Allison-Antrim Museum

Joseph W. Winger


Joseph W. Winger was born about 1842 in Montgomery Township, in Clay Lick, to Joseph and Esther (Buckwalter) Winger.  His father was a farmer, merchant, and postmaster of the Clay Lick post office. Joseph W. served as postmaster from February 17, 1866 to December 2, 1874.  Joseph was five to seven years younger than his brother, Benjamin Franklin Winger, the subject of the August 17 Soldier’s Story.


Both brothers served together in the 2nd PA Heavy Artillery Regiment.  Joseph enlisted and was mustered into service on September 20, 1862, as a corporal, in Battery D.    He was promoted to Commissary Sergeant and then to 2nd Lieutenant on July 11, 1864.  He reached the rank of captain on January 25, 1865.  After three years of service, Joseph was mustered out September 19, 1865, upon expiration of his term.


Although Joseph did not move to Greencastle after the Civil War, as Benjamin did, he did maintain a connection to Greencastle.   Along with his brother, Benjamin, and 12 other men, Joseph W. was one of the organizers of the second Masonic lodge in Greencastle – Mount Pisgah Lodge #443.  It was established on August 23, 1869 and continues to have an active membership today.


At the time of the 1860 U.S. Census, Joseph W. was 18 and was listed as being a farmhand on his father’s farm.  Five years after his discharge from the Civil War, the 1870 U.S. Census shows that Joseph was married and living in a separate household from his father.  He married Margaret Irwin and his personal estate was valued at $5,300.  Information in the “Historical Sketch of Franklin County, Penn. 1878” lists J. W. Winger as having been a county auditor in 1872, along with John C. Tritle and John A. Sellers.  Many young veterans of the Civil War went into public service after the war.


“Go West, young man, go west.”  “The History of Franklin County, PA 1887” says that Joseph moved to Lincoln, Nebraska in 1887.  I believe the year was a typographical error and that he and his family moved to Nebraska in 1877.  Joseph W. and his family do not show up in the Clay Lick, Montgomery Township 1880 U.S. Census.  But they are recorded under the name J. W. Winger in the 1880 U.S. Census, in the third ward of Lincoln, Nebraska.  “Baby” Ralph Oberlin Winger was 3 years old and was born in Nebraska and “Marjie” Margaret Irwin was one year old.  “The History of Franklin County,” also, states that J. W. Winger was, “a heavy land owner, and at present, a real estate agent.”  Land deeds or newspaper articles have not yet been found to substantiate the statement that he was “a heavy land owner.”  The 1880 U.S. Census listed Joseph’s occupation as dealing in “dry goods and groceries.”  Nebraska had a state census that was enumerated every ten years between the U.S. Census.  The 1885 state census lists his occupation as a general merchant.  All of his children were attending school in 1885.  Joseph and Margaret had six children – Mathias Irwin, 15; Josephine W., 13; Florence McLean, 11; James Wilson, 10; Ralph Oberlin, 8; and Margaret Irwin, 6.


Because of a fire, on January 10, 1921, outside the fireproof and waterproof vault, in the basement of the US Commerce Building, the majority of the 1890 US Census records were lost to fire, smoke, or water damage.  The vault was evidently full because the 1890 records were stored for over ten years on pine shelves, outside the protection of the vault.  What did survive and/or were salvaged were fragments of the 1890 US Census records from 10 states and the District of Columbia, including the many 1890 Special Veterans Schedules for enumeration of Union Veterans or their widows.


The census taker in Lincoln, Nebraska for the 1890 Veterans Schedule, which dealt with health issues, did not record any health issues for Joseph.  He didn’t even write down Joseph’s company, regiment, or term of service.  The single notation was the name of the state under which Joseph served during the Civil War.  The only other 1890s primary document that I could find is his Civil War pension record, which is dated July 5, 1892, when Joseph would have been about 50 or 51 years old.  Joseph W. was listed as an invalid.


I have been unable to find Joseph W. Winger in the 1900 U.S. Census.  Joseph and Margaret’s first born child, Mathias Winger, and his wife Mazita and their daughter Zita were living in Chicago, Illinois in 1900.  Mathias was a salesman of gentlemen’s goods.  I could not find any of Joseph’s other children.  Perhaps he was living with one of them.  This “brick wall” has been created by many small things.  The enumerators sometimes just used initials, instead of recording the names.  Winger is a surname that has many misspellings and variations – Winger, Wingert, Wingerd, Wingart, and Wingard.  In addition, his daughters most likely married and their last names changed.  All of these things added together, make it very difficult to sift through records.


The answer to what happened to Joseph W. and Margaret Winger occurred between the 1885 Nebraska State Census and the 1910 U.S. Census.  In 1900, Margaret Irwin, the youngest child, would have been 11 and Richard O. would have been 13.  If Margaret, Joseph’s wife, died, he may have remarried, with Margaret and Richard as young as they were.


The only remaining clue was on the pension card.  Almost 99 years ago, on September 22, 1916, Evangeline A. Winger, widow of Joseph W. Winger applied for his pension.  With this information, I searched for Evangeline Winger in Lincoln, Nebraska on the 1910 Census.  Her name is recorded as Evangeline A. Winger, widow, which indicates that Joseph died prior to April 15, 1910 and Margaret died before he did.  The pension card is correct because it lists Joseph’s regiment as Battery D, 2nd PA Heavy Artillery.  Evangeline (60) was still living at the same address on the 1920 U.S. Census.  For extra income, she had taken in two women boarders – Kate Stoddard (60) and Helen Hewett (21).    Evangeline was born in Ohio, as was her father.  Her mother, though, was born in New York State.


Attached to one of Joseph’s online military records was a very small photograph, the one on the right.  The other is a Daguerreotype from the collections of the Library of Congress, identified as Capt. Joseph W. Winger, Co D, 2nd PA Heavy Artillery.  Is the soldier on the left, the same person that’s in the photograph on the right?  What happened to Joseph W. and Margaret Winger between the 1885 Nebraska Census and the 1910 U.S. Census?





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