Monday, February 22, 2010

A Great & Worthwhile Effort

I was very pleased to see the following story in today's Republican-Herald. Mr. Rob Evans of Auburn, whose ancestor Isaac Dando fought in the ranks of Company F, 48th Pennsylvania, is out to help restore the Welsh Baptist Church Cemetery in Minersville where Dando and several other soldiers of the 48th lie buried. I believe you would agree with me that this is a great and worthwhile effort, and in extending my thanks and gratitude to Mr. Evans. As the article states, help is needed to help restore the cemetery, so if you are willing and interested, please donate some of your time.

(Click here to read article on the Republican-Herald's website and for photographs)

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Auburn man honors Civil War veterans
BY Leslie Richardson (Staff Writer
Published: February 22, 2010

MINERSVILLE - An Auburn man's interest in military history and genealogy led him to a forgotten church cemetery in a hilly section of the borough.

Now, with the borough's help and the help of others, the site may be restored to its former glory, honoring soldiers and others buried there.

Rob Evans was looking for the grave of his great-great-grandfather, Isaac Dando, a Welsh immigrant who served as a Civil War private with the 48th Pennsylvania F Company out of Minersville.

His research, through family histories, immigration records and information provided by the Historical Society of Schuylkill County, led him to the Welsh Baptist Church cemetery at Delaware and Church streets.

The writing on the sandstone headstones, marking the graves in the yard surrounding the former church where Welsh miners and their families worshipped at one time, is now almost illegible. But Evans was able to locate the headstone marking his ancestor's final resting place.

"When I started looking around I noticed similar shaped stones. Those of the Civil War era are a distinct shape," Evans said. "After looking closer I realized that my grandfather was buried here along with seven of his comrades."

The graves of John Jones, David Owens, Thomas Rodgers, Joseph P. Morgans, George Baker, Walter Thomas and Williams Jenkins can also be found inside the wrought iron cemetery fence.

"All these men, all Welsh immigrants, most likely knew each other, worshipped together, probably worked in the mines together, and although not all of them served in F Company, enlisted to fight for their country about the same time," Evans said.

The church closed, although no one seems to be able to say when, and those parishioners remaining are presumed to have joined The Welsh Congregational Church in the borough.

The church building was sold to the former St. Barbara Roman Catholic Church and used as a social hall. The cemetery was not part of the sale.

Evans said that about a year ago, he cleaned up the cemetery as best he could, cutting the grass and uprighting some of the stones that have worn thin over the years, and adorning the veterans' graves with flags.

He decided to replace his ancestor's stone with a newer model, so that future generations would know where the grave was.

"I started looking into a replacement and discovered the Veterans Administration has a program to replace grave markers of those serving our country. I decided to honor all those Civil War soldiers and try to have all of the markers replaced with granite markers that will stand the test of time," Evans said.

Evans began filling out the paperwork and discovered the VA needed to know who owned the cemetery and who would be responsible for upkeep.

He and Minersville Borough Manager Jim Cleary looked through borough and county records and discovered the cemetery seemed to have been abandoned รข€¦ no one owned it.

At a recent borough council meeting, the council gave borough solicitor Albert Evans the go ahead to file the necessary paperwork to have the borough take over the cemetery.

"We can then go on record as owners with the VA so the project can proceed," Cleary said.

Cleary said the ownership should be complete in a few weeks and Evans said when all the paperwork on his end is complete, it should take about 10 weeks, if approved, for the stones to be ready for placement in the cemetery.

Evans said to keep the historical integrity of the grounds, the granite stones will be placed alongside the original.

Evans and Cleary said help will be needed in several areas, once they receive word the markers are approved.

Along with help placing the grave markers, Evans said he is hoping a veteran or someone interested in honoring these veterans, with some experience in tree removal, might volunteer time and equipment to remove some of the trees threatening the grave markers. He said he is also hoping that someone might offer to translate some of the stones written in Welsh.

"I know that isn't the most popular language, but I'm hoping someone out there might step forward," Evans said.

Cleary said once the initial work is done, the borough will maintain the property.

"We have summer workers and others who will help out," Cleary said. "I am also hoping that some of the service organizations, like the Lions or the Rotary, or school students or Scouts looking for projects might volunteer their time and talents."

Once the cemetery is restored, Cleary and Evans said a re-dedication may take place.

"I would love to hear a volley fired over these men, something that I bet hasn't happened in quite some time," Evans said.

Cleary said he is sure there is interest in preserving the memory of these soldiers in a borough that has its share of military heroes buried within its limits, including Capt. George Lawrence, buried in the Union Cemetery, who died of wounds received at the First Battle of Fredericksburg, and Brevet Brig. Gen. Benjamin C. Christ buried in the First United Methodist Cemetery, in nearby Branch Township, where a Civil War marker was placed at his graveside on his 187th birthday in 2009.

In 2007, William Edmunds, president of the Branch cemetery's board of trustees, spearheaded an effort to clean up and maintain that burial ground, and in the process, preserve historical information recorded on the headstones that date back to the 1800s.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Another Great Stride Forward

The effort to restore the 48th Pennsylvania Monument at Antietam has taken another great stride forward. . . .

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This morning, artist/sculptor Mike Kraus sent me images of the clay mold he has recently completed of the sword that will soon be replaced on the General James Nagle statue. Simply stated, I am blown away by the level of detail. Indeed, this is an exact rendering of the sword Nagle was presented following his return from the Mexican-American War and of the bronze sword that was originally placed on the monument in 1904. I think you will agree with me that this is superb, stellar work. I certainly could not be happier. The next step is the bronzing!

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Although still tenative, it is looking increasingly likely that the rededication ceremony will take place on Saturday, May 29, 2010. Stay tuned for more details.
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Nagle's Sword, on display at the Historical Society of Schuylkill County.
Mexican-American War Sketch of Captain Nagle with the sword, ca. 1848.