I'm sure there will be plenty of Memorial Day ceremonies throughout Orange County this weekend. But I'm putting the spotlight on one that deals with some of O.C.’s earliest veterans...
The Tri-city (Orange, Santa Ana, Tustin) Memorial Day Observance at Santa Ana Cemetery will include the dedication of monuments on the previously unmarked graves of seven Civil War veterans and one Indian Wars veteran. The Sons & Daughters of Union Veterans, and the Sons of Confederate Veterans will be on hand, and there will be a “Civil War reenactment firing of a Civil War cannon.” The program will begin Mon., May 25, at 10am at 1919 E. Santa Clara Ave., in Santa Ana.
The organizers sent me the following information about the men in the eight recently identified graves…
Of course, Monday's program also includes everything you expect on Memorial Day: Elected officials saying patriotic things, a Boy Scout reading the Gettysburg Address, an American Legion color guard, a VFW honor guard, the Orange High School's band and choir, and involvement by most of the area’s service organizations. It sounds like a great program.
During 2008, Charles Beal, SUVCW Graves Registration Officer, working as part of the Tri-City Memorial Day Committee, researched and ordered 8 Veterans Administration grave markers for 7 Civil War veterans (5 Union, 2 confederate) and 1 Indian Wars veteran that were found to be in unmarked graves since their original burial dates. The earliest burial took place in 1903... Descendants of two of the veterans have been located who may be planning to attend the Memorial Day Ceremony. These families are related to Halsey Harthorn and James McGowen. The following is a list of the formerly unmarked veteran graves with some biographical notes for each veteran:
1. Jesse D. Bowley: Served as a Private in Company I, 46th Massachusetts Infantry. Born 1820 and died September 26, 1887. Los Angeles Times... (March 19, 1896) reported his partial remains were uncovered while digging a grave for Civil War Veteran, Oliver Oberr. Jesse Bowley had previously occupied this gravesite and was later re-interred in the San Francisco area. The undertaker in 1896 failed to remove all of Bowley’s remains. His found remains were reburied at the foot of the same grave with Oliver Oberr... The marker has been installed to identify the burial of these partial remains.
2. Halsey H. Harthorn: Served as an Ordinary Seaman in the United States Navy on the U.S.S. Sabine. Born June 6, 1843 in Maine and died August 31, 1924. He was a resident of the City of Orange. He was a sea captain and did some mining in the Santa Ana Mountains and other parts of California. Halsey is a descendant of Associate Magistrate John Hathorn of the Salem, Massachusetts witch trials and a cousin of noted American author Nathaniel Hawthorne.
3. James M. Henderson: Served as a Private in the 9th Battery, Indiana Light Artillery. Born August 1845 and died Nov. 19, 1922.
4. Alfred Walter Hill: Served as a Private in Company K, 179th Ohio Infantry. Born 1842 in Butler County, Ohio and died April 30, 1937. He was resident in the City of Orange for a year prior to his death.
5. Joseph R. Hodges: Served in the Confederate States Army as a Private in Company D, 1st Arkansas Cavalry. Born 1835 and died December 8, 1912. His obituary said he came to California after the war, and lived at Bolsa (now in the City of Garden Grove) for the past 40 years.
6. Charles Horner: Served as a Private in Company B, 7th Ohio Infantry. Born 1835 and died January 26, 1903.
7. James Elbert McGowen: Served in the Confederate States Army as a 2nd Lieutenant in Company D, 25th Louisiana Infantry. Born July 1, 1836 at Mississippi and died July 3, 1918.
8. John Edward Hajek: Served as a Private in 9th United States Army Infantry during the Indian Wars for five years. Born July 18, 1852 at Burgess, Bohemia, immigrated to the United States in 1867. He joined the Army in 1876 for 5 years and died Dec. 5, 1917. Additional information was found on his citizenship papers located at the Orange County Archives, Santa Ana, CA as follows. John Edward Hajek... emigrated to the U.S. from Bremen, Germany, arriving in New York in Sept. 1867. He served in the U.S. Army from Sept. 18, 1876 to Sept. 17, 1881, and was honorably discharged. He moved to California in the summer of 1895. He applied for citizenship on May 17, 1910, and received it on Nov. 14 of that same year. Albert Haycox (an engineer) and George Gardner (a gardener) vouched for him on his application for citizenship and served as witnesses. Hajek lived on 5th Street in Huntington Beach at the time of his naturalization. ...He served in the Ute and Cheyenne campaigns during the Indian Wars.
Decoration Day or Memorial Day ceremonies have been observed at the Santa Ana Cemetery since at least 1881, when Grand Army of the Republic veterans from the General John Sedgwick Post No. 17 held services there and decorated the graves of the five Union and one Confederate Civil War veterans who were interred there at the time.
From Lexington to Afghanistan, American soldiers have died to preserve our freedom. It's fitting that we take a day to remember them. But it's more important that we make their sacrifices worthwhile by protecting the freedom they fought for. That means being an informed voter. That means preserving our Constitution. And it means keeping our nation from devolving into one of the fascist, socialist, or other "ist" regimes they died to defeat.
They paid dearly for our freedom. What we do with it is up to us.