Brown Township Trustee Connie Skinner and Galena resident Nathan Reynolds have partnered together to ensure some of Delaware County’s Civil War veterans are properly honored at their final resting places.
On Wednesday, Skinner and Reynolds oversaw the installment of a total of eight replacement headstones between Green Mound Cemetery, located at 5415 state Route 521, and at Old Eden Cemetery on North Old State Road.
Through the Department of Veteran Affairs National Cemetery Administration, applications can be submitted for replacement headstones that will take the place of the deteriorated headstones that are no longer legible. Because each of the existing headstones was already provided by the government, they were immediately eligible to be replaced.
The veterans whose headstones were replaced are John S. Mecay, Alexander L. Mecay, Garret H. Beddow, Obediah D. Coplin, David H. Coyner, Levi W. Johnson, William Keesey and Archimedes C. McElroy. The headstones of both Mecays, who were brothers, serve as memorials to the soldiers as they were killed during the war and are buried near the battlefield at which they fell.
Each headstone includes the soldier’s year of birth and death, which didn’t exist on the original stones, as well as service years and highest rank attained.
Reynolds, who served in the U.S. Army infantry from 1999-2005 and works for the Defense Supply Center, approached Skinner in July about the program, and she turned around and presented the program to her fellow trustees. Skinner said it was a “unanimous and exciting ‘yes’” from the trustees to approve the project.
Reynolds said that through Ancestry.com, he was able to find the original application for the existing government-provided headstones or grave markers, which he then used as the necessary proof in applying for the replacement headstones.
“I cannot imagine not wanting to do this,” Skinner told The Gazette. “The stones are in bad shape. They’re not even straight. It’s hard to mow around them. Now we’re going to have a nice, fresh, brand-new monument made of marble.”
Reynolds said he took an interest in the program after realizing there was a “huge deficiency in my own family stuff.”
“Our whole family lived in Kentucky, and I was down there where we own all the cemeteries; they’re private cemeteries up on the mountain,” Reynolds said. “I was going into these cemeteries, and all the Civil War headstones were in bits, just like these ones here. I was like, ‘This is my family … all these guys were in the Kentucky Infantry, the Kentucky Calvary, and this isn’t right.’ Everywhere I was going, I was seeing the same problems I saw in my family cemeteries, and I thought it was terrible. Something can be done, but I just don’t think people know about this (program).”
He added, “It takes having that interaction that I had and realizing that’s my great-great-grandfather, and I’m not going to do him like that, man.”
Skinner said of why she was compelled to assist Reynolds, “It’s really out of respect and to preserve the history of these Civil War veterans.”
Reynolds said he’s also helped Harlem Township with replacing headstones. In Westerville, he said there are “probably 30 or 40” headstones he’s aware of that need to be replaced.
“It’s minimal,” Skinner said of the cost to the township to replace the headstones. “We have everything on hand. We have the gravel on hand. We didn’t have to buy anything. We just had to get everybody here on the same day.”
While Reynolds’ work is currently focused on veterans of the Civil War, veterans of all wars are eligible for the free headstone, whether it be their original headstone or a replacement for one in bad condition. Regardless of the circumstance, the same application is used through the Department of Veteran Affairs.
“I think it’s long overdue, and I’m glad to see it done,” Reynolds said. “Somebody’s basically doing what I wish somebody could do for me. And if I can do it for them, why not? Think about how many people are related to each one of these guys at this point. There are probably 100 people out there related to each one of them, and they might not even know. How could they even find them with these headstones in such bad shape?”
“It comes down to respect,” Skinner went on to say. “Remembrance and respect.”
Reynolds said his next goal is to partner with the Village of Ashley to replace some markers he is aware of that are in a similar condition to the ones being replaced in Brown Township.
For more information on the program, or to access the application, visit www.cem.va.gov/hmm.
Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @DillonDavis56.