Monday, May 26, 2014

On the Tombstone Trail at the Chariton Cemetery

It was great fun Sunday to sit on the front porch of the cemetery shelter house and visit for an hour or two with Steve and Sharon Hanken, of Cedar Rapids, tombstone-tripping in new territory --- Lucas County --- over the Memorial Day weekend.

Steve takes photographs of Iowa Union veteran tombstones, an estimated 5,000 to date both in Iowa and elsewhere, as well as stones in other categories that interest him. The veteran tombstone photos go to Tom Gaardt, Iowa memorial officer for the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War, to be forwarded to the graves registration project of the national organization.

Steve maintains his own archive, too, and is aiming for up to 7,500 tombstone photographs along with information about the soldiers the tombstones memorialize. He's also shared information and a photo of William D. Tull's grave at Chattanooga National Cemetery with me for the roster of Lucas County's Civil War dead. Tull died May 18, 1864, of wounds sustained four days earlier in the Battle of Resaca (Georgia).

Since the Hankens also are interested in the Underground Railroad, Iowa archaeology and all sorts of other stuff, we had plenty to talk about --- and probably could have gone on talking, without accomplishing much, all afternoon. About 2 o'clock, they went to work with their cameras.

Steve and Sharon had driven down Saturday afternoon, planning to camp at Red Haw, but a broken element of a brand new tent caused them to camp in the Super 8 instead, which --- since it rained --- turned out for the best. They also had supper at the Charitone --- and were happy with the dining experience (I always have to ask).


We walked together to the veterans' section of the Chariton Cemetery, something I need to write more about one of these days since I'm not sure how many people are even aware that there is a veterans section. The cemetery flagpole and the flag-laden urn in the photo that will remain at the top of this blog for the next few days are located there.

This is the tombstone of Alexander Van Meter, 19, who died May 4, 1863. It is the oldest stone in the section, but may have been brought from elsewhere, perhaps accompanied by Alexander's remains --- or perhaps not. Whatever the case, Alexander is one of Lucas County's Civil War dead, but records do not make that clear because he was discharged for disability two weeks before he died. Alexander, whose parents were Miles and Nancy Van Meter, enlisted in Chariton on August 2, 1862, in Company K, 34th Iowa Volunteer Infantry, and was mustered on 15 October. He apparently became ill the next spring, however, and was mustered out for disability on 20 April 1863. He managed to make it home to Chariton to die on May 4.

The flag in Alexander's G.A.R. holder was in rough shape --- due for retirement long ago --- so I'm going back out to the cemetery with a new flag one day and will do my best to take a better photograph of his tombstone.


Another thing that made me happy Sunday was to see that brothers Duane and Beryl Clark had been remembered again this year, perhaps by the same mysterious Samaritans who remembered them last year, too.

The Clark brother were killed two months apart during World War II, Duane on Nov. 9, 1944, when the B-17G Cicero Kid, which he was co-piloting, crashed in Belgium. Beryl was killed two months later, on Jan. 11, 1945, during the Battle of the Bulge. Their remains were repatriated to Chariton together during August of 1948. You can read more about them here.

I complained last year that the planter between their tombstones had been empty for many Memorial Days (it was easier to complain than do something about it). Not long thereafter, plants were added. This year, it had been planted in time for Memorial Day. Thanks!


The shelter house will be opened and staffed again today, Memorial Day, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Stop in to take a look at cemetery records, if you need help locating graves or for a cookie and some lemonade. And by the way --- the biggest news of all --- the restroom in the shelter actually works this year! Although adjustment is needed occasionally to make sure the reservoir fills the way it should (thanks, Sandy).

1 comment:

Doc Williamson said...

Frank, you always write wonderful stories that I read everyday. You're a beautiful soul & we all thank you for what you do to preserve the memories of those who lived in Lucas County.