Lancaster, Pennsylvania: A Colored Soldier’s Funeral (1887)

Photo: Courtesy Andre Dominguez, Findagrave.

William Jones, formerly a member of Co. K, 22d Regiment, U. S. Colored Troops, who died of consumption Thursday last, was buried from his late residence on North street yesterday morning at 10 o’clock by the Grand Army of the Republic Burial Committee.

The body was interred in the Soldier’s Burial Lot in Lancaster Cemetery and is the first colored person ever buried in that cemetery. This is in itself a victory for reason and righteousness. The funeral service at the house was conducted by Rev. C. E. Herbert, of Chester, Pa, who so ably filled the pulpit of the Strawberry street A. M. E. Church on Sunday evening, Mr. Herbert himself having been a soldier during the war, serving in the 39th Regiment, U. S. Colored Troops.

The military burial service at the grave was conducted by Vice-Commander J. A. E. Reed, of Post 84, Adjutant John Black, and Past Chaplain A. C. Leonard, of Post 405, with benediction by Rev. Herbert. The address of Dr. Reed was a beautiful tribute to the memory of the loyal dead, and Chaplain Leonard thanked the Lord in prayer ‘that in the country’s hour of trial and danger the brave, loyal men of the North, South, East, and West, irrespective of nationality, creed, or color, rallied to defense of the flag, and had as in the days of war those patriots stood shoulder to shoulder for the right, so in these days of peace those same heroes are permitted to sleep their last sleep together where loving hands will ever care for their graves.

During the service at the grave the large flag was suspended at half mast and an armed guard in full uniform, under command of officer John B. Riley, surrounded the lot.” – by A. C. Leonard, The Christian Recorder, May 26, 1887.

According to military records, Pvt. William Jones was born about 1838 in either York or Lancaster County, Pennsylvania (several sources differ). He enlisted at the age of twenty-five on December 23, 1863, at Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and was initially assigned to Company E of the 22nd Regiment, U. S. Colored Infantry. Two months later, he was transferred to Company K per special order. At the time of his enlistment, he was described as five feet, seven inches tall, with brown complexion and eyes, black hair, and a laborer by occupation.

He was wounded during the opening assault on Petersburg, June 15, 1864, a key date in our own family’s history, as it was the day and place where my paternal great-great-great-granduncle, Daniel Orton, of the 1st U. S. Colored Infantry, died when a shell burst next to him. Pvt. William Jones, somewhere in the same field, suffered a shell wound of his right hand. He was transferred to the General Hospital at Fort Monroe, Virginia, and remained there until his discharge per surgeon’s certificate on May 15, 1865.

In the 1880 Census, William is documented in Lancaster, living alone in a home on Middle Street, near the location of the “Colored” Meeting House on the 1850 Reigart map of Lancaster City, Pennsylvania.

“Plan of Lancaster City.” Reigart, J. F. & P.S. Duval & Co., ca. 1850. Library of Congress.
Detail of the Reigart map of Lancaster City (ca. 1850), depicting Middle St., the “Colored” Meeting House, and Pvt. Jones’ approximate neighborhood by 1880.
Lancaster Daily Intelligencer, May 12, 1887.

Pvt. William Jones’ funeral was held at historic Bethel A. M. E. Church, (“Strawberry street A.M.E.”), a part of Lancaster County’s celebrated Underground Railroad Network. The church cemetery is the resting place of a great majority of Lancaster’s U. S. Colored Troops.

The author of the Christian Recorder obituary, Chaplain Albert Charles Leonard, author of The Boys in Blue of 1861-1865, and who was once held prisoner at Andersonville, died on December 16, 1915, in Philadelphia, and was interred in Lancaster Cemetery. Rev. Charles E. Herbert, of the 39th U. S. Colored Infantry, who presided over William’s funeral, died on November 1, 1925, and was laid to rest in Loudon Park National Cemetery, Baltimore, Maryland.

Petersburg National Battlefield, Petersburg, Virginia. Photo: Nadia K. Orton, November 2, 2012. All rights reserved.
The war in Virginia – the 22nd Colored Regiment, Duncan’s brigade, carrying the first line of Rebel works before Petersburg (1864). Library of Congress.

One thought on “Lancaster, Pennsylvania: A Colored Soldier’s Funeral (1887)

  • Thank you so much for this information. Living in Lancaster, PA and having family that fought in various USCT’s this spurs me to further look into the history of these brave soldiers. I will certainly look into Mr. Jones’ life and family!

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: