The previous three Soldier’s Stories were about three cousins, Michael D. Reymer, Archibald Reymer, and John Mummert, who all fought in the Civil War. Michael served in Co. K, 126th PA Infantry and later, served in the U.S. Signal Corps. Archibald and John both enlisted in the 21st PA Cavalry. John also served in the 79th PA Infantry.
Every so often, one’s research is made a little easier because of a family member who had an interest in and took the time to write a genealogy book on their family. Such is the case with the Laughlin family of Franklin County. Dr. Mary Agnes Laughlin and her sister, Grace Eleanor, a nurse, compiled a genealogical book titled “A History of the Prather, Shank, Royer, and Laughlin Families.” Mary Agnes was the primary author and her sister, Grace, finished the book and saw to its printing, in 1955, almost 20 years after Mary Agnes passed away, in 1937. Mary Agnes was born on March 12, 1868, the eldest of 11 children of Henry and Anna Royer Laughlin. Mary Agnes went to school in the Greenmount one-room schoolhouse, located on today’s Greenmount Road. To get to the Greenmount area, take the Williamsport Pike south to Hykes Road and turn right, then make another right onto Greenmount Road, which goes north. Mary also attended Marshall School in Montgomery Township. Mary Agnes’ parents paid for her tuition to attend Greencastle’s high school, from which she graduated in 1885, a month or two after she turned 16. Mary Agnes graduated from the Shippensburg Normal School (Shippensburg University) in the spring of 1886 and began teaching in one-room schools, in the fall of 1886, in Antrim Township, and then Montgomery Township. In 1894, Mary Agnes went back to school at the Woman’s Medical College, Philadelphia. She graduated in 1898. She did a one-year internship at the Lying-in Maternity Hospital, Philadelphia and then worked a full year at the Woman’s Infirmary, Baltimore. Dr. Mary Agnes Laughlin “hung her shingle” in the autumn of 1900, in Hagerstown, MD, where she practiced continuously until her death on February 2, 1937. Her specialty was obstetrics, gynecology, and pediatrics and she attended patients at the Washington County Hospital. Mary Agnes was also highly skilled in administering anesthesia during childbirth and other surgeries.
Mary Agnes was a faithful Christian and a member of the First Church of the Brethren, Hagerstown. She was a member of the Washington County and Maryland medical societies and held a fellowship in the American Medical Association. Mary Agnes was an active member of the Franklin County, PA, Daughters of the American Revolution and was a charter member of the Maryland Conococheague Chapter of the D.A.R. She was an active member of the Civic and Meridian Clubs of Hagerstown and also participated in the work of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union.
Within her circle of family, friends, and patients, she was called Dr. Mary. “Unusually secretive about her personal health and personal matters, she withheld from even her own sisters the nature of the illness which finally ended an unusually active life. She bore her suffering, and it was, indeed, very great for a long while, with the utmost patience, cheerfulness and fortitude.” It was not until very near the end of her life that Mary gave detailed instructions to her sisters for her funeral service and burial.
This week’s Soldier’s Story is about Dr. Mary’s father Henry Laughlin, who served in Greencastle’s Co. K, 126th PA Regiment. He and two of his cousins, George Pawling and James Mitchell, all served together in the 126th, along with Michael Reymer.
The great-grandfather of Dr. Mary was also named Henry Laughlin. He was born in 1773 and was the first of his family to come to America, in 1802, from Northern Ireland. He was married to Mary Savage. From the port of Baltimore they, with baby John, made their way to Letzburg, in Montgomery Township south of Upton. Henry and Mary had the following children: John (married Rebecca Pawling); Henry (married Phoebe Robbins); Mary (married John Wilson); and Agnes (married George Carr).
Eldest child, John (b. September 17, 1802, d. February 20, 1867) married Rebecca Pawling on December 6, 1841. John and Rebecca’s children were: Mary Agnes’ father Henry (b. October 13, 1842); Thomas (b. January 23, 1844, d. October 21, 1844); Mary Ellen (b. August 7, 1845, d. May 17, 1876); Rachel Dallas (b. November 6, 1847, d. March 8, 1926, married Thomas M. Weir); John (b. May 11, 1849, d. September 29, 1870); Elizabeth (b. October 16, 1850, d. July 21, 1924; Rebecca Prather (b. January 1853, d. January 26, 1927; and Frank ( b. June 2, 1855, d. May 6, 1875).
On the August 22, 1850 U. S. Census, John, a wagon maker, and Rebecca were living in Antrim Township. Henry was seven and would turn eight years old in two months. Mary Ellen was five, and John was one year old. John Sr.’s father Henry, who was 85, was living with them. He died three years later on February 15, 1853.
John and Rebecca were still living in Antrim Township during the 1860 census. His occupation was farmer. All their children were born by this time. Rebecca Pawling, born October 11, 1821, was 19 years younger than John. John died seven years after the 1860 census. He and Rebecca, who died on November 3, 1887, are both buried in Cedar Hill Cemetery.
Henry Laughlin, two months shy of his 20th birthday, enlisted on August 5, 1862, as a private in Co. K, 126th PA Infantry, along with his cousins, George Pawling and James Mitchell. The 126th just missed the Battle of Antietam but fought in the Battle of Fredericksburg on December 13, 1862, was part of the infamous Mud March, in January 1863, and fought valiantly in the Battle of Chancellorsville. James Mitchell was killed, in action, during the Battle of Fredericksburg. His body was recovered and is buried in the Moss Spring graveyard, Greencastle, which is cared for by the congregation of the Greencastle Presbyterian Church. The men of the 126th PA Regiment were discharged on May 20, 1863.
Henry Laughlin (born October 13, 1842) married Anna Royer on April 12, 1866. Anna “Annie” was born December 26, 1847. When they were first married, they lived in his parents’ home. A short while later Henry and Annie moved to his father’s tenant house, where Mary Agnes was born on March 12, 1868. They moved a couple more times and were living on, what is known as, the John Mitchell family homestead at 431 Leitersburg Street, Greencastle, when the 1870 U.S. Census was taken on August 23, in Antrim Township. Henry’s cousins owned the land, which he farmed on shares. Farm sharing benefited both the landowner and the tenant farmer, who owned little if any land. Farm sharing was profitable for both parties. This is where Henry, 27, and Annie, 22, were living when Emma was born. Their personal estate was valued at $830. Mary Agnes was 2 and Emma was three months old. In March 1872, Henry’s father John bought a farm in Welsh Run, to which he moved. Henry and Annie and their little girls, moved into John Laughlin’s former home, one mile west of State Line, on March 12, 1872.
Henry’s family was still living west of State Line when the 1880 census was recorded on June 17. Within the ten years since the last U.S. Census, they had two more boys and two more girls – John Royer was 7, Henry was 5, Anna was 3, and Bertha was 1.
In 1881, Henry bought a farm in the Welsh Run area, south of Upton, which he owned until late in his life. He and Annie moved their family and belongings on March 28, 1881. Their post office was in Clay Lick. On the 1890 Veterans Special Schedule, it states that Henry contracted lung disease and a hernia, during his service in the Civil War. Henry did suffer in his later years with bouts of pneumonia.
On the 1900 U.S. Census, Henry owned his farm outright without a mortgage. He and Annie had been married 33 years. She had born 11 children but only 10 of them were living in 1900. Daughter, Anna E. (born October 1876), was 23 and she was teaching school. Frank H. (born October 1882) was 17, and was attending school, as were Grace E., 15 (born July 1884), and C. Frederick, 9 (born January 1891).
After searching for quite a while, I had no luck finding Henry and Annie in 1910, during the census. Their son, Frank, and their daughter, Bertha, were living on a farm in Montgomery Township, most likely near Welsh Run. Frank owned the farm but was paying on a mortgage. Bertha was keeping house. Their oldest sister, Dr. Mary Agnes Laughlin was living in Hagerstown with brother, Dr. John Royer Laughlin, also a medical doctor. Mary Agnes says of her father, “When the working on the farm was getting to be too much for him he bought a small farm about two miles north of Greencastle, which had belonged to his wife’s uncle Christian Royer. They lived there a few years until 1913 when advancing age made it seem desirable to leave the farm altogether, when they bought a place in Maugansville, MD; they lived there when they celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary, which was done by giving an old-fashioned dinner to which were invited all their children, grandchildren, brothers and sisters and a few cousins and lifelong friends; there were between 50 and 60 guests.”
Henry and Annie were living on the Maugansville-Hagerstown Road, in the Conococheague District, Washington County, MD on January 3, 1920, during U.S. Census. Henry was 77, the head of the household, retired, and owned his home, free and clear of a mortgage. Annie was 72. Their daughters Bertha (35) and Grace (30), living in the household, were both professional nurses, “working on own account.” C. Fred (28), the youngest child of Henry and Annie, was a machinist, who was working as a “helper for the Railroad.” Mary Agnes says that they moved to 230 East Antietam Street, Hagerstown, later in 1920, where they lived for the remainder of their lives.
Anna “Annie” Royer Laughlin died on January 23, 1923 and Henry died December 23, 1928. They are both buried in Section B of the Brethren Church graveyard in Welsh Run.
In the family genealogy book, Mary Agnes then gave great insight into the personality of who her father was. “He was about 5’8” tall. He was muscular but never very fat. He had hazel eyes and dark hair which was very thick. He always wore a full beard without a mustache. In fact, when he was old he looked a good deal like Santa Claus. His hair did not turn gray young.”
“When we were little he would bring us sticks of peppermint candy when he went to town; but we always knew we had to do just what he said; if we didn’t the punishment was sure. He did not often whip us, because we knew better than to disobey. He always bought school-books for us whenever the teacher said we needed them; he wanted us to get all the education we could; he often said that what was put into our heads was something that could not be taken away from us.”
“I do not think he learned readily as a child and there are stories of his playing truant from school when quite small; there were no free schools in those days. I know of him writing a letter only once in my recollection – he wrote home when he was attending the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia in 1876. But he always read the newspapers a good deal. He was very much opposed to strong drink and we never had any alcoholic liquor in our home; he was a Democrat but in his last years he would not vote at all because the Democratic leaders were too much in favor of liquor, so that he could not see his way clear to vote for them, and he could not be induced to vote the Republican ticket! He was never a candidate for any office.”
“He did not use tobacco except in his early manhood he would smoke a cigar once in a long while, but in later life he did not use it at all. He was usually well and strong but he had four different attacks of pneumonia each of which was serious; the last attack was influenza pneumonia and he died after one week’s illness. When he was past eighty he had an attack of renal colic which caused intense suffering.”
“When a young man he enlisted with his two cousins in the 126th Regiment, PA Volunteers, Co K; he was the last survivor, but one, of his company. He served nine months (and 15 days) in the Army of the Potomac. He never tired of telling stories about things that happened during his army service. He made several trips back to Fredericksburg; I accompanied him on the last one which he made when he was past eighty; on that occasion he delivered quite a lecture to a party of tourists on the battlefield, and I was somewhat amused to hear him say “Confederates” instead of “Rebels,” the term which he always used. After his term of enlistment, he made quite a visit to his grandmother Prather’s relatives in Venango Co., PA, to escape the draft.”
“He joined the church with his wife and always attended the services until his hearing became so poor that he could not hear the sermons. He would not allow any profanity about the place; I once heard him severely reprove a hired man for swearing in the barn; and he would not allow any playing cards on the place – he said he had seen enough of that in the army. And of course dancing was not allowed at home but he did not forbid us to attend dances at other places; in fact, he allowed us to have the team to go and would make jokes about it. He had some very good friends, notably, Martin Sword and Samuel Sowers, Sr., both neighbors; and he was on friendly terms with his brothers-in-law; we often laughed about the way he and Uncle Pete and Uncle Jerry entertained one another; after dinner they would sit and sleep. But if he disliked anyone he had no use at all for that one and there were some people he did not trust. He never engaged in arguments but would seem to agree with the one who was talking to him; he seldom said anything against anyone.”
“It seems to me that his most prominent characteristics were his industry and his honesty. He was always a hard worker, who never shirked anything that was hard. And it always worried him if he had a bill that he could not pay promptly; in fact his credit was always good for he hated unpaid bills.”
“He liked to build; during the years that he lived on his farm he replaced every building with a new one, with possibly the exception of the bake-house (outdoor kitchen), and he improved the place very much in other ways – he straightened the watercourses and put in a lot of drains, besides building roads and bridges and making fences, planting trees, etc.”
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