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Civil War veteran’s marker part of Memorial Day event

By Staff | May 22, 2011

Mead POW Flag

Two local men, A.B. Russ and Dave Hanson, have been on a mission. On Memorial Day, they will see their mission come to completion.

Russ, a member of the Faribault County Historical Society, and Hanson, the Veterans Service Officer for the county, have been trying to properly honor a local veteran.

And not just any veteran, but one from the War Between the States; the Civil War of the 1860s.

Blue Earth resident James Mead served his country and fought in the Civil War.

When he died in 1916 he had been a resident of the Old Soldiers Home in Minneapolis. His remains were returned to his home town of Blue Earth, where he was buried next to his parents.

“For some reason, his grave never received a tombstone,” Russ says. “There was only a small iron GAR flag holder there. I discovered this and have tried to remedy the situation.”

It took several years of work by Russ and Hanson, but this Memorial Day the community of Blue Earth, along with the American Legion, VFW Post and Faribault County Historical Society will honor this forgotten veteran.

At the end of the traditional Memorial Day Program at Riverside Cemetery, the service will move to the grave site of Private James H. Mead.

“We will dedicate a lovely white marble military tombstone for James Mead,” Russ says. “The Faribault County Veterans Service office was able to acquire the tombstone.”

It was no easy task, however.

Russ had contacted Hanson, the local Veterans Service Officer, and related the story of James Mead to him.

“I agreed it was a shame his grave was unmarked,” Hanson says. “So, I?put in a request with the Veterans Affairs office for a grave marker.”

Hanson’s request for the marker was turned down – nine times.

“They kept requesting more documentation,” Hanson says. “Unfortunately, many records have disappeared from that era. We couldn’t find all his military records.”

Finally, the powers that be relented and agreed to furnish the monument.

“The next thing that happened was the tombstone was accidentally broken in half before it was even shipped to us,” Hanson says. “Fortunately, there was time to have a new one made and shipped to us before Memorial Day.”

In fact, the marker has arrived and has been put into place on Private Mead’s grave by Dean Jahnke, the caretaker at Riverside Cemetery. It sits next to the Mead family monument, directly over his grave.

At the special service on Memorial Day, the Blue Earth Area High School band will present a musical tribute to James Mead by playing two Civil War songs well known by veterans during that era.

At the very end of the programs, dueling trumpets will play traditional taps. Then, local combined American Legion and VFW honor guard units will present a rifle salute.

“This may be very much like the one that the Blue Earth GAR Post No. 10 honor guard did 95 years ago,” Russ says. “Except this time there is more than the old, rusty GAR flag holder to remind passersby that a veteran lies here.”

Russ and Hanson say all the work, research and letter writing was worth it.

“Every veteran deserves recognition and honor for their service to their country,” Russ says. “Now after 95 years, James Mead has the proper honor he deserves.”

Mission accomplished.