John Wheeler was born on May 29, 1839, in Gaines Basin, Orleans County, New York, the son of William K. (b. 1815) and Louisa (Woodward, b. 1818).
Vermont native William married New York-born Louisa and they settled in New York for some years. William was still living in Gaines, New York in 1840, but he moved his family to Michigan (probably from New York) around 1847, and by 1850 John was attending school with an older brother and living with his family in Grand Rapids, Kent County. In September of 1855 John was probably living in Grand Rapids when he joined the Grand Rapids Artillery, commanded by Captain Lucius Patterson. (Captain Baker Borden would eventually succeed Patterson, and the GRA would serve as the nucleus for Company B, Third Michigan Infantry, also commanded by Borden.)
By 1859-60 John was working as a carpenter and residing with his family on Turner between Bridge and First Streets on the west side of the Grand River in Grand Rapids. In 1860 he was a master carpenter working with his father (also a master carpenter) and living with his family in Grand Rapids’ Fourth Ward.
John was 22 years old and probably still living in Grand Rapids when he enlisted as Musician, probably as Drummer, in Company B on May 13, 1861. He was transferred to the Band on July 1, 1861 when he was promoted to Principal Musician. He was discharged on January 17, 1863, at Camp Pitcher, as a “member of the Band and not as a Musician.”
After he left the army John eventually returned to Grand Rapids. He married Michigan native Carrie Robens (b. 1843) on October 16, 1864, in Grand Rapids, and they had one son: Ernest (b. 1871).
By 1870 he was apparently living with his parents (there is no mention of his wife in the 1870 census) and working for his father who was a s ash manufacturer in Grand Rapids’ Fourth Ward. He was residing on Turner Street in 1874 when the Democrat reported on October 17, that
Last evening a party assembled at the residence of Mr. John Wheeler on Turner Street, for the purpose of celebrating the tenth [?] anniversary of Mr. and Mr. William K. Wheeler’s marriage day with a tin wedding, the latter named gentleman and lady being father and mother of Mr. John Wheeler. For the purpose of rendering the occasion more enjoyable the proceeding were made a surprise to the wedded pair, who had not been made acquainted with the auspicious event in which they were to be the principal actors. Accordingly, they were invited, among the other guests, and the Knight Templar Band, of whom Mr. Wheeler Jr., a member, also conceived the happy thought and intention of being presented a large number of ‘priceless’ presents, of many devices, and composed of real tin, and no sham, awaited the pair, they having been sent in in advance by friends and acquaintances. It is needless to say that the event was extremely pleasant and vastly enjoyable to all who were there. The music furnished by the band was very fine, and no doubt was quite as deservingly appreciated as were the other portions of the festivities.
John lived in the Grand Rapids area nearly all of his life. In 1880 he was working as a joiner and living with hius wife and son and mother-in-law Maria Robens in Walker, Kent County (his parents were living on Turner Street in the Seventh Ward in 1880). He was residing at 19 Stocking Street in the late 1880s or early 1890s, at 41 Alabama Street in Grand Rapids in 1899 and in 1890 when he gave an affidavit in the pension application of Capt. Baker Borden (formerly of Company B), in Walker, Kent County in 1890, and he was possibly back living in the city in December of 1902 when he became a member of the Old Third Michigan Infantry Association; he was probably also a member of Grand Army of the Republic Champlin Post No. 29 in Grand Rapids.
In 1890 he applied for and received a pension (no. 964220).
John was living at 503 Front Street in 1906-1908, in 1909 and 1911.
He was ill only two weeks when he died of pneumonia at his home in Grand Rapids on Monday October 23, 1911. Funeral services were held at Spring’s chapel on Sheldon Street at 2:30 p.m. Wednesday, October 25, and he was buried in Greenwood cemetery: section E lot no. 10.
The following week his widow applied for and received a pension (no. 732810).