Rich Pawling plays "Taps" beside the grave of William Henry Christman of Tobyhanna Township, the first soldier buried at Arlington National Cemetery. Pawling, a Civil War reenactor from Sinking Spring, Pa., was part of the “Taps 150” celebration at the cemetery on May 19, 2012.
More than 200 buglers distributed themselves throughout the cemetery, paying tribute on the 150th anniversary of its writing.
THE WILLIAM HENRY CHRISTMAN STORY
with Kim de Bourbon, contributing editor
William Henry Christman of Pocono Lake, Tobyhanna Township, in Monroe County, Pennsylvania, was the first soldier buried at the new Arlington National Cemetery, on May 13, 1864.
This story is not complete without the details of the entire Christman family, for William was fully devoted to his family’s support, and through his writings his love of family is understood. Although this story initially is a focus on William, the subsequent record of his family provides for greater appreciation of the Christman history.
Christman Family Early Years
William Henry Christman was born October 1, 1844 in the Lower Macungie area of Lehigh County, Pennsylvania, to his parents Jonas and Mary Anna (Albeit) Christman. He was christened on January 9, 1845 in Goshenhoppen, Pa. (today’s Bally).
He and his family are recorded in the 1850 Jackson Township census (right, last four lines), showing William at age 6.
The family again moved north, to the Pocono Mountain Plateau some time before the census of 1860. Shown on that census, the Christman family is recorded as residents of Tobyhanna Township, Monroe County. William is recorded to be age 16, and the family is listed to be in the postal area of the Stoddartsville Post Office. Jonas, father of William, is recorded as a laborer in this census. It is not known if the family lived in the Stoddartsville area or their eventual home in Pocono Lake. With post offices of residents being listed in the census, only one post office – Stoddartsville – existed in the township at that time.
The Christman Family was showing on the census with three sons and four daughters. Barnabus (18), William (16), Ann Maria (11), Emeline (10), Mary (8), Timothy (4) and Sophia (1). And then in 1863 Jonas and Mary had a fourth son, John.
The community was young and still evolving, with the small population struggling for their new lives together. A primary industry for the mountainous area of the Pocono Plateau was logging, lumbering and wood products. As the land was cleared, the fast-growing farming industry became lucrative. Jonas Christman was known to support his family as a wagon driver for successful farmer Frederick Miller.
Then the Civil War changed life forever. Wars affect brothers, sisters, mothers and fathers. The Christman family of the Civil War era is a prime example. Barnabus Christman, the older brother of William, was killed in action in a fierce battle at New Market Cross Roads, Va., on June 30, 1862. He was 20 years of age.
William’s Early Career
As older brother Barnabus went off to war and then died in battle, William assumed the lead for contributing to the subsistence of a large family. By this time his father, Jonas, had a number of physical disabilities which would not allow him to continue work. William sought any opportunity available, and worked for local farmer Hiram Hay and sawyer William Bonser, being paid with food provisions and cash. By the 1860 Census, William at age 16 was listed as a laborer.
According to Timothy Miller, a young area farmer at the time, William worked for him on a regular basis from 1860 to 1864. Miller knew William “all his life.” According to William’s pension records, he also worked on his parents’ lot as a tenant farmer. By the time duty called, William showed he was not afraid of a day’s hard work. As later will be established, this also demonstrated his devotion to the support of his family.
A Second Son To War
During the Civil War the two most frequent locations of military enlistment for residents of Monroe County were the county seat of Stroudsburg (33rd Reg. Pennsylvania Volunteers), and Easton in Lehigh County (67th Reg. Pennsylvania Volunteers). Both were significant infantry units of the Union army.
Although Barnabus decided to volunteer for the 33rd in Stroudsburg, William chose the 67th in Easton for his volunteer enlistment. Reasons of the choice of this location are unknown. Perhaps he felt less safe with the 33rd in which his brother was killed? Was it because there were still Christman family in Lehigh County? As the financial enlistment bounty was significant, being important to William and his family, was it more assured in Easton? Or was it simply because the Easton-Wilkes Barre Turnpike (today’s Route 115) was a much better road in the late Pocono winter?
On March 25, 1864, at the age of 20, William Henry Christman enlisted “.... as a Soldier in the Army of the United States of America for ... Three Years.” Upon enlistment he became a private. Although his Volunteer Enlistment form was completed with his age being 21, his birth, census and other military records correctly show he was age 20 at enlistment.
Christman’s enlistment papers describe him as having gray eyes, sandy hair, and a florid complexion. His height is recorded to be 5 feet, 7½ inches. It was noted at enlistment that he had a scar on the left side of his neck, and three brown moles on his back. He was also listed as being single, with the occupation of laborer.
As the war dragged on, it became increasingly difficult for the states to attract volunteers, so a draft was implemented to supplement the volunteers. However, financial incentives were still an important part of volunteer recruiting. It is noted in William’s records that he was a recipient of a $300 enlistment bounty. Of this, he received a $60 advance bounty with the remaining $240 to be paid in installments.
Christman also received an advanced month’s pay of $13.41. According to pension records and depositions of his parents for application of the pension, William sent his bounty and advance pay home. Further, according to a letter he wrote home on April 13, 1864, an additional $35 was sent. As established later, the purpose of this money in large part was to buy land for a family farm.
Company G, 67th Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers
On July 24, 1861, John F. Staunton of Philadelphia received authority from the Secretary of War to recruit a regiment. A camp was established at Carmac’s woods, near the city.
Camp Carmac Woods became the training camp for the newly formed 67th Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers. It was located at present day North 11th Street and Montgomery Avenue, near Temple University today.
The 67th’s first company was raised from Carbon County, with subsequent companies formed principally from residents of the counties of Monroe, Wayne, Jefferson, Schuylkill, Indiana, Westmoreland, Luzerne, Northampton and Philadelphia. Each company made serious efforts to have its members from the same county.
On April 7, 1864, Pvt. Christman penned a famous letter to his mother and father. Writing from “Camp Cat,” he reported “thad I like it very good we have enuph to eat and drink ant mure we about want for the preasant time.”
William indicates his good spirits by closing with the following postscript:
So pleas excuse my pour riting
For I hapto write on my plait
So I cant write as good as I ate
Read April 7, 1864 Letter Home
The Last Battle
With its 30-day furlough ending in April 1864, the 67th was ordered to Washington, DC. Once there, they received orders to continue by transport to Belle Plain, Va. Located on the Potomac River, it was a main river landing for vessels to transport supplies, troops, and prisoners. Here they spent about a week in duties, and then within a few days received orders to go on to Culpepper County, Virginia, and the thick of the war. This is located southwest of Washington, D.C., and northwest of Fredericksburg.
Read more about Lincoln General Hospital
As health care, sanitary conditions and nutrition were less developed, it is not surprising that more died in the Civil War of illness and disease than of battle injuries. The 67th reflected these conditions. While 79 soldiers lost their lives from battle, 153 lost their lives to disease. Pvt. Christman is of the latter group, for he perished in the hospital on May 11, 1864. The cause of death listed on his Record of Death and Interment was peritonitis (inflammation of the abdomen wall).
Christman fought his own private battle in the hospital for these 11 days in the beginning of May 1864, subject to the medical conditions of the time. Complications were evident as measles were also listed in his pension records as a cause of death. We know that both conditions could be fatal during those years.
Which condition ultimately caused his death? Did one condition weaken him, while the other claimed his life? Did the measles evolve into peritonitis, as serious cases in those times made that possible? As peritonitis was a major problem from stomach and intestine wounds in war hospitals, did he become infected from unsanitary conditions after his admission to the hospital for measles?
Pvt. Christman’s Record of Death and Interment shows that at the time of death he possessed one blouse [shirt], one pair of pants and one hat, which were sent to his father on June 21. Also listed on this record was his age at 20, his conjugal condition as single, and his residence before enlistment as Tobyhanna [Township], Monroe County, Pennsylvania.
At right: A group of men, some Union soldiers, including African Americans, at east front of Arlington House, Robert E. Lee's former home, on June 28, 1864. The home was taken over by Union forces that year, with Maj. Gen. Montgomery C. Meigs appropriating 200 acres of the grounds around the house to become a national cemetery.
As the war’s mortal casualties mounted, logistically convenient cemeteries and available burial locations quickly filled. The decision was then made to create a military cemetery on the grounds surrounding Arlington House. A secondary purpose was, by turning it into a cemetery filled with soldiers of the North, to render the property undesirable to the Lees should they ever attempt to reoccupy the estate.
Before it was even officially designated, on Friday, May 13, 1864, Pvt. William Henry Christman was laid to rest in Arlington Burial Ground, what was soon to become Arlington National Cemetery. The official Arlington Cemetery Register of Burials lists Private William Christman as the first soldier buried at this new cemetery. A month later on June 15, Maj. Gen. Montgomery C. Meigs formally appropriated 200 acres of the grounds surrounding Arlington House for use as a national cemetery.
Much will go unanswered as how Pvt. William Henry Christman became the first military person to be buried in Arlington National Cemetery. Most certainly, as the plan for the new cemetery unfolded, a military order would have been issued for various sources to send the fallen to Arlington for burial. As there had to be a “first,” the lot fell to Pvt. Christman.
Although Pvt. Christman was the first buried on May 13, he was the first of several buried that day.
Also interred that day was Pvt. William H. McKinney, 17th Pennsylvania Cavalry, age 17, being the first to have family present at funeral. Another burial that day was Pvt. William Reeves, 76th New York Infantry, the first draftee to be interred. Among those buried the next day was Pvt. William Blatt, 49th Pennsylvania Infantry, the first battle casualty interred. On Sunday, May 15, the first two Unknown Union Soldiers were interred.
The site for the first burials was selected on the mansion grounds, at a location about a half mile northeast of Arlington House and a few hundred yards from the Potomac River. Records show that the first graves were most likely dug by a former slave of the Lee family, John Parks, according to his family history. Parks himself became an institution of the cemetery as it evolved over the years, digging graves and performing maintenance duties.
Specific records of Pvt. Christman’s burial ceremony do not survive. Records of the second to be buried, William McKinney, noted that he was to “be interred with the usual military honors.” Records for soldiers buried four days later show that a funeral service was conducted by Rev. E.W. Jackson, Chaplain, U.S. Army. Military historians state that the procedure of the day in 1864 would involve an army chaplain and possibly a bugler to sound “Taps.” By 1864, the tradition of “Taps” at military funerals was taking hold.
Pvt. Christman did not take a distinguished military career to his grave. Much is to be said of those who make the “supreme sacrifice” by dying in combat for our country. With Pvt. William Henry Christman, a case might be made that he does not deserve the same level of respect of a fallen hero. Yes, he was the first to be buried in Arlington, but it was an apparent happenstance of a person who never saw battle, and died of disease.
But he did take with him a sincere dedication and patriotism for his country and a responsibility to the cause for freedom. Although he died with less than two months service in a less than glamorous way during the time of war, he represented the embodiment of a true American. One who as a laborer understood his responsibilities as an American, one who had the incentive to improve his fate, one who had respect and love for family and one who loved his country, volunteering to put his life on the line for it. William Henry Christman died for family and country.
For this reason, Pvt. Christman well represents the ideals of all true Americans in being recognized as the first soldier to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
Private Christman Forever Known
Pvt. Christman is widely recognized by Arlington National Cemetery as its first-buried soldier. Much has been written of Christman by the cemetery over the years. Pvt. Christman is featured on tours of the grounds, on the official commemorative map of the cemetery, and on its web site.
As Arlington has grown with more than 300,000 burials to date, some confusion of gravesite identification has occurred. This has been especially true during the times of war, when burials increase significantly on a daily basis. In 2011, a detailed project to document each gravesite through records and photographs was implemented by Company D of the 3rd U.S. Infantry, known as the Old Guard, that is responsible for the cemetery. The project has been entitled “Task Force Christman” in honor of the first soldier buried at Arlington, in the quest to “get to right from the very first.”
Read more about Task Force Christman
As Arlington National Cemetery is the most famous of our cemeteries, it is only natural that William Henry Christman would be famous as its first. Since that distinction, he has been honored thousands of times. Several presidents have referred to Christman in memorial speeches. Thousands of tributes have penned Christman to represent all who have fallen to protect our freedom. He is mentioned in hundreds, if not thousands of books, and when surfing the Internet, he is without question easily referenced.
William and His Family
Jonas and Mary Christman were married May 9, 1841 in Goshenhoppen, and in that decade moved their family north from the Lehigh Valley area in quest of a new life. No doubt Jonas was looking for substantial employment in more virgin areas offering the hope of success. The Pocono Mountains were rich in natural resources, especially the lumbering industry.
In the 1850s the lumbering industry continued to provide jobs to laborers for cutting and transporting of timber. Sawmills further opened the job market, providing rough and finished lumber for the building industry. Then manufacturing of wood products followed, with small factories manufacturing wood shingles, shoe pegs and even clothes pins.
The clearing of the mountain then opened the region to farming, adding employment opportunities for the unskilled. Laborers were needed for these blossoming industries as sparsely populated Tobyhanna Township started to grow into a community. The 1860 census showed 518 residents in the township, and of those, approximately 175 were males between age 12 and 60. It was still a small society.
During the 1850s Jonas Christman was known to support his family as a wagon-driver. But in 1859 he became bedridden with a severe case of chronic rheumatism. His five-week bout had devastating affects, leaving him without use of one of his arms. This did not provide promise for a laborer and wagon-driver. Jonas’ attending physician, Dr. Scheffer, stated, “Jonas never recovered from the attack” of rheumatism.
Jonas testified in pension depositions that due to his illness, in 1859 he could not maintain the mortgage payments on their 89 acres of timberland. It was reported that the property was sold for $125 at foreclosure sale to William Bonser, a local sawyer.
By 1860, Jonas apparently was back driving, but tragedy struck him again, as he fell off a wagon and fractured his right hip. The accident left Jonas with a right leg shorter than his left, by one and one half inches, making walking difficult. According to pension deposition records, Mary stated that Jonas was not able to work from 1860 to 1864.
War Erupts, A Son Volunteers
Before war erupted at Fort Sumter in April 1861, the peacetime army of the United States was remarkably small, with only 16,000 soldiers and sailors. President Lincoln immediately put out the call to the states for volunteers to raise an army. By this time, a great deal of excitement was casting a lure far and wide. Although many residents within Monroe County were of antiwar sentiment, that was experienced more so in the larger towns, such as Stroudsburg. But on the Pocono Plateau, the oldest son of Jonas and Mary heard the call to duty.
Right: Military Record of Private Barnabus F. Christman
Barnabus was a bit taller than William at the same age, standing five feet, nine and one half inches tall. His military record further described him as having brown hair, dark eyes and a light complexion. Before his enlistment, records state his occupation as a farmer. No doubt, to this point, he too was supporting the Christman family in his labors.
He eventually marched to war with his unit into Virginia on October 9, 1861. By December, they found themselves in the far southeast of Virginia, near Langley. As happened to so many recruits, Barnabus was reported as sick. Recovering, over the winter he moved towards Richmond with his unit as the Union Army of the Potomac targeted the capture of Richmond.
As they met the enemy in full battle, losses mounted and the fighting was fierce. On June 30, 1862, at Frazier’s farm in the area of New Market Cross Roads, the regiment was attacked by the Confederate forces with vengeance. As the 4th Regiment was supporting artillery that was protecting a line of retreat, the 11th Alabama attacked, inflicting the loss of 25 killed in action and 51 wounded. Barnabus F. Christman lay on the field of battle, killed in action.
General McCall describes the battle as “one of the fiercest bayonet fights that perhaps ever occurred on this continent. Bayonets were crossed and locked in the struggle; bayonet wounds were freely given and received. I saw skulls crushed by the heavy blow of the butt of the musket, and, in indeed that Greek had met Greek, when the Alabama boys fell upon the sons of Pennsylvania.” The enemy was successfully held in check, and the Reserves retired to Malvern Hill.
Private Barnabus F. Christman fought a valiant fight that was not in vain. The Christman family had sustained a great loss on top of their misfortunes, but this time it was the ultimate sacrifice for country and family.
Despite All, Life Must Continue
When Barnabus Christman left home for the army, it meant the loss of a substantial supporting family member. As happened with families in those times, and as William later demonstrated, this dedication to the support of family was paramount. For this reason, it is suspected that Barnabus, like so many others, sent home at least part of his $13 a month army wages. For a poor family in those days, that amount of money was substantial.
As we know, William was a laborer by age 16 in 1860 and contributed to the support of his family during the Civil War. His mother, Mary, also provided a substantial part of their minimal lifestyle by working hard to support both husband and children. She produced income by working as a midwife and “picking herbs in the woods for the market.” At home, Mary toiled at cultivating crops for the family, repairing fences and taking care of the horses. In essence, she functioned as the head of the household.
We also know that earlier in 1864, before William’s enlistment, Jonas was offered a part-time job carrying the mail. Jacob Stauffer of Tannersville held a large contract carrying the U.S. Mail in Northeastern Pennsylvania, with a stable of 90 horses to perform the contract. His son Isaac Stauffer moved to Houser’s Mill (today known as Pocono Lake), and besides ordaining himself as the “King of the Poconos,” with lumbering, manufacturing and eventually a resort inn operation, he also was involved in the mail contract.
In deposition, Isaac Stauffer stated that he provided Jonas with a job and a team of horses. He described the Christmans as ”poor people always in debt” and that “they were poor as Job’s turkey.” By 1864 the Christmans’ possessions were reported to consist of a buckboard wagon, a few household goods and a cow that William had bought for the family before his enlistment.
The War, the Draft and William’s Decision
By 1864, the military draft was in full swing. In March 1864, the second Federal draft was scheduled. As the military preferred willing volunteers before forced draftees, it delayed the draft by one month in hopes of stimulating recruiting. Those eligible for the draft knew that by volunteering, they would receive a $300 bounty, or signing bonus, with the first month of army pay issued in advance.
In July 1862, the adjutant general of Pennsylvania ordered each county to enroll all persons liable for military service into lists of draft-eligible men. The Monroe County Commissioners appointed Deputy Marshall John N. Stokes, who in turn appointed men in various townships to assist in the enrolling. A now-familiar Tobyhanna Township man was appointed to this duty: Isaac Stauffer.
Although Monroe County as a whole had exceeded its quota of enlistments to this point, the 17 political municipal divisions within the county had to stand on their own. Seven of those had deficiencies for which men had to be drafted, and Tobyhanna Township had to contribute 11 of their men through the draft. Attempts to avoid the draft were somewhat common, and all seven of the municipalities were very rural, providing the opportunity “that draftees could seek the shelter of the native timber and avoid induction into the army.”
No doubt, in the small community of Tobyhanna Township, all the residents depended upon each other. As it was known that Isaac Stauffer provided employment to Jonas Christman before William’s enlistment, and William referred to Stauffer in his letter home after enlistment, Stauffer’s appointed position by the county for the draft process played in William’s decision to enlist. Stauffer would have first-hand knowledge of how many draftees were needed, and the likely selection process.
As a savvy business person and appointed official, Stauffer would know that a draftee would not receive the $300 bounty signing bonus, so alternatives may have been presented to Jonas and William. Also knowing the Christmans as “poor people always in debt” (perhaps to Stauffer himself), it made sense for William to gain the financial edge of enlistment.
With the death in battle of brother Barnabus in 1862, William was the oldest son. Growing into a productive adult, he assumed the responsibility to his family in lieu of his father’s physical ability to provide. Known to have bought a cow for the family, this must have been a significant accomplishment for a family of little means.
The price of available, undeveloped land was relatively inexpensive even for those days, selling for a dollar or less per acre. Primarily, this was because the original ownership had capitalized from it by the cutting of the timber from it, or if still standing, the timber rights were retained by the original owner when the land was sold. But in either case, the land eventually was no longer needed and was sold at reasonable prices to clear the stumps and boulders, and use the rich soil for farming.
Upon William’s enlistment, he seized the opportunity to use his newfound financial resources to take the next step in his life by the purchase of land. With his sending of bounty and advance pay home, William writes to his father,
note from Jacob Stoufer. I want you to take them papers all
out put them in My trunk ant keep them their til I com back.
father I want you to get thad deed for thad land ant get thad
money from Timathy Miller ant pay it on thad land but mind
yo thad you get a good deed”
William’s entire meaning is not entirely clear but to his father. However, it does imply that money was owed to Jacob Stauffer as William is directing his father to pay off a note. It is also apparent that he feels their ownership of land can be concluded by obtaining a clear and valid deed for the land. Perhaps the deed was attached to the referenced note? Whether Timothy Miller was involved in the planned land acquisition is not clear. Perhaps William is just requesting his father to collect his final wages from Miller, for whom William worked before enlistment.
In Pvt. Christman’s April 3 letter, he further demonstrates his concern and love for family as he inquires with apparent concern for his siblings having been ill when he left home for the army.
William quite clearly demonstrates his devotion to his family in his letter. He begins his letter by reporting his well being to alleviate any family concerns, followed by instructions for the financial transactions of the “note” and the acquisition of land. Then he closes by showing his love of sisters and brothers in asking about their health.
Life for Christman Family Turns Positive
Jonas Christman moved twice in the 1840s and 1850s in his attempts to improve his family’s lot in life.
While still being poor, he was first struck down with disabling rheumatism, then the crippling misfortune of a broken hip. But with three sons good support was possible if not for the Civil War. However, bad luck continued with the loss of his oldest son in battle, followed by the death of his second son caused by the rampant spread of diseases in the army.
His third son, Timothy, born in 1856, was not old enough to provide any substantial support through the 1860s. To date, nothing is known of the Christman family from the time of William’s death in May 1864 until 1869. We do know that the parents and family were not eligible for survivor pension benefits under the then-current regulations.
No deed records have been found showing Jonas Christman got “thad deed” with the money William sent home. However, in a deed transaction recorded in 1885 (discussed later), Jonas is showing for the first time having owned a 40-acre tract with house, barn and other improvements. Since the only other deeded property in his name was a tract of 321.91 acres purchased in 1870 which was intact in 1900 without improvements, this 40-acre property is likely to be the land purchased with William’s assistance.
In 1869 Jonas Christman decided to participate in community affairs and was elected to the position of Tobyhanna Township supervisor. The duration of his term is unknown. In deposition, Christman stated that his mail delivery job was a full-time position by 1870. So it appears things were starting to turn positive for Jonas and his family at this point.
Then on April 14, 1870, the sale of a property to Jonas Christman was registered in the deeds of Monroe County. Jonas Christman purchased from Abraham Peters a wooded tract of land containing 321 acres and 91 perches for $40. Although the $40 price tag may seem to be a nominal cost, it came with barter, not uncommon in those days. As part of the deed, Peters retained the rights to the timber, and Jonas had almost one year to cut the timber for Peters.
The deed to Jonas Christman stipulated that he had until April 1, 1871, to clear the land and put the timber in the river Tobyhanna [Tobyhanna Creek] in acceptable saw log form, so it could be transported to market. The deed further stipulated that Christman would be paid a sum of $4 per thousand foot board measure of timber, for the work. Reserved for future harvesting were 94 acres. The deed shows an estimate of 100,000 foot of timber available to be cut.
This tract of land is located very close to Pocono Lake, which was formed by Tobyhanna Creek. The initial purpose of this lake was to establish headwaters to transport timber to market. Although some timber was placed in the lake for sending over the spillway, the more common method was to stack walls of timber along the shore of Tobyhanna Creek below the spillway. When this preparation was complete, the water would then be released from the dam in the early morning hours of 3 to 4 a.m. Enough water force would be built up by 7 a.m. allowing the loggers to topple the logs into the onrushing waters. This great force of water would carry the timber over the miles of the Tobyhanna Creek to the Lehigh River, on to White Haven and eventually to the Delaware River in Easton, providing for transit on that river to Philadelphia.
As Jonas Christman was physically challenged, and his 14-year-old son Timothy was not of full productive strength for logging, he apparently planned to hire local loggers for the project. That labor pool was certainly readily available throughout the region. Because the property remained in his possession beyond the deadline, Jonas must have fulfilled the terms of the contract and the requirements within the deed.
This 322-acre tract of land ownership passed from Jonas to son Timothy, perhaps through Mary. On May 4, 1899 Timothy sold the tract for $15 to himself, Isaac Stauffer (King of the Poconos), Mary Hamill, John Redkey and the Tobyhanna Water Storage and Supply Company. Due to the sale price, it is conceivable that Timothy received shares of stock in the company. By this time Stauffer had many enterprises, with one being involved in the Pocono Lake Ice Company, formed in 1900. With the large ice houses, a capacity for 40,000 tons of storage on Pocono Lake, and a side rail from the new Wilkes-Barre and Eastern Railroad running by the property, the enterprise became significant.
The Judicial Career of Jonas Christman, Esquire
For reasons unknown, but perhaps due to the influence of community leader Isaac Stauffer and Jonas’ short stint as a township supervisor, Jonas Christman made the decision to run for the elected office of justice of the peace for Tobyhanna Township. As shown from records filed with the county, Gov. John Geary certified the successful election of Christman. He was elected to a five-year term, beginning on April 8, 1871.
Christman continued his judicial career until his death. Although he was not elected for a second term in 1877, he was back in judicial office by 1881. Samuel Eschenbach had served a number of terms since 1851 and won election in 1876. But apparently he could not finish his term, and Jonas Christman was appointed to fill out the term by Republican Gov. Henry Hoyt. Christman filled this office from May 3,1881, until the next election in 1882. However, during the period he was not in judicial office, Jonas managed to get himself elected to a new term as Tobyhanna Township supervisor in 1879.
County and state records show Jonas Christman, Esq., winning the election of 1882. He was confirmed to a five-year term by Gov. Hoyt, starting on the first Monday of May 1882. Esquire Christman must have been a popular and successful justice of the peace, for he again won reelection in 1887. Gov. James Beaver confirmed his election as duly recorded, starting his next five-year term on the first Monday of May 1887.
One duty as a justice of the peace is to perform civil marriages. Here is the record of one performed by Henry Christman:
Mr. Richard Gregory to Miss Alice Altemose, both of Long Pond, Pa.
Stroudsburg Times, Thursday, April 17, 1890
Within three months of that wedding, Jonas Christman died while in office, on July 26, 1890, at the age of 74. He is buried at the Pocono Lake Cemetery in Tobyhanna Township, not far from where he worked and lived.
However, through pressure of veteran’s groups, political leaders and concerned citizens, action brought forth a change more than 20 years after the end of the Civil War, allowing Mary Christman the opportunity to apply for mother’s benefits.
See Mary Christman's Declaration for an Original Pension of a Mother
Records show that she was granted a pension based upon her dependence on William for her support, before his enlistment in the army. The pension, granted on April 23, 1885, paid Mary $8 a month until her death in 1902
Although Mary received more than $1,600 total pension during those years, the depositions that she and Jonas provided for that application, now maintained at the National Archives, provides priceless information about their lives.
The Christman Family Home
The historic site survey form from the Pennsylvania Office of Historic Preservation describes and pictures the approximate age of the “house, ca. 1870.” As the timber from 230 acres was harvested in 1870, a case can be made for the readily available building materials for construction. With Jonas seeking office as the justice of the peace, that office carried the responsibility to provide for adequate facility for the public to conduct business with the esquire. Well into the 20th Century, it was quite common for a justice of the peace to host his duties, with a home’s living area doubling as an office.
In the deed from 1885, the house was described as:
A Plank Dwelling House 18 X 30 feet two stories; A Log Barn 24 by 40 feet; a Pig pen 12 by 12 feet. A Lot of Apple and other fruit trees. A well of water near the Dwelling and a Stream of water passes through and the Tobyhanna Creek passes by and the Public Road leading from Tomkinsville [today Pocono Pines] to Stoddartsville passes along by said premises.
2½ story, 3 bay facade, 2 bay side, rectangular, stone foundation, clapboard siding. “Pennsylvania Farmhouse”, gable roof, slate shingles, patterned on facade end chimneys, facade porch and turned columns. 2/2 sash windows, rear porch, turned columns and bracket supports, vertical board enclosure around porch.
Interior: (no entry)
blacksmith shop, 1½ story, gable and entry, gable roof, asphalt shingles, clapboard siding, 2 bay side.
As the legacy of William Henry Christman and the Christman family lives with us today, so does the Christman family home. It today rests primarily as it was originally built, along Route 940 in Tobyhanna Township. It is still used as a family home. It has been reported that the blacksmith shop was destroyed by inclement weather in the last few years. The barn burned several years ago but a significant portion of its stone foundation remains.
Home Ownership Changes
On September 28,1885, the Jonas Christman family home and property of 40 acres was sold at sheriff’s sale by James Fisher, Esq., and high sheriff of Monroe County. But the circumstances do not seem to be typical, as Mary Christman bought the property at that auction for $805. The deed was recorded in Mary’s name two days later on October 1.
Why this occurred is unknown. Did it have something to do with the pension granted to Mary earlier in the year by the U.S. Government, as the surviving, dependent mother of William? As Jonas had been and was until his death the justice of the peace, it is very likely he would have known many people in the legal, law enforcement and government part of the community. Was it a legal maneuver on his part for some reason? Did he and Mary grow apart? Did he owe real estate taxes that he could not pay, but where would Mary have obtained the money for the purchase?
Mary did continue to live in the family home, as proven by the next transaction.
On January 11, 1896, Mary sold the family home for $500. However, again it was within the family. The property was purchased by John F. Christman, her youngest son. It is very apparent that an arrangement had been made to “help mother-help son.” Terms within the deed state that, “John Christman ... agrees to with the Said Mary A. Christman ... to properly ... maintain and keep on the said premises the said Mary A. Christman and to furnish medical attention in case of sickness and to pay the funeral expenses of said Mary A. Christman at her death.”
As Mary was now 71 years old and in the twilight of her life, another son was now seeing to her care. The deed further reinforces the arrangements, for John Christman and his heirs are subject to the “proper maintenance and keeping of the said Mary A. Christman on the said premises and the payment of all medical attendance necessary, and funeral expenses.” Mary was not to want for comfort or care in her remaining years.
Sophia Christman, 1859-1875 – Stoddartsville Cemetery
The Christmans’ Final Story
Of William’s siblings, nothing to date has been found of Anna Maria (b. 1849), Emeline (b. 1850) and Mary Catharina (b. 1852). Other than the sale of the family home and property in 1896, his promise of care to his mother, and the purchase of a land tract from Timothy on May 4, 1900, nothing further is known of John F.
The third son, Timothy (b. April, 1856) most likely remained part of the family and was a supporter until he married Elizabeth Henry (b. 1860) in 1881. They had six children. The youngest, Leroy Francis, was born in March 1900, just a year before Timothy’s death. Deed records show that Timothy acquired land in the immediate vicinity of the original family property in 1879, and later along the old Sullivan Road intersecting with the proposed new road to replace it (Route 940).
Timothy died on March 20, 1901 at the age of 45, and is buried at Pocono Lake Cemetery next to his father. His wife, Elizabeth, later remarried to James Singer.
Sophia, born on June 16, 1859, also had a shortened life. She died at the age of 16 years on October 23, 1875. The cause and circumstances are unknown. Also not known is why she is buried in Stoddartsville Cemetery, which is a considerable distance, and not Pocono Lake Cemetery, which is exceptionally close to the family home. She was buried with the Christman surname.
The pension records for Mary show that she died in 1902 at the age of 77. Her exact date of death and burial location are not known. During Mary’s life she gave birth to eight children and outlived at least four of them, having lost three of her four sons. She survived her husband Jonas by 12 years. There is little doubt about the strength of Mary, having to provide for the children during the poverty years while Jonas could do little work. Through all of that, living to the age of 77 demonstrates the fortitude of Mary Anna Christman.
The William Henry Christman Legacy
Neither Barnabus nor William lived to marry and raise children. Leroy Francis Christman, son of Timothy and Eliza, had a son named Elwood, and Elwood had a daughter named Barbara Christman Page.
Barbara lives within our area today, being the great-great granddaughter of Jonas and Mary Christman, the great-granddaughter of Timothy Christman, and the great-great grandniece of William and Barnabus Christman.
The direct line of the Christman family lives on even further, with Barbara having her own children and grandchildren whom will carry on the Christman legacy. Also in the direct line of the family is Charles Kerchner, Jr., of Emmaus, Pa., a third cousin, three steps removed, of William Henry Christman.
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William Henry Christman's grave, front and center.
The first of many to be honored with a resting place at Arlington National Cemetery
(September 29, 2011 – Bud Fakoury, US Navy, Retired)