This weekend we commemorate Memorial Day once again -- the time set aside after the Civil War to especially honor deceased veterans - those who fell on active duty, and those who returned from military service and have since passed away.
We seldom give a thought, though, for those who kept the home fires burning. It was very naturally both necessary and patriotic to enlist in 1861 after President Lincoln declared war. However, the farms in those days needed much "manpower" to keep up with the work and produce crops for market and for home consumption. My grandmother often mentioned a Collins resident who didn't serve in the Union Army. Instead, he stayed home and ran his widowed mother's farm. His thought was this: "Why don't they do something for those of us who stayed home and kept things going?"
One such person who was thus honored on Memorial Day (called Decoration Day until the 1950s) was Rebecca Richards Bartow, who is buried in the Milan Cemetery. She passed away early in 1902 and on Decoration Day that year her husband, Jonah Champion Bartow, placed a fine American flag at her grave. The newspaper account of this said: "For," said he, "she was as good a soldier as any of them," and so she was, staying at home and conducting the farm, often working out of doors with her own hands, and caring for her infant child through the four years in which her husband was fighting the battles of his country.
Mr. Bartow was commonly called "Champ" and was a distant kinsman of mine. He was a mason by trade and may have built the house we now live in. He constructed several brick one-room schools as well as bridge abutments, chimneys, etc. Champ enlisted in October of 1861 in the 67th Regiment of Ohio Infantry and served until January of 1865 after being rejected for re-enlistment due to wounds received at the siege of Fort Magruder.
Every time I peruse local newspapers of the Civil War era I find yet another story of families sacrificing husbands and sons to war. The family of George C. Hoyt lived in Perkins Township, south of Sandusky. Two sons, William and James Hoyt, had both enlisted in Co. G, of the 123rd Ohio Infantry, and early 1863 found the 123rd in camp in western Virginia. The two brothers were hospitalized there with typhoid fever and both died.
It was possible to ship the remains home for burial and that was done, with services for both in the Perkins Methodist Church, which stood in the territory now used by NASA. In the meantime, the men of Co. G collected $100 to be sent for purchase of a monument for the two brothers. This was accomplished and it can still be seen in the Perkins Cemetery off U.S. 250 near Bogart Road.
The Hoyt family was especially grieved by these deaths, as a third son, Philo, had died in March of 1862, at home. He was a civilian, but all the events together found three brothers dying within a space of fourteen months.
So it has always been in war, and no doubt will be so in the future. Remember in some way Memorial Day and those honored by it. Perhaps I'll see you at the Woodlawn Cemetery ceremony Monday morning.
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REMEMBER: My "Just Like Old Times" books are on sale at Colonial Flower and Gift Shoppe at 7 W. Main St. in Uptown Norwalk. These preserve my earlier columns in permanent book form.
Henry Timman, an authority on Firelands history, resides in rural Norwalk.