The Life of John Slicker (1857-1929) – Part 1

John Slicker, son of Philip and Magdlena (Friend) Slicker, was born March 17th, 1857 in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania[1]. John may have been Philip’s first and only child. He was Magdlena’s fourth living child. Although it is unknown where in Allegheny County John was born, the 1860 Federal Census for Allegheny County shows John, age four, living with his parents and half-siblings, Conrad, Eva and Mary Steinogle in Baldwin Township, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania near Library.[2] So this is where I will start the story.

The year was 1861. Thirteen days after Abraham Lincoln began his first term as president, John reached his fourth birthday. A few weeks later the young independent nation John’s foreign-born mother, Magdlena Friend Slicker, came to call home engaged in one of its bloodiest wars.

There is no evidence that Philip, John’s father, was ever called to enlist in the Union Army. If not called to take up arms, Philip must have continued picking and shoveling out a living in a nearby mine. As the 1860 Federal census shows Philip’s step-son, Conrad, 14, joined Philip in this physically demanding work.[3]

The year was 1870. The war between the North and South had ended five years earlier; and the nation was reunified. John, age 13, was living with his mother and his half-brother, Conrad Steinogle, in Forward Township, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. His father, Philip, was no longer with the family.[4] Did he die from a mining accident? Or did he pass from natural causes? Whatever the reason, it must have been hard on the family to lose their loved one and the main breadwinner at such a young age.

The burden of supporting the family fell on Conrad.  It is unclear if John, who was of legal age to work in the mines, was working alongside his half-brother. The 1870 Federal Census lists no occupation for John; and the column for documenting school attendance within the past year isn’t marked either.[5]

In the years following 1870, Conrad, John and their mother moved to Rostraver Township, Westmoreland County Pennsylvania.

The year was 1873. The national economy had taken a downturn; but this did not stop John, now 16, and his step-brother, Conrad, from agreeing to pay $600 for three adjacent lots at the north end of Webster, a village nestled between a steep hillside and the mighty Monongahela River.[6] Conrad and John shared ownership of those three lots until one month after John’s 21st birthday in 1878. In 1878, John and Conrad signed two quitclaim deeds dividing the three adjacent lots into two parcels. Conrad and his wife, Isabella took ownership of the northern half of those three lots. John took ownership of the southern-half of those three lots.[7]

The year was 1880. In the cold month of January, John married Malissa Jane Mansfield, a daughter of John and Nancy Mansfield. About two weeks after their marriage, John and Malissa sold John’s southern part of the three adjacent lots he jointly purchased with Conrad. They sold the property for $600 to John’s half-sister, Mary Stinogle.[8] John and Malissa moved to a house a few streets away. They rented a home near John’s half-sister, Eva and her husband John Vogel. Malissa’s mother, Nancy, and step-father, Samuel Haney, lived about a small-village block away.

John, continued work as a coal miner. But the work was not steady.  The 1880 United States census shows that John was unemployed for six months between June 1st, 1879 and June 1, 1880.[9] He was not alone. By 1880, periods of unemployment in the coal mining industry had become common. These periods of unemployment were not a result of decrease in demand for this fossil fuel. On the contrary, demand for coal was increasing. The technology for mining had improved; but the coal mining industry of the late nineteenth century, like the oil industry of today, experienced periods of boom and bust.

The severest winter weather ever experienced in the United States arrived in the fall of 1880. By October bitter cold and white blizzards began swirling their way across the land dumping massive amounts of snow. The snow and cold continued through October… through November…through December. And into this white, wonderland came Milford, John and Malissa’s first child. What should have been a moment of joy was briefly lived if lived at all. This tiny life, unlike the snow and cold of that winter, did not linger.

The year was 1882. John and Malissa had moved from Webster, Rostraver Township, Westmoreland County to Apollo, Armstrong County. It is probable that John found employment in the Apollo Iron Company, later renamed the Apollo Iron & Steel Company. As the year came to an end, John and Malissa welcomed with joy their son, Frank Walton Slicker, into their lives and home. It was December 30th, 1882.

On January 4th, 1885 John and Malissa welcomed their third son, Samuel John Slicker, into the world. In the eight years following, John and Malissa added a child to the growing family every two years. Their first daughter Ruth Elizabeth arrived September 17, 1887. George Mansfield Slicker arrived on July 29th, 1889. And James Clifford was born December 18, 1891. Matilda Belle, the second daughter, was born November 14th, 1893. The Slicker household was filled with six sons and daughters ranging from infant to eleven years of age.

[1] Pennsylvania Department of Health, death certificate 013051 (1917), John Slicker, Division of Vital Records, New Castle.

[2] “1860 United States Federal Census,”, ( : accessed 11, July 2017), entry for Johny Slicker (age 4), Baldwin Township, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania.

[3] “1860 United States Federal Census,”, ( : accessed 11, July 2017), entry for Conrad Slicker (age 15), Baldwin Township, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania.

[4] “1870 United States Federal Census,”, ( : accessed 11, July 2017), entry for John Steingle (age 13), Forward Township, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania.

[5] “1870 United States Federal Census,”, ( : accessed 11, July 2017), entry for Conrad Steingle (age 23), Martha Stengle (age 49) and John Steingle (age 13), Forward Township, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania.

[6] Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, Deed Book 364:77-78, Captain John Gilmore and wife to Conrad Stiernogle and John Slicker, 2 June 1873; Recorder of Deeds Office, Greensburg.

[7] Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, Deed Book 96:38-39, John Slicker to Conrad Steinogle, 19 April 1878; Recorder of Deeds, Greensburg. And Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, Deed Book 96:40-41 Conrad Steinogle and his wife, Isabella, to John Slicker, 19, April 1878; Recorder of Deeds, Greensburg, PA

[8] Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania. Deed Book 101:439-441, John Slicker and Malissa Slicker to Mary Stinogle, 28, January 1880; Recorder of Deeds, Greensburg.

[9] “1880 United States Federal Census,”, ( : accessed 11, July 2017), entry for John Slicker (age 23), Rostraver Township, Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania.

2017 © Robin Slicker, All Rights Reserved.

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