The Daily Globe - Serving Gogebic, Iron and Ontonagon Counties

Last Union soldier honored in Saxon

 

August 5, 2019

Tom LaVenture/Daily Globe

Members of Old Abe Camp 8, the Fox Cities chapter of the Sons of the Union Veterans of the Civil War, salute as "Taps" is played Saturday during a ceremony to honor Chester Huntsinger at his grave in Lake View Cemetery in Saxon, as Iron County's last surviving Union veteran of the Civil War when he died in 1914. The members include, from left, Brian Peters, Jim Schumann, Kim Heltemes, Sam Solberg and Kirby Scott.

By TOM LAVENTURE

tlaventure@yourdailyglobe.com

SAXON, Wis. - A unique ceremony was held Saturday at the graveside of a Civil War veteran in Lake View Cemetery in Saxon.

More than 100 people watched as five members of the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War - Old Abe Camp 8 post near Appleton, honored Chester Huntsinger, who passed away in 1914 as Iron County's last surviving Union veteran of the Civil War. Members of the area American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars and the Vietnam Veterans Chapter of Iron County also participated with an honor guard, a bugler to play "Taps" and fire a three-shot rifle volley.

"This is pretty amazing," said Ron Trone, adjutant and chaplain of American Legion Post 371 in Saxon. "This is probably the one time in my life that something like this will come up."

The ceremony is adapted from the ceremonies established by the Grand Army of the Republic Civil War Veterans themselves, said Kim Heltemes, commander of Old Abe Camp 8. The children and grandchildren have carried on with the ceremony ever since.

"It was important to them," Heltemes said. "It was important enough that they started the Sons of Union Veterans."

The Grand Army of the Republic was established because the veterans did not want America to forget what they did, he said. Events like this are to educate people about the war so that it will not be forgotten.

"That's what we do," Heltemes said.

Heltemes was present with fellow Old Abe Camp 8 members Brian Peters, Jim Schumann, Sam Solberg and Kirby Scott. The ceremony involved placing a black cloth on the headstone followed by the grommet and ashes of a ceremonially discarded flag onto the grave. A bronze plaque commemorating Huntsinger as the last man was installed at his grave.

"Teach us to be ever mindful of the sacrifices of those who have gone before us and hold in your tender mercies the defenders of this great country," Solberg said, reading from the original Grand Army of the Republic ceremony. "If I may be so bold as to quote from the epitaph from another time and place, 'tell them of us and say, for their tomorrow we gave our today.'"

Huntsinger was born in Sauk County on Oct. 14, 1846, according to a biography provided by the Iron County Museum. He enlisted at age 17 with Company E of the 37th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry, and was wounded in the second battle of Petersburg in Virginia on June 18, 1864.

Huntsinger moved to Hurley in the late 1880s where he operated the Lloyd House Hotel in 1891. He started working in the woods around Saxon and homesteaded there in 1895 and he died from a stroke at age 67 on Jan. 22, 1914.

Ken Clement, a volunteer with the Iron County Museum, said he learned a lot about Huntsinger and the Civil War in preparation for this event.

"He had three girls and two boys and outlived them all except for one boy," Clement said.

There is extended family that was located through their genealogy work, he said. But there are no direct descendants or other distant relatives living in this area, which was the one disappointment, he said.

"But my grandkids are here and I'm glad they can see this," Clement said.

Charles McNeil and John Lewis, two other veterans of the Civil War are also buried in the cemetery. There was no history to be found on them but their headstones were polished up for the ceremony, he said.

Iron County Sheriff Paul Samardich was present with deputy Tom Conhartoski.

"We are honored to be here and to be part of the ceremony," Samardich said.

Prior to Saxon, the Sons honored Washburn County's last man, Hiram Santas who passed away in 1931; and Ashland County's last man, Anton Austin Miller, who died in 1939.

There were close to 90,000 Union soldiers from Wisconsin in the Civil War, Heltemes said. More than 22,000 graves have been identified and added to the state database.

 
 

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