Site hosted by Build your free website today!

Johann Sebastian Lang 1823-1893

A Veteran of War

By:  Lucy Lang Sekerka

Born in 1823, Johann Sebastian Lang, was a stonemason by trade. You would think that carving stone would have been a suitable craft in Bavaria to see him through the rest of his life of seventry plus years in th country of his birth, but it was not to be. 


He had been educated for the Catholic Priesthood, but the church authorities did not want nor need his services.  And now,after two years learning to cut marble in Italy, he was returning home to his home of Fussen with a feeling of accomplishment.  Finally, he was coming home.  With a skill respected by his friends and family to a community where his skill was valued and would provide an honorable living.  His own father, Johan Georg Lang had fallen to his death from a scaffolding while working on a stone wall at the local church (the same church Sebastian had been Christened on Sept. 29, 1832), St. Mang's Basilica.

  St. Mang's Basilica, Fussen, Bavaria, Germany

However,  his skill would be needed later in his life, and not now.  The Bavarian government had formed a new independent federation, breaking away from the association of Germanic states.   Conscription had become compulsory for all young and able men.  This wasn't  the only  time that war would control an important time of his life.  He wanted no part of the uprising and was quickly arrested.  He was sentenced to death for refusing to serve in the army, which was considered treason. 


Sebastian was lucky, and had many friends.  The rest of this story reads like a Hollywood movie... but it was written down by his second wife and this is how it goes.


One of his friends was a barber named, Schwartzenbach.  He was permitted to cut hair at the prison where Sebastian was locked up.  After some time in the prison, Sebastian was having his hair trimmed.  The barber friend whispered in his ear, that he should escape through a thirty foot long sewer pipe.  At the same time, the barber secretly placed a note under Sebastian's shirt collar that showed a map and the escape route.  He then whispered, "be careful".  Sebastian found his way down the sewer pipe, at a rendevouz point, his friends provided Sebastian with fresh clothes, food, money and how to get a boat ticket to America.


On June 7th 1852, Sebastian found his way to Le Havre, France, where embarked on the ship "Onward" to New York City.  He later travelled to Virginia.  No one is quite sure why he came to what is now Harrison County, West Virginia.  It may have been that there were other people that he had known in Fussen that settled there, such as the Swiger family. 


After a short while in Clarksburg, West Virginia, he married Sarah Ellen Payne in 1853.  Sarah was the daughter of Turner and Louisa "Lucy" Payne.  They had two children, Lucy Catherine (born 1856) and Charles Matthew (born 1858).  Lucy Catherine later married Jasper Swiger (born in 1848 , son of John Silas and Nancy Whiteman Swiger).


War found Sebastian again in the Americas.  The war between the states was starting and he enlisted on the Union side of the American Civil War.  It is thought that his deep religious beliefs led him to support the north against the Confederacy due to the immoral practice of human bondage.   He served with the 1st West Virginia Light Artillery, E Company.


He contracted smallpox while in the service, and it greatly reduced his vision.  He then served as a nurse at the small pox camp at Cumberland, Maryland.


After the war, he settled into civilian life again.  Shortly after, his wife, Sarah, died of cancer.  in 1868, Sebastian then married Sophona Philoda Hall in 1868.  The had five children together... Sarah Regina, Mary Anna, Theresa Crezentia, Charlotte Rose and Elnora.  With his vision failing, he was barely able to provide for his family.  Then, in 1883, Sebastian lost his vision completely.  He was able to obtain a pension for his service to the Union Army.  On November 27th, 1893... Sebastian died.  He was buried at Hall Cemetery, Dola, Harrison County, West Virginia.


Sebastian's life can be summed up with the statement he made to the pension board officials, "O could I have my eyes as I have had them, I never would ask the government for any aid.  Before I went in the service, I made five dollars per day and now I make nothing.  I do not regret my service to the United States.  If I had one half dozen such eyes as I had, I would cheerfully give them all for the same cause".-signed, Sebastian Lang.


Research data obtained from:

IGI Record (International Genealogical Index)

Pension Records for Civil War Service

Harrison County Marriages and Deaths, Marion County Courthouse, Clarksburg, West Virginia

United States Census, 1880 Harrison County

Geneaological and Biographical History of the Swiger Family

Newspaper Article with Sophronia Lang


Pension Record for Civil War Service (No. 303752, served three years)

Height 5'9"

Fair complexion

Dark Hair

Blue Eyes


 Line of Descent:


Johann Sebastian Lang married Sarah Ellen Payne

Jasper Swiger married Lucy Catherine Lang

Claude Hamilton married Verda Leona Swiger

Frank Swiger Hamilton married Elma Lucille Evans