History of the Colonel Jos. H. Wilson Post No. 496 G.A.R.
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Organized March 23, 1883, when John Weigle, E. C. Green, Henry Beltz, F. G. Kline, W. A. Prebble, Ernest Weyman, Noah Ziegler, C. E. Brown, Elias R. Boyer, Frank Lambert, George Bishop and Dr. Adam Weiser signed their names as applicants for a charter. The meeting was presided over by E. C. Green, with John Weigle, secretary.
GAR Posts could sponsor Sons of Veterans Camps and such was the case with Wilson Post GAR. Major Louis C. Brinton Camp, No. 221, Sons of Veterans, was mustered in Oct 1888 at Zelienople. John F. Knepp, captain; Cyrus Ruby and George Kradel, lieutenants; John W. Phillips, J. W. Ruby and W. H. Cunningham, council. Members of the advisory council from the Wilson Post GAR were John Dindinger, J. D. Marshall, Cyrus Harper, George W. Phillips and Phillip Kradel.
The G.A.R. Hall is believed to have been located on Main Street next to Zelie Park. This building was formerly used for the Connoquenessing Academy, a Lutheran Synodical Academy that was formed under the leadership of Rev. William Alfred Passavant. Rev. G. Bassler ran the school. This Academy was one of the founding schools which would later become Thiel College in Greenville, Mercer Co., PA. Further research needs to be made regarding Connoquenessing Academy and other uses for the building.
Butler Citizen (Butler, PA), May 21, 1884
Butler Citizen (Butler, PA), June 24, 1887
Butler Citizen (Butler, PA), September 6, 1894
Butler Citizen (Butler, PA), May 16, 1895
Butler Citizen (Butler, PA), June 6, 1895
Decoration Day at Zelienople and Harmony.
Wilson Post, G.A.R. No. 496, Commander Dobson, met at Burry's Church at 10 o'clock a.m. on Decoration Day, and was addressed in some appropriate remarks by Rev. J. P. Slonaker and also by Rev. ---------- of Burry's Church. After decorating the graves of soldiers, the Post returned to Zelienople and took dinner there.
The Post reassembled at 2 p.m., veterans in carriages, and proceeded to the Minist [Harmonist] Cemetery northwest of Harmony.
After prayer by Chaplain John Weigel, and appropriate music by home talent, the graves of soldiers buried there were decorated. Hon. M. L. Lockwood then delivered an address to the veterans.
The procession then reformed and went to the Zelienople Cemetery where, after the usual ceremonies and decorating the graves, Col. [Archibald] Blakley delivered the oration of the day, in which he gave a history of the causes leading up to the war of the rebellion, touched upon the sacrifices of the gallant men who went forth to maintain the integrity of the Union, separated from wife and children, reference to which brought tears to the eyes of many of the battle scarred veterans. We regret that we are unable to give the masterly address of the Colonel in full.
Following is the eloquent, able and instructive address of Hon. M. L. Lockwood delivered at the Harmony cemetery:
Veterans, Ladies and Gentlemen: We have assembled here to day for a purpose, the most touching. It thrills the heart and brings up memories so sad and sacred that it seems as though this silent tribute to the brave manly forms that slumber here, this tribute of flowers from loving hands is the most appropriate, the most fitting. Cover them over, with beautiful flowers, cover them over these dead heroes of ours.
The human language is inadequate with which to honor those who lie buried here. The eulogium of their lives, their deaths, their consecration of our common country outspeaks the human tongue. But emblazoned upon the American heart, and especially the hearts of the rising generation, is an admiration so high, a respect so absorbing, an honor so deep, that they feel like standing in silence and with uncovered heads in the presence of the Grand Army of the Republic, both living and dead.
The Grand Army of the Republic! What hallowed memories cluster around that organization! We who stand outside its portals can but feel the impress of its presence and pay it grateful tribute. Founded upon principles so broad dedicated to the maintainance of the "Union the whole Union and nothing but the Union." Anchored and grounded in patriotic impulses, devoted to the noble purposes for which it was created, it has refused to be used as an instrument in the hands of the demagogue or politician, but stands today as it did in the beginning, the representative of that grand body of men who devoted all that God had created of them to the re-establishment of the Union of the States; the representative of those strong arms and brave hearts who carried the flag — the starry banner — the Old Glory of the Republic, carried it where the foe and the fight were the thickest, carried it with McClellan, at Yorktown and Williamsburg, at Seven Pines, and White Oaks, aye and amid the shot and shell of South Mountain and Antietam, carried it with Burnside and Hooker, at Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville. — Carried it with Meade and Reynolds and Sickles and Hancock on the stubborn fought field at Gettysburg. Carried it with Sherman and Sheridan every where. Carried it with Grant at Vicksburg. The Wilderness, yes and at Appomattox. Ever onward, ever upward, carried it on to Victory, until today it floats over a reunited people. The grandest nation on God's foot-stool. A seventy million brother-hood. Before the achievements of that army and these men, we bow with humble admiration.
Veterans, the past is secure. The record of your brave deeds is recorded in the annals of your country's history, and enshrined in the hearts of your countrymen. The past is secure. But what of the future? Your sacrifices in the service of your country wiped from the escutcheon of the Republic, the dark stain of human slavery and buried in the grave of dishonor the false doctrine, the right of secession. But what of the future? Today the rumblings of discontent from a loyal and patient people are heard upon every hand. The iron heel of oppression is felt in the homes of the common people. Oppression — not of the Government, but of a power that has grown up inside of the Government — A power that has grown so great that it over-shadows the courts, aye and the Government itself. Its agents, lobbyists, and corruptionists are everywhere. They control the majority of our Legislative bodies all over the land. By bribery, coercion and force they secure the election of United States Senators of their choice. They drive from public life the representatives of the people whom they cannot coerce or control. When their majorities in Legislative bodies are endangered they secretly manipulate the nomination and election of men whom they can control and who will do their bidding. They have educated and created a state of morals in public life that looks with contempt, compassion and pity upon that man who is too honest to become rich at their hands. This power — My fellow citizens, is undermining the stability of the Republic and destroying the confidence of the people in the justice of our time. It is in substance, the same power that has pulled down and destroyed every Republic of ancient times. They are creating anarchy upon the one hand and millionaires upon the other. This power, this enemy of the republic, is corporate and concentrated capital in the highways of the country. Six thousand millions of this capital is represented by the railways of the Republic. More millions are represented by the sugar trust, the whiskey trust, the white lead trust, wall paper trust, the Standard Oil trust, the coal combines and a hundred other trusts that now control every one of the necessities and products of the people and thereby force from the masses an illegal and unjust tribute. The railways, the common highways of the people, are being used in the interest and for the purpose of creating and maintaining monopoly. They are destroying the principle of equality upon which the fabric of our government rests. That man who is not in the combine and who attempts to do business in the line of any of these trusts is crushed under the iron heel of the railway discriminations, and still they wonder why it is that there is discontent in the land. It was but a few days ago that American citizens of Chicago organized a riotous opposition against certain corporate regulations, an opposition which the State of Illinois was unable or unwilling to suppress and the United States Regulars were called upon to force these citizens back into submission. It was but as yesterday that the whole military force of the great State of New York was brought to bear to coerce certain American citizens of Brooklyn who were protesting against corporate regulations which they deemed unjust and unfair. It was but as today that certain American citizens of New Orleans were forced back into silence and submission by military force. Now my fellow citizens all of these riotous proceedings are unwise. They are but a blind unreasoning protest against the growing evil of our times, and I speak of them to show you the deep sense of wrong that begins to prevail in the hearts of American citizens and I tell you that the living burning question of our day and generation is whether the Republic can survive with these highways in the hands of corporations who are using them in the interest and for the enrichment of the few and thereby for the oppression and subjection of the masses. The great Civil and Legislative battle of the future will be for the purpose of forcing the railways to become again the common highways of the people. Highways upon which the products of every mans toil will go to market upon equal terms. This great battle of the future must be fought by men prompted only by patriotic impulses, men who must sacrifice their personal and pecuniary interests for the public welfare; fought too against all the combined corporate capital of the railways and trusts of the Republic. A capital compared with which the few millions which they are now using annually for corrupt political purposes is but a drop in the bucket. Fought against a corruption fund in the hands of lobbyists and politicians who are masters of their professions and who will stop at nothing in order to destroy and crush the champions of the people. Fought too against all the cunning which avarice and greed can devise and employ. But it will be fought - just as sure as that our fore-fathers, controlled by patriotic impulses, delivered us from the greed of Great Britain and created for us this Republic based upon the doctrine that all men are created equal and just as sure as that our fathers and our mothers controlled by patriotic impulses declare that the Republic should live and should not be destroyed. Just so sure will this generation controlled by patriotic impulses declare that the highways of commerce shall be open and equal to all and that every man shall have an equal show in the contest for bread. My fellow citizens, there is not a monopoly on earth dealing in handling the products and necessities of the people that has not been created and maintained by railway discriminations. Your letter goes to its destination with the same speed, precision and at the same rate as the letter of a Vanderbilt. When your freight, the product of your toil goes to market in the same way, then trusts and monopolies will wither and go down before the intelligent, energetic and healthy competition of the many. This is a consummation devoutly to be wished. The rumblings of discontent will then give way to joyful satisfaction and the Republic for which you fought will then go on prospering and to prosper. Liberty enlightening the world forever! Let us then —my fellow citizens, standing here above these honored dead — most highly resolve to devote all that God has created in us to the maintenance of those principles of equality for which they fought and upon which our Government is founded. And now my fellow citizens in conclusion and on behalf of the members of the Grand Army assembled here we thank you for your presence here today and for you — Veterans — defenders of the Union — we ask God's choicest blessings.
Note - Honorable M. L. Lockwood, Oil Magnate, living in Zelienople, PA in the late 1800’s, was President of the American Anti-Trust League.
Two cannons were located at Zelie Park. At least one of these cannons and associated cannon ball stack was granted to the Wilson Post in 1896. Records of the 54th Congress show that the House Naval Affairs Committee presented House Bill 7215 and on April 14, 1896 granted a condemned cannon and cannon balls to be issued to the Joseph H. Wilson Post.
It is believed that the two cannons were melted down for the war effort during WW II.
Butler Citizen (Butler, PA), May 24, 1900
Post Officers for the Department of Pennsylvania, J. H. Wilson Post No. 496
P.C. = Post Commander * = Present at Encampment
S.V.C = Senior Vice-Commander J.V.C. = Junior Vice Commander
1899 - 33rd Annual Encampment, Philadelphia. John Weigle P.C., Detmar P. Boggs. District # 50, Butler Co., PA Assistant Inspector Nelson Keefer.
Butler Citizen (Butler, PA), September 7, 1899
1900 - 34th Annual Encampment, Gettysburg. Detmar P. Boggs P.C., John Dindinger, John Weigle.
1901 - 35th Annual Encampment. John Dindinger P.C., Cyrus Harper, John Weigle.
1902 - 36th Annual Encampment, Gettysburg. *John Dindinger P.C., *John Weigle, D.M. Ziegler. District # 50, Butler Co., PA Assistant Inspector Cyrus Harper.
1903 - 37th Annual Encampment, Allentown. John Dindinger P.C., John Weigel, D.M. Zeigler. District # 50, Butler Co., PA Assistant Inspector Cyrus Harper.
1905 - 39th Annual Encampment, Reading. John Dindinger P.C., John Weigel, D.M. Zeigler.
1907 - 41st Annual Encampment, Easton. *John Dindinger P.C., John Weigel. District # 50, Butler Co., PA Assistant Inspector Detmar P. Boggs.
1908 - 42nd Annual Encampment, Erie. John Dindinger P.C., *John Weigle, D.M. Zeigler. District # 50, Butler Co., PA Assistant Inspector John Dindinger.
1910 - 44th Annual Encampment, Harrisburg. John Dindinger P.C., John Weigle, D.M. Zeigler.
1913 - 47th Annual Encampment, Gettysburg. Cyrus Harper P.C., George Rhinefellow. District # 50, Butler Co., PA Assistant Inspector John Dindinger.
1918 – Records show Cyrus Harper as Post Commander, 7 members and meetings were held once a year on Memorial Day.
1921 - 55th Annual Encampment, Allentown. P.V. Harper P.C., Frank Stiver S.V.C., Elias Keefers J.V.C., William Behm, W.S. McCormac.
According to regulations, G.A.R. Posts generally remained open until the death of it's last surviving member. In this case, the Wilson Post ceased to exist after the death of William F. Behm on June 18, 1932 in Zelienople. It is not known what happened to the official records of the Post.