Recipient of the 2017 SUVCW Horace Greeley Award
for best Camp/Department Website
The 135th Department Encampment will be
April 21, 2018, at Waterloo, Iowa.
More information can be found under
Elliott Parr. Age 19, Residence Lowden, nativity Ohio. Enlisted Aug. 12, 1862. Mustered Sept. 4, 1862. Wounded severely April 9, 1864. Pleasant Hill, La. Mustered out Aug. 10, 1865, Davenport, Iowa. Died May 29, 1870, Lowden, Iowa.
Beside a windswept portion of the blacktop Hoover highway, about three miles southwest of Lowden, a United States flag flutters in the breeze above a lone grave.
The tiny cemetery carved from the corner of a farm field is certainly one of Iowa's smallest burial places and the reason for it is surprising to people who hear of it today.
A government headstone marks the final resting place of Elliott Parr, a veteran of the Civil War and member of a pioneer Lowden family. No date of birth or death is inscribed on the simple marker.
Elliott Parr was a son of old Billy Parr, as he was known back in Ohio and later in Cedar County where he and his family settled with the earliest pioneers in this area.
A caravan of 13 covered wagons housing Ohio immigrants, who were seeking a home in the new west, crossed the Mississippi river on Nov. 9, 1848. After two days of hard work the travelers, wagons and horses had been ferried across into the new country.
Under darkening November skies the sturdy band of pioneers continued north and west about 40 miles, finally stopping near what is now Lowden. They transferred the wilderness into a small settlement of log houses and took up life in the new west.
It was in this setting that young Elliott Parr grew to manhood. When the country became embroiled in the Civil War, Elliott, with four of his brothers joined others to march away.
Elliott came back to Billy unscratched. But the smallpox epidemic struck Cedar County and Elliott Parr died of the then dread disease.
Residents in the area were terrified and refused to allow burial of smallpox victims in Van Horne cemetery, the only burial ground in the vicinity. Billy Parr said, “I have enough land of my own. My son was a good soldier. He can have a cemetery of his own.”
And so it was that old Billy set aside a quarter acre of his farm beside the road and deeded it to Cedar county. There he buried his son.
Many years ago the government placed the headstone at the grave. Each year on Memorial Day members of the Lillis Deerberg Post of the American Legion place a new U.S. Flag at the gravesite – and pause to remember Elliott Parr.
The tiny cemetery is enclosed with a high wire fence and the government stone is inscribed simply “Elliott Parr, Company K, 35th Iowa Infantry”.
Some of the burial customs of the earlier pioneers seem hard for us to understand today. Since death and life go together the pioneer had barely established his home when oftentimes he had to make arrangements to dispose of his dead. No funeral homes, hearses or caskets existed so a few sympathetic neighbors would gather and prepare the body for burial. In early days a kindly neighbor would undertake to make funeral arrangements and thus the phrase “undertaker” came into use.
Many were laid in the bare ground but later on crude coffins were sometimes made to the size of the deceased by the neighborhood cabinet maker. This accounts for the fact that selling furniture and funeral directing became linked together and remains so in many communities today.
Lowden's Van Horne cemetery in which Elliott Parr was refused burial is on land a quarter mile down the road from this tiny cemetery.
Transcribed by Sharon Elijah, November 20, 2015, Lowden Historical Society
thanks to: Jeff Buesing-The Forgotten Iowa Historical Society (Facebook)
Merle Hay was born on a Carroll County, Iowa farm to Harvey and Carrie Hay. He was the oldest of 3 children. In 1909, the family moved to another farm near Glidden. Before his service with the United States Army, he was a farm implement mechanic.
When the United States entered the First World War, Hay was young enough to avoid being drafted. With his father's blessing, he voluntarily enlisted on 3 May 1917. He was among 8 men from Glidden who enlisted that day. They were first shipped to Fort Logan, Colorado, then to Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas. He was assigned to the 16th Infantry Regiment. On 26 June 1917, the regiment disembarked the troop ships in St. Nazaire, France, as part of the 1st Infantry Division. By November 1917, he was assigned to Company F along with Corporal James Bethel Gresham and Private Thomas Enright. They were posted in the trenches near the French village of Artois. In the early morning of 3 November 1917, the Imperial German Army attacked. A little after 3 a.m. on Nov. 3, 1917, the Germans launched a nearly hour-long "box assault." This was an artillery assault to the left, right and rear of Company F's position, cutting them off from reinforcements or retreat.
Across a frozen no-man's land, 200 seasoned German shock troops advanced with the odds 10 to 1 in their favor. Eleven men of Company F were taken prisoner. Five others were left wounded. Pvt. Merle Hay, Cpl. James Gresham and Pvt. Thomas Enright were killed. After an hour of fighting, Hay, along with Corporal Gresham, and Private Enright were the first three casualties of the American Expeditionary Force.
Hay was shot, stabbed and stomped to death, one account reports his .45 was still in hand. James Gresham was shot between the eyes. A few yards away lay Thomas Enright, expert cavalryman, face down, his head nearly severed from his body by a trench knife. Scattered in and about the trench were a few German helmets and rifles.
On 5 November 1917, Enright, Gresham and Hay were buried in the country where they had died, with the following inscription to marke their graves in the Lorraaine region. "Here lie the first soldiers of the illustrious Republic of the United States who fell on French soil for justice and liberty."
A memorial service was held Saturday, November 4, 2017, to commemorate the 100th Anviversary of Merle Hay's death. Wreaths were place by the Glidden American Legion Auxiliary and the Department of Iowa, Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War.
More than 114,000 Iowans served in the U.S. armed forces during WWI, including 3,576 Iowans who died during the war from battle wounds, injuries, and illness. Camp Dodge became the organizational location and training site for the U.S. Army’s 88th Infantry Division during WWI, one of 16 cantonment sites nationally. More than 111,000 Soldiers were inducted and trained at Camp Dodge during the war.
Camp Dodge, Iowa was named in honor of Maj. General Grenville M. Dodge, U.S.V., who commanded Iowa volunteers during the Civil War
Last Soldier Project
Beginning in 2003, the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War (SUVCW) embarked on the Last Soldier Project. The purpose of the project is to locate and appropriately mark the final resting place of the last Civil War Soldier buried in each county/parish and in each state of this great country.
The Last Soldier project is funded, in part, by the SUVCW's Monuments and Memorials Grant Fund and also by obtaining contributions of the citizens, local veteran organizations and governmental agencies.
The Last Soldier project marries the efforts of the SUVCW's grave registration and Monument restoration programs. The objective ofthe SUVCW's Monuments and Memorials Grant Fund is to restore and preserve Civil War Monuments. The SUVCW Council of Administration authorized that new monuments and memorials could be subsidized from Monuments and Memorials Grant Fund after all requests for restoration/preservation have be filled. Requests for new monuments and the Last Soldier Project will be entertained by the SUVCW Council of Administration between May 1st and June 15th of each year. Requests will be honored on a first come, first served basis from SUVCW Camps and Departments.
The intent of the SUVCW is not to fully fund any memorial for the Last Soldier project. Rather, the SUVCW intends that the Camps/Departments make contact with other organizations to obtain contributions to the project. This serves two purposes. First, it gets the the public’s attention and affords the SUVCW with an opportunity to interact more within the local community. Second, the SUVCW is capbable of doing more with the money in the fund.
The SUVCW is are aware that in counties and states with strong historical societies, the effort of funding the Last Soldier project will be rather easy, while for other areas, this project will be a little more difficult. But as this project is to be a shared effort, it may bring a greater attention to the sacrifices that ALL our Veterans have made to this great county. It may also serve as a wonderful project for prospective Eagle scouts and encourage veterans’ organizations to search for the the Last Soldier of all wars.
The following Last Soldiers in Iowa have been recognized, to date:
Adair County Last Soldier Lewis Lawson: Stuart
Adams County Last Soldier Darius P. Kerns: Corning
Cass County Last Soldier Adnah D. Bullock : Atlantic
Clarke County Last Soldier Theodore Yetts: Hopeville
Clinton County Last Soldier John Avery: Sharon, Illinois
Dallas County Last Soldier Charles S. Curler: Perry
Decatur County Last Soldier Jonas Hoffhines: Leon
Fayette County Last Soldier John Gager: Hawkeye
Fremont County Last Soldier Phineas H. Drake: Tabor
Greene County Last Soldier Robert Martin: Grand Junction
Guthrie County Last Soldier John Tyler Palmer: Bayard
Howard County Last Soldier Ira Wheeler: Northfield, Minnesota
Ida County Last Soldier Paul Fox: Waco, Nebraska
Kossuth County Last Soldier John Grover: Burt
Lucas County Last Soldier Robert Killen: Norwood
and William Humphreys: Chariton
Madison County Last Soldier Aaron Cleveland : Earlham
Mahaska County Last Soldier Henry A. White: University Park
Marion County Last Soldier Robert A. Millen: Gosport
Mills County Last Soldier Marion T. Davis: Malvern
Monroe County Last Soldier Harvey A. Bloomfield: Oskaloosa
Montgomery County Last Soldier Hiram Finley: Red Oak
Page County Last Soldier John M. Gudgel: Shenandoah
Palo Alto County Last Soldier Franklin Jones: Emmetsburg
Pocahontas County Last Soldier William Marther: Rolfe
Polk County Last Soldier Jacob J. Neuman: Des Moines
Ringgold County Last Soldier Harrison R. Crecelius: Redding
Taylor County Last Soldier Benjamin F. Akers: Gravity
Union County Last Soldier Chester Dickenson: Winterset
Warren County Last Soldier Charles Hester: Indianola
Winnebago County Last Soldier Andrew Brones: Forest City
Winneshiek County Last Soldier Ancil Ash: Wesley
Wright County Last Soldier James Jackson: Kanawaha
Last Soldier October 20, 2017
John Grover, Kossuth County
Members of the General Grenville M. Dodge Camp #75 placed markers noting the county’s “Last Union Veteran of the Civil War” at the graves of six of Iowa’s last soldiers on October 20, 2017.
The first grave marked was that of James T. Jackson (Wright County) in Kanawha. Corporal Jackson was a native of Ireland and served in the 36th Wisconsin Infantry. Private Ancil O. Ash (Winnishiek County) was born in Ohio and was a member of the 47th Wisconsin Infantry. Private Ash is buried in Wesley. The third grave marked was Andrew N. Brones (Winnebago County) in Forest City. Privates Brones was born in Norway and was a member of the 43rd Wisconsin Infantry. Private Brones’ brother, Olavus, died as a POW at Andersonville.
Marking the grave of John H. Grover (Kossuth County) was more of a challenge as the database listed the incorrect cemetery. After consulting GAR records on the Department of Iowa’s website, the grave was found in the Burt, Iowa cemetery. Private Grover served in the 2nd Wisconsin Infantry. Franklin E. Jones (Palo Alto County) was born in Massachusetts and was a member of the 49th Wisconsin Infantry. He is buried in Emmetsburg. Private William Marther (Pocahontas County) was the only veteran of the day who was born in Iowa. Private Marther served in the 8th Iowa Infantry and is buried in Rolfe.
Members of the Dodge Camp attending were Danny Krock, Dan Green and Don McGuire.
Last Soldier October 14 and 15, 2017
Benjamin Akers, Taylor County
Members of Co. B, 10th Iowa Volunteer Infantry, the Camp Guard of Col. William H. Kinsman Camp #23, Department of Iowa, Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War, together with members of the Kinsman Camp Auxiliary to the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War, placed markers noting the county’s “Last Union Soldier of the Civil War” at the graves of seven of Iowa’s Last Soldiers over the weekend of October 14-15, 2017.
In rainy weather all day Saturday, the graves of Harrison Crecelius (Ringgold County), Benjamin Akers (Taylor County), and Darius Kerns (Adams County) were marked. At the grave site of Harrison Crecelius, we were aided by the American Legion Post from Mt. Ayr. Outside Gravity, at the grave of Benjamin Akers, several descendants of Mr. Akers were in attendance and we were aided in the ceremony by the Gravity American Legion Post. At the grave of Darius Kerns in the Prairie Rose Cemetery South of Corning, thunder, lightning, and heavy rains prevented us from doing a full ceremony, however the grave was appropriately marked.
Sunday was clear, though started off rather chilly in Red Oak where the grave of Hiram Finley (Montgomery County) was marked. In Shenandoah, while marking the grave of John Gudgel (Page County) the Guard was joined by the local American Legion including 93 year old Hugh Bell, a veteran of World War II, who, as a Boy Scout in the 1930s, played Taps at several of the town’s Civil War veteran’s funerals. The Guard then traveled to Tabor to mark the grave of Phineas Drake (Fremont County) and to Malvern to mark the grave of Marion Davis (Mills County).
Members of Kinsman Camp participating in the weekend tour were: Mike Carr (Captain of the Camp Guard), Roy Linn (Commander of Kinsman Camp #23), Dennis Sasse (Chaplain), Dan Rittel, John Weeber, and Charles Boeck. Kinsman Auxiliary members participating were Denise Sasse, Linda Linn, Mary Rittel and Deb Bailey. Department Memorials Officer Tom Gaard was also present.
As a note, John Gudgel (Page County's last veteran) attended Phineas Drake's funeral, and Phineas Drake (Fremont County's last veteran) had attended the services for Marion Davis.
Grand Army Highway marks 70 years
September 28, 2017, marks the 70th Anniversary of the formal dedication ceremony to name
U.S. Highway 6 across Iowa as the Grand Army of the Republic Highway.
It was at 2:00 in the afternoon on Sunday, September 28, 1947, when Iowa’s two remaining Civil War veterans James Martin and Ebenezer McMurray came together at the
Old Capitol Building in Iowa City with Governor Robert Blue, other dignitaries, and a crowd of about 400 people for the formal dedication of the Grand Army of the Republic Highway. As the proposed marker sign for the highway was unveiled, Governor Blue proclaimed “the deeds that Civil War veterans performed have not been forgotten.” (Iowa City Press-Citizen, 29 September 1947, p. 1) And, “We dedicate this highway today as a symbol of unity between these 48 states from coast to coast, to the vision of the boys of the Civil War, and to the future, for these men have left to us a heritage of freedom.” (Des Moines Register, 29 September 1947, p. 1)
Battlefield Flag and Monument Policy
As approved by the
136th National Encampment
Lansing, Michigan 2017
WHEREAS, we, as the descendants of Union soldiers, sailors and marines and revenue cutter servicemen who, as members of the Grand Army of the Republic, met in joint reunions with Confederate veterans under both flags in the bond of unity.
WHEREAS, we, as members of the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War strongly condemn the use of any American or Confederate flag by any and all hate groups.
WHEREAS, we the members of the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War strongly condemn the removal, defacement or destruction of any Civil War Veterans Monument or tablet, whether Union or confederate.
WHEREAS, we, the members of the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War, support the flying of all U.S. and C.S.A. flags at our National Battlefield sites and to be honored publicly in museums as our authentic archival documentation of our National past.
THEREFORE, we, the members of the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War are committed to teaching the history of the American Civil War in our educational system and ask that all descendants of Civil War participants join us in this endeavor.
On the breezy but otherwise beautiful Saturday afternoon of August 26, 2017, members of the Department of Iowa, Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War and Auxiliary to the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War gathered in Highland Cemetery south of the town of Bayard in Guthrie County to pay tribute to John Palmer, the Last Union Civil War Veteran of Guthrie County, Iowa.
John Palmer was born March 3, 1844, to parents Welcome and Esthes Palmer in Crawford County, Pennsylvania. At age 11, John’s family moved to Wisconsin where they lived for several years. On March 15, 1865, at age 21, John married Mary Elizabeth Sentence and then enlisted in the Union Army for the Civil War. John’s unit, Company G of the 51st Wisconsin Infantry, was mustered out only a couple months later. John and his wife moved their family to Guthrie County, Iowa in 1870. According to the 1940 Who’s Who in Iowa, John was employed for a while in a sawmill and making barrel staves for kerosene oil and later in the coal mines during winters and as a farmer during the summers, retiring in about 1920. John Palmer, the Last Union Civil War Veteran of Guthrie County, Iowa, passed away on December 1, 1942, at the age of 98.
The August 26th program began with members from both Kinsman and Dodge Camps posting the Colors followed by a playing of the song “Tenting on the Old Camp Ground.” Dan Rittel of Kinsman Camp then welcomed the audience consisting of several descendants of John Palmer and many residents of Guthrie County, some of whom we previously met at the G.A.R. monument re-dedication in Casey in 2016. Rittel expressed his thanks to Jeannie Stone of the Bayard Public Library for her help in making contact with the family of John Palmer; to Delbert Palmer, a great-great-grandson of John Palmer, who was instrumental in spreading the word of our planned dedication ceremony through his family; and also to Bryan-Mercer Post 44 of the American Legion for their participation in the ceremony.
Senior Vice Department Commander Danny Krock gave an address and spoke of the time of John Palmer and what he and other “last soldiers” of the Civil War would have meant to the people of the 1940s. Krock finished by playing the song “Tell My Father,” about a dying Civil War soldier who wanted to relay a final message to his father that he had died with honor on the field of battle.
Auxiliary member Mary Rittel read the obituary for John Palmer from the December 10, 1942, Bayard News and the poem, “When the Boys in Blue Are Gone,” by John Hendricks.
Then members the Kinsman Camp Guard, Company B, 10th Iowa Volunteer Infantry, commanded that day by 1st Lt. Dennis Sasse, proceeded with the Last Soldier dedication ceremony. Auxiliary Chaplain Denise Sasse acted as Chaplain during the ceremony and a veteran’s prayer was also offered by John Shirbroun of American Legion Post 44. Kinsman Camp member Charles Boeck stood guard at the gravestone of John Palmer while fellow member John Weeber placed the symbols of the soldier. Diane Guzinski, a descendant of Palmer placed a white rose and other Palmer family members placed a couple wreaths. Dan Rittel then placed the Last Soldier marker. The 1942 song “This is Worth Fighting For” was played followed by a rifle volley from Bryan-Mercer Post 44 and the playing of “Taps” by Dodge Camp member Mike Rowley.
Family members of John Palmer with the Bayard American Legion and members of the Iowa SUVCW
On Saturday, June 24, 2017, the Kinsman Camp #23 Guard Rededicated the Hancock Post Section at the Floyd Cemetery in Sioux City, Iowa. The city had recently renovated and restored this section back to its original appearance and placed headstones for twenty Veterans which have lain in unmarked graves for many years.
Last Soldier Project
On Sunday, June 4, 2017, Department of Iowa members: Tom Gaard, Mike Rowley, Ron Rittel, Dan Rittel, Danny Krock and Auxiliary Member Marilyn Rittel traveled across five counties and performed the Last Soldier Ceremony for seven Veterans. These men had been the Last Civil War Soldier in the County they resided in. Beginning in Perry and ending in Oskaloosa, seven men were remembered. Pictured above is the grave of Chester L. Dickinson - Last Soldier of Union County. He served as a Private in Co. I, 6th Michigan Heavy Artillery. He was a member of the T. J. Potter Post No. 440, Creston, Iowa, Kearney Post No. 40, Oskaloosa, Iowa, and Pitzer Post No. 55, Winterset, Iowa
Civil War Fought by Boys
Page County Democrat, Clarinda, Iowa
Friday May 22, 1925
The Veterans of the Civil War are still fondly spoken of as “boys”, “boys in blue.” Year after year for sixty years still “boys.” It has become almost as specialized as a designation of the soldiers of the Civil War, as senator, as alderman. As age was to mean wisdom, the highest legislative body of old was at first actually and later theoretically, at least, composed of old men. Senator, alderman, means simply, old man.
So the boys in blue, who were only boys when in that blue, have stayed boys in affectionate address ever since, says the Manchester Union. No succeeding war has carried that entitlement. In current conversation we hear the soldiers of the World War spoken of as “soldiers”, “legionnaires”, even as “veterans”. But seldom indeed as “boys”. Just why is this? How did the soldiers of the Civil War gain and keep the name “boys”?
Because they were boys, boys as the soldiers of none of our other wars were. That war was fought by boys. When the officer addressed them as “boys” he spoke a literal fact. When the general before a charge cried “boys” he addressed a body that might have been assembled from school and college yards, and were so assembled. There were majors and colonels under twenty. Charles Stoughton was colonel of a Vermont cavalry regiment at seventeen! Boys they were and boys they remained in name and spirit and are still.
There has always been a strange unaccountableness in the buoyancy of spirit of the soldier of the Civil War. It was the last great war that was also a great spectacle, fought over an immense territory, with imposing marches, immense rides, and it caught the imagination as modern wars do not. The dash of cavalry, the charge with the colors, has gone. The Civil War was a great sporting event, fought by boys with the high spirits that they would fought a football game.
Thanks to Linda Linn for discovering this article while searching obituaries for the Grave Registration Project.
With the assistance of Dan Rittel, the Iowan in the “Mary Bowditch Forbes” video http://www.iowasuvcw.org/home/videos/ has been identified as Robert Stewart McGeehon. McGeehon was a member of the Sam Rice Post #6, Atlantic, Iowa, and can be seen at 3:30, 5:24 and 6:15 through 8:22 during the video.
McGeehon was born May 18, 1839, near Enon Valley in Lawrence County, Pennsylvania, the second of nine children. He enlisted as a Private in Company “I”, 134th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry in July of 1862 and mustered into service on August 19. They were taken to Harrisburg where they were given their uniforms and then sent to Washington for their first meal, two slices of dry bread and a pint cup of black coffee. They laid in camp at Arlington Heights for some time and then forced marched to Antietam, arriving after the battle had ended. From there they went to Fredericksburg, then Chancellorsville. At Fredericksburg while in support of a battery, they were ordered to charge the enemy. They were told to lie down until the battery had fired and then charge. Theirs was the last charge of the battle; he did not hear the order to fall back. When he “did” turn, a bullet struck his bayonet, knocking the rifle from his hand. Running, he grabbed it and returned to the ranks. He was wounded at Chancellorsville on May 3, 1863, hastily brought into the line of battle, and under attack, while loading his rifle, he ran his ramrod through his right hand. Reluctantly going, he was ordered to the hospital for two weeks. Company “I”s term of enlistment expired and they were discharged at Harrisburg on May 26.
His service records list him as Stewart Robert McGeehon. In his G.A.R. file is a card upon which he states: “My real name is Robert Stewart McGeehon, but when the officers made out the pay roll they got my name wrong and I went through the service as Stewart R. McGeehon”.
He came to Atlantic, Iowa in 1868 and became a carpenter, a trade which he had learned from his father. McGeehon built many of the first homes in Atlantic. In 1883, he open a grocery store, retiring in 1904, residing at 801 Poplar Street.
He was a member of the Iowa Division of the National Association of Civil War Musicians, playing the bass drum. They performed at the Iowa State Fair for many years and at several National Encampments of the Grand Army. Just before the Parade at the 1935 Department Encampment at Waterloo, McGeehon suffered a foot injury at the hotel, which hampered his marching ability. He was 96, and the oldest musician in the nation in 1935....While there have been many who were musicians during the war a goodly number of soldiers took up the fife and drum after being mustered out. A drummer quite familiar in Iowa for many years was "Uncle Mac" McGeehon, of Atlantic, who fell in love with the big bass drum after the close of the war. He was a prominent business man, but at the Iowa State fairs he was prominent with his "Old Soldiers Drum Corps." On account of his age and his long white beard he was a real feature. In 1936, on May 18, he passed his 97th year, but in June he played his bass drum at the encampment in Des Moines with all his old time vigor and enthusiasm. He answered the final roll call on August 10 of that year. We all knew how much "Uncle Mac" loved his bass drum; and in 1924 the national encampment was to be held in Boston the same week as the Iowa State fair. The drum corps had agreed to play at the fair but "Uncle Mac" wanted to go to Boston so he could visit his old home near by, so it was arranged for him to go but leave his drum. But he said if he went the old bass drum had to go along, and the drum went along. The National Drum Corps, with sixty-five members, marched in the Boston parade and there was but one from Iowa. He was placed on the outside of the line and on his big drum was the inscription, "Iowa Dept. G. A. R." The Boston papers in their account stated "what a fine drum corps Iowa had in the parade." "Uncle Mac" had the laugh on his comrades when he returned and told how much Iowa would have missed had he not taken his drum along....
Robert McGeehon died August 10, 1936, and is buried at the Atlantic Cemetery, Atlantic, Iowa. His funeral was conducted by the local American Legion Post under the direction of the WRC and the LGAR. He was 97 years, 2 months and 2 days.
“There was something infinitely grand about this 97 year old veteran, who until the last few weeks went about his daily rounds of the city and was a familiar figure. He was a living example of how fine a thing it is to grow old gracefully. He was philosophical in his views of life and death and disposed to accept what the fates dealt out to him without complaint….We of the present generation have had a privilege generations to come will not enjoy, in that we have been permitted to personally know many of the men who laid down their future upon the altar of their county in 1861 and carried to a victorious close the most sanguinary struggle in the history of the world.”
Like many counties in Iowa they have some great Veteran stories ranging all the way back to the Civil War. The front (road facing) side of this Freedom Rock features the GAR or Grand Army of the Republic. The GAR was a fraternal organization composed of the veterans of the Union Army, Navy, Marines and the Revenue Cutter Service who served in the American Civil War for the Northern/Federal forces. There were many GAR Veterans who settled back in Iowa after the war and Keokuk County was no exception. In fact, there was even one man who had the honor of escorting President Abraham Lincoln in and out of the capitol. After reading the stories and seeing the rock I knew I wanted to create a tribute to these heroes. I painted a Union soldier and an aged GAR Veteran with their GAR ribbon/medal between them. I think it turned out to be a powerful image along with a quote they often used
On the back side is a tribute to some local Veterans who represent a few different eras of service. Ronald Shirlaw had distinguished service in both WWII and Korea. He earned the Silver Star, 2 Distinguished Flying Crosses, a Bronze Star and Prisoner of War Medal. Ronald was captured by communist forces after he was shot down over North Korea, and was held as a Prisoner of War until his release during Operation Big Switch at the end of the war. I represented Ronald by painting his photo and then behind him creating a POW scene with his plane crash landing in the background. Like most of my work it is not only for the local guys but also a nod to all those who were, and are, POW/MIA. Gary Ferns, a decorated Vietnam Veteran, retired after 21 years of service in the US Army as a Special Forces officer. He earned the Silver Star, Bronze Star and Purple Heart. I painted a photo of Gary along with a Green Beret in action and a Vietnam background. Emery Kerr was a medic in WWII and the photo I used of him was a photo of him in action in Sicily. This pic speaks volumes and it was sad to find out that he was killed in a crash not long after returning from the war while attending a relatives funeral.
What Cheer is a town determined to not let their town fade away and is working on many projects including their impressive Opera House which is right next to the rock. You’ll have to make the trip to see this one and I hope you enjoy it.
Big thank you to our Veterans and those currently serving.. you are my inspiration.
The Freedom Rock®