Franklintown builder organized Union troops in NW York County
York County, Pennsylvania, was a valuable source of war materiel, woolen blankets, supplies, and perhaps most of all, fresh troops. As the war progressed, the need for additional manpower caused the Lincoln Administration to institute the first mass conscription in U.S. history, a controversial move that led to riots in several places, including a large scale civil disturbance in New York City in the summer of 1863. By the following year, the draft resistance had somewhat calmed down, but the Overland Campaign and the subsequent Siege of Petersburg, created the need for manpower in the Eastern Theater, while William T. Sherman’s activities in Tennessee and Georgia also demanded soldiers by the tens of thousands.
“Hundred days regiments” helped fill the void, providing temporary manpower to guard bridges, railroads, and supply lines, thereby freeing veteran troops for combat duty. Additional front line troops were also being raised, including the 209th Pennsylvania.
In northwestern York County’s Franklin Township, a prominent carpenter and builder stepped up to do his civic duty…
John Klugh was born in York County on May 11, 1816. He was a son of George and Hannah (Klugh) Klugh, of Lancaster and York counties respectively. His grandfather came from Germany and settled in Lancaster County, where he engaged in farming. George Klugh was a carpenter, and followed his trade in Franklin Township until 1878, when he died at the age of eighty-four. His children were John, George, Henry, Frederick, Peter, Joseph, Clarissa and Philip, and the Klughs became prominent in Franklin Township civic and social circles.
Like his father before him, John became a carpenter and builder, apprenticing at the age of fifteen and working as a carpenter for the next thirty years. Klugh married Henrietta Ritter in 1848. She was a daughter of Henry Ritter, one of the earliest settlers of York County. They had five children: Mary, Alice, Harry, John and Milton B.
In 1849, he purchased several vacant lots in what later became the borough of Franklintown. He constructed several sturdy homes which he sold for a tidy profit. That same year, he built the local United Brethren Church for $1000. Klugh also sold some of empty lots to others who wanted land in the fledgling village and encouraged people to start building. He was elected as an officer in the Franklintown Guards local militia and spent hours drilling the home guard in case of the region was threatened by an enemy force.
“Captain John” opened a store in 1860 and was the town’s leading merchant & postmaster during the early part of the Civil War. As J.E.B. Stuart’s Confederate cavalry rode through Franklin Township on the late afternoon of July 1, 1863, Klugh had taken his horses to safety, as did many of his neighbors. As a result, damage claims from Franklin Township for that day are rather modest.
In the late summer of 1864, Klugh recruited what became Company I of the newly raised 209th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry and served as its first captain (Company B of that regiment was also from York County). The new regiment was organized at Camp Curtin in September. It spent most of the rest of the war as part of the 1st Brigade, 3rd Division, IX Corps of the Army of the Potomac, serving under future Pennsylvania governor John F. Harttranft. The Franklin Township boys fought in Northern Virginia at Hatcher’s Run, Nottoway and the Siege of Petersburg.
In early 1865, Klugh was wounded in the right arm during the Confederate assault on Fort Stedman during the final days of the Siege of Petersburg. His arm was shattered and disabled, and his field service as a soldier was over. He was medically discharged and sent home to York County.
After the war, now with the brevet rank of major, John Klugh returned to Franklintown and resumed his mercantile career. In 1881 he sold his stock of goods to his son-in-law, George Lehmer, and commenced farming. He owned about 250 acres of improved land and100 acres of wood land on what is now State Route 194, the old Baltimore Road. He also farmed 234 acres in Washington Township.
During the 1880s, by then one of northwestern York County’s wealthiest citizens, Klugh owned two houses and ten lots in Franklintown, all of which he “accumulated by hard labor.” He held the office of jury commissioner and was also a justice of the peace and a member of the school board. He and his family were members of Emmanuel Lutheran Church in Franklintown. In 1883, he donated land in the village for the construction of a new church building.
John Klugh died in July 1908, and his passing was mourned by his many admirers and family members.
John Klugh and his wife and a son are buried in the cemetery of St. John’s (Franklin Union) Lutheran Church near Clear Spring in central Franklin Township.
(Photo by Dr. Thomas M. Mingus, PhD).
Source: York County, Pennsylvania Biographical History, John Gibson, Chicago: F.A. Battey Publishing Co., 1886.