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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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CIVIL WAR VETERANS GRAVES—The graves of Sgt. Mathias Thielmann, left, and Pvt. Louis Gravelle will be given recognition in a ceremony at Woodlawn Cemetery in Marinette on Saturday, Oct. 17 at 11 a.m.

Recognition For Civil War Veterans At Marinette Oct. 17

The Marinette Cemetery Renovation Group invite the public to attend the grave side commitment ceremony for two Civil War veterans whose graves were discovered in the woods in what was once known as the “Old Catholic Section” of Woodlawn Cemetery. Both headstones were in need of repair and after months of clearing out trees, shrubs and raking years of leaves that had all but obscured the graves, they are now ready to once again receive visitors.

Pvt. Louis Gravelle, Co. K-17th WI Infantry and Sgt. Mathias Thielmann, Co. A 16th Ill Calvary will be honored with a ceremony right out of the 1800’s on Saturday, Oct. 17 at 11 a.m. in the historic Woodlawn Cemetery on Pierce Ave., in Marinette, across from the Marinette High School. The public is welcome to attend.

It is here where we will turn back the clock to the early days in Marinette when people were putting their lives back together after waiting years for a loved one to return home from the battlefields in the east of the country, states Bev Doucette, who is coordinator of the cemetery restoration. For the families on the home-front word from their soldiers were very few and far between, if at all, and the only way that they would know if their loved one survived the battles would be to see the soldier walking up the path to home. Everyday mothers, wives, daughters, sons and grandchildren stood watching the long dirt road leading to the house, and many a day they went to sleep with tears in their eyes and a prayer for their soldier on their lips.

It is not too difficult for us to grasp what the scene was like for the Gravelle and Thielmann families on the day they once again peered down that long dusty path and saw a long figure walking slowly toward them, Doucette went on. It wouldn’t have taken long for everyone in that home to know their prayers were answered and as they ran to greet this soldier, they noticed that his step had also quickened and before long the whole family would be embracing one another and crying tears of joy and singing words of praise for his safe return.

With their loved ones home from war, both families would face one of the most terrible tragedies ever seen in the whole of the United States. The “Great Peshtigo Fire” of Oct. 8, 1871 would test their faith as they struggled to survive that nightmare with only one thought and that was to come through it alive. Both families did come through it alive, and both families rebuilt their homes in Marinette, and continued on to raise their families here.

Marinette, WI boasts many a Civil War soldier who did return home, and though some had indeed survived the war, many carried with them injuries or illness for the rest of their lives. Both Pvt. Gravelle and Sgt. Thielmann for the rest of their lives suffered physical pain and/or illness from being in the war, yet both went on to become giving citizens of the community. Both married and had families, both worked in Marinette for a number of years based on Marinette census reports, and both buried children and/or grandchildren in Woodlawn Cemetery before they, too, went to their eternal rest. Both men, when buried might have been remembered as serving in the Civil War.

Giving their all for their country and community over 100 years ago, it is only fitting that we, the people of today’s Marinette, give them the proper graveside ceremony that they deserve and one that their families would have found fitting both of these Civil War soldiers, Doucette remarked.

Guest speaker for the ceremony is a well known figure that would have been very familiar to the families of these two Civil War soldiers, and a man that these soldiers at one time called Commander in Chief. “President Abraham Lincoln, 16th President of these United States” living through Rev. Robert Rutgers, will make his appearance in Marinette Saturday to honor these soldiers and to remember all his Union soldiers that lay in repose in Woodlawn Cemetery, as well as in all cemeteries in Marinette County. Lincoln’s escorts throughout his visit to the area will be Bill and Mary Warren of Peshtigo in full era dress and character.

Along with President Lincoln, will be the “Sons of the Union Civil War Veterans of Old Abe Camp #8” from Oshkosh. They will be doing a Civil War ceremony at the gravesites of Gravelle and Thielmann along with members of local, and current veterans who have been invited to participate. Among local veterans groups invited are the 20 Year Veterans Club, Peshtigo and Marinette American Legion Posts.

To add ambiance to the scene will be the “Ladies of the Manitowoc Civil War Round Table-Manitowoc WI” who will be present in Civil War era clothing as they portray the civilian side of life back then. Other guests that day will be descendants of the Thielmann family. Pat Beyer, a great-granddaughter of Mathias and Maria Thielmann gave many hours of her time to clearing the area in preparation for her ancestor’s ceremony. Having only recently realized that they were buried in Woodlawn Cemetery, she went right to work getting her great-grandmother’s name put on the stone and to secure the proper military recognition her great-grandfather deserved. She also located two of their infant children who were found buried near their grave and quickly entered their names into her genealogy data bank. Along with Beyer, other family members will be in attendance as their great-grandfather is finally recognized for his service in the Civil War.

Along with the Civil War Military Ceremony that day will be the unveiling of two “Memorial Markers” honoring all veterans and all persons, known and unknown, who lie in repose in Woodlawn Catholic Cemetery and Calvary Catholic Cemetery respectfully, according to Doucette. These markers have been donated by Menominee Granite Co., Joe and Carla Wagner, owners. The markers will be permanently placed near the old sections of the cemetery’s “forgotten graves” and are meant to memorialize all who have no grave markers and all who lie in the mass grave in Woodlawn. In part the inscription reads, “We shall never forget you.”

These ceremonies are the end product of many months of cutting, raking, digging and moving headstones so that the Civil War veterans graves are once again presentable for people to visit them. They, along with over 60 other graves found in these two cemeteries, have been restored to their original beauty, or as near as they can be restored, but nonetheless, all the graves are suitable for people to visit. Most graves belong to infants and children who succumbed to death because of poor hygiene and lack of medical intervention. It does not take too long to realize that many of Marinette early settlers made multiple trips to these cemeteries to bury a child, and some families buried children just months part, and some were buried just days apart. Information on the headstones ranges from German, French, Polish and English which shows the ethnic diversity Marinette had in its early days, not to diminish the local Indian population that resided here as well.

Continuing Doucette said that both Calvary and Woodlawn cemeteries are recognized as being the oldest in Marinette with graves dating back as far as 1840’s. A number of graves dating back to the 1860’s can be found in the left front section as you enter Woodlawn Cemetery. There are a few graves located well behind and over the hills in the back of Calvary Cemetery, and it is well worth the walk as the rolling hills and high evergreen trees create a very beautiful environment for those who rest there. Sitting directly over the hill when you drive into Woodlawn Cemetery one will find a tranquil path that leads to a number of restored graves with beautiful headstones of all sorts and sizes. It is in this area where the largest of the headstones was erected by Menominee Granite Co. last month and stands well over 10 feet high. If one walks that path they will find smaller paths leading off the trail here and there, and some paths a bit steep to traverse, but even if you do not leave the main path, if you look, you will see the graves of some of Marinette’s early settlers sitting deep in the woods. Some stand alone, and others stand together, but all are worthy of your time and attention.

Though records are scant for those buried in these cemeteries, burial plots have been researched, identified and mapped. The cemetery plot map and burial lists obtained from old records and study of the headstones themselves give up information to be recorded. Some head stones in each cemetery do not match in all instances, however, a good number of plots have been located with validating information. There remain a number of plots identified as being onsite but to-date remain unmarked. Sufficient historical information was assembled to document those buried in the cemetery and to procure noting the name, year of birth and death, parents names when warranted, and for veterans rank, company and regiments were also secured. Though the past few months has yielded a lot of information about Marinette’s early settlers as we cleaned up the forgotten section of the cemeteries on Pierce Ave., we know that this is only a temporary lull in our work as next spring will find us once again scouting areas as we have this year to repair them and collect data from them. Maybe if we really get lucky, we will find descendants of people who have been lost and forgotten for a very long time, Doucette stated.

The “Civil War Veterans Grave Ceremony” starts at 11 a.m. with a military and civilian procession into Woodlawn Cemetery. Ceremony will be opened by Beverly Doucette, coordinator of the Restoration Group followed by the invocation by Ron Kaempf of the Peshtigo Legion Post.

Acknowledgments and accepting of the two permanent monuments will be by Shirley Kaufman, Marinette City Council president acting in behalf of Mayor Bob Harbick who will be out of town.

Next is the presentation by “Abraham Lincoln” with the reading of the Gettysburg Address and words for the families of his fallen Union soldiers by Rev. Rutgers. President Lincoln will then give the order to Commander Al Pettit for the “Sons of the Union Veterans-Civil War” to commence the graveside ceremony.

There are many acknowledgments including Pat Beyer and other descendants of Sgt. Mathias Theilmann and his wife, Maria; President Abraham Lincoln, 16th President of the United States in the person of Rev. Robert Rutgers of Wauwatosa; Sons of the Union Veterans Civil War Old Abe Camp #8 from Oshkosh; Ladies of the Manitowoc Round Table-Civil War; Ron Kaempf, Peshtigo Legion Chaplain; Bill and Mary Warren and Allan Urbaniak of the Peshtigo Legion Post; 20 Year Veteran Club members; Marinette Legionnaires; Rick Vandervest Harley-Davidson of Peshtigo who will host a luncheon; and Best Western Riverside which has offered accommodations for Rev. Rutgers. Sound system will be provided courtesy of Scott Pristel of Tequila D.J. Service of Peshtigo.

Rev. Rutgers will visit Saint Thomas Aquinas Academy, Peshtigo campus on Friday, Oct. 16 at 1 p.m. and will hold a meet and greet at Stephenson Library in Marinette Saturday from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m.


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