John Benton Hoover: School teacher, Fifer, Railwayman & Oil Company Superintendant

My Hoover ancestors of Pennsylvania are something of a mystery, in that I have not been able to trace them back further than my 4th great grandparents. The name Hoover is Dutch in origin and a lot of Hoover’s can be found in Pennsylvania … the Pennsylvania Dutch.

John Benton Hoover, my maternal 3rd great grandfather, was born in Cambria County, PA, on October 6, 1824, the 8th child of John Hoover and Elizabeth Benton. John and Elizabeth had a large family of four boys and four girls. The family was Catholic, as verified in the marriage record of John and Elizabeth on May 13, 1810, at St. Paul’s Mission Church of the Blessed Sacrament at Goshenhoppen in Berks County, PA.

John grew up in Cambria County, went to school and became a school teacher. He married Elizabeth Plummer on December 28, 1846. This comes from a family Bible transcribed and passed on to my mother. When the Mexican-American War erupted, John was only just married and a young man of 22 years. He enlisted with the 2nd Regiment of the Pennsylvania Infantry, Company D, and served as fife major for a period of over a year. In May 1847 he was transferred to the regimental staff as principal musician. While in service, he took ill when the army was in Mexico City.

John B Hoover - Service record 1 John B Hoover service record 2

Returning from the War, John and Elizabeth began a family. Elizabeth bore 4 children.

  • Elisha J. Hoover, born Jan. 20, 1850 in in Ebensburg, Cambria County, PA
  • Mary Augusta Hoover, born Sep. 3, 1851 in Virginia
  • John B. Hoover, born May 21, 1853 (he died at age 2)
  • Katherine A. Hoover, born Aug. 12, 1855 in Parkersburg, Wood County, WV

The family is found on the 1860 U. S. Census living in Freeport, Armstrong County, PA. It appears that John’s occupation is listed as “grocer,” though this does not jive with details of his obituary. Note that little John B. is not listed, as he died in 1855.

1860 Census Freeport Armstrong County PA

Within the next year or two, Elizabeth passed away. Like most men left widowers with young children, John found himself another wife. Thus, on April 21, 1863, he married Sarah Margaret Scott, 21 years his junior. With Sarah, John had four more children.

  • James V. Hoover, born Aug. 31, 1865 in Pennsylvania
  • Sarah “Sadie” Hoover, born abt 1869 in Pennsylvania
  • Rose Hoover, born Jul. 15, 1870 in Pennsylvania
  • Elizabeth Mae Hoover, born May 1, 1873 in Butler, Butler County, PA

For most of his life, John worked in the railroad industry. On the 1870 U. S. Census, he was recorded with the occupation “contractor – rail road” and the family was living in Summit, Somerset County, PA.

1870 Census Summit Somerset County PA

By the time of the 1880 U. S. Census, John and Sarah had settled in McKean County, PA, where they would remain for the rest of their lives. John was employed as a supervisor of an oil lease. Living with the family at the time was young Henry A. Snyder, who would late marry John’s daughter Kate. (They would become my 2nd great grandparents.)

1880 Census Eldred McKean County PA

Because the 1890 U. S. Census was destroyed, the next public record found for John B. Hoover is the 1900 U. S. Census. He and his oldest son, Elisha, were living with Kate and her husband Henry Snyder in Keating Township, McKean County, PA. Where was John’s wife, Sarah? That remains a mystery. She was certainly still alive. Perhaps she was away visiting one of her children.

190 Census Keating McKean County PA

The year 1910 was a very sad one for the Hoover family. First, John died in February. Then, Kate died in May. (Click on the images to enlarge for easier reading.)

John Benton Hoover obituary Kate Hoover Snyder obit

John Benton Hoover was laid to rest at St. Elizabeth’s Cemetery in Smethport, McKean County, PA.

Findagrave photo courtesy of Nancy Thomas

Findagrave photo courtesy of Nancy Thomas

Sarah Hoover survived her husband 7 years, collecting John’s military pension.

Sarah Hoover widows pension
It was the Hoover-Snyder family which passed on the Catholic faith in my family. I can’t help but find it an interesting piece of circumstance that this one family line, of the hundreds of generations on both sides of my pedigree, were those who passed on to me a faith which I cherish. For John B. Hoover, I offer up this prayer with a full heart …

God our Father,
Your power brings us to birth,
Your providence guides our lives,
and by Your command we return to dust.

Lord, those who die still live in Your presence,
their lives change but do not end.
I pray in hope for my family,
relatives and friends,
and for all the dead known to You alone.

In company with Christ,
Who died and now lives,
may they rejoice in Your kingdom,
where all our tears are wiped away.
Unite us together again in one family,
to sing Your praise forever and ever.


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