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  • Writer's pictureKyra Mangold-Ostovich

Voices of the Past: John Dimming

Born: 1820

Died: 14 October 1892, aged 72

Location: Soldiers Circle, Grave 20

Photo of headstone, courtesy of Find-A-Grave user, "Ellis Michaels." Originally added 01 Sep 2022.

We recently received a replacement government marker for a Mr. John Dimming, a resident of the Soldiers Circle. Ellis had spent weeks trying to find more information on Mr. Dimming’s military service in an attempt to replace his illegible marker. The records indicate that Mr. Dimming had served within Company C of the 76th Pennsylvania Regiment.

Ellis happened to be at the Cemetery on a day that provided enough light to make out what was on the stone, and he found that Mr. Dimming actually served in Company A of the 75th Regiment! From this new information, a new stone was ordered and is scheduled to be replaced soon. In honor of Mr. Dimming, we’d like to share a bit more about his life!

John Dimming was a German-born immigrant, who initially settled in Cass, Schuylkill County, PA, in his late 20’s with his wife, Elizabeth.

He had served in the Union Army during the Civil War as a member of German-based Company A of the 75th PA Infantry. His records indicate that he had enlisted as a Private and mustered from Philadelphia, PA, on 17 August 1864 at the age of 36. He was discharged from the War Department of Washington, D. C., via telegraph, dated 29 May 1865, but his records also reflect an official release date of 04 July 1865.

During his service, he fought in both the Battle of Johnsonville, which took place in Benton County, TN on 4-5 November 1864, and the Battle of Franklin, which took place in Franklin, TN on 30 November 1864.

He worked as a basket maker, whose shop was located at 196 Penn Avenue of Pittsburgh, and was noted as being a 20 year resident of the South Side.

On 12 October 1892, John was removed from the long-shuttered J. N. Shaffer Brewery in the South Side, after being found by a neighbor. The neighbor had been alerted to his presence after neighborhood children had overheard him moaning in anguish.

His appearance was shocking to the officials who were called for rescue. John was located on the third floor of the deserted building in a room furnished solely with a bed covered in filth and vermin and a small stove. He was covered in sores, and penniless and destitute, claiming ownership of only a coffee pot, a tin cup, and a few crusts of old bread. It’s reported that the officials cleaned him up as best they could, provided food, water, and a few articles of comfort, and alerted the Hospital Department of the City Farm, the County’s poor house, to have him removed from the squalor as soon as possible. He was removed from the brewery two days later by the hospital staff. There was no hope of recovery. John succumbed to his condition later that day.

He had previously been a resident of the City Farm that spring following an illness. He left on his own accord after recovering in May of that year, returning to the brewery.

His wife, Elizabeth (b. 1881), had died in November of 1883 within the Dixmont Asylum for the Insane. She had been placed in their care by the Pittsburgh Department of Charities some time before. When John was notified of her death and asked for instruction on her funeral arrangements, he was quoted as saying, “I never want to see it. Do with it what you please. Why should I bother with a corpse.” Her remains were ultimately released to medical professionals for educational purposes.

John was locally known as an unusual character with alleged ties to an anarchist cell, and was often seen wandering the streets with his dog whilst playing an accordion for pennies. He was noted as a highly intelligent and well-educated man who was an avid reader, keeping near-obsessive track of the anarchists and socialists reported in the newspapers.

Information gathered from:

  • “Dying in Want,” The Pittsburgh Press (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania), Friday, 19 Aug 1892, Page 8.

  • History of Pennsylvania volunteers, 1861-5; prepared in compliance with acts of the legislature, by Samuel P. Bates, Volume 2, Page 924.

  • Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission; Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; Pennsylvania Veterans Burial Cards, 1929-1990; Series Number: Series 1.

  • Pennsylvania, U.S., Civil War Muster Rolls, 1860-1869. Company or Group A.

  • Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, City Directory, 1882.

  • Year: 1850; Census Place: Cass, Schuylkill, Pennsylvania; Roll: 827; Page: 44a.

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