The Mickleys of Lehigh County – A Civil War-Era Family Mourns and Endures

In the name of God Amen. I Charles Mickley of Allentown, Lehigh County, Pennsylvania, now in the Army of the United States stationed at Beaufort, South Carolina, being of sound mind and memory and good understanding, considering the uncertainty of this transiting would do make and declare this to be my last will and Testament….

 

Motto: "War, the Chase and Liberty." Coat of Arms, Family of Michelet, free city of Metz, German empire. Source: Taken from Vienna’s book of heraldry by Professor Dr. C. F. Michelet; provided to Minnie F. Mickley, 1883 (public domain).

Motto: “War, the Chase and Liberty.” Coat of Arms, Family of Michelet, free city of Metz, German empire. Source: Taken from Vienna’s book of heraldry by Professor Dr. C. F. Michelet; provided to Minnie F. Mickley, 1883 (public domain).

As he penned those words above in September 1862, the thoughts of Captain Charles Mickley, commanding officer, Company G, 47th Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, were of his God and his family:

First, My soul I give to god who gave it, with the blessed assurance of a blissful immortality…. I give and bequeath unto my beloved wife Eliza all my house and kitchen furniture, beddings, and all provisions on hand, to be absolutely hers … that as long as she remains my Widow. She shall have all the income of my Real and Personal Estate … until our youngest son John arrives at the age of eighteen years, then my Real Estate property is to be appraised and disposed off [sic] by my Executor … One third to be set aside and put on interest for the use of my Widow … the remainder two thirds to be equally divided, share and share alike among my seven lawful children. Vis: Sarah Ann Mickley, Winfield Scott Mickley, William Deshler Mickley, Charles Henry Mickley, Thomas Franklin Mickley, Caroline Heimbach Mickley and John Heimbach Mickley…. All my investment in stocks in the Huntingdon and Broad Top Mountain Rail Road and Coal Company, amounting to nearly seven thousand dollars shall not be disposed off [sic] by my Executor for less than forty dollars per share. Should the Company be able to pay six per cent dividends, my Executor may at his option (if he thinks it is for the benefit of my Estate) keep the stock until [sic] my youngest son John shall arrive at the age of eighteen years, than [sic] the stock shall be equally divided amongst my lawfull [sic] children aforesaid. Item, But should my Widow inter-marry again before my youngest son arrives at the age of eighteen years, my Executor shall immediately after her marriage proceed to dispose of all my Real Estate, and from said proceeds sett [sic] apart One Thousand Dollars to be put on interest and said interest to be paid over to my Widow by my Executor annually during her lifetime. The remainder of said proceeds to be equally divided among my seven lawful children aforesaid. Item, That as long as my wife remains my Widow, she shall also have all the net [sic] income of my Rail Road and Rolling Mill stock, but when our youngest son John arrives at the age of eighteen years, then she shall draw only one third of the income of said stocks. The remaining two thirds to be equally divided amongst my seven lawfull [sic] children aforesaid. After marriage, she forfeits this claim. Item, That as long as my Widow draws all the income of my Real and Personal Estate, she shall maintain raise and educate our children from the income of my Estate…. It is my desire that from all money arising from my Estate or effects my Executor shall invest in seven per cent Bonds of the Allentown Water Company if he thinks it safe and prudent to invest in said Bonds…. Done at Beaufort, South Carolina this twenty fourth day of September in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty two. Charles Mickley

The challenging environment of the Charleston & Savannah Railroad was illustrated by Harper's Weekly in 1865.

Captain Charles Mickley came face to face with the challenging environment of the Charleston & Savannah Railroad during the Battle of Pocotaligo, South Carolina in 1862. That railroad was depicted by Harper’s Weekly in this 1865 illustration.

Less than one month later, the Keystone Stater descended from Huguenot refugees who fled their homelands in Alsace Lorraine and Germany’s Rhineland in search of religious freedom and who then served honorably during the American Revolution, would become one among the many casualties during the second year of America’s Civil War.

Captain Charles Mickley, felled during his regiment’s engagement at the Battle of Pocotaligo, South Carolina on 22 October 1862, was the husband of Pennsylvania native, Elizabeth (Heimbach) Mickley (1828-1881). They had met and married  in Pennsylvania’s bucolic Lehigh Valley sometime during the mid-1840s, and steadily grew their family – first as residents of Huntington County where Charles Mickley was employed as an iron furnace superintendent, and then in Allentown, Lehigh County where he became a prosperous master miller with real estate holdings valued at $20,750 and a personal estate valued at $11,500.

On 13 September 1859, Charles and Eliza Mickley greeted the birth of their youngest son, John Heimbach Mickley (1859-1865), with joy. Two years later, five days after his youngest son’s birthday, Charles Mickley headed off to war, hoping to preserve America’s union.

Following his regiment’s defense of the nation’s capital through early January of 1862, Captain Mickley and his fellow 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers were shipped to the Deep South, where they garrisoned Fort Taylor in Key West, Florida from February until Mid-June when they were ordered to Hilton Head, South Carolina and housed in the Department of the South’s Beaufort District. In early October 1862, Captain Mickley and his men participated in the capture of the Confederate artillery batteries at Saint John’s Bluff, Florida.

Later that month, as he readied for another battle, Captain Mickley corresponded with one of his friends from Allentown, asking that he deposit an enclosed $600 check into the bank. It was made payable to Mickley’s wife, Eliza, who soldiered on back home, raising their children without him and longing for the day he would return to her loving arms. Sadly, Eliza would never hear his voice or see his smile again.

The deaths of Captain Charles Mickley, commanding officer of Company G, 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers and his soldiers during and after the Battle of Pocotaligo, South Carolina (21-23 October 1862) were recorded in this Union Army death ledger (public domain).

The deaths of Captain Charles Mickley, commanding officer of Company G, 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers, and his fellow Union soldiers during and after the Battle of Pocotaligo, South Carolina (21-23 October 1862) were recorded in this Union Army death ledger (public domain, click image for larger view).

On 22 October 1862, Captain Charles Mickley became an Army statistic after he sustained a fatal head wound while leading Company G of the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers in an assault on Confederate troops during the Battle of Pocotaligo, South Carolina. A notation in the U.S. Army’s Register of Deaths of Volunteer Soldiers by the 47th Pennsylvania’s Assistant Regimental Surgeon, Jacob Henry Scheetz, M.D. certified that Captain Mickley had been “killed in action” at “Frampton SC” (the Frampton Plantation).

Peter Wolf, sutler for the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers, was the man who arranged to have Captain Mickley’s remains returned to the Mickley family – borne north through southern lines. The funeral, officiated by Rev. Derr and Rev. Brobst at Allentown’s Reformation Church, was widely attended by a “suffering entourage,” according to local newspapers, and included Mickley’s widow, Elizabeth, and their seven children, aged three through 16.

At the reading of Captain Charles Mickley’s will, Eliza Mickley learned that she and her children would be financially secure for the time being. Her husband’s work as one of Allentown’s master millers had enabled the Mickley family to have a comfortable home in the city’s Second Ward and, while still an iron furnace superintendent, her husband had begun to amass stock in industries he had come to know well.

Most obvious from reading Captain Mickley’s will was his worry that his youngest son, John, would grow up without a father. So, he made sure that toddler John would be well educated and financially stable even as he took his first steps into manhood. Sadly, Captain Mickley’s hopes and dreams for this little one would go unrealized. Just over two years after his father was killed in battle, John Heimbach Mickley died at the age of six in Allentown on 11 January 1865. Like his father before him, he was laid to rest at the Union-West End Cemetery.

The Way Forward

Allentown, Pennsylvania (c. 1865, public domain).

Allentown, Pennsylvania (c. 1865, public domain).

Although 1865 began with the tragic childhood death of John Heimbach Mickley, the year also offered joyful moments with the marriage of one of John’s siblings. According to the federal census for 1900, Sarah Ann Mickley, John’s sister and the eldest child of Eliza (Heimbach) Mickley and the late Captain Charles Mickley, wed James Blaine Hamersly (1844-1912) sometime during 1865. A Pennsylvania native and former 2nd Lieutenant with the Pennsylvania 9th Cavalry during the Civil War, James B. Hamersly was a son of Pennsylvania natives, William W. and Elizabeth Hamersly.

In 1866, siblings Sarah (Mickley) Hamersly, Winfield Mickley and Caroline (“Carrie”) Mickley were jointly listed on 19 June records of their church in Allentown, Lehigh County, Pennsylvania. By 1870, Sarah and her husband were living in Catasauqua, Lehigh County with their 11-month-old daughter, who had been born roughly seven years after her grandfather’s death in the Battle of Pocotaligo, South Carolina. Sarah and James would go on to have five more children and, thankfully, five of their six children would live to see the dawn of a new century.

Meanwhile, that same year (1870), Captain Charles Mickley’s widow, Eliza, was still living at the Mickley family home in Allentown’s Second Ward. Her other surviving children, Winfield S., Charles H. and Caroline H. Mickley all still resided with her. Winfield helped to support his family through employment as a carpenter while Captain Mickley’s namesake son, Charles, worked as a laborer.

Incredibly, just one year later, tragedy struck the Mickley family yet again when Winfield Scott Mickley died on 15 August 1871. Like his father and baby brother John before him, Winfield S. Mickley was interred at the Union-West End Cemetery in Allentown.

Center Square at 7th Street (Allen House Hotel at right; Allentown Bank and Board of Trade, looking north, top), Allentown, Pennsylvania 1876 (public domain).

Center Square at 7th Street (Allen House Hotel at right; Allentown Bank and Board of Trade, looking north, top), Allentown, Pennsylvania 1876 (public domain).

Fortunately, joy returned mid-decade as Charles Henry Mickley wed Sarah Bohlen (1856-1921) in 1875. A Pennsylvania native born in May 1856, she was a daughter of Augustus Bohlen and Lydia (Albright) Bohlen. Residing in Allentown, they greeted the arrival of their first child – a son, John Scott Mickley (1876-1957) – on 4 April 1876.

The next year (1877), Charles H. Mickley followed briefly in his father’s military footsteps when he helped to quiet the labor riots in Reading, Berks County, Pennsylvania while serving with Company D of the 4th Regiment, Pennsylvania National Guard under Captain A. J. Nagle. By 1880, Charles and Sarah had welcomed two more sons to the world: George (born sometime around 1877) and Charles H. Mickley (born in Allentown on 26 July 1879).

That same year (1880), Eliza continued her life at the Mickley family home on Lehigh Street in Allentown with children William D., a blacksmith; Thomas F., a foundry worker; and Caroline H. Mickley. But just one year later, Eliza was gone.

Just 53 years old, Eliza (Heimbach) Mickley had lived nearly two decades without the aid and comfort of her Civil War hero-husband when she passed away in Allentown on 10 July 1881. She was interred next to him at Allentown’s Union-West End Cemetery.

Their son, William D. Mickley, who had assumed executor responsibilities for his late father’s estate sometime after the original executor had passed away, was also appointed as executor of his late mother’s estate. (It was a busy decade for him. While serving with Company D of the Pennsylvania National Guard’s 4th Regiment, William D. Mickley was commissioned as a 1st Lieutenant on 27 June 1884.)

Eliza’s daughter Caroline Heimbach Mickley may also have wed and died around this time. Still shown as unmarried on the 1800 federal census, burial records at the cemetery where Eliza and her husband Charles were interred show an interment for a Caroline (nee Mickley) Paul in 1882.

On 9 September 1883, Eliza’s son Charles H. Mickley and his wife Sarah welcomed daughter Cora Elizabeth Mickley to their growing family. Four years later, on 25 December 1887, another son – Robert Winfield Mickley – made his own appearance at their Allentown home.

Source: Pittsburgh Dispatch, 8 Sep 1889 (public domain).

Source: Pittsburgh Dispatch, 8 September 1889 (public domain).

Heartbreakingly, the year of 1889 proved to be another painful one for the Mickley clan. On 13 October 1889, Charlie Mickley, a son of Charles H. Mickley and grandson of the late Captain Charles Mickley, fell ill with diphtheria. He passed away at home in Allentown 10 days later on 23 October. Several other Mickley children were also reported by The Allentown Democrat to be suffering from the disease:

There are a number of cases of diphtheria in this city, and parents should exercise extra care with their children, and guard against the disease, which when once it sets in is one of the stubbornest known of. Some ten days ago Charlie, a ten year old son of Mr. Charles Mickley, residing on Union street, near Church, was taken with the malady, and on Wednesday, the case proved fatal. Several other children of the family have since also been taken with the disease. The loss of the one, and sickness of the others, is a weight of sorrow sufficient almost to crush the stoutest heart.

* Note: By the mid-1800s, diphtheria had become a worldwide scourge for the powerful and poor alike; its diagnosis sparked fear well into the 20th century. Queen Victoria’s daughter, Princess Alice and her daughter, Princess Marie of Hesse and by Rhine, died from the disease in 1873, as did Eleanor Roosevelt’s mother and brother in 1878. Tennessee Williams battled the disease as a child, but survived to become one of the world’s greatest playwrights.

The various treatments tried over the years for diphtheria were largely ineffective – even after the bacterial cause was identified in 1883. Spread easily and quickly from one person to the next – because each person remained in the infectious state for up to three weeks and could transmit the disease through infected respiration or by touch – families and neighbors were understandably worried at the first sign of a sore throat, fever or loss of appetite. As the disease progressed and the bacteria inside the infected individuals began to secrete their notoriously toxic waste, parents and siblings could only watch in terrified horror as gray membranes formed over their loved ones’ airways (nose, tonsils, larynx, pharynx (and then in resignation as nerves grew inflamed, breathing became increasingly labored and hearts, kidneys, livers and other critical systems began to fail). Paralysis also often ensued.

So, when The Allentown Democrat provided this devastating update on 30 October 1889 regarding the Mickley family’s misfortune, their neighbors and friends were grief stricken, but not entirely surprised:

That dreadful disease, diphtheria, has been destroying with fearful rapidity the family of Mr. and Mrs. Charles Mickley, residing on Union street, near Church. Today two weeks ago, Charles, a 10 year old son, was carried off by the malady. All of the other children were then ill with the disease, and last week three of them followed the departed little brother from earth to heaven. Another child is still very ill, but it is to be hoped it will be spared to the grief-stricken parents. We are sure that none can read this announcement without a pang of sorrow and a response of heartfelt sympathy. The sorrowing parents are broken in spirit and bowed in unutterable anguish. It may indeed be said of them that their cup of sorrow is filled to overflowing, the bitter pangs of which are only known to those who have had loved ones wrested from them so near together – an affliction which fortunately few families are called upon to endure, Being poor, and the funeral expenses heavy, a subscription list circulated on Saturday for the relief of the family resulted in the gathering of $112 for them.

When it was all over, only one of their six children would remain – John Scott Mickley, who would go on to become a letter carrier for the U.S. Postal Service, marry and live to experience more than half of the 20th century. Three of John’s siblings who passed on were Charlie Mickley, the first to die on 13 October, and Robert Winfield and Cora Eliza Mickley, both of whom died 22 October 1889.

By 1893, John’s uncle – William D. Mickley (one of the brothers of Charles H. Mickley and son of the late Captain Charles Mickley) – was appointed Allentown’s Chief of Police. Thirteen members of the Allentown Police Department reported to him.

That same year, William D. Mickley was also Captain of Company D in the Pennsylvania National Guard’s 4th Regiment. In 1901, The Allentown Leader reported his reelection as an officer:

The field, staff and line officers of the Fourth Regiment, N.G.P., met in the Auditorium at Reading for the purpose of electing a major to succeed William D. Mickley of Allentown, whose five-year term expired. Major Mickley was unanimously elected for another five years.

The major’s father fell in the Rebellion and he was captain of Co. D, N.G.P., Allentown, three terms.

Col. C. T. O’Neill presided, and Adjutant F.D. Beary was the secretary….

By 1910, William D. Mickley had left the military, and was engaged in operating a lodging house. One of those renting a room from him, Alice Painter, would ultimately become his wife. Born sometime around 1856, she was widowed as of 1910 and employed at a local shoe factory. She later preceded him in death.

Allentown Central Fire-Police Department heaquarters, c. 1900 (public domain).

Allentown Central Fire-Police heaquarters, c. 1900 (public domain).

The next year, William’s brother, Charles Henry Mickley, passed away. His obituary in the 19 January 1911 edition of The Allentown Leader provided the following details:

Charles H. Mickley, the second oldest paid member of the Allentown Fire Department, died at 10:40 o’clock this morning at his home, No. 612 Walnut Street, aged 58 years and 3 months. He had been suffering for the past 17 years with asthma and some time ago his condition became complicated with heart trouble and dropsy.

The deceased was a native of Huntingdon and was a son of Capt. Charles and the late Eliza Heimbach Mickley. His father who was commander of Co. G, 47th Regiment, Penn’a Vols., was killed in the battle at Pocotaligo Oct. 22, 1862.

Mr. Mickley was an iron founder and was employed at the Barber foundry and at the foundry of Col. H. H. Fisher for some years. He became a driver for the America Chemical Engine Co. 21 years ago and he filled that position acceptably up to the time of his death. He served as a private in Co. D, Fourth Regiment, N.G.P. [National Guard of Pennsylvania], under Capt. A. J. Nagle, and assisted in suppressing the Reading riots in 1877. The deceased is survived by his wife Sarah, nee Bohlen; one son, John Mickley; a sister, Mrs. James B. Hammersly; and two brothers, Col. Wm. D. Mickley and Thomas F. Mickley of Allentown. He was a member off [sic] Jas. Allen Council No. 835, O.I.A.

The funeral will be held on Monday afternoon, with services at the house and burial in West End Cemetery.

In January 1915, William D. Mickley suffered a fainting spell while on his way to the grocery store, and was injured in a severe fall. The Allentown Democrat reported the news as follows:

Major William D. Mickley suffered with a severe fall in front of his home, 120 South Sixth St., Monday.

He was on his way to get some milk across the way and when he reached the curb he was overcome with a fainting spell. He fell, striking his forehead on the curb, and suffered a gash in his forehead. Dr. Clarence Swartz was called. The major was carried to his room. Several stitches were required and the major was resting well last evening. Several months ago the major suffered a similar fainting spell but was in his home at the time.

On 31 August 1920, Sarah Ann (Mickley) Hamersly, the eldest surviving child of Captain Charles Mickley and his widow, Eliza (Heimbach) Mickley, succumbed to the cancer which had ravaged her liver and duodenum. A widow, she passed away in Allentown’s 10th Ward, and was interred on 3 September at the Mickley family’s traditional place of rest – Allentown’s Union-West End Cemetery. Her daughter, Juliet (Hamersly) Lewis was the informant on her death certificate. The Wonderly funeral home handled her arrangements as it would do for other members of the Mickley family.

Sometime around this time, Eliza’s son, William D. Mickley, developed epilepsy, a condition which would challenge him for the remainder of his days.

In 1921, William’s sister-in-law, Sarah A. L. (Bohlen) Mickley – the widow of Charles H. Mickley, died from heart and kidney disease in Allentown on 21 January. She was laid to rest at the Union-West End Cemetery on 29 January. The Wonderly funeral home handled her arrangements.

On 1 February 1931, Thomas Franklin Mickley, still unmarried, died from kidney disease at the Sacred Heart Hospital in Allentown, Lehigh County, Pennsylvania. He was interred at the Union-West End Cemetery on 4 February. His brother William D. Mickley was the informant shown on his death certificate; his prior occupation was listed as “Yeoman.”

Just over a year later, on 31 March 1932, William Deshler Mickley passed away in Allentown from chronic myocarditis. Epilepsy was also listed on his death certificate as a contributing factor. His son, John S. Mickley, was the informant of record on that certificate. His obituary in the 31 March 1932 edition of the Harrisburg Telegraph made no mention of his late parents or siblings, but did describe his former military service as follows:

Colonel William D. Mickley, 83, retired, today followed his former commander in death. He died at his home here [Allentown] today, five days after attending the funeral of General Christopher T. O’Neill.

Although retired in 1904 with the rank of Colonel, Mickley seldom used that title and was more widely known as Major, the rank he held during his service with the Pennsylvania National Guard during the Spanish American War. After the war he assisted in the reorganization of the guard.

He served as chief of police here from 1893 to 1896 and was a pioneer volunteer fireman.

Liberty Bell Line, 8th and Hamilton, Lehigh Valley Transit Co., Allentown (c. 1938, public domain)

Liberty Bell Line, Lehigh Valley Transit Co., 8th and Hamilton, Allentown, c. 1938, public domain.

William D. Mickley broke with the family’s burial tradition and was, instead, interred at the Greenwood Mausoleum on 2 April 1932; however, a member of the Wonderly funeral home did still handle his arrangements.

A quarter of a century later, after surviving a diphtheria epidemic, witnessing the industrialization of his nation and suffering for more than a decade from heart disease, John Scott Mickley, the only surviving son of Sarah (Bohlen) Mickley and Charles Henry Mickley – and the grandson of Captain Charles Mickley – passed away in Allentown on 2 April 1957. Like his ancestors before him, he was laid to rest at Allentown’s Union-West End Cemetery.

 

Sources:

1. Bates, Samuel P. History of Pennsylvania Volunteers, 1861-5. Harrisburg, 1869.

2. Baptismal, Marriage, Death and Burial Records of the Mickley Family, in Historic Pennsylvania Church and Town Records. Philadelphia: Historical Society of Pennsylvania.

3. Civil War Muster Rolls, in Records of the Department of Military and Veterans’ Affairs (Record Group 19, Series 19.11). Harrisburg: Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission.

4. Civil War Veterans Card File. Harrisburg: Pennsylvania State Archives.

5. Col. W. D. Mickley Dies in Allentown, in Harrisburg Telegraph. Harrisburg: 31 March 1932.

6. Death Certificates of the Mickley Family. Harrisburg: Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Bureau of Health, Department of Vital Statistics.

7. Death from Diphtheria (Charlie Mickley) and Four Deaths in One Family from Diphtheria, in The Allentown Democrat. Allentown: 23 October 1889 and 30 October 1889.

8. Death of Charles H. Mickley: Veteran Driver of America Chemical Co. Passes Away, in The Allentown Leader. Allentown: 19 January 1911.

9. Der Lecha Patriot. Allentown: Various Dates:

  • Un Die Bauern!, in Der Lecha Patriot. Allentown: 11 March 1857.
  • Gesellschafts – Nachricht, in Der Lecha Patriot. Allentown: 31 March 1858.
  • Gesellschafts – Unflösung, in Der Lecha Patriot. Allentown: 7 April 1858.

10. Last Will & Testament of Charles Mickley dec, in Probate Records. Lehigh County: Register of Wills, 14 November 1862.

11. Lesley, J. P. The Iron Manufacturer’s Guide to the Furnaces, Forges and Rolling Mills of the United States with Discussions of Iron as a Chemical Element, an American Ore, and a Manufactured Article, in Commerce and in History. New York: John Wiley, Publisher, 1859.

12. Mickley, Minnie F. The Genealogy of the Mickley Family in America Together with a Brief Genealogical Record of the Michelet Family of Metz, and Some Interesting and Valuable Correspondence, Biographical Sketches, Obituaries and Historical Memorabilia. Newark: Advertiser Printing House, 1893.

13. Roberts, Charles Rhoads and Rev. John Baer Stoudt, et. al. History of Lehigh County Pennsylvania and a Genealogical and Biographical Record of Its Families, Vol. III. Allentown: Lehigh Valley Publishing Company, 1914.

14. Schmidt, Lewis. A Civil War History of the 47th Regiment of Pennsylvania Veteran Volunteers. Allentown: Self-published, 1986.

15. U.S. Census. Washington, D.C. and Pennsylvania: 1850, 1860, 1870, 1880, 1900, 1910, 1920 1930.

16. William D. Mickley, in He’s Still a Major: Mickley of Allentown Reelected by Fourth Regiment Officers, in The Allentown Leader. Allentown: 20 June 1901.

17. William D. Mickley, in Major Mickley Hurt in Fall, in The Allentown Democrat. Allentown: 20 January 1915.

18. William D. Mickley, in National Guard: Recent Commissions That Have Been Issued from Headquarters, in Daily Telegraph. Harrisburg: 1 August 1884.

19. William D. Mickley, in State Revenue from Lehigh County (Auditor General’s 1892 report recap), in The Allentown Democrat. Allentown: 29 March 1893.

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