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)

June 8, 2016

Ebay Find: Two USCTs Send Pay Home to Quaker Farmer in Gap

Location: Limeville, Salisbury Township, PA 17527, USA
Adams Express Company Cash Envelope from Isaac Parker to Joshua Brinton (Ebay)

Reverse of Envelope from Isaac Parker to Joshua Brinton (Ebay)

Adams Express Company Cash Envelope from Henry Harley to Joshua Brinton (Ebay)
Once again, an item being auctioned on Ebay led me on a rather fascinating research trail.  This time it is a pair of envelopes used to forward cash via the Adams Express Company.  In both cases, soldiers in the 3rd Infantry Regiment, United States Colored Troop, sent money to a Quaker farmer near Gap. 

The 3rd USCT was organized in the summer of 1863 in Philadelphia, and largely recruited from central Pennsylvania.  Among those who enlisted were two African-American men from Lancaster County:
  • Isaac Parker, born c.1836 and mustered in as a corporal in Company B on June 30, 1863.  Parker shows up in the 1860 census as a farm laborer in Salisbury Township.  He is listed with presumably his wife and daughter: Mary Parker, age 20, and Sarah Parker, age 6.  Going back to the 1850 census, it is likely that Isaac Parker matches the sixteen year-old by that name who resided in West Caln Township in Chester County with Loyd Parker (age 63) and Margaret Parker (age 32).  Isaac Parker appears adjacent to the Brinton family in the 1860 census (see below), so it is likely that Parker labored on Brinton's farm.  
  • Henry Harley, born c. 1841 in Lancaster County (according to his USCT service record) and mustered in as a private in Company B on June 30, 1863.  I haven't been able to find anything else about him before the war, but he appears in the 1870 census as living in a black community and working as a laborer in Fernandina, Florida.  This census notes that he could read but not write.  
After training at Camp William Penn, the 3rd USCT moved south and went right into combat as part of the siege of Fort Wagner on Morris Island.  The regiment spent most of 1864 in Jacksonville, Florida, manning garrisons and going out on details.

While serving in South Carolina and Florida, both Parker and Harley sent some of the pay back to Lancaster County.  To do so, they paid the Adams Express Company to carry their cash to a Quaker farmer near Gap named Joshua Brinton.  Parker's envelope contained $15 and was sent from Morris Island on October 19, 1863.  Harley's envelope contained $120 and was sent from an unknown location on October 5, 1864.

Gravestone of Isaac Parker
Beaufort National Cemetery
Sadly, Parker died on April 25, 1864, in Beaufort, South Carolina, presumably in a military hospital there.  He was buried in what is now the Beaufort National Cemetery.  I had the opportunity to visit the cemetery a year ago and take the pictures displayed in this post. 

Much more information is known about Joshua Brinton (1811-1892), the recipient of the cash for Parker and Harley.  His farm was approximately one mile northeast of Gap near the small community of Limeville (see map below).  The 1903 Biographical Annals described him as " an excellent farmer but not an excellent manager for the reason that his too generous nature induced him too often to expend his means in aiding his friends when he should have applied them to use nearer at home. Lacking only a wise economy, he was a consistent member of the Society of Friends and an unusually warm upholder of its principles and methods."  He is credited in the March 8, 1861, Liberator with donating five dollars to relief for sufferers in Kansas.  I believe that Brinton is a direct descendant of William Brinton, who built what is now the William Brinton 1704 House museum in West Chester, which would make him a distant cousin of Gen. George Brinton McClellan. 

Gravestone of Horace Passmore
Beaufort National Cemetery

In a sad coincidence, Brinton's brother-in-law also served and died around the same time and place as Parker.  Brinton married Mary E. Passmore on November 23, 1848, in Philadelphia.  Mary's younger brother, Horace Passmore, enlisted in Company A, 97th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, on August 22, 1861.  The 97th Pennsylvania operated in South Carolina in 1862 and 1863, and Passmore would have experienced grueling conditions around Charleston and Fort Wagner in the summer of 1863.  Passmore died of chronic diarrhea on November 18, 1863, a little over a month after the regiment moved to Fernandina, Florida.

PA Service Card for Horace Passmore, 97th Pennsylvania          

Census listing Isaac Parker and Joshua Brinton, Salisbury Township, 1860

Detail of 1864 Salisbury Township Map showing farm of Joshua Brinton near Limeville
Gravestone of Horace Passmore at Beaufort National Cemetery