German-Born, Civil War Vet - Newspaper Help
Updated: Mar 10
I love scouring old newspapers. Sometimes it's about understanding the era, but most often I'm looking for clues in family research. I feel like I hit the jackpot with one Joseph Billman from Erie, PA, a second great-grandfather on my husband's side.
We'd known the Billman line was German, but an article from the Erie Times News in February 1909 gave us several more tantalizing clues to pursue about his life and family.
First was his Civil War service. His pension file from the national archives shows that the war had a lasting impact on him. Many of the papers in the pension application address his hearing loss and a hernia both attributed to his time in the Union Army, specifically battles at Cold Harbor, VA and Mine Run, VA. Numerous associates and colleagues gave testimony as to his ability to hear before the war and his almost total loss of hearing in one ear and partial in the other upon his return. It turns out that Joseph was a painter, and that his injuries dramatically impacted his ability to work. One associate wrote, "[he is] now almost impossible to converse with him except upon very violent effort, almost painful at times; that practically by reason of said deafness said Billman is not fit to pursue his business or calling, that of a Painter." Wow - it seems like such a huge impact would have been talked about in the family, but this story, too, had also been lost to the family.