contact our Junior Vice Department Commander
2649 182nd St
Greetings from the Deptartment of Iowa's Junior Vice Commander. I would like to extend a welcome to those of you who wish to join our Order, or those who merely seek information. My job is to assist you in finding a Camp to join. Merely contact a member of the Camp you wish to join, or contact me and I'll get you set up. If there is no Camp nearby, you may wish to start a new camp with as few as FIVE members. You do not have to have a Civil War ancestor to join a Camp. We will do all we can to assist you. I look forward to hearing from you.
Currently, our number of Iowans who served during the Civil War, either in Iowa Regiments or other Units, stands at 72,680
Fairview Cemetery, Council Bluffs, Iowa
On Saturday, September 14, three members of Kinsman Camp #23 (Camp Commander Charles Boeck; Roy Linn, PCC; and Dan Rittel, PCC) joined with several members of the Daughters of the American Revolution and Keepers of the Stones on a project to raise gravestones of Civil War veterans buried around the Kinsman Monument in Fairview Cemetery in Council Bluffs.
Approximately 40 gravestones were raised during the workday, leaving about another 10 or so stones to be raised on another workday that will be planned next spring which will also entail cleaning all the raised stones.
The day was planned and organized by Lisa Varnes-Rex, a member of the DAR and founder of Keepers of the Stones, a monument and gravestone cleaning company based in Omaha, Nebraska.
Photos submitted by Carolyn DeLay, D.A.R.
138th Annual Encampment
of the Allied Orders of the
Grand Army of the Republic
Department Commander Don McGuire, Department Secretary/Treasurer Dan Rittel and Department of Iowa Auxiliary President Mary Rittel attended the 2019 National Encampment of the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War held in Independence, Ohio.
Former Member David Burkett reinstated his membership in Col. Willian H. Kinsman Camp #23, Department of Iowa, Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War.
Brother Burkett was originally a Member of Twombly Camp #2 before transferring to Mills Camp #45 which was reorganized as Kinsman Camp #23 in 2004. Burkett left the state of Iowa a few years ago and just recently returned.
Department Commander Don McGuire was visiting the Kinsman Camp meeting on August 1 and re-initiated Brother Burkett per Ritual.
Kinsman Camp Activities
Kinsman Camp #23 has had a busy spring. Several members of the Camp and Auxiliary #23 participated in a series of school programs that served four school districts and over four hundred students. Several "stations" are visited by students on a rotation. Topics included in most of these programs are Infantry drill, Artillery drill, Iowa in the Civil War, Camp Life, and Women in the Civil War.
Those who participated at the Atlantic Middle School (about eighty 8th-grade students) were Jim Braden, Mike Carr, Dave Hancock, Dennis Sasse, Stan Sibley and John Weeber. Auxiliary member Deb Carr and Artillerist Bill Somerville, our only non-member, rounded out our crew. The same crew, minus Bro. Hancock, also participated at Lewis Central Middle School (about 260 8th-grade students) in Council Bluffs.
On May 10th, we did a “double-header”, visiting the Avoca City Park where we instructed some fifty 5th grade students. Those participating were Jim Braden, Mike & Deb Carr, Dennis & Denise Sasse and John Weeber, in the afternoon, the group, plus Bro. Hancock, went fourteen miles south to Riverside Middle school at Oakland where we were greeted by an enthusiastic group of about sixty eighth-graders.
We also were asked to present at “Log Cabin Days” in Harlan on June 2. Those participating were John and Barb Butcher, Mike & Deb Carr, Roy Linn, Dan Rittle, Stan Sibley and Bill Somerville. Although the crowd was a bit smaller than usual, we had a good time. Several persons took brochures regarding the SUVCW, so we are hoping to gain a member or two.
William Schermerhorn Remembered
On a beautiful Saturday morning, May 25, 2019, the Service for Headstone Dedication was performed at the Laurel Methodist Cemetery, northwest of Laurel, Iowa.
William C. Schermerhorn was born in New York in 1815 and passed away in Laurel, Iowa in 1883. William served as an ambulance driver for Co. G, 27th Illinois Infantry. He was 46 years old at the time of his enlistment. He was described as a large Dutchman with a long beard. It is said he walked home after the war and being a blacksmith, he could hold out an anvil with one arm.
For 132 years his grave was marked only by a GAR star, and flag which flew on Memorial Day.
Through the diligence of the family and the acquaintance of Barb Gaard, his headstone was placed last September. The Service was conducted by members of the Curtis King Camp #37 and the Grenville Dodge Camp #75.
In attendance were nearly fifty family members and friends.
Last Soldier Ceremonies
for Black Hawk and Bremer Counties
On Saturday, April 27, 2019, during a Winter Storm Warning, the Cedar Valley Civil War Roundtable and the Department of Iowa, Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War. Despite wind driven rain, sleet and snow, the final resting place of the Last Soldier of Black County, Henry Augustus Bray of Waterloo and Martin Lyman Stebbins of Waverly, Last Soldier of Bremer County were forever honored and marked.
Henry Bray, served in Co. F, 76th Illinois Infantry. He was born February 25, 1844, in Burbonnis, Illinois and passed away on May 8, 1943, in Waterloo at the age of 99. He had been a member of the Waldron Post #381 GAR in Quasqueton and the Robert Anderson Post #68 GAR Waterloo. When the Anderson Post disbanded he became a Member-at-Large from 1937 until his death.
Martin Stebbins served in Co. F, 1st Iowa Cavalry. He was born September 7, 1845, in Mantua, Ohio and passed away February 7, 1938, in Waverly at the age of 92. He was a member of the Robbins Post #267 GAR in Waverly until it disbanded on December 31, 1933.
Those present were Department Commander Don McGuire, Department Memorials Officer Tom Gaard, Department Secretary Dan Rittel, Department Historian Danny Krock and Dave Thompson of the Curtis King Camp #37.
Headstone Dedicated for Civil War Veteran
In Clayton County
Five generations of descendants of Hiram Davis gathered at the Clayton County Poor Farm Cemetery near St. Olaf over the weekend for a dedication ceremony of a headstone for the Civil War veteran.
Family historian Tom Stoeber, of Cedar Rapids, gave a short address to the assemblage, which was followed by the dedication of the headstone. Although the Davis grave was unmarked, the headstone was placed in the center of the cemetery, which is located 230th Street between the Clayton County Law Enforcement Center and the Scenic Acres home in rural Elkader.
The ceremony was also attended by members of the Marion’s Robert Mitchell Camp No. 206, Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War and Elkader’s Lemka-Stendal American Legion Post 106.
Davis was born in Delaware County, Ohio, in 1824 and was married in 1845. He and his family moved to Iowa and settled in Clayton County in the late 1850’s. He and his wife, Hulda, had nine children.
By 1860, Davis and his family had moved back to Ohio. It is speculated that he joined his closest friends when he enlisted in Company B, 68th Ohio Infantry Regiment in 1861.
Following the battle of Shiloh, in 1862, Davis was discharged, and the family moved back to Iowa. Davis and his wife owned land in Clayton County’s Highland Township until 1872.
In 1873, Davis entered the State of Iowa Insane Asylum in Independence and was transferred to the Clayton County Insane Asylum in 1878, where he remained until his death on October 30, 1885.
Dubuque Telegraph Herald October 9, 2018
Died - At the asylum for Insane of Clayton county, Friday morning, Oct. 30th, 1885, Mr. Hy Davis, who has been a resident of the asylum ever since it was built, some six years ago. Mr. Davis formerly resided in Sperry township, and was about 60 years of age. His death was very sudden. He seemed in perfect health the evening previous to his death the cause of which is unknown.
~Clayton County Journal, November 4, 1885
Sister Linda Linn receives the
Dr. Mary Edwards Walker Award
On October 4, 2018, at Atlantic, Iowa, at 7:00 pm, Past Department Commander Michael W. Carr convened a Department Court of Honor for the occasion of presentation of the Dr. Mary Edwards Walker Award to Sister Linda Linn, member of the Auxiliary to the Colonel William H. Kinsman Camp #23, SUVCW
as issued by then Commander-in-Chief Mark Day at the 137th Annual Encampment of the Allied Orders of the Grand Army of the Republic.
Linda was nominated for her work on the Department of Iowa’s Graves Registration Project. Along with her husband, our Department’s Graves Registration Officer, she has personally walked untold numbers of cemeteries in Iowa in search of our Civil War Veterans, double checking the sexton records, WPA records and records from the County Veterans Affairs, many times finding Veterans who have not been listed. Being physically impossible for the two of them to survey each and every cemetery in the state, she has and continues to compile every possible data base and contact to achieve “Our” objective of locating as many Civil War Veterans as possible in the state of Iowa. Linda searches the records at the local libraries, courthouses, VA offices and historical societies.
I’m sure you can attest that when doing this type of research these men become family and you become driven to “leave no man behind”.
Brother Michael Friedel, PDC receives the
Elmer (Bud) Atkinson Lifetime Achievement Award
This award is to recognize Brothers of the Order who have a minimum of thirty (30) years with the Order and have provided significant and continuous support over that entire timeframe as either a full member or an associate.
Ebenezer Gordon McMurray was one of the last two Civil War veterans in Iowa and the Last Union Civil War Soldier of Johnson County.
McMurray was born August 27, 1844 in Kingston, Jamaica, to missionaries James & Elizabeth, both natives of Scotland. After the death of his father, Elizabeth took Ebenezer and his siblings to live in Tuscarawas, Ohio. In January of 1865, when he was 19, he enlisted in the 185th Ohio Infantry for the Civil War and was discharged in September of that year. In 1868, he married Lydia Van Lehn.
After the death of his wife in 1936, McMurray moved to Iowa City to live with his daughter. A member of an Ohio G.A.R. post, it wasn't until he met James P. Martin in September of 1947 at the dedication ceremony for the Grand Army of the Republic Highway in Iowa City that he chose to become a member of the Iowa G.A.R. He was named Sr. Vice Commander and Assistant Adjutant General for the Department of Iowa in January 1948.
On June 20, 1948, Ebenezer McMurray passed away at the home of his daughter in Iowa City. He was laid to rest in the Tuscarawas Sharon Moravian Church Cemetery in Ohio beside his wife.
Recently, his grave was marked with his Last Soldier marker by Department of Iowa SUVCW & ASUVCW members Ron & Marilyn Rittel while passing through on vacation.
Thank you to Marilyn Rittel for the grave site photos.
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)
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.”