William Bird Peiffer

William Bird Peiffer

William Bird Peiffer, born June 5, 1831 in Venango, Crawford County, PA, was the son of Johannes Peiffer and Susannah Hetrick. He was the brother of Sophia Peiffer. There were a total of fifteen children in his family. William was seven years old when his mother died of an illness. His father soon remarried to Elizabeth (?); then married a third time to Elizabeth Minium Knerr.

The 1850 census showed that William was 19, living alone near Venango, Pa. and working as a shoemaker. He was 23 when he was married to Julia Crouch by the Justice of the Peace in the Union City, Erie, County, PA, on October 28, 1854. Julia had come to Erie County, PA, from Oneida County, New York in about 1853 after her parents, Selucia and Harriett Finch Crouch died.

On Aug 1, 1861 William B. was enrolled and on Aug 26, 1861 he was mustered in the Civil War in Franklin, PA, where he was a 2nd Sergeant in Company G 63rd PA Volunteers. He was sent south to Pittsburgh, PA, Washington, D.C. and then to the Peninsula Company in Virginia. He claims that he contracted rheumatism caused by hard marching from Falmouth, VA, to Fredericksburg, Virginia and from exposure. He was in action at Malvern Hill, Virginia on July 1, 1862 where his abdomen was ruptured. He was captured the next day at James River and taken to Libby Prison, Richmond, VA. According to his son, James Lynn, when William was wounded in battle, he was thrown onto a horse to avoid capture but he was captured by the Confederates. He was paroled at convalescent camp Aikins Landing, Alexandria Virginia on Sept 13, 1862.

William B. was said to have weighed 200 pounds when he left for the service. Isaac Blystone described him as one of the soundest and strongest men of his acquaintance. When he returned from the war Mr. Blystone said that William had so fallen away in flesh that he was scarcely recognizable. He walked with difficulty and had a rupture on both sides. He had a crippled and broken down appearance and needed a cane to walk. He had lost sixty to seventy pounds when he was discharged for disability on Feb 20, 1863 in Camptcher, VA. His disability was rheumatism and hemorrhoids which made him unable to march. When he returned to his home in Venango, Crawford County, PA, in spring of 1863 he was 32 years old and had a wife and two children waiting for him. At the time of discharge he was described as 5 foot 10 inches tall, dark complexion, black eyes and black hair. His five year old daughter, Harriet, ran and hid when he returned because she did not recognize him.

His father, Johannes, died a year after he returned from the war but William's inheritance of $200 was not to be paid for two years, his younger brother Edward was given $200 to be paid in five years. Each of the other children were given $200 to be paid immediately. This two year waiting period for William is curious since William returned from the Civil War by 1864, was in poor health, married and had three children. No reason was given in his father's will.

William Peiffer's profession was a shoemaker. He was partners with Ezariah Rust on Main Street in Cambridgeboro from May 1872 until Fall of 1888. Ezariah noted that during the time that they worked together William suffered from the piles and was quite disabled.
Dr. J.P. Strayer of Cambridge Springs, PA, attended him in his final illness. In an affidavit Dr. Strayer stated that he died of chronic rheumatism and diarrhea. The diarrhea continued for at least the last four years of his life taking away his strength and causing diabetes to develop. William died on Aug 11, 1890 and is buried in Venango Cemetery.

Submitted by Arlene Peiffer Johnson, great granddaughter


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