J. Boggs Byers
Since September 2012, throughout my research for Soldier’s Story, the name J. Boggs Byers kept appearing, here and there. The fact that just the initial of the first name was given implies that he was most likely known by his friends and family as Boggs, an unusual name to give a little baby. Boggs is a family surname in Franklin County.
Dr. John Boggs was born in Greencastle on August 8, 1787. He was the son of Dr. John Boggs and Jane Irwin Boggs. It is said, in the Franklin County history books, that the younger John Boggs studied under his uncle, Dr. Robert Johnston, a well-known Greencastle and Antrim Township doctor, who served during the Revolutionary War, under Gen. George Washington as his personal physician. After graduating from the University of Maryland, Boggs returned to practice in Greencastle with Dr. McLellan, upon his uncle's death in 1808. Dr. John Boggs died on July 12, 1847. It was not uncommon for parents to name their newborn sons after the family doctor, and more likely after the doctor who delivered the baby boy.
The 1860 U.S. Census recorded three J. or John Byers in the Borough of Greencastle, one 20, one 21, and one 24. Two of them were printers and one was a huckster. The 1870 census has a John B. Byers, head of household, age 30 years; he was a printer. In his household was Margaret, 68. Going back to the 1860 census, John Byers (21) was living in his father Charles’ household and his mother’s name was Marg, aged 58. The other John Byers, who was also a printer, was living with his parents Jacob and Sarah. While using Ancestry, I found several posts regarding the Boggs family, which confirmed that John Boggs Byers was the son of Charles and Margaret Miller. Charles was born in France and his profession was shoemaker. Charles and Margaret were also living in Greencastle, with their family, during the 1850 census. In 1840, Charles’ residence was in Greencastle with his young family; he owned no slaves. Pennsylvania’s 1828 Septennial census enumerated Charles Byers, shoemaker, living in Lurgan Township, Franklin County. The Boggs family genealogy and message board included a notation that J. Boggs Byers married Sarah Baltzley.
When the Civil War broke out, John B. Byers, 22, went to Harrisburg, and enlisted on and was mustered in, for three months as a private, on April 20, 1861, in Co. C, 2nd PA Volunteer Infantry. Company C was comprised of men from the St. Thomas and Greencastle areas. His residence was listed as Greencastle. On April 21, the regiment was sent by train from Harrisburg to Washington City. The train stopped in Cockeysville, MD on April 22 because the railroad bridge had been destroyed. Two days later, the regiment was sent north to York, PA where it remained in training until June 1, 1861. On June 2, the regiment was sent to Chambersburg and remained in camp there until June 16, ready to fight the Rebel Army, if needed, anywhere in the Shenandoah Valley. By appointment, Gov. Curtin placed Gen. Robert Patterson in charge of all the Pennsylvania troops. Lt. Gen. Scott then ordered that Patterson would be in charge of the “Department of Washington,” which included Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, and Washington City. On June 16, 1861, the 2nd Regiment broke camp, boarded a train, and went as far as Hagerstown, disembarked and set up camp in Funkstown. On June 23, the regiment marched toward the Potomac, and encamped about four miles from the river. As part of Patterson’s army, the 2nd Regiment crossed the Potomac on July 2, and stopped at Martinsburg. By this time the Rebels had been pushed back, as far as Winchester. On July 15, Patterson marched his men toward Bunker Hill and routed out the Rebels from that place. Patterson marched all of his men to Charlestown on July 17. The three months service of the 2nd Regiment had already expired; it marched to Harpers Ferry, where it boarded a train to Harrisburg on July 23. Boggs was discharged and mustered out on July 24, 1861, along with the rest of his regiment.
On August 7, 1862, John B. Byers enlisted, for a second time, as a private in Co. K, PA 126th Regiment and two and half months later, Boggs was promoted to 1st Corporal on October 20, 1862. Because great detail was given in 2012 regarding the battles in which Boggs’ comrades of the 126th participated, the battles will only be listed at this time. They were the Battle of Fredericksburg and Battle of Chancellorsville. The men of the 126th, also, were involved in the infamous Mud March between January 20 and 24, 1863. J. Boggs Byers mustered out with the regiment on May 20, 1863, at Harrisburg
In June 1863, Boggs, 24, was registered as a young man eligible to fight in the Civil War, in Class I, by Provost Marshal George Eyster. He was 24 and single. It was noted that he had already served for nine months, but did not list his three months of service.
After the Civil War, Boggs Byers became a charter member of the Corp Rihl GAR Post #438. The first Memorial Day, or Decoration Day as it was known then, which was conducted by the GAR Post was May 30, 1884. J. Boggs Byers was on the committee in charge of invitations, along with C.H. Fulweiler, William Snyder, E.B. Carpenter, and Frank Hoffman. New officers for the Corp. Rihl Chapter in 1885 were elected on December 26, 1884. Boggs was elected officer of the day – O. D. He remained an active member of the GAR, recorded minutes, and held numerous positions, including Sergeant Major.
In 1870, J. Boggs Byers, 30, was living in Greencastle with his wife Sarah A., 29, and their two children, Julia A., 5, and Henry B., 10 months. William Byers, 20, a brother, and their mother Margaret, 68, also lived in Boggs’ and Sarah’s household. Sarah was the daughter of Henry Balsley and Elizabeth Loy Balsley. She was born in Franklin County, PA.
Boggs, 41, and Sarah, 39, had three children living with them on June 11, 1880, the date of the census. They were Henry Baltzley, 11, Watson R., 7, and Charles B., 2. Julia A., on the 1870 census, should have been 15 in 1880, but she is not listed in the household; she may have died. Boggs’ occupation was “laborer” but he had not been unemployed during the census year.
According to the 1890 special veterans’ schedule, no disabilities were incurred during either of his tours of duty in the Civil War. In spite of the lack of information given on the special schedule, on July 11, 1890, Boggs applied for pension money as an invalid.
Boggs and Sarah had two more children living with them, as recorded on the June 18, 1900 U.S. Census. They were Bruce, 22, and Mary E., 18. Boggs, 61, and Sarah, 58, had been married for 36 years, having married in 1864. They had nine children but only four were living in June 1900. Boggs and Sarah owned their own home, free of a mortgage. He was still working, as well as his daughter, Mary, who was a seamstress. She had not been out of work during the census year. There was no occupation given for Bruce and no data on how many months he had worked in 1900.
On April 22, 1910, Boggs, 71, and Sarah, 68, had been married for 46 years and four of their children were still living. Boggs was working as a church sexton and had not been out of work that year. John Boggs Byers was born on March 17, 1839 and died December 28, 1914, at the age of 75 years, nine months, and 11 days, due to an illness of the liver. He had been under his doctor’s care from December 4 until his death. His doctor was Dr. J. F. Nowell. Boggs’ son, Charles B., witnessed the death certificate and attested to the truth of the information given. Unless there’s a photograph in the possession of one of Boggs Byers’ descendants, the only other existing, personal identification, known to me in the 21st century, is Boggs’ signature, as he signed it 129 years ago, in the minute book of the Corp. Rihl GAR Post #438.
On January 4, 1915, Sarah applied, as John Boggs Byers’ widow, to receive her late husband’s monthly pension. Sarah A. Byers was born on November 11, 1841 and she died February 13, 1920, aged 78 years, three months, and two days. Sarah’s cause of death was pneumonia. Dr. J. F. Nowell attended her for four days, and last saw her alive on February 13, 1920. Boggs and Sarah are buried side-by-side in Section C, Lot 30, in Cedar Hill Cemetery, Antrim Township, Franklin County, PA.
Note: There are two mistakes on Sarah’s death certificate. She was born on November 11, 1841 and turned 78 on November 11, 1919. She died three months and two days later. The death certificate gives her age as 79 years, three months, and two days. The other mistake on the certificate is her date of death, which is recorded as February 16, 1920 but that was the date that Sarah was buried. David Martin was the funeral director. When David W. Martin retired, his business was not sold and it is presumed that all his records are lost.
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