Saturday, May 22, 2021

Oldest Living Civil War Veteran

 1848 album quilt from Pennsylvania,
 likely made for the January, 1848 wedding of
 Elizabeth Sponhauer & Ephriam Rannels (also Ephraim Reynolds.)

When Kathe and I were researching the names on the wedding quilt we both noticed a reference to groom Ephriam: "At the time of his death probably the oldest living veteran of the Civil War," according to the Bucyrus [Ohio] Journal.

February 7, 1922

Certain journalistic trends come and go---becoming cliches and an easy hook to hang a story on.

Seventh Illinois Cavalry Reunion

 The "Oldest Civil War Veteran" idea was certainly one of those phrases.

A search for the phrase at
brings up thousands of references.

So doing any research into the accuracy of Ephriam's story as the "oldest" seems futile (especially since the man used two names and his first name was spelled inconsistently too.)

National Grand Army of the Republic Reunion in Buffalo,
1897. Five hundred thousand Union veterans attended.

Certainly, war memories were something people
wanted to read about.

Some history about Ephriam Rannels: He owned a store in Juniata County, Pennsylvania. He and Elizabeth Sponhauer Rannels had two girls and a boy and were married about 50 years when Elizabeth died in 1898. He married Jane McM? in 1902 and when she died shortly after he went to live with his Ohio daughter.

He joined the G.A.R. post
in Galion, Ohio

His friends there were probably glad to describe him
as the oldest man to have served at the time of his death.

National Reunion,1898

Several periodicals devoted to that audience
often described "the youngest," "the last,"  "the first," "the only"....

The "oldest" and "last" headlines persisted into the 1950s when Albert Henry Woolson (1850-1956) was declared the last soldier to die at 106. He enlisted as a drummer boy at 14 in 1864.


Such fame might motivate a man to lie or at least exaggerate his age, 
a topic Smithsonian Magazine addressed in this article:

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