Monday, May 28, 2012

New Civil War Trail is unveiled in Northwest Indiana

Wow, it's been a month since my last post. Not unexpected, for me. I spent a week at NGS and had an informative, enjoyable, exhausting time!

It's the end of the Memorial Day weekend. After a lovely picnic at my cousin's house (where some genealogy-related items changed hands), I spent today at Maplewood Cemetery in Crown Point, IN, where the local American Legion and VFW were conducting a joint ceremony. Afterward, Marc Chase from The Northwest Indiana Times led a ceremony to dedicate the new South Shore Civil War Memorial Trail. Chase has been spearheading efforts to replace worn headstones of some of the Calumet Region's Civil War soldiers.

While Indiana's Civil War soldiers are remembered in Indianapolis, and in small towns and counties all over the state, I think we in the urban industrial areas of Northwest Indiana have forgotten that a number of residents were involved in the War Between the States. Most of our Civil War-era buildings are gone, except for the Lake County Courthouse, and the GAR-built Memorial Opera House in Valparaiso.

Government-issued headstones exist for some Civil War veterans, although many, many more have private stones that do not address their service. It sounds as though a concerted effort is being made to identify these veterans. 

This project dovetails with efforts to restore Hammond, Indiana's Oak Hill Cemetery, the final resting place of many Civil War veterans. (Oak Hill is, for all practical purposes, abandoned, with no perpetual care funds and thousands owed in back taxes). Volunteer efforts (especially by Kara Graper) put Oak Hill on the radar of local media and the North Township Trustee's Office (NTTO). Thanks to volunteers, the NTTO and the Diocese of Gary, Oak Hill is looking better than it has in many, many years. Hundreds of photos have been uploaded to FindAGrave. Many stones have been uncovered that do not appear in two different cemetery readings done in the past 20 years (one by South Suburban Genealogical and Historical Society in Illinois; the other by the Northwest Indiana Genealogical Society). A troop of Cadette Girl Scouts is creating a database from the cemetery's burial cards to assist the NTTO in determining who is buried there.

The Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War has a list of hundreds of GAR posts in Indiana at According to that list, GAR posts in Lake County were:
  • Crown Point (John Wheeler Post 161) 
  • Gary (William A. Ketcham Post 593) 
  • Hammond (Lott Bloomfield Post 145; William H. Calkins Post 502; and Robert Heath Post 544) 
  • Hobart (Hobart Post 411)  
  • Lowell (Burnham Post 276)

    Those in Porter Co. included:
  • Chesterton (A. B. Wade Post 208) 
  • Hebron (Walters Post 229) 
  • Valparaiso (Chaplain Brown Post 106).
Many veterans' names will be found in Indiana Civil War Veterans: Transcription of the Death Rolls of the Department of Indiana, Grand Army of the Republic, 1882-1948 by Dennis Northcott (2005) (ISBN 0-9728344-1-9, soft cover, 416 pages). Northcutt has done a similar publication for Illinois, and another covering Iowa, Kansas and Nebraska. Details are at

I cannot help but think back a few weeks to a genealogy class I did for South Suburban, on the use of directories. My admonishment was one I learned years before: check the entire book, including the prefatory material! A Valparaiso, Indiana directory entry for J. S. Louderback mentioned his store and goods. If one merely looked alphabetically, one would have missed a page near the beginning of the book on which is found a biography of Louderback, including his Civil War service, capture by Confederate troops, and imprisonment at the infamous Andersonville camp.

The South Shore Convention and Visitors Authority is assisting with the Civil War Trail, providing space on its website: