I made a stop this weekend at a cemetery just north of my home in Topeka called Rochester Cemetery. It is one of the oldest in the city and holds the remains of many of the settlers and founders of Kansas. My real interest however is of course the Civil War and the soldiers who served and are buried there.
I stopped by the office and spoke with the caretaker there and we had a wonderful discussion about some of the history of the cemetery. However, they had a fire around 1901 and many of their records prior to that were lost. I mentioned that the SUVCW camp I belong to does work days at the Topeka Cemetery and various projects related to the G.A.R. section there and he told me that there is a section full of Civil War soldiers and a monument to them.
I drove up to section 4 of the cemetery and sure enough there was the monument along with a flagpole and the resting place of about 30 Union Civil War soldiers. He didn’t know a lot about them but he did point me towards another monument that had a G.A.R. emblem on it. That tombstone belonged to John Armstrong, who assisted John Brown and John Ritchie with the Underground Railroad in Topeka (research since my visit shows he was a member of the Lincoln Camp #1 of the G.A.R.)
After writing the names from the headstones I have decided to make Rochester Cemetery a project of mine. My goal is to accomplish a few things:
- Locate and document all the Civil War soldiers who are buried in the cemetery
- Get headstones for Civil War soldiers who are buried there who have no headstone
- Hold work days at the cemetery during the summer months same as at the Topeka Cemetery
- Join in on Memorial Day festivities with representation of the Civil War, SUVCW and Old Abe Camp #16
- Help update the cemetery records and replace lost information regarding the Civil War soldier
I am not the Graves Registration Officer of our camp, but it is something I am very interested in and want to assist our current GRO. Lord willing that I eventually hold the office of Camp Commander, once I have fulfilled that duty I would like to possibly work on holding the GRO position in the future.
This looks to be a project that is going to take quite some time to get anywhere near completing. But I think it will be a worthwhile venture and a huge learning experience for me.