Biographical Sketches of Leading Citizens
Lawrence County Pennsylvania 1897


[p. 637] associate judge of New Castle, possesses an excellent record, rarely bettered in all its particulars, as a patriotic, law-abiding, and loyal citizen, as a gallant and courageous soldier on the field of battle in defense of his country, and as a judge on the bench. He was born in Wilkins township, Allegheny Co., Pa., Dec. 10, 1838, and is a son of John and Lucy Ann (McIntyre) Sheaffer, and grandson of John Sheaffer.

Our subject's grandfather was an early resident of Cumberland Co., Pa., and sheriff of Carlisle, Pa., where in early life he was engaged in the mercantile business, also doing considerable teaming. He served in the War of 1812, and lived to be upwards of eighty years of age, as did his wife also. The children born to them were: Mrs. Kimball; Rodolf; John; and Jacob.

Late in life John Sheaffer, our subject's father, moved to Wilkins, Allegheny Co., Pa., and began dealing in lime. Subsequently he bought a farm and hotel on the Pittsburg and Greenburg turnpike, the hotel known as the Sheaffer House, where he lived until the Angel of Death summoned him to his long home, May 25, 1894. His birth took place in 1805, so that he nearly completed ninety years. His wife, who was born in the same year as he, is living with her daughter, Mrs. Dowd, in Penn township. She often tells of the hardships and trials of the early days, when she was a child, during the troubles on the border with the Indians; on one occasion she was taken in her mother's arms to the block-house near Freeport, where, with other fugitives, they were obliged to remain until the blood-thirsty redskins had retired from the war-path, and were ready to smoke the pipe of peace with their white brothers. At this writing she is enjoying her second eye-sight, can hear well, and is able to help about the house by performing many necessary though light duties. She has always been a great worker in religious circles, and is now a faithful member of the Presbyterian Church; her knowledge of the Scripture is nothing short of wonderful, and it is not going beyond the bounds of veracity to affirm that there is no portion of the Good Book with which she is not familiar. She has reared the following eleven children: Caroline, who married J. Knox; Margaret is deceased; William is a resident of Pittsburg; Mary married S. Dhlem; John is the subject of this brief article; Harry is deceased; as is Elizabeth, Jerry, and James E.; Lenora married J. Collins; Harriet is deceased. Our subject's father was a Whig and later a Republican, and as an active politician held many of the town offices. He was a leading member of the Presbyterian Church.

John Sheaffer assisted his father in the farm work and in the duties attendant upon keeping a public house, and then entered the railroad service as a fireman. In 1861, responding with alacrity and good-will to the call for troops to put down the rebellion, he enlisted in Co. A, 101st Reg. Pa. Vol. Inf., and went to the front under Gen. McClellan and took part in the fighting at the siege of Yorktown. From there he went with his regiment to Williamsburg, and fought thereafter in the battles of Button Bridge, Fair Oaks, Malvern Hill, and in the Seven Days fighting before Richmond; he served also with credit to himself in the battles of Kingston, White Hall, Goldsboro, and Plymouth. He had enlisted for three years, and at the expiration of his term of service he re-enrolled his name and served from then to the close of the war, never losing a day. His courage and indomitable will is known to his fellow-citizens of New Castle to-day; this fortitude was exhibited in large measure in the army—he was always to the front and eager for volunteer and adventurous service; he escaped bodily injury from missiles, seeming to bear a charmed life on the field of carnage, for his clothes were pierced time and time again with minie bullets. At the battle of Fort Comfort he, with his entire regiment, was captured May 3, 1864, and the entire command was marched to Andersonville Prison, where Mr. Sheaffer suffered from being deprived of sufficient food and water, and what he did receive was hardly good enough to throw to swine. Daily he saw those who were of weaker constitutions than himself waste away and die a miserable death, and when but a few of the regiment were left they were transferred, in September, to Florence, where a new prison had been fitted up to relieve the congested condition of Andersonville. There he was appointed hospital sergeant, and making use of the liberty allowed him, he with six others, on Oct. 2, 1864, managed to make his escape, swimming and fording rivers, to avoid the traveled highways. They were again taken prisoners at Conwayboro, after a hard tramp of forty miles, full of privation and exposure, but they soon made their escape, and were again taken prisoners at Clinton on Nov. 11, 1864; however, they only delayed long enough with their captors to snatch a brief rest, and then secured their liberty once more. On Nov. 11, 1864, Mr. Sheaffer reached Newburn, where he applied for a veteran's furlough, which he had not received since joining the army; upon receiving it he came home and was taken sick there, but when he regained his health he returned to the army in April, 1865, and was discharged in June, 1865, at the close of the war. He then came to Lawrence County, and for nine years was a clerk in the Knox Hotel at New Castle, and to-day owns the old homestead. He is now retired, although active in all interests pertaining to the improvement and progress of the county. He was elected associate judge in 1892, and has held the office since. He is a member of the local G. A. R. Post.

Mr. Sheaffer married Miss Harriet Robert, daughter of Samuel Robert of Shenango township, and has eight children by this union, all of whom are living, and their names and occupations are as follows: Charles A., a clerk; John T., a tailor; William H., a merchant tailor; Edwin R., a merchant tailor; Walter B., a glass-maker; Jay R., a tailor; James A., and Oscar, who live at home with their parents.

Biographical Sketches of Leading Citizens Lawrence County Pennsylvania
Biographical Publishing Company, Buffalo, N.Y., 1897

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