Monday, March 26, 2012

Finding Philip Wagner

Whatever the motivation, Heinrich and Anna Maria (nee Eckhard) Wagner left their native Germany around 1832 bound for the United States. Heinrich in his new country would come to be known as Henry, and Anna Maria would come to be known as Mary.

Like many German immigrants at the time, they would find their way inland, using the Erie Canal to travel to Wayne County in New York state and settle in the town of Rose. According to the research of Wagner family historians conducted 30 to 40 years ago, it was here in Rose, Wayne County that Philip Wagner, the youngest of Henry and Mary's five children was born about 1834.

Henry Wagner was a cooper but there is no evidence that either of his sons took up his trade. His oldest son, Jacob learned the trade from his father but became a Evangelical Association minister. Henry's youngest son Philip married Maria 'Mary' Holzinger in 1856 at the age of 22. Philip and Maria seem to have immediately headed west to Mazomanie in Dane County, Wisconsin where Philip tried his hand at farming. Whatever the motivation, the farming experiment didn't last too long and by 1863, Philip and Maria had returned to New York state with the first three of their eight children.

Rather than returning to Wayne County, Philip and Maria (Mary) settled in Buffalo where Philip was able to work as a carpenter. Philip also answered the call for volunteers to fight in the Union army during the Civil War where he served as a Captain in the New York state 65th Infantry and later as the Captain of Company 'E' in the 187th Infantry Regiment. Philip was named in the dispatch of Colonel William Berens of the 65th Infantry Regiment, New York National Guard, dated January 30, 1864, that described the regiment's war effort during 1863 and in particular mentions Philip's involvement in the New York City Draft Riot on July 15, 1863: "Upon reporting to General Wool, I was ordered to take quarters at Centre Market, and to report to General Harvey Brown, which I did. Pursuant to orders from General Brown, the same evening I sent two companies to guard the treasury buildings, on Wall street, viz, Company E, Captain [Philip H.] Wagner, and Company H, Captain [Christian] Schaeffer, and two other companies, along with some United States troops, to restore order in the vicinity of Union Square, viz, Company A, Captain Seeber, and Company D, Captain [Charles] Geyer." Philip served for various periods in the army until about the end of April 1865.

Following the war, Philip seems to have settled into life in Buffalo, Erie County, New York, living in the Seventh Ward, working as a carpenter, and raising his children with Mary. In March 1889, Philip applied for a Civil War pension however, according to research conducted by Gordon Wagner in 1984, Philip met an early death by drowning on July 29, 1889. Although I have no evidence to substantiate this event, there is evidence that his wife, using her name 'Maria' applied for a Civil War pension as a widow in October 1889.

Clearly more digging is needed to confirm not just the death of Philip but the stories of his eight children and their families. And so the saga continues ...

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