July 28, 2018

Newly Discovered Stereoview of West King Street

Location: 45 W King St, Lancaster, PA 17603, USA
Stereoview of West King Street. Likely by B. Frank Saylor in 1866 or 1867.
Sold on Ebay in 2018.
A few months ago an intriguing photograph of a Lancaster street scene sold on Ebay. The photo shows West King Street from a vantage point above street level. In the foreground appears a sign for the Sorrel Horse Hotel with a date of "1857" and "C. Shenk" appearing on the sign. The image shows the intersection of Prince Street and King Street, and looks west along W. King Street going out of town. Snow appears on the rooftops and on the side of the streets.

My hypothesis is that this photo was taken by B. Frank Saylor in early 1866 or 1867. Here's Saylor's background according to the 1903 Biographical Annals:
Benjamin Franklin Saylor was born Feb. 24, 1838, and was educated in the public schools of Montgomery county, and left Trappe for Philadelphia when he was twelve years old. In 1858 he became a student of photography at Ninth and Spring Garden streets. In 1865 he came to Lancaster to take charge of the late Charles Eberman's gallery, which he later purchased. This gallery was on the north side of West King street, and in 1882 he bought the building where his residence and gallery are now found on the south side of the same street. It is one of the fine buildings of the block, and contains two stores besides the gallery and the residence.
I believe Eberman's photographic gallery was located approximately where the stereoview was taken. His carte de visite backmarks list his address at "No. 26 W. King St.," although that address currently corresponds to the Pressroom Restaurant/Steinman Hardware store. Could the numbering system for street addresses have changed sometime around the 1870s? If so, that would explain why the entry above mentions the photo studio as on the north side of the West King Street (whereas the modern No. 26 is on the south side of the street). Later photographs by Frank Saylor have an address listed of 45 West King St., and the 1886 Sanborn maps show a photo studio still at that location.
First block of West King Street showing Sorrel Horse Hotel and photo studio at No. 43/45 (1886 Sanborn Map)
Besides the circumstantial evidence of the location, I also believe that Frank Saylor made stereoviews with this style of mounting in 1866. There is a pair of CDVs of the interior of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church during a June 1866 celebration event with a Charles Eberman backmark (although he had died in April 1866), and there is a stereoview of Holy Trinity of that same event which I presume to have been made by Frank Saylor. Saylor's biography notes that he was involved with Lutheran churches -- particularly their choirs -- in the city, and he even married the daughter of Pastor Emanuel Greenwald (a poignant and tragic story, as she was known to be terminally ill when they married).

Anyway, enjoy this look at a Civil War era street scene from Lancaster! The depth of the 3D is great if you have a chance to look at the anaglyph below or can view the original stereoview with a VR headset, and the animated gif below can give a partial sense of the 3D.

Hopefully future posts can look into the magnificent series of William L. Gill stereoviews showing other street scenes from Lancaster.

Animated GIF created from stereoview of West King Street, c. 1866-7 by Frank Saylor
Anaglyph created from stereoview of West King Street, c. 1866-7 by Frank Saylor
Verso of stereoview



April 24, 2018

The 79th Pennsylvania's 1st Reunion in 1877

Location: 12 N Prince St, Lancaster, PA 17603, USA


On the morning of October 8, 1877 -- the fifteenth anniversary of the Battle of Perryville -- the veterans of the 79th Pennsylvania assembled for the first time since the war's end. Colonel Hambright led a parade through the streets of Lancaster that culminated in a meeting at Fulton Hall that featured singing, a history of the regiment by Sigmund Wisner, and an oration by E. K. Martin.

The Daily New Era reported, "Long will live in memory the recollection of the 8th day of October, 1877, for it was a gala day in Lancaster -- a day when the survivors of as brave a regiment as ever fired a gun met in fraternal good fellowship for the first time since the close of the bloody war which called them into existence."

A full report of the day's proceedings and speeches appeared in the New Era. See the following link for a scan of these newspaper articles: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1R_iwUQ48iwORhy832tYRUhhEWMgwSasc/view?usp=sharing

Recently, I acquired some ephemera related to this event on eBay. Appearing here are scans of the envelope, ticket, and program that were presumably saved by one of the veterans attending the event.

Hopefully a future post could go further in depth on the content of the speeches and the people present.

79th Pennsylvania Reunion Program, 1877 



April 17, 2018

Genoa (NY) at War: Researching my new hometown

Location: Genoa, NY 13071, USA
Almost two years ago my career took me to the Finger Lakes region of New York, and I moved to a beautiful house from the 1850s in the small hamlet of Genoa, New York. While I maintain a deep interest in the Civil War history of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, the demands of career and family have limited my ability to post on this blog. However, I'm naturally curious about the Civil War history of my new hometown and recently took part in a roundtable discussion hosted by the Genoa Historical Association. Here's my account of the discussion that summarizes some of the things that I learned preparing for that discussion.


Title page of list of Civil War soldiers compiled by the clerk of the Town of Genoa at the war's end
When the Civil War ended in 1865, the state of New York required all town clerks to compile a list of all soldiers and sailors from each town who fought in what was then more commonly known as the “War of the Rebellion.” The clerk for the Town of Genoa dutifully completed this task, documenting the basic service details for 156 men.  This list and the details it provided became the basis for a roundtable discussion on Genoa’s contribution to the Civil War at the Genoa Historical Association on Sunday, February 25. The discussion aimed to start discovering the fascinating stories of courage and conflict behind the names, dates, and places on the town clerk’s list.  I presented information on Civil War soldiers from Genoa, and Joe Jadhon gave an interesting overview of the uniform and equipment of the average Civil War soldier from New York.

The enlistments of soldiers from Genoa were spread out over the years 1861 through 1864 with most enlisting in 1861 or 1862 and serving a three-year term.  Some who enlisted in 1861 – including George W. Crocker, who was wounded in battle in 1863 – even chose to reenlist when their term of service expired before the war ended. Out of the 156 soldiers, 115 were listed as single and 41 were listed as married.

Civil War soldiers usually served in regiments of up to 1,000 soldiers from the same state, and ten companies recruited in individual towns made up a regiment. Serving with soldiers from one’s hometown produced social cohesion and fostered connections between the home front and battlefield.  However, it also meant that a regiment being in a tough spot in a battle could result in a devastating casualty list for a town, as was the case for Genoa and the Battle of Gettysburg.
The most common Civil War regiments in which soldiers from Genoa served were the 75th New York and the 111th New York.  The 75th New York fought in many lesser-known campaigns in Florida and Louisiana before finishing the war in Virginia and Georgia.  The 111th New York fought in many of the more famous battles in the Eastern Theater of the war, and suffered heavily while playing a critical role in the Battle of Gettysburg.

Gen. George D. Robinson
(Source: Captaining the Corps D'Afrique)
Soldiers from Genoa served in many other regiments, as well.  George Dorgue Robinson, the highest-ranking of all of Genoa’s soldiers, enlisted in the 75th New York as a 2nd Lieutenant. His parents, Joseph and Maria (Sill), immigrated to the United States from England and owned a farm just to the west of the Genoa Rural Cemetery by 1855. Against the advice of his professors, George left the University of Michigan after the war’s outbreak to become an officer.  In 1863, he presumably volunteered to take a position as a major in the 1st Louisiana Colored Engineers – a recently established regiment of freed slaves – and later as the colonel leading the 3rd Louisiana Colored Engineers (later the 97th Infantry Regiment, United States Colored Troops).  He died in Florida in 1873 after receiving the rank of brevet brigadier general and completing his studies at the University of Michigan.

George Robinson and the 3rd Louisiana Colored Engineers’ biggest contribution to the war came in May 1864 during the ill-fated Red River Campaign in Louisiana. The Union army had suffered many setbacks, but the Union navy was on the verge of a complete disaster when a drop in the Red River’s water level meant that a flotilla of gunboats was stuck upriver and in danger of capture by the Confederates. Robinson and his soldiers spent two weeks helping to construct a partial dam with an opening in the middle to allow the valuable Union gunboats to escape downriver.

Karen Spiero, great-granddaughter of George Robinson’s sister, attended the presentation and provided more information about the family. George’s brother, Charles, served in the 111th New York and was mortally wounded in the Battle of Gettysburg.  Karen also brought a sword likely used by Col. Robinson while he completed this task and a beautiful sword presented to him as a testimony of respect form the officers of the 3rd Louisiana Colored Engineers.

Bailey's Dam, Harper's Weekly 6/18/1864
Two African-American residents from Genoa served in the Union army, according to the town clerk’s list. Aaron Prime – who is listed as a farmer born in Auburn and appears in the 1850 census as living with father Simon and mother Sophia – went to Rhode Island to join the 11th Regiment, US Colored Heavy Artillery, in 1863.  Henry Green was born in Virginia, presumably as a slave, and joined the 26th Regiment, US Colored Infantry. Research indicates that both men survived the war and that Prime is buried in Owego while Green is buried in Ithaca.

The town clerk’s list also indicates the fate of those who served in the war – whether they survived and where they resided upon coming home.  Ten of the 156 soldiers were killed in battle or died of wounds received in battle. All but one of the ten were casualties from the Battle of Gettysburg; Henry C. Crocker died in the opening battle of the Siege of Petersburg. All but one of the ten belonged to the 111th New York; Henry Hallet was killed defending Culp’s Hill with the 137th New York in the Battle of Gettysburg. Twenty more of the 156 soldiers from Genoa lost their lives from other causes.  Four died in captivity – one at Andersonville prison and three at Salisbury prison in North Carolina. Sixteen others died of disease in hospitals at places such as Petersburg, Hilton Head, and Fort Pickens, and at home.

The Genoa Historical Association intends to continue these roundtable discussions to discover and share the stories of Genoa and the Civil War. Anyone with information (especially letters and photographs) about soldiers from Genoa, their families, or life in Genoa in the mid-1800s is welcome to contact the Genoa Historical Association at GenoaHistorical@gmail.com or (315) 364-8202. Future roundtable discussions will be organized by regiments in which soldiers served and will focus on the soldiers’ battle experience and biographies. The next event will take place on April 22, 2018, with a topic of the battles and campaigns of the 111th New York and the soldiers from Genoa in that regiment.

June 9, 2016

The Story Behind a Gravestone in Lancaster Cemetery

Location: Lancaster Cemetery, 205 E Lemon St, Lancaster, PA 17602, USA
Gravestone of Jacob and Elizabeth Gemperling, Lancaster Cemetery
Local artist J. Augustus Beck sculpted the wreath in 1854.
 Gravestones provide one of the most accessible and intimate connections to the nineteenth century.  However, the personal, commercial, and artistic decisions behind them rarely show up in research, so I jumped at the chance when I accidentally ran across an article in the May 16, 1854, Lancaster Intelligencer while pursuing another research tangent. 

In an article that led with "Lovers of Art" that the Intelligencer actually copied from the Inland Daily, a couple items in the marble yard of Lewis Haldy on North Queen Street received attention.  The first was actually a relief sculpture by J. Augustus Beck -- son of the noted artist from Lititz -- on its way to the Washington Monument.  Commissioned by the American Medical Association via Dr. John L. Atlee in 1852, Beck's sculpture depicted Hippocrates refusing the gifts of the Persian King Artaxerxes meant to entice him to provide medical aid to his country's enemies.  The newspaper reported, "The execution of the work is in the highest style or art, and evinces extraordinary talent in the artist."  Some sources indicate that the sculpture is still in the Washington Monument in very damaged form and others say that it is in the Smithsonian Institute. 

Gravestone detail
Jacob and Elizabeth Gemperling
Lancaster Cemetery

The article continued:

We might mention several other fine specimens of art, the productions of this talented young artist, which may be seen at the same place.  Among other things we note a beautiful wreath--the prettiest thing of the kind we have ever seen.  It is engraved on a marble slab, and designed for the grave of the late Mrs. Gemperling, whose remains repose in the Lancaster Cemetery.  

The deceased referred to in the article is Elizabeth Gemperling (1785-1854), and the gravestone still stands in Lancaster Cemetery not far from the entrance.  I have not found anything about Elizabeth, but her husband Jacob and son Daniel received attention in the Biographical Annals of Lancaster County (1903) in an entry on Elizabeth and Jacob's grandson, Henry Clay Gemperling:
Jacob Gemperling, grandfather of Henry Clay, who was a distiller and farmer, was born near Rohrerstown; his son Daniel, who was born in Lancaster, died Nov. 13, 1895 at the age of eighty-seven years.  The latter and his brother John, were the leading tinsmiths of the city for many years, filling many important contracts.  Daniel Gemperling conducted the business on East Orange street alone to within a short time of his death, and became one of the best-known citizens of his time, owning a large amount of real estate, and making his influence felt in business and commercial circles.  Anna Hurst, his wife, was a half-sister of Elam Hurst, a prominent citizen of Lancaster, and also a sister of the mother of H. C. Demuth.  From this union were born three children, two of whom, William and Anna, died in early childhood, and the only survivor is Henry Clay Gemperling. 

Henry Clay Gemperling
Biographical Annals of
Lancaster County (1903)
Henry Clay Gemperling was born in the large brick mansion at the southwest corner of East King and Jefferson streets, then the home of his parents, in February, 1846, and was educated in the city schools and at John Beck's celebrated school in Lititz.  When less than sixteen years old he left school to enlist in the Union army, joining Co. A, 79th P.V.I., Aug. 19, 1861, and served throughout the war, receiving his discharge Aug. 12, 1865.  He took a gallant part in all the battles and skirmishes in which his command participated, and was wounded in the arm at Jonesboro, Ga., under Gen. Sherman, being promoted to the position of corporal.  After the war Mr. Gemperling was captain of "The Boys in Blue," a campaign organization in the first campaign of Gen. Grant for the presidency.  After Gen. Grant's election the boys in blue were organized into two military companies, A and B, and attached to the National Guard of Pennsylvania, Mr. Gemperling being commissioned captain of Co. B, both companies taking part in the inauguration of Gen. Grant as President.  Until 1879 he worked with his father at the tinsmith and plumbing trade, and then removed to Ephrata, where he engaged for himself in the same lines.  There he remained until March 13, 1895, when he returned to Lancaster, to become a tip-staff in the court house, very shortly being made a court crier for court No. 2, and in November, 1899, he was made court crier of the courts of Lancaster county, to fill a vacancy created by the death of Joseph C. Snyder, a position which he still holds.

While living in Ephrata, Mr. Gemperling bought and remodeled a fine property.  For fifteen years he was a deputy coroner of the district, for nine years he was a notary public, and was the first president of the Pioneer Steam Fire Engine and Hose Company, and was acting in that capacity, when he left the borough; he was commander of Post No. 524, G.A.R., of Ephrata, for three years, and was the second man to be elected burgess after Ephrata became a borough.

While a resident of Lancaster he served as a policeman during Mayor Stauffer's first term, and is remembered as one of the best police officers this city ever had.  During his residence in Ephrata he twice arrested Abe Buzzard, the noted outlaw, "putting him behind the bars."  This he did as a private citizen, his fellow townsmen calling on him because of his well-known fearlessness.  When thieves broke into the store of Schaeffer & Reinhold, at Ephrata, Mr. Gemperling discovered one of the thieves, arrested him, and took him to jail.  This same bravery was conspicuous through his army experiences.

Mr. Gemperling was married Aug. 14, 1869, to Miss Susan Jacobs, daughter of William Adam Jacobs, a farmer living near Beartown, Lancaster county.  From this union were born four children: Anna Maria, the wife of E. E. Royer, a farmer of Ephrata township; Martha Alpha, unmarried and at home; Daniel H., a paper hanger; and Henry Clay, Jr., now at school. 
Henry Clay Gemperling Service Record (PA Civil War Card File)
 While on the subject of the Gemperling family, you may note that another soldier with the surname Gemperling served in the 79th Pennsylvania.  William Gemperling also enlisted in Company A with Henry Clay Gemperling.  William Gemperling was wounded at the Battle of Chickamauga.  He died a year later in the Andersonville prison, although I'm not sure if he was captured at Chickamauga or elsewhere.  I also cannot establish the relationship between Henry and William Gemperling, which I guess to be first or second cousins.  If anyone knows more about William Gemperling, feel free to leave a comment below. 
William Gemperling Service Record (PA CIvil War Card File)