Script from 2015 Cemetery Walk

NOTE: Historical research for this script was completed by town residents, Elizabeth Terlinden and Maureen Ash in conjunction with the Town of River Falls Cemetery Committee.  The script was written by Maureen Ash and performed  at the Glass Valley Cemetery walk which took place on Sunday, September 13, 2015.

2015 Glass Valley Cemetery Script - Civil War Vets Buried at the Glass Valley Cemetery

Private Cyrus Farnsworth

b 18 July 1842  d 25 January 1900

“Did you come here to hear a war story?  I've got plenty.  But mine died with me.  What I CAN tell you is how I came to be here, in the town of River Falls.

My parents brought me here in 1854.  I was eleven years old.  I was born in New Hampshire.  My dad, Simeon Farnsworth, was a good man.  His grandfather, William Proctor, fought with the New Hampshire militia in the Revolutionary War.  Our family tried hard to be good citizens, hard workers, and faithful Christians.  We were farmers, mostly.

Washington, New Hampshire could have been called ROCKington, New Hampshire!  Gosh, there were a lot of rocks.  My dad must have got tired of the rocks, and the soil was probably thin and they didn't take care of it much back then.  Once the soil was worn out for farming, people moved away.  We got on a canal boat and next thing you know, we were in Prescott, Wisconsin.  We bought land here in the Glass Valley and started to farm.

My mother was Eunice Lowell Farnsworth.  Did you hear that middle part of her name?  Lowell?  Yes, she was one of THOSE Lowells.  She was related to a lot of smart, talented, famous people.  James Russell Lowell and Amy Lowell, the poets, and Percival Lowell the astronomer, and Abbott Lawrence Lowell—he was president of Harvard University!--and John Lowell, who was a member of the Continental Congress!

But here she was, just plain Eunice Farnsworth, out in Wisconsin on a farm, making her own soap and sewing clothes for the family and keeping a garden and working from before the sun came up until after it went down, just like everyone else around here.  I wish I had been more helpful to her.

Well, anyway, I worked hard on the farm with my family and then our country went to war with itself.  In our neck of the woods we thought President Lincoln was right to try to keep the Union together.  We didn't believe that God meant for people to keep other people as slaves.  We hoped things would simmer down and it wouldn't come to war, but it did.

I enlisted when I was nineteen years old.  I was twenty when I mustered in down at Camp Randall in Madison.  I was in Company A of the 30th Wisconsin Infantry.  That was in August of 1862.

No one seems to have kept a good record of what I did during the war.  I've forgotten quite a bit of it myself.  I know we were sent here and there to guard prisoners from around the state.  And we were sent west to fight in the war against the Native Americans.  It was tough times out in Dakota Territory.  Maybe we thought it was wrong to keep people as slaves, but we never gave a thought to whether it was right or wrong to take land away from the people who'd been living on it for thousands of years.  Finally we spent the last part of our enlistment as Provost Guards in Kentucky.  We did not see a lot of fighting.

Well, I enlisted for three years, and when my term was up, I mustered out.  That was September, 1865.  By that time President Lincoln had been murdered in April of that year, and General Lee had surrendered to General Grant at Appomattox on June second.  The war was over and I could come home.

I married Martha Robinson on New Year's Day, 1867.  That was a happy day!  We had three kids.  We farmed here in the area until 1879.  The railroad was pushing west, and it seemed like we'd have a better opportunity if we moved along with it.

So just as my parents had left New Hampshire and brought me to River Falls when I was eleven, Martha and I left River Falls and went to Breckinridge, Minnesota, when our son William was eleven.  We did it for a lot of the same reasons, too.  We thought the kids would have a better shot.  Those Red River Valley soils—well, you can't beat them!

I had a team of horses, and not many folks in the area had a team.  I was busy hauling lumber and all kinds of goods.  I started a hauling business.  We bought a shell of a house —no windows, no doors— on the North Dakota side, in Wahpeton and we rented space on the floor to the railroad workers.  We lived in that house for several years.  I did put windows and doors in as soon I could afford to do it!

It was a tough life, but I had a good family to help me learn right from wrong and to ease the way for me when things were rough.  I got sick, probably got a chill when I was out hauling some cold day, and wouldn’t you know it, it turned into pneumonia and I died.  I was only 47 years old.  My wife and kids brought me back to River Falls and buried me here.

Private Horace Baker

b 1814  d 1875

I was born in Lawrence, Pennsylvania, in 1814.  If you want to get an idea of how long ago that was, just think—I'm two hundred and one years old!  The War of 1812 was still going on out east, and in August of the year I was born, the capitol building in Washington, D.C., still wasn't finished and the British set fire to what WAS there and burned it down.  In other words, 1814 was a long time ago.

And in other ways, it wasn't so long ago at all.  I was like you.  I grew up, fell in love, and married Lydia Ann Kading in 1847.  We had three children.  I was just a laborer, working as hard as I could to support my family, and we decided to go west.  Maybe we came by canal, or maybe we came by the railroad.  Whichever it was, we arrived in this area and settled in.

We had another son, Frank.  Times were tough and I couldn't make ends meet.  There was a fifty-dollar bounty the government was giving out if you enlisted to fight in the war.  Well, I was 45 years old.  Maybe I wasn't a spring chicken any more, but I figured I could tough it out.  I had enough teeth left.  One of the things they checked for when I enlisted was my teeth.  A recruit had to have at least two teeth, and they had to be one on top of the other.  Why?  Well, I'll tell you.

The rifle we used was the Enfield.  It was a beautiful piece of engineering, if you could forget what it was built to do.  It was long and elegant.  You loaded it by taking out your paper packet of gunpowder, biting it open with your two teeth, and dumping the powder into the muzzle.  Then you put in the lead bullet (called a Minne Ball).  You rammed it all down with the ramrod, which rode around tucked under the barrel of the gun.

When you cocked and shot it, a hammer would come down on the firing cap and make a spark that would ignite the gunpowder and blow the bullet down the barrel of the gun.  The barrel had been rifled—that is, carved on the inside in a spiral pattern.  That put a spiral spin on the bullet when it came out of the barrel, and it was amazingly accurate up to 350 yards.

Well, I needed those fifty dollars for my family.  It didn't seem like the war could last for long, so I signed up.  I mustered in at Camp Randall in Madison on July 31, 1862.  I was in Company A of the 20th Wisconsin Infantry.

We were sent down south.  Oh, it was hot at first!  But before long we were grateful for our sack coats.  In December we went into our first battle at Prairie Grove, Arkansas, on December 7, 1862.

You know, we had to march in formation and then stand and shoot, or get behind a wall and shoot, or lie down and shoot.  Are you getting it?  We had to SHOOT.  That was the main idea!  We were trained to load and shoot that Enfield three times per minute.  But while we trained, we weren't being shot at!

It's harder than you think to remember to put the powder in first, before the lead bullet.  Oh, it was so easy to get mixed up when you were trying to be fast.  Lots of soldiers put in more powder than they needed, or put in the bullet BEFORE the powder—that didn't do much good!  So many men were found dead with their rifles loaded the wrong way.  Too many men died anyway.  A lot of times for nothing, really.

At least the battle of Prairie Grove, even if we didn't win a big victory, gave the Union a purchase in Arkansas.  The Confederates never could get much done in Arkansas after that.  Was it worth the more than 2500 men being killed or wounded?  I really can't tell you that.

I was tired all the time.  My stomach never felt right. Maybe I picked up something from the water, or maybe I was bitten by an infected mosquito.  We lived cheek by jowl in our camps.  If one person got sick, seemed like everyone got sick.  I sure did.  After Prairie Grove, I was too sick to march or fight.  I was sent to recover at Springfield, Missouri.  I never did get much better.  I was transferred to the veteran's reserve corps, finally.  At last I got to go home.

At home I worked as a teamster, driving my horses and hauling freight.  I might have got my strength back for a while, but along about 1874 I was feeling poorly and I had a lump that kept growing.  I got sicker and sicker and finally I died in 1875.  I was 61 years old. 

Private Thomas E. Walker

b August 1848 d July 11, 1911

I can't tell you much about myself. I never learned to read or write. My folks surely couldn't. They were slaves in Mississippi. I was born a slave. If someone wrote down the date I was born, it wasn't so we could celebrate it later on with cake. I know that.

I was a boy when the U.S. Government fired on Fort Sumter. That was the start of the Civil War. We didn't know much about it. No one told us anything and we couldn't read the papers. But there was a lot of activity going on—we saw the white folks getting together and planning and before you know it there were uniforms being made and a lot of the men were riding off to join the army, the Confederate army. We learned that the southern states wanted to be their own country. They didn't like being told what to do, and one of the things we heard was that folks in the north thought it was wrong for people to own other people.

Well, I agreed with that.

In September of 1862 President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation freeing slaves in the Southern states. He gave the southern states till January 1 of 1863 to stop rebelling against the United States government. Well, they didn't stop. So he issued it again on January 1, 1863.

Five months later, Order Number 143 went out. It established the United States Colored Troops. I could enlist in the Union army and fight to keep my new freedom. So I did.

I was a private in Company C. I had a uniform and shoes. I had a rifle. (We could not find any details on his company and where it fought)

Nobody wrote down where I went, where I fought, or how I ended up in Wisconsin, so far from Mississippi. I never got married, never had kids. I worked wherever I could. I lived in Prescott for a while, the census records show, and then I was near Beldenville. When I died of a heart condition I was living in the Big River area, down this road a piece. I'm not sure how I ended up here in this cemetery. I think the Town of River Falls had to bury me in one of the lots they owned.

My grave was unmarked for more than a hundred years. How many people have walked over me, not knowing I was here, I can't even say.

A life can feel pretty small when it hasn't been written down. I'm here to tell you, I didn't have a small life. Things happened. I was a hero just to survive the things you know about me, being born into bondage and never getting a chance to have an education. What else happened is lost.

Private Samuel David Travis 

b. June 23, 1847  died 1931?

I'm Samuel David Travis.  I was born in New York and moved here when I was a boy with my parents.

We settled in Ellsworth—what there was of it at that time!  My dad was a lumber man.  There was a lot of forest around here in places then.  I wanted more out of life, I guess.  Soon as I turned eighteen, I enlisted in the army.  I wanted to see more of the country!

In the time between I enlisted and when I mustered into the army, I married my sweetheart, Sarah Baker.  You heard from her dad, Horace, a minute ago.  I don't think she was happy about me going off to war.  But we needed that fifty dollars from the signing bounty, for one thing and I wanted to get out into the world before I settled down.

Ok, the facts are that I enlisted on December 29 of 1864.  I signed up for a one-year term.  I married Sarah a few months later, on March third of 1865.  And then I went off to join Company H of the 50th Wisconsin Infantry. 

We got organized at Camp Randall in Madison.  Then we set off for St. Louis, Missouri.  Missouri was an interesting place, I'll tell you.  The state wasn't part of the Confederacy, but there were plenty of Rebel sympathizers there.  The Missouri and Mississippi rivers meet at St. Louis, so it was an important crossroad for supplies coming and going.  We kept the port open.  It was important to the Union cause. 

My company was sent here and there.  The war was ending.  The South was getting choked off.  I was transferred from Company H to Company G in September, and I became an aide for Captain Strong.  We rode out to Fort Berthold, Dakota Territory, in April of 1866.  I wasn't there for long.  My term was up and I could go home in June.

I'd like to say it was wonderful to see Sarah again, but there was a problem.  I think one or two of the other fellows here have mentioned the poor sanitation in those army camps.  We were crowded in, the water was sometimes tainted, and people got sick.  I didn't have it as bad as some, but for some reason I got what they call granulated eyelids.  It's like having sandpaper on the inside of your eyelid.  Not very comfortable!  I lost the sight in my left eye almost completely and my right wasn't the best, either.   I had to be examined every six months by a doctor so I could get my pension.  The U.S. Government paid me eight dollars a month as a disability pension.  Eight dollars went a lot further back then than it does now—but still, I'd rather had had my eyesight!

But no use crying over spilt milk.  Sarah and I had three kids.  We started a restaurant and boarding house in Ellsworth.  It was a classy kind of place.  We had good stabling for our guests' horses, and our rates were reasonable.  The newspaper said we had good accommodations in every respect!  Sarah and the kids were my eyes when I needed them, and I lived a good, long life.  I was 84 years old when I died and was buried here in this quiet little cemetery.

Private Franklin Spooner

b 1832, died 1864

It's said I was born in New York.  That fact has been lost to time.  Somehow I ended up in the town of Greenwood, which this area used to be called.  I married Cevilla Hawley on December 1, 1855.  We had two children, Edwin and Emilia.  I was happy and healthy.

Well, as Abraham Lincoln said at Gettysburg, then the war came.  I enlisted.  I was 30 years old.  I signed up for three years with Company K of the 30th Wisconsin Infantry from River Falls.  I went to Camp Randall in Madison.

Camp Randall used to be the State fairgrounds.  When war broke out, there had to be a place for the army to get men enlisted and outfitted for the war before sending them off with their regiments and companies.  Governor Randall ordered Major Horace A. Tenney to get the fairgrounds into shape for that.  The fairgrounds had a lot of buildings that could be used for barracks for the new soldiers.  Major Tenney called it Camp Randall in honor of the Governor.

The Union Army started to take prisoners.  They needed somewhere to keep them and Camp Randall seemed like one of the places they could do that.   In April of 1862, 881 prisoners of war were shipped to Madison and marched to the camp.  They were in pretty good spirits, ragged but reasonably healthy.  Four days later, 275 prisoners arrived.  They were in terrible shape, just awful.  The people of Madison hated to see even these so-called enemies suffer, and they did what they could to help them.  Even so, about 140 of them died.  They're buried about a mile from the camp at the Confederate Rest Cemetery.

Maybe I caught something from those prisoners when I was at Camp Randall and it weakened me.  I was there just a few months after the prisoners arrived.  I might have been assigned to guard them.  But before long, I was sent to Fort Randall, out in Dakota Territory.  In July of 1863 I was out on patrol and nobody knows what happened—was I caught in a rainstorm?  You know how hard the weather can be out there, and the medical help was next to nothing.  I caught a cold that I couldn't shake, and it got worse.  The doctor said it was tubercular consumption.  I was sent home with a certificate of disability.

Our doctor, Doctor Hatch, wrote in his notes that I hadn't had a health concern when I enlisted.  But now that I was home, my health was much reduced.  I was so sorry to leave Cevilla and our children.  They were just kids, and I'd wanted to be part of their growing up. 

I died on May 3, 1864.  I was a casualty of the Civil War, just as much as if I'd taken a musket ball.  In fact, the Union army and the Confederate army lost a total of over 200,000 soldiers in battle.  They lost more than twice that to disease.  People didn't know much about sanitation or clean water or how to stop infections from spreading.  Once you were sick, there wasn't much you could do about it.  I was lucky to get home so I could die with my family around me.  So many men didn't have that comfort.  They wasted away on cots or even on the ground, nursed by strangers if they were lucky, dying alone and suffering even worse if they were not.