Valentine Rebhun was born in 1815 in Baden, Germany.
Valentine was married to Prussian-born Marianna (b. 1823), possibly after immigrating to the United States, and they had at least two children: Jacob (b. 1850) and Valentine (b. 1853). They eventually settled in Troy, Rensselaer County, New York, by early 1850, and were still living in New York in 1853. Sometime around the mid-1850s but certainly before 1857 Valentine moved his family west and settled in Grand Rapids, Kent County, Michigan.
For several years before the war Valentine directed one of the most popular bands in the German community on the west side of the Grand River in Grand Rapids. For example, on January 24, 1857, the Grand Rapids Eagle wrote that “The party at the American [hotel] on Thursday evening, passed off very pleasantly -- Prof. Rebhun's Quadrille's Band performed with their usual spirit and skill, and all who have heard them in the concert or Ball room, are willing to allow that they are ‘hard to beat’. They give their third soiree at the American, west side, on Thursday evening, February 5th.”
Rebhun also operated a saloon on the west side, and his business occasionally got him into trouble with the local authorities. On October 29, 1857, the Eagle reported that Rebhun had recently been fined for selling liquor to the Indians. “John Grady and Valentine Rebhun were yesterday taken before Justice Sinclair, on complaint of W. B. Renwick, one of our most efficient temperance men, and fined $10 each and costs.”
Apparently sometime over the winter Rebhun suffered a disastrous fire which must have destroyed most if not all of his establishment. On February 5, noted the Eagle, “another of those popular promenades, by Barnhart’s Cornet band, is to take place at Luce’s Hall, at which the members have very generously tendered their services for the benefit of Mr. V. Rebhun. Mr. R. suffered considerable loss of property on which there was no insurance. As the tickets of admission are only 50 cents, and those promenade concerts are among the chaste and agreeable parties, it is to be hoped that he will receive a rousing benefit. we are confident that he will. It has been intimated that one or two of the fire Companies will be pretty fully represented there, and Mr. R. would be pleased to see them in uniform if convenient.” And the Enquirer wrote that “it will be recollected, that the Promenade Concert tonight, by Barnhart's Valley City Cornet Band, is for the benefit of Mr. V. Rebhun, a member of the Band, whose goods were destroyed on the occasion of the recent fire. He is deserving of the a paying benefit. We hope that the Firemen, the Military, and the public generally, will be on hand, tonight, at Luce's Hall, to hear good music, enjoy the dancing, and contribute toward reimbursing Mr. Rebhun for his recent losses.”
However, “The Promenade Concert, for the benefit of Mr. Rebhun, which was advertised to transpire last evening, was adjourned until Tuesday evening next. This was done at the request of his friends and because there were several large private parties in town. We trust his many friends will remember him Tuesday evening, and greet him with a crowded Hall.” And on February 8 the Eagle wrote “Another of those delightful entertainments given by Barnhart's Cornet Band, will come off tomorrow night, at Luce's Hall. The programme is a ‘taking’ one, and the mere announcement of the time and place must be sufficient to secure a large attendance. That accomplished musician, V. Rebhun, is the beneficiary, and deserves much at the hands of our appreciative and music-loving citizens.”
By mid-February Rebhun was again operating a saloon. “Rebhun has again got his saloon in order,” wrote the Enquirer on February 15, “and is fully prepared to administer aid and comfort to the inner man.” In addition to his band activities and in conjunction with his saloon he was also one of several brewers in the city and in mid-1858 he had a running feud with another local brewer, Chris Kusterer.
On June 6 Valentine advertised ‘Rebhun's Bock Beer!’ in the Enquirer . “The subscriber sells at his Saloon, in the basement of C. W. Taylor's building, corner of Monroe and Pearl Streets, as good an article of Bock Beer as any on the place. He don't pretend to sell the ‘Genuine’ Bock Beer, as there never has been any in this city. But he warrants his Bock Beer to be as good as any in the city.”
Kusterer took issue with this last claim and wrote a letter the same day to the Enquirer. “A large number of Saloon Keepers have been selling stuff during the past week, purporting to be genuine ‘Bock Beer’. Recollect, that no place in this town, sells ‘Bock Beer’, unless it has a printed sign from our establishment.” He added that “We will only have on hand this superior article for one week longer.” And in another place in the same issue Kusterer said that
Mr. Rebhun has the honesty to admit that his Bock Beer is a humbug article; and that it is not what he calls it to his customers, to deceive them. But he has the dishonesty to assert, that our Bock Beer is not genuine. In this he falsifies. We had a man in our employ of whom we obtained the recipe, who was formerly in the Brewery of John Bock (the inventor of ‘Bock Beer’) in Minchen [sic] Bavaria. And we there fore assure our customers, that our's is the genuine, simon pure article of Bock Beer.
To add insult to injury, Kusterer asked “Does Mr. Rebhun know a certain Valentine who always waters his beer, and never sells a genuine article of drink, of any kind?” On June 11 Rebhun responded in the Enquirer. “A very laudable assertion,” Rebhun wrote, “to bring before the people of Grand Rapids by those sentimental brothers. Such a notice on the part of bloats is not worth noticing, and the subscriber dares say, that if people only understood their way of manufacturing the so-called ‘bock beer’, they would probably not be humbugged by them. The past six months have already shown what species of vermin they are, and the future will yet bring forth the fruits of their corruption. Any other reply on their part shall not be countenanced, as it is beneath the regard of a gentleman.”
Rebhun’s reputation as a band-leader and saloon-keeper was well-known throughout the city, and he was instrumental in the development of the Fifty-first State Militia Regimental Band. (The Fifty-first was made up of four local militia companies that would become the nuclei for the first four companies -- A, B, C and D -- of the Third Michigan.)
On August 24, 1858, the Enquirer reported that “Mr. V. Rebhun, the noted drum major of the 51st Regiment, Michigan Militia, is an enterprising man. He keeps up with, if not ahead of the age, in everything appertaining to his business. His last enterprise is, the erection of a Lager Beer Hall, and arranging gardens to match, in the northern portion of the city. On Sunday the concern was in full blast, and was visited by several hundred persons, most of them our German fellow citizens, accompanied in many cases by their ladies.”
And on September 14, the paper wrote that “The German Turner Association of this city will celebrate their anniversary on Wednesday, 11 o'clock and march with the band at their head through the principal streets of the city and thence to the grounds of Mr. Rebhun, known as the ‘Dutch Garden’. There they will go through with a variety of gymnastic exercises, listen to speeches and music, and partake of a sumptuous dinner, prepared by Mr. Rebhun. It will be quite a gala day with them. In the evening they will give an anniversary Ball at Luce's Hall. They are expecting several delegations from abroad to join them, particularly from Ionia and Detroit.”
In 1859-60 Rebhun continued to operate one of the community’s favorite saloons on the southwest corner of Pearl and Monroe Streets, and in 1860 he was working as a saloon keeper and musician living with his wife and two sons in Grand Rapids, First Ward. He also continued his work as a band director, and in mid-January gave “a series of Promenade Concerts, in Collins Hall, commencing on Friday evening, Jan. 13th. Mr. R. assures us that these concerts will be conducted in the most agreeable manner - the company select, music good, and the exercises will positively close at 12 o'clock. Tickets only 25 cents.” On March 1, 1860 the Enquirer wrote that “The Grand Rapids Brass and String Band is now re-organized, under the leadership of Mr. Plessle, and is prepared to perform for parties wishing their services.”
By 1860 Valentine was working as a musician and living with his wife and children in Grand Rapids’ First ward.
Valentine stood 5’5” with blue eyes, dark hair and a light complexion and was 46 years old and still living in Grand Rapids when he enlisted as Bandmaster or Drum Major on June 10, 1861, joined by his young son Jacob as a drummer. In fact Valentine, who had played an active role in the development of the Band for the local militia Regiment during the late 1850s, had already begun to form a new Regimental Band by late April of 1861. According to the Enquirer of April 23 the band was “not quite full, [and] persons desirous of going to the wars in this capacity will please see Mr. R.” By early June, however, his band was providing “excellent music” for the Regiment and was especially proficient on June 5 during the presentation of a flag by the ladies of Grand Rapids to the Regiment forming at Cantonment Anderson.
He remained active with the Regiment until he was discharged on March 7, 1862, at Camp Michigan, Virginia, for rheumatism and general debility. (The Regimental bands in the Army of the Potomac would be abolished in August of 1862.)
Valentine returned to Michigan and reentered the service as a Private in Company F, Nineteenth Michigan infantry on August 22, 1862, at Kalamazoo, Kalamazoo County for 3 years, and was mustered on September 5 at Dowagiac, Cass County, crediting and listing his residence as Kalamazoo; he was transferred to Principal Musician on September 5 at Dowagiac. The regiment was organized at Dowagiac and mustered into service on September 5, and left the state for Cincinnati, Ohio, on September 14 and then onto Covington, Kentucky where it remained on duty until October 7. It participated in movements throughout Kentucky during 1862 and on into 1863. Valentine was discharged on September 17, 1863, for disability.
After he was discharged from the army Valentine returned to Kalamazoo where he was a prominent member of the Kalamazoo Cornet Band, and in 1865 was elected Constable on the Republican ticket.
He died of typhoid fever in Kalamazoo on Sunday October 14, 1866, and his funeral was held on Monday afternoon. In its obituary of Valentine, the Kalamazoo Telegraph wrote that the soldiers of the Nineteenth infantry “such as were here, took part in the obsequies. Major Rebhun is said to have been the best drum Major in the Army of the Cumberland.” Valentine was presumably buried in Kalamazoo.
In 1882 his widow eventually applied for a pension (no. 290902) but the certificate was never granted.
Jacob Rebhun was born on April 7, 1850, in Troy, Rensselaer County, New York, the son of Valentine (1815-1866) and Marianna (b. 1823).
Valentine was born in Baden, Germany and immigrated to the United States. He may have married Prussian-born Marianna after arriving in North America but this is uncertain. In any case they were living in Troy, New York by the time Jacob was born and were still living in New York by 1853. Sometime afterwards, probably around the mid-1850s Jacob’s family left New York and came to Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Jacob was a member of his father’s band in Grand Rapids where they played on many private and public occasions held on the west side of the Grand River during the mid- to late-1850s. Indeed, his father would be appointed the first drum major for the Third Michigan’s regimental band. (See Valentine’s biography below.)
By 1860 Jacob was attending school with his younger brother Valentine and living with his family in Grand Rapids’ First ward where his father (who would also join the Third Michigan) worked as a musician.
Jacob, who had the distinction of being the youngest member to enlist in the Third Michigan infantry, stood 5 feet with blue eyes, brown hair and a light complexion, was an 11-year-old drummer in his father’s band and living with his family in Grand Rapids, First Ward when he enlisted in the Band on June 10, 1861, along with his father Valentine who was the drum major.
On June 16, 1861, the Third Michigan arrived in Washington, DC, and proceeded up the Potomac River, establishing their first camp near the Chain Bridge. According to Jacob, shortly afterwards, Andrew Johnson paid the camp a visit and gave a short speech in which he claimed that the state of Tennessee had enlisted the youngest soldier in the Union army. Third Michigan Colonel Dan McConnell put Jacob on the speaker’s stand “as being the youngest.” Jacob was sick with dysentery in the Regimental hospital at Camp Washington (also known as Camp Michigan) in December of 1861, and he remained hospitalized until he was discharged as a “member of the band, not as a musician” on February 28, 1862, at Camp Michigan, Virginia.
He returned to Michigan and reentered the service in Company I, Eleventh Michigan cavalry on November 24, 1863, at Kalamazoo, Kalamazoo County for 3 years, and was mustered on November 24, crediting Adrian, Lenawee County. Jacob claimed some years later that he was taken prisoner near Brentwood, Tennessee, on March 25, 1863, exchanged on June 8 and that he reenlisted in the Eleventh cavalry on December 10, 1863. If he did in fact reenlist, he was probably absent on veteran’s furlough for at least a month, and most likely returned to western Michigan -- either Grand Rapids or perhaps Kalamazoo. He most likely returned to the regiment sometime in late January or early February of 1864.
The Eleventh Michigan cavalry was organized at Kalamazoo and Detroit between October 7 and December 10, 1863. It moved to Lexington, Kentucky December 10-22 and remained on duty there until April 28 when it commenced operations in eastern and then southern Kentucky through the summer in Tennessee by late fall of 1864 and southwestern Virginia by early 1865 and western North Carolina by spring.
He was reported in the Band from December of 1863 through March of 1864, and absent sick with rheumatism in the general hospital at Camp Nelson, Kentucky in November and December of 1864. On June 24, 1865, the regiment moved to Pulaski, Tennessee, where they remained on duty until they were consolidated into the Eighth Michigan cavalry on July 20. Jacob was indeed transferred on July 20 to Company A, Eighth Michigan cavalry, and the regiment participated in numerous scout and patrol duties until September. Jacob was mustered out with the regiment on September 22, 1865, at Nashville, Tennessee.
After the war Jacob may have returned briefly to Grand Rapids and/or Kalamazoo (where his parents lived). But following his father’s death in October of 1866, Jacob apparently returned to New York and settled in Troy. In 1875 he was living in Troy working as a barber, a trade he followed most of his life. By 1890 he was in business as a hairdresser with one Henry Bestle (possibly a relative to Jacob’s wife Emma), at 1581 Broadway in Troy. About the same time his mother was employed as a grocer and her son Valentine was a clerk at the same location, 146 Congress Street in Troy, and living with Jacob, first at 151 Congress then at 36 Bridge Street
He married Emma W. Bestle (d. 1928) on July 19, 1875, in Troy, and they had at least eight children: Marion or Mary (b. 1876), Joseph (b. 1878), Arabella (b. 1883), Frederick, William, Grace (b.1891), Gertrude (b. 1895) and Emily. They separated some years later.
By 1880 he was working as a barber and living with his wife and children in Troy’s Second Ward. He was living in Troy in 1885, and from 1890 to 1891 at 36 Bridge Street, and from 1892 through 1895 he was residing in West Troy, possibly at 1300 Sixth Avenue. He was living at 818 Twenty-fourth Street in Watervliet, New York, from 1896 through 1897 when he apparently moved back to Troy, and was living at 135 Congress Street in Troy from 1898 to 1903. By 1904 he had moved to Springfield, Massachusetts and was residing in 1905 at 178 State Street in Springfield.
He eventually moved west again and was residing at 3428 East Twelfth Street in Chicago from 1910 through 1911. In 1912 Jacob was living at 313 St. John’s court in Chicago, Illinois, and by 1915 he was living at 39 San Joaquin Street in Stockton, California. In 1916 he was residing at 1188 Seventh Street in Oakland, California, but by 1923 he was back in New York and living at 335 North Oak Street in Buffalo , where he was attended by a nurse, Nancy A. Maybank.
Although no record of a divorce from Emma is in evidence, he reportedly married (illegally) one Alphonsine or “Alice” LeGault (b. 1867), a French-Canadian woman from Montreal, on August 26, 1906, in Michigan City, Indiana.
In 1910 Emma sought to gain access to one-half of Jacob’s pension (no. 963,754); she claimed he had deserted her in April of 1904. In January of 1911 she testified that on April 12, 1904, Jacob “left home saying that ‘he was going to get his pension’ and never returned homer and that I have never seen or heard from him since, nor has he made any provisions for my support; that he left Troy in company with another woman of unchaste character who was known as Albino.” She further claimed “that prior to his departure from the City of Troy that he lived in open adulterous intercourse with this woman and provided her with lodging. . . .” Moreover, all “diligent efforts to ascertain his whereabouts” had proven fruitless.
According to testimony of one Charlotte Claessens, who knew the family, Jacob deserted Emma in April of 1904 “leaving her practically destitute and the mother of eight children.” Charlotte further stated that “prior to the desertion by said Jacob Rebhun . . . it was common talk that he was solicitous of a certain French woman who first name is Albino [sic] and whose last name your deponent has been unable to ascertain and that it was common scandal and common knowledge to all the neighbors of their relations; that it was common talk of the neighbors that said Jacob Rebhun provided apartments for this said woman in the neighborhood for about two years prior to his desertion of his said wife and that it was commonly known that the said Jacob Rebhun departed from the City of Troy, N.Y. on or about said date in company with the said female Albino [sic].”
Harry Lord, another neighbor in Troy, testified in 1910 that Jacob was “solicitous of other women and that he departed this city in company with one other than his wife on or about [April of 1904], leaving said Emma Rebhun in destitute circumstances and the mother of eight children with no visible means of support.”
Jacob never formally contested the suit, although in January of 1911 he did provide a written statement claiming that he did not desert his family “But was told to get out. And if I ever came back she would brain me.” He further claimed that she would frequently swear at him and often stated she wished him dead and that she wished he had been killed before she ever met him and that she further threatened to have her brother shoot him. He also claimed that she “would tell the children not to mind what I said to them.” Thus, he “left to try life anew and have peace, to forgive but not forget.” He also pointed out that as a consequence of his own very limited financial circumstances and declining health consequently he asked that he not be deprived of part of his pension.
Soon after receipt of Jacob’s statement the Pension Bureau informed Emma in early February that she would have to reply to these charges and on March 11 she testified that “through evidence obtained by Supt. Walker of the Humane Society, [Jacob] was arrested for non-support and compelled to give her two dollars & fifty cents a week, which he did for two weeks and then disappeared.” She further denied his allegations that she threatened his life and that she wished him dead and she was substantiated by two of her adult children. The pension board suspended one-half of Jacob’s pension until the investigation was completed and in April of 1911 Emma was awarded one-half of his pension which she continued to receive until her death in Troy in 1928.
Jacob was living at 747 Virginia Street in Buffalo when he was admitted to Buffalo City Hospital where he died on August 20, 1925, of complications resulting from urinary retention, a consequence of a urethral stricture; the cause of the stricture is unknown. He was buried on August 22 by Michael Lux Undertaking, 172 Goodell Street, in Pine Hill (or Forest Lawn) cemetery in Buffalo.
In 1925 Jacob’s widow applied for and received a pension (no. 967275).
In February of 1926 Alphonsine (Alice) LeGault (the “second” wife), was residing at 335 N. Oak Street in Buffalo when she wrote to the Pension Bureau, seeking access to Jacob’s pension.
I will let you know [she wrote] about Mr. Jacob Rebhun. He was a good barber and had lots of work as long as he could work but he had a terrible wife. She done all kind[s] of dirty tricks on him: she had other men when he was at work and . . . he could not live with that woman and she told him she did not want him any more to come back because she had other men and he did not want to support other men’s children he left her 22 years ago. He was not safe in the house not even would she or the children get him anything to eat he had to get his meals in the restaurants but they took all the money and he gave her lots of money but she did not do anything for him but just as soon as she found out that he was dead she went for the pension but if such women get a pension then every woman ought to have a pension. She and her children were terrible with that man. He was one of the best men you ever could think of until he was paralyzed and could not work no more and the lady he boarded with all these years she went out working for other people 7 years so they could get along. She took care of him for 22 years.
Winfield Scott, Pension Commissioner, wrote back on March 22 that Miss LeGault’s charges of infidelity and “other misconduct” against Emma Rebhun were irrelevant as “The widow pensioner was in receipt of one-half of” Jacob’s “pension as his deserted wife from 1911 until his death, in August, 1925.” Further, that “The soldier was fully advised of the basis of her [Emma’s] claim, but made no defense except to file a sworn statement of his reasons for the separation in which he made no charge of infidelity against his wife or denial of her allegation of his having abandoned her for another woman.” Thus, Emma’s “right to such pension may not be disturbed without proof of improper conduct.”
In 1933 Alice again sought the assistance of the G.A.R. and Spanish War Veteran’s Relief of the City of Buffalo to gain access to the pension monies, but Alice discovered that although she and Jacob were married in Michigan City, Indiana in August of 1906, he had never divorced Emma and thus Alice could not legally claim to be a widow of Jacob. In February of 1934 and again in October of 1937 the Dependent’s Claim Service rejected Alice’s claim on the basis that no legal marriage existed between her and Jacob Rebhun.
In 1943 Lillian Hartman Rebhun, Jacob and Emma’s daughter, also claimed access to pension funds as a dependent child of a Civil War veteran. Lillian, who was living in Hartford, Connecticut, was rejected as she was too old to receive support as the child of a veteran. “Alice” was living on welfare in 1950 and 1951 in Buffalo when her application was denied a final time. In July of 1951 she was informed that she was “not accepted as the widow of the veteran since you were not his legal wife at the time of his death.”