Photographs have surfaced of Civil War veteran William “Frederick” Weller and his wife, Mary Coleman, of the family of Joseph and Sarah (Weyand) Coleman of Somerset, PA. The couple were joined in matrimony less than a year after the war’s end, on Jan. 23, 1866, when he was age 24 and she 16.
Frederick stood 5 feet, 7½ inches tall and had a fair complexion, brown hair and blue eyes. He served with 52nd Pennsylvania Infantry during the conflict and often wrote letters to Mary. While on duty at Morris Island, SC in 1865, he contracted typhoid fever which led to bronchitis, heart disease and lung problems. Recalled Abraham Howard, his tentmate and messmate, “I never expected to see him get of[f] Morris Island alive, he was so low from the diseases…” Frederick was sent to a hospital in Charleston and thence to another in the District of Columbia. After receiving an honorable discharge, he came home in July 1865.
The couple spent decades as farmers. In the late 1880s, he began receiving a Civil War soldier’s pension from the federal government. An original copy of their marriage license, proving the legitimacy of their union, today is included in his pension file in the National Archives.
He found it difficult to work at farming, complaining often to neighbors Harmon Barron and Samuel S. Miller about “spells of sickness” which included pain in the chest and difficulty in breathing. Perhaps finding politics a lighter form of work, he is believed to have won the elected position of Director of the Poor in 1888-1892.
Circa 1898, apparently unhappy at home, Frederick made plans to become a resident of the Soldiers’ Home in Erie, PA. While en route, he stayed overnight in a hotel in Sharon, and nearly died of natural gas inhalation. Reported the Sharon Herald, “Frederick Weller … was found unconscious in his room … where he had blown out the gas before going to bed… To the physician at Sharon who attended him he said his wife is a consumptive and that when his pension money was exhausted his children kicked him out. He bewailed his fate, and wished he had died.”
On the last day of his life, on May 16, 1907, Frederick seemed to be in reasonable health. His brother came for a visit, and they talked for two hours. But after the brother’s departure, he complained of sharp heart pain, fell into bed and died. An obituary in the Connellsville (PA) Daily Courier said that he had been sick for a few days “but his death was unexpected and came as a blow to his friends and family. [He was] a consistent member of the Lutheran church and was well known throughout the county. He was an excellent citizen and the community will miss him.”
These images originally were published in The History of Christ’s, Casebeer Evangelical Lutheran Church 1845-1945, Berlin (PA) Publishing Company, 1945.