Kansas cemetery honors veterans
SALINA, Kan. (AP) — Andrew Jackson Lipe was 21 when he enlisted in the Ninth Illinois Infantry during the Civil War. He served from 1861 to 1864.
Lipe also spent two months incarcerated in the infamous Confederate prison camp in Andersonville, Georgia, where brutal and neglectful treatment caused Lipe to become so ill he had to be carried from the prison upon his release.
After the war, Lipe moved to the Salina area to homestead and became a member of the John A. Logan Post of the Grand Army of the Republic, a national organization of Union soldiers from the Civil War who began gathering for emotional support and camaraderie.
When Lipe died in 1909, he was buried at the southwest corner of Gypsum Hill Cemetery in a fan-shaped section designated for Civil War veterans — near Hillcrest Mausoleum. His wife, Mary, is buried with him, and a large stone monument commemorates them.
Not every soldier was as fortunate as Lipe to have descendants to immortalize him in stone. Many Civil War soldiers were not native to this area. When they died, their burial plots at Gypsum Hill Cemetery were marked with small, vertical white stones with their names and dates of death etched onto the surface. Many of the inscriptions have faded from a century of natural erosion.
The historic Gypsum Hill Cemetery is full of the graves of veterans of most major wars, including the Spanish American War, World War I, World War II, Korea and Vietnam, as well as other men and women who served the U.S. The names of many of the Civil War veterans, however, have been lost to time.
“A lot of them are forgotten graves,” said Judy Magnuson Lilly, a Kansas historian who published a booklet entitled “Gypsum Hill Cemetery Historical Walk,” available at the cemetery office. “Their burials are all on record, but you have to know their names.”
Many of these Civil War veterans were members of the Logan Post of the GAR, which was founded in Illinois as a fraternal organization in 1866 for honorably discharged veterans of the Union Army, Navy and Marine Corps, the Salina Journal reported. By 1890, the GAR numbered more than 409,000 veterans of the Civil War nationally. The Salina post was named for a Union general who served with distinction in the campaigns of Gen. Ulysses S. Grant.
Many of these former soldiers and GAR members came from places such as Illinois, Ohio and New England to homestead fertile new land in Kansas, some applying for land through the Homestead Act of 1862, Lilly said.
“Kansas was pretty new, having just become a state in 1861,” she said. “A lot of these men were young and didn’t have land of their own in their home states. These homesteaders adopted Salina as their home.”
After their deaths, these Civil War veterans were buried in a special section at Gypsum Hill Cemetery, in an arrangement in which the tombstones fanned away from a flagpole. At the apex of the section is a weathered monument whose barely legible inscription reads “Our Unknown Dead are Remembered.”
“Not everybody is buried in that section,” Lilly said. “There are other Civil War veterans buried throughout the cemetery.”
Women initially weren’t allowed to be buried in this special section, Lilly said, but that soon changed.
“Women wanted to be buried next to their husbands,” she said.
Among the women buried there, Lilly said, are Marie Manners Moran, who served as a nurse in the Union Army for three years, and Jessie Johnson, a veteran newspaperwoman. Johnson’s father Wallace H. Johnson established newspapers that included the Saline County Journal, Salina Republican and Salina Sun. Jessie was a favorite of GAR members and was made an honorary member of the Logan post.
Lilly said it’s important to keep the memories of these veterans alive, even if they served in a war that happened more than 150 years ago.
“All veterans are important, but the Civil War was unique,” she said. “God forbid if we have another war on our soil.”
Gypsum Hill Cemetery caretaker Martin Cisnerous said the grounds crew at the cemetery are instructed to be careful when mowing or doing landscape work around these fragile stones.
“They’re old, and it doesn’t take much to break them,” he said.
He said a project has begun to restore those weather-beaten stones that have cracks, broken pieces or illegible inscriptions, whether it’s repairing cracks and breaks or replacing the concrete foundation to allow the stones to sit upright and straight.
“Sometimes in the past when they fell over, they’ve been left to lay on the ground,” he said. “So we’ve been trying to pick them up and remount them, so they stand tall in a group. It’s important to keep these headstones maintained. It honors the veterans who are buried there.”
Information from: The Salina (Kan.) Journal, http://www.salina.com