By 1935, when The Herald-Patriot made one it its final attempts to list all military veterans buried in Lucas County cemeteries, more than 500 were enumerated, filling Page 1 of the first section on May 30 and spilling over onto another.
These lists had been published regularly since the 1890s and had grown steadily in length as the Civil War generation passed and the ranks of the dead were supplemented by the names of the fallen of the Spanish American War (all of whom died of disease) and World War I.
Three of the names present on all of the lists after 1896 --- Robert McCormick, Joseph Mitchell and W.K. Larimer, all buried at Chariton --- were followed by the designation "Border Brigade," an unfamiliar term at odds with the detailed unit designations that followed most of the other names. There are Grand Army of the Republic flag holders at all of their graves. But beyond that, no official Civil War military records exist for the three men.
So what was going on here?
Wilson K. Larimer, farmer, county surveyor and later county clerk, was 33 when the Civil War broke out during the spring of 1861. He was single at the time, but would to on to marry during December of that year. He was 67 when he died on Feb. 28, 1896.
Robert McCormick, 56 when the war began, was a physician who had given up that profession for a career in public service. He was serving as Lucas County clerk when the war began. He died on Jan. 24, 1877, at the age of 72.
Joseph Mitchell, 66 when Civil War erupted, was the oldest of the three. A farmer by profession, he also was a veteran of the War of 1812 and so appears twice on most lists of the honored dead. He died at age 67 on Nov. 14, 1861, while still a member of the brigade. That spared him the knowledge that two of his sons would give up their lives in service to the Union cause later in the war.
The three men served in an Iowa Civil War effort that has not been written extensively about, in large part because its participants did not engage in major conflicts, had no uniforms other than whatever they happened to be wearing when called to duty during the brigade's hastily organized first year and, for the most part, survived the war unscathed unless they went on to enlist in regular units.
But they were engaged in a task that seemed important at the time --- defense of Iowa's southern border. And Gov. Samuel Kirkwood had entrusted leadership of this home guard effort to another Chariton man, his aide-de-camp John Edwards, lawyer and founder in 1857 of The Chariton Patriot, now commissioned by the governor as a lieutenant colonel in Iowa's service.
More about this next time.