NEGenWeb Project
Resource Center
On-Line Library







The cemetery viewed from the gate. -- System of marking graves. -- Grave of Spotted Horse. -- Of Guss Hess. -- Gratton Massacre memorial. -- Dead brought from many places. -- Cemetery records and superintentendents. -- G. A. Haverfield. -- Col. P. J. O'Rourke.


      An Association of Fort McPherson, yes, and also of North Platte, is the National cemetery where the "star spangled banner" waves over the graves of United States soldiers, who even in death are cared for by a generous government. This tree-embowered cemetery is a prominent object on the landscape, and is no great distance from where the fort was situated.

      On October 17, (1) 873, a portion of Fort McPherson



reservation amounting to 128 acres was set apart for a National cemetery, and of this, four acres were enclosed by a brick wall, and within the enclosure a house for a superintendent was built.

      Soldiers who died at Fort McPherson were buried in a plot of ground on the face of the hill a little southeast of the entrance to Cottonwood canyon, but when the National cemetery was made ready to receive the dead, these, and a few bodies of civilians were exhumed and interred in the southeast section.

      Today, the scene is changed, and when the neat iron gate of the cemetery is entered, the eye rest on the substantial brick residence of the superintendent and gravel walk leading up to it. Beyond, are long rows of white headstones, uniform in appearance and size, that stud the green sward and mark of graves of soldiers who nevermore shall answer the roll call, or be roused by the notes of the bugle. Numerous tall trees spread their foliage-laden branches and shade this "eternal camping ground," and make the whole a scene of sylvan solitude.

      Close to the gate are two iron tablets with raised letters, on which is an extract from "An act



to establish and protect, National cemeteries, approved February 22, 1867." Section third, is given, which states, that "Any person who shall willfully destroy, mutilate, deface, injure, or remove any monument, gravestone, or other structure, or shall willfully destroy, cut, break, injure, or remove any tree, shrub, or plant within the limits of an National cemetery shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor, and upon conviction thereof before any district or circuit court of the United States, shall be liable to a fine of note less than twenty-five, nor more than one hundred dollars, or imprisonment of not less than fifteen, nor more than sixty days, according to the nature and aggravation of the offense."

      Close by these tablets is one giving an extract from General Order No. 80, September 1, 1876, forbidding the desecration of soldiers' graves by picnic parties in a national cemetery, by vending refreshments therein, and stating emphatically that such a practice will not be allowed in any national cemetery.

      A little farther on, on the south side of the walk. is another tablet bearing the following verse:

"Rest on embalmed and sainted dead,
Dear as the blood ye gave,
No impious footsteps here shall tread
The herbage of your grave."



      On the south wall of the superintendent's residence is a large tablet bearing a long extract from the address of President Lincoln, at the dedication of the Gettysburg National cemetery, November 19, 1863, which every American knows or ought to know.

      It is saddening to wander through this well kept burying place and reflect that

"Where the blades of green grass quiver,
Asleep are the ranks of the dead"

silently fulfilling the immutable decree that pronounces man to be dust, and that to dust he shall return.

      There are few stones erected by private individuals to the memory of loved ones, but stones furnished by the government to mark the graves of the known and unknown dead are numerous. Those to the memory of the known simply bear the name of the soldier, date of death, and the regiment he served in, and the number of the grave he occupies; but stones marking the graves of the unknown are less pretentious, and bear nothing more than the number of the grave, so they slumber on, all unknowing and unknown "to Dumb forgetfulness a prey."



      A stone, numbered 258, marks the grave of the Indian Chief Spotted Horse. He had a weakness for collecting the scalps of white men in the days of his youth, and got a few, but now he rest with the pale face, and his war whoop is silenced forever.

      Near the grave of Spotted Horse is that of Gus Hess, one of North Platte's early citizens, whose figure, until recently, was familiar as he walked slowly along, leaning on his staff. He was proud of having "seen service" and talked entertainingly of his experience; he did his duty, and life was blameless.

      The small stone at the head of his grave, is inscribed, "816, Gustavus Hess, Neb." That is all. There is a square block of white marble resting on a pedestal, dedicated to the memory of the enlisted men, Company G. Sixth Infantry, killed in action near Fort Laramie, Wyoming (Gratton massacre) August 19th, 1854.

      On three sides of this massive memorial the names of twenty-eight soldiers who fell are inscribed. The bodies of these men were buried nine miles east of Fort Laramie at the place where they were killed, but were exhumed in 1888, and brought to this cemetery and are interred round the base of



the memorial. About the same time, the bodies of Indian chief, American Horse and his wife and children, prepared according to Indian custom and placed on a scaffolding of poles some twelve feet high, that braved the blast for many years in an old burying-place near the site of Fort Laramie, where many soldiers were buried, were interred in this cemetery.

      Although, according to Capt. B. F. Baker, a former superintendent, referred to further on, 109 bodies of soldiers were brought from Fort Laramie and interred, and other military posts have consigned dead to its keeping. He credits Fort Bridger, Wyoming, with twenty-five bodies, Fort Fred Steel, with sixty-three, Fort Hale, S. D., with forty-two, Fort Sidney with nine, and during the superintendence of Col. O'Rourke, some 200 bodies were brought from Fort Kearney, and several from Fort Fetterman, and the bodies of fifteen soldiers drowned in Box Elder canyon by a flood of water resulting from a cloud burst were interred. The remains from Fort Kearney were mostly of men slaughtered by Indians in a never-to-be-forgotten massacre. The fact is, Fort McPherson National cemetery, has been, and



will be a receptacle for the soldier dead of many places. It is estimated that up to the close of 1909, 848 soldiers were laid away under the green sward of this cemetery, 487 known, and 361 unknown.

      Access of the cemetery records can be had at the office of the superintendent, but they are of no great interest, although much regarding the cemetery's history maybe gleaned from them. Interments are carefully recorded, and the grave of any "known" soldier can be easily located, but the entries are brief, the name of the soldier, the regiment he served in, the date of his death and the number of the grave is all that is registered.

      Two books contain copies of letters, mostly of a business nature, but here and there are entries of interest.

      A George Griffen seems to have been the first superintendent of the cemetery, and was succeeded by a John Ridgely, who entered upon the duties, January 30, 1874, and served until February 10, 1874. A Thomas Mulaeny next took hold and served from February 10, 1874, until June 14, 1876. He was succeeded by a battle-scarred veteran named George A.



Haverfield, who was appointed, June 14, 1876, and served until August 15, 1877. He had served in the 126th regiment. Ohio Volunteers, who went through all the various marches and battles in which it bore an honorable part. He was severely wounded several times, but was not knocked out until he lost a leg in one of the hard fought battles of the Civil war.

      This man had a well-stored memory, and narrated in a graphic manner, events in which he took part during the great struggle.

      Co. P. J. O'Rourke succeeded Mr. Haverfield, and entered upon the duties of superintendent, August 15, 1877, and served, the record states, up to January 20, 1885, or until the time of his death.

      His son, Mr. J. J. O'Rourke of Brady, performed the duties of the office for ten months before a successor to his father was appointed.

      Col. O'Rourke was born in the city of Cork, Ireland, in 1814, and when a young man went to England, and married Miss Mary Hodgson, at Bolton, Lankashire, in 1838. He and his young wife came to this country and settled in Lancaster county, Pennsylvania. He enlisted in 1861, and served continuously until the close of the Civil war He was captain



of Company E, first regiment of Pennsylvania Reserves, and was brevetted major for gallantry at the battle of Fredicksburg, and was afterwards brevetted lieutenant-colonel for "gallant and meritorious services during the war;" so read the commission.

      He was with the army of the Potomac, and was in all the great battles during the war, and was severely wounded at the battle of Gettysburg. He experienced much hardship and suffering, and when gentle peace returned, was honorably discharged, and retired to private life. His name is in the list of heroes of the soldiers' monument at Lancaster, Pennsylvania. A gun and sword captured during a skirmish at Gettysburg are kept and highly prized by the O'Rourke family.

      On November 4, 1885, Captain Bejamin F. Baker relieved Mr. J. J. O'Rourke, and discharged the duties of the office until February 12, 1892.

      Captain Baker has materially aided with information regarding the cemetery, and the enumeration on a previous page, of re-interments by him, of bodies of soldiers sent from various forts is valuable.

      The office seemingly, was on sinecure, for he states that during 1890, he interred over 300 bodies of sol-



diers sent from various places, and that 344 interments had been made when he took charge.

      A record, or even jottings of Captain Baker's experience while carrying arms in defense of his country would make interesting reading, but being of a retiring disposition, he sums up the whole by the statement that his record is the same as thousand of others.

      Captain Benjamin F. Baker was born and raised in the state of Maine, and coming to Illinois in 1852 enlisted in Company D, 72nd Illinois Infantry, August 8, 1862. He was commissioned captain of Company H, 3rd heavy artillery, April 20, 1864, and was mustered out, May 1, 1876. He saw much active service, and experienced many of the hardships incident to the campaign, yet, with all , he was never seriously ill, and now enjoys a serene old age at Maxwell, Nebraska.

      George W. Allen succeeded Captain Baker as superintendent of the cemetery, and entered upon the duties, February 12, 1892, and on October 10, 1895, was relieved by Ludwig Baege. Mr. L H. Dow succeeded Baege August 6, 1897, and discharged the duties of the office until May 23, 1904.



      Mr. L. H. Dow was born in the town of Yorkshire, Caldraugus (sic) county, New York, October 19, 1838, and in early manhood drifted to Beaver Dam, Wisconsin, and married. He enlisted in Company D, 19th Wisconsin Infantry, September 23, 1861 and was afterwards transferred to Co. I, 11th Veteran Reserve Corps, June, 1864, and discharged from service, November 20, 1865.

     Judging by the neat appearance of the cemetery, Mr. E. T. Ingle, the present superintendent, appointed November 1, 1909 fills the office with ability. He was born at Memphis, Tennessee, August 3, 1847, and enlisted in Company A, 11th Kansas Cavalry at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, August 18, 1862, and was mustered out October 26, 1865. He saw service in the famous General Blunt campaign in Arkansas, and afterwards in Missouri Guerella warfare for over a year on the Kansas-Missouri line.

Prior page
General Index
Next page

© 2003 for the NEGenWeb Project by Cris Geis, Ted & Carole Miller