Unforgotten: Seven Civil War soldiers to get new headstones
BY BRIAN STANLEY firstname.lastname@example.org September 26, 2013 8:50PM
A dedication ceremony for new headstones for Civil War veterans will be held Saturday at Plainfield Township Cemetery. | Brian Stanley~Sun-Times Media
Updated: October 28, 2013 7:38AM
PLAINFIELD — John Brown’s body lies in Plainfield Township Cemetery.
And the local solider with that name earned his place in history marching to the tune about the more famous abolitionist’s remains.
At 10 a.m. Saturday, Brown and six other Union veterans of the Civil War will be honored with a dedication ceremony for their new headstones.
In 2012, The Sons of the Union Veterans of the Civil War contacted retired caretaker Jim Pubentz to ask about any gravestones that had been damaged, gone missing or needed replacement in the 150 years since the war between the states.
“I walked through the whole cemetery to locate them,” Pubentz said. “There’s all kinds of records involved that had to be cross-referenced by the Sons of Union Veterans with help from the library and historical society.”
The records have to be verified because the federal government supplies the veteran’s marker and the state pays to have it installed.
Pubentz said there are about 40 Civil War veterans buried in the cemetery whose gravestones have fallen victim to time, but the bureaucracy changed the eligibility requirements in the middle of the application process.
“To save money they changed the qualifications for what (markings or condition) was eligible, but these seven were approved,” Pubentz said.
Part of the application process was contacting next of kin, so the Sons of Union veterans, historians and Pubentz sent letters all over the country to find any living descendants.
Solving mysteries sometimes led to more questions. Elmer Neiswender’s records showed he served with the 120th Ohio Infantry and survived the war but was buried in Plainfield Township after dying in July 1866.
Pubentz has “always liked history” and was very curious about what happened in 1863, he said.
His review shows there have been an average of 40 burials annually since before the Civil War to the present day, but 115 people died that year.
“Since we know disease and infection were the leading cause of death in the war, I believe somebody came back here and it spread,” he said, speculating.
Pubentz offered his theory while pointing out the grave of the five children of John Tempten. One child died on each of five days within the same week in 1863.
The historical tales of how the Civil War separated brothers were illustrated this spring when the new headstones arrived. Wade Jacobs and Louden Jacobs were both Union soldiers and are buried in the same row with other family members. But Wade qualified for a new headstone while Louden did not.
New stones also mark the graves of 2nd Lt. Luther Parks, who commanded the “colored infantry;” and Capt. John Burrell, who died in the capture of Atlanta.
“After the war, his fellow veterans thought so highly of him and his service they named their (local) Grand Army of the Republic post in his honor,” Sons of Union Veterans Cmdr. Steven Westlake said.
After 35 years of seeing Grand Army of the Republic markers, Pubentz had thought those were for anyone who had been in the Union army. When this project began, he learned the GAR was the late 19th century equivalent of the VFW or American Legion.
Though the names have worn off, all of the Plainfield-area Civil War veterans are memorialized with an obelisk that was toppled in the August 1990 tornado and partially reset the following year.
Civil war re-enactors, local Boy Scouts and the American Legion will participate in the dedication ceremony Saturday. Plainfield Township Cemetery is at 15408 S. Joliet Road.