Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The adventurous life of John Lot Redlingshafer

John Lot Redlingshafer, ca. 1910, with his wife, Virginia, and Freda Marshall --- described in the 1910 federal census as their adopted daughter but apparently not formally so.

John Lot Redlingshafer (1845-1831) is a favorite ancestral uncle (great-great-granduncle, actually) mostly because he led such an interesting life. Younger brother of Great-great-grandfather John G. Redlingshafer, he was born in Bavaria and lived as a child in Pennsylvania and Illinois before arriving in Iowa where he spent only a few years in Lucas County --- interrupted by the Civil War --- before moving on to Kansas and California. He left no writings, nor children to tell his stories, but enough remains in public records to give some idea of his character and the life he led.


John Lot Redlingshafer, known always as Lot, was the adventurer in his family of German-American pioneers, often in partnership with a nephew, Aaron Jacob Fisher, the family member he was closest to for 50 years.

Although born in Bavaria, Lot became a U.S. citizen under laws of the time when his father, George, was naturalized. Lot was the only member of his immediate family to serve during the Civil War, something his father might not have approved of had he lived to see it.

And because Lot married late in life and left no descendants to tell his stories, much of what we know about him must be pieced together from public records and the accounts of others. That is enough to suggest, however, that It was quite a life.

LOT'S DATE OF BIRTH, 14 February 1845, is taken from his Pennsylvania Department of Health death certificate (File No. 95132), a copy of which was included in his widow's Civil War pension file. The same date, as well as place --- Bavaria, Germany --- are found on several documents within the pension file. The birth year 1844 is inscribed on Lot's tombstone in the Fisher Family Cemetery, Fisher Heights, Washington County, Pennsylvania, but all other sources suggest that this is an error.

His father, George Redlingshafer Sr., had three sons named John --- John Kaspar by his first marriage, John G. and John Lot by his second. John G. seems to have used the name “John” most consistently. John Kasper probably was known within his extended family as Kaspar; and nearly everyone called John Lot --- just Lot.

Lot would have been about 3 years old when his family left Germany and settled in Pennsylvania. He was enumerated as age 5 in the 1850 census (entry dated 29 July) of his parents' household in East Bethlehem Township, Washington County, Pennsylvania, Six years later, after his family had relocated to Guttenburg in Clayton County, Iowa, he was enumerated in the 1856 Iowa special census as age 12 while living with his parents and younger sister, Elizabeth, with the family of his brother-in-law and sister, Ernst and Mary (Redlingshafer) Dittmer, in Jefferson Township, high on the bluffs above that picturesque Mississippi River village.

Lot's father, George, died at Guttenburg during 1856 and at some point between that year and 1860, the widowed Dorotha Redlingshafer and her two youngest children moved to Lucas County in south central Iowa where her sons, John G. and George W., and son-in-law and daughter, Aaron and Margaret Anna (Redlingshafer) Hupp, all had settled in Benton Township.

When the 1860 census of Benton Township was taken, John L. Redlingshafer, age 15, was enumerated on 14 July in a household headed by his brother, George, that also included their mother, Doratha. Lot, according to the census, had attended school within the year and his occupation was given as farmer.

THE NEXT YEAR, on 10 August 1861, Lot --- who was only 16 --- went to Albia, lied about his age and enlisted as a private in Co. I, 8th Regiment of Iowa Volunteer Infantry. At this point, his father may have turned in his grave since one of the reasons most often cited for the Redlingshafers' resettlement in the United States was George's desire to spare his sons conscription into the Prussian army.

Lot was mustered into U.S. service from the state of Iowa on 12 September 1861 at Davenport. And if a desire for adventure had motivated young Lot to enlist, the realities of war soon became painfully evident.

Time was short and neither the Union nor the Confederacy was prepared to mount the massive military effort that war between the states would entail.

On the night of 24 September 1861, the Eighth was ordered to leave Davenport the next morning, bound for St. Louis. The men had neither uniforms nor weapons and “only the most crude camp equipage” when they boarded the steamer Jenny Whipple for that trip downriver.

At Keokuk, “arms of poor quality, but the best the government was at that time able to procure for its fast increasing army, were issued, and the regiment proceeded on its way.”

Upon arrival at St. Louis, the regiment disembarked and marched to Benton Barracks where its members engaged in intensive training until 15 October, when they left St. Louis aboard flat cars and traveled to Syracuse, Missouri, as participants in Maj. Gen. John C. Fremont's campaign against Springfield, which culminated on 25 October in an engagement known as Zagonyi's Charge.

By November, Lot’s unit was headquartered at Sedalia, Missouri, and he was listed as “present” on company muster rolls from November 1861 through February, 1862.

Between 11 and 21 March, 1862, the regiment moved from Sedalia to St. Louis and then on to Pittsburg Landing, Tennessee, as the deadly Battle of Shiloh — during which Lot would be captured — loomed on history’s horizon.

The Iowa Monument at the Shiloh National Military Park, dedicated Nov. 23, 1906. Photo credit: Iowa Civil War Monuments, a project of the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War.

THE EIGHTH IOWA, according to published reports, fought 10 hours on the first day of the Battle of Shiloh, April 6, repelling attack after attack, and, with the battery which it was supporting, inflicting terrible punishment upon the enemy. It was the last to leave the advanced line of the army, being surrounded as it attempted to withdraw and compelled to surrender.

Out of 650 men engaged, it lost 64 killed, 100 wounded, and 47 missing. The 8th, 12th and 14th Iowa formed four-fifths of the little force that held back ten times its numbers at the close of the first day at Shiloh. Entirely cut off, they fought until they could fight no longer, and threw down their arms only to see many of their number shot down in cold blood after they had surrendered as prisoners of war. Captured officers above the rank of lieutenant were sent eventually to Libby prison, Richmond, where they were held until parole. The lieutenants and enlisted men were sent to various prisons in Alabama and “suffered the miseries and privations so common to southern prisons."

The estimated casualties at Shiloh totaled 23,746, 13,047 of them Union and 10,699, Confederate. More than 3,200 were killed.

Prisoner of war records, cited in Lot’s pension file, state that he was captured on that first day, April 6, and taken from Corinth to Tuscaloosa, Alabama, on April 15-16, and apparently spent most of his brief time as a prisoner of war there. He was sent to Montgomery, Alabama, on the 15th of May, 1862, was paroled there on the 22nd of May, and reported to Benton Barracks, St. Louis, Mo., on 10 July 1862.

Benton Barracks, located in north St. Louis, was used as an encampment for paroled Union prisoners of war released from the Confederacy on condition they would not bear arms against Southern forces until the expiration of parole.

It is not clear from documents found in his service file how long Lot remained at Benton Barracks. He is recorded there as a “paroled prisoner” on 20 August 1862 and “to Aug. 31, 1862.” On 31 October 1862, he was reported as “absent without leave” from Benton Barracks.

He was carried as “missing in action” on his company muster rolls through February 1863.

The Battle of Shiloh had decimated the Eight, and survivors were organized as the Union Brigade, which remained active in the South until December of 1862 when, in large part because of prisoner exchanges, it was decided to reorganize the regiment at Davenport. That reorganized, undertaken in both Davenport and St. Louis during early 1863, probably included Lot.

BY 10 APRIL 1863, he was listed as “present” on regular company muster rolls and remained so through December of 1863. It was noted on muster rolls for July-August and November-December 1863 that he was “detailed on daily duty in regimental band.”

On Jan. 11, 1864, at Pocahontas, Tenn., Lot was discharged, re-enlisted and remustered as a private in Co. I, 8th Regiment of Iowa Veteran Volunteer Infantry, assigned as a fifer in the Regimental Band, and was thus carried on company muster rolls into August of 1864.

Reported as missing in action again (having been taken prisoner during an engagement at Memphis, Tenn., on Aug. 21, 1864) on the August muster roll of his company, he had returned to duty by September and was carried as present on company muster rolls through December of 1865. He continued on daily duty with the Regimental Band during that period.

On Jan. 17, 1866, he was detached from his company to serve as a member of the Post Band and discharged honorably at Selma, Alabama, on April 20, 1866.

Lot, who had just turned 21 two months prior to his discharge, returned home to Lucas County that spring. He recalled, many years later in 1922, that “reaching his home near Chariton, Iowa, on Saturday morning the following Monday morning found him in his class room taking up his studies where five years before he had laid them aside at his country’s call for assistance in preserving the nation.” (The Chariton Patriot, 3 March 1922, reprinting an article about his 77th birthday published previously in “The Donova American,” of Donova, Pennsylvania).

RELATIVELY LITTLE IS KNOWN of Lot’s life during the next 25 years because he left no one behind to tell his story. We know that he earned a teaching certificate and taught in the schools of Lucas County and perhaps elsewhere. He also farmed, but seems not to have owned land in Lucas County.

Lot, aged 25, was living with his brother and sister-in-law, John G. and Isabelle Redlingshafer, on Aug. 2, 1870, when the federal census-taker reached their home. His occupation was given as farmer and his personal estate was valued at $200.

During the early 1870s, Lot forged a relationship with his nephew, Aaron Jacob Fisher, some seven years his junior, that would endure for the remainder of their lives. A.J., born June 21, 1852, was the youngest child of Lot’s eldest half-sibling, Barbara (Redlingshafer) Fisher.

It’s not clear exactly when this happened, but we do know that both A.J. and his older sister, Anna Sarah Fisher, lived for a time with their Lucas County relatives prior to Sarah Anna’s 1875 marriage to Graham Lee of Hamlet, Ill.

A.J. recalled an incident that occurred in Lucas County during that time in a letter dated Feb. 28, 1918, to his niece, Anna Mary (Lee) Heisey: “I well remember an incident in Chariton, Lucas County, Iowa. We lived six miles south of the county seat and (Anna Sarah Fisher) took her exams with other teachers and the county superintendent issued her a second class certificate which she refused to accept --- as she said, she had answered all the questions correctly and had never yet had anything but a first class certificate! So he appointed a day to give her a special exam in her own home and, after a grueling day spent in all he could devise or knew himself, he gladly gave her what she demanded and had so richly earned. Uncle Lot, a teacher himself, who was present at this hearing, said your mother was the best educated of the two and the county superintendent was glad to be out of it.”

It seems likely, but has not been confirmed, that Lot and his nephew, Aaron Jacob, went from Iowa during the later 1870s to Kansas where A.J. acquired land. This is based upon a Fisher family story that Jacob acquired the farm in Washington County, Pennsylvania, upon which he and his mother settled about 1883 in a trade involving the Isaac Teeple family --- A.J.’s Kansas land for Teeple land in Washington County.

That story holds that Aaron, an only son, liked Kansas after settling there and wanted his mother to join him, but she declined. So he arranged the trade with a Teeple newcomer in Kansas to acquire a home for her in Pennsylvania.

This is all very iffy, but we do know that one of Isaac Teeple’s sons, Thomas William Teeple, did indeed settle in Kansas ca. 1876, living in both Neosho and Crawford counties.

BY 1880, HOWEVER, Lot had left Kansas behind --- most likely with Aaron Jacob in tow. Fisher family stories hold that the pair scouted in the West and mined in Nevada, Oregon and California’s Death Valley.

When the 1880 federal census was taken, Lot was enumerated on June 3 at age 35 as a laborer living in Markleeville, Alpine County, California. He was head of a two-person household that also included Patrick Flattery, age 38, a miner. I’ve not located Aaron Jacob in the 1880 census.

Markleeville, due west of Sacramento and south of Reno, became something of a boom town after discovery during 1859 of the Comstock Lode on the eastern slope of Mount Davidson in Nevada and continued to flourish during the various gold and silver excitements in that area.

By late 1881, Lot --- now accompanied by Aaron Jacob --- had chased silver south into the Tioga and Prescott mining districts near what now is the eastern boundary of Yosemite National Park. They were headquartered in the town of Lundy, where the weekly Homer Mining Index had commenced publication during 1880. And because of that newspaper, we have a record of several incidents in Lot’s California life.

During January of 1882, the editor of the Index and a German friend named Fritz started off to walk into the high Sierras, carrying snowshoes and provisions, bound for “the camp of the Mining Associates at the Amazon and Orinoco mines, high up the northwestern slope of Mount Theller, overlooking the Sea Lions above the head of Mill Creek Canyon and facing Mount Bill Richers of the summit of the main range of the Sierra.”

En route, they encountered L. DeChambeau, L.W. DeChambeau, A.J. Fisher and J. Lot Redlingshafer, “of the Mining Associates, (who) had been down to Lundy after some dainties for a big New Year dinner, and had started up the 990-foot bluff to the foot of Lake Canyon just ahead of us, each of them with 35 pounds of corned beef and other fixings packed upon his back. The zig-zag trail up the steep acclivity was filled with snow and frozen over, so that the ascent was somewhat like climbing the glacier of Mount Blanc; and besides, Fritz and I were pretty well ‘loaded’ (with snow shoes, and things) and were a little short of wind. Louis W. DeChambeau --- a mere boy (weighing 1850 pounds, 21 years of age and six feet two in height) broke the trail, and the pack train soon left us. On reaching the bench above, the Associates sat down to rest, and to “take suthin,” and tauntingly shook the bottle at us as we were climbing, foot and hand and almost breathless, 400 feet below. They finally dropped the stopper down to us and passed on, but on reaching the level ground above (rising only 845 feet in the first mile), we soon overtook them --- they having stopped at the foot of the May Lundy tramway for dinner.”

During March of 1882, a storm described as “phenomenal” struck the High Sierra, dropping seven to eight feet of snow on the higher mountains and lesser amounts farther down --- accompanied by powerful winds and avalanches.

The experience of the Mining Associates party was reported in the Index of March 25 as follows:


L.W. DeChambeau and his son Louis, J.L. Redlingshafer and A.J. Fisher had built a cabin on the Gold Bar mine, on the south side and near the head of Mill Creek Canyon, and moved into it on the second day of the storm. The cabin stood under a high point of croppings. At 11 o’clock on the night of the 15th a tremendous avalanche, having a run of nearly two miles, came thundering down the mountain. Striking against the cropping the avalanche divided, but reunited immediately below, burying the cabin to great depth with loose snow, but otherwise leaving it intact. Being comfortable situated and having plenty of air, the men concluded not to shovel off the roof until the storm should subside. As no tidings had been heard from them and the gravest apprehensions were felt for their safety, on the following Saturday morning, in the face of a furious and blinding wind and show storm, Mike Eagan, William H. Studley, Joseph Caron, S.B. Burkham and Sam Cummings started on show shoes and with shovels to ascertain the fate of the DeChambeau party and to render whatever assistance they could. Near the lower falls, about two miles above town, they met the elder DeChambeau and Redlingshafer, wallowing through the snow on foot, making their way to town. The other two men had preferred to remain at the cabin, having snow shoes so that they could skp away in case of further danger. They had dug an upraise from the roof of their cabin to the top of the snow above.”

Later on that year (1882), both Aaron Jacob, now 30, and Lot --- now 37 --- registered on Oct.7 at Lundy to vote.

By 1883, however, A.J. apparently had had enough adventuring and returned to Pennsylvania. He brought his mother, Barbara, to Horseshoe in Washington County to live on the new farm and on Dec. 25, 1883, married Mary Susan Kibler. They settled down on what became known as Fisher Heights and immediately commenced to reproduce enthusiastically, producing between October of 1884 and March of 1909 a total of 13 children.

Lot, however, remained behind in the High Sierra --- and more adventures awaited him.

By late 1883 he had become a mail carrier, in addition to a miner, traveling by foot through the mountains in all weather.

On Nov. 10, 1883, The Index reported, “In sunshine or snow, calm or storm, J. L. Redlingshafer makes his regular trips, on foot, over and three miles along the Mount Warren Divide, nearly 13,000 feet high, carrying the Tioga mail, parcels, packages, anvils, team boilers, etc.”

On March 1, 1884: “J.L. Redlingshafer, the Tioga mail carrier, who went and came during the whole of February storms --- that is, whenever he could get any mail from Bodie to carry --- has determined to make his regular trips hereafter, storm or shine, whether the carriers on other routes turn out or not."

On March 8, 1884: “Redlingshafer, the Tioga mail carrier, took over a tremendous load of miscellaneous freight last Saturday, and as he ascended the mountain on the snow at 6 o’clock in the morning he looked like a load of hay rising to a loft.”

And finally, on Mary 10, 1884: “Lot Redlingshafer is not carrying many passengers over his Lundy and Bennettville (snow shoe) mail line just now, but is doing a good deal in the heavy freight line. In addition to his mail and express matter, he shouldered and packed over a 60-pound piece of machinery on Tuesday, and on Thursday he carried over an 85-pound piece. With the matter constituting his pack on Thursday Redlingshafer carried a load about equal to his own weight. This surpassed the capability of any pack-mule in the country, and is a really remarkable performance, when the fact is considered that he has one almost perpendicular climb of 990 feet and another of 2,760 feet --- both on snow.”

Keep in mind that Lot was nearly 40 when these reports were written. In isn’t known how much longer he remained in the High Sierra, but he registered to vote for a second time at Lundy on Aug. 7, 1886, when he was 41.

LATE IN LIFE, LOT SAID that he had lived in California for 10 years, which suggests that he headed east again about 1890, when he was 45.

Although he had lived in Pennsylvania, Illinois, Iowa and Kansas in addition to California, it’s doubtful Lot felt rooted in any of those places. His mother, Doratha, had died in Lucas County during 1883 and four of his siblings still lived there, but Lot chose Pennsylvania, most likely because of his enduring relationship with his nephew, Aaron Jacob.

Lot certainly had not become rich during his adventuring years, but apparently had saved enough to purchase a small farm adjacent to the A.J. Fisher place on Fisher Heights and so he settled there.

When he was 50, Lot married Virginia M. Carhart, five years his junior, on July 18, 1895, at the home of Aaron J. and Mary Fisher on Fisher Heights. Virginia, born Jan. 7, 1850, in Chicago, had not been married previously either. Her place of residence as listed on the application for a marriage license was Brooklyn, N.Y. The two seem to have forged a congenial relationship that lasted for the remainder of their lives.

Lot’s occupation, as recorded on census forms, varied as the years passed. He was listed as a farmer in 1900, a watchman at a steel mill in 1910, a gardener in 1920 and, finally, as retired in 1930, when he was 85.

Lot’s 77th and 80th birthdays were celebrated with modest fanfare that merited front-page coverage in The Donora American, published in nearby Donara,

Lot outlived all of his siblings save one, the youngest, Elizabeth (Redlingshafer) Banschbach of Princeton, Ill. He also outlived his beloved nephew, A. J. Fisher, who died on March 10, 1930.

During October of 1931, Lot suffered a stroke and died as a result at age 86 on the 14th in Memorial Hospital, Monongahela. He was buried on October 16 at the right hand of Aaron Jacob in the Fisher Family Cemetery.

Virginia survived only a month longer, dying on Nov. 22, 1931, also at the Monongahela hospital. She was buried by Lot’s side.

No comments: