Chapter XVIII
The Grand Army of the Republic and Other Organizations 

The Grand Army of the Republic, First Organized - The First Post in Jefferson County - Amor A. McKnight Post - E.R. Brady Post - E.H. Little Post - John C. Conser Post - John C. Dowling Post - Jefferson Post - D.S. Porter Post - The Sons of Veterans - The Woman’s Relief Corps - The Soldiers’ Orphan School - The Little Orphans and the Governor - The Wards of the State Provided For - Jefferson County Soldiers’ Orphans - Number of U.S. Pensioners in Jefferson County - Amount Paid in Pensions.


THE Grand Army of the Republic was organized at Decatur, Illinois, April 6, 1866. It was suggested by Dr. B.F. Stevenson, late a sergeant in the Fourteenth Illinois Regiment, and he is regarded as the founder. Post No. 1 was organized at Decatur, Post No. 2 at Springfield. Each State is a department and posts begin with No. 1 in each department.

The preamble of the association of the Grand Army of the Republic sets forth:

"We, soldiers and sailors, and honorably discharged soldiers and sailors, of the Army, Navy and Marine Corps of the United States, having aided in maintaining the honor, integrity, and supremacy of the National Government during the late rebellion, do unite to establish a permanent association.

"First. To preserve those kind and fraternal feelings which bind together the soldiers, sailors, and marines, who united to suppress the late rebellion, and to perpetuate the history of the dead.

"Second, To assist such former comrades in arms as need help and protection, and extend needful aid to the widows and orphans of those who have fallen.

"Third. To maintain true allegiance to the United States of America, based on a paramount respect for, and fidelity to, its constitution and laws; to discountenance whatever tends to weaken loyalty, incites to insurrection, treason, or rebellion, or in any manner impairs the efficiency and permanency of our free institutions; and to encourage the spread of universal liberty, equal rights, and justice to all."

The first national encampment was held at Indianapolis, Indiana, November 20, 1866. Pennsylvania was represented in this encampment, and soon after posts were organized all over this State; Brookville being the first to secure an organization of the order in the county, and Post No. 134 was instituted on the 25th of June, 1868, with the following officers: Post commander, W.S. Barr; senior vice-commander, William English; junior vice-commander, John E. Barr; officer of the day, J.W. Henderson; officer of the guard, W.R. Ramsey; chaplain, W.C. Evans; surgeon, A.P. Heichhold; quartermaster, George Van Vliet; adjutant, John A. McLain; sergeant-major, M.C. Thompson; quartermaster-sergeant, A.B. McLain.

This post was first known by its number - No. 134. Prior to 1869 there was no provision in the rules for naming posts. In that year it was provided that any post may prefix the name of a deceased soldier, or of some person eminent for loyalty or efficiency during the war.

In pursuance of this order the post adopted the name of Colonel A.A. McKnight, the intrepid commander of the One Hundred and Fifth Pennsylvania Volunteers, and it retained its name until its charter was surrendered in 1878, the result of an impression that the order was political in its purposes, and because of the removal of many of its members to other localities. The post took charge of arrangements for decoration day, inviting the public to participate in the ceremonies of decorating with flowers the graves of deceased soldiers, and contributed largely in charity for the relief of distressed comrades, and the families of those who had died in the service, and materially aided in procuring the admission of soldiers’ orphans into the schools provided by the State for them.

On the 12th of May, 1882, the organization was revived and Post No. 242, Department of Pennsylvania, was organized, and was called for Captain E.R. Brady, of the Eleventh Pennsylvania Reserves, who had gallantly given his life in his country’s cause at South Mountain, Virginia. The following were the officers elected and installed: Commander, James P. George; senior vice-commander, John W. Walker; junior vice-commander, Charles J. Wilson; officer of the day, Silas J. Marlin; officer of the guard, George W. Turner; chaplain, Theodore Henderson; surgeon, W.J. McKnight; quartermaster, Robert A. Hubbard; adjutant, F.A. Weaver; quartermaster-sergeant, C.O. Hammond; sergeant-major, J.C. Whitehill.

The post at once commenced a successful career, and in the almost five years of its existence, has mustered about one hundred and fifty members, and acquired property valued at five hundred dollars; one-half of this sum being in trust for the relief of comrades in need or distress; the charities of the order only being confined to those who participated in the war for the preservation of the Union, and the families of such soldiers.

The officers of the post for 1887 are: Commander, Andrew B. McLain; senior vice-commander, Silas J. Marlin; junior vice-commander, Clarence R. Hall; officer of the day, Charles J. Wilson; officer of the guard, John M. Davis; chaplain, Jesse Alcorn; surgeon, Joseph E. Hall; quartermaster, John Startzell; adjutant, John W. Walker; sergeant-major, R.M. Wadding; quartermaster-sergeant, T.H. Wilson.

E.R. Brady Post has now one hundred and ten effective members, and has lost by death since its organization seven comrades: C.O. Hammond, William Heckendorn, R.J. Nicholson, Joseph A. Geere, A.L. Gordon, E.B. Cavenore, and Thomas Durgan.

The stated meetings of the post are on the first and third Saturday evenings of each month at the G.A.R. Hall.

Captain E.H. Little Post No. 237, G.A.R., Department of Pennsylvania, Punxsutawney, was mustered April 14, 1882.

Charter members. - John T. Bell, Christian Miller, John Cricks, Daniel W. Robison, William Altman, John Hastings, H.C. Campbell, Charles M. Brewer, R.W. Dinsmore, J.J. Young, John G. Myers, John M. Brewer, Thomas J. Cooper, William C. Torrance, George S. Campbell, D.W.C. Hervey, Arthur H. Murray.

First officers. - Commander, John T. Bell; senior vice-commander, John Hastings; junior vice-commander, Christian Miller; surgeon, William Altman; chaplain, D.W.C. Hervey; quartermaster, Joseph J. Young; adjutant, Thomas J. Cooper; officer of the day, John M. Brewer; officer of the guard, William C. Torrance; quartermaster-sergeant, George S. Campbell; sergeant-major, R.W. Dinsmore.

Present (1887) officers: Commander, C.M. Brewer; senior vice-commander, W.C. Torrance; junior vice-commander, W.F. Campbell; chaplain, M.J. Dinsmore; quartermaster, John T. Bell; adjutant, Thomas J. Cooper; officer of the day, R.W. Dinsmore; officer of the guard, John Cricks; quartermaster-sergeant, George H. Torrance; sergeant-major, George R. Hall; whole amount mustered, 117; members died since organization, 5; present number in good standing, 90.

John C. Conser Post G.A.R. No. 192, Department of Pennsylvania, named for the gallant major of the One Hundred and Fifth, was mustered at Reynoldsville, August 27, 1880, with the following officers: Commander, Tilton C. Reynolds; senior vice-commander, H.B. Leach; junior vice-commander, W.W. Ford; surgeon, J.W. Foust; quartermaster, E. Neff; chaplain, W.W. Crissman; adjutant, J.B. McCracken; officer of the day, W.J. Heckman; officer of the guard, Levi Epler; quartermaster-sergeant, Samuel Sutter; sergeant-major, L.W. Scott.

Since its organization it has mustered eighty-nine comrades, having now fifty-four good working members. Thirty-nine have left the post by transfer or have been dropped from the roll for non- payment of dues. Four members, Simon Stine, George Thompson, William Stewart, and George Ferrier; have been mustered out by death. The post owns property worth over two hundred dollars.

The officers for 1887 are: Commander, R.D. Beer; senior vice-commander, B. Haugh; junior vice-commander, George Roller, jr.; adjutant, John W. Stouffer; quartermaster, H.B. Leach; surgeon, J.W. Foust; chaplain, Wilder M. Boyle; officer of the day, Levi Epler; officer of the guard, Thomas Claubaugh; sergeant-major, A.W. Davis; quartermaster-sergeant, Samuel Sutter.

Jefferson Post No. 269, Department of Pennsylvania, was mustered at Brockwayville, August 17, 1882, with the following officers: Commander, Thomas Myers; senior vice-commander, F.B. Harvey; junior vice-commander, S.M. Temple; adjutant, Thomas Keys; quartermaster, Ira Felt; surgeon, Frederick Walker; chaplain, M.V. Longwell; officer of the day, Joseph Clinton; officer of the guard, W.G. McMinn; sergeant-major, George Britton; quartermaster-sergeant, D.C. Nelson.

The officers of the post for 1887 are: Commander, Ira Felt; senior vice-commander, G.W. Sibley; junior vice-commander, J. Gage; quartermaster, J.W. Frost; surgeon, G.F. Walker; chaplain, J. Robinson; officer of the day, M.L. DeVallance; officer of the guard, P. Boyer; adjutant, C. Levis; sergeant-major, N.B. Wilson; quartermaster-sergeant, Thomas Hutchison. The post meets on the second and fourth Fridays of each month.

Captain J.C. Dowling Post No. 303, G.A.R., Department of Pennsylvania, was called for the first officer from Jefferson county killed in the war, was mustered at Corsica, February 22, 1883, with the following officers: Post commander, John Baker; senior vice-commander, A.P. Simpkins; junior vice-commander, A. Knabb; adjutant, D. McKee; surgeon, James Douglass; chaplain, W. Downing; officer of the day, John Williams; officer of the guard, J.B. McCullough; quartermaster, N. Taylor; sergeant-major, George J. Shultz; quartermaster-sergeant, R.R. Snyder.

The officers of this post for 1887 are: Commander, George J. Shultz; senior vice-commander, George Shick; junior vice-commander, J.L. Douglass; adjutant, R.R. Snyder; quartermaster, J.B. McCullough; surgeon, John Baker; chaplain, A. Knabb; officer of the day, D. McKee; officer of the guard, A.P. Simpkins; sergeant-major, J.A. Myers; quartermaster-sergeant, Amos Shirey.

This post, which meets the first and third Thursday of each month, has twenty-seven members, and has lost two by death since its organization.

Colonel D.S. Porter Post, No. 434, G.A.R., Department of Pennsylvania, called for a brave soldier of Indiana county, was mustered at Sprankle’s Mills, in Oliver township, May 8, 1884, with the following officers: Commander, W.W. Perry; senior vice-commander, F.W. Grove; junior vice-commander, T.L. Hall; adjutant, D.W. Smith; quartermaster, George Baughman; surgeon, Philip Smathers; chaplain, Henry Troutmore; officer of the day, B.D. Blose; officer of the guard, Samuel Haines; sergeant-major, Samuel Shilling; quartermaster-sergeant, Peter Slagle.

The officers for 1887 are: Commander, George Baughman; senior vice-commander, Andrew Alcorn; junior vice-commander, Joseph Clontz; adjutant F.C. Eshbaugh; quartermaster, B.D. Blose; surgeon, Alexander Mauk; chaplain, J.C. Mauk; officer of the day, F.W. Grove; officer of the guard, H. Hinderleiter; sergeant-major, W.W. Perry; quartermaster-sergeant, Philip Smathers.

This post meets on the second and fourth Saturday evenings in Seiler’s Hall. The muster-in fee is three dollars, and the monthly dues for members is twenty-five cents. The benefit paid to sick comrades is three dollars per week. The post started with forty-seven charter members, and now has a membership of thirty-nine. Up to this date (1887) no deaths have occurred.

All these posts are in good working order and are doing much toward keeping green in the memories of the veterans the incidents, dangers and privations of camp, march, field, and hospital. The order which they represent since its first modest start in 1866, has grown to be one of the most influential organizations in the country. Its principles of fraternity, charity, and loyalty, met with a hearty response from the boys who wore the blue, and to-day the Grand Army of the Republic has an organization of the rank and file of the Union Army of over 6,000 posts, with a membership exceeding 300,000.


Another organization that the late war has caused to spring up in the country, and which is becoming quite a large and well organized society, is the "Sons of Veterans." This order is composed of the sons of those brave men, who fought and won the battles that made this nation free. It should be kept up and encouraged, for in the years to come when the last soldier of the Grand Army has been "mustered out," the sons of veterans will have to take up some of the duties that now devolve upon the comrades of the Grand Army, one of which will be the beautiful ceremony of decorating the graves of "those dead heroes of ours."

There are now in Jefferson county six camps of this order, all being in good working order.

Captain R.R. Means, Camp No. 15, Western Pennsylvania Division, Sons of Veterans, mustered in October 31, 1883, with the following officers: Captain T.N. Humphreys; first lieutenant, T.N. George; second lieutenant, D.D. Dunkleburg; chaplain, J.B. Whitehill; orderly sergeant, L.A. Thompson; quartermaster-sergeant, H.G. Means.

Present officers. - Captain, John M. Van Vliet; first lieutenant, Archie J. McMurray; second lieutenant, A.H. Liebengood; chaplain, George W. Means; orderly sergeant, A.S. Jackson; quartermaster-sergeant, H.G. Means; sergeant of the guard, L.B. Long; corporal of the guard, I.L. Jones; camp guard, W.D. Sager; picket guard, Harry Harp. Number of members thirty-nine. One death, William H. Clark, died March, 1884.

Lambert Camp, No. 15, Western Pennsylvania Division, Sons of Veterans, was mustered at Punxsutawney, March 6, 1884, with the following officers: Captain, Grant Ramey; first lieutenant, John D. Evans; second lieutenant, Edwin A. Murray; chaplain, Joseph M. Hughes; quartermaster, A.M. McQuown; orderly sergeant, Linn B. Hughes; sergeant of guard, James Spencer; corporal of guard, James Dinsmore; color-bearer, William Rodgers.

The officers of the camp for 1887 are: Captain George B. Stumph; first lieutenant, Ed. A. Murray; second lieutenant, Frederick Rodgers; chaplain, Harry McConnell; quartermaster, Linn B. Hughes; orderly sergeant, Thomas C. Redding; sergeant of guard, Samuel Gibson; corporal of guard, James Young; color-bearer, Harry Myers.

The camp is now called McClelland Camp, and the present number is 145. It has a membership of twenty members, and meets every Thursday evening in Grand Army Hall.

James McKillip Camp, No. 23, Division of Western Pennsylvania Sons of Veterans, was mustered at Corsica, March 22, 1884, with the following officers: Captain, H.C. Mathews; first lieutenant, E.L. Baker; second lieutenant, E.S. Armagost; orderly sergeant, D.C. Cowan; surgeon, H.T. Baker; chaplain, W.J. Cowan; quartermaster, S.J.T. Luther; sergeant of guard, G.N. McMillen; camp council, E.L. Baker, N.G. Beatty, Joseph Armagost.

The officers for 1887 are: Captain, E.L. Baker: first lieutenant, W.J. Evans; second lieutenant, R.M. Stahlman; orderly sergeant, R.E. McKee; quartermaster-sergeant, H.T. Baker; chaplain, D.C. Cowan; surgeon, — - — - ; sergeant of guard, John T. Luther; corporal of the guard, C.E. Mathews; camp guard, W.J. Cowan.

This camp was originally numbered 21, but on the consolidation of divisions became 23. It numbers twenty-two members, and the stated business meetings are held on the first and third Saturday evenings of each month.

General Phil. Kearney Camp, No. 36, Western Division of Pennsylvania, Sons of Veterans, was mustered at Reynoldsville, August 18, 1884, with the following officers: Captain, H.J. Cartin; first lieutenant, J.C. Dillman; second lieutenant, H.A. Stoke; chaplain, C.A. Stephenson; camp council, C.H. Stephenson, W.H. Ford, Wilbur Dillman; first sergeant, Robert S. Lytle; quartermaster-sergeant, John Conser; sergeant of the guard, Louis Ford; corporal of the guard, E.E. Watson; camp guard, Charles Epler; picket guard, M.C. Ferrier.

The officers for 1887 are: Captain, B.E. Hover; first lieutenant, George Kline; second lieutenant, S.E. Carl; camp council, H.G. Lewis, George Roller, George Kline; first sergeant, Robert S. Lytle; quartermaster-sergeant, Joseph Roller chaplain, W.Z. Burris; color-sergeant, C. Still; sergeant of the guard, E.E. Watson; corporal of the guard, John Howlett; picket guard, George Roller.

The camp meets every Thursday evening in Grand Army Hall, and has twenty-five members in good standing.

Captain Charles McLain, Camp, No. 16, Sons of Veterans, was organized at Brockwayville, on May 14, 1884, with the following officers: Captain, O.A. Sibley; first lieutenant, J.E. Frost; second lieutenant, C.L. Foust; chaplain, A.H. Lemmon; orderly sergeant, J.P. Keys; color sergeant; U.S. Grant; quartermaster, R.W. Adams; sergeant of the guard, F.A. Callen; corporal of the guard, W.J. Britton; camp guard, C.T. Felt.

The camp was reorganized on December 3, 1885, and is now known as General Custer Camp, No. 47, and has twenty-five members in good standing. Thursday evening of each week is the time of holding stated meetings, and its officers for 1887 are as follows: Captain, J.P. Keys; first lieutenant, A.H. Lemmon; second lieutenant, C.T. Felt; chaplain, L.C. Levis; first sergeant, O.A. Sibley; color sergeant, F.W. Lemmon; quartermaster, W.J. Britton; sergeant of guard, Charles Felt; corporal of guard, L.E. Andrews; camp guard, M.C. Myers.

One of the most prominent members of the Sons of Veterans in Jefferson county, as well as in the order at large, is the captain of General Custer Camp, John Patterson Keys, of Brockwayville. Although only twenty years of age, having been born May 13, 1867 - the day when Jeff. Davis was taken to Richmond on a writ of habeas corpus - he has already been honored by his division in being elected a delegate to the grand division, the national body of the order.

The Camp Fire published at Portsmouth, Ohio, says of him:

"He derives his right to membership from his father who was a member of Company C, Ninety-seventh Pennsylvania Volunteers.

"He joined the Sons of Veterans as the second charter member of Camp No. 16, (opposition) which was mustered in on May 14, 1884. At the time of muster he was appointed and became the first orderly sergeant, and he had no intention of taking any active part in the work of the order; but it gained such a hold on his affections that he was very careful not to miss a meeting, and became one of the hardest and most ardent workers in the camp, so much so that he was elected as a delegate to represent the camp at the division encampment held at South Bethlehem July 4, 1884.

"In December of the same year he was appointed assistant mustering officer by the colonel, and was elected captain of his camp, but resigned and was appointed orderly sergeant for the ensuing year. Was elected again to represent his camp at the encampment held at Bellefonte, Pa., on the 18th day of August, 1885, at which time he was elected as a delegate to the grand division or national body. On September 2d, Sergeant Keys was appointed aid-de-camp on the staff of the colonel, to rank as lieutenant.

"Through the influence of Lieutenant Keys his camp severed its connection with the Philadelphia branch and was mustered into the national order on December 3, 1885, as Camp 47, and he was again installed orderly sergeant for the third time. One day later he was appointed assistant inspector and commissioned chief of staff of the West Pennsylvania Division.

"At the election of officers for 1886 he was unanimously elected captain, and re-elected in 1887.

"In June, 1886, he was re-appointed and commissioned chief of staff by Colonel Brockway, and the colonel could not possibly have made a better selection. Captain Keys is well qualified in every particular to perform the duties of that honorable and dignified office. He has the honor of being the youngest division officer in Pennsylvania. He is also a member of the executive committee of the Northwestern Association Sons of Veterans. His only defeat for office occurred when his supporters brought him out for colonel of the division at the encampment held at Allegheny City, June 8, and 9, 1886.

"It is seen that he has held numerous offices in the order, but they have come unsought and undesired, and he has accepted them with a full sense of their duties, and the exactions they would make upon his business. But he never shirked a duty or allowed an opportunity to pass without rendering assistance to a camp, or event of interest to the order, when he felt that his action or presence would be of avail. In camp or division elections the various candidates seek his advice, influence, and support.

"May his efforts in life’s labors be crowned with success, and may the world be as bright and happy in its intercourse with him as he has been with us."


This order is an auxiliary of the Grand Army of the Republic. It was started by the mothers, wives, sisters and daughters of the soldiers, sailors and marines, the veterans who aided in putting down the rebellion, and other loyal women of the land who desired to aid the Grand Army in its work of charity towards the destitute soldiers and their widows and children. Its doors are open to all loyal women of good moral character, and who have never given aid to the enemies of the Union. It welcomes into its ranks the noble women who gave up all the comforts of home, to care for the sick and wounded soldiers of the Union armies.

The Woman’s Relief Corps is a helpmeet of the Grand Army, rendering assistance in caring for those who are in need, and a soldier or his family never appeals in vain for help; but the organization is a secret one, and the good work and relief given by the ladies is never divulged. The widow and the orphan have all their wants attended to quietly and lovingly without ostentation.

These ladies teach their children patriotism, and love of country; to maintain true allegiance to the United States of America, and to discountenance treason. There is no desire to perpetuate a war feeling or hatred towards those who aided the rebellion, but to teach and encourage patriotism and the defense of the flag, wherever assailed, and, along with it, virtue, temperance, and truth, their crowning motto being fraternity, charity, and loyalty.

There are now three of these societies in Jefferson county.

Captain J.C. Dowling Women’s Relief Corps was organized at Corsica, May 5, 1886, with thirty charter members. The first officers elected were: president, Mrs. N. Taylor; senior vice-president, Mrs. J. Baker; junior vice-president, Miss Lyde King; secretary, Mrs. K. Baker; treasurer, Mrs. J.D. Orr; chaplain, Mrs. H. Smith; guard, Miss Carrie Jones; conductor, Miss Laura Orcutt.

The following officers were elected for 1887: President, Mrs. J.D. Orr; senior vice-president, Mr. A.P. Simpkins; junior vice-president, Mrs. A. Knabb; secretary, Miss Maude Shultz; treasurer, Mrs. J. McCullough; chaplain, Mrs. A. Shirey; guard, Miss Ollie McKinley; conductor, Miss Jennie Baker.

E.R. Brady Woman’s Relief Corps, No. 74, was organized by Mrs. Anna Wittenmeyer, of Philadelphia, at Brookville, February 25, 1887, with the following officers: President, Mrs. Annie M. Garrison; senior vice-president, Mrs. Marie Bishop; junior vice-president, Mrs. S.J. Thompson; secretary, Mrs. Jennie Pinney; chaplain, Mrs. Ella Henderson; treasurer, Mrs. D.E. Taylor; conductor, Mrs. Virginia Blood; assistant conductor, Mrs. M.E. Steel; guard, Miss Eva Andrews; assistant guard, Miss Minnie Ewing. This corps meets in Grand Army Hall, the first and third Saturdays of each month.

John C. Conser Woman’s Relief Corps, No. 75, was organized at Reynoldsville, March 18, 1887, with twelve members. The installing officer was Mrs. Cowles, of Foxburg, Pa. The following officers were elected: President, Mrs. Anna J. Montgomery; senior vice-president, Mrs. Julia A. Reynolds; junior vice-president, Mrs. Ann Gibson; chaplain, Mrs. M.D. Scott; secretary, Miss Elenore Reed; treasurer, Miss Emma Cartin; conductor, Miss Nevada Foust; guard, Miss Clara Foust; assistant guard, Miss Minnie Beers. The corps meets in Grand Army Hall, on the second and fourth Fridays of each month.


No prouder scheme was ever formed than that which adopted as the "wards of the Commonwealth," the children of Pennsylvania soldiers, made orphans by the war, and for which almost the entire credit is due to Andrew G. Curtin.

On Thanksgiving morning, November 26, 1863, two children called at the executive mansion, in Harrisburg, and asked for bread. Fortunately, they were met by the governor himself, and, in reply to his questioning, the little waifs informed him that their father had been killed in battle; that their mother had since died, and they had no one to care for them. This artless story appealed at once to the heart of Governor Curtin, and all through the services of the morning it kept before him, and as soon as he again found himself at home, with his family, he burst forth: "Great God, is it possible that the people of Pennsylvania can feast this day, while the children of her soldiers who have fallen in this war, beg bread from door to door?"

From that moment he never, for a moment, lost sight of this problem - how to care for these orphan children of the State.

After the failure of our arms on the Peninsula in 1862, the president of the Pennsylvania Railroad tendered to Governor Curtin fifty thousand dollars, for the organization and equipment of troops; but this offer he had to decline at the time, as no disbursement could be made of the sum for the State, without legislative action. When the scheme for the gathering in and educating of the orphans of our dead soldiers took possession of his mind, he requested the president of the Pennsylvania Railroad to allow this sum to be paid into the State treasury, for the purpose of creating a fund, to be used for the maintenance and educating of destitute soldiers’ orphans. The company finally agreed to allow the money to be thus appropriated, and no one but will allow that this was a purely unselfish act, for while the original purpose of the offer, to use it in equipping soldiers for use in time of danger, was a means of protecting their own property, giving money to aid the helpless orphans would not advance or protect the interests of their road.

Governor Curtin now turned his attention to the Legislature, without which he could do nothing, and in his annual message of January, 1864, he brought to the attention of that body the project he had in view, as follows: "I commend to the prompt attention of the Legislature the subject of the relief of the poor orphans of our soldiers, who have given, or shall give, their lives to the country during this crisis. In my opinion their maintenance and education should be provided for by the State. Failing other natural friends of ability to provide for them, they should be honorably received and fostered as children of the Commonwealth. The $50,000 heretofore given by the Pennsylvania Railroad Company, referred to in my last message, is still unappropriated; and I recommend that this sum, with such other means as the Legislature may think fit, be applied to this end, in such manner as may be thought most expedient and effective. In anticipation of the adoption of a more perfect system, I recommend that provision be made for securing the admission of such children into existing educational establishments, to be there clothed, nurtured and educated, at the public expense. I make this recommendation earnestly, feeling assured that in so doing, I represent the wishes of the patriotic, the benevolent, and the good of the State."

The friends of the bill, framed in accordance with the suggestions and wishes of Governor Curtin, failed to pass anything, during the Legislature of 1864, except the following, in regard to the donation of the Pennsylvania Railroad Company: "Be it enacted, etc.: That the governor of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania be, and is, hereby authorized to accept the sum of fifty thousand dollars, donated by the Pennsylvania Railroad Company, for the education and maintenance of orphan children of deceased soldiers and sailors, and appropriate the same in such manner as he may deem best calculated to accomplish the object designed by said donation; the accounts of said disbursements to be settled in the usual manner, by the auditor-general and the governor, and make report of the same to the next Legislature."

Calling to his aid the services of Professor Wickersham and Hon. Thomas H. Burrows, Governor Curtin began the work that resulted in the care and educating of so many orphans.

It was not until 1865, however, that the Legislature could agree on a bill, to carry out these wishes and suggestions of the governor. The plan met with much opposition, but finally the act which we give below became a law, by the House passing the bill, as amended by the Senate (which had stood by the governor all the way through), by a vote of sixty-four in its favor, and twenty-four against. We give the act in full:

"SECTION 1. Be it enacted, etc., That there is hereby granted the sum of seventy-five thousand dollars, out of any money in the treasury not otherwise appropriated, for the education and maintenance during the year 1865, of the destitute orphan children of the deceased soldiers and sailors from this State, in the service of the United States, during the existing rebellion, to be drawn on the warrant of the governor, as it shall be needed, and to be expended and accounted for in the manner directed by said act.

"SECTION 2. That the conveyances and transfers of the custody, care, and control of said orphans, till their arrival at the age of sixteen years, heretofore made, or hereafter to be made, to the State Superintendent of Soldiers’ Orphans’ Schools, by their respective mothers, guardians, or next friends, and upon said orphans for all the purposes of education and maintenance, till their arrival at said age; and that if said orphans abscond, or be withdrawn without his consent from the custody of the superintendent, or from the institution in which he shall place them, they, and all persons withdrawing and harboring them, shall thereupon be liable to the provisions of the Acts of Assembly relating to absconding apprentices.

"SECTION 3. That when any of said orphans shall arrive at the age of sixteen years, or sooner if deemed expedient, said superintendent shall, at the written request of said orphan, and of his or her mother, guardian, or next friend put or bind him or her out to such trade or employment, and to such master, mistress, or employer, as shall be thus requested, and for such terms as shall expire, if a male, at or before the age of twenty-one, and, if a female, at or before the age of eighteen years, in which indenture there shall be included such covenants for the further education of the orphan as said superintendent shall prescribe, and such apprenticeship shall be, in all other respects, not herein provided for, subject to the provisions of the Acts of Assembly relating to masters and apprentices."

Governor Curtin during his entire term of office took the greatest interest in these orphan schools, which he soon had established on a firm basis, and the orphans ever found in him a firm, true friend.

Governor John W. Greary, who succeeded Governor Curtin, a veteran of the Mexican War, and of the Rebellion, warmly espoused the cause of the orphans. In his inaugural he said: "Among our most solemn obligations is the maintenance of the indigent widows, and the support and education of the orphan children of those noble men who fell in defence of the Union... I pledge myself to bear in mind the injunctions and wishes of the people, and if possible, to increase the efficiency of and multiply the benefits of the schools and institutions already so creditably established for the benefit of the orphans of our martyred heroes."

In January, 1873, Major-General John F. Hartranft was inaugurated Governor of Pennsylvania, and in him the soldiers’ orphans found another devoted friend, who, as his first recognition of them, invited them to his inaugural, and eight hundred and nineteen boys from the different schools, were allowed to be present. In his official message he gave the subject of the orphans a conspicuous place. "What prouder monument" said he, "could we erect to the Pennsylvanians who fell in battle, than to care for and educate their children?"

Thus Pennsylvania was the first to gather in these children bequeathed to her care by the life-blood of their fathers, and she has nobly fulfilled her trust. Over ten thousand of these soldiers’ orphans have been fed, clothed and educated, and incalculable good has been done by this grand scheme of beneficence.

The Grand Army of the Republic has stood manfully by the orphans of their dead comrades, and it was through their efforts that an appropriation was made in 1872 by the Legislature of two thousand dollars to assist a limited number of the most worthy pupils who had completed their term in the orphan schools, to further pursue their studies at the State Normal Schools.

In 1874 they gained another benefit for the children of soldiers, admitting the children of disabled soldiers born after the first day of January, 1866, into the soldiers’ orphan schools, the previous act having excluded them. In 1875 a bill was drafted by Hon. Charles W. Graham, member from Allegheny City, which removed the limitation, and provided for the admission of the children of both deceased and disabled soldiers, without regard to date of birth. This bill was warmly opposed in the Legislature, but owing to the efforts of Mr. Graham and other members of the G.A.R., was finally passed.

The members of the Grand Army also had a constant watch over the institutions in which the orphans are cared for, and it has been through their instrumentality that the abuses and corrupt management that have crept into some of them have been ferreted out and corrected.

From the statistics furnished us by superintendent E.E. Higbee, February 1, 1887, we find that the number of children admitted to soldiers’ orphan schools since their organization, from Jefferson county, is two hundred and eighty-six; number now in the schools, fifty-one; number admitted to Normal Schools, eight.

The orphans from Jefferson county were principally sent to Dayton Soldiers’ Orphan School, one of the best conducted in the State, and those who have completed their course there, have returned to their homes fitted to go out and battle with the world, and are making good, useful citizens, who will prove worthy of the care bestowed upon them.

By an act passed and approved June 28, 1883, the Legislature has fixed the time for the discharge of all soldiers’ orphans from the schools, and the closing of the same on June 1, 1890.


We have seen with what alacrity the loyal men of the United States responded to the call for troops, when the life of the nation was imperiled. And when the war was over the government, saved by those brave hearts and resolute hands, could do no less than to enact laws, granting pensions to those who had suffered from wounds or sickness while in the service, and to the widows and those depending upon the many brave men who fell in battle or died of disease; and to the credit of the national honor be it said, that almost without demur, acts were passed creating a pension bureau, and appropriations made to sustain the same.

The pension laws granting aid to the disabled survivors of the war, and to those who by the war, had lost their protectors and bread-winners, was no act of charity, but of right and justice; it is not even an act of requital, for no money can pay for loss of limb or health, or, in any way, replace the fallen husband, father, or son.

At present the pension laws only provide for those who can prove disability, or wounds received in the service; but popular feeling, and the voice of the people, is demanding of our law-makers that all Union soldiers, without adequate support, shall be placed upon the pension rolls, and then will be blotted out from our fair escutcheon forever the disgrace of allowing any man who wore the blue, or fought under the starry banner, to become an inmate of our poor-houses. There should never be such a word as pauper applied to a soldier of the Union.

With the systematic regulations governing the pension bureau, and the rigid examinations enforced, there is little danger of fraud; but it were better that a hundred unworthy men should profit by the pension laws, than that a single deserving soldier should suffer for the aid that is justly due him. There is no other appropriation of the government that is scattered so broadcast over the entire land, and which reaches and benefits all classes, as does this pension money.

The whole amount paid in pensions for the year ending June 30, 1886, was $63,797,831.61. Of this sum $3,050,330.10 was paid out by the pension agency at Pittsburgh, and of the latter amount there was disbursed in Jefferson county during the same period, $52,038.50.

There are one hundred and thirty-one different rates of pensions paid for different ranks in the service, to widows, minors, dependent parents, widows of 1812, and to the invalid soldiers, according to the extent and nature of their wounds or disability. March 19, 1886, an act was approved by which the pensions to widows of private soldiers and dependent parents was raised from eight to twelve dollars per month, and on the 4th of June following, their certificates were made out for that amount.

The number of pensioners in Jefferson county for the year ending June 30, 1886, with the monthly allowance paid to each class, is as follows:





Invalid Soldiers








Dependent Parents




Widows of Soldiers of 1812




Total number of Pensioners


Total amount Paid



Source:  Page(s) 215-218, History of Jefferson County by Kate M. Scott. Syracuse, N.Y., D. Mason & Co., 1888.

Contributed by Nathan Zipfel for use by the Jefferson County Genealogy Project (

Jefferson County Genealogy Project Notice:

These electronic pages cannot be reproduced in any format, for any presentation, without prior written permission.


Return to the History of Jefferson County Index

Return to the Jefferson County Genealogy Project

(c) Jefferson County Genealogy Project