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Susan (King) Elder 
(1833-1917)

Susan (King) Elder was born on Oct. 27, 1833 in Pleasant Unity, Somerset County, PA, the daughter of Thomas R. and Sarah "Sally" (Younkin) King.

On Dec. 4, 1856, when she was 23 years of age, she married a childhood friend, 32-year-old Dr. James G. Elder (Oct. 3, 1824-1903). The nuptials were held at the New Lexington residence of her father, led by Rev. Benjamin Price of the Methodist Episcopal Church. Among those known to have attended the wedding were formal witnesses J.B. Davis, Freeman King, Samuel King and Susan's sister Amanda (King) Rodman.

A record of their marriage, signed by Rev. Price, was written on a piece of paper which the couple kept for the rest of their lives. Inscribed on the back were notations of their and their three-eldest children's births.

 

This is to certify

That Dr. James G. Elder of Somerset County in the State of Pennsylvania and Susan King of Somerset County in the State of Pennsylvania were by me Joined together in

Holy Matrimony

on the Fourth day of December in the year of our Lord One Thousand Eight Hundred and Fifty Six.

In Presence of

   J.B. Davis

   Freeman King

   Samuel King

Benjamin Price

National Archives

 

The five children born to this marriage were Joseph C. Elder, Amanda Ellen Elder, Josephine May Elder, James A. Elder and one who died young.

James stood 5 feet, 8½ inches tall. He and his future brother-in-law Alexander King labored together harvesting and haying circa 1858-1860. They also skinny-dipped together during the harvest season of 1859, with Alexander able to see that James was in the prime of physical fitness, free from any disabilities or injuries.

The Elders first made a home in 1860 in Middlecreek Township, Somerset County, where James served as justice of the peace and Susan was a "spinster" -- spinner of fabrics. Among their neighbors at the time were Susan's cousin, Aaron and Mary (Younkin) Schrock.

James served in the Union Army during the Civil War, as a member of the 54th Pennsylvania Infantry, Company D. He joined the army on Sept. 4, 1861 and on Feb. 7, 1862 was commissioned as a first lieutenant while in Harrisburg, PA.

While James was away at war, grief blanketed the family at the death of their baby son Joseph on April 14, 1862 at the age of three years and 10 months. There is no record of how long it took for James to receive the news. The death was recorded on the back of the Elders' marriage certificate.

He was present with the regiment throughout the Shenandoah Valley Campaign and to Lynchburg and back. While on duty at Kernstown near Winchester, VA on July 24, 1864, already suffering from diarrhea, he was injured while picketed on the regiment's skirmish line. In his own words, written in the third person, he wrote that "being forced to fall back rapidly, he was struck on the foot by a spent canister shot, and was thrown on some timber, which severely injured his spine, and caused scrotal hernia of left side." After that, he said, he could not stand any marching or fatigue duty.

 

Above: battle action in Winchester, VA in 1864. Below: Clarysville General Hospital in Maryland, where James was treated for his injuries.

 

He received initial medical treatment at Frederick, MD. He was ordered to an Army hospital in Annapolis, MD on Aug. 3. He returned to duty in mid-August but then on Sept. 17 was again ill with what doctors termed "inflammation of liver." He was sent to Clarysville General Hospital near Cumberland, MD. There was little that military surgeons could do, so he primarily treated himself. He received a month-long furlough on Sept. 24. He returned to Clarysville on Oct. 24 and remained until rejoining his regiment the day after Christmas 1864. He received an honorable discharge while at Chapin's Farm in Virginia on Feb. 8, 1865.

James returned home to New Centerville and resumed his medical practice. Among friends who saw him immediately upon his arrival home were William Tospon and J.R. Weimer.

During 1868, three years after the conclusion of the war, the family migrated to Illinois, as did Susan's married sister and brother-in-law, Amanda and Francis A. "Frank" Rodman. They put down roots in Padua, McLean County, and were there as per the 1870 federal census enumeration. James was employed in Padua as a physician, but due to his injuries could not work at any manual labor. Their friend Weimer also left Somerset County at some point and moved to Hardy, NE, while Tospon migrated to Hamilton, MO.

On the move again in 1875/1876, the Elders found a new residence in Fisher, Brown Township, Champaign County, IL, where James established his medical practice, the first one in the history of the town. He also was appointed federal postmaster of Fisher in 1877 as reported by the Chicago Inter Ocean.

James was eligible to receive a military pension as compensation for his disabilities as a soldier, and he submitted his application on May 13, 1876. Among those signing affidavits of support were 54th Pennsylvania veteran P.W. Fadely of Morrill, KS.

It was granted, and he received monthly government checks for the rest of his life. [Invalid App. #219.145 - Cert. #580-641] He also was a member of the local chapter of the Grand Army of the Republic.

When examined by military surgeons in 1876, he weighed in at 180 lbs. But as time went on his weight grew. In February 1891 he was measured at 210 lbs. and by December 1893 at 225 lbs. Their report for 1892 observed him as "distressed & very obese and plethoric muscles large & flabby & considerable Bronchia breathing over left lung... On the slightest exertion he puffs like a steam engine."

In 1900, living in Fisher, the 74-year-old James received income as a landlord. Under their roof that year were bachelor son James and 12-year-old granddaughter Mable E. Marsh. The census-taker reported that they had outlived four of their five children. He suffered a stroke of paralysis in later 1901 and suffered from senility, rendering him nearly helpless.

After suffering from what the Paxton (IL) Daily Record called a "lingering illness," James passed away on Jan. 9, 1903. Funeral services were held in the local Methodist Church, with burial following in Naylor Cemetery in Fisher. An obituary reported that he was "one of the oldest citizens in Fisher."

Susan then applied for and was awarded his pension. [Widow App. #777.776 - Cert. #549.404] She claimed in government affidavits that she was "totally disabled" with varicose ulcers in her lower limbs and was "unable to stand or walk sufficiently to perform any labor." She also said that she had no income or investment vehicles, but that she owned several lots in Fisher including a frame house, which she estimated would not sell for more than $1,500.

The U.S. Census for 1910 shows Susan and her single son James sharing a home in Fisher.

On June 2, 1917, Susan died at home following a bout with bronchial pneumonia. An obituary in the Gibson City (IL) Courier noted that "the death angel visited this vicinity and took away one of our oldest and most highly respected citizens." Rev. J.W. Dundas officiated at funeral services held in the local Methodist Episcopal Church. Her remains were placed beside her husband's in Naylor Cemetery. [Find-a-Grave]

James is cited in J.R. Stewart's 1918 book A Standard History of Champaign County, Illinois.

~ Daughter Amanda Ellen Elder ~

Daughter Amanda Ellen Elder (1860- ? ) was born on May 19, 1860 in Somerset County, PA. She was in girlhood when she joined her family in a pioneer migration to Illinois. Unmarried at the age of 20 in 1880, she earned a living as a school teacher in Fisher, Champaign County, IL. She was deceased by 1898.

~ Daughter Josephine May Elder ~

Daughter Josephine May Elder (1866- ? ) was born on Nov. 19 or Dec. 13/18, 1866 in Somerset County, PA. (Sources for the date differ widely.) As a small girl, in 1868, she relocated with her family to Iowa. She was deceased by 1898.

~ Son James Alexander Elder ~

Son James Alexander Elder (1871-1933) was born on Dec. 18, 1870/1871/1874 in Illinois. He grew up in Fisher, Champaign County, IL and earned a living as a house painter in 1900-1910. During that time, he shared a home with his parents in Fisher. He is thought to have remained in Fisher for the rest of his life. He died just five days after his 59th birthday on Dec. 23, 1933. Interment was in Naylor Cemetery in Fisher.

 

Copyright 2014, 2019, 2022

Research for this page graciously shared by the late Donna (Younkin) Logan, Sylvester Everhart Jr., Linda Marker, Marian (Smith) Posey, Laurel Posey, Loretta (Adams) Kelldorf and Kay Lynn Younkin.