Sarah Elizabeth Peese Simcox
FAG No. 114260866
The Clinton County Times, Fri., Sept. 3, 1920, p. 1.
Clinton County Woman Was Nurse in Civil War. Mrs. Sarah Elizabeth
Simcox, of Pine Creek Twp., Relates Many Interesting Events of War
Period. Called on Lincoln at Capital – Knew Gen. Grant.
By Myron R. Huff.
“My brave lad he sleeps in his faded coat of blue,
In a lonely grave unknown lies the heart that beat so true.
He sank faint and weary,
Among the famished brave,
And they laid him sad and lonely
Down in his silent grave.”
The Faded Coat of Blue.
Youthful acquaintance of Ulysses S. Grant in the day before he was
considered as the future great general: of James A. Beaver when he,
too, was but a youth, with his honors as a Union colonel and
governor of Pennsylvania yet to come; but more than that, as a young
wife, a woman with courage sufficient to send her hundreds of miles
on her first railroad journey that she might reach the bedside of
her husband, wounded in the Wilderness fight, only to have him later
die a Confederate prisoner – that is the brief but thrilling history
of Mrs. Sarah Elizabeth Simcox, now a woman of 78, who resides in an
ancient log house in a hollow bearing her name, six miles east of
The writer found the interesting old lady seated in a rocking chair
drawn up so that she could reach the kettle in which the supper for
herself and only son was stewing on the stove. Her face lined, for
time has not dealt so kindly with the woman, so courageous in youth.
Her eyes for the most part were sad, which might be expected,
considering her present surroundings, but at times when she reached
spirited parts of her life’s narrative, they sparkled with the fire
of that something, call it what you will, that falters not, even in
death, and ages not with the passing years.
Sarah Elizabeth Simcox was born at Curtin’s Bank, Boggs Township,
Centre county, on May 29, 1843. She is the daughter of John and
Lovey Ann Peese. Mrs. Simcox’s father was a native of Switzerland
and has been dead for many years. The mother came of a line
possessing longevity and died only a few years ago at the age of 90.
The father was employed as engineer on the digger excavating iron
ore for the furnaces operated by the famous old ironmaster, Curtin,
and the mother, being employed about the house, often sent the
little Sarah Elizabeth up the road to visit for the day with her
grandparents, John and Rachael Lucas Watkins, the former a native of
England, the latter of Ireland. The grandfather generally took the
little girl to his home on horse-back, the child sitting in the rear
of him with her hands clasped about her grandfather’s waist.
John Watkins was a great hunter, perhaps the greatest ever living in
Centre county. The winter meat at the Watkins farmhouse was in a
great part the result of the deadly accuracy of his rifle. Bear and
deer, in those days, were near at hand in great numbers and the
little girl often assisted her grandfather to skin the game. She
states that it was custom, on a particularly cold day when her
grandfather had brought down some animal, to drag it into the house,
with his grandchild’s assistance it was skinned in the warmth before
the great open fireplace. Not all the wild animals killed by John
Watkins were food, however. He became famous in the Center county
region as a slayer of panthers and wolves.
Kills Buck at 96.
The spirit of the hunt was with John Watkins until the last of his
days. He died in his ninety-sixth year and Mrs. Simcox relates that
in January of that year, 1881, he shouldered his rifle for the last
time, returning after an hour or so with a fine buck and a red fox
to prove that his eye was as keen and unerring as of old.
Mrs. Simcox has four brothers and four sisters living; Thomas Peese,
of Coalville, James Peese of Lock Haven, Andrew Peese of New York,
John Peese of Milesburgh, Mrs. Bell Baker, of Jersey Shore, and Mrs.
Edith Crawford, of Altoona.
Sarah Peese, at about the age of 16 met Abram Boyer, a young native
of Jefferson county, who came to Curtin to work as a farm hand.
Their acquaintance resulted in marriage, the ceremony being
performed at Milesburg in 1860 by Rev. Charles Ryman, a Methodist
hardly were they married until the black clouds of war began to
gather on the southern horizon. Following the fall of Sumter in
April 1861, Abram Boyer took his young wife back to the home of her
parents and enlisted in the federal service among the first three
months. At the expiration of his enlistment he returned to his wife,
but the war clouds were steadily growing blacker and in August of
the same year he re-enlisted for three years in the Bald Eagle
Infantry, a Company which was being organized in the vicinity of
Howard in command of Captain John Irvin Curtin.
Mrs. Simcox related that on the day of the company’s departure for
the national capital, Sept. 12, 1861, where it was destined to be
mustered into the federal services of Company A, Forty-fifth
Pennsylvania Volunteers, a gigantic dinner was prepared at Howard by
the wives, mothers, sisters and sweethearts of the 95 men of the
organization. Flags waved and a band played as the troop train moved
away from the station, bound for the south.
Company A, after its preliminary training, found itself actively
campaigning. Abram Boyer managed to write occasional letters to his
wife during the next nineteen months, but there were no furloughs
home and in the meanwhile he took part in the battles of South
Mountain, Antietam, Blue Springs, and Crab Orchard, without being
Starts the Front.
His young wife therefore frightened and resolved to see him at all
costs when she received a letter stated that he had been twice
wounded in the Battle of the Wilderness on May 6, 1864, and that he
was in a hospital at Annapolis, Md. Boyer had been struck by a rifle
ball in the right shoulder and a few moments later by another, which
entered his right leg at the hip, coming out on the inside of the
Mrs. Boyer had never been in a railroad train in her life, but a few
days after receiving the letter she boarded the train at Milesburg,
then the head of the Lock Haven & Tyrone railroad, bound for
The trip lasted almost two days. At Annapolis she found the only
hotel full, with General Grant and his family among the guests, but
she finally succeeded in obtaining lodging. She had known Grant when
he was a youth, having become acquainted with him at Bellefonte,
where he came to spend a vacation. Mrs. Simcox relates that the
young Grant spent much of his time on the swing on the veranda of
the hotel while in Bellefonte and, she still retains a vivid memory
of his appearance.
General Grant Aids Her.
General Grant aided her in locating her wounded husband, finding
Lieutenant Waldo C. Vanvalin of his company, who appeared early the
next morning walking along the camp street. When the lieutenant saw
Mrs. Boyer he smiled and his comment was, “What the devil are you
doing down here?:
Once again Mrs. Boyer displayed the indomitable courage which had
brought her south, She replied, “I just came down to see you fellows
and to shoot a couple of Rebels!”
Lieutenant Vanvalin found several soldiers of Company A, who
volunteered to lead the young woman to her husband. She found him,
much to her surprise, sitting behind a commissary hut engaged in
cleaning his rifle. He had not been as dangerously wounded as had
been supposed, though forced to remain off duty to receive daily
Began to Nurse.
In the hospital Mrs. Boyer found two of her former Howard
schoolmates, Adam Brade and George Brown both of whom were wounded
and badly needing a nurse’s attention. Mrs. Boyer began to help the
army surgeon the day she arrived and at his urgent request remained
for six weeks, caring for her husband and the two former
schoolmates. Her husband got her lodging with a woman whose house
was near the camp, but after a few meals, which consisted almost
entirely of black coffee and black strap molasses, Mrs. Boyer began
to think she could not stay. Abram, however, managed to get cakes,
roast beef, cheese and other little things for her and this made the
Mrs. Simcox says her landlady was a Rebel in sympathy and often told
her all the soldiers about should be killed and Washington burned.
While at camp Mrs. Boyer learned to know by sight Generals Scott,
Sherman, and Burnsides.
When Mrs. Boyer got ready to return home the army surgeon presented
her with ten dollars as a token of his appreciation. She came
north by way of Washington and there visited the White House,
sitting in one of Lincoln’s big horsehair chairs and seeing the
President and Mrs. Lincoln. The latter, she says she believes, was
Rebel in sympathy.
Husband Dies Prisoner.
Abram Boyer returned to Curtin following his discharge, but remained
only a few weeks, when he enlisted for the third time, going back to
his old company which was with the Army of the Potomac hemming in
Petersburg. His wife followed him south a few weeks later and
remained at the camp of the army until General Grant told her one
day the army was about to move, that she had better return home and
that she could return to the army when another camp had been
made. Mrs. Boyer said good bye to her husband on the day the
army began to move, Sept. 29. Her husband was captured by the
Confederates the next day, her parents receiving word of it before
she reached home. He was a prisoner at Andersonville for a month and
died at Salisbury, N.C., Nov. 1, 1864. He lies in an unknown grave
in North Carolina, company mates who returned saying that he had
been buried in a trench with other dead prisoners, the buzzards
pecking at their only partially covered remains.
Kick Instead of Bible.
Fellow prisoners of Boyer told upon returning home of his death,
lying upon the floor of a shanty. A member of Company D of his
regiment, a native of Boggs, was captured with him. This man was
Union while with the federal army, but became rapidly Rebel
when he found himself among the Confederates and became a
prison trusty. Boyer, dying, begged this man to read him the passage
in the Bible which has “In my Father’s house are many mansions” as a
phrase, but received a kick for his request. When the Company D man
returned home he found a reward posted for his apprehension and
disappeared. Mrs. Simcox told the writer she would have killed him
had she ever met him.
With a twinkly in her eye, half of amusement, half of mischief, Mrs.
Simcox reached the next episode in her story. Following the death of
her husband, she remained with her parents. In a year or two
she became acquainted with a young lawyer form the west, a man named
Shurgarts. He pressed his suit with vigor and pleaded that she
accompany him west. She packed a trunk for preparation, then told
her parents that before going, she must first visit a sister-in-law
in Lock Haven.
The visit meant disappointment for she met Samuel Simcox and married
the young lawyer, during the visit with him in Lock Haven, April 16,
1887, the ceremony being performed by Squire John Noble. She states
that she does not know what Shugarts did with her trunk of
belongings, although he was later killed in a railroad wreck.
Mr. Simcox, with his wife, set up housekeeping in the log building
in Simcox Hollow, Pine Creek township, where she still resides, and
followed charcoal burning as a livelihood. Two children were born to
the union, Louis who lives with his mother and who has gained quite
a reputation as a mountain fiddler, and Mrs. Jennie Nichols, of
Jersey Shore. The husband died less than a year ago.
Mrs. Simcox has made no trips from the hollow in the past few years
with the exception of one to Bellefonte a few years ago when she
attended the funeral of her former acquaintance, Ex-Governor James
A. Beaver, whom she had known when a girl and who served during the
Civil war as a colonel in her first husband’s regiment.
Mrs. Simcox has suffered extreme poverty, but her last days are to
be happier, friends having succeeded in securing an ample soldier
widow’s pension for her. She recently suffered a paralytic stroke
which has left her body enfeebled, but her mind is as clear as