Christopher Dengate was born on the 23 November 1846 to John and Harriet Dengate in Buxted, East Sussex. His father John was working as a journeyman miller and, as such, the family travelled frequently to various mills. At the time of Christopher's birth, John was working at Buxted Watermill. Christopher was baptised on the 31st January 1847 in St Margaret's Church, Buxted, East Sussex.
Buxted Parish Church
Buxted watermill, 2004
Around 1849, the family moved on to Frant, where Christopher's brother, James was born. The family did not stay there long, however, before moving to Fairlight, East Sussex.
The 1851 census shows Christopher living with his parents, brother James and twin sisters, Emily Mary and Susannah Dengate. His father, John was working as a journeyman miller at Fairlight Windmill. Also living with the family is Christopher's cousin, Frances Dengate - daughter of his uncle Charles Dengate. Soon after the census was taken his twin sisters sadly died of whooping cough within days of each other. They are buried in an unmarked grave in Fairlight Church.
In common with many millers, including his own brother, George, John Dengate died at the age of 27 years from disease of the lungs (due to breathing in flour particles). At the time, on the 4th March 1853, he was working in Whatlington, East Sussex. He was buried in the nearby village of Sedlescombe.
Three years later, John's wife, Harriet took Christopher and his brother, James to Pennsylvania, America to live with her brother. However, Harriet's own health deteriorated and she died in 1858 and was buried in Arch Springs Cemetery, Pennsylvania. The two boys were then raised by Harriet's brother until they were old enough to leave home.
At the age of 18, Christopher Dengate enlisted in the 87th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, Company K during the American Civil War (1861-1865), fighting on the side on the Unionists. He enlisted 24th February 1865 in Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania. Christopher was described as five feet five inches, dark complexion, dark hair and brown eyes. He was mustered out on the 11 September 1865 at Nashville, Tennessee. On Christopher's application for an original invalid pension he claims to have "Became defective in hearing which was first discovered by himself and by others in the autumn of 1865 shortly after his discharge from army and believed to be caused by the discharge of cannon at Fort Negley at Nashville where the regiment was quartered, as all sharp reports have since given pain in the ear."
From autumn 1865 until 1870 Christopher lived at Warriors Mark, Huntingdon County. On the 1 October 1868, Christopher was given citizenship of the United States.
Christopher's citizenship of the United States of America
On the 10 February 1870 Christopher married Mary Lowrie Biddle in Stormstown, Centre County, Pennsylvania. The 1880 American census shows Christopher and family living in Warrior's Mark, Pennsylvania, with Christopher working as a school teacher.
Christopher and Mary had four children; Harriet, James Francis, Charles W. and Florence Amelia Dengate. Harriet died within a few weeks of birth in 1871. At this time the family were residing in Buffalo Run, Centre
Christopher & Mary Lowrie Dengate
County, before they returned to Warriors Mark until autumn 1890 when the family moved to Bellwood, Blair County, Pennsylvania.
The 1910 census shows Christopher and Mary living with their son, James Francis and grandaughter, Hazel Frances Dengate after James' wife Olive died soon after giving birth to Hazel, leaving Christopher and Mary to help James raise Hazel.
Christopher had several occupations in his lifetime, among them a school teacher. On his pension application, Christopher wrote, "I have been occupied at almost as many different occupations as years since my discharge. I taught school several winters but had to quit on account of my hearing being so bad. Complain was made that my scholars read and talked aloud and I was too deaf to hear them, my deafness began while I was in the army and has continually been getting worse...besides teaching I have labored on rail- road, surveyed, peddled, canvassed, ran machinery at one bank, farmed, but for several years was not able to follow any hard labor, I have never been stout since the war..."
Mary Lowrie Dengate died 18 February 1928 in Pennsylvania aged 76 years and was buried in Logan Valley Cemetery, Pennsylvania.
Christopher was the last Bellwood Pennsyl-ania Civil War veteran and died 24 April 1937 aged 90 years at 900 North Third Street, Bellwood, the home of Hazel Frances McCaulley, the granddaughter he and Mary had helped to raise. He was buried with his wife in Logan Valley Cemetery, Pennsylvania.
Christopher & Mary Lowrie's grave, Logan Valley Cemetery, PA