Sunday, November 15, 2015

McPherson County Sentinel

In honor of Veteran’s Day (and my favorite Civil War ancestor, Emery Waller), I reposted my blog from November 11, 2011 the other day on facebook.  No matter how much time has passed since I first “found” Emery (my 3x great grandfather), I still smile every time I think about him and the cousins he has put me in touch with.  And then today I received one of those little facebook “memories” reminding me of things I have posted on this date over the years.  The one that caught my eye today was from November 15, 2011 where I posted about the end of the story with Emery.  And it occurred to me that while I posted the end of the story on facebook, I never did a proper blog post about it.

Links to the previous posts in the event you’re interested. 
April 11, 2011  April 16, 2011  April 22, 2011  May 12, 2011  May 13, 2011  May 15,2011  May 20, 2011  May 29, 2011  November 10, 2011

But I never wrote the end of the story – the newspaper article from the McPherson Sentinel on November 12, 2011 telling Emery’s story. 

McPherson Sentinel 11_12_2001
The McPherson Sentinel
Saturday, November 12, 2011

The author, Cristina Janney, wanted to put the story in the November 11 edition but there was other news that took precedence that day.  I remember how disappointed I was but in retrospect, having it delayed a day might have just pushed it to the front page.  Emery was front and center!

McPherson Sentinel Page 1

Civil War veteran finally gets marker, by Cristina Janney, Managing Editor

A Civil War veteran whose grave has been unmarked since his death in 1890 finally had his life and service commemorated recently.

Emery Waller was, for the most part, lost to the world and his ancestors until his 3rd great-granddaughter began a quest to track down her family tree.

I’ve always had a curiosity about my family but, unfortunately, I didn’t listen too well as a child,” Debi Austen said in an email.

Her paternal grandmother’s maiden name was Gunzendorfer, which is a fairly uncommon name in the U.S.

Many years ago, my mother made the statement ’’there are no more Gunzendorfers in the United States,’ and I thought that couldn’t be true so I decided to start researching,” Austen said.  “A friend at work is very involved with genealogy so she got me started on and the rest is history!”

Many members of Austen’s family began to emerge from her research.  She found pictures and other documents that help her fill in the blanks of a growing family tree.

Austen learned she had relatives in America during the colonial period and decided she would attempt to amass enough documentation to put in an application for the Daughters of the American Revolution.

She learned her ancestor Ashbel Waller, Emery Waller’s father*, fought in the American Revolutionary War.

But Emery, born in December 1813, seemed to be a missing link.

She learned he was a Civil War veteran as was her 2nd great grandfather, William Warren McAboy, and another ancestor on her mother’s father’s side (Emery is on her mother’s side) who served for the Confederacy and was killed at the Battle of Fredericksburg.

McPherson Sentinel Page 2

She said she was not surprised to find these connections to military service based on the time period she was researching.

However, she thought her research had led her to DeWitt County, Ill., and was intent on finding Emery Waller there.

Pension records led Austen to Kansas and information her ancestor also had served in the Mexican War.

Eventually she tracked Waller to McPherson Cemetery, where she learned her ancestor was buried in an unmarked grave in the McPherson Cemetery.

…when I said at the end of the second post (to her blog) that I was emotionally drained, that was a complete understatement,” she said.  “I remember it was a Friday night, and I was unwinding after a week of work and working on my research.  So much happened that day that I could barely keep it straight.  And when the search was complete, and I saw the photos, I looked at them with tears streaming down my face.  It was a culmination of so much anticipation and a relief to finally know where he was.”

Austen said she was saddened to learn her ancestor was not honored with a headstone.

Although I at least knew where his remains were, I was saddened to know that he had been lying there for 120 years and no one knew anything about him or that he was even there,” she said.
Hard enough for anyone, much less someone who had served his country.”

She said she knew she would not rest until the situation was rectified even if she had to travel from Washington to Kansas to place the stone herself.

Austen said she did not know where to begin, but someone mentioned the Department of Veterans Affairs, and she filled out the paperwork and started the process to get a headstone placed on the grave.

She was referred by the McPherson Cemetery sexton to Stockham Family Funeral Home, where Kevin Stockham assisted in getting the headstone prepared and volunteered to install the stone that was provided by the Veterans Department free of charge.

Kevin was an enormous help, and I could not have completed this project without him,” Austen said…”He kept me in the loop as things progressed and let me know once the stone arrived.  And once it was placed, he sent me photos and the feeling that came over me when I saw the photos was indescribable.”

Stockham said he has helped fill out paperwork for veterans markers before, but never a Civil War veteran.

It took a couple of tries to get the paperwork through, but Austen was able to use Waller’s pension records to prove his veterans status.

In my 25 years in this business I have never done this,” Stockham said.  “It was such a rarity.  I felt it was kind of a privilege to participate.  It was unusual circumstances.”

Austen has not been able to find pictures of her grandfather, but she knows from other records, he was about 5-7” and between 135 and 145 pounds.  He lost two wives and at least three children and suffered from illness during the last 30 years of his life after his military service.

Austen said she wants others to know Waller’s ancestors 120 years later care very deeply about him and want to honor his memory.  He was loved by his family, both the ones he knew and those who came behind him, she said.

Emery Waller was more than a number on a pension record or a name on a stone – he was a man devoted to his family, and he was my third great grandfather,” Austen said.

And that’s my story.  I am so privileged to have been able to honor Emery and connect his ancestors together all of these years later.  Our “Waller Cousin” facebook page now numbers 5 and we hope to add to that count further in the years to come.

Emery Waller gravestone

RIP, Emery!

Ashbel Waller was Emery’s grandfather, not father.

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