Happy birthday to…

Today is also the 171st birthday of a Civil War hero, John Calvin Pisel. It seems important to spotlight a family member who was born on the same day as our first president, and gave his life defending his country’s principles. Just to put it in context: the granddaughter of John’s sister Susannah married a Collins, so this would be Mike’s great-great-great uncle (if I’m doing the math correctly!).

John was born on February 22nd, 1841 in Pennsylvania, the son of Peter Pisel and Elizabeth Wahley. It’s likely he was named for the famous Protestant Reformationist. It appears the Pisels had been in PA for a long time; there is a Peter Pisel living in Monaghan, PA on the very first US census taken in 1790, and others’ family research suggests they are linked to a man who founded a religious community back in the 1730’s near Lancaster, PA.

John’s father moved his family westward sometime before John’s 11th birthday, settling on a farm in Linn County, Iowa. Within a decade the country found itself embroiled in a civil war, and in 1863 a young, newly married John signed up.

From the Iowa Civil War Draft Registration Records, dated June & July 1863, courtesy of Ancestry.com

From what records I have found, he was not actually mustered until almost one year later – March 1864 – when he joined the 13th regiment of the Iowa Infantry, Company A. In just five short months, he saw action in at least an astounding 23 days of battle, mostly in and near Atlanta. His company was there for Sherman’s “March To The Sea” and the burning of Atlanta, famously documented in Gone With The Wind. Sadly, on August 20, 1864, John was injured in his left side and died the next day of his wounds. He was just 23 years old.

He is buried in the Marietta National Cemetery in Marietta, Georgia. I don’t know anything about the young bride he left behind, except that the draft record above states he is married, and a Sarah J. Pisel applied for widow benefits.


Happy birthday to…

Henry Feierstein (117 years old today!)

Henry Earl Smith (134 years old today!)

Charles August Gest (141 years old today!)

Who are these guys and why should I care about them?

Henry Feierstein is related to my in-laws’ side of the family tree, and I admit I don’t have a lot of information about him. He was a lifelong farmer in the Town of Belgium, born on the homestead in tiny Lake Church, WI, and it appears that both he and his sister Frances never married or moved from the family farm. The homestead is now part of the state park system at Harrington Beach along Lake Michigan.

But the Feierstein family history is quite an interesting one, including Henry’s cousin who was both a state assemblyman and a roadhouse proprietor raided for liquor law violations, and his grandfather who was imprisoned at Camp Randall during the Civil War for protesting the draft… a tale I will save for another day.

Henry Smith is from another branch of the in-laws’ family tree, and admittedly a rather distant cousin at that. So there’s not much to say about him, except that apparently his dad’s name was Orice Hoadley Smith, which is as awesome a name as any I’ve heard before.

Charles Gest is the husband of Amelia Strege, and therefore the brother-in-law of the Albert Strege I wrote about in my last post. He and Amelia lived in the Watertown area for most of their lives, and had at least six children.