Samuel B. Thurston was born in 1843 in Michigan, probably the son of Daniel (b. 1807) and Eliza (b. 1805).
Daniel (elder) was born in New York and married New York native Eliza sometime before 1832 probably in New York where they resided before moving west. Daniel and Eliza moved from New England to Michigan sometime between 1833 and 1835 and by 1850 Daniel was a farmer in Chester, Ottawa County. Eliza apparently died and Daniel remarried a woman named Nancy (b. 1812 in Massachussetts). By 1860 Samuel was a farmer living with his older brother Daniel and his wife in Chester, Ottawa County; their parents lived next door. And two doors from the older Daniel was his oldest son Stephen and his family.
Samuel stood 5’4” with blue eyes, brown hair and a dark complexion and was 18 years old and probably still living in Chester when he enlisted in Company C on May 13, 1861. Samuel was absent sick in a hospital in Washington, DC from October 11, 1862, through February of 1863. He reenlisted on December 21, 1863, at Brandy Station, Virginia, crediting Grand Rapids, and while home in Ottawa County on veteran’s furlough he married Ellen H. Boyd on February 1, 1864, and they had at least one child, Lulu. He soon returned to the Regiment and was serving at Division headquarters from April of 1864 through May.
Samuel was transferred (as “Samuel Thorsten”) to Company I, Fifth Michigan infantry upon consolidation of the Third and Fifth Michigan Regiments on June 10, 1864, and was shot in the left thigh on June 22 near Petersburg, Virginia. He was admitted to the Second Division, Second Corps field hospital on June 27, then sent to Harewood hospital in Washington, DC on June 28, where he was furloughed for 45 days on July 18. He applied for an extension of his furlough on August 22, and was absent on medical leave from September 18. He was readmitted to the hospital on September 18, furloughed from October 25 to November 13, and absent on medical leave until December 3 when he returned to the hospital. He returned to duty on December 20, 1864, was promoted to Corporal on January 1, 1865 and mustered out on July 5, 1865, at Jeffersonville, Indiana.
Following his discharge from the army Samuel returned to western Michigan and settled on a farm in Walker, Kent County where he lived for many years. (In 1870 his parents were living on a farm in Sparta, Kent County.) He was admitted to the Michigan Soldiers’ Home (no. 2014) for the first time on October 7, 1893, discharged on April 16, 1895 and was in and out of the Home several times before he was readmitted for the last time on July 25, 1896. In 1866 he applied for and received a pension (no. 68442).
He died a widower of “stomach trouble, and lung difficulty” on February 8, 1897 at the Home hospital.
In fact, Thurston may have been the last man of the Third Michigan to die “from the war.” According to Samuel’s obituary in the Herald, “After carrying a rebel bullet in his right lung for over thirty years” Thurston “has given up the fight. The bullet had for over thirty years been ploughing its way downward through the tissues of the lungs, and yesterday afternoon dropped out, death being almost instantaneous. The ball was covered with a linen patch, just as it had left the rifle of some rebel soldier, the patch and bullet being firmly connected. At 2 o'clock yesterday morning Thurston was taken to the hospital, having been in usual good health up to a short time before that. In the afternoon he complained to his nurse that his heart pained him, and while she was gone to secure a hot water application Thurston died.”
Samuel’s funeral was held on February 10 at the Home Chapel and, according to one eyewitness,
was full of pathetic interest. The chapel was overflowing with veteran comrades dressed in their suits of army blue, gathered to pay the last tribute of homage to the memory of a brave soldier of the civil war. The coffin rested in the front of the platform, half concealed by a drapery of the stars and stripes and bunches of odorous flowers, gifts of friends. One corner of the chapel was reserved for the relatives of the dead man, several pews being filled. The chaplain of the home, Mrs. Alice M. M. Phillips, being sick, the Rev. Dan F. Bradley, D.D. officiated in her stead. The hymns, “Jesus, lover of my soul,” “Rock of ages,” and “Shall we meet beyond the river” were sung by the veterans. The singing was from the heart and although the voices did not blend in the most perfect harmony, the effect was tender and sympathetic.
Dr. Bradley read the following records of the dead soldier: “Samuel Thurston entered the service in company C, 3rd Mich Inf., March 17, 1961 Mustered out Aug. 10, 1865, at the close of the war; admitted to the home on Oct. 7, 1893. Age 56 years, a widower, leaves a daughter 2 sisters and 2 brothers in the near vicinity, also 2 half sisters and a stepmother living in the city of Grand Rapids.
“A brief record,” said Dr. Bradley, “but when this nation shall have become the greatest on earth the generations of that day will turn back to this record and the descendants of this man will be proud to claim kindred with him who threw his life between his country and her enemies in time of peril.”
The old soldiers bowed their heads and wept as Dr. Bradley recalled to their memory the days of danger and lonely nights of watching in those distant times. Dr. Bradley said that the record said nothing of the years of suffering caused from the wound received in battle and of which the soldier died, nor of the heroic fight to gain a livelihood after the war had closed. As he continued his remarks the comrades turned their toward the coffin where their friend and comrade lay still and cold, unconscious of the eulogies being offered to his memory.
Six of the veterans carried the coffin to the hearse, but as they tottered down the steps with their burden, stronger hands than theirs steadied the casket to its place. A drum, bugle and fife corps marched ahead of the hearse playing a funeral dirge on the way to the grave in the Soldier's Home cemetery. The north wind drifted snow on the coffin, the sobbing relatives and the long procession of veterans. The hearse was the only carriage in the line, everyone walking to the grave through the winding road leading through the lonesome valley to the burial spot. A squad of soldiers fired a salute of 3 volleys over the grave when the comrade was lowered, and then the taps of the last call were sounded and the procession returned to the home in military order, the band playing quickstep.
Comrade Thurston was 56 years old. He was wounded in the battle of Petersburg on June 26, 1865. He received a bullet shot in his left lung, the ball remaining there until after his death. The wound has caused him great suffering through all these years, for the reason that a portion of the gun wadding was carried with the bullet.
He bore the affliction with fortitude and made a brave struggle to hold a place of independence in the business world. He has been much interested of late in the revival services held at the home and he died in the Christian faith.
Samuel was buried in the Home cemetery: section 1 row 2 grave no. 21.