On this day, 14 December 1886, Jane (Shook) Ardinger (my 4th great-grandmother) passed away.
Jane Shook (Shuck) was born on 31 August 1819, in Berkeley County, Virginia (which is in modern-day West Virginia). Her parents were John Shuck and Rachel Keesecker, who were married on 3 February 1817, in Berkeley County, Virginia.
In 1830, the John Shook family was enumerated in Berkeley County, Virginia.
Unfortunately, nothing is known of Jane’s childhood. What is known is that on 31 December 1836 or 1 January 1837, when she was 17 years old, Jane Shook married Charles Godfrey Ardinger in Williamsport, Washington County, Maryland. Charles Godfrey Ardinger was the son of Johannes “John” Ardinger and Margaret Elizabeth Wintersmith.
Later that year, on 13 December 1837, the couple welcomed their first child, John William Ardinger, to their Williamsport, Washington County, Maryland home.
A second son, James Christian Ardinger (my 3rd great-grandfather), was born two years later on 16 November 1839.
In 1840, the Ardinger/Shook families were enumerated in Williamsport, Washington County, Maryland. Residing in the household were two free white males under the age of five (sons John and James Ardinger), one free white male age 10 to 15 (William Shook, brother of Jane), one free white male age 20 to 30 (Charles), one free white female under the age of five (Rachel Shook, sister of Jane), one free white female age 15 to 20 (Jane), and one free white female age 40 to 50 (Rebecca Shook, mother of Jane).
Son Joseph Thornton VanLear Ardinger was born on 3 January 1844, in Williamsport, Washington County, Maryland. (His namesake appears to be a local farmer by the name of Joseph T. Vanlear, most likely a family friend and/or young Joseph’s godfather.)
Daughter Emma Rachel Ardinger came along two years later on 17 March 1846, Williamsport, Washington County, Maryland.
In 1848, another daughter whom they named Margaret Jane Ardinger was welcomed to the family.
On 19 July 1850, the Ardinger family was enumerated in Washington County, Maryland. Charles (age 38) was a miller. Also residing in the household were Jane (age 32), John (age 13), James (age 10), Mary (age 8), Joseph (age 6), Emma (age 4), Margaret (age 1), Rebecca Shook (age 55), Rachel Shook (age 13), William Shook (age 25, who was working as a laborer), and George Ayres (age 32, who worked as a sawyer at Charles Godfrey Ardinger’s mill).
The next year, son Charles Andrew Ardinger arrived on 26 November 1851.
Three years later, son Henry Zeller Ardinger was born on 2 June 1854.
A few months later, tragedy struck the Ardinger family, when daughter Mary Ellen Ardinger died on 16 October 1854. She was only 12 years old.
Less than three years later, Jane and Charles welcomed another daughter, Amanda Virginia Ardinger, who was born on 8 April 1857.
On 10 November 1857, son John William Ardinger married Susan Ellen Albert in Williamsport, Washington County, Maryland.
On 18 July 1860, Charles and Jane Ardinger were still residing in Williamsport, Washington County, Maryland. Their children James, Joseph, Emma, Margaret, Charles, Henry, and Amanda. Also living in the home was 16-year-old Elizabeth Ardinger (I believe this is a niece). Their personal property was valued at $100. Charles and his sons James and Joseph all worked at the family mill.
Later that year on 29 November 1860, son James Christian Ardinger married Emma Jane Nitzel (my 3rd great-grandmother) in Williamsport, Maryland. She was the daughter of Johannes “John” Nitzel and Ann Elizabeth “Eliza” Hammond.
Meanwhile, almost 500 miles away, discord was brewing. On 12 April 1861, a shot was fired on Fort Sumter, outside of Charleston, South Carolina. The War Between the States had begun. Western Maryland experienced great upheaval, with sympathies between neighbors and within families split between Union and Confederate causes.
Amidst all this discord, the couple’s final child, George Washington Ardinger, was born on 15 May 1861.
Half a year later, the Civil War would arrive in Washington County, Maryland. On 1 January 1862, Major General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson marched north in bitter cold from Winchester to Bath with the objective of disrupting traffic on the B&O Railroad and C&O Canal. On 5 January 1862, after skirmishing with some Union outlooks, Jackson’s force reached the Potomac River opposite the garrisoned town of Hancock, Maryland. His artillery fired on the town from Orrick’s Hill but did little damage. Union garrison commander Brig. Gen. F.W. Lander refused Jackson’s demands for surrender. Jackson continued the bombardment for two days while unsuccessfully searching for a safe river crossing. The Confederates withdrew and marched on Romney, in western Virginia, on 7 January 1862.
On 14 September 1862, after invading Maryland, Gen. Robert E. Lee divided his army to march on Harpers Ferry. The Army of the Potomac under Major Gen. George B. McClellan pursued the Confederates to Frederick, Maryland, then advanced on South Mountain. Pitched battles were fought for possession of the South Mountain passes—Crampton’s, Turner’s, and Fox’s Gaps. By dusk, the Confederate defenders were driven back, suffering severe casualties, and McClellan was in a position to destroy Lee’s Army before they could regroup. McClellan’s limited activity on 15 September 1862 after his victory at South Mountain, however, allowed the garrison at Harpers Ferry to be captured and allowed Lee time to unite his scattered divisions at Sharpsburg.
Then, on 17 September 1862, about 15 miles from the Ardinger home, the Battle of Antietam was waged. It was the bloodiest single-day battle in American history, pitting the Army of the Potomac, numbered at 87,164, against the Army of Northern Virginia, numbered at 38,000. After the last shot was fired and the dust and smoke had cleared, 2,108 Union soldiers were dead, 9,549 were wounded, and 753 were captured or missing. For the Confederates, 1,567 soldiers were dead, 7,752 were wounded, and 1,018 were captured or missing.
Sometime in 1863, in the chaos of war, love was celebrated when son Joseph Thornton Van Lear Ardinger wed Emma Jane Grosh in Williamsport, Maryland.
On 4-5 July 1863, Lee’s battered army retreated after the Battle of Gettysburg, moving southwest on the Fairfield Road toward Hagerstown and Williamsport, screened by Confederate Gen. J.E.B. Stuart’s cavalry. The Union infantry followed cautiously the next day, converging on Middletown, Maryland (about 20 miles from Williamsport).
On 7 July 1863, Confederate Gen. John Daniel Imboden stopped Union Brig. Gen. John Buford, Jr.’s cavalry from occupying Williamsport and destroying Confederate trains. The Union cavalry drove two Confederate cavalry brigades through Hagerstown before being forced to retire by the arrival of the rest of Stuart’s command. Lee’s infantry reached the rain-swollen Potomac River but could not cross, the pontoon bridge having been destroyed by a cavalry raid.
On 8 July 1863, the Confederate cavalry, holding the South Mountain passes, fought a rearguard action against elements of the Union 1st and 3rd Cavalry Divisions and Infantry. This action was one of a series of cavalry combats fought around Boonsboro, Hagerstown, and Williamsport.
On 11 July 1863, Lee entrenched a line, protecting the river crossings at Williamsport, and waited for Meade’s army to advance.
On 12 July 1863, Meade reached the vicinity and probed the Confederate line. On 13 July 1863, skirmishing was heavy along the lines as Meade positioned his forces for an attack. In the meantime, the river fell enough to allow the construction of a new bridge, and Lee’s army began crossing the river after dark on the 13th. On 14 July 1863, two Confederate cavalry divisions attacked a Union rearguard division still on the north bank, taking more than 500 prisoners.
On 16 July 1863, across the river from Williamsport, Union Gen. David McMurtrie Gregg’s cavalry approached Shepherdstown where Confederate Gen. Fitzhugh Lee’s and Brig. Gen. J.R. Chambliss’s brigades, supported by M.J. Ferguson’s, held the Potomac River fords against the Union infantry. Fitzhugh Lee and Chambliss attacked Gregg, who held out against several attacks and sorties, fighting sporadically until nightfall when he withdrew.
By the time the war had ended in May 1865, Washington County, Maryland was in shambles. Farms in and around the battles were decimated. Crops waiting to be harvested were razed by bullets and cannons or trampled under the tread of the troops. Harvested crops were requisitioned by the military. Smaller animals, like pigs and chickens, were confiscated to feed the masses, as were the eggs. The military also requisitioned horses and mules to replace dead, wounded, or exhausted military draft animals. Wooden fences were destroyed during the battle or were dismantled for firewood. The area around the battles was littered with debris.
How the Ardinger Family fared through the war is unknown. The next time an Ardinger family member appears in the records is on 25 July 1867, when daughter Emma Rachel Ardinger married Henry Martin Newcomer in Hagerstown, Maryland.
On 2 August 1870, Jane and Charles Ardinger were still residing in Williamsport, Washington County, Maryland. Their children Mary J. (Margaret), Charles, Henry Z., Amanda V., and George W. still resided with them. The family’s real estate was valued at $16,000, and their personal property was worth $3,800. Charles and his sons James and Joseph all worked at the family mill. Living next door was daughter Rachel, her husband Henry Newcomer, and their two children, Ella and Charles.
Later in 1870, son Charles Andrew Ardinger married Elizabeth Virginia Lemen in Williamsport, Washington County, Maryland.
In 1871, Jane’s husband, Charles Godfrey Ardinger was elected to the Maryland State House of Delegates. He began his tenure as a Republican representative in 1872, serving there for several years.
Sadly, on 5 December 1876, son James Christian Ardinger (my 3rd great-grandfather) died in Williamsport, Washington County, Maryland. He was buried in River View Cemetery, Williamsport, Washington County, Maryland. He was only 37 years old.
On Friday, 30 November 1877, after several days of pouring rains, the Potomac River and two of its tributaries, the Antietam and Concocheague Creeks, flooded. The deluge was dubbed the Great Flood. Ardinger’s Mill was surrounded by the Conococheague Creek. Water poured in, leaving only a few feet of the stone walls visible between the water and the eaves of the roof. Despite the water, on Monday, 3 December 1877, the business carried on, as boats loaded and unloaded through the second-story windows. After the floodwaters receded, Ardinger’s Mill still stood.
On 18 June 1880, the federal census shows Jane and Charles Ardinger still living in Williamsport, Washington County, Maryland. Also residing in the household were their children Amanda and George and Rachel Shook, Jane’s mother. At the age of 68, Charles still worked at his mill.
Four years passed. On 25 January 1884, Jane’s mother, Rachel (Keesecker) Shook (who was still living in her daughter’s Williamsport home) died.
Whether it was the grief over losing a beloved son and then losing her dear mother or it was just a health issue is unknown. Sadly, what is known is that on 14 December 1886, Jane (Shook) Ardinger, age 67, died in Williamsport, Washington County, Maryland. She was buried near her son, James Christian Ardinger.