Joseph E. Proper was born on March 27, 1842, in Hector, Tompkins County, New York, the son of Henry (b. 1798) and Judith (b. 1805).
In 1850 Joseph was attending school with his older sister Nancy and living with his family in Hector, New York.
Joseph left New York and was probably living in Grand Rapids when he enlisted, probably in late April or early May of 1861, reportedly in Company B under a Captain Pierce – Company B would be commanded by Baker Borden -- but probably in Company K, commanded by Captain Byron Pierce. (Byron Pierce commanded Company K not B (that company was under the command of Baker Borden), and Byron’s brother Edwin would command Company E but that had probably not been formed by the time Proper enlisted. Therefore, the newspaper reports of his company assignment are probably incorrect, and it is unknown today which unit he actually belonged to, B or K but probably the latter.)
In any event, he was never mustered in either state or federal service. Joseph died at Cantonment Anderson of “congestion of the brain” on May 8, 1861, and was buried that same day in what is now the Watson Grand Army of the Republic Post lots in Oak Hill cemetery, the Rev. Courtney Smith officiating.
“What is more melancholy,” asked the editor of the Enquirer, “and more impressive than a soldier's funeral? The roll of the muffled drum the plaintive notes of the fife in the mournful funeral dirge, remind us that with all these bright scenes death does not desert us. We could not help thinking when the funeral escort of the young soldier who died, moved slowly by with the company ‘left in front and arms reversed,’ how little the young soldier had thought that death would find him here; how little he had thought of leaving his bones short of the ‘tented field’ -- how little he had thought that his comrades would bear him to the grave before their first march -- Verily in the midst of life we are in death.”