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Corporal Samuel Upson, Co. H.


When beginning the research into Samuel Upson, it began as every one of the biographies have, by enquiring into his military career.   On June 11, 1861, Samuel enlisted into Company E of the 62d in New York City at the age of 19.  He was transferred to Company to H, with no date provided, and received a promotion to Corporal on August 15, 1862. He was mustered out of the Regiment at the end of his enlistment near Petersburg, on June 29, 1864.


That was it.  There was no additional information found anywhere. No Census records, no death or wedding certificates, nothing.  Now, this is not uncommon at all.  In my files are literally dozens of individuals who have dropped off into historical oblivion after The Great Rebellion, because in this era it was very easy to move, change names, desert families, or die without leaving a paper trail.


But not mentioned in the Adjutant General’s Report of Regimental Rosters for the State of New York, but wasmentioned in the Ancestry.com files alongside the name of Samuel Upson was that of Samuel Upjohn.  This reference occurred so often that investigation into Samuel Upjohn’s descendants revealed that Samuel Upson and Samuel Upjohn was one and the same person.  All the pertinent military data were an exact match. They not only matched, but Samuel Upjohn came from arguably one of the most prestigious families in New York City.  Therefore, let’s restart the introduction of Samuel Upjohn.


Samuel Upjohn was born in Brooklyn, New York on March 28, 1842 to Richard Upjohn and Elizabeth Parry Upjohn.  His father Richard was born in Dorset, England on January 12, 1802 and his mother, Elizabeth Parry,  was born in Denbigh, Wales (date unknown).  They were married at St. Gregory’s Church in London on November 14, 1826 and the pair immigrated to New Bedford, Massachusetts, arriving in 1830, becoming naturalized U.S. citizens in 1836. Richard apprenticed as a carpenter and cabinet maker as well as qualifying as a Master Mechanic. He eventually  became an architect, and of such high repute that he became the first President of the American Institute of Architects at 128 Broadway ,New York City and remained as such between 1863-1878.  Richard Upjohn specialized in Gothic churches and cathedrals, building over 40 of them, including Trinity Church in New York City and several city court houses in the Northeast, and private residences. Samuel’s elder brother Richard, became a well recognized architect as well.


Samuel’s family included his siblings Richard (b. 1828), Elizabeth Ann (b.1830), James Atchison (b. 1832), Joseph Francis (b. 1834), and Anna Coombs (b. 1837).  Federal Census of 1840 and 1850 shows the family residing in Brooklyn, New York and by 1860 moving to Phillipsburg, New York which was located across the river from West Point. Richard Upjohn died of a “softening of the brain (possible stroke ?)” on August 17, 1879 and Elizabeth Upjohn followed him in death in 1882. Both were buried at Greenwood Cemetery in Brooklyn, New York.


Samuel’s own story is as intriguing as his father’s, but arguably not as glamorous.  In 1860, he was a student of Divinity  within the Episcopal Church, but when the call to arms rang out he changed his name and enlisted as a common soldier.  Many illustrious families had members enlist in the military during the conflict, but usually as a commissioned officer. It was also not unusual for a highly religious person to take up arms for his country to support the abolitionist cause.  But generally, they used their legal names and not a temporary alternative.  Samuel served on the line during the Peninsular Campaign, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Antietam, Gettysburg, the Shenandoah Campaign, and The Wilderness Campaign before his discharge at the end of his enlistment.


Corporal Upjohn (Upson) returned to his studies and was ordained a Reverend in the Episcopal Church in 1866. In 1867, Samuel married Mary Louisa Pritz, born in New York in 1845. The couple resided in Augusta, Maine between 1868 to 1882, where he was the Rector at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church.  He and Mary had four children; Mary Elizabeth (b.1868), Alice (b. 1870), Margaret (b. 1872), and Charlotte Ethel (1876).  He also became Vice-President of the Maine Episcopal Missionary Society at this time.


Mary and Samuel’s daughter, Mary Elizabeth, was married by her father in 1894 to Jonathan Clinton in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and eventually would have five children. Alice, unfortunately, would die at the age of 14 by causes not listed.  Margaret married Henry Riley Gumney in 1897 and they had two children together. Charlotte Ethel never married and assisted her parents at home and accompanied them on their various excursions and trips.


In 1883 the family relocated to Germantown, Pennsylvania where he was Rector at St. Luke’s Church between November, 1883 to 1924.  Samuel, Mary and Charlotte made two trips to England in 1898 and again in 1902.  Whether these were for a personal pilgrimage or for a religious conferences is not known. His passport describes him at this time as being 5’1” tall with Hazel eyes and a dark complexion.


On March 29, 1924 Reverend Samuel Upjohn died at 82 years of “Infirmity of Age” at his home in Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia with Mary passing on May 15, 1932.



Research article by Joe Basso

Originally published in "ZOUAVE!" No. 65 - May 2014