Civil War vet finally gets a monument
By Caitlin Bittner
After 128 years without a marker on his grave in Dickson Cemetery in Lynxville, Civil War veteran Israel Churchill finally received a monument in his honor, thanks to the efforts of his great-great granddaughter Helen Thomson.
Five years ago, Helen started the project she finally saw come to its completion on July 8. “It’s been a very meaningful project,” Helen commented. “My mother never really talked about him, but in the 80’s, I really started getting into genealogy and learning about the family tree.”
After discovering so much about Israel, her long lost ancestor, Helen knew there had to be a way to make sure others would remember him as well. “It was on my mind for a long time,” explained Helen who managed to find a way that the marker could be paid for through the Office of Veterans’ Affairs.
Helen went on to explain that by law the Office of Veterans’ Affairs was required to provide a headstone or marker for veterans. The provided marker of the grave will also be one that is correct to the time period. “Israel’s is a beautiful white marble,” said Helen.
But, before the monument could be given, Helen was required to prove that Israel was actually buried within the cemetery, as well as his service to the United States.
For the first, Helen worked closely with Village of Lynxville City Clerk Carol Crusan and Treasurer Donna Giddings. “I started looking at the archives, but there were complications with the burial records,” said Helen, who was very excited when everything finally came together.
As far as the records of his life and military involvement, Helen discovered that Israel was born in November of 1833, in New York. His family then moved to Crawford County in 1850, the reason for which remains a mystery. In January, 1864, Israel enlisted in the Union army in Crawford County. From there, he was placed, as a private, in the 31st Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry, serving in companies H and C.
During the war, he was injured near Atlanta, Ga., during Sherman’s famous 1864 March to the Sea. His injury was the result of a fall off of a breastworks—an entrenchment, or field trench, made of earth and wood, designed to protect the defenders against enemy fire. As a result of his injury, Israel developed epilepsy, which made him prone to seizures for the rest of his life.
After returning home to Crawford, Israel was honorably discharged from the army in July of 1865, and lived with his family until his death in March of 1885.
Although he may not have been deemed a “war hero,” at the time, his service in the military is now commended with his new headstone.
Upon receiving the marker, Helen was not quite sure what to do with it, as the Office of Veterans’ Affair may provide the headstone, but it is up to the family to see that it is place in the cemetery. Luckily, Helen was able to get in touch with Loyde Beers, the groundskeeper at Dickson Cemetery.
“He came to [my] house and picked it up. He’s just a delightful man,” said Helen, who was happy to have his assistance with putting the stone in the ground.
With this piece of history properly marked, Helen plans to continue learning as much as she can about her family’s past. So far, Helen has traced her family back to the Battles of Lexington and Concord, as well as the original settlers of Plymouth Rock, Mass. Helen is a 14th generation American, noting that 1⁄₁₀ of Americans can trace their lineage back to the pilgrims of Plymouth Rock.