Allison-Antrim Museum

Frederick Besecker


Besides Harrison Seabrook, the subject of last week’s Soldier’s Story, there is only one other man who served in the 149th PA “Second Bucktails” Regiment, who is buried in any of the Greencastle-Antrim cemeteries.  His name is Frederick Besecker, born on August 31, 1830 (from his headstone).  The earliest U.S. Census, so far, that’s been found with him recorded, is the July 18, 1850 census for the 2nd Subdivision of Washington County, MD.  Frederick and his brother, Daniel, born in Pennsylvania, were both farm laborers for Isaac Long, 60 years old, whose real estate was valued at $25,000.  Frederick and Daniel lived on Isaac’s farm along with three other farm laborers, John Taylor, Henry Heary (born in Germany), and Van Brooks.  Neighboring farms were owned by Nathaniel Long, 33, and Linus Long, 24.  They were both identified as “farmer,” not “laborer.”  Judging by their ages, Nathaniel and Linus, may have been sons of Isaac and Elizabeth,


The 1860 Census was taken within the year before the start of the Civil War.  The census takers had two “schedules,” on which to record the data.  Schedule 1 was for “Free Inhabitants” within each county of each state and Schedule 2 was “Slave Inhabitants.”  In Funkstown, MD, there were a total of 117 enslaved people of color, owned by 35 free individuals.


In 1860, Daniel was married and living in the Funkstown District, Washington County, MD.  Daniel and his wife Maria had four daughters and one son, Daniel, 2 years old.  Daniel’s personal property was valued at $50.  Daniel Besecker and his family lived among the slave owners and the enslaved in Funkstown, MD, unlike Frederick and his family who lived in Pennsylvania, where there were no slaves in 1860.


Frederick was more difficult to find because the enumerator spelled his last name as Besaker and his given name was recorded as Fred.  Frederick’s name was 11th in the list of 11 possible 1860 search results for Daniel Besecker.  Before finding Daniel’s 1860 record, all hope had be given up on finding Frederick in the 1860 census. It was just by luck, that his record was stumbled upon.


Fred and his wife Catharine, who was born on April 27, 1833, had three children, in 1860.  Catharine was the daughter of Samuel Conrad and his wife ----- Heart.  Their children were: Mary (5), David (3), and Frederick (10 months); all were born in Pennsylvania.  Fred’s personal property was valued at $100 and his occupation was “Laborer.” Fred and Catharine lived in Montgomery Township and the Post Office was in Upton.  John Stoner, who lived three houses from the Beseckers, was a farmer and owned property on Montgomery Church Road, west off the Welsh Run Road, and southwest of Upton.  Because Frederick’s past work as a laborer was working on a farm and the fact that he lived in a farming area, I believe he most likely worked on one of the neighboring farms.


In June 1863, just like every other eligible male, Frederick registered for the draft.  He was 32 and married, and was placed in Class I.  Within two months, Frederick enlisted on August 27, 1863, as a private in Co. E, 149th PA Infantry (the Second Bucktails).  The 149th and 150th PA Volunteer Infantry regiments were expert marksmen, and like their predecessors in the 1st Pennsylvania Bucktails, every man wore a buck tail on their hat, indicating their skill as sharpshooters. Unlike Harrison Seabrook, who never married, Frederick left behind his wife and young children, when he went to war.  From letters in Allison-Antrim Museum’s collections, we know the U.S. Government did not always pay the soldiers on time.  The soldiers often sent their pay back home to the local U.S. Postmaster, for a family member to collect.  Just how did Catharine manage while her husband was helping to defend the Union?  Many families living in the townships had a garden, in which they grew vegetables and fruits.  When it was time to harvest their crops, they had to be preserved in some manner. Some families may have had a hen or two and possibly a cow.  Besides milk for drinking, buttermilk could be made and the cream would provide butter.  Bread did not come off a grocery shelf in 1863.  Bread was a staple and had to be baked for the family, as often as needed; but flour to make the bread had to be purchased.  Clothes could be handed down from oldest to youngest, as they grew, but at some point material wears out.  It had to be very difficult for Catharine to raise her young family for the almost two years her husband was in service.


Frederick was mustered out, at the end of the war, in Elmira, NY, on June 24, 1865.  Because Frederick and Harrison Seabrook both served in the 149th, please refer to Seabrook’s Soldier’s Story for all the battles in which the 149th valiantly fought.


In 1870, the western border of Antrim Township was the Conococheague Creek.   Frederick and Catharine were living in Antrim, west and south of Greencastle.  Daniel Unger (75 and a retired farmer) and John Whitmore (49) both owned property along the Grant Shook Road, southwest of Greencastle.  The Beseckers and their family were enumerated right after John Whitmore.  Whitmore owned three different residences along Grant Shook Road and because Frederick’s occupation was given as “works on farm,” I believe he could have worked for Whitmore.  Frederick’s personal property was not given a value.  Young Frederick, who was 10 months old in 1860, was now 11 years old.  There were five more children, living in the household, which were not listed in 1860 – Belle (8), Daniel (6 and named after his Uncle Daniel), Sarah (5), Annie (3), and the baby Matilda (8 months).  Frederick Jr. and Belle had attended school within the year.


By 1880, even though Frederick’s occupation was “farmer,” the family was living in Greencastle.  He was 49 and Catharine was 46.  It was noted on the census record that Catharine could not write.  Their family had grown again – Josephine (8), Edward (6), Samuel (4), and Albertus (1).  Annie and Matilda were still living at home.


The 1890 Special Schedule for Civil War veterans indicates that Frederick had suffered with rheumatism for 26 years, since about 1864; rheumatism was considered a disability.  There was a differentiation made between chronic rheumatism and just rheumatism.  Several men on the page had rheumatism for 26 and 27 years, which would have started during all their Civil War tours of duty.  Only one, Daniel Valentine, out of the three, though, was considered to have “contracted (it) in service.”


Frederick (69) and Catharine (66) moved again by the time the 1900 U.S. Census was conducted.  They, and their son, Samuel (23), were renting their home at 21 Catharine Street, in Ward 3, in the borough of Chambersburg.  The 1900 census indicates that Frederick, a day laborer, had been unemployed for 12 months.  Samuel, though, was employed as a “spooler” in a woolen mill and was, no doubt, bringing in money for the household of three.  Frederick and Catharine had been married for 45 years and she bore 12 children, between 1855 and 1879, all of whom were still living.  The fact that all 12 children survived was quite amazing, considering the highest mortality rate was children aged one and under. There were no inoculations, no antibiotics, no viable medications, raw sewage, lack of knowledge that germs existed, and that germs caused illnesses.


Frederick first filed for his pension on September 14, 1888; he was classified as an invalid.  Frederick died June 26, 1903 at 72 years, nine months and 26 days.  Catharine, as his widow, applied to receive his monthly pension, on July 15, 1903.


Three years later, according to her death certificate, Catharine died from “exhaustion following paralysis,” most likely from a stroke.  She had been ill for 17 days.  Catharine died on June 27, 1906, three years and one day after her husband.   She was 73 years and two months old.  Catherine’s son Albert provided the “personal particulars” given on the death certificate.  The place of death was 252 South Water Street, Chambersburg.  J. A. Sellers & Brother, Chambersburg, was the undertaker.


Catharine Besecker was buried on June 29, 1906, alongside Frederick, in Section O, Lot 85, Cedar Hill Cemetery, Antrim Township, Franklin County, PA.



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