Headstone ceremony honors local Civil War veterns
If you happened to climb the dirt path on the Chestnut property along Bunker Hill Road on Sunday, you might have thought for a moment that time travel was possible and that you had somehow found yourself back in the1890s.
You might have seen stoic men in uniform folding a 34-star American flag and heard a haunting melody played by a solitary bagpiper. In the small isolated Dick-Bowser Cemetery somewhere off that beaten track, you might also have seen women in long dresses placing flowers by the newly engraved headstone of a Union soldier.
The brand new headstone bears the name Peter O. Bowser. He was the son of Joseph and Nancy Bowser, born Oct. 23, 1830, and laid to rest May 9, 1896. The original stone was recently replaced by the John T. Crawford Camp 43 in Kittanning. And on Sunday afternoon, Sgt. Bowser was honored during a grave rededication ceremony given by Camp 43, Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War, along with the Sarah A. Crawford Auxiliary.
Roxanne Chestnut said her husband, Cliff, is a fourth-generation descendant of Sgt. Bowser. During the ceremony, Cliff received the flag from Camp Secretary Jim Johnson. In a strange twist of fate, Johnson happens to be the descendant of Capt. John Jordan, under whose comand Sgt. Bowser served. During the ceremony, attendants listened to the history of Sgt. Bowser, read aloud by a camp representative.
The 6-foot, blue-eyed veteran worked as a farmer before enlisting on Sep. 12, 1861, said Richard Essenwein, the SUVCW Pennsylvania Department Commander. Essenwein said Bowser began his training in Camp Orr, now Wick City and close to where Kittanning High School is today. Bowser served in Company G with the 78th Regiment of the Pennsylvania Volunteers Infantry under Capt. John Jordan. On Oct. 14, 1861 the regiment traveled by train to Pittsburgh where they were joined by the 77th and 79th regiments. From there they headed to Louisville, Ky., under the command of Brig. Gen. James Negley. Bowser served for a little more than three years and was honorably discharged Nov. 4, 1864. He married Eliza Dick and the couple had seven children.
Essenwein said Camp 43 applied to the federal government for the funds to replace Sgt. Bowser's headstone. The original had become so worn, the name was no longer legible. The new one, weighing 250 pounds, arrived at the Armstrong County Courthouse before the members of Camp 43 trucked it out to the rural cemetery to cement it in place.
"We've put over 150 headstones in since 1989," said Essenwein.
He said there are a couple more they are looking to replace. But, Essenwein said, there is often the problem of getting to the site.
"Some cemeteries are overgrown and almost lost," he said, adding that it's often the result of funding issues within the townships.
Essenwein said he knows of one man who mows one of those near forgotten cemeteries. The man is in his mid 80s and no one has stepped forward to take his place or share the workload.
"We hate to set headstones if the area gets neglected and overgrown," said Essenwein. "We do this to honor the soldiers and preserve history, and if no one maintains them, they get lost again."
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Unexected snow squalls bring icy conditions, accidents in West Mifflin
- Hunting creates strong bonds, traditions
- Sentencing delayed for Operation Pork Chop mastermind
- Trib real estate writer Spatter ‘worked right to the end’
- For some Pennsylvania candidates, 2015 is already here
- Elizabeth council honors actions of 2 emergency responders
- McKeesport’s Minerva’s Bakery to be featured on Sebak’s documentary
- Salvation Army in W.Pa. uses social media campaign
- In Steelers-Saints game, all eyes on Brown-Lewis matchup
- Steelers notebook: Defense has a retro feel
- Sloppy Penguins fall to Hurricanes