Monday, September 24, 2012

Cemetery tour with a Civil War theme

I've been doing some work lately on scipts for the Chariton Historic Preservation Commission's annual cemetery tour, which is next Sunday. This year's tour will have a Civil War theme to observe the fact we're into the second year of the sesquicentennial observance of that great conflict. And for the first time we'll be visiting two cemeteries.

Buses will leave the Lucas County Historical Society Museum campus at 4 p.m. Sunday, but those who participate are invited to gather at about 3:30 p.m. for coffee, lemonade and cookies and to view the museum's sesquicentennial display. Admission, which funds the cost of the buses as well as the work of the commission, will be $5 per person.

Our first stop will be Chariton's first cemetery, Douglass, where Jerry Davis and I will jointly present Oliver W. Coffman. Oliver, a saddler in Co. C, 1st Iowa Cavalry, became seriously ill while serving in the South and was sent home to Chariton to recover. Instead, he died on Dec. 26, 1863, and was buried here. He is unique because most who died during Civil War service were buried near where they fell and also because his tombstone, bearing a carved U.S. flag, survived a century of abandonment before the cemetery was restored.

We then will go to the Chariton Cemetery where our first stop will be at the grave of Elijah Lewis, who with his sister, Lucretia, jointly edited and published The Chariton Patriot for many years prior to 1900. Elijah was a Quaker who had to balance his pacifist convictions against the perceived need for violence to free the enslaved. He found his calling as an officer commanding free black men and escaped slaves organized in Pennsylvania into the Eighth Infantry Regiment, U.S. Colored Troops. Lewis and his men were acclaimed for their valor, but he was critically injured in battle, barely surviving to live a long and interesting life.

Our next stop will be at the grave of Lara R. Gibbon, also a Quaker, who arrived in Chariton as a newlywed in 1861 with her physician husband, Dr. William H. Gibbon, just two months before he accepted a commission as surgeon to the Fifteenth Regiment of Iowa Volunteer Infantry. When he and several of the men he was treating were captured by Confederate forces in Arkansas during 1863, she set out to rescue them --- and did. Sarah Davis will portray Laura.

Finally, we'll stop at the grave of Napoleon Bonaparte "Bone" Branner, a long-time Chariton attorney who arrived in Lucas County during 1853, but returned to his native East Tennessee when the Civil War broke out to serve the Confederate cause in the 43rd Tennesse Volunteer Infantry. Although Branner survived the war and returned to Chariton, where he was joined as the years passed by his sisters and mother, his younger brother, Tom, who had enlisted in a Confederate unit at age 15, was killed in the Battle of Staunton. Roger Manser will portray Branner.

Advance tickets for the tour may be purchased at Piper's, Ben Franklin, City Hall --- and a couple of other places I've forgotten, but will add when someone reminds me.

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