Samuel H. Eby
Samuel H. Eby was born four miles northwest of Greencastle in Antrim Township on December 21, 1836. He was the younger of two children of Jacob (1791 – 1864) and Catharine Baer Eby (1793 – 1870). Samuel’s older sibling was Esther Eby Storm (1824 – 1901).
Samuel received his early schooling at the one-room school house at Guitner’s, Antrim Township. As a young boy, he was self-motivated and felt he did not have access to proper English books and, by himself, managed to procure an English grammar book, from which he taught himself. Samuel was such a discerning, self-taught student that at the age of 17, he received a teaching certificate from James McDowell, the first superintendant of county schools from 1854 – 1857. Along with the teaching certificate came a teaching position in the Cashtown school. Samuel excelled at teaching between 1854 and 1864.
The September 8, 1860 U. S. Federal census in Greencastle, shows that Samuel was still living with his parents, Jacob, 70 and a shoemaker, and Catharine, 68. Samuel was listed as a teacher. In June 1863, Eby had to register for the draft, as an eligible young man, in Class I. In the draft register, he is listed as being married and not yet having served in the Civil War. He married Mary Rhoadarmer (1840 – 1914).
Samuel H. Eby was mustered into service on February 12, 1864. He joined the U. S. Signal Corps and was part of the Department of the Susquehanna.
The fledgling U.S. Signal Corps, throughout the Civil War, was fraught with a political tug of war. By the end of the war, there were about 300 officers and 2,500 soldiers. Casualties were heavy; Major-General A. W. Greely wrote, “Did a non-combatant corps ever before suffer such disproportionate casualties – killed, wounded, and captured? Sense of duty, necessity of exposure to fire, and importance of mission were conditions incompatible with personal safety – and the Signal Corps paid the price.”
When Sam was mustered in, the camps at which he spent most of his “boot camp” time were located west of Chambersburg, on Route 30 going toward St. Thomas. The second camp was on land owned by Josiah Allen; it was called Camp Allen. Near the end of March, the signalmen moved their camp closer to St. Thomas and Mt. Parnell on the Samuel Coble farm, along the turnpike. At the end of June 1864, the whole detachment headed toward Maryland Heights, either by horse, train, or foot. Upon arrival, the men were divided, each group responsible for building a signal station, for miles along the Potomac River. After Early’s failed attempt to take Washington City, the signalmen Sam Eby was with, returned to Franklin County and established a camp on August 12, 1864, again, west of Chambersburg. On Wednesday, August 17, the detail left camp by way of the Warm Spring Road. Sam was among the signalmen assigned to the Greencastle post. The signal post was located on the south side of the Mercersburg Turnpike, about a half mile west of town, at the top of the first hill. The land was owned by John McCauley. From this one post in Antrim Township, messages could be sent and received from Mt. Parnell, more than 12 miles northwest, and Casey’s Knob, which was 11 miles southwest. Casey’s Knob was the most important, as it was within sight of signal posts at Willamsport and Harpers Ferry, a distance of about 50 miles. Any news of Rebel movement would swiftly reach the Greencastle post, which could then be telegraphed to Chambersburg or Harrisburg to Gen. Couch, Commander of the Department of the Susquehanna. Every ten days, six-man teams would rotate through the three posts – Greencastle, Casey’s Knob, and Mt. Parnell. While at the Greencastle post, the men had meals at the local hostelries or with local families, such as the McCauleys and Koons. The signalmen were some of the first soldiers to receive privileged information. From When War Passed This Way, the following message was sent on September 18, 1864, “General Grant at Harpers Ferry in consultation with General Sheridan. Look out for tomorrow. The entire army will move on the enemy. Averell’s move today was but a ruse.” This message signaled the beginning of the final chase to force Gen. Early south and out of the Shenandoah Valley. The fall months were spent on mounted patrols as far as McConnellsburg, in Fulton County, and down into Washington County, MD. In mid-November, Gen. Couch sent a message to be ready for another possible Rebel invasion. All the local towns organized home guards. Franklin County residents were on edge. The winter led into spring, and Lee’s surrender at Appomattox. The end of the Civil War had finally come. The signal post in Greencastle was dismantled about the same time Samuel was mustered out on August 26, 1865; he had served one year, six months, and 14 days.
After the war, he returned to teaching and became the first principal of Greencastle’s graded school. He was, also, a very active member of the Corporal Rihl GAR Post #438, and held many positions. Eby was mustered in at the January 30, 1885 meeting. On the July 12, 1870 census, Sam and Mary had two daughters, Grace, 6, born in 1863 and Carrie, 1 year old, born in 1869. He was still listed as a school teacher. In 1875, Sam was elected to his first, three-year term as Superintendant of Franklin County public schools. He was re-elected in 1878 and served until 1881, after which he returned to teaching. In the spring of 1883, Samuel H. Eby was hired as the First National Bank of Greencastle’s bookkeeper at a salary of $800 per year. The bank’s dividends continued at a steady rate and Eby’s annual salary was raised to $900. In 1885, Sam’s daughter, Carrie, was the first woman hired by First National Bank as an assistant clerk; her salary was $100. At the end of the year in 1900, both Sam and his daughter, Carrie, resigned from the bank.
The 1900 census, recorded Sam as a bank clerk and his three adult children Grace G. 1863 – 1945 (36), Carrie (1869 – 1934), and Sam Jr. (1876 – 1934) lived with him and his wife Mary. Sam owned his home at 126 North Carlisle Street, free of mortgage. Samuel H. Jr., 24, was a machinist.
On July 1, 1901, Sam was hired by the brand new Citizens National Bank as cashier and was still working at the bank in 1910. His wife, Mary, died in 1914. The 1920 census indicates he was retired and widowed, and his adult children were still living with him. Samuel H. Eby died on February 23, 1923. None of his three children ever married. In 1930, the house, valued at $4,000 was owned by Carrie (61), the middle child. They lived together on N. Carlisle Street in 1930 and they owned a radio.
Carrie and Sam Jr. both died in 1934. Grace lived until 1945.
On the last page of the first Minute Book of the Corporal Rihl GAR Post #438, are the minutes of the March 2, 1923 meeting. Commander David N. Niswander presided. Dr. Franklin A. Bushey, acting adjutant recorded the following minutes. “The death of two of our members was reported. Comrade Abraham Bowman died January 16th, 1923 and our highly prized Quarter Master Samuel H. Eby died February 23, 1923. The committee to purchase flowers for the funerals of our deceased comrades reported having made the said purchases and bills for same were approved.” Then a most surprising and quite avant-garde action for a men’s social organization in the small town of Greencastle in 1923 was recorded as thus. “On motion and duly seconded, Miss Carrie Eby was duly elected a member of Corporal Rihl Post GAR and was duly elected the Quarter Master of said Post, and a committee comprised of Comrades Josiah Shuman and A. F. Gordon was appointed to notify Miss Eby of her selection. The said Committee performed this mission and Miss Eby signified her acceptance of said appointment and at once intent upon the performance of the duties of the office The Quarter Master was instructed to procure an additional Minute book for use of this Post.” Samuel H. Eby’s collection of Civil War memorabilia was given to the GAR Post #438.
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