FORGED BY FIRE!
A copy of the book contributed to Pike County PAGenWeb by Stephen Padgett.
Photo of William W. Padgett upon enlistment 1862
Chapter 1 Into this world, this great adventure Page 1
Chapter 2 1858 Page 3
Chapter 3 Saw Mill Rift Page 5
Chapter 4 July 14, 1860 Page 7
Chapter 5 The Storm Begins Page 8
Chapter 6 David is Lost Page 12
Chapter 7 Eben is Lost Page 16
Chapter 8 Bill is Captured, John Meets His Fate Page 17
Chapter 9 Escape! Page 19
Chapter 10 Exchange! Page 20
Chapter 11 Levi Page 22
Chapter 12 It’s Over! Victoria! Page 23
Chapter 13 Mary Ann Brown and Alice Page 25
Chapter 14 Rattlesnakes! Page 26
Chapter 15 The Poet Page 29
Chapter 16 Sara, Mary and Daniel Halsey Padgett Page 30
Chapter 17 Life in Mill Rift Page 31
Chapter 18 Grandparents David and Rebecca Page 33
Chapter 19 George Page 34
Chapter 20 The Bowlers Page 39
Chapter 21 Charles Agustus Page 41
Chapter 22 Oliver, Washington, Evelyn and Adelia Page 43
Chapter 23 Elizabeth and Martha Page 45
Chapter 24 The Old Soldier Page 46
Exhibits: 1 through 41
This is the story of William Padgett and his extraordinary adventures at the prime of his life. These events molded him into a most remarkable man. We read about great men who shaped the country or our world and most of them became wealthy persons who rubbed shoulders with other persons of high rank and position. There were also many great men of meager means who made great sacrifices for the rest of us, because they dared to risk all they had; their lives, and they possessed the self esteem and courage to accomplish their goals. William Padgett was one of these persons; his children also confidently went forth to much patriotic service for their country with little personal gain. His parents, David and Rebecca suffered terrible losses during the American Civil War, however, kept faith in the reason for those sacrifices. Their history unfolded in the Sussex County, New Jersey, Pike County, Pennsylvania, Orange and Sullivan Counties, New York local area.
No reproduction of this book is permitted without the express written permission of the author [Stephen Padgett, email@example.com] . A copy is provided to PAGenWeb for free access on the internet.
September 13, 2005 Edition
This work is a combination of fiction, historical fact, Genealogy and verbal history. I started with the Genealogy of my Great-grandparents, added oral history, historical facts, written remembrances and filled the gaps with a small measure of fiction.
I give thanks to my many sources including Judy Rumrill, a cousin who is also searching the past of our family. Also, the Sussex Co. Historical Society, 82 Main Street, PO Box 913, Newton, NJ 07860, www.sussexcountyhistory.org; Minisink Valley Historical Society [including Deerpark] 127 West Main Street, Port Jervis, NY 12771, www.minisink.org; Orange County Genealogical Society, 101 Main Street, Goshen, NY 10924; Sussex County Library, Main Branch, Deborah Mole, Chief Librarian, 125 Morris Turnpike, Newton, NJ 07860; authors of The History of the 14th Regiment Cavalry/159th Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers; the History of the 15th NJ Volunteers Regiment, VI Corps; Ancestory.com; CWSAC Battle Summaries; written newspaper articles by Ronald and Alma Allen on the memories of George Padgett; Diane Allen Banach for photographs; Charles Dowd for his local history book which included many interviews; and my dear wife, Ilona for her patience and accompanying me on many research trips to Battlefields, record centers and Cemeteries. Thanks are due to the Columns Museum of Milford, Pa, Mill Rift Civic Association Museum, and various Government Archives.
Chapter 1. Into this world, this great adventure
Bill was born September 21, 1840 in the town of Newton, Sussex County, New Jersey. Down the birth canal from his secure place, into the bright, noisy new place! He was the second child after brother Eben, who was born in 1839. Father and mother, David Padgett and Rebecca Smith Padgett, were married in Newton, NJ by the Rev Teasdale, October 13, 1838. David was born in 1812 in London Derry Township, Chester County, Pennsylvania and Rebecca in 1816 in New York State. Her parents, Samuel Smith, born 1779 and Ellen, born 1821 moved to NJ from NY. Rebecca’s brother Andrew was born in NJ in 1836. David’s father, also named David, was a carpenter and was born in New Jersey. Bill was followed into the family by John D. in 1841, David Jr., 1845, Levi in 1848, Sarah E. in 1850, Mary in 1853 and Daniel Halsey Padgett in 1855. In 1850, the family lived in Byram Township, David employed as a laborer. On March 18, 1856, when Bill was fifteen, Rebecca purchased a parcel of land from Isaac B. Gobble and wife in consideration of $150.00, 29.5 acres in the town of Byram. This parcel was bounded by the road to Andover, [Roseville Road], lands of L. Sherman, W. Mc Kinney, mountain summit, corner of Sherman/Rose lands. [aka the 29 acre lot] The family moved here and began subsistence farming. [Exhibits 1, 1a and 19.]
After a few years in school, Bill learned carpentry and became very handy wielding an axe. He farmed in the summer and cut timber in the winter. The family traded in Stanhope and Andover for the necessities, producing what they could on the farm. Their closest neighbors were W. Mc Kinney to the west, Gobble to the northeast, near Stag Pond. Punkhorn Creek ran near the bottom of the mountain to the south of them, in a westerly direction into Wright’s Pond. The nearest gathering of homes was Roseville to the south in Byram, built to accommodate iron ore miners who worked in that vicinity, and Andover to the northwest. The family was Presbyterian and attended the new Andover Church when it was built in 1858, financed in part by the Andover Iron Works. Prior to that, they attended the Waterloo Church located on the Andover to Stanhope Road.
Chapter 2. 1858
June 21, 1858 began early for Bill, now 17. He had big plans today. He and his friend Sol Hazelton, age 22, were leaving for Saw Mill Rift, located about 20 miles away in Pike County Pennsylvania. The plan was to spend a few weeks cutting timber to be sold to the Railroad, making some needed cash money to supplement the farming income. Bill and Sol would be riding mules from their respective family’s farms, not needed there because the haying had just been completed. The day began, thankfully with low humidity and reasonable temperature, perfect for the long journey. Bill ate a large breakfast prepared by Rebecca, his mother in the company of sisters, Mary and Sarah and three year old Dan. Father and the boys, Eben, John, Levi and David, were out early with the wagon bringing in the rest of the hay.
Eben, whenever he had any free time, has been trekking over to Dingman’s, Pa, to see Mary Ann Browne, a lovely girl who seemed deeply attracted to Eben as well. It was an all day hike and he needed 5 cents for the toll bridge across the Delaware. Her parents were fond of Eben however, they kept a sharp eye on the couple.
Sol arrived at 7am and the two lads were off after a quick good by. As they turned north on Roseville Road and rode past the new Andover Presbyterian church, they encountered a couple of neighboring farmers heading the other way. The farmers noted the packs and axes on the back of the saddles and wished the boys a safe return. “Behave yourself with that gal Leah, Sol”, jibed one of the farmers, John Ryan. Sol met Leah on a previous working visit to Saw Mill Rift. By noon, they were passing through Newton, the county seat and the largest town in the area. They stopped just north of the town to eat some lunch and rest the mules. By nightfall, they reached the Dingmans Ferry Bridge. The bridge was built by Skinner and Clark in 1856 and was very unstable. It replaced the on and off again ferry which ran when the previous bridges were blown down and washed out. They crossed into Pennsylvania where they set up a small camp for the night.
Bill and Sol gathered fire wood, including some dead wild grape vines and piled it near a carefully constructed stone fire circle. They would sleep only with blankets, leaning against the saddles from their mules. The quick supper of beans, homemade bread and salt pork was finished and Sol added the grape vines to the fire. They burned rapidly and put off a blue green glow, smelled wonderful. “Sol, do you think the feuding in congress will lead to war?” “I am afraid it will and we will most likely have to go in”, replied Sol. It seemed to the young men that dense clouds were roiling in the south and spreading all over this beautiful land. On a clear, starlit night like this one, it still was not hard to imagine the coming storm.
The Padgett’s and their Presbyterian peers were raised to understand that the Republic was a unique and comparatively free way of life and if torn apart as threatened by the building struggle over slavery and states rights, it was unlikely either side would long survive as a small independent country. They understood that all men and women were born with certain rights from God, including the right to be free, that no one is inherently better than another. The Republic, as wonderful as it is constituted, was fatally stained by slavery. The northern states had previously eliminated this inhumanity.
Chapter 3. Saw Mill Rift
The next morning they erased the signs of their camp and rode off northeasterly following the valley floor wagon road and the Delaware River, reaching Milford, the Pike County seat by noon. Instead of dining at the Dimmick Inn as did more wealthy travelers, they finished off their packed food and soon continued easterly passing the Jail and Courthouse, turning northerly when they reached the Quicktown to Pond Eddy Road, by the Quicktown schoolhouse. They reached the log cabin of Sol’s brother, John Hazelton and family, where they would board, as usual on these working visits. John’s wife, Deborah, now pregnant, came out to greet them with hugs and a kiss for brother in law, Solomon.
“The neighbors four children, Cornelius, age 15, Sarah, age 11, and the twins, James and Mary, age 9 were here this morning, looking for you boys”. She referred to the children of Solomon and Hannah Middaugh from the farm down Turnout Road about two miles distant. “They heard you were coming and were very excited to see you again”.
The next morning, after a breakfast of fresh eggs and bacon, Bill, Sol and Jim picked up their axes, water and some lunch, headed to the shed to hook up the wagon to the two mules. After working their way into the woods, they stopped near the Bushkill Brook, began cutting Oak and Chestnut trees over eight inch diameter. These logs would be sawn into lengths and squared to be sold to the Railroad for ties. The Erie Railroad had pushed its track north along the Delaware Valley ten years ago, often at open conflict with the canal workers from across the River. The undersize wood would be cut into lengths for fire wood to stoke the boilers on the steam operated engines. When the wagon was filled, the men laboriously followed the woods road to an open area adjoining the tracks and the Delaware River. The wood was stacked and after a two week period, they received their payment in hard currency. Son George would later say of his father, “He worked hard at many things, but the work he liked best was chopping timber and wood. The fact that he liked it so well is the reason he became so skilled with the axe. I have often seen him cut down a large tree and the cut would be nearly as smooth as if it had been planed.” “He was a great follower of Abraham Lincoln and was elated when he was elected as President.”
Chapter 4. July 14, 1860
Eben and Mary Ann are engaged to be married and plan to marry on Christmas, at her parent’s home in Dingmans. Bill is again staying with his friends, Jim and Deborah Hazelton. Now they are blessed with children, daughter Hannah, age 2 and Martha, age 2 months. Bill is 19 and chopping wood for the Railroad. He also worked peeling timber, presumably for the tanning industry. Sol, age 24, now lives in a log cabin with his wife, Leah, age 19, a neighbor to his brother John. The three are woodsmen and hunters as well as farmers.
The men’s working territory ranges as far as Sullivan County, New York and down to Sloatsburg and Suffern in Orange County, supplying the Railroad at various locations. They continue through the winter with Bill staying at Saw Mill Rift and also home at Byram. Bill has friends in nearby Stanhope and is very fond of that village. When home, he attends the Presbyterian services with his family every Sunday. When working, they always take Sundays as a day of rest and observe the Sabbath. The Padgetts have been Presbyterians since emigrating from England in the early 1700s to New England, finding their way gradually to New York, southern New Jersey in Salem and Cumberland Counties, the older David, Grandfather to Bill, moved to London Derry Township, Chester County, Pennsylvania where he worked at his trade as carpenter for the Penn family. Father left home and moved to Newton, Sussex County, New Jersey in 1835 at the age of 23. He worked as a laborer, met Rebecca Smith and they married Oct 13, 1838.
Chapter 5. The Storm Begins
April, 1861. [Son George Padgett later related] “Bill and his co-workers were cutting wood for the Erie Railroad in the hills above Sloatsburg, NY, when a teamster who was hauling the wood came in for a load and he had a newspaper stating that the President [Lincoln] had called for 75,000 volunteers. Ft Sumter attacked April 12, 1861, fell. April 15th Lincoln called for volunteers. They were called the three month men because of the length of their enlistment. Bill put his axe on his shoulder and walked to Suffern, New York and enlisted in a New York regiment [Company F, 70th Reg., New York Volunteers]. I do not have his discharge from that regiment as it was destroyed by mice. Just after the first battle of Bull Run, under General Mc Dowell, his tour of enlistment was up. During this battle, [sic] he was wounded in his left hand, so was discharged and returned home to the Byram farm.” This was December 16, 1861.
The military records state that Bill enlisted April 20, 1861 at Port Jervis, New York, in Company F, 70th Regiment, New York volunteers. Bill was accidentally shot through the hand September 29, 1861, badly damaging small bones in his hand. He was discharged December 16, 1861 and returned home to Byram. Son George later reported, “The doctors thought his hand would be no longer useful and the small bones were badly shattered. While on the march, Bill developed a liking for the written word and began a Diary, written mostly in poetry to relate the tragic events passing in front of him. Much time was spent in boredom with moments of sheer terror. He tried to keep up letters to home to assure his family that all was well.
On August 10, 1862, Mary Ann gave birth to a daughter, Alice, at Eben’s and Mary’s home in Andover, with mother in law Rebecca assisting in the delivery. They were all overjoyed at this new life at the beginning of a tragic war.
By August, 1862, Bill’s hand had healed to the point he felt he could reasonably put it to use. Brothers John, age 21, and David, age 17, enlisted in the NJ 15th Regiment, Company I on August 14, 1862. Bill decided he could not sit out the war while his brothers went in harms way. He re-enlisted, this time in Company I, 15th NJ to be with his brothers. Bill was 21years of age. He stood 5 feet 5 inches tall, grey eyes and light hair. Levi was also chaffing at being left out. He was, at fourteen, too young and his parents forbid his enlisting. Eben secretly told his brothers that after a reasonable time with his new family, he would be enlisting as well. The impact of this war on the Padgett family was appearing to be intense. Three companies were raised for the 15th Regiment in Sussex County, NJ. The unit organized at Camp Fairoaks, near Flemington, NJ and mustered in August 25, 1862.
On August 29, 947 men of the 15th boarded a train and headed south. Stops included Lambertville, NJ; Philadelphia at 7pm where supper was provided at the Upper Volunteer Refreshment Salon. They continued to Baltimore, Md., changed trains to Washington. They marched in the rain to Tenallytown, Md. and set up camp in the mud. They stayed here from August 27th, working on building Fort Kearney until September 30th, remained until October, then marched to Bakerstown, Md. Typhoid Fever struck the 15th. One third of those stricken, died. On October 31, they marched south, arriving at Fredericksburg, Va., December 13, 1862. They had arrived deep in the heart of hostile territory. [Exhibits 11 and 28]
Meanwhile, on October 29th,
Eben enlisted at Philadelphia in Company A, 14th Regiment
Pennsylvania Calvary under Lt. Henry K. Harrison, for three years. Eben is 23 year of age, stood 5 feet 5
½ inches tall, blue eyes and brown hair. On the 24th of November, the organization of the
Regiment was completed. They moved
out for Hagerstown, Md., where they received horses, arms and
accoutrements. Drills in the
school of trooper, mounted and dismounted, of the platoon, and squadron, and in
evolutions of the line were prosecuted. On the 28 of December, 1862, the regiment moved to
Harper’s Ferry, and went into camp at Charlestown Pike, the advance post for
General Kelly’s command. It was
engaged in picketing the approaches from the east and south, scouting the
region on both sides of the Shenandoah River, extending to the passes of the
Blue Ridge and skirmishing with the guerrilla bands of White and Imboden. [History of the 14th
Bill, David and John 15th NJ:
The battle of Fredericksburg began in earnest Dec 13th, 1862, the day the Padgett brothers arrived! Gen. Burnside, via Franklin sent Meade and his divisions forward across the Rappahannock River and up into Fredericksburg. The Padgett brothers were with the VI Corps positioned along the Railroad, keeping up a musketry fire, now and then charging the enemy. They accomplished nothing. The Federals massed in the city streets, at noon part of the II Corps moved up the slope toward Marye’s Heights. They were repulsed and Burnside had cost his Union troops 12,653 casualties. Lee lost 5,377 casualties. After holding on in the town for two days, Burnside asked for a truce to evacuate casualties and withdrew back across the Rappahannock. The Rebels had held at the sunken road at the base of Marye’s Heights. Bill, many years later related: “Fredericksburg was one of the worse battles because the Confederates held a position no General with brains would have attacked and he [Burnside] lost 15,000 men. Burnside was relieved by General Joe Hooker.
April 1863. VI Corps badges were awarded to the 15th. May 2, 1863. Now the Army was on the east side of the Rappannock River so Hooker moved up river about nine miles to an old ford where he crossed. Now, he left my Corps, [VI], under General John Sedgwick, to hold Fredericksburg, but when he attacked [Hooker at Chancellorsville], Hooker seemed to lose his nerve and sent orders to Sedgwick to cut his way through and come to his aid. Sedgwick did that and won the second battle of Fredericksburg, and then marched 8 miles to Salem’s Church, where they met the enemy and a terrible fight took place. My Company [I] was cut to pieces, every officer killed, leaving a Sergeant in command.” 151 casualties were suffered, including 131 in the woods by Salem Church, by the 15th. The name Sgt. Major Halsey is mentioned as taking part in this action. [History of the 15th] After Salem Church casualties, morale of the 15th sank. Following a rest and alcoholic fortification, Sgt. Paul Kuhl of Company A reported on June 2, 1863, that “his friends in Co. A were almost a happy set of mortals as are often found.”
The first man killed in action from the 15th was Pvt. Michael Mulvey. He was alone on picket; saw a Rebel soldier and both fired at each other. The final shots, fired simultaneously, killed both. Eight members of the 15th died at Fredericksburg in this period. Lt. Col. Campbell commanded the 15th at this time. In April, 1863, the unit held their first live target practice since the men entered the service!
At Chancellorsville, the 15th saw action next. We charged gallantly through a thick wood, found the enemy advantageously posted behind a wall and ditch. We maintained the fight until 8 pm, when owing to a lack of coordination with other units; we were compelled to fall back. The Regiment lost 150 men killed, wounded and missing.
Eben 14th Pennsylvania Calvary: Early in May, 1863, the regiment left Harper’s Ferry and proceeded to Grafton, on the Parkensburg division of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. It was attached to the mounted command of Gen. Averell and associated with the Fifth and Sixth West Virginia Mounted infantry, holding the towns of Philippi, Beverly and Webster, against a body of Rebel Calvary.
Chapter 6. David is Lost
15th NJ: On June 6, 1863, while crossing the Rappannock River at Franklin’s crossing, a skirmish took place. David Padgett was hit and disappeared in the currents. Under fire, the Company could not recover him and he was never seen again, presumed dead. It fell to Bill to write home with the tragic news and it was the hardest letter he had ever written. He was listed officially as missing in action. [Exhibit 28]
July 2, 1863 found our Company I on the road in pursuit of Lee’s army north through Pennsylvania, arriving in the hamlet of Gettysburg.
We were assigned a position in the Federal line on a slight rise north of Little Round Top. [Exhibit 30] We were not actively engaged but lost several men wounded during the Artillery barrages before Pickett’s charge. We were very unsatisfied with our Enfield Rifles, and due to the loss of life, the fields were covered with corpses and Springfield rifles. “We tossed away our Enfields in exchange for the Springfields. After the Union victory, we buried the dead of both sides for two days.”
Eben, 14th Pa: On the 2nd of July, intelligence was received that the force at Beverly was surrounded by a brigade of the enemy under “Mudwall” Jackson, and the 14th Calvary was ordered to make a forced march for its relief. It moved under command of Major Gibson. The Rebs had the main road blocked by barricades and fallen trees, behind which was a heavy body of sharpshooters. Major Gibson led his men by a circuitous route, mid morning, and appeared on the plain opposite the town, with skirmishers deployed right and left, cutting off and capturing the rebel pickets, compelling the entire hostile force to withdraw. On the morning of the 4th, the rebel force was overtaken at Huttonville and brisk skirmishing ensued, the regiment lost 3 wounded. The Rebs retreated beyond Cheat Mountain. On the evening of the 4th, news of the battle at Gettysburg was received, and the regiment was ordered to march to Webster and by rail to Cumberland. There it rejoined Gen. Kelly’s forces, and after a few days, proceeded to Williamsport, joining the Army of the Potomac.
Bill, John 15th NJ: On July 5, the 15th moved out in pursuit in the pouring rain. We came upon the rear guard of Lee’s army near Fairfield, and a sharp skirmish followed. We continued pursuit for several days and near Hagerstown, Md., we fought another skirmish, losing two men wounded. One man was shot through the foot and Jacob Burdett through both thighs. We continued marching back to the Rappahannock. We were present but not involved in the taking of Rappahannock Station. After the Mine Run movement, we entered winter quarters 2 miles from Brandy Station, Virginia.
Eben, 14th Penn Cav. On the evening of the 15th of July, 1863, Eben’s regiment moved up to Cherry Run, crossing the river, now swollen by heavy rains, marched to within five miles of Martinsburg where the rebel army was encamped. Encountering the enemy’s pickets, Col. Schoonmaker was ordered to attack and ascertain his strength. The outposts were driven in upon the main body, with the loss of five wounded. They returned at night to the Maryland side. It then recrossed and advanced to Winchester and rejoined the detachment which had been left at Harper’s Ferry. On the 4th of August, Gen. Averell moved on the Rocky Gap Raid. Upon approaching Moorefield, Capt. Kerr, with a detachment of about fifty men, after capturing some guerrillas, fell into an ambush, fought bravely but was overcome, having one killed, and three wounded. He escaped with a fragment of his command. The command, moving through Petersburg and Franklin, continually skirmishing by the way, and driving Jackson in a brisk engagement at Warm Springs, on the 20th of August, encountered the rebel Gen. Jones near the Greenbrier White Sulphur Springs, and attacked. The 14th dismounted, held the right of the line, the battle raging till nightfall. The battle continued through the night, and the rebels were reinforced. Ammunition ran low and a retreat was ordered. The 14th lost 80, in killed, wounded and missing. Lt. J. Jackson, J. Mc Nutt and Jacob Shoop were among the wounded. Capts. Bird and R. Pollock were missing. By the 31st of August, having reached Beverly, the unit had been upon the march, or closely engaged for 27 consecutive days and traveled over six hundred miles.
On the 1st of November, Gen Averell again led his command southward, on the Droop Mountain Road, crossing Cheat Mountain, reaching Huntersville on the 4th. The 14th Reg. Pa and the 3rd West Virginia were sent by a detour from the main road on which he marched, to cut off a brigade of the enemy stationed at Greenbrier Bridge, under the command of Mudwall Jackson. Both roads were obstructed by fallen trees and Jackson made his escape. At Droop Mountain, they caught up with the rebels and drove them to the summit. The rebels were flanked and they lost two pieces of artillery and most of their train. They chased him to Lewisburg but they escaped. They were in the saddle Dec 8th, faced for Salem, arriving after hard riding on the 16th. They began destroying the Virginia and Tennessee Railroad and immense store of the rebels. Several bridges and miles of track were destroyed. The angry rebel armies, hearing of this, were moving in to try to destroy Averill’s Calvary. A retreat was begun, hampered by storms and heavy swollen streams. Averill successfully escaped. “I was obliged,” says Averill in his report, “to swim my command, and drag my artillery with ropes across Craig’s Creek, seven times in twenty four hours.” The creek was deep, the current strong, and filled with drifting ice.
On the 20th, the 14th Pa regiment, at Jackson River, while in the rear, struggling with detrains, the horses being worn out with incessant marching, was cut off from the column by the destruction of the bridge, and was supposed, at HQ, to be captured. Gen Early had demanded its surrender under a flag of truce, but setting fire to the train, which was completely destroyed; it forded the stream and made good its escape. That night, the command swam the Greenbrier, now swollen to a torrent, crossed the Allegheny Mountains by an old bridle path, moving the artillery by hand, finally reached Hillsboro at the foot of Droop Mountain and encamped. The men walked to Beverly by the 25th. Here much needed rations were received and they proceeded on to Webster. Then moved by rail to Martinsburg, where it went into winter Quarters. The men’s shoes were worn out, clothing in tatters. In recognition of their service, the Gov. issued a complete suit of clothing to each member of the command, the only instance of a gift of that kind in the war. General Averell summed up in his official report; “my command has marched, climbed, slidden and swam, three hundred and forty five miles since the 8th inst.” The service during the winter was of an exceedingly arduous character, consisting of picket, guard and scout duty, in which the men were kept incessantly employed. 12th April, 1864. The command leaves winter quarters and moves by rail to Parkersburg on the Ohio River and started on May 2nd on a separate but cooperative movement with Gen Crook’s command through West Virginia to the Virginia and Tenn. Railroad. The road was obstructed and they were attacked by bushwhackers on the way. At Abbe Valley, near Jeffersonville, an entire company of the enemy was captured. Gen Averell moved on to join up with Gen Crook. The enemy had concentrated a heavy force in his front, and at Cove Gap, on the morning of the 10th of May, attacked Averell. After four hours of fighting, the rebels brought up Artillery and Averell was forced to withdraw. The 14th suffered twelve killed and thirty seven wounded. The enemy was now in superior force and growing stronger.
Chapter 7. Eben is lost
The command pushed on to Blacksburg, on the railroad line, destroying bridges and stores on the way. It joined Crook finally at Union, the united forces moving on to Lewisburg. They remained here until June 3rd, and then were ordered to Staunton, to join Gen Hunter, now moving on the Lynchburg campaign. When the regiment started from winter quarters in April 1864, a detachment of dismounted men was left at Martinsburg under command of Capt. Duncan. Before active operations commenced in the valley, Gen Sigel, who was in chief command, had the detachment well armed and mounted, and assigned to duty with Gen. Stahll’s brigade. In the unfortunate action at New Market, on the 15th of May, it was hotly engaged, losing several in killed and wounded, and having a large number of horses killed while under infantry fire. It was on the 26th of May, 1864 in the hospital at Martinsburg, that Eben Padgett died of dysentery.
Chapter 8. Bill Is Captured, John Meets His Fate
Bill and John, 15th NJ: May 5, 1864 found us in the “Wilderness”, where we could hear the sounds of battle where Warren had come into collision with Ewell’s corps. The order came to bring up the VI corps to Warren’s support. Several men were wounded, including Bill Padgett, on May 6th. [Exhibit 12] A cannon shot struck a tree near my position and a chunk of wood hit me in the head, pushing my scalp back 4 or 5 inches, knocking me unconscious. When I awoke, I found myself surrounded by confederate soldiers. They had penetrated through a break through on the right. Leonard Decker of Co. D was killed. Bill was carried off to Libby Prison in Richmond. [Exhibit 35] John continued on with his Company. The 15th held on and were in an isolated position, holding until midnight, then without loss, followed the rest of the Army to a new line in the rear. By 10am on the 7th, the works on the new line were made very secure.
By noon, May 8th, the regiment reached the field of action at Spotsylvania Court House, meeting many of the squads of the V corps heading to the rear. May 9th the 15th gallantly charged forward, but not properly supported, had to slowly fall back, having lost 101 men, however they had performed one of the most gallant achievements of the campaign. John D. Padgett lay on the battlefield shot through the left eye, the bullet coming out by his ear. [Exhibits 32 and 33] After two days suffering on the field, he was recovered and eventually sent to a hospital in Philadelphia, Pa for a full year recovery. At this point, until Levi joins Company I in September, 1864, the 15th have run out of brave Padgetts!
May 9, 1864. Bill arrived this morning at Libby Prison and is lying in a large room on the second floor with many other prisoners. A Union POW doctor is soaking Bill’s scalp with soap, water and a rag to soften the hardened and crusty scalp. He is able to stretch it forward and stitch it back to his forehead skin. On June 8th, 1864, the bulk of the prisoners are loaded into a train box car and transported south to a newly constructed prison camp called Camp Sumter, at Andersonville, Georgia. The trip took several days due to the condition of rails and more important troop movements. On arrival, I was assigned a space on a crowded hillside, with no shelter except a stretched blanket to ward off the rain and weather. It is a very rainy June and a gang of Union bullies known as the Raiders were running the camp. They stole anything of value brought in by the new arrivals. They lived well in a large tent holding up to 40 men while others starved and died daily of scurvy, diarrhea, dysentery and other diseases. There were 22,291 men imprisoned here in June 1864. [Exhibit 31]
Soon after Bill’s arrival, a group of prisoners, through a violent effort, overpowered the Raiders and courts martialed six of their leaders. They were sentenced to be hanged and were executed with the cooperation of the prison officials. The other raiders were forced to run the gauntlet, where some also were killed.
Chapter 9. Escape!
Some prisoners were injected with experimental vaccine for syphilis, which caused the disease. Maggots, lice and gangrene also plagued the prisoners. Approximately 25% of the prisoners died, with bodies being carried out daily. The deplorable pollution of the only stream caused the prisoners to petition the authorities to allow digging for water wells. Bill and fifteen others dug a “well”, and then tunneled out under the stockade on the northeast corner near the end of July. They escaped and survived by traveling in the swamps at night, fed occasionally by slaves. They traveled to Florence, South Carolina. Bill tried to find Sherman’s army. He was treed by bloodhounds and returned to Andersonville. Bill became ill with diarrhea, malaria, and a kidney problem and most likely, scurvy. His comrades, including Jacob Henion, who he knew from Sparrow Bush, NY, back in 1858, had to raise him to his feet and guide him to the latrine trench and to the stream to bathe.
Chapter 10. Exchange!
On September 6, 1864, the Rebels announced that an agreement between governments to exchange prisoners had been reached. 20,000 prisoners were to be exchanged. They loaded them on rail cars, those of them well enough to be moved. The trip to Savannah took two days to go 240 miles. This move was inspired by Sherman’s march through Georgia rather than any exchange. They then were moved to Millen, Georgia, Camp Lawton about 80 miles northwest of Savannah. They stayed in Lawton for six weeks. They were then offered a chance to join the Rebels and asked to swear allegiance to their cause! In defiance, they left the field and had a confrontation with rebel guards. In mid November, word came that agreement was made to exchange 10,000 sick prisoners. The others, including Bill, stayed. Near the end of November, prisoners were boarded on a train and, with many dying on the train, were sent back to Savannah. They were fed crackers, loaded another train and taken to Blackshear, Pierce County, Georgia, 80 miles south of Savannah. After a week stay in the open, they were taken back to Savannah, for exchange, provided they signed an oath not to engage in battle until properly exchanged. They proceeded to Charleston, SC, encamped in a vacant lot. The city was under siege. They then boarded another train to Florence, SC, another stockade. Yellow fever had broken out in Charleston in October. In the Florence stockade, much like Andersonville, gangrene was a common problem and loss of toes and fingers, common. Bill was paroled on December 16, 1864, sent to Union lines.
They were then sent by boat to the hospital. The record shows Bill returned to his unit April 22, 1865, after recovery at a camp near Annapolis, Md. In contrast, Bill’s son George would later say: “My father wanted to go to his Regiment which was at or near Five Forks, Va. which is south of Petersburg, Va. So having been out of prison about two and one half months, [March 1, 1865], he was in good enough condition, so they sent him to his Regiment. [Exhibit 17, this is the weapon Bill carried until discharged from service.] Soon after he was in the battle of Five Forks and the one history I have, shows that the VI corps fought with Sheridan’s Calvary and broke the rebel line which forced Lee to move out of those great works and start to try to join forces with Gen. Johnson somewhere south of Lynchburg, Va., but the VI corps got ahead of them at Sailor’s Creek. The Rebs under Gen Gordon put up a nasty fight which was their last Infantry fight. After that it was just the Calvary fighting until they reached Appomattox Court House.”
Chapter 11. Levi
Meanwhile, back on September 7, 1864, brother Levi Padgett age 17, enlisted in Company I, 15th Regiment, NJ volunteers, like his brothers, and reported for duty. This left Mary, Sarah and Daniel at home with David and Rebecca. At this point, David and Eben were gone, died in the line of duty, John in hospital at Philadelphia and Bill a POW. Levi joined the Company in time for the battle of Cedar Creek and Middletown, Virginia on October 19, 1864. They went into winter camp. He fought at Hatcher’s Run, Va. Feb 5, 1865, and Fort Sheridan, Va. March 25 and stationed at the siege of Petersburg, Va. where he was mortally wounded April 2, 1865. Levi Padgett died in hospital at City Point April 10, 1865 and buried in City Point Cemetery. [Exhibit 34] Lee surrendered at Appomattox, Va. April 9, 1865. The toll of the war to the Padgett family: David, Eben and Levi dead, John and Bill wounded and their health permanently compromised. Mary Ann a widow and Alice an orphan! Who can measure the grief that David and Rebecca must have experienced.
Bill was present at the President’s Grand Review. He then went back to Trenton, NJ where his Regiment was mustered out. [George Padgett] The 15th marched to Danville April 23 -27, 1865, had duty there until May 18th. They then marched to Richmond, Va., then to Washington, D. C., May 18 – June 3rd. The Corps review was June 8th. They were mustered out a Hall’s Hill, Va on June 22, 1865. The 15th NJ Volunteers lost 8 officers dead, 239 men dead. Of total: disease 1 officer, 98 enlisted men; undetermined reasons, 15 enlisted men. Total loss: 361 men. [“The History of the Fifteenth Regiment, New Jersey Volunteers”, Alanson A. Haines, 1883]
Chapter 12. It’s Over! Victoria!
John was finally discharged from Mower US General Hospital on May 3, 1865 and sent home to recover further. He rejoined his unit to be mustered out August 23, 1865. [Exhibit 33]
In September 1865, Bill decided to return to Pike County with his axe. He was chopping cordwood for a contractor who furnished wood for the Erie RR at Mill Rift. They were chopping along Deep Hollow [Cummins Brook] and the men stayed at a boarding house run by Bart Armstrong and his wife. Victoria Ferguson, an attractive girl of 17 years old, worked for Mr. Armstrong and his wife. Bill met her while staying at the boarding house and they fell in love. The following September, 1866 Bill and Victoria were married by the Rev. G. Dickenson at the Drew Methodist Church in Port Jervis, New York. They purchased 50 acres and a log cabin from friend Sol Hazelton, at the end of Turnout Road in Westfall Township. [Exhibits 2 and 9] [The land is part of lands of Plotnick as of 2005] They farmed the poor soil, raising turnips, potatoes and had a cow, oxen, chickens and a bull. The farming was mainly for their family use. Bill cut timber in stone quarries which were started along the Delaware River. Then he learned to cut stone.
The children of Bill and Victoria were also remarkable people. Adelia A., born March 30, 1867; Evelyn, born Sept. 9, 1868; Elizabeth [Lizzie], born Feb. 19, 1870; Minnia, born August 29, 1875 and died while still an infant; Charles Agustus, born Jan. 16, 1877; John H., born April 16, 1878 and died while an infant; Washington W., born February 22, 1880; Martha Y., born April 17, 1881; George H., born July 12, 1883; Oliver, born April 18, 1885 and Levi H., born August 12, 1889, died an infant. Eleven children in all of which eight survived to adulthood.
Chapter 13. Mary Ann Browne and Alice [Eben’s wife]
Mary Ann Browne Padgett, a widow, applied for a pension for herself and orphaned daughter, Alice in 1866 while living in Dingmans, Pike Co., Pa. She moved back near her parents after Eben’s death. In 1879, while living in Mansfield, Tioga County NY, she applied for arrears on her pension for the period from Eben’s death, 1864 to 1866. She and Alice were members of the Dutch Reformed Church, as were Mary’s parents. In 1880, Alice married Thomas J. Moon and they lived near Mary in Tonawanda, Bradford County, Pa. A daughter, Mary was born Feb 1887 and a son Joseph, March, 1899. In 1900, they lived in Smythfield Township, Bradford Co. Pa. Mary Ann Padgett passed away Feb. 4, 1899. Joseph married Ettict who was born in 1895 in New York State. They lived at Clair Street, Waverly Village, Tioga County, NY.
Chapter 14. Rattlesnakes!
About 1870, Bill started handling Rattle Snakes. He continued this until 1911. He craved the excitement and gained considerable knowledge about snakes. He purchased a wagon for this purpose, with compartments for the reptiles, and lettered “Rattlesnake Bill” on the side. [Exhibit 7] He appeared before audiences, lectured and corresponded with experts and doctors concerning the use of venom for medical purposes.
An account of one of “Rattlesnake Bill’s” lectures, reprinted in 1892 is here related: His lecture on Reptiles before The Joker’s Club, Pike County’s famous poet and philosopher contradicts Darwin on points of natural history--- Rattlesnakes are his favorite pets and he handles them with immunity. Matamoras, August 9 – The “Jokers’ Club” last night were treated to a rare and instructive lecture by Prof. Wm. Padgett of Mill Rift, Pa., on snakes, and more especially rattlesnakes, which he considers the king of reptiles.
Said he: “Poisonous snakes give birth to their young and do not hatch them from eggs, as the common belief is. Only those that are not considered poisonous, lay eggs. On this point, he takes issue with Prof. Worth, and the great Darwin. Again, he said, the common belief is that every year adds another rattle to the snake. This is not a fact. When a rattlesnake is born it has one rattle; they do not come by years. The yellow rattler is said to be the female, which is another false impression given to the public.”
Mr. Padgett has caught them in the spring when they are of the brightest yellow and kept them till fall when they begin to turn black. The rattlesnake has the most deadly bite but is the most docile and easily killed. When they kill their prey, and the same is true of other poisonous snakes, they do not do it with their crushing power but by that deadly fang; they bite and their instinct tells them whether the bite is deadly or not. If not they remain quiet; if so, they immediately follow their victim and are very accurate generally in finding their game in a dying condition. No matter what it swallows, it is always head first.
Little fish are the best food for captive snakes, but they will not eat in close confinement. They must have a large cage with stones, earth and moss, in which they thrive well. The best cure for bites, he says, is to suck the wound immediately, then to apply clay and salt, but do not apply bandages nor run or get heated. Insensibility comes about an hour after the bite.
He says, speaking from actual experience, that the pain of a rattlesnake bite is terrific. It goes through you from feet to crown like an electric shock, and you feel as though every hair of your head was being plucked out one at a time. The limbs fall asleep, and in a few moments your feet feel as though they weighed a ton.
Padgett says that the notion that snakes charm their prey is fallacy. The sensation which the fluttering animal, which yields to that awful spell, experiences is one of paralyzing terror, not of delight.
He handles the most venomous and ferocious rattlers with the same impunity and with as little fear as a child would caress a kitten, and for some reason, unaccountable to all except Padgett himself, the reptiles never turn their poisonous fangs against him. After the professor had completed his lecture, he drew from a box a rattlesnake about four feet in length, which had eleven rattles, and holding it up in his hands exhibited its fangs which were inspected by his audience from their seats. The snake, seemingly at the request of Professor Padgett, went through the process of rattling, the shell-like rings on his tail vibrating with such rapidity that the eye could not follow them. The Professor even offered those who desired it the privilege of holding and handling his pet, guaranteeing immunity from harm to those who did so. Strange to say his offer was declined. Other natives who had a peculiar empathy for rattlesnakes were Elijah Pelton of Shohola Glen of the 1880’s and Lice Clarke of Dingmans Ferry. [Source: The Columns Museum, Milford Pa.] Son George relates at a later date: Why my father handled rattlesnakes, I will never know, but I believe that after being in danger for 4 years his nerves craved danger. He gave many exhibitions and lectures, and for some time had a show. He traded 4 rattlesnakes to Mr. Ditmar who was curator of the New York City Zoo, for one king cobra, and while in Milford, Penn. the snake got out of the box and when it came at him with its head about one foot high, he kicked it in the neck, then grabbed it and put it back in the box, and it still lived.
George relates further: At Patterson Eddy farm, he was lecturing to a bunch of young medical students and letting a large yellow rattler crawl through his hands. He claimed there was no such thing as charming a snake. One young student had interrupted him many times and now he said to my father, “just a minute you are looking that snake in the eyes all the time.” Father opened up the front of his shirt and put the snake in between the two shirts he had on and let him crawl all the way around and come out again, then asked the young man “was I looking him in the eye?”
Chapter 15. The Poet
George relates: “He also was known to many as the Pike County poet. He composed many songs, but he couldn’t write the music. There is no record of them however, I remember quite a few of them and will give you one poem from memory.” “The Battle of Minisink”, [Exhibits 39a and 39b]. One of Bill’s songs, a record supplied by the Estate of Agnes Allen by Diane Banach in 2001 was “The Stone King, Composed by Crazy Bill of Pike. [Exhibit 40] Also he composed a poem “Stairway Savages.” [Exhibit 41] During the last century, bluestone quarrying was big business in Pike County, Pa. Mr. Kilgour, with the aid of Mr. Parker’s money, developed Sholola Glen and Parker’s Glen and built up a stone business which collapsed in bankruptcy, leaving his workmen unpaid. One unhappy quarryman composed the following songs and sang them around the country, much to Mr. Kilgour’s embarrassment. I believe these songs were written by Wm Padgett [crazy Bill] who at one time lived on the farm above the Big Quarry of Mill Rift.” “The story I heard is that Kilgour subsequently walked out on the No 2 RR Bridge in Mill Rift and left a neat pile of his clothes on the bridge. It was thought that he killed himself, however his body was never found. Another source said he was seen living in Canada.” [The author recently read a report that Kilgour disappeared on purpose, was checked into an institution in Montreal, Canada. He recovered enough when he heard of an inheritance in his family in Scotland that he booked a passage on a liner to England and thence to Scotland. A Doctor on the ship cared for him and after his adventure in Scotland returned to the area and restarted his Bluestone business with some success.]
Chapter 16. Sara, Mary and Daniel Halsey Padgett
Bill’s sister Sarah E. married Fred Clow [born NYS 1849]. Fred was a railroad brakeman. They lived in Deerpark, Orange County, NY. Their children were Mertie May, born 1873; Charles, born 1875; and Fred, born 1880. In 1920, they were living in Newton, NJ. Sarah was close to her mother, Rebecca, up to her passing in 1897.
Sister Mary married Joseph Allen May 31, 1873 at Andover, NJ. He was a railroad brakeman and lived in Port Jervis, NY at the time of their marriage. Joe was 45 and Mary 20 years old in 1873. The couple lived in Deerpark in 1880 with four children; Charles born 1874, Samuel born 1878, Van Etten and Len, birth dates unknown. Mary was a widow in 1900 and later moved to Middletown, NY with son Van Etten.
Bill’s brother, Daniel Halsey, was born April 8, 1855 in Newton, NJ and was the only son too young to serve in the Civil War. Daniel inherited the farm and was executor for his mother. He married Harriet M. Campbell October 30, 1875. [Exhibits 13 and 16, and 36] Harriet lived in Branchville, NJ and her parents were Conrad and Nancy Handy Campbell. Harriet was born April 18, 1851. Their children were Albert C., born April 23, 1876; Frank M. born July 22, 1879; the twins, Elwood and Elmer, born July 27, 1881; Dana C. born September 16, 1885; William C. born August 29, 1891; and Lulu C. born September 29, 1897. Daniel is the branch of the tree sourcing the later Padgetts of Sussex County, NJ and of Port Jervis and Deerpark in Orange County, New York. Daniel passed on February 25, 1922 in Andover; his wife Harriet on December 1, 1922. Both are buried at the Cemetery behind the Presbyterian Church in Andover.
Chapter 17. Life in Mill Rift
Bill became addicted to smoking a pipe while in the service of the Union. He and his siblings were raised to be temperate in habit, in general. He was against alcohol use and April 16, 1881, appeared at a temperance meeting in Union hall, Port Jervis, on a Thursday night. “Remarks were made by Dr. Searles, John Bross, John Sutcliff and John Ferguson [Bill’s father-in-law]. William Padgett of Pike county entertained the company by remarks and singing.” The forgoing was reported in The Evening Gazette. Victoria picked up Bill’s tobacco habit by lighting his pipe for him. She smoked Prince Albert in a corn cob pipe. [Exhibit 25]
Charles Agustus Padgett, born in 1877, was a determined lad who developed an iron temperament. In 1892 at the age of 15, Charlie worked in the stone quarries as an apprentice. His job was to hold the drilling chisel while an older worker wielded the sledge hammer. To tease Charlie, the worker spit tobacco juice on the chisel head and slammed the hammer home! The juice splattered into Charlie’s face and eyes. At this point he learned that he must stand up for himself and slugged the hammer man. All the boys learned the stone cutting business and how to handle an axe. Washington, born in 1880, became a master at stone cutting.
The log cabin was too small for a family the size of the Padgetts. [Exhibit 21] In the winter of 1870, Bill began taking logs to the Sawyer mill to be cut into boards and beams for a proper house. With the help of a small loan from David and Rebecca, Bill and Victoria were able to finish a decent home by the fall of 1871. They constructed a large barn/chicken house across the field from the front of the home. The water supply was a hand dug spring in back of the house. In 1875, shortly after the birth of Minnia, she became sick from dysentery and died within three weeks. Again in 1878 and 1889 the water borne disease struck and infants John and Levi perished too. Minnia and John were most likely buried on the farm; Levi was buried in a plot acquired at the Mill Rift Cemetery, established in 1888.
Chapter18. Grandfather David, Grandmother Rebecca
Bill’s father, David suffered a stroke in the spring of 1879, was partially paralyzed. Rebecca cared for him until 1880, when it became too difficult. She was sixty four and David sixty eight. Sarah came when she could but had a family of her own. Mary lived in Orange County and it was too far to travel daily. Rebecca did not have cash money to put him in private care center. In any case they were rare and not generally available. They were able to place him in the Goshen Poor house, on Quarry Road, Goshen, NY. After a year of care, he was anxious and well enough to return home. Unfortunately he suffered a second stroke and was re-admitted on Feb. 2, 1885. He remained there until he died April 16, 1890. He is buried at the Poor house cemetery. [Exhibit 8]
Rebecca passed on March 27, 1897 at the age of 81. She was close to Bill, Daniel Halsey, his wife Harriet and daughter Sarah Clow. Daniel was the Executor and responsible to arrange the funeral and burial behind the Presbyterian Church in Andover, next to son John D. Padgett, who was killed by a train August 30, 1889 trying to save his dog. This was the summer before David died. John married Olivia Ramage Sept 15, 1877, wed by J. A. Priest of the Andover Presbyterian church. A hand carved Blue Stone was made for her, most likely by son Bill. The inscription reads, “Fathers, sisters, brothers, there is no love, no care like a mother’s.” This summed up how the children felt about their dear mother. [Exhibit 5]
Chapter 19. George
Son George was also a very remarkable man. The following stories were related to Ronald Allen, a newspaper reporter and printed. “He said he looked death in the eye on forty two occasions in his lifetime. His misfortunes started at the age of six. At this age, he was as large as his brother Wash, who was ten. Bill kept some cows, a bull and a team of oxen at this time, 1889. Although the bull was ugly tempered, George was not afraid of him and was too young to realize the danger. The animals were pastured in the upper field.
George and Wash worked in the morning up on the hill cutting brush, and removed their coats when the sun proved too hot for them, and laid them on the hill. When noon came, Wash asked George to move the cattle over to the pasture where they could obtain water and he would go back for their coats and the dog that had a woodchuck holed.
After George had moved the cattle over, he picked up a stick and hit the bull, who had been lying asleep by the stone wall, and told him to get up. The bull got up and George was down! He grabbed the bull’s horns and fortunately his arms were strong, as the bull shoved him along the ground over freshly cut brush stubs and stones, which cut his back and sides.
To this day, George can’t understand how the bull accomplished such a feat. Although George was doing some terrible screaming, it was to no avail as Wash and the dog were out of earshot. His next recollection is a maze of horns and hoofs and tails and a blood curdling bellow from the bull. When he was aware of a modulation he met the eyes of the fourteen hundred pound ox who had thrown the bull over the wall and into the brush and stood protecting George. [Exhibit 37]
Upon Wash’s arrival with the help of the dog, they got the bull back into the pasture using stones and clubs. The ox went on about his business and paid no attention to the fracas. For many years George would freeze when he heard a bull bellow, and with good cause. This is one man you can’t say “dumb ox” to as he will ask you, “which ox?”
Once when George was a “little shaver”, he and Oran Hazelton, who was the same age, went sleigh riding together. Oran’s sister, Lizzie, had given him a new sleigh for Christmas. The two boys took off for Sawyer’s hill which was a glare of ice and they could go like greased lightning! The sled tracks were frozen to ruts which led to a stone wagon which had been abandoned to the side of the road because it was worn out. George, who was on the sled at the time, hit a “Thank you Mam” near the foot of the hill. He and the sled flew into the air and straight for the front wheel of the old wagon. The sled split in two! Besides numerous cuts and bruises he injured his ear and hurt his shoulder.
A few days later, he was sledding the same hill and hit a new sleigh being pulled to the top by Hannah Malony, who was crossing the road to talk to some of the girls. At the impact the steel shoe edge of the sleigh hit him squarely on the chin, cutting it to the bone. However, had he not hit the sled, he would have crashed into or under Saul Hazelton’s fifteen hundred pound horse and sleigh that were coming uphill.
When George was ten years old, 1893, he was on his way to bring in the cows, and spied several partridges feeding on the early wine fruit grapes. He immediately ran home for a deer rifle Bert Terwilliger had given his younger brother several years previously.
Although the gun was rusting and had been loaded for years, he primed it and put on a cap, took a bead on a bird and pulled the trigger. Kaboom! The gun blew the tube out and cut the top of his forehead, and the powder burned his eyes! His hat had been blown off and had a hole in it as big as his fist.
A few years later, he and his brother were cutting wood about a mile from home at a brook known as the Beaver Dam. A limb above his head caught his axe causing it to glance and hit his right foot. The joint of the toe next to his big one was split and an artery cut. He walked the mile home gushing blood, and as the nearest Doctor was six miles away, his dear mother knew that the fleecy side of sole leather having been tanned by oak bark was a great astringent.
She shaved off six thin pieces and bound three above the wound and three below and tied it tight with bindings. In a short time the bleeding had subsided, and George continued to grow.
When he was ten years of age he drove a yoke of oxen through the summer and worked the Quarry winters. [Exhibit 37] Although he put in a full day in the Quarry it was his duty to feed the cattle before going to work, and left the Quarry between 3:30 and 4:00pm to take the oxen to the brook for a drink, after which he put them in the barn, and retired to the house.
One particular morning on arising to find a heavy snow had fallen in the night, he went to the barn to feed the oxen and one was missing. He proceeded to milk the cows and returned to the house where his father sternly reprimanded him and made him go in search of the lost critter. [Exhibit 37]
Since there were no tracks because of the snow, he searched until noon and returned home soaked to the skin. Although his mother didn’t trust Jake Kent who worked for her husband, and told him that Jake had stolen the Ox, Bill chose not to believe her. Jake was a neighbor and supposed friend for 22 years. Jake even swore an affidavit in support of Bill’s application for a disability pension in 1891. [see Chapter 24]
About midnight, George’s brother in law Ross Vanauken, [Evelyn’s husband] came up from Milford and wanted his father-in-law to identify the skin and horns of the ox Dave Angle had found while hunting with two other men at the bark of Dave’s dog. Dave Angle knew that the butchered ox was one belonging to George’s father and sent Ross to fetch him. Bill promptly swore out a warrant upon seeing the evidence.
The sheriff, who was an old German fellow, retrieved the hide and the meat that had not been consumed. Jake being a very shrewd person took distance. Although they caught up with Jake at a house known as the “Finley Place” near Vandermark Brook, they did not pursue him as he had threatened them. He made his escape through a door which led from the cellar to the surrounding woods. The searchers found the house empty on entering it. Jake died some years later near Paterson, NJ.
Note: Ronald Allen, reporter for the Pike County Dispatch wrote an article Feb 28, 1980, “Rattlesnake Bill remembered” under “Beetle Hollow”. In it he describes Jake Kent as a Robin Hood. "Jake Kent, no relative of the Kents that settled in Mill Rift, was a study for a board of brain specialists. He could hardly read or write, but he was a good worker and a great fisherman. He was good natured and good with horses, but had a habit of stealing. He never stole for himself and always gave away the stolen goods to someone else, but never told them that it was stolen. [Concerning the Ox,] Mr. Padgett swore out a warrant for Jake’s arrest but he got away from the Sheriff and went to Patterson, NJ and worked for a man who raised horses. He was bitten by an ugly stallion in the finger and he died with blood poisoning and so ended the career of Jake Kent.”
When working in the front Quarry with Charlie Sterns and John Davey, George would start the coal fire so that they could sharpen the tools, and call his father when the gas had burned off, as he was allergic to it. The shop contained a box of dynamite of eight sticks, as four of them had been used and two ten pound metal kegs of black powder with slide lids on them.
Sterns had laid some fuse caps on the two by four that acted as a nailer in the side of the shop. The caps had fallen into the coal. As George started the fire one morning he did not notice that someone had removed two sticks of dynamite, and left the lid off one of the powder kegs or that he had thrown the fuse caps in the fire with the coal.
As he started the fire there was a terrific explosion that left him blind for four days. Had a spark of the fire gone in the powder keg it would have exploded the dynamite and nothing would have been left but a big hole in the ground!
Chapter 20. The Bowlers
The Padgett children were friends with the Helt family children. Christer Helt, born in Pennsylvania March 1859 and his wife, Caroline, born in New Jersey June of 1864 moved to a log cabin located on the Turnout Road about one mile down river from Stairway and a 45 minute walk from the Padgett farm. Their children, John, born Sept 1875, Frank born Feb 1878, Warren born Sept 1880 and Alfred, born Sept 1884, were cohorts and friends to Bill and Victoria’s children. They moved to this location about 1894 when Chris and John worked for the Erie RR, Chris as Trackwalker and John as a rail layer. Warren also went to work for the Erie in 1900 as a rail layer.
In 1897, when George Padgett and Alfred Helt were friends and ages 14 and 13, they came up with a grand idea to pick up some of the popular Bowler hats worn by sports from New York City. The Erie ran an excursion to Shohola Glen Amusement Park several miles up the river. One Sunday George stationed himself crouching down out of sight in a low area along the west side of the track, where a dry water way crossed under the track, with a long pole. Alfred stood up on the hillside and smiled and waved to the passengers, who leaned out the open windows and waved their Bowlers at Alfred. George used the pole to poke the Bowlers out of their hands! They were smart enough to quit at two and luckily for them, their fathers never found out.
The Spanish American War broke out in 1898. When George decided to enlist in the Army, he was 16 in 1899. Like his father, George was patriotic. His family revealed his actual proper age, he was discharged. He promptly enlisted in the Navy, telling them he was twenty two years old! [Exhibit 20] He weighed 186 pounds at 16 and ½ and the deception was successful! He could lift a two hundred pound railroad tie at the age of fifteen and lay it carefully on a pile above his head. He served in the Navy for four years, being discharged in Breverton, Washington and was home six months before his twenty-first birthday in 1904.
While serving in the Navy, readying a ship that was bound for Japan and the Philippines, the captain ordered the bunkers filled with coal to capacity. Apprentice boys could enlist at the age of fourteen, however proved hard to control, and filled the bunkers with coal from baskets. The bunker was filled up to the deck and it was George’s turn to go down and lying on his side push the coal to the sides and fill in the corners. The officer of the deck had given strict orders not to dump the coal any faster then it could be taken away. The boys passing relay system disobeyed orders and filled the bunker to the top and continued to pile coal thus cutting off all the air from George, and he was buried alive.
The air was so thick you could cut it with a knife; he blew out his torch, and lay there perspiring until the officer of the deck came by on a periodic check.... the minutes ticked into an eternity. George was bleeding from the nose when rescued, and the boys sternly reprimanded.
George, like his siblings, was musical and could play the Banjo.
Two years later, at age 22, March 5, 1906, George married a local girl he met at the Mill Rift School house at age 7 , Nellie Elizabeth Sawyer. [Exhibit 14A] On the marriage license, he listed his profession as engineer. With the help of John Sawyer, George and Nellie built the “Mirror House” which was later to become the Glenwood Hotel, on Mirror Lake in Mill Rift. [Exhibit 14] Nellie was the daughter of William Sawyer and Mary Wintermute; she was born December 8, 1883. She had two brothers, John and Wilbur Sawyer.
Chapter 21. Charles Agustus
Bill’s son, Charles Agustus, born January 16, 1877, enlisted in the army at news of Spanish American War on July 1, 1898, Battery K, 2nd Field Artillery. He served from Sept 1899 to Dec 1, 1900 under Capt Bjornstead, 42nd FA, Volunteers. The 1900 census found him at Antipolo, Philippine Islands as a corporal, age 23.
Upon return to the US, Charles was married to an Indian woman near Fort Logan, Colorado. Coming home one day, he found her with an officer. He severely beat the officer and took off. He was arrested for desertion and given a General Courts Martial, found guilty and sentenced to 18 months hard labor at Leavenworth Prison, and given a dishonorable discharge. When released, Charles changed his name to Charles Padget, enlisted again in the Army at Vancouver, Washington State in 18th Field Artillery. An evaluation of him Feb 7, 1904 shows him to be a corporal, single, faithful, and honest of excellent character.
Charles re-enlisted in 1905 at Vancouver at the rank of Sergeant. From 1906 to 1909 he was stationed at West Point Military Academy. There in 1909 he met and married Elizabeth Renk, a German immigrant, born in Hagen, Baden, Germany, emigrated from Effringen, Baden, via the port of Boulogne, France on the liner Pennsylvania. [Exhibit 18] This ship was built by Harlan & Wolff, Ltd. in Belfast, Northern Ireland in 1897 for Hamburg Lines. It was 579 feet long, 62 feet wide, 12,281 tons, steam quadruple expansion engines, twin screws and carried 2724 passengers, 162 first class, the rest in 2nd and 3rd class. The ship was seized in NYC at the outbreak of WW1 and renamed the USS Nassemond. It was scrapped in 1924. She was raised Evangelish. Her sister Bertha and brother Reinhard emigrated before Elizabeth. Bertha was working as a housekeeper in San Francisco, Cal. April 18, 1906 at the time of the huge earthquake. Their life was an army life, with Charlie working in service and repairing shoes for the family himself. Lizzie cooked and cleaned for officers, becoming acquaintances and friends with officers and their wives. She knew General Douglas McArthur, for example. She also baked pies and the children sold them.
Their children were: William, [Exhibits 24 and 27] born Sept 9, 1909 in Highland Falls, NY near West Point; Helen born Sept. 9, 1912 at Fort Myers, Virginia; Harold born Dec 16, 1914 at Fort Myers; Raymond born July 14, 1917 at West Point; Elsie born March 25, 1921 at West Point; Lawrence born Jan 10, 1924 at Madison Barracks, Lake Ontario, New York; and Charles born after Charlie Sr.’s retirement, at Highland Falls. They live on here while Charlie worked for the Academy a few more years. They then moved to Mill Rift, Pa and rented the old Knickerbocker house. Their life story goes on through many eventful years but that is a tale for another day. [Exhibit 15]
Chapter 22. Oliver, Washington, Evelyn and Adelia
Bill’s son Oliver was born April 18, 1885. In 1900, Oliver worked at odd jobs. He frequently helped out on the Knickerbocker farm in Mill Rift. In 1902, at the age of 17, Oliver, whose nature was patriotic like his father and brothers, wanted to enlist in the Army. [Exhibit 23] He served in California and the Philippine Islands. He saw hot action there and later told how Guerrillas would bind their testicles tightly to overcome pain and charge right into their guns. He married a Philippine wife, however, when he came home at Army retirement in 1925, they were no longer married. Ollie could recite Robert Service poems from memory, play guitar and harmonica. He met Alma Connolly at the Glenwood Hotel and they were married Dec 28, 1923. They had no children.
Bill’s son Washington was born Feb 22, 1880. He, like his brothers, wanted to enlist in the Army. They said he was not tall enough, being about one inch short. He went home and used weights to stretch his body. It worked and, one year later, he enlisted in the Army. Wash enlisted in the Army sometime after 1901, and when World War I broke out, was a Sergeant in the 6th Infantry Div. [Exhibits 15 and 26] As of Dec 6, 1917, the Milford Dispatch reported Wash, now a corporal in the 51St Infantry, was training in Chickamauga Park Georgia. He served in France and suffered life long problems from Mustard Gas. He served twenty years and 6 months and retired. He married Pearl Henion July 22, 1926. Their children were: Shirley M. born 1927, Joan M. born 1928, Anne, and Pearl’s daughter from a previous marriage, Audrey M. born 1917.
Wash could tell jokes for hours, clean or off color. He worked after retirement from the Army as a stone cutter in a Quarry.
Bill’s and Victoria’s daughter Evelyn, “Eva” as of 1900, age 31, was married to Ross Vanauken, age 39. Eva was working as a laundress. They lived in Milford and Washington, age 20, was staying with them as was Martha, age 19. Ross was born in April 1861 in Pennsylvania; his father was born in New Jersey, mom in Pennsylvania. It is not clear if Ross died or they divorced, however, they did not have any children. In 1903, Eva remarried to Lafayette “Lafe” Brink, employed as of 1910 as a Blacksmith. They lived at that time at Catherine Street [63?] in Milford, Pennsylvania. In 1920 they lived on Lower Pond Eddy Road, Pond Eddy, Pa next door to Eva’s cousin Dana Padgett, his wife Alice and children Lafayette, age 13, Alice R. age 8 and David age 3, all born in New Jersey. Lafe was employed as a chopper, now 62 year of age, Eva still as laundress, age 52. Eva passed away in 1928. Lafe in 1930 lived as a boarder in Binghamton, Broome County, New York.
Bill’s and Victoria’s daughter Adelia A. was born in 1867. At the age of thirteen, she worked as a servant for neighbor and friends, the Middaughs. Delia married in 1899 at age of thirty two to Van Tassel. It is not clear who he was or even his first name. Delia was living at home in 1900 when the census was counted, had no children. She died soon after however little is known about when or where she is buried. This was during the time of the Spanish American War and the Padgetts served in the Philippine Islands. A brother-in-law may have also served there or was killed there.
Chapter 23. Elizabeth and Martha
Bill’s and Victoria’s daughter Elizabeth, was born 19 February, 1870. She married Frank J. Wintermute, son of Whitfield Wintermute and Anna L. Van Akin in 1889. They lived on Delaware Street, Mill Rift in 1910, had three children, Irving H. born in 1891, Elsie B. [later married Gail], born in 1894, and Howard W., born in 1897. They lived a number of years in the West End of Port Jervis, NY and sometime prior to 1918, moved to East Orange, NJ. Lizzie died on May 8, 1942 at home; 19 Orange Street, Bloomfield NJ. Frank died in 1961 at the age of 84. At the time of Bill’s death at her home, Martha was also staying in East Orange helping to care for their paralyzed father.
Bill’s and Victoria’s daughter Martha Young Padgett was born April 17, 1881. In 1900 she lived with sister Evelyn Vanauken in Milford and had a job there. In 1903 she met James Beck while at work. [Exhibits 38, 38a] He was born in Pennsylvania in 1877, worked for the Erie Railroad. They lived for a time in Milford, and then moved to Mill Rift in 1909 with her family, later renting the Sawyer house and then purchased the Sawyer/Cleveland house in 1920. [White Pine Lodge] James had one of the first cars in Mill Rift in 1917. Martha and the children lived there until 1929. They cared for Bill after his stroke for a time and also Victoria stayed with them. In 1924, James was run over and killed by a drunken engineer in the rail yards in Port Jervis. Harold, 10 year old son of Charles was summoned to identify the body. Martha moved to Matamoras in 1929. She met and married Walter J. Bradshaw, born June 30, 1878, in 1937. He was a Ohio Capt. in the Air Service and served in the Spanish American War and WW1. He had several children in a previous marriage. Walter died Dec. 6, 1953. Martha lived to a wonderful age of 92, dying in 1974. [Exhibit 4]
Chapter 24. The Old Soldier
Bill and his family participated in the early version of the Mill Rift Civic Association. George helped build the Town Hall. The Mill Rift Debating Society sponsored a debate between Bill and another on the merits of Black Americans as compared to Native Americans. Bill loved an audience, loved to orate and sing. He passed that trait on to Oliver, Washington and George.
Bill applied for an additional pension Feb, 1891. The record contains General Affidavits supporting his claim of physical disability. One dated Feb 17th 1891 from Jacob Henyon, aged 53, of Sparrow Bush, Orange County, New York. He affirmed that he knew William Padgett since 1856 and prior to his enlistment as a sound able bodied man. He further affirmed that he never heard him complain of any ailment at that time. Jacob was in the service as a member of Co. E, 6th Regiment NY Cav. Volunteers and was taken prisoner of war at Trebellian Station, Va. June 11th 1864. He was sent to Andersonville Prison, Georgia, June 28th 1864, where Padgett was also confined and a prisoner. Jacob remembers that in the month of August, 1864, and while Padgett and himself were both prisoners, that Padgett was sick with Rheumatism and Malarial fever. Padgett was very sick, weak and debilitated and reduced in flesh. Jacob believed that Padgett could not live to get out of the prison. Jacob nursed Padgett and helped take care of him and led him down to the brook and helped wash him.
Sometime prior to 1910, J. F. Maloney, as one of his many professions, was the publisher of a Post Card company, the cards made in Germany. Local subjects such as scenic vistas of “the Glen”, Mill Rift’s business district and the Delaware were popular subjects. His customers were boarders and tourists from the cities who arrived by train. One card featured “Rattlesnake Bill”, and his Pets, Mill Rift, Pike Co., Pa.”.
In 1911, Bill suffered a stroke which incapacitated him. A local sent the above mentioned post card, addressed “Mr. C. J. Fredericks, 50 Church St., NY City, Room 876”. “Understand Bill is a friend of yours. Poor old chap is paralyzed and the snake business is at a standstill. Signed: Mac Aug. 12, 1911.” [Exhibits 6 and 7]
An affidavit dated August 19th, 1917 sworn by Dimmick Quick, age 66, a resident of Mill Rift, Pa, and John Davey, age 33, a resident of Mill Rift, that they have known the soldier 50 years and 25 years, that the last four years he has been helpless from a Paralytic Stroke, that they know this fact from living near neighbors to him, that his speech is affected so to be almost unintelligible and his left hand and side is useless.
An affidavit dated April 23, 1904 by William Padgett, that he enlisted in Co. F, 70th Regiment, NY Vols and discharged for gunshot wound of left hand, enrolled 18th August, 1862, Co. I, 15th Regiment, NJ Inf Vols, honorably discharged at Hall’s Hill, Virginia on 22nd of June 1865; that he is wholly unable to earn a support by manual labor by reason of age and gun shot wound of the left hand, rheumatism Disease of the eyes and he also applies for benefits of order No. 78.
An affidavit dated 17th February, 1891 by Jacob Kent age 31, resident of Westfall, Mill Rift, Pa; and Horatio Hazelton, age 28, resident of Mill Rift; that Horatio has know Padgett for 16 years, well acquainted and as a neighbor, that for such time claimant has been in poor health, suffering as claimed with rheumatism malaria and kidney disease contracted in Andersonville prison while a prisoner of war, that he has suffered since and continues to do so. The said Jacob Kent says he has been in continual acquaintance with Padgett for 22 years been with him almost daily, that he knows he has suffered during this time deponent has known him. That he has heard him state that these diseases were contracted by Padgett in Andersonville Prison. Both men state that through personal knowledge, and seeing him work, that Padgett cannot do more than one half the work of an able bodied man.
Other affidavits include one from Solomon Hazelton, age 55 years, a neighbor for 40 years. One from William G Cooper, age 49 a resident of Shanghai, Howard County, Indiana that he became acquainted with Wm W. Padgett in Andersonville, Ga. In July as near as I remember, and in August, '64, his health being very poor and scarcely being able to see after his own person. What the disease was I am unable to state as I don’t know, and 26 years is a long time. I have never saw said Claimant since it is not unlikely his statement is perfectly straight as a man in that miserable Pen was likely to contract any disease from chicken pox to Leprosy. I know of where I speak. When said claimant came into Andersonville he was full of vim but he soon lost it. I have no interest in said claim and it would not benefit me if he would get ten thousand dollars of a Pension financially. This is only that he would be rewarded for his service and Patriotism.
An affidavit by William W Padgett: That it is impossible for him to furnish Medical testimony on account that at the time he contracted his disabilities rheumatism, malarial fever and disease of the kidneys, he was a prisoner of war confined in the Prison pen in Georgia, and that he received no Medical treatment while sick, prisoners of war were not allowed treatment at that time. He further says that he was in no Hospital either brigade, Division Corps or post while a prisoner, that after he was paroled and sent to Camp parole near Annapolis, Md. he was treated in the Post Hospital at that place.
Bill and Victoria had to give up living on the somewhat remote farm at the end of Turn Out Road, [Bluestone Blvd] in Mill Rift. They lived at turns with children Martha in Mill Rift, George and Nellie in Otisville, NY and Elizabeth and Frank Wintermute in Mill Rift, later West End Port Jervis, East Orange, NJ. Bill suffered another stoke and died November 5, 1918 at Elizabeth’s home in East Orange, NJ. Daughter Martha Beck was also with him at the closing, helping Elizabeth with his care. To Bill, it was similar to entering this world, as he made his way through a tunnel toward the light. Could he hear the voices and sense the spirits of his brothers, his parents as he reached toward the light? Finally this peaceful feeling, the battle is ended.
This very remarkable man took his final journey by train to Port Jervis, NY and was interred in the Mill Rift Cemetery. The transit permit listed his death cause as “Arterio Sclerosis.” His grave is marked by a Military stone and a private stone. Victoria lived on until April 6, 1934. She died at home at 5 am. A funeral was held at the Mill Rift Town Hall and burial next to Bill and baby Levi in the Mill Rift Cemetery.
A Declaration for Widows Pension was filed by Victoria the 31st of December, 1918 and terminated at her passing April 4, 1934, last paid $36.00 per month to March 31, 1934.
Return to Pike County PAGenWeb