Monday, August 18, 2014

Lucas County's last men standing to be honored

Frank D. Myers photo

Doris Christensen photo
There's something to be said for coming in first, but ending up as the last man standing is at best a mixed blessing.

In the case of Lucas County's longest-surviving Civil War veterans, however --- William Humphreys and Robert Killen --- the consolation of having a counterpart lasted until the end. Both expired on the same day --- Jan. 25, 1941.

Humphreys, who was 96, died at his home in Oakley. Killen, also 96, died at the home of a daughter at Norwood. Neither endured long illnesses. Pneumonia claimed Humphreys in a week. Killen had been active until an unspecified illness took his life in a few days, too.

Now, some 70 years later, both men will be honored for their longevity --- and service --- during public graveside observances next Saturday, events that are among Civil War sesquicentennial observances conducted by members of the Iowa Division, Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War.

The remembrance for Killen will begin at 9 a.m. Saturday at Graceland Cemetery, located northeast of Norwood at the intersection of two Otter Creek Township gravel roads, 150th and 570th streets. The remembrance for Humphreys will begin at 10 a.m. at Mount Zion Cemetery, located just off the Lacona blacktop north of Oakley. All are welcome to attend, according to Mike Rowley, of the Department of Iowa.

Later in the day, similar observances will be held at noon at the grave of Jonas Hoffhines in the Leon City Cemetery (Decatur County) and at 2 p.m. at the grave of Theodore Yetts in the Hopeville Cemetery, east of Hopeville in Clarke County.


Killen was a Kentucky native, born during March of 1844 in LaRue County. He enlisted in Co. F, 1st Kentucky Cavalry, during August of 1861 --- when he was 17 --- and served honorably in this and other units (Co. F, 37th Kentucky Infantry, and Co. E, 55th Kentucky Infantry) until discharge on Sept. 19, 1865.

After the war, Killen moved to Marion County, Indiana, where he married Delila Robinson during the mid-1870s and they moved to Lucas County soon thereafter. They had three children before Delila died during 1879. Delila and and an infant son are buried in the Arnold Cemetery, Liberty Township.

 He then married Mary Etta Baker in Lucas County on Aug. 4, 1882, and they became the parents of seven children. She predeceased Robert during 1928.

Although Killen was unaffiliated with any church until baptized at the age of 94, his second wife was a member of Graceland Church, located at the cemetery and a congregation of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (now Community of Christ).


William Humphreys was born May 6, 1844, near Portsmouth in Scioto County, Ohio. He enlisted on Aug. 2, 1862, when he was 18, as a wagoner in Co. D, 1st Ohio Artillery Battalion, and also served in Co. D, 117th Ohio Infantry, until discharge nearly three years later, on June 20, 1865. 

Two years after the war had ended, William married Mary Jane Caton on Aug. 29, 1867, and they moved west to Lucas County during January of 1872. The Humphreys had no biological children, but adopted Florence Hook when she was 15.

Mary Jane died during 1912 and William married as his second wife Laura Parry, who died during 1930.

He had been active in the organization of Mount Zion Primitive Baptist Church and in construction of its building, so that was where his funeral service and burial occurred.


Both Killen and Humphreys had long affiliations to varying degrees with the Grand Army of the Republic, an organization of Union veterans designed to close its books when the last surviving veterans died.

Humphreys joined Chariton's Daniel Iseminger Post No. 18 during 1892, but also was affiliated with Lacona Post No. 309. He seems to have been a fairly consistent dues-paying member.

Killen's membership was somewhat more problematic. He joined the Lacona post during 1889, was suspended in 1895, dropped in 1900 and rejected during 1914. 

Both Killen and Humphreys, however, paid their G.A.R. dues on Feb. 2, 1940, and so were in good standing in that dying organization when they marched more or less together off into the sunset less than a year later.

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