Poconos link to Lincoln: John Staples

John Summerfield Staples
Editor's note: Feb. 12, 2009, marked the 200th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln's birth. This article originally was published in March 2007.

Amy Leiser, Executive Director
Monroe County Historical Association

The Civil War affected the citizens of Monroe County as it did the nation. Men left their homes, families and jobs to serve in the Union Army. Joining his fellow citizens, John Summerfield Staples fought in the Civil War, and became a celebrity.

Staples was born in Stroud Township on Aug. 14, 1845. When the Civil War began, Staples enlisted in the 176th Company of the Pennsylvania Infantry. Actually, Staples enlisted on Nov. 3, 1862, as a substitute soldier for Robert Barry. It was not uncommon in those days for a man to fight in another's place. Staples served only a few months, for he suffered with a lingering fever (most likely typhoid), and he was medically discharged May 5, 1863. Staples returned home to Stroudsburg for a long recovery, and in 1864, he traveled to Washington, D.C., to work as a carpenter with his father.

While working in D.C., Staples and his father were approached by Noble D. Larner. Larner was president of the Third Ward Draft Club and had been ordered to find a substitute to fight in the Civil War for President Abraham Lincoln. Larner brought Staples to the White House where President Lincoln met with him on Oct.1, 1864. Lincoln paid Staples $500 to serve as his "representative recruit."

Staples saw little action during his year served on behalf of the president. He was stationed in Alexandria, Va., and worked as a clerk for the provost general and as a prison guard. Staples was mustered out on Sept. 12, 1865.

Staples returned to Monroe County with little fanfare. There were no newspaper articles or celebrations for this local man who had served for President Lincoln. It was not until Staples' death in 1888 that Stroudsburg and all of Monroe County recognized Staples and his service to the United States. He is buried in Stroudsburg Cemetery.

Staples' headstone reads:

J. Summerfield Staples

A Private of
Co.C. 176 Reg. PV
Also a member of the
2 Reg D.C. Vols as a
Substitute for
Abraham Lincoln
Jan. 11, 1888
Aged 43 Yrs 4 Mos &
27 Days

The original headstone for John Summerfield Staples is in the basement of Stroud Mansion. Because the writing was so worn, the headstone had to be replaced.

In 1999, a historical marker was erected by Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission and Monroe County Historical Association on West Main Street, Stroudsburg, to commemorate John Summerfield Staples and his ties to President Abraham Lincoln.