Benjamin Franklin Winger
Benjamin Franklin Winger was born in Salisbury Township, Lancaster County, on November 27, 1835, son of Joseph and Esther (Buckwalter) Winger. Joseph and Esther moved to Montgomery Township in 1838, where they owned a farm, as well as a general store in Clay Lick. Joseph was the postmaster of the Clay Lick post office, which operated out of Winger’s general store. From April 21, 1862 until July 24, 1886, all the postmasters were from the Winger family. Joseph and Esther had 16 children; nine were listed on the 1850 census - Elizabeth, Anna, Benjamin, Elam, Catharine, Joseph W., Esther, Emma, and Calvin. Three died in infancy and one at the age of 16 or 17.
In the Biographical Annals of Franklin County, 1905, it says Benjamin was educated in the local schools of Montgomery Township and he went to work, at the age of 14, as a clerk for a merchant in Mercersburg. While in Mercersburg, Benjamin took private classes in English and math. At the age of 18, he returned to Clay Lick, in Montgomery Township, to manage his father's store. In 1857, Benjamin was elected captain in a local cavalry company called the Union Horse Guards. Prior to the Civil War on July 5, 1858 and May 7, 1860, Gov. William Packer, commissioned Benjamin to the rank of Captain and aid-de-camp to Brig. General McAllen. In 1860, Benjamin went to Philadelphia and became a traveling salesman for a dry goods wholesale house. One year later, he was a partner in the business. The History of Franklin County, 1887, says that Benjamin sold his business in 1862, after having started the study of law, in March 1862, under Tenner & Davis, Philadelphia.
Benjamin enrolled and enlisted in the Civil War on August 23, 1862, in Petersburg, VA. Gov. Curtin commissioned Winger to the rank of 1st Lieutenant; he was part of the field and staff of the 2nd PA Heavy Artillery and was assigned to Co. D. The 2nd PA participated in the defenses of Washington City, where it stayed for two years. On October 10, 1862, during J.E.B. Stuart's raid (October 10 – 12, 1862) into Franklin County, Winger, Adam Ferguson, and Daniel Henry returned to Chambersburg on a recruiting assignment for men. Unfortunately, Ferguson was captured by Stuart and joined eight other prisoners, which Stuart had previously taken in the Mercersburg and St. Thomas area, prior to his arrival in Chambersburg. Among those first eight men was Benjamin's father, Joseph Winger. Joseph was one of four - Perry Rice, Daniel Shaffer, and William Conner, out of the first group of prisoners taken in the Mercersburg area. These eight men were eventually incarcerated in the infamous Libby Prison. Rice died in prison but the others were exchanged for Confederate prisoners, after about a two-month imprisonment.
While Stuart was in Chambersburg, Benjamin and Daniel Henry acquired civilian clothes, laid low, and avoided being recognized by Stuart’s men. After Stuart’s exit from Chambersburg, Benjamin opened a recruiting office in Chambersburg for six months, which yielded 167 more volunteers for the 2nd Heavy Artillery Regiment, with many from Greencastle. Benjamin’s younger brother Joseph W., five years his junior, also served during the Civil War in the 2nd PA Heavy Artillery. On September 20, 1862, a month after Benjamin, Joseph enlisted and was mustered into service on, as a corporal, in Battery D.
In early 1864, the 2nd PA Heavy Artillery numbered more than 3,600, about 3,100 more than the average Union regiment, at that time. On April 20, 1864, the 2nd PA was divided; the second group became the "Provisional" 2nd PA Heavy Artillery. The original 2nd PA and the Provisional 2nd PA Heavy Artilleries were both attached to the Army of the Potomac in 1864. The 2nd PA Heavy Artillery was in the Battle of Cold Harbor, the sieges upon Petersburg and Richmond, and the Quaker Mine explosion. Benjamin Winger was on sick leave from August 22, 1864 to December 1864. Upon his return, he was promoted to major and was put in charge of the regiment. From December 1864 on, Winger and his regiment were in successive engagements until the end of the war. On May 18, 1865, Winger was promoted to Lt. Colonel and was placed in charge of the reconstruction of Petersburg and later on, the reconstruction of nine Virginia counties, with the help of the 2nd PA Heavy Artillery and the regiments of the 170th NY. Winger and his men were finally discharged and mustered out on January 29, 1866 at City Point, VA.
Winger married Susan Duffield on May 20, 1857. After the war, he returned to manage the Duffield family farm in Montgomery Township. In the spring of 1867, he purchased the property at the corner of South Carlisle Street, in the southwest quadrant of Greencastle’s square. Here he opened and operated a mercantile business. From 1868 to 1869, Winger was Franklin County’s state representative in Harrisburg. He studied law under Judge D. Watson Rowe from 1868 to March 12, 1871, when he was admitted to Franklin County’s Bar. He opened his law office in Greencastle and was in partnership with Senator W. U. Brewer for 14 years.
Winger purchased the Echo printing office in 1868 and sold it in 1876. Capt. George C. Wilson was a Civil War comrade and to help him out, Winger opened another newspaper business in 1878. It was called the Greencastle Press.
Winger invested in real estate and purchased eight farms in Franklin County, Tayamentasachta being one of the eight. Tayamentasachta is the Greencastle-Antrim School District’s environmental center. He was also an investor, organizer, and director of the J. B. Crowell Manufacturing Company.
In 1883, a new post office was opened in Antrim Township. It was named Wingerton after the Winger family, whose roots are traced back to, “the immediate mountainous vicinity of the ‘Wengern Alps’ in the Canton of Zurich, Switzerland.” Wengern became Winger in America.
September 1884 marked the centennial celebration of the establishment of Franklin County. Winger served as the marshal for Antrim Township’s parade participants, in the downtown Chambersburg parade. Others included Sam Prather and C. Keefer Kiesecker, township committee members; directors of the J. B. Crowell Manufacturing Company; Greencastle’s Mechanics Band; 125 employees of Crowell Mfg.; a traction engine; two portable engines; an operating saw mill; four pieces of machinery; Harry S. Walck grain cradles; George B. Snively oil-cake meal; E. W. Fuss & Son cradles, and more. Antrim Township is the oldest entity in Franklin County.
Socially, Winger was a Mason at the age of 21 and a charter member of Greencastle’s Mt. Pisgah Lodge. He was also a member of the Military Order of the Loyal Legion and Greencastle’s Corp. Rihl GAR Post #438. The Winger family attended the Greencastle Presbyterian Church.
Even an attorney, can forget to pay his dues. A gentleman, via the Internet, did a search for Winger and found the museum’s Web site. He then contacted the museum by email and offered a letter written to Winger, as a donation, which was graciously accepted. The letter was from George B. Snively, Post Master, of the Corp. Rihl GAR Post #438. It notified Col. Winger that he was in arrears for back dues of $1.20. The envelope is marked “paid in full, Jany 20/1886.”
His first wife, Susan Duffield, died in February 1868; she was the daughter of William and Elizabeth (Bowen) Duffield of Welsh Run. The Wingers had four daughters – Blanche (married Ralph Ziegler); Elizabeth died at 16 or 17; Mary Bowen (married Dr. Robert Varden and they had seven children); and Carrie, who died young. Margaret K. Byer was Benjamin’s second wife and they married on June 9, 1870. She was the daughter of Dr. Frederick and Catharine (Ziegler) Byer of Leitersburg, MD. Benjamin and Margaret had three daughters – Margaret, who died young; Rose (married Hugh Drysdale of Massachusetts); and Frances, who married William R. Davison. Benjamin and Margaret lived on the farm at Tayamentasachta. It was their daughters who gave the farm its name – an Iroquoian word, which means “Endless Hills,” describing the Blue Ridge Mountains. Its Algonquin synonym is Kittochtinny, which means “Blue Mountains.”
A January 4, 1890 pension application which was filed in D.C. listed Winger as an invalid. In addition to the 2nd PA Heavy Artillery, the application also states that he served in Co. B, 189th PA Infantry, but the organization of the 189th PAV was never realized. The application lists Benjamin’s ranks as Captain, 1st Lieutenant, and Lt. Colonel. The 1890 Veterans health schedule made note that Benjamin suffered from rheumatism.
Benjamin Franklin Winger was a widower when he died in the Borough of Greencastle, on May 31, 1907, at the age of 71 years, six months, and four days. He had been under the care of Dr. J. F. Nowell for 15 days prior to his death, which was attributed to Brights Disease. Although Winger’s adult life, after the Civil War, was spent in Greencastle and Antrim Township, he was buried June 2, 1907, in Fairview Cemetery, east of Mercersburg in Montgomery Township. He is buried in Lot B, Square 4, Grave No. 10. The business of J. Detrich & Son was the undertaker.
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