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Sunday August 20th 2017

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Buster Keaton’s “The Cameraman” with live soundtrack by “Dreamland Faces” share Memorial Day Highlights while fundraising and plans begin to replace over 60 Civil and Spanish-American War marble markers

By Sue Hunter Weir

While our friends on the East Coast are digging out after their second worst blizzard in recorded history, we’re thinking spring. That’s right. Even though it’s February in Minnesota, we are getting ready for the Cemetery’s reopening in April.

In addition to our usual winter-time activities, such as planning a Memorial Day observance, organizing some tours, and giving some talks to people who want to know more about Pioneers and Soldiers Cemetery and its residents, we have a few other projects that we’re working on.

The first and easiest (because we’re now doing it for a third time) is planning another Cinema in the Cemetery for Memorial Day weekend. It was so easy, that we’re already done. On Saturday, May 28th, at sundown, we’ll be showing Buster Keaton’s “The Cameraman.” Local musicians, Dreamland Faces, will be back by very popular demand to perform a live soundtrack. If you haven’t been to either of the two earlier Keaton movies, it’s time for you to join in. If you’ve been to one, or both, of the other two movies, you already know how much fun these movies are.

Our next project is a big one. We’re working on a five-year plan to replace the marble markers for veterans of the Civil and Spanish-American Wars. It’s not clear yet how many need to be replaced but it will be no fewer than sixty. This year we will be starting with the markers in Blocks A and B (the southeast quadrant of the cemetery).

Only four of the markers in these two sections, the two oldest sections in the cemetery, are in reasonably good shape. Fourteen others are broken or illegible, and four confirmed veterans, for reasons that are unknown, never had markers. Cemetery records indicate that another three men were military veterans but their cards are marked “military unit unknown.” We know that one of them is not eligible for a military marker since he fought in the state militia during the Dakota Conflict and Veterans Affairs only provides markers for those who served in the federal army. We have not been able to confirm the service records of the other two.

The majority of markers in Blocks A and B were placed in 1888. One hundred and twenty-eight years later, they are in rough shape. Marble is a beautiful but relatively soft stone and Minnesota winters are hard on marble markers. Those that are broken or illegible will be removed and placed flat on the veterans’ graves.

The new markers are 44” long and will be set at the midpoint—22” above ground and 22” below–which means that they do not have to be set in concrete bases. In fact, markers in other sections of the cemetery that were placed in the late 1930s and early 1940s, and which were set in concrete bases, have not fared well. The concrete set harder than the marble and many of the markers have snapped off at ground level. Those markers need to be replaced as well.

If all goes as planned, we will be ordering and placing 19 new markers this year. Each marker weighs approximately 200 pounds so there will be 3,800 pounds—slightly less than two tons–of marble being delivered from a quarry in Missouri.

While the markers are free to any and all eligible veterans, the cost of setting them is up to the person or organization who applied for them. The Daughters of Union Veterans of the Civil War made a very generous donation to help with the cost of setting the markers but we will be working on raising more money in the upcoming months.

There is much to look forward to in the coming season so keep your eye on this space. If you have access and aren’t already following the cemetery on facebook, you can follow us by “liking” our page at www.facebook.com/PioneersAndSoldiersCemetery Thanks you to all of you for your support and we’ll see you in the spring.

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