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Jerome B. Jennings
(1844-1923)

 

 

Jerome B. Jennings

Jerome B. Jennings was born on Sept. 24, 1844 in or near Ursina, Somerset County, PA, the son of Thomas and Christina (Ream) Jennings Jr. He was a veteran of the Civil War.

 

Friend Dr. W.S. Mountain knew Jerome as a young farmer and considered him "a sound young man." He stood 5 feet, 11 inches tall, weighed 150 lbs., and had a dark complexion, with grey eyes and auburn hair.

During the Civil War, Jerome traveled to a military recruiting site in nearby Addison to enlist in the Union Army. He was assigned to the 85th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, Company H. Among others in the regiment were these members of the extended Minerd and Younkin  families -- John Devan, Simon Firestone, James Frederick Imel, Isaac F. Minerd, James Minerd Jr., William Minerd, Norman Bruce Ream, James Rowan, Leonard H. Rowan, John Irving White, Harrison K. Younkin, Jacob M. Younkin and John X. Younkin.

Jerome may have been wounded in the Battle of Fair Oaks/Seven Pines, near Richmond, on May 31-June 1, 1862. He was hospitalized in Baltimore in the summer of 1862, but recovered and was released. Then while in battle at Goldsboro near Kingston, NC, on Dec. 14, 1862, he became ill which resulted in an enlargement of his heart. He was not treated, but could no longer endure active military service, and at age 18 was discharged at Camp Peck, Folly Island, SC on July 9, 1863.

Having returned home, when he was age 19, on Aug. 7, 1864, Jerome was united in holy wedlock with 24-year-old Mary Adaline Rhodes (1840-1911), who was five years older, and the daughter of Israel and Susanna (Nicola) Rhodes. Jacob R. McMillan officiated at the nuptials, held in Lower Turkeyfoot Township.

Their four known children were Elmer Ellsworth Jennings, Arabella "Belle" Graver, Susanna Jane Jennings and Emily Elizabeth ("Almay Lizza") Jennings. They named their only son for a member of the Union Army who was the first officer to be killed during the war. Heartache swept over the family when daughters Susanna (Feb. 11, 1870-March 13, 1875) and Emily (July 14-Dec. 1877) both died young, within two-and-a-half years of each other.

 

Above: fierce action at Seven Pines/Fair Oaks, VA. Below: Union troops march past abandoned earthworks en route to Goldsboro, NC.

 

Five years after the war ended, on Jan. 12, 1870, Jerome was awarded a federal military pension as compensation for wartime ailments or injuries. [Invalid App. #151.687 - Cert. #105.933] From then until his death more than half a century later, he received monthly pension payments as compensation for his enlarged heart. He underwent a medical examination in Somerset in May 1867, and Dr. Henry Brubaker noted that "The enlargement has proceeded to such an extent as to cause a perceptible bulging of the left side of the chest -- most violent beat of the heart, and the least excercise folloowed by violent palpation." At that time, he described the location of his home as "near the wagon road from Harnedsville to Somerset about 19 miles from the county seat."

 

Jerome B. Jennings, center

In 1870, census records show the Jenningses boarding under the roof of Mary's 56-year-old father. Three years later, they relocated to Ursina, and Jerome began the trade of shoemaking. He was profiled in a paragraph in the History of Bedford, Somerset and Fulton Counties, Pennsylvania, which said that "He at first worked for Davis & Coder, and in 1875 bought out the firm.... He has held various borough offices, including those of councilman, school director and burgess." When Mary Adaline's father died circa 1875, Jerome was named administrator of the deceased's estate.

Jerome served in 1880 as the Ursina Borough delegate on the Republican County Committee. As burgess of Ursina, Jerome was faced with a number of important issues, concerns and improvements. In August 1888, borough authorities approved a new ordinance and published a legal notice in the Somerset Herald: "No cow or other horned cattle shall be permitted to run at large within the limits of Ursina Borough between the hours of 8 p.m. and 5 a.m. during the months of May, June, July, August, September and October. Any owner of such animals, or having them in charge, so offending, shall pay a fine or not exceeding one dollar and costs."

Jerome and many old Civil War veterans were involved in forming the Ross Rush Post of the Grand Army of the Republic in Ursina, a branch of a national organization which promoted veteran pensions, elections of Republican candidates and other issues. Just a few days before Christmas 1890, he was elected quartermaster of the Rush Post, with his name duly inscribed in the minute book. Today the Rush Post ledgers have been preserved and digitized by the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War, Mt. Union Church Camp #502.

 

Mary's grave, Ream Cemetery

Among the Rush Post comrades was Dr. W.S. Mountain of Confluence, who once noted that "I lived within four miles of him previous to the war and within two miles since the war and am often in his companh and have plenty of chances to know his [medical] condition." Jerome also received treatment from Dr. Winfield Scott Kuhlman of Ursina, a member of the family of Louisa (Smith) Kuhlman.

By 1907, Jerome was considered an invalid, and in August 1907 he and Mary gave depositions in the case of his widowed sister Sarah (Jennings) Bookman who was attempting to obtain a Civil War pension. In her testimony, Mary recalled having attended the Bookman wedding many years before.

Sadly, at the age of 70, suffering from chronic kidney disease and heart valve insufficiency, Mary died on March 18, 1911. She was interred in the Ream Cemetery, with her husband filling out and signing the death certificate.

Jerome survived his wife by a dozen years. In early August 1912, he put a new roof on his home, and a few days later, his married daughter Belle Graver and granddaughter Irma arrived for a month's stay. 

He also stayed active with the Rush Post activities which kept him in constant contact with old friends. On Memorial Day 1913, he attended a parade of GAR members to the Casselman Bridge, "and after strewing flowers on the river again formed in line and marched to the park where the exercises took place," reported the Meyersdale Republic. "In the evening there was a campfire at which the following veterans told stories of camp life: Dr. W.S. Mountain, J.B. Jennings, Hiram Frantz, Silas Younkin and others." He served as a pallbearer in October 1914 for an old Rush Post comrade, Zachariah L. Tannehill of Draketown, formerly of the 29th Pennsylvania Infantry, and was named in the veteran's obituary in the Meyersdale Republican. Then again in December 1915, he bore the pall for his Rush Post friend Andrew J. Cross, of the 3rd Maryland Infantry. He was named part of an official delegation of Rush Post members who attended the funeral of J.M. Glodfelty in Confluence in July 1913, in the role of honorary escorts.

 

Jerome's town lot in Ursina (circled), near the park and North Fork Creek, 1876. Below, his name in the Grand Army of the Republic records in Ursina.

 

 

Jerome's grave, Ream Cemetery

Jerome and a number of old soldiers made plans to travel to Gettysburg in July 1913 to attend the 50th annivesary battlefield reunion festivities. As named in the Republican, the othes were A.G. Sellers, Leroy Forquer and Jacob J. Rush (of the family of Frederick and Margaret "Peggy" [Faidley] Dull), Rev. John C. Cunningham (whose daughter was married to Jackson Grant Rose), William H. Kessler, Balaam Younkin, Adam Nicholson, Ephraim Miner, A.J. Case, Jonah Meyers and Eli Conn. A number of other veterans made the trip as well, among them Silas Younkin of Confluence.

In April 1917, unable to live independently any longer, he moved to McKeesport, near Pittsburgh, to reside with his married daughter Belle Graver at 714 Market Street. In noting the relocation, the Republican said that he "was one of Ursina's oldest residents, a veteran of the Civil War, and a respected and progressive citizen." In October and November 1918, he made his home with married nephew Robert E. Lee Jennings in Newell, Fayette County, PA. In fact, the nephew and his wife witnessed Jerome's petition for an increased pension on Nov. 25, 1918. He also spent time residing with his son Elmer in Brownfield, near Uniontown.

Despite his feebleness, Jerome returned to Ursina for a few days in May 1920 to attend the funeral of his niece, Ida Bell (Rhodes) Coder, daughter of David and Hester (Cunningham) Rhodes, as reported in the Republican's gossip columns. Back in his daughter's home in McKeesport, he wrote in September 1920 that he could not afford to pay $45 a week for "regular personal aid and attendance."

 

Book listing Jerome

As his health failed even more, and his daughter no longer able to manage his care, Jerome was admitted to the National Military Home in Dayton, Montgomery County, OH. Paperwork shows that this move was made on Feb. 27, 1922, and he spent the final year of his life there.

Burdened with hardening of the arteries, he passed away there at the age of 79 on Feb. 21, 1923. His remains were shipped back to Ursina for burial beside his wife in Ream Cemetery, the ancient family burying ground. Later that year, when a reunion was held of his former mates with the 85th Pennsylvania Infantry, his name was included on a list of members who had died in the past year, prepared by Grand Army of the Republic post secretary John B. Bell, and published in the Canonsburg (PA) Daily Notes.

Jerome is pictured in the book Draketown: Past & Present, posed with fellow members of the Harry Lichty Post of the Ursina American Legion. He also is named in the 1906 book History of Bedford and Somerset Counties, Pennsylvania, by E. Howard Blackburn, William Henry Welfley and William H. Koontz -- and is listed in the 2000 book, The Bloody 85th: The Letters of Milton McJunkin, a Western Pennsylvania Soldier in the Civil War, compiled and edited by Ronn Palm, Dr. Richard Sauers and Patrick A. Schroeder.

 

~ Son Elmer Ellsworth Jennings ~

Son Elmer Ellsworth Jennings (1865-1938) was born on July 26, 1865 in Somerset County, PA. He was named for the first Union officer killed during the recently concluded Civil War.

He married Sarah (Lewis) Adams (Oct. 16, 1870-1943), daughter of Jonathan and Hester (Dickson) Lewis of Fayette County, PA. The Jenningses resided in Uniontown, the county seat of Fayette County.

They apparently did not have any children.

 

   
Elmer was named for Ephraim Elmer Ellsworth, the first Union officer to be killed during the Civil War, in an incident occurring in Alexandria, VA in May 1861.

 

Elmer was named in the gossip columns of his old hometown newspaper, the Meyersdale Republican, when his parents came to Uniontown for a visit in August 1901. When Elmer came to Ursina to see his widowed fathe rin August 1912, it too was reported in the Republican.

Circa 1938, the Jenningses made their home near the coal mining patch town of Brownfield, near Uniontown, where he earned a living as a laborer.

Burdened with chronic kidney disease, Elmer died at the age of 72 on June 6, 1938. Interment was in White Rock Cemetery near Fairchance. A short obituary appeared in the Uniontown Morning Herald.

Sarah survived her spouse by five years. During that time, she dwelled in rural Fairchance, Georges Township. Herself a victim of chronic kidney problems and lesions on her heart valves, she died at ate 73 on Dec. 13, 1943. Burial was at Oliphant Furnace.

 

~ Daughter Arabella "Belle" (Jennings) Graver ~

Daughter Arabella "Belle" Jennings (1867-1943) was born on May 3, 1867 in Somerset County.

She was wedded to Arthur Graver ( ? - ? ). They resided in McKeesport near Pittsburgh.

They had two known daughters, Erma G. Sheppard and Gertrude E. Widdle.

Belle occasionally traveled to Ursina to visit her aged father. Then, in April 1917, she brought him to her home in McKeesport as his health was failing.

The Gravers relocated to Ohio in the early 1920s. Circa March 1923, they lived at 467½ Talbot Avenue in East Akron, Summit County, OH, but eventually returned to McKeesport.

In September 1938, Belle traveled to Ursina to visit with her friends, the Levy girls, and was named in the gossip columns of the Meyersdale Republican. The story noted that she was "a daughter of the late Mr. and Mrs. Jerome Jennings, old residents of Ursina. Mr. Jennings was a descendant of Captain Benjamin Jennings, one of the very early settlers in the Turkeyfoot. Records as far back as 1750 mention the family name of Jennings." When she returned for visits with the Levys in September 1938 and August 1940, she again was named in the Republican. During the 1938 visit, in company with her two married daughters, they visited historical sites around town.

Circa 1943, the Gravers made their home at 1814 Beaver Street in McKeesport.

Having become senile, and suffering cerebral bleeding in 1942, Belle was admitted to the Allegheny County Institutional District Hospital. She spent a year and four days there, and endured heart and kidney failure, in addition to rapid weight loss, and died at the age of 75 on Feb. 13, 1943. Her remains were placed into eternal repose in Richland Cemetery in Dravosburg, near McKeesport.

Daughter Erma G. Graver ( ? - ? ) was born in (?). She married (?) Sheppard.

Daughter Gertrude E. Graver was born in (?). She wedded (?) Widdle.

 

Copyright 2014-2017 Mark A. Miner