Thursday, March 27, 2014

Thomas Sylvanus

Born: July 4, 1845, Hong Kong
Died: June 15, 1891, Indiana, Pennsylvania

Union
Enlisted August 30, 1861
Private , Company D
Eighty-first Pennsylvania Volunteers

Enlisted July 11, 1863
Corporal, Company D, Color Guard
Forty-second New York Volunteers


In the 1860 U.S. Federal Census, Thomas Sylvanus was a member of the Duvall household in Baltimore, Maryland. His name was recorded as “Thos. Selvanies”. The fifteen-year-old servant was born in China.

Sylvanus’s name was spelled “Sylvannes” in the 1870 census which said he lived in White Township, Indiana County, Pennsylvania. The head of the household, Martin Earhart, was a hotel keeper. Sylvanus’ occupation was hostler.

The 1880 census listed Sylvanus (spelled “Sylvanis”) in Indiana, Pennsylvania. He was married to Matilda and they had two daughters: Sadie, age 3, and Ellen, age 1. Sylvanus was a laborer.

In 1890, a Special Schedule.—Surviving Soldiers, Sailers, and Marines, and Widows, etc. was conducted. According to the document, Sylvanus’s home was Indiana, Pennsylvania, and his rank was private in Company D of the 81st Pennsylvania Infantry. He enlisted August 30, 1861 and was discharged May 28, 1865, having served three years, six months and 28 days.


Gettysburg Compiler
(Pennsylvania)
April 5, 1882
A Little of Everything.
The first Chinaman ever naturalized in America, lives in Indiana, Pa. He is perhaps the only one of his race who carried a musket throughout the civil war. He is now on the pension list and drawing a pension for injuries received during the war, and has been a voter for nearly years.
(click link and scroll halfway down column)

The Indiana Weekly Messenger
(Pennsylvania)
October 3, 1883
Thomas Sylvanis [sic] has organized a package express company and is prepared to deliver packages in any part of the town at a small compensation.

Albany Times
(New York)
December 12, 1884
Thomas Sylvanus, of Indiana, Pa., besides being the only Chinaman in that county, claims the distinction of being the only Chinaman in the United States who saw service, draws a pension, and votes. “Tom” is somewhat between forty and fifty years old, and came to this country at the age of nine [sic]. He enlisted in the Eighty-first Pennsylvania, and during an engagement received injuries to his eyes for which he draws a pension of $12 a month.

Madison Observer
(Morrisville, New York)
December 24, 1884
—Thomas Sylvanus, of Indiana, Pa., besides being the only Chinaman in that county, claims the distinction of being the only Chinaman in the United States who saw service, draws a pension, and votes. “Tom” is somewhat between forty and fifty years old, and came to this country at the age of nine. He enlisted in the 81st Pennsylvania, and during an engagement received injuries to his eyes for which he draws a pension of $12 a month.

The Carbon Advocate
(Lehighton, Pennsylvania)
December 27, 1884
Thomas Sylvanus, of Indiana, claims to be the only Chinaman in this country who served in the army, draws a pension, and votes. He enlisted in the 81st Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteers, from Philadelphia.

The National Tribune
(Washington, DC)
May 24, 1888
A Chinese Pensioner.
Editor National Tribune: The following has been going the rounds of the papers:
…I will now claim for another Chinaman the honor of being the first of his race to receive a pension from the United States Government, and also the first Chinese Grand Army man. When the writer had the honor being Department Commander of the G.A.R. of Pennsylvania, and while on an official visit to the Posts of Indiana County, May 19, 1885, two recruits were mustered into Post 28, of Indiana, one of whom was a Chinaman, who had enlisted in Co. D, 81st Pa., and served until disabled by disease and wounds. He has been receiving a pension of $8 per month since date of disability. His name is Thomas Sylvanus, and under that name he served in the army. His name might have been at one time Ah-Lin, Ah-Sin, or an other Chinese name. He is a citizen of the United States, having been naturalized, but whether before or after the war the writer does not know. He is married to an American woman, and resided in Indiana County, Pa., at the time above mentioned, and was respected by all who knew him.—Austin Curtin, Roland, Pa.

Saginaw News
(Michigan)
April 2, 1891
A Chinaman Who Can vote.
There is at least one Chinaman in the United States who has a right to vote. He is named Thomas Sylvanus, and he lives at Indiana, Pa. When he came to America years ago he determined to make the country his home. So he learned the language and took out naturalization papers. When the war began he enlisted in the federal army and served for four years. He is a member in good standing of the G.A.R. and receives a pension from the government. The other day he learned that because of an informality in his marriage to Matilda Askins, a white woman, soon after the close of the war, she could not be recognized by the authorities as the widow of a veteran in case of his death. Thomas promptly remedied matters by calling in a clergyman who tied the knot “for keeps.”

The Salt Lake Herald
(Salt Lake City [Utah)
April 5, 1891
A Chinaman Who Can Vote.
There is at least one Chinaman in the United States who has a right to vote. He is named Thomas Sylvanus, and he lives at Indiana, Pa. When he came to America years ago he determined to make the country his home. So he learned the language and took out naturalization papers. When the war began he enlisted in the federal army and served four years. He is a member in good standing of the G.A.R. and receives a pension from the government. The other day he learned that because of an informality in his marriage to Matilda Askins, a white woman, soon after the close of the war, she could not be recognized by the authorities as the widow of a veteran in case of his death. Thomas promptly remedied matters by calling in a clergyman who tied the knot “for keeps.”

The Wichita Daily Eagle
(Kansas)
April 9, 1891
A Chinaman Who Can Vote.

The Cambria Freeman
(Ebensburg, Pennsylvania)
June 19, 1891
Thomas Sylvanus, better known as “Tom Chinaman,” died at Indiana on Monday. He was born in Hong Kong in 1845, and came to this country in 1857. He enlisted in the Eighty-first Pennsylvania Volunteers in 1861, and the first Chinaman who was enrolled in the war. He participated in a number of battles, and was captured at Petersburg and confined in Andersonville. At the close of the war he was naturalized as an American citizen in United States court at Pittsburg, the records showing he was the first Chinaman to throw off allegiance to the Chinese emperor. He then went to Indiana and married an American girl, and at the time of his death was the father of three children, all of whom have the almond-shaped eyes and the peculiar bronze complexion of the Chinese heathen.

The New York Times
June 21, 1891
Our Chinese Soldier Buried
The Singular Career of Thomas Sylvanus Ended.
Indiana, Penn., June 20. — When the grizzled veterans of Indiana Post, No. 28, G.A.R., on Tuesday laid to rest their comrade Thomas Sylvanus, they buried a soldier whose life had been of more than passing interest.

Sylvanus was a full-blooded Chinaman about forty-six years of age. He was born in Hong-kong, singularly enough, on the Fourth of July. In 1857 a Presbyterian missionary brought him to Philadelphia and taught him the English language. When the war broke out, “Tom Chinaman,” as he was popularly known, went to the front as a private in the Eighty-first Pennsylvania Volunteers. He made a good soldier, but ill health compelled his discharge late 1862.

Nine months later he had so far recovered that he re-enlisted in Company D, Forty-second New-York. With this command he fought gallantly in the seven days’ battle before Richmond, and did his part in the Wilderness and at Spottsylvania, and in the series of engagements in format of Petersburg. He was a Corporal of the Color Guards at Cold Harbor. When the breastworks were charged, all the others detailed to hold up the flag fell, but the plucky Chinaman waved the Stars and Stripes defiantly and survived. During the assault on Petersburg Tom fell into Confederate hands, and until the war closed he spent his days in the prisons of Andersonville and Jacksonville.

Tom early became a Christian. For nearly twenty years he had been living here and was a devout member of the Methodist Episcopal Church. He took out naturalization papers at Pittsburg in 1870, and is said to have been the first Chinaman to take that step. Soon after that he married an American girl, by whom he had three children. Sylvanus was granted a pension eight years ago on account of disability, and only a few days before his death the department, and only a few days before his death the department granted him an increase. He is said to have been the only Chinese pensioner on the rolls.

The Patriot
(Harrisburg, Pennsylvania)
June 18, 1891
A Chinese Pensioner.
Death of a Celestial Who Fought in the Union Army.
[Exclusively to The Patriot by Associated Press over our Own Wires.]
Indiana, Penna., June 17.—Thomas Sylvanus, better known as “Tom Chinaman,” died here yesterday. He was born in Hong Kong in 1845, and came to this country in 1857. He enlisted in the Eighty-first Pennsylvania volunteers in 1861, and was the first Chinaman who was enrolled in the war. He participated in a number of battles, and was captured at Petersburg and confined in the Andersonville. At the close of the war he was naturalized as an American citizen in the United States Court at Pittsburg, the records showing that he the first to throw off the allegiance to the Chinese emperor. He then came here and married an American girl, and at the time of his death was the father of three children, all of whom have the almond-shaped eyes and the peculiar bronze complexion of the Chinese heathen. Tom professed Christianity and was a member of the M.E. church.

Tom was granted a pension some years ago on account of disability incurred in the service and was the only Chinese pensioner on the government rolls. He was buried to-day with the honors of war by his comrades of Indiana post No. 28, G.A.R.

The Buffalo Courier
(New York)
June 19, 1891
Thomas Sylvanus, a Chinaman who died at Indiana, Pa., Monday, was a Federal soldier nearly throughout the War. At Cold Harbor he was corporal in the color guard, and when the breastworks were mounted he alone survived to hold aloft the flag. He was captured by the Confederates in the assault on Petersburg and sent to Andersonville. He was buried with the honors of war by bis comrades of a G.A.R post. He was the only Chinaman on the pension rolls.

Buffalo Morning Express
(New York)
June 22, 1891
Our Chinese Soldier.
Tom Silvanus Who Held Up the Stars and Stripes at Cold Harbor.
(see The New York Times)

Juniata Sentinel and Republican
(Mifflintown, Pennsylvania)
June 24, 1891
First Citizen Chinese.
Indiana, Pa., June 16.—The first naturalized Chinese citizen of the United States, Tom Chinaman, whose legal name is Thomas Sylvanus, is dead at the age of 46 years. He was also the only Chinese pensioner on Uncle Sam’s great roll, and was a G.A.R., comrade. He served four years in the Union army during the war, participating in several noteworthy engagements. He was Corporal of the color guard at Cold Harbor, and alone survived to hold up the flag when the breastworks were mounted. He was an ardent Methodist. His wife, an American girl, survives with three children.

The Cultivator & Country Gentleman
June 25, 1891
Thomas Sylvanus, our first Chinese naturalized citizen, at Indiana, Pa., June 16, aged 46. He was the only Chinese pensioner on the rolls, having serve four years in the Union army. He was corporal of the color-guard at Cold Harbor and the only survivor.

The News and Courier
(Charleston, South Carolina)
June 25, 1891
Old Chinese Soldier Buried.
(see The New York Times)

Idaho Statesman
(Boise, Idaho)
July 5, 1891
There was one Chinaman on the United States pension rolls for service during the late war. He lived in Pennsylvania and died recently. He was known as Tom Chinaman at his home. He was not one of the ordinary washee washee, yellow skinned importations however. When he was twelve years old a Presbyterian missionary brought him to America. When he was only sixteen, in 1861, he loved his adopted country well enough to enlist in the Union army. He was soon discharged, however, because it was thought he was not physically strong enough for a soldier’s duties. Nothing daunted, he tried it again enlisting a second time in the New York regiment, the Forty-second. At Cold Harbor he was the soldier who planted the flag upon the breastworks, all the rest of the color guard having been killed or disabled. Tom was captured at Petersburg, and kept a prisoner by the Confederates till the close of the war. There was no braver or better soldier than this Chinese citizen. For he was a citizen, the first Chinaman naturalized by the government. His American name was Thomas Sylvanus. He had an American wife and three children. Just after the United States had granted him an increase of pension he already enjoyed, poor Tom went out of this world to the American heaven, it is to be hoped, for he loved the United States as well as any man native born.

The Pittsburg Dispatch
(Pennsylvania)
January 1, 1892
Necrology.
June 17, 1891—…Thomas Silvanius [sic], only Chinese soldier in War of Rebellion, died in Indiana, Pa.

The Indiana Weekly Messenger
(Pennsylvania)
October 11, 1893
The widow of the late Thomas Sylvanis [sic] has gone to Johnstown, where she will make her future home.

The Evening Times
(Trenton, New Jersey)
June 7, 1898
Up to date, one Chinaman has enlisted in the volunteer army to help free Cuba and wipe out the Dons. He hails from California and his comrades and officers say he will make a first rate soldier. He is known in the army as Thomas Sylvanus, and Thomas, so the reports aver, is a very brave man. There is one great advantage which Thomas’ regiment possesses over all others in Uncle Sam’s service, and that is the “boys in blue” stand a fair chance of having their apparel washed occasionally. This regiment is considering doing away with the motto “Remember the Maine” and putting in its place, on the regimental banner, “No checkee, no washee.”

The Pittsburgh Press
(Pennsylvania)
June 11, 1898
Chinamen as Soldiers.

Daily Journal
(Syracuse, New York)
June 27, 1898
One Chinaman in the Army
Washington Post.
The enlistment of a Chinaman in the volunteer army in California the other day recalls the fact that there was but one Celestial in the war of the rebellion. His Chinese name is unknown, but the name under which he enlisted was Thomas Sylvanus. He was born in Baltimore [sic] about eighteen years before the outbreak of the war. When only a child he was taken to Pittsburg [sic], where he acted as a servant for a wealthy family in that city. When the war broke out Thomas ran away and enlisted in the army. He served Uncle Sam until the close of the war, shortly after which he turned up in Indiana, Pa., where he resided until his death, which occurred a few years ago.

While in the service of the United States Sylvanus contracted a disease of the eyes, from which he almost went blind. In 1880 he applied for and was granted a pension of $12 per month. He also secured several hundred dollars back pension. An examination of the records discloses the fact that Sylvanus was the only Chinaman in the late war, and consequently the only one of his race who drew a pension. At last accounts his widow and children were still living in Indiana, Pa.

The Sun
(New York)
June 28, 1898
The One Chinaman in the Union Army.
(see Daily Journal)

The Saint Paul Globe
(Minnesota)
July 11, 1898
Two Chinese Soldiers.
The enlistment of a Chinaman in the volunteer army in California the other day recalls the fact that there was but one Celestial in the War of the Rebellion. His Chinese name is unknown, but the name under which he enlisted was Thomas Sylvanus. He was born in Baltimore [sic] about eighteen years before the outbreak of the war.

Burlington Weekly Free Press
(Vermont)
July 21, 1898
A Fighting Chinese.
The enlistment of a Chinese in the volunteer army in California the other day recalls the fact that there was but one Celestial in the civil war. His Chinese name is unknown, but the name under which he enlisted was Thomas Sylvanus. He was born in Baltimore [sic] about eighteen years before the outbreak of the war. When only a child, he was taken to Pittsburg [sic], where he acted as a servant for a wealthy family in that city. When the war broke out, Thomas ran away and enlisted in the army. He served Uncle Sam until the close of the war, shortly after which he turned up in Indiana, Pa., where he resided until his death, which occurred a few years ago.

While in the service of the United States Sylvanus contracted a disease of the eyes from which he almost went blind. In 1880 he applied for and was granted a pension of $12 per month. He also secured several hundred dollars back pension. An examination of the records discloses the fact that Sylvanus was the only Chinese in the late war and consequently the only one of his race who drew a pension. At last accounts his widow and children were still living in Indiana, Pa.

Otsego Farmer
(Cooperstown, New York)
August 12, 1898
(see Daily Journal)

Quaker Street Review
(Schenectady, New York)
August 18, 1898
Chinamen as Soldiers.
(see Daily Journal)

Kansas Agitator
(Garnett, Kansas)
August 26, 1898
The enlistment of a Chinaman in the volunteer army in California the other day recalls the fact that there was but one Celestial in the War of the Rebellion. His Chinese name is unknown, but the name under which he enlisted was Thomas Sylvanus. He was born in Baltimore [sic] about eighteen years before the outbreak of the war. When only a child, he was taken to Pittsburg [sic], where he acted as a servant for a wealthy family in that city. When the war broke out, Thomas ran away and enlisted in the army. He served Uncle Sam until the close of the war, shortly after which he turned up in Indiana, Pa., where he resided until his death, which occurred a few years ago.

While in the service of the United States Sylvanus contracted a disease of the eyes from which he went almost blind. In 1880 he applied for and was granted a pension of $12 per month. He also secured several hundred dollars back pension. An examination of the records discloses the fact that Sylvanus was the only Chinaman in the late war, and consequently the only one of his race who drew a pension. At last accounts his widow and children were still living in Indiana, Pa.—Washington Post.

Wisconsin Weekly Advocate
(Milwaukee, Wisconsin)
August 20, 1898
The One Chinaman in the Union Army
The enlistment of a Chinaman in the volunteer army in California recently recalls the fact that there was but one Celestial in the war of the rebellion. His Chinese name is unknown, but the name under which he enlisted was Thomas Sylvanus. He was born in Baltimore [sic] about eighteen years before the outbreak of the war. When only a child he was taken to Pittsburg [sic], where he acted as a servant for a wealthy family in that city. When the war broke out Thomas ran away and enlisted in the army. He served Uncle Sam until the close of the war, shortly after which he turned up in Indiana, Pa., where he resided until his death, which occurred a few years ago.

The Columbus Journal
(Nebraska)
August 31, 1898
Chinaman in the Civil War.
The enlistment of a Chinaman in the volunteer army in California reminds the Washington Post that there was but one Celestial in the war of the rebellion. His Chinese name is unknown, but the name under which he enlisted was Thomas Sylvanus. He was born in Baltimore [sic] about eighteen years before the outbreak of the war. When only a child, he was taken to Pittsburg [sic], where he acted as a servant for a wealthy family in that city. When the war broke out, Thomas ran away and enlisted in the army. He served Uncle Sam until the close of the war, shortly after which he turned up in Indiana, Pa., where he resided until his death, which occurred a few years ago.

While in the service of the United States Sylvanus contracted a disease of the eyes, from which he went almost blind. In 1880 he applied for and was granted a pension of $12 per month. He also secured several hundred dollars back pension. An examination of the records discloses the fact that Sylvanus was the only Chinaman in the late war, and consequently the only one of his race who drew a pension. At last accounts his widow and children were still living in Indiana, Pa.

The Kansas City Star
(Missouri)
November 8, 1898
America’s Chinese Pensioner.
He Is Said to Be the Only One of His Race on the Roll.
From the Baltimore American
An interesting story is told by Mrs. Duval of this city of a Chinaman who for several years was in her service and who later entered the army. He was honorably discharged and is the only member of his race who was pensioned by the United States government for army service. In the early 50s shortly after California had been admitted into the Union, Mr. Sylvanus Duvall, Mrs. M.J. Duvall’s son, had occasion to visit Canton, China. On his return trip the captain of the vessel upon which he sailed had a little Chinese child about 7 years old, whom he treated most cruelly. Mr. Duvall pitied the unfortunate little fellow and after repeated requests he was finally given possession of the child. When they arrived at San Francisco Mr. Duvall took the child to his home in that city and cared for him, but soon Mr. Duvall got married and came to Baltimore bringing the Chinese child with him. While he was staying with his mother in this city she became fond of the little child of the Flowery Kingdom, whose queue by this time attained a length of about five or six inches and protruded straight out from the top of his head. When Mr. Duvall returned again to San Francisco he left Towey, as the child was called, in charge of Mrs. Duvall. Towey soon grew to be a good-sized boy and acted as waiter and performed general housework for Mrs. Duvall. He also in time manifested a great desire to associate with the boys in the neighborhood which desire was granted. He was able to speak English fairly well.

When Colonel Moorehead’s regiment from the North encamped in the western section of the city, Towey, who had been given the name Tom Sylvanus by the boys of the neighborhood, visited it each evening and soon became a general favorite among the soldiers. This friendship grew and when the men left for the South, Towey accompanied them.

Nothing more was heard from him for several years when it was learned that he had returned to Pennsylvania and had enlisted in the Eighty-first Pennsylvania regiment and during an engagement had received injuries to his eyes. After the war he returned to Philadelphia where for a time he was in the employ of Dr. von Musien, an oculist, as coachman and general servant. He applied to the United States government for a pension of $12 a month through Mr. William ducal, a brother of Mr. Sylvanus Duvall, which was granted. Soon after getting his pension he moved to indiana, Pa., where he married and became the father of four children. All trace of him was again lost until a few days ago when Mr. Duvall met an old acquaintance who stated that she had visited an orphan asylum where three of Towey’s children were. One of them told her that her mother had died about five years ago and father later.

Beaver County Times
(Pennsylvania)
July 8, 2005
Civil War group honoring Chinese vet

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Sons of Civil War veterans to honor Chinese war hero
July 9, 2005

Committee of 100
July 2005






















Chinese Yankee
A True Story from the Civil War
by Ruthanne Lum McCunn
Design Enterprises, 2014
978-0-932538-96-3

Links
Association to commemorate the Chinese serving in the American Civil War has profile and extensive information on Sylvanus.

Find a Grave

Indiana Gazette
(Pennsylvania)
March 31, 2008

New York State Military Museum
Rosters of the New York Infantry Regiments During the Civil War








Thomas Sylvanus’s Family

Sylvanus’s wife, Matilda or Tillie, was mentioned in the Indiana Weekly Messenger.
October 11, 1893: The widow of the late Thomas Sylvanis [sic] has gone to Johnstown, where she will make her future home. 
July 3, 1895: Mrs. Tillie Sylvanus and Les Cochran plead guilty to charge of larceny and were sent to jail. Tillie getting nine months and Les three. 
October 2, 1895: Mrs Tillie Sylvanus alias “Till Chinaman,” of this town, convicted last court of larceny and sentenced to nine months in jail, paid her costs and goes to attend, as she alleges, her sick relatives.
According to the Indiana Evening Gazette (Pennsylvania), July 10, 1895, Matilda shared a jail cell with Ada Corr, who was charged with infanticide.
…Mrs. Corr and Mrs. Matilda Sylvanus occupy the same quarters, and both were present at the interview. Mrs. Corr was shy at first, but Mrs. Sylvanus, upon being promised some carpet rags to while away time on, finally induced her to talk….
The series of articles are here; scroll down to the headline “Mrs. Corr Would Wed.”; see fourth paragraph.

The Cambria Freeman (Ebensburg, Pennsylvania), May 14, 1897, reported the sad condition of Tillie’s second husband, Charles King.

********

Sylvanus’s daughter, Ellen, was born January 11, 1879, in Indiana, Pennsylvania. She was recorded in the 1880 U.S. Federal Census. In the 1900 census Ellen was “May King” who was married to “C. Porter King.” They had a two-year-old daughter, Violet J. King, and resided in Cherry Tree, Pennsylvania. According to her death certificate, Ellen passed away July 6, 1906, in Montgomery, Pennsylvania. The 1910 census said King remarried, to Sara, and Violet was not part of the household, which was in Cherry Tree.























Violet has not been found in the 1910 and 1920 censuses. She was recorded, in the 1930 census, as “Violet Stott” who was married to Matt. They had a ten-year-old daughter, Verdun, and resided in Clymer, Pennsylvania. The 1940 census said Violet completed the second year of high school. Verdun, an only child, was part of the household. Violet’s obituary was published in The Indiana Gazette (Pennsylvania), on November 16, 1972:
Mrs. Violet Jule Stott, 73, Clymer, died Wednesday, Nov. 15, 1972 at her home. She was born at Cherry Tree on Oct. 23, 1899. Surviving is a daughter, Verdun, at home. She was preceded in death by her husband Matthew. Friends will be received from 7 to 10 p.m. today at the Bence Funeral Home, Clymer, where services will be held Friday at 11 a.m. The Rev. Randall Luther will officiate. Interment will be made in Greenwood Cemetery [link has a photograph of Violet], Indiana.
According to the Social Security Death Index, Verdun’s married name was McCoy and born January 7, 1920. She was president of Local 637 of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America and frequently mentioned in the Indiana Gazette newspaper. A photograph of Verdun with two men appeared in the March 6, 1958 issue.

Verdun passed away August 6, 1999. An obituary appeared the next day in the Indiana Gazette.
Verdun A. Stott McCoy, 79, Clyner, died Friday, Aug. 6, 1999, at St. Andrews Village, Indiana. 
The daughter of Matt and Violet Jule King Stott, she was born Jun. 7, 1920, in Indiana County. 
Mrs. McCoy was a graduate of Clymer High School. She was a homemaker and employee at Musser Nurseries and Indiana Sportswear Co. 
She was preceded in death by her parents. 
Friends will be received Monday at the Harry J. Benice Funeral Home, Clymer, from noon to 2 p.m., the time of services. Pastor David Butler will officiate. interment will follow in the Garden of Devotions at the Greenwood Cemetery, Indiana.
She was buried with her parents.

********

Sylvanus’s son John, had a troubled life. His demise was reported in the Indiana Evening Gazette, December 30, 1905.
Death Ends Divorce Case of Mrs. Sylvanus
Woman Who Sues Husband Learns That He Is Dead at Cincinnati
Filed Suit in Blair County
Defendant Was Son of a Former Well Known Indiana Character
Left Town to Avoid Arrest 
Altoona, Pa., Dec. 29—Divorce proceedings instituted by Mrs. Myrtle Sylvanus, against her husband, John, were ended by the death of the latter in Cincinnati, O. Coroner Otis Cameron, at Cincinnati, asked the local police to look up Sylvanus’ relatives here and they carried the first news of his death to his wife. 
Sylvanus deserted his family in Indiana a year ago to escape arrest, after getting into trouble. 
The man referred to was raised in Indiana, being a son of “Tom” and Tillie Sylvanus. His father was a Chinaman and enjoyed the distinction of being the only regularly enlisted Chinaman in the Union army during the Civil war, and the only Chinese member of the Grand Army of the Republic. 
About a year ago John Sylvanus was charged, along with another man, of holding up and robbing a third party at the P.R.R. depot in this place. He left town during the night and has not been in Indiana since. 
Mrs. Mrytle Sylvanus is a daughter of Christopher Smith, at one time a resident of town.
John had two daughters:

Sadie Helen, October 8, 1901, Vandergrift, Pennsylvania
Mildred J., May 19, 1904, Altoona, Pennsylvania


Sylvanus is profiled in the National Park Service book, Asians and Pacific Islanders and the Civil War.

(Updated November 11, 2014; next post: Antonio Dardelle)

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