Henry Holmes King

Henry Holmes King (b. December 03, 1841 - d. November 03, 1912) was a farmer and laborer in Clinton, Allegheny County, PA.

His ancestry

Henry's father was John King, who was born in Pennsylvania around 1812, and his mother was Mary Weaver, born in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, around 1818. I suppose that these Kings were Scotch-Irish; if so, they may have emigrated from Ulster, Ireland, sometime in the 18th century. Henry's middle name of Holmes is interesting. There were several Holmes families in western Pennsylvania in the early 19th century. I suppose that a member of one of these families is an ancestor of Henry Holmes King.

(Another researcher, laurieas@aol.com, believes that John King was born 6 April, 1818 in Washington County, PA, the son of William King, and that he died 5 August 1858 in Parkersburg, Wood County, West Virginia. She also believes John King married Mary Weaver about 1837, and then Matilda Rice on 24 November, 1853 in Wood County, WV.)

His life

Henry Holmes King was born December 03, 1841, in Washington County, PA. As a young man, he stood 5 feet 10 inches. He had a fair complexion, gray eyes and brown hair.

In 1850, the Kings lived in Findlay Township, Allegheny County, PA. Henry's father, John, was a farmer aged 32. He owned real estate valuing $2000, which was near the average for farmers in this neighborhood. Mary, John's wife, was also 32, and the children included Martin, age 10; Henry, 8; Margaret, 7; William, 5; James, 5; and Wells, 2. Everyone was a native Pennsylvanian.

The Civil War

On April 17, 1861, Confederate troops fired on U.S. troops at Ft. Sumpter, South Carolina, starting the Civil War. Family oral tradition, as related by Emily Williams, the daughter of Elsa Elizabeth Cool (August 16, 1894-July 25, 1972), holds that Henry was so excited by the outbreak of the Civil War that he leapt through the window of his schoolhouse and ran off to enlist. Census data and his military records fairly consistently indicate a birth date of December 03, 1841, which would have made him nineteen years of age when he enlisted on Aug 26, 1861 in Parkersburg, West Virginia. Yet his marker reads, "Born 1844". If he had been born on December 3, 1844, he would have been sixteen when he enlisted. Was Henry one of the many young men who lied about his age in order to enlist?

Why did he enlist in West Virginia? We don't know. The Pennsylvania/ West Virginia state line is only about 12 miles from Clinton, but Parkersburg itself is about 150 miles away. Perhaps he was visiting or living with relatives in Parkersburg. (Note: West Virginia became a state on October 24, 1861.)

Henry served in Company G, 6th Regiment (West) Virginia Infantry. During his almost four years of service, he and his unit guarded the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad and other infrastructure in West Virginia. His military records indicate a quiet period of service, although his company did see action in a skirmish at Sutton, West Virginia, on August 26, 1863. Henry mustered out on June 10, 1865.

After the end of the war, the state of West Virginia struck medals for all its veterans, but it was unable to deliver them to many veterans from other states. Thus this medal was stored in the archives of the state of West Virginia, awaiting a claimant, for over 130 years. In 2003, I sent a claim to the state, documenting that I was Henry Holmes King's great-greatgrandson, and they sent the medal to me.

Henry Holmes King Civil War Medal

The Reverse of the medal

The original box


Large images of the medal

Following his mustering out, Henry moved to Clinton, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, where he married Cathrine Morgan on December 02, 1875, and where their only child, Emily Sylvia King, was born on January 03, 1877.

Henry, Cathrine and Emily moved to Kansas later in 1877. There, they probably stayed with Henry's younger brother, Wells King.

In 1878, Henry moved alone to Colorado. By 1880, he was in Ruby City, Gunnison County, Colorado. There he was unemployed for at least three months. Meanwhile, his wife, Cathrine, and his infant daughter, Emily, were staying with Wells King in Fountain Township, Ottawa County, Kansas. From the 1880 census, we can see that Ruby City was a small mining town, full of households with many boarders, mostly miners. We can imagine that Henry's life during this time was difficult: having left his ancestral Pennsylvania home, he seeks his fortune, or at least a job, in Colorado . . . but he finds neither, at least for some time. Meanwhile, he is separated from his wife and infant daughter and lives in a primitive mining town. Ruby City, just past Sneffels, near Telluride, in southwest Colorado, started in 1880, but it had poor grade ore, and subsequently became a ghost town.

By 1885, Henry was re-united with Cathrine and Emily. The three lived near Aspen, in Pitkin County, Colorado. In the winter of 1885, Henry was hauling mining timbers, when they upset, throwing him ten feet down the mountainside and spraining his back. He never fully recovered from this injury.

By 1889, the family had returned to Clinton. Henry gave permission for his daughter, Emily, to marry while she was still 17. She married Sherman Moore Cool on January 18, 1894 in Imperial, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. By 1900, Henry was working as a log-cutter. He was now 58 years of age.

From pension claims and medical records, we know that Henry's health was not good. By 1891, he had rheumatism, caused by the back injury six years before. By 1895, he suffered from lumbago, rheumatism and piles. In the words of his son-in-law, Sherman, he was "not able to do more than half the work an able-bodied man can do." During this time, Henry and Cathrine co-resided with Sherman and Emily.

By 1909, at the age of 68, Henry was no longer able to work. He owned a house and lot in Clinton worth $325. He had no other income, beside a pension of $12 a month as a disabled veteran.

Henry Holmes King died at 8:10AM on November 3, 1912, at the age of 70 years, 11 months. The cause of death was cardiac asthenia [weakness]. His terminal illness lasted 21 days.

He was buried at Clinton Cemetery on November 5, 1912. The undertaker was James Moody of Clinton. His granddaughter, Elsa Elizabeth Cool, arranged for a bronze marker which reads, "HENRY H. KING, Corporal, Co. G, 6th W. Va. Inf., Enlisted 26 Aug 1861, Discharged 10 June 1865, Born 1844, Died 1912."


Notes and sources on Henry Holmes King


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