Gone, not forgotten: Truckee Cemetery District receives six Civil War headstones

Amy Edgett
Sierra Sun
Amy Edgett / Sierra Sun Truckee Cemetery District Caretaker Greg Van Loon plants a newly arrived Civil War headstone for Jed G. Booth. and#8220;It makes me think about their lives, their struggles, what sacrifices they made,and#8221; said Van Loon. and#8220;The Civil War was one of the bloodiest wars in American history. It needs to be remembered.and#8221;

TRUCKEE, Calif. and#8212; They arrived at the Truckee Cemetery District, wrapped in cardboard, stacked six high. One intrepid soul dug for two years through archives, journals, chasing facts and figures from the past to secure them.

They are six granite Civil War military markers, tall, white, speckled black, a formal nod to the souls who served and now rest in Truckee.

Chaun Mortier, research historian for the Truckee Donner Historical Society and more recently archivist for the Truckee Cemetery District, is no stranger to history or the military. Mortier comes from an illustrious line of military men and women. She is related to Col. Seth Warner of the Green Mountain Boys and his Uncle John Warner, who helped found Connecticut. Mortier’s great-grandfather was a Prussian army officer who escaped to America and adopted this country wholeheartedly. Her grandmother, Anna Birch Warner, served in the Women’s Auxiliary Corps in World War II.

and#8220;I started doing my family line in the ’60s when I was a kid,and#8221; said Mortier. and#8220;I’ve always been fascinated by history, and my parents taught me to always ask questions, no matter the subject, and you will always find the answers.and#8221;

Mortier’s love of history and overwhelming respect for the dead flowed together in a particularly tenacious effort, resulting in the six identified Civil War veterans buried in Truckee, with six more soon to be confirmed.

It began when Mortier visited, and#8220;just for giggles,and#8221; and ran Truckee. She found nothing. Mortier got permission from the Truckee Cemetery District to peruse its journals.

and#8220;We were aware Chaun was doing a certain amount of research, which was interesting, but we hadn’t really considered having an archivist,and#8221; said TCD Chairperson Anne DeVoe. and#8220;What we are trying to do is recognize their service and#8230; they came here with a pioneer spirit and helped build this town and#8230; they fought for this country and they should be recognized. They are part of what made this country free, what it is today.and#8221;

DeVoe’s son, Troy Michael DeVoe, served as a Corporal in the Marines and was killed later in an accident in New Hampshire. He is interred in Truckee, his hometown.

and#8220;Anyone who served this country, who fought for a cause, deserves to be recognized,and#8221; said Mortier. and#8220;For me personally, I don’t ever want to forget what these guys have given up for our freedoms.and#8221;

Early on in Truckee, the Oddfellows and Masons cared for two graveyards, and record keeping was splotchy or nonexistent. Entries from the 1870s bothered Mortier. They recorded and#8220;child of John Smith,and#8221; rather than Melissa Smith. Going through the records and building a database, the same bothersome feeling struck when Mortier found and#8220;Titus, Union Soldier.and#8221; Who was this man?

She began researching in earnest, finding an 1884 list for Declaration Day in the Truckee Republican, for soldiers who had passed on. A true and#8220;ahaand#8221; moment came: Entered was Charles Titus. She had the date he died. She could then find the obituary, which Mortier said are much different from today. and#8220;They give information in detail, down to their underwear.and#8221; Including military service.

Anyone can get military records prior to World War I. Mortier knew if she could prove who was buried in Truckee, she could get headstones. Three requests came back to say the men were buried someplace else. So her work is down to the remaining seven, six Civil War veterans and one WWI vet. and#8220;He was a gentlemen who came here in November 1916 to work in the ice fields,and#8221; said Mortier. With Marine muster records, a request by the cemetery district just might be honored.

There is an increasing interest in genealogy and a movement to honor the military. Jim Foley, a Nevada County Veteran Service Representative, said: and#8220;Currently, there is a veteran’s group looking for individuals to recognize as veterans rather than their cremains sitting up on a shelf somewhere.and#8221;

To date, the Missing in America Project, a group that locates, identifies and inters the unclaimed cremated remains of American veterans, has found 11,820 cremains, identified 1,730 veterans and interred 1,584.

The Truckee Cemetery has veterans of every United States conflict, other than the Revolutionary War, and TCD has picked up the ball in preserving and enhancing the Memorial Day ceremony. and#8220;It’s nice to keep it consistent, people appreciate it,and#8221; said DeVoe. and#8220;Veterans appreciate paying respect to fallen comrades, and to be able to honor those who’ve gone before and gone after. And remember, there are new veterans all the time.and#8221;

The TCD will plan a June 2012 ceremony to dedicate the Civil War markers and veterans. There is a lot of interest from Civil War reenactment groups and researchers to make it a truly memorable occasion.

Mortier, who and#8220;drags her poor husbandand#8221; to cemeteries from Sierraville to her hometown in the Shasta/Dunsmuir area, can gaze across green grounds and identify each war’s individual markers. Every conflict has a particular shape marker. Each one has the deceased’s name, military unit, and dates of birth and death, if available.

and#8220;You don’t have to honor the war, but you have to honor the people who fought them,and#8221; said Mortier. and#8220;I’m afraid in this day and age, all Veterans Day is is a day off of school and shopping.and#8221;

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