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A Memorial Tribute

Tombstone of Edwin Barnum, Civil War veteran from Company L of the 1st Regiment U.S. Veteran Engineers; died in 1911, age of 73 and buried next to his infant daughter, Ella Loretta Barnum, who had died in 1867. Mr. Barnum’s brother, George, Civil War veteran, Company F, 3rd Minnesota Infantry, buried in the family plot next to their mother, Hannah Barnum.

By Sue Hunter Weir

Walter and John Carpenter, War of 1812; Edwin Barnum, Civil War; and to all men and women who ‘gave the last full measure of devotion” in service to America

On May 28, 2012, Americans will pause to pay tribute to the men and women who have died in war.  It is a tradition that goes back to 1868 when General Logan issued his General Order #11 which set aside one day a year for remembrance.

At Minneapolis Pioneers and Soldiers Memorial Cemetery, we have other reasons to be grateful to the veterans and their families and friends.  They are the people who, more than any others, are the reason that the cemetery exists today.

After the City Council voted to close the cemetery to future burials in 1919, the remains of approximately 6,000 to 7,000 people, including many veterans, were moved to other cemeteries.  But there were some families who refused to have their loved ones moved, and families of veterans were among the most vocal in their opposition.

One such family was the family of Edwin Barnum. During the Civil War, Mr. Barnum served in Company L of the 1st Regiment U.S. Veteran Engineers; he died in 1911 at the age of 73 and was buried next to his infant daughter, Ella Loretta Barnum, who had died in 1867.  Mr. Barnum’s brother, George, also a Civil War veteran, served in Company F, 3rd Minnesota Infantry, and is buried in the family plot next to their mother, Hannah Barnum.

Edwin Barnum’s widow, Mary, was asked to remove the remains of her husband and daughter in 1922.  By the time that she received that notification, she had remarried and was living in Blue Lake, California.  Since she was elderly and in poor health, she referred the matter to her step-daughter, Caroline Clemens, daughter of Edwin Barnum.  Mrs. Clemens’ response to the cemetery’s superintendent was swift and unambiguous.  She wrote:  “Under no circumstances will I permit the moving of my father’s body…You have no legal right to remove a single body until the cemetery has been [regularly] condemned as cemetery property by the City of Minneapolis.”  In her response, Mrs. Clemens hit upon an important distinction, one that was central to preserving the cemetery.  The City Council had not “condemned” the cemetery but had only “closed it to future burials.”  She went on to say:  “I forbid you to touch the bodies,” and forwarded a copy of her letter to a Hennepin County District Judge.  As it turned out, she did not need to take legal action–the City of Minneapolis purchased the rights of the Layman Land Company and assumed responsibility for maintaining the cemetery in 1927.

Edwin and George Barnum are just two of the veterans who will be honored on Memorial Day.  At 9 a.m, in honor of the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812, the Minnesota Chapter of the U.S. Daughters of 1812, will pay tribute to Walter and John Carpenter, brothers, who served in the War of 1812.  At 10 a.m., a traditional Memorial Day observance, the 144th in the cemetery’s history, will take place.  At 1 p.m., there will be a talk about the cemetery’s history followed by an optional walking tour.  Please join us.  All events are free and open to the all.

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