Friday, January 15, 2016

Charles O. Hamill - updated 1/15/2016

Charles O. Hamill was born in March of 1845 in Tyrone County, Ireland. Charles’ family immigrated to the United States in 1846 and Charles eventually settled in western Michigan, probably in Oneida, Eaton County.

Charles stood about 5’8” with blue eyes, fair hair and a fair complexion and was 18 years old and probably living in Oneida, Eaton County, Michigan, when he enlisted in Company D, 12th Michigan Infantry on November 1, 1861, at Grand Ledge, Eaton County, for 3 years, and was mustered on December 12, 1861, at Niles, Berrien County where the regiment was organized between December 9, 1861 and March 1, 1862. According to another source he enlisted on March 3, 1862 in New York State.

The regiment left Michigan for St. Louis, Missouri on March 5, and participated in the battle of Shiloh April 6-7, 1862. It was subsequently involved in the advance and siege of Corinth, Mississippi and by June 13 had moved to Jackson, Tennessee, where it remained until August when it moved to Bolivar, Tennessee. Charles was reported AWOL on September 29, 1862, at Bolivar; there is no further record of his service in that Regiment.

Apparently Charles returned to Michigan where he enlisted (listing his age as 22) in Unassigned, 3rd Michigan infantry on October 15, 1862, at Lansing for 3 years, crediting Oneida, but again, there is no further record -- there is no service record for him found in the 3rd Michigan records at the National Archives, nor is he found in the 1905 3rd Michigan Regimental history (although he is found in the 3rd Michigan regimental descriptive rolls.)

He also reportedly served in Company A, 1st U.S. Cavalry and he may also have briefly been a member of Battery A, 1st Michigan Light Artillery.

Charles may have returned to Michigan after the war. He reenlisted on January 6, 1879, in Company B, 1st U.S. Cavalry remained in the army (possibly in the 1st U.S. Cavalry) or reentered the army and by 1880 he was a corporal serving in the army and stationed at a post in Walla Walla County, Washington Territory. He was discharged on January 5, 1884 at Fort Cour d’Alene, Idaho. His character was reported as excellent.

After leaving the army Charles for a time as a miner. He was admitted as a single man (he listed his nearest relative as a brother Michael in Charlotte, Michigan) to the Pacific Branch National Military Home in Los Angeles, California, on April 7, 1897, and was still living in the NMH in 1900.

In 1885 he applied for and received a pension (no. 332139), for service in the 12th Michigan Infantry (and also listed service in the 12th Michigan Cavalry which did not exist during the war) as well as the 1st U.S. Cavalry.

Charles died on July 23, 1909, at the NMH and was reportedly buried in the National Cemetery in Los Angeles.

Tuesday, December 08, 2015

3rd Michigan Infantry soldiers buried in Mount Hope Cemetery, Middleville, Michigan

James Dibble


Alpheus Hill - his body was brough home one of his sisters during the war


Sidney Smith and family

Alonzo Southwick

Frederick Teadt



Asahel Tewksbury


Sunday, October 25, 2015

The McLenithan boys - the small mystery of lot 85 in Fulton Cemetery, Grand Rapids, Michigan

On the face of it, this looks pretty straight forward: two men, probbaly brothers (they were) who both served together in the Civl War and are buried next to each other: S. O. McLenithan of Company K and Joel Mclenithan of Company A, both of the 3rd Michigan infantry.

But then looks are deceiving in many a cemetery and most especially when the cemetery in question dates back to 1838. Lots of misplaced bodies, lost records and just missing people generally. So it may be here.

The "mystery" first came to my attention many years ago when I learned that Joel had in fact been living in Indiana for many years before he died in 1917. According to his death certificate and the review of markers Joel was buried in Sumption Prairie Cemetery, South Bend, Indiana. Simple, no? No.

A more in-depth look at the cemetery records for Fulton Street Cemetery in Grand Rapids further deepens the mystery in lot 85, division 1.

We know that next to Joel is a second government marker for "S. O. McLenithan." This was undoubtedly Stephen O. or D. McLenithan, Joel's younger brother. So far so good. There are no other family markers. We also know that the index of gravestones in the Local Historical Collections of the Grand Rapids Public Library, lists Joel and one “S. O.” of Company K 3rd Michigan” as well as their mother Mary (who died in 1857) buried in lot no. 85 in Fulton, and no other burials are noted. No marker for Mary is found today and it probably disappeared long ago.

The transcribers for the D.A.R in the late 1920s identified the graves of Joe, Mary and one "S. C. McLenithan of Company K, 3rd Michigan" but no mention is made of Samuel. By the time the cemetery records were re-transcribed in the late 1990s, all four McLenithans are listed: Joel, Mary, S. O. and now Samuel (1847-1880).

However, the cemetery burial book lists Joel, mother Mary and “Samuel” as buried in Fulton cemetery, yet there is no marker for Samuel, who died in November of 1880 (see Grand Rapids Democrat November 24, 1880, p. 4 col. 1: “Died”). Indeed, the cemetery records list Samuel’s death date as well as his birth date, but there is no mention of Stephen McLenithan. (We also know that Samuel died indigent and possibly a resident of the city or county poorhouse. If that were indeed true, then who would have paid for the interment alongside his mother and/or brother?)

In the late 1930s Francis Hall attempted to identify all the Civil War veterans buried in Kent County and he knew of the markers for both Joel and "S. O." so it's quite likely the government stones were probably already in place by then. But who ordered them? Was Joel's body returned to Grand Rapids to be buried next to his mother and brothers? If so, who would have coordinated that? Is it possible that Joel's marker was ordered and put in place as a ""memorial"? If so, again, who would have arranged for that and why? We do know that Samuel McLenithan served in the 16th Michigan Infantry during the war and he has no marker at all. . .

Any thoughts?



Friday, August 07, 2015

Where is Casper Thenner?

Casper Thenner was born in 1831 in Germany. He stood 5’4” with blue eyes, light hair and a light complexion and was a 30-year-old laborer possibly living in Shiawassee or Kent County when he enlisted in Company C on May 13, 1861. (Company C was made up largely of German and Dutch immigrants, many of whom lived on the west side of the Grand River in Grand Rapids. This company was the descendant of the old Grand Rapids Rifles, also known as the “German Rifles,” a prewar local militia company composed solely of German troopers.)

Casper was taken prisoner on July 1 or 2, 1862, at White Oak Swamp, Virginia, confined at Richmond, Virginia, and paroled in mid-September. He was returned to the regiment on either November 15 at Alexandria, Virginia, or December 20, 1862, at Camp Pitcher, Virginia.

He reenlisted on December 21, 1863, at Brandy Station, Virginia, crediting Grand Rapids’ 4th Ward, and was presumably absent on veteran’s furlough in January of 1864 and probably returned to the regiment on or about the first of February.

Thenner was transferred to Company I, 5th Michigan Infantry upon consolidation of the 3rd and 5th Michigan Regiments on June 10, 1864.

He  was  taken prisoner on December 6, 1864, at Jerusalem Plank road, near Petersburg, Virginia and was sent from Petersburg to Richmond on December 10, 1864. Casper was paroled at Cox’s Wharf, Virginia on February 5, 1865, and furloughed as a paroled prisoner of war.

Casper returned to Grand Rapids, where he was examined by Dr. Charles Hempel. Dr. Hempel certified on March 20, 1865, that Thenner was “suffering from chronic diarrhea and general debility and is not able to travel and I further certify that in my opinion he will not be fit for duty in less than twenty days.”

Casper died of chronic diarrhea on May 27, 1865, in Grand Rapids and "his funeral was attended and the remains followed to the grave by a company, under command of Captain [Theodore] Hetz, of heroes, once members of the old Third. According to a local newspaper he was buried in the “city cemetery”.

This much we know. What we don't know is exactly where he is buried.

According to the online resource Findagrave.com, Casper was buried in Oak Hill Cemetery (Hall and Eastern streets). Certainly a number of men who died during the war are interred in the Watson GAR Post lot in Oak Hill but there was never any mention of Casper in the earliest records (newspaper or burial) and it seems unlikely he was interred there. Plus, the Grand Rapids Eagle reported that a procession of his former comrades "followed" the coffin to the grave, which lends credence to the theory that he was buried in Fulton since it was located right at the edge of town (Oak Hill was then out in the country). Finally, Fulton was the "city cemetery" during the war.

Since Casper was German- or Dutch-born it is, of course, possible that he was buried on the west side of the city but, again there is no reason to presume that to true beyond the simple fact that many European immigrants lived on that side of the river. Anyway, quite a few Dutch immigrants who died in the mid-nineteenth century are in fact buried in Fulton Cemetery. (For example, Martiena Van der Stolpe died in 1864 and Pieter Van der Stolpe died in 1866 and both and are buried in division 9 of Fulton.)

So, assuming Casper was buried in Fulton, where is his grave?

One starting place would be at what is today the back side of the cemetery but during the war a burial place of distinction. A number of other Old 3rd men who died during the war are interred at the top of the hill, in division 7: Lieutenants Peter Weber, Charles Cary, and Peter Bogardus and Captain Samuel Judd, while Brigadier General Stephen Champlin is buried in his own section right  next to division 7.

Along the same ridge is division 8 which then slops downward to division 9 and the western boundary of the cemetery. It is in division 9 that Margaret "Maggie" Ferguson was buried in 1861. She had sewn the regimental flag presented to the regiment by the ladies of the city shortly before the regiment left Grand Rapids on June 13, 1861. He grave remained unmarked until sometime after the war when the Old 3rd Association paid to have a marker erected on it.

While there is little evidence beyond "reasonable speculation" to assume he is buried in division 8 or 9, I believe that either would be, at this point, the "most likely" location. Barring the discovery of sexton's records dating back to the mid-1860s, we cannot confirm tCasper's burial location one way or the other.

So, the question remains: where is Casper Thenner?