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Headstone of Charles Henderson, USCT

RisingFree

African American History
in South Central
Pennsylvania:
the 19th Century

Midland Cemetery~ 
Burial of impoverished vets 

Midland Cemetery was recently rescued from neglect by local historian Barbara B. Barksdale, who began the Friends of Midland organization.  That organization is the best source of information on the cemetery.  They can be contacted at the following address:
Friends of Midland, P. O. Box 7442, Steelton, Pennsylvania 17113-0442.

Grave marker of Charles Henderson, Sgt., Company G, 127th USCT.Upon the death of a veteran of the Civil War, the community would rally around the bereaved family, offering condolences, assistance and moral support.  So highly esteemed were these men, as symbols of the triumph of union and freedom, that most enjoyed a minor celebrity status in their communities.  Notice of their death was not infrequently announced by the tolling of courthouse bells, particularly as their numbers thinned with the passing of years.

Graveside ceremonies often involved an honor guard, and their burial site was often marked by an official government marker of a special design, as seen in the example at right for Charles W. Henderson.

The government-issue style marker of Charles Henderson, Company G, 127th United States Colored Infantry.  A Charles Henderson is listed in Dauphin County, in "Upper Swatara" Township, in the 1870 census.  Born in about 1841 or 1842 in Maryland, Henderson was about 22 years old when he joined the 127th USCT in 1864.  This style of marker is the original permanent marker for those who died during the Civil War, adopted in 1873 by Secretary of War William Belknap.  It replaced old frontier-style wooden headboards with rounded tops.  Called the "Civil War type," the first markers, constructed of marble, measured 4 inches thick by 10 inches wide, by 12 inches high (above ground).  This style was redesigned in 1902, to measure 4 inches thick by 12 inches wide by 39 inches high.  This style of marker was originally intended only for known war dead, but in 1879, Congress authorized their use for the unmarked graves of veterans in private cemeteries.  1

Tombstone of Richard Johnson, Co. G., 127th USCT.

Richard Johnson, who died on July 4, 1909 at 63 years of age, also served in the 127th, Company G.  The National Park Service's Civil War Soldiers and Sailors System shows that Johnson was a private in that unit.  His stone sits near the edge of the cemetery, in front of un-cleared brush.  

Johnson died impoverished, and his remains were interred with the help of Peter Blackwell, Lloyd Polton and Charles W. Henderson, who applied to the county for a decent burial for this Civil War veteran.

►  Right:  Gravestone of Richard Johnson, c1846-1909.
▼  Below:  Official Application for Burial of Deceased Soldier form used for Richard Johnson, who died without the means for a fitting and proper burial.
▼  Click for an image of the complete form.

 

 

Official form to request burial of Richard Johnson, an impoverished Civil War veteran. Click for complete image.

Because Richard Johnson died without funds for a decent burial, and no family members were available to provide for his burial, his friends and fellow veterans took steps to see that he received a proper burial.

Federal law stipulated that each county should provide the means to bury impoverished veterans.  Steelton newspaper publisher Peter S. Blackwell and others filled out the necessary forms to ensure that Richard Johnson was given an honorable burial.  A transcription of the official form, seen at left, follows.


"Application for Burial of Deceased Soldier,
In accordance with the provisions of 'An act authorizing and requiring the county commissioners of each county in the State to appoint a sufficient number of suitable persons in each township and ward of their county, at the expense of the county, to look after, bury and provide a headstone for the body of any honorably discharged soldier, sailor or marine who served in the army or navy of the United States during the late rebellion or any preceding war, and shall thereafter die in their county, leaving insufficient means to defray the necessary burial expenses.'

Name, Richard Johnson
Rank, Private Co. G., 12th Regt., U.S. Colored Troops (editor's note:  should have been 127th, not 12th)
Date of discharge, 8th day September 1865
Occupation (immediately preceding death), Laborer
Date of death, July 4th 1909
Place of burial, Midland Cemetary [sic] Dauphin Co. Pa.
Remarks:  Died leaving no property and no one to care for him and came to the house of Lewis Howard who cared for him and who also has taken charge of his remains to see they are decently interred.
Order issued for headstone July 10, 1909 to Messinger Bros.
and I further certify that the following bill of necessary expenses is true and correct.
[Signature of Representative of County Commissioners.] A. Y. Knisely
[Upon the approval and payment of the account attached below, a suitable headstone will be prepared and forwarded to you.]


STATEMENT OF ACCOUNT
Laying out of body,  $5.00
Coffin,  $35.00
Grave,  $5.00
Hearse Hire,  $5.00
Total,   $50.00


STATE OF PENNSYLVANIA,
COUNTY OF DAUPHIN.}ss.
Personally appeared before me, Peter Blackwell, Lloyd Polton and C. W. Henderson who being duly Sworn depose and say, that they knew the said Richard Johnson and believe he died without leaving sufficient means to defray the necessary expenses of burial.
Sworn and subscribed before me this 6th day of July A.D. 190[9] D. W. Nerow, Justice of the Peace Notary Public / P. S. Blackwell, Lloyd Polton, C. W. Henderson"


Notes

1.  Information about government supplied grave markers was obtained from the web page "History of Government Furnished Headstones and Markers" by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs, revised April 2001 at url http://www.cem.va.gov/hmhist.htm.  
2.  For a listing of all known Civil War veterans buried at Midland, please click here.
3.  Lewis Howard, who cared for Richard Johnson in his last days, lived at 104 Ridge Street, according to the 1919 Directory.  His occupation was listed as "engineer," and his wife's name was Mary M. Howard.  The county representative, "A. Y. Knisely," was Abraham Y. Knisely, a Steelton resident.

Source

"Application for Burial of Deceased Soldier or Widow," in "Dauphin County Soldiers Burial Records 1885-1933," Microfilm roll #8878, Pennsylvania State Archives, Harrisburg, PA.  Image researched and contributed by Calobe Jackson, Jr.

Midland Photo Galleries

Civil War Burials at Midland
The World War Burials at Midland
Home Crafted Tombstones at Midland
Gallery of Home Crafted Memorials at Midland
Gallery of Plot Boundary Markers at Midland
Artifacts of a Historic Cemetery

Names of Persons Buried at Midland

Tombstone Transcriptions
All Names, A-Z

Other Pages

Steelton Death Certificates, 1892-1893
About the Friends of Midland

Special Feature ~ The People of Midland:

Clayton E. Carelock
McKamey Family
Trennor T. Beckwith

  return to the Midland Introduction

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Original material on this page copyright 2005 Afrolumens Project.
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This page was updated November 23, 2005.