Headstone mystery solved: ‘Missing’ soldier’s body buried at Oakwood Cemetery
Daily Citizen readers provided the answer to a mystery shared in Thursday’s paper.
Sgt. Charles Hammer, a veteran of the Spanish-American War, is buried in Oakwood Cemetery near Beaver Dam, even though another headstone was discovered at his sister and brother-in-law’s former home at the corner of Rowell and South Center streets.
The home was recently torn down by contractors on behalf of Kirsh Foundry. A headstone was discovered while demolition was taking place, and moved recently to City Cemetery in Beaver Dam, a project overseen by Veterans Memorial Park Committee members.
While no one may knows why the government-issued stone was created, it marked nothing. Fears that the body might still be there were unfounded. His relatives may have found use for the stone as fill beneath a cement slab poured as a base for the home’s front porch.
The son of Joseph and Othillia Hammer was born in Beaver Dam in 1876, and was actively enlisted in Company K, which provided training at Armory K in downtown Beaver Dam. That building stood on the corner of Madison and Front streets, where Park Plaza Pizza now stands.
Hammer attended Beaver Dam schools and in early adulthood learned the trade of a moulder, creating wooden patterns for wheels and gears cast at local metal shops. Hammer was 22 when the Spanish-American War broke out in 1898. He reported to a mobilization camp at Charleston, South Carolina, where he became ill and was sent home after his recovery. A short time later, he moved to St. Peter, Minnesota, where he lived for the next 24 years. When he died, it was reported that he had been ill for a number of years.
His obituary was published in the Beaver Dam Argus on Jan. 31, 1924, indicating that the 1921 death year on the Oakwood stone must be incorrect. The 1924 obituary says that Hammer celebrated his 47th birthday the previous September, which corroborates with his 1876 birth year.
Hammer never married and was reported to have been survived by five sisters and five brothers. They included Mrs. J.M. Manley and Miss Helen Hammer of Beaver Dam; Joseph M. Hammer, Edwin Hammer, Erwin Hammer, Mrs. Paul Gregori, Sister M. Thoretta, Mrs. Delia Beers, all of Chicago; John Hammer of Fargo, North Dakota; and William Hammer of Clarksville, Arizona.
Hammer’s remains were brought to Beaver Dam and a private funeral service was held at his sister’s home on Rowell Street. Services were conducted by the Rev. Otto W. Gammelin of First Lutheran Church.
Paul Lauth, a Veterans of Foreign Wars and park committee member who was the contact for information relating to Hammer’s life and where his body might be buried, has been overwhelmed by the number of calls he has received.
“We just wanted to make sure that Charles Hammer was not forgotten and that he was honored for his service,” Lauth said. “I call this a good ending.”