M. Pike was announced in the Harrisburg Daily Independent, 3 November 1902.  The obituary in that newspaper did not mention his Civil War service:

Death of A. M. Pike

Special to the Star-Independent

Halifax, 3 November 1902 — A. M. Pike, a prominent business man of Halifax, died at 9 p.m. on Saturday.  He had been closely associated with the business interests of the town for more than thirty years.  He was the business partner of ex-County Treasurer William Lodge, in the purchase of grain and was well-known to the people of his community.  He leaves a widow, four sons and three daughters.

An obituary also appeared in the Harrisburg Patriot of 5 November 1902:

HALIFAX, 4 November 1902 — A. M. Pike, who has been ill for several weeks, died at his home on Saturday evening.  He is survived by his wife and eight children:  Mrs. W. C. Farnsworth, of Harrisburg;  Mrs. C. C. Zimmerman; Miss Ellen Pike; Miss Muriel Pike; William Pike; Harry Pike; Colder Pike; and Herbert Pike.  The funeral services will be held Wednesday morning at 10 o’clock.

Finally, from the Harrisburg Patriot, 10 November 1902, the funeral was described:

HALIFAX, 9 November 1902 — The funeral of A. M. Pike occurred Wednesday afternoon at 2 o’clock and was very largely attended. Mr. Pike was born in 1837, in his early life worked on a farm.  Later he was boatman and finally entered the grain business with his brother-in-law, William Lodge.  This firm continued until a few years ago, when Mr. Pike took entire control of the business, which he conducted until the time of his death.  Mr. Pike was a member of the H. W. Slocum Post, Grand Army of the republic (G.A.R.)

The funeral services were conducted by Rev. Beyer, of the Methodist Episcopal Church, and Rev. Shires, of the United Brethren Church.  Interment was made in the Methodist Episcopal Cemetery.

The following from a distance who attended the funeral were:  Mrs. W. C. Farnsworth and children, William Farnsworth and Margaret Farnsworth; Miss May Lodge; Mrs. Horace Lodge and son; Thomas Robins and Mrs. Horace Hipple, of Harrisburg; Mrs. Furman; Mrs. Mary Jury; Mrs. William Rutter; Mrs. J. C. Johnson and C. M. Steward of Millersurg; Charles C. Lodge of Shamokin; Ephraim Fetterhoff, of Steelton; Mr. and Mrs. William Lodge, of Williamsport.

During the Civil War, Abner M. Pike served in the 192nd Pennsylvania Infantry, Company H, as a Private from 21 February 1865 to his honorable discharge on 24 August 1865.

On 25 July 1890, Abner M. Pike applied for an invalid pension based on his Civil War service.  That benefit was awarded and he collected it to his death, which occurred on 1 November 1902.  The widow, Sarah J. [Lodge] Pike then applied and she received benefits until her death, which occurred on 14 September 1918.  Both Abner and Sarah are supposedly buried at Halifax United Methodist Church Cemetery, Halifax, Dauphin County, Pennsylvania, but their grave markers have not yet been located to be photographed for this Project.

Tragedies to report on here are two.  Both are connected to Abner M. Pike, but neither involved any harm to him personally.  The first occurred about two years before his death and the second occurred man years after his death, but involved his son.

On 21 September 1899, the Harrisburg Patriot reported on an accident that occurred near Clark’s Ferry on the Northern Central Railroad.  Abner M. Pike was selected for the Coroner’s Jury, as the news article states, and the care given to the surviving mother by the residents of Halifax was duly noted:


Two Little Colored Girls Killed By Fast Line Near Clark’s Ferry


Fast Line North, on the Northern Central Railroad, struck and killed two little colored children, Mattie Raford and Lucy Raford, yesterday afternoon about 4:30  o’clock just below Clark’s Ferry.

The children, age thirteen and eleven years, respectively, were the daughters of Mrs. Lucy Raford, of North Carolina.  The parted started several months ago from their old home in the south to go to the residence of friends in New York State.  Poverty they knew and starvation stared them in the face.  Work, and a home for the little one awaited their arrival in New York.  Money they had none, so railroad travel was impossible.

They made their way to Roanoke by wagon and all the long, weary way between that city and the scene of the fatal accident was covered by the trio afoot.   They stuck close to the railroads and through the kindness of trainmen and farm people they managed to eke out a scanty living.

The few clothes they had the mother carried in three bundles, one in either hand, the other on her head.  They were typical southern Negroes of the old plantation kind and minded little the hardships of travel.

As they wended their way yesterday along the northbound track of the Northern Central, the children called and waved to the employees on a southbound freight train opposite.  They did not know that the gestures of the men were made to warn them of Fast Line’s approach and the “flier” was down upon them before they were aware.  The long blasts of the passenger whistle caught the mother’s ear and dropping her baggage she had just time to grasp Lucy by the dress as the cowcatcher of the engine flashed by and threw two lifeless little forms many feet to the side.  Mrs. Raford escaped by a miracle.

The train came to a standstill under the pressure of the emergency brake and slowly backed to the scene of the accident. Both children were picked up dead and the mother was almost fainting from the shock.  All three were conveyed to Halifax and Coroner Krause, of this city, was summoned.

A. M. Pike, Hiram Chubb, C. H. Lenker, W. M. Yeingst, Samuel Noblet, and C. C. Zimmerman formed the Coroner’s Jury and rendered a verdict of accidental death, exonerating the railroad company from blame.  Coroner Krause brought the two bodies and Mrs. Raford to this city.  The remains will be interred at the expense of the county.  Mrs. Raford the coroner sent to the home of the Barnes, a colored family residing on South Street.  Today, she will be removed to the county home where she will remain until she recovers from the shock of the accident.  Then Coroner Krause will endeavor to find work for her in this city.

Mrs. Raford was kindly treated by the people of Halifax.  They gave her shoes, of which she was destitute. and clothed her cleanly and presentably.  Last night she could do nothing but weep and lament her children’s death.

The son of Abner M. Pike, Harry Pike, killed himself on 4 September 1933.  Notice of his death appeared in a local newspaper:


The body of Harry Pike, 61, of Halifax, was found in a chicken house on the property of Guy L. Heckert, tombstone manufacturer at Halifax, about 5:30 o’clock Monday afternoon.  Death was due to a bullet wound in the head, believed to be self-inflicted.

Pike had been employed as a watchman for Mr. Heckert.  Despondency over a prolonged period of ill health is believed to have prompted the man’s act.  His body was found by Fred Heckert, son of the monumental works operator. County Coroner Howard Milliken who investigated expressed belief that Pike had been dead four or five hours.

He is survived by a son and a daughter, William Pike and Christine Pike, both of Reading; three brothers, Calder A. Pike and J. H. Pike, both of Halifax, and W. L. Pike, Harrisburg; four sisters, Mrs. William Millard, Plymouth; Mrs. Dorothy Farnsworth, Bath, New York; Miss Ella K. Pike, and Mrs. Elizabeth Zimmerman, both of Halifax.

Private services will be held from his residence at two o’clock this Thursday afternoon, Rev. John S. Hartman, pastor of the Halifax Methodist Church will officiate and interment will be made in the Halifax Cemetery.

Readers may add additional information as comments to this blog post.