William Snyder was born on August 31, 1836 in the Mercersburg area. He was the son of Jacob and Eliza Weisner Synder. Having been passed down through his family, William was a third-generation merchant tailor.
On February 23, 1861, William married Sarah Margaret McCune in Mercersburg’s Presbyterian Church of the Upper West Conococheague. Sarah was the daughter of Jacob and Catherine McCune. William and Sarah had 12 children, of which seven survived.
Snyder was in the Greencastle and Antrim Township area when the Civil War broke out. Family legend says that his wife Sarah, pregnant with their first child William O., didn’t want him to enlist and had other plans for him – she locked him in the cellar. Snyder found an open cellar window, though, crawled out and went to the place of recruitment. He enlisted on August 7, 1862 in Co. K, of the 126th PA Volunteers. William was in the Battles of Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville, VA and participated in what is called the Mud March. The regiment was mustered out on May 20, 1863. Like most of the nine-monthers, William had to register for the draft in June 1863, just weeks after his discharge.
After the war was over, Snyder continued his trade of merchant tailoring. He was one of the leading businessmen in Greencastle and held a number of public offices in town. The Snyder family was Presbyterian, and he was member of the Mt. Pisgah Masonic Lodge in Greencastle.
William and Sarah’s second child Henry Strickler Snyder was born on August 1, 1864, just two days after the Burning of Chambersburg, by Gen. John McCausland. Henry was named after Henry Strickler, 4th Sergeant in Co. K., who must have been his father’s best friend. If so, William was most likely the friend who, family legend says, visited Henry after his left arm was amputated after the Battle of Fredericksburg and then searched the pile of amputated limbs, until he found Henry’s left arm and retrieved a ring from his left hand.
By June 9, 1880, the day his family was listed on the census, they had eight children – William O., Henry S., Alma Belle, Harriet N., Margaret L., Jacob R., Elizabeth C., and Samuel R. By 1880, William was apprenticing under his father. In 1882, three of the Snyder children died within three months of each other. Frederick, 1 year and 9 months old, and Samuel, three years old, died within five days of each other in June. In September, Alma Bell, died at the age of 16 years. There most certainly was an epidemic of some kind, but I’ve been unable to find any information.
Snyder, along with other comrades from Greencastle, was a charter member of the Corp. Rihl GAR Post #438, which met in the Town Hall on the southwest corner of the intersection of Baltimore and Washington Streets. Snyder was very active and held various positions within the Post.
The Biographical Annals of Franklin County, PA, 1903, says that William Snyder left Greencastle with his family, in 1887 and moved to Birmingham, Alabama. In the minute book of the GAR Corp. Rihl Post, it is noted during the regular meeting of September 16, 1887, that, “Comrade Snyder made a final address severing his connection with The Post.” Snyder gifted the Corp. Rihl Post with a Civil War sword and a revolver.
Snyder moved to the young city of Birmingham, founded during the Post-Civil War Reconstruction period in 1871. There were slightly more than 3,000 people living in Birmingham during the 1880 census. It was the South’s up-and-coming, new industrial center with mining, iron, steel, and railroads forming its core infrastructure. The Snyder family home was at 2320 5th Avenue between 23rd and 24th Streets.
Considering William’s involvement with the Corp. Rihl GAR Post #438 in Greencastle, it is not surprising that he was one of the founders and charter members of Birmingham’s Lincoln GAR Post #17, where he served as post commander. William’s family has written, “Among his greatest pleasures was his annual trek to different parts of the United States to Grand Army Encampments, which he accomplished for 26 consecutive years.” William amassed a collection of 36 badges, the greater number of which is national encampment badges, along with some state and local chapter badges. Upon his death, the collection came into the possession of his grandson, J. Henry Snyder of Eustis, FL. Eventually, the collection was given to the Lilian S. Besore Memorial Library. The collection is currently on exhibit in the Civil War exhibit bay, in the barn at Allison-Antrim Museum.
While in Birmingham, William was also a member of the Cyrene Commandery Lodge in Birmingham, AL.
Birmingham City directories in 1897 and 1901 list family members and the business, Snyder & Son (Wm W. & Wm O.), Tailors & Mens Furnishers at 1906 2nd Avenue. The 1900 U.S. Census lists William W. as a Merchant Taylor at 63; Sarah M. (59) mother of 12, 7 surviving; Harriet Netscher (36); Jacob Ross, medical student (25), Elizabeth C., stenographer (22), Mary E. (17). Margaret, 28, married William Lassiter and also lived in Birmingham. William O. and his wife May R. lived at 1720 5th Avenue. They never had any children.
Henry, also, followed in his father’s footsteps and worked with his father and brother in the same trade. In 1893, Henry moved back to Greencastle with his family and reopened the men’s store that his father had opened in 1867.
When William W.’s wife Sarah died June 21, 1903, he retired from the business and moved back to Greencastle, at which time he, again, became very involved with the Corp. Rihl GAR Post.
William did go back to Birmingham in 1910, I think, as a visitor and guest of his daughter, Margaret, and her husband William and their family, because he is listed in their household on the 1910 U.S. Census, in April.
William Snyder outlived his wife Sarah by almost exactly 15 years. They are both buried together, alongside five of their children. 1st Sgt. William Snyder, Co K, 126th PA Volunteer Infantry died at 2 pm on June 18, 1918, after having been under Dr. Thomas H. Gilland’s care for six months. He was 81 years, nine months, and 16 days old. William is buried in Cedar Hill Cemetery, Section G, Lot 47, Antrim Township, Franklin County, PA.
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