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William Claffey Sr
Claffey Home Page



2  Bills, 2 Marys abt 1890
Mary Mounts McDaniel Claffey 
abt 1932
William Claffey Sr. 
about 1900 
     *  Tin Type photo circa 1890 (Reversed via photo editor)
Seated if front: William Claffey Sr. and wife Mary Mounts McDaniel Claffey
Standing : William Claffey Jr. and Mary 'B' Arabelle Miller Claffey
William Claffey Sr. is holding an object that resembles a piece of wire fencing.
    Part of message in his right hand can be detected. It reads
         "ETERNAL STEEL WOVEN WIRE FENCE"  Perhaps a Patent ??

          [Ed note: This is a modified version manuscript published in "Keyhole"  July 1995  by Carol Ann Claffey Mounts, great granddaughter of this couple]

     William Claffey Sr. was born July 6, 1836 in Washington County, Pennsylvania, the first born son of Thomas Claffey and Christina Sybert Claffey.  His father and paternal grandparents, Jane and  James Claffey were born in Ireland and came to America in August, 1817.
                             [To read more about Thomas Claffey GOTO]
      William Claffey Sr. lived his entire life in Washington County, Pa. except for the four years of the Civil War, 1861-1865. He died March 5, 1901. He is buried in Washington Cemetery with his wife Mary Mounts McDaniel Claffey and several members of his immediate family.

     Very little was known about my father's grandfather, William Claffey, until I started my research.  I knew that he had served in the Civil War and had died at Dixmont Hospital, a mental institution.  Perhaps the fact that he died there is the reason that my family knew or discussed so little about him. The research material that my cousins and I have acquired has given us a different perspective of his life.
     We have been fortunate to find much information in local records, however we now have over 85 official pages of military records. These documents present insight into his life that was not known before.  He was the oldest of fourteen children in Thomas Claffey household.  He lived most of his life at the same location in  two story brick  home probably built by his father Thomas Claffey who came to America as a child in 1817.  The house fronted on the National Road, in that section of West Washington Pa., known as 'Rankintown'.   The old brick house in which he and Mary raised their children, was torn down in 1955 by William Claffey's grandson Harry W. Ritchie and his great grandson Harry L. Ritchie. It was replaced with a low brick ranch dwelling.
     I remember riding the streetcar past the old homestead. I did not know at the time that a separate section built on the back served as quarters for William in his older years when the suffering he had endured during those terrible Civil War years began to take its toll on his mind.
     My memories of the 1930's were not much concerned with the old two story brick house or an ancestor long gone, but focused instead on the house next door, a white frame two story house  where lived William Claffey's widow, Great Grand mother Mary Mounts McDaniel Claffey. She lived with her daughter Matilda, (Mrs. John C. Ritchie).  My cousins and I all have memories of 'Great Grandmother Claffey' sitting on her porch watching the passers by.  Her white hair was pulled back away from her face and at times she wore a small white dust cap.
       Much information can be learned from the following obituary of William Claffey.  I will later fill in details gleaned from
official military records;


      William Claffey died at Dixmont, Tuesday evening, March 5, (1901),
 aged 65 years. Mr. Claffey's home was on Chestnut Street, West Washington (Pa). He was born in what is now North Franklin  township, and his home had always been there and in and around Washington.  When Co A. organized in Washington in 1861, (he)  left for the front to become a part of the 'One Hundredth Pennsylvania' volunteer regiment known as the 'Roundheads'.  Mr. Claffey was a member.  He became a Corporal and served with his company to the end of the war, being mustered out with his comrades.  During the attack at Tower Fort, a stronghold of the rebels on James Island, S. C. in which the Roundheads took a part, Mr. Claffey was wounded.  The Roundheads in that engagement had 41 killed and wounded out of a total of 421 officers and men who went into the fight.  From May 6, 1864 to March, 1865, he was a prisoner in the hands of the rebels and was after his release made a corporal.  His comrades, a number of whom live in  Washington, speak of him as a brave soldier.  He had long been a member of W. F. Templeton  Post no 120, G. A. R. For 28 years he had been in the employ of the Messrs. Zelt, first at the flouring mill and then in the brewery.  He had many acquaintances among whom he was well liked.  A wife and the following children, all living around Washington survive: Miss Tillie Claffey, Mrs. Lida Wilson, Andrew, Doc, William (my grandfather) Harry and Wilse.  Five sisters living in Allegheny county and one brother in Ohio also survive."

Service in the Grand Army of the Republic: (from official military documents)
    Served as a private in the Army of the Republic as an infantryman 100th Regiment 'The Roundhead Regiment" Company A., Military records describe William Claffey Sr. as having fair complexion, blue eyes, dark hair, height of 5 feet 4 1/2 inches and a farmer by occupation.
       William Claffey (Sr.) was mustered in August 27, 1861, as a private, for a three year period and was sent for training to Camp Wilkin, Pa.  On June 16, 1862, he was wounded in the left hand at James Island, South Carolina.  He then spent the next month in the hospital.  On August 18, 1861 a list of absentees at special muster by B. F. Evans records his address as New York City.  By August 27, 1861, he was back on the infantry line, listed as present on company muster roll by James S. Pyles, company clerk.  Pyles many years later filed an affidavit to help William Claffey obtain an increase in pension.  In it he states that the two men had been friends since childhood.
      William Claffey Sr. was discharged December 28, 1863 for reason of re-enlistment, December 31, 1863 at Blaines Cross Road, Tenn. for another three year period, this time as a Veteran Volunteer.  He was listed as absent from official muster rolls, from this time to the end of the war.
     First recorded as 'sick in hospital in Annapolis Maryland', then captured May 6, 1864 at the Wilderness, Tennessee.  He was paroled at Wilmington, S. C. and sent to a hospital in Annapolis Maryland.  He remained on records as a prisoner of war until the official end of the conflict in 1865, and was promoted to Corporal May 13, 1865.
       One would think that official military information would end here, however such is not the case.    In fact we learn much more about him from pension applications. Original pension granted from July 25, 1865, was $2.00 per month due to a gun shot wound of the left hand. This amount was increased July 25, 1865 to $4.00.
As his health was declining at age 49 years, and he had lost all his teeth due to scurvy, he again applied for an increase of pension on January 19, 1885, stating that pension was "too low".  This claim was rejected April 7, 1885.  It is at this point in time that we begin to learn most about his four years of Civil War experience because he then asked for the aid of fellow soldiers to help him prove that he was deserving of more pension pay.  As a result of his request, we now have official records of sworn affidavits by his fellow soldiers.  Most of these records contain duplicate information.  All record William Claffey's date of Muster  and discharge or Parole.  Each soldier however, relates his own interpretation of events.  By piecing them all together, we get a more
complete story.   One of the more explicit and detailed affidavits is here quoted. 
       "He (William Claffey) was captured by the enemy at the battle of Wilderness on the second days fight (May 6th 1864) and taken within 3 - 4 days to Andersonville Georgia and was kept there till Sept. 1864 during which said imprisonment he contracted scurvy by reason of confinement and 'innutritious' food and was very ill with the same - he was shipped from thence to Charleston S. C. and remained there in prison till about Nov. 1864 from thence was taken to Florence and remained till about Feb. 1865.  When he as started from thence to Saulsbury N. C. on a R R train and after passing Wilmington, he jumped from the train, but after wandering around for several days, gave himself up to the Confederate Authorities and was finally exchanged or paroled at Wilmington in March 1865.  He was treated in hospital for said scurvy at Annapolis Md. for 5 or 6 weeks after exchange in the spring of 1865."  Signed by his attorney James S. Parker and two friends, James S. Harter and Charles Greer.
      There is a similar affidavit signed by officers of the 100th Regiment Company A, 1st Lieutenant James S. Stocking and 2nd Lieutenants William H. Underwood and James B. Kennedy stating that they were members of his company  and had personal knowledge of his wounded hand and that on the day of William Claffey's capture, that they knew him to have good teeth, 04/23/1886. 
       Apparently this action taken by his peers was effective, for DEC. 28, 1882 pension was increased to $6.00, per month, listed for same disability and loss of teeth, result of scurvy.
     One last claim was filed 02/04/1891. Can not find results of that claim.
      Along with William Claffey's signature on Military Records are also those of: Captain Thomas Hamilton, Recruitment officer at Blaines Cross Roads 12/28/1863 
Lieut. James W. Montford, witness to re enlistment, 12/28/1863
Capt. George Efininscoe Michigan Infantry 12/03/1863
F. D. Wilson, Examining Surgeon, 12/28/1880
B. F. Hasson. Clerk of Orphans Court of Washington, Pa, 03/24/1882
B. F. Pope, Surgeon U. S. Army 12/22/1885
James S Pyles, 04/__/1886

         [ To read more about Andersonville Prison GOTO ]

       William Claffey married Mary Mounts McDaniel circa 1867.  She was the daughter of Andrew  Jackson McDaniel Sr. and Eliza Mounts.  Her maternal grandparents were Richard Mounts and Mary Kelly.  Mary Kelly was born on the Atlantic Ocean to William Kelly and Martha McCourtney on their way to America from Ireland.

Obituary Headline "Mrs. Mary Claffey, 101, Dies Unexpectedly in Home Here
     Mrs. Mary Mounts McDaniel Claffey, 101, Washington's oldest resident,  died at the home of her daughter, Mrs. John C. Ritchie, 896 West Chestnut  Street, at 3;40 a.m. Friday, July 30 (1948). Born in Washington (Pa),  April 7, 1847, a block from the home in which she died. Mrs. Claffey  knew what it meant to work hard. In "Rankintown", as that section of  West Chestnut St. was known a century ago, she worked on her  father's farm, being one of eight children. She brought in hay and helped  with chores about the home until her marriage.
      Like the brides of yesterday, she waited for her soldier-fiance to come home from war. A Civil War bride, she was married to William Claffey.  Again she worked hard to rear a family of seven and then later reared  seven of her grandchildren when their parents died. During the gas boom  in this section, she kept  a full house of boarders.
     Mrs. Claffey was the daughter of the late Andrew J. McDaniel and Eliza  Mounts McDaniel. Her father was proprietor of the old "Rankintown Tavern"  on West Chestnut Street and she was born in the tavern building, which was  surrounded by a large farm. Her husband was an engineer at the Zelt flour  mill and they continued to live within the 800 block on West Chestnut Street.  He died in 1901, 46 years ago.
     Her memory of the first train to go through Washington was when, as a small  girl, her father took her to see "the horse fed wood and coal" which passed  by the house.
    When interviewed on her 100th birthday last year, Mrs. Claffey said, "I've  lived through four wars and I don't believe I will live to see another one.  There is talk of another war. I hope none of us see that."
     In April of this year, Mrs. Claffey was presented with a plaque by the  Pennsylvania Medical Society. The society marked its 100th anniversary this year and on the occasion presented plaques to all persons in the state  100 years or older.
    Twenty years ago Mrs. Claffey fell and broke her hip and until recently, she got about with the use of a crutch.  Until the time of her death, she retained an active interest in her family and  friends.
    Surviving are three sons, Wilse Claffey, Washington; A. J. Claffey, Kinard,  S. C., and R. L. Claffey, Greensburg; one daughter, Tillie, wife of John C.  Ritchie, Washington.  Also surviving are 30 grandchildren, nine great grand children and three great- great, grand children.  Mrs. Claffey was preceded in death by three children, Mrs. (Lyde) John
 Wilson, William (Jr.) and Harry Claffey."

To Read More on Mary Mounts McDaniel Family GOTO 

Related Items:
     An early deed states that Tom Claffey bought property from Richard Mounts along the National  Road in 'Rankintown'.  Further genealogical research revealed that this Richard Mounts is a common ancestor to both my husband and myself. (Great Great Great Grandfather)  How ironic?!  For we were not to be born for another 150 years.
     Great grandmother Claffey told her children and grandchildren that all the land you could see from her back yard once belonged to her family. Presumably she was speaking of the McDaniel family, for a map of Washington County 1856 by William J. Barker, a map maker from New York, records the property belonging to the McDonald family. This discrepancy is further explained by a court document in which Andrew McDaniel Sr. comments on his name earlier recorded as McDonald and he was correcting the error in 1890.
 Children of William Claffey Sr. and Mary Mounts McDaniel Claffey, all born in Washington, Pa.
     1. Lydia (Lida) Claffey, born 12/04/1868, died 05/01/1944, m. John E. Wilson,
                children: Lewis, Goldie and Madeline
   *2. William Claffey Jr. born 06/23/1873, died, 05/31/1930 (my grandfather) worked as Glass Bottle Blower 
          for Hazel Atlas Glass Co. and in later years operated a small candy shop in West Washington. He was 
          also instrumental in the founding of the Eighth Ward Playground.  He married Mary B. Arabelle  Miller 
          born 06/02/1875 died 07/19/1937.
          This is  my grandmother 'Mary B.' referred to in past articles. It was from her I inherited  a 'Black Satchel' 
          containing about 200 photos now identified as family members. She was grand daughter of John F. Miller.
          Children: F. Iona, Shirley Deroy, W. Loren, Joseph H., Guy P. and George K.
                 [ Shirley Deroy and George K owned and operated a multi-state 'Claffey Beauty Shops' chain. 
                  Loren operated a 'Claffey  Beauty Shop' and worked for Hazel Atlas Glass Co. along with Joseph 
                  H  and Guy P. Uncle Guy was Transportation Manager for Hazel Atlas and for 32 years served as a 
                   football official. My father Joseph H (Bus) also drummer with local bands.
     3. John Wilson 'Wilse' Claffey Sr., born 08/19/1875, died 04/27/1966
           married Emma Jane Quail, b. 03/26/1879, d. 11/28/1959
           children; Jenetta, Mary Ellen, John Jr., Ray, Lewis D., Effie Mae and Emma.
     4. Andrew J (Jack) Claffey, b. 11/26/1877, d. 10/29/1957. raised 'game roosters' as a hobby,
           married Elizabeth Vankirk, born 12/22/1881, died 05/02/1956
           children; Gertrude and Jane
 5. Matilda C. Claffey, b. 09/03/1881, d. 10/15/1961 m. John Calvin Ritchie, born 03/26/1877, d. 05/10/1960.
           children; Harry W. and John G.
     6. Robert Lane (Doc) Claffey, b. 10/22/1884, d. 02/12/1951 married Alma O. Grandon b. 03/04/1890, 
          d. 12/10/1979.  Doc Claffey operated a Barbecue in Greensburg, Pa. for 28 years. 
          One child William Lane
     7. Harry Franklin Claffey, b. 10/19/1886, d. 08/02/1938
          1st wife Winnie Gertrude Gallagher  born 1890, died 06/01/1922
          children; Alma Mae, Viola B., Eva L., Robert L., Glenn, Herman and George.
          2nd wife Lucie  children; Mary Lou and Joanne.
Personal Note: Although William Claffey died 28 years before I was born, I feel that I know him.  He was a quiet unpretentious man, born the son of an Irish immigrant, who did his duty as he saw it. Though ravaged in mind and body in later years from the effects of the Civil War, he managed to raise a family and pass down a legacy for which I will be eternally grateful.

            REGIMENT'    1989 William Gilfillan Gavin
            'Ketterman Collection of Military Records of William Claffey'
            'Mounts- Claffey Obituaries', 1994 Glenn W and Carol Ann Mounts
            'Washington County, Pennsylvania' 1893 Beers
            'William Claffey Family Bible' in possession of Harry L Ritchie

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