Allison-Antrim Museum

John Garns


The following article appeared in The Pilot, January 19, 1864, under Passing Events &c., page 2.  “UPTON CAVALRY. – Company K, 21st Pa. Cavalry, better known as the “Upon Cavalry,” on account of its having been raised in the vicinity of that village.  There are, however, several members of it from this township.  This Company left Upton on the 25th of August, 1863, and marched to Harrisburg, where it was mustered into the military service for the period of six months, and assigned to the 21st (Cavalry) Regiment (which is also known as the 182nd PAV Regiment), of which it forms a part.  After marching to Chambersburg and remaining there a week or two, the Company was ordered to Schuylkill county.  From thence it was ordered to Carbon county, (on Nov. 3rd) to quell disturbances created by the killing, by a mob, of SMITH, (coal operator,) who was a strong war man.  Some of those implicated in this and other outrages were arrested, and forcible opposition to the draft quelled.  Returning to Schuylkill county winter quarters were taken up at Camp Oliphant, near Pottsville.  The duty, for most part, consisted in arresting drafted men and deserters, which was no pleasant task, especially in that county, where it was necessary to climb mountains, scour coal fields, and scout nearly every night, in pursuit of these men.  The latter being acquainted with the country would often elude their pursuers, and being kept posted by their friends were generally on the alert.  Notwithstanding this state of things, about two hundred were caught, which shows that the Cavalry were very active and diligent.”


“The term of service will shortly expire.  (To date, January 19, 1864) Two men have died from disease; three men have been discharged on account of being under age, and one man deserted.”


“About one-third of the Company have re-enlisted for the war, and are now at home on furlough.  A part of Capt. Walker’s Company will be added to this number, so that the prospects are bright for the organization of a company for the war.  It will likely be commanded by one of the commissioned officers of the present Company K.  The officers now are, Capt. R(obert) J. Boyd, 1st Lieut., H. C. Phenecie, 2nd Lieut., L. H. Hinkle.”


“The roll of the present Company (K) will be published next week.”  The roll was published but due to its length of 87 men, I am only including the men who served in the 21st PA Cavalry, who are buried in one of the Greencastle or Antrim Township church graveyards or cemeteries.  The men are listed alphabetically and include men from Companies K, B, D, I, L, and M, of the 21st PA Cavalry.  Although the editor of the The Pilot says that almost a third of Co. K’s six-month men, who served from August 1863 to February 1864, reenlisted for three more years, only three (marked with an asterisk) out of the following 34 men, were included in that category.  All the men are buried in Cedar Hill Cemetery, unless otherwise noted.  Henry Bartle, John T. Koons, and Jacob Lear have been past subjects of Soldier’s Story.


Co K:  Albert Alexander, Henry Bartle*, Peter S. Brewbaker, James Cleary, William Davis (Macedonia graveyard), John H. Dullabaum, Upton Easton, Jacob D. Frye (also Co. G, 17 Cav), Jonas Frye, John Garns, William Howard King, Field & Staff,  John T. Koons, Bugler, Nicholas K. Martin, Harry McGaughey, Simon Palmer (also K, 126th), William Pensinger*, John Shoup, Henry Shrader (died on 8.9.1863, eight days after muster in), Jacob Shrader, Jacob B. Snively, George W. Snider,  Jeremiah Snider* (Macedonia), J. Luther Weagley, William Pensinger (Macedonia)


Co. B: Henry M. White, James Wilson, Samuel Musselman (Macedonia); Co. D: Henry W. Scott (Macedonia); Co. I:  Dr. J. M. Kennedy; Co. L:  Samuel S. Easton, Samuel Stickell; Co. M:  Jacob Lear; Co. L&M: Joseph Carney.


As I was scanning the list of names in Company K, the name John Garns, blacksmith, caught my attention, because I’ve known members of the Garns family, from the Upton area.  Another reason for choosing Garns is because he was a blacksmith, in Company K.  Cavalry companies also had farriers, men who only took care of shoeing horses.  Company K’s farrier was Henry Haulman.  Shoes for horses were being mass produced at that time, and a supply of ready-made horseshoes were packed with the company or regiment. Therefore, farriers only needed to reheat the shoes and work them to fit any particular horse.  When you think about Co. K, a cavalry company, having 87 men, it means there were more than 87 horses.  Additional horses or pack mules would have been needed to pull all the wagons loaded with provisions for the company.  Those wagons were bound to break down, and when they did, the blacksmith was ready to make repairs, quickly, at the portable forge.

On May 8, 2011, W. E. Wolf,, wrote about the duties of both the blacksmiths and farriers in cavalry companies during the Civil War.  With about 90 to 100 men in each company of a cavalry regiment, a blacksmith and a farrier were both needed.  Wolf wrote, “… these blacksmiths worked with all kinds of metal situations from nails, nuts, bolts, horse shoes and their nails, metal tires for wagons, pins, hinges, tent stays, etc., as well. They were on the same pay scale with one another. (18.00 a month).”


The fact that blacksmiths were present meant that portable forges were necessary.  On the front page of the September 21, 1861 issue of Harper’s Weekly, printed in New York City, was a full-page illustration of an Army forge.  On the next page, the writer gave a detailed description of the compact blacksmith’s shop.  “It consists of a four-wheel carriage (in actuality it was two, two-wheeled carriages), containing in its various compartments all the tools and implements necessary for the outfit of a blacksmith, and can be set up and made ready for operation in the time necessary to cut a block of wood large enough to answer the purpose of a base for the anvil. The front portion, or limber, is precisely the same as the limber of the cannon or caisson, being simply a box about four feet long by two in width, in which is carried the anvil, tongs, and other implements, together with a limited supply of iron, etc., necessary for immediate use. On the rear wheels is mounted a box, in which is contained the bellows, worked by a lever on the outside. In front of this, and on the same platform, is a cast-iron ash-pan for the fire, from which rises a sheet-iron apron or back. On the stock is a vice large enough and of sufficient strength for all ordinary purposes. Back of the box is a receptacle for coal, which is strapped fast, but can be removed at pleasure. The whole is arranged in a very compact form, and when on the road occupies no more space than a cannon or caisson, and is drawn by four or six horses. The men ride upon the limber-box, and are members of the corps to which they are attached, being subject to the same discipline, and recipients of the same privileges and immunities.”


A limber is a two-wheeled cart, with an attached chest, with a pintle at the back, which hitches to the front of the trail, which carried the blacksmith shop items.  Limbers towed artillery guns, caissons, and the portable blacksmith shops, all of which had two wheels.  When hitched during towing, the whole assemblage had four wheels, and the heavy load was distributed between the two axels.  A team of four to six horses were needed to pull portable blacksmith’s forge and accoutrements.  The bellows “house” was double chambered, with the bellows in the upper half.  The lower portion was used as storage for the blacksmith’s necessaries. The majority of the blacksmith’s work during the Civil War was repair work.


Upon muster in, men who were blacksmiths by trade were drilled and trained with the rest of the newly enlisted men.  Blacksmiths and farriers were highly valued in the Army and would be assigned to do the duties, in which they were trained.  W. E. Wolf, also, noted that a First Sergeant in the regiment was assigned the responsibility of keeping the administrative records for the blacksmith and farrier, which included keeping an up-to-date inventory of all their supplies, such as horseshoes, nails, bar iron, and shoeing schedules.


John N. Garns (1838 – 1902) was the son of Samuel Garns (April 9, 1795 – May 27, 1880) and his wife Susanna(h) Howenstine (1802 – 1855).  Their children were Jacob Garns (1824 – 1824); John (1825 – 1832); Harriet (1826-1900); Jacob (1828 – 1832), Samuel Andrew (1832-1865); Henry (1834 – 1912 ); Susannah (1836 -   ); John (1838 – 1902); Jeremiah “Jere” (July 28,1839 – December 6, 1927, married Catherine S.); and Levi (1840-1847).  Samuel and Susannah named two of their sons Jacob, both of whom died.  They also had two boys, who they named John.  The first John and the second Jacob both died in 1832.  Their second son named John is the subject of this week’s Soldier’s Story.


Samuel’s parents were Conrad Gern, born November 4, 1748 in Kumbach, Karlsrhue, Baden, Germany; he died in 1810, in Guilford Township, Franklin County, PA. Samuel married Christina Barbara Hauser, born about October 1752, in Kumbach, Karlsruhe, Baden, Germany; she died October 12, 1827, in Guilford Township, Franklin County, PA.


John Garns is first found in the 1850 U.S. Census taken in St. Thomas Township.  He was 12 and living in the household of Daniel Stouffer, a farmer, whose real estate was valued at $4,800.


I haven’t yet located the 1860 census record with John recorded on it.  His brother, Henry, and his wife Catherine, were living in Peters Township, with their daughter Elizabeth, who was under the age of one.  Henry’s and John’s father Samuel was living with Henry and Catherine.  Samuel was 61.


When the Civil War broke out in 1861, John was unmarried.  In June 1863, he registered for the draft, along with thousands of other young men.  John was 25 and living in Montgomery Township.  His occupation was blacksmith.  John’s brother Samuel Andrew was also registered during June and his name appears on the same page as John’s, with the exception that he was living in Peters Township.  Samuel was married and his occupation was listed as a farmer.


Samuel Andrew Garns, John’s brother, enlisted in Mercersburg’s Co. C of the 126th PA Volunteer Infantry on August 9, 1862.  He was mustered out and discharge with his regiment on May 20, 1863.  He died two years later in 1865.


On July 25, 1863, John Garnes enrolled as a private in Co. K, of the 21st PA Cavalry Regiment in Upton.  Captain Robert J. Boyd enrolled him, for the period of six months.  The entire company left Upton the end of July, and marched 65 miles to Harrisburg.  It arrived on July 31, 1863; John was mustered in by Capt. Brayton on August 1, 1863.  The regiment mustered out on January 25th, 1864.  It is the muster out, which lists John as the blacksmith for Co. K.  The framed, original muster in and muster out rolls for Capt. Robert J. Boyd’s Company K are part of Allison-Antrim Museum’s collections.  They are on exhibit in the North Exhibit Bay in the barn, as part of the permanent Civil War exhibit.


John (27) and Mary Belle Graham (19) married in 1865.  The 1868 map of Montgomery Township includes Jno. Garns’s home and his blacksmith shop.  The Garns home was in the east corner of the intersection of, what is known today as, Garns Road and PA Rt. 16 west of Upton.  The blacksmith shop was located just east of the Garns home.  On August 22, 1870, their small family was recorded on the census for Montgomery Township.  His real estate property was worth $2,000 and his personal property was listed as $400.  Their son, Jacob H. was 4; daughter Frances S. 3, and another son, John was one year old.


The 1880 census, on June 3, does not give a real estate value or personal property value.  Living with John and Mary Belle were Jacob H. (14), Frances S. (12), John G(raham) (10), Susan H. (8), Sallie (6), Ruth “Ruey” (4), and Mary Belle (2).  Robert Anderson (23), John’s blacksmith apprentice, was included in the Garns family group.  Mary Belle, John and Mary’s daughter, died in 1885, at the age of six or seven.


In 1880, the U.S. Census records included a separate page – Schedule 5, Persons who died during the year ending May 30, 1880.  Samuel Garns, John’s father, died at the age of 85, because of old age.  There was no attending physician.  He had lived in Franklin County for 40 years.  His occupation was a shoe and boot maker.


While serving in the Civil War, John Garns started suffering from chronic rheumatism and continued suffering from the disease.  This information was recorded on the Civil War veterans’ special schedule of 1890.  His post office address was Upton.  John applied for his pension and disability on July 14, 1890.


On the June 18, 1900 U.S. Census for Montgomery Township, John (62) and Mary’s (54) family included John Graham (30), a blacksmith working in his father’s shop; Susan H. (29), no profession; Sallie E. (27), no profession; Ruth H. (24), at school for 2 ½ months; Bessie S. (19), at school for 7 months; Naomi M. (17), at school for 7 months; Nellie R. (15), at school for 7 months; Lulu O. (11), at school for 7 months.  Out of the previous year, John did not work for one month, while his son Graham worked every month.  John and Mary had been married for 35 years as of June 18.  She bore 11 children; 10 were still living.  John owned his farm, free and clear of a mortgage.  All of John and Mary’s children were educated; they could all read, write, and speak English, as could John and Mary.  I believe Ruth, at the age of 24, was going to college, most likely the Shippensburg Normal School, which, today, is known as Shippensburg University.  Ruth and Nell were school teachers and taught in one-room and two-room schoolhouses in the Upton area.


John N. Garns died in 1902.  He is buried in Section C, Lot 42 in Cedar Hill Cemetery, Antrim Township, Franklin County, PA.  Mary Belle Garns applied for John’s pension, as his widow, on July 1, 1902.  Mary Belle is listed as the head of the household on the 1910 U.S. Census; her profession is listed as “farmer” and she is the owner of a general farm.  J. Graham (39) is the blacksmith and owns the shop.  Daughters Susan H. (37) and Lulu O. (20) have no profession.  Ruth H. (32) and Nell (26) are teachers at the public school level.  Mary Garns (17) is a granddaughter of Mary Belle and is recorded as part of the household.


Mary Belle is 74 on the 1920 census.  She is the head of household and owns her property. Four of her daughters are living with her; none of them are married.  They are Susan (48), Ruth (40), Nell (33), Lulu(30), and granddaughter, Mary (35).  Mary Belle’s son, J. Graham (49), and his wife Elizabeth (38) are living two houses away.  He is no longer a blacksmith; he is running the farm. John Stickell, 68, owns the blacksmith shop, which had been owned and operated by John Garns, and then their son, J. Graham Garns.  Mary Belle Graham Garns died at the age of 78, in 1923.  She buried alongside of her husband John N. Garns.


In 1940, the four unmarried Garns sisters were still living together on their father’s homestead, at the corner of Garns Road and Route 16, west of Upton.  Ruth and Nell were still teaching public school.  They worked 45 hours each week and supported their sisters, Susan and Lulu.  I knew the three youngest as Miss Ruth, Miss Nell, and Miss Lulu because they were members of St. Stephen’s United Church of Church, the church which I have attended since the age of 12.  Their older brother J. Graham, then widowed, still lived two houses away from the homestead.  The 1940 U.S. Census is the last census that has been made public.  Susan H. Garns died in 1947; Ruth H. Garns died in 1961; Nell R. Garns died in 1980; and Lulu O. Garns died in 1991.


The photograph of John N. Garns is courtesy of Betty Lu Gehr, great-granddaughter of John Garns.  John and Mary’s daughter, Bessie, married Victor Royer.  Their daughter Elizabeth married Alton Gehr, the parents of Betty Lu.   Bessie and Victor’s son John Jacob Royer married Lorraine Clopper.



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