Barney Zeigler the forgeman

Barney Zeigler first appears in the census in 1820, in Petersburg, Huntingdon County, with a wife and eight children. He must have come to Petersburg from somewhere else, but he has not been found in the 1810 census, even under different names like Barnabas, Barnet or Bernard. There are no early church records for Petersburg giving records of the death of his wife or the birth of his children. Fortunately, his daughter Sarah Zeigler Long lived to be 94 years old, long enough to have a state death certificate, which gives the names of her parents as Barney Zeigler and Fannie Kestler.

Barney was born about 1781. He is shown in the census for Huntingdon County from 1820 through 1860. Although the places were listed differently at different times, they were probably all the same place—the town of Petersburg, in the valley of Shaver’s Creek near Alexandria. In 1820 he was listed as Bernard Zigler, with a wife and eight children. In 1830 he was listed as Barnard Siglar, with his wife and still eight children. By 1840 he shown as Barnabas Zigler (which was probably his real name), with three children, but no woman over 30. His wife was probably dead by then. In 1850 he is still in Petersburg. He owned his own house, worth $500, which seems below average for the town, which seemed to have quite a few houses worth about $1,000.

Who is the Sarah Sigler living with him in 1850? She was about the same age as his daughter Sarah, but Sarah was already married to John Long by then. There could not be two daughters named Sarah. She was not a second wife, since both she and Barney were shown as single and because she was so much younger than Barney. She was most likely a widowed daughter-in-law who moved in to keep house for Barney. Since Jacob Ziegler was on the tax list for Petersburg until 1849 and not afterward, she may have been his widow.  Sarah was still there ten years later.

Barney was taxed in Petersburg from 1845 until 1867, but marked off the list in 1868. This must be when he went to live with his son Barney Jr in Johnstown, Cambria County. In the 1870 census he appears there, age 87. On December 30, 1876 Barney Sr died.  He was buried in Sandyvale Cemetery, Johnstown, Cambria County as Barnabas Zeigler. His date of birth was given as 1781, which may have been an estimate.

The one fact about Barney that we know for sure is that he was a forgeman. Petersburg was a small town on Shaver’s Creek, about three miles from Alexandria, dominated by the Juniata Forge. The forge was built just before 1800 by Peter Shoenberger, who also laid out the town streets and named it after himself. He reserved lots for a German church, Presbyterian church, English school and German school. Although these buildings were not erected at the time, they give a clue to the ethnic makeup of the workers whom he was recruiting. Shoenberg also kept the first general store and the first public-house (tavern). The early blacksmiths were Jacob Everly and Jacob Dopp; they did general work and work for the forge. Other early artisans were wheelwrights, saddlers, shoemakers, a glove-maker and two hatters. The earliest physician was Dr. Peter Sevine, who practiced until about 1816. He was followed by several different men until Dr. John McCullough came about 1832 and served for over twenty years.

The earliest church building in Petersburg was the Methodist church erected in 1846. Before then the Methodists met in the house of Calvin Wingart. The Mennonites met in the houses of the members, until in 1835 they built a log meeting-house in Porter Township. The Presbyterians did not build their church until 1854, but undoubtedly worshipped before then. There is an early burial ground near the mouth of Shaver’s Creek, now abandoned.

The dominant industry would have been the iron forge. The forges, scattered throughout Huntingdon County, burned charcoal to make pig iron to be shipped to the cities. At first it was shipped by horse-drawn wagon; later it floated down the Pennsylvania Canal. In 1875 the canal was damaged by a flood of the Juniata and many of the locks and bridges were washed away. By then the railroad was the obvious alternative.

A typical little town with an iron furnace included the mansion of the ironmaster and the modest houses of the workers. “Although the ironmaster was of higher social standing than his workers, all classes mingled freely on the iron plantations, buying goods at the same store and going to church in the same building.” There were different jobs in the forge: the founder (who managed the furnace), blacksmiths, carpenters, fillers (who loaded the charcoal and ore into the furnace), molders or guttermen, colliers (who made the charcoal), woodcutters, miners, teamsters. Since Barney was described only as a forgeman in the census, it is impossible to tell which job he performed.

The forgemen were very competitive. In December 19, 1816 the men of Tyrone Upper Forge proudly reported that they drew 12t. 7c. 1q. 4lbs. of bar iron in the preceding week, even though the forge had only three fires. Mr. Berry, the forge manager, asked the Huntingdon Gazette to publish this for the information of the men of Cove Forge.

Barney married his wife about 1805. Her name is only given in one record: the death certificate of Sarah Zeigler Long in 1910, which was many years after the death of Barney’s wife,  who would not have been personally known to her Long grandchildren. It was given as Fanny Kessler. Fanny may have been an English form of Fronica.

Children of Barney:

Sarah and Barnabus Jr are known to be children of Barney Sr from their death certificates. Jacob is presumed to be another son because he was in Petersburg at the right time, and because Barney Sr was known to have more children. There were other Zeiglers around in Huntingdon County, but none of them seem like a good fit for this family.

 Sarah, b. 1816, d. 1910, m. John C. Long of Williamsburg, Huntingdon County

Jacob, on the tax list for Petersburg from 1847 to 1849, 1 occupation

Barnabas Jr., b. May 14, 1822, d. July 23, 1913, m. 1847 Jane Wright (1829-1881), worked as a steelman.

Barney Junior had an interesting life and a narrow escape from death. Born in 1822 in Petersburg, he became a forgeman like his father. He married Jane Wright in 1847 at Petersburg, by a Methodist minister. He moved to Johnstown before 1860, when he appears in the census with his wife and four children. (They would go on to have two more.) He served in the Civil War, in the 192nd Infantry, which patrolled the Shenandoah Valley but saw no significant fighting. By 1870 Barney was back in Johnstown, the boss in the rolling mill.

In 1889 Barney Jr lived on Fairfield Avenue, Morrellville. This was northwest of the main part of the city, under the slopes of Laurel Hill. When the city directory listing was made, in April/May, there were two people living in the house, presumably Barney and one of his children. (Jane was already dead before then.) Two people were reported as living there after the disastrous flood. Barney survived, and in 1900 he was an inmate in the Soldiers and Sailors Home in Erie, a home for indigent and disabled veterans. By 1910, Barney Jr. was back in Lower Yoder Township, Cambria County, living with a son-in-law John Yocum and wife Elizabeth, age 56. Barnabus was age 87, widowed. He died in 1913 and is buried in Johnstown with his wife Jane.



Death certificates of Sarah Zeigler Long and Barnabas Zeigler Jr.

Records of the family of Johann Bernard Zeigler of Codorus Township, York County

Census records, 1820-1910

Findagrave records for Barnabus Sr and Jr

Simpson Africa, History of Huntingdon and Blair Counties, chapter on Logan Township

History of Mt. Etna Iron Furnace, online (source of the quote on the social classes)

Keith Koch, “Bellefonte—the Iron ‘Plantation’”, Bellefonte Secrets, July 2008, online

Huntingdon Gazette, Dec. 19, 1816, microfilm at Juniata College Library

Tax lists, Petersburg Township, Huntingdon County Historical Society

History of Cambria County, vol. 2, online

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