At the West LeRoy cemetery, I found the graves of Ira Case, the man who arranged with some of the local Potawatomi Indians to store their corn in his log cabin’s second floor, and his wife, Mary Ann.
His was one of the graves that had a “GAR Post 32″ marker like this one. I had never seen a Grand Army of the Republic marker like these before. It’s not like the usual ones that mark the graves of Civil War soldiers. And Ira Case was a bit older than most of those who went to war as ordinary soldiers in that war. I wondered if it was something like the signs you sometimes see in peoples’ front yards these days: “The Proud Family of a Soldier Lives Here.”
I eventually found this gravestone, which does have a GAR marker next to it. It turns out that Luman Case was indeed the son of Ira and Mary Ann, according to the 1891 county history and census records. His parents’ graves are toward the back of in this photo, near the fence.
Luman would have been 16 when the war started. According to census records, he was the only son of Ira and Mary Ann then. Luman had several sisters, and it appears that a brother was born later, but no mention of that brother is made in the 1891 biography, so maybe the boy died young. The 1891 biography says Luman was then married and living in Benzona, Michigan.
There is no Benzona in Michigan. I presume Benzonia, further north near Lake Michigan, was the town that was meant.
That’s where the historian Bruce Catton had lived as a boy. In his book, Waiting for the Morning Train, he wrote a passage that has long stuck in my mind, about the old Civil War veterans he used to see there when he was a boy:
The monument they built was completely homemade. It was a fat column of Beldstone and mortar, no more than four or five feet tall, capped by a round slab of rock that was just a little wider than the supporting column; it looks like an overgrown toadstool, and it would be funny if it were not so unmistakably the work of men who were determined to have a monument and built one with their own hands because they could not pay for a professional job. The spirit that built it redeems it; it stands today as the most eloquent, heartwarming Civil War memorial I ever saw.
Was this Luman Case one of the graybeards that Catton used to see in Benzonia? Was he one of those who built that toadstool monument? I can’t say. And when did he move to Benzonia? At his age, one would think he went straight from the farm to the army. But Luman Case is not listed in the county histories as one of the soldiers from Calhoun County.
It’s also not clear why he came back to Calhoun County in time to be buried there. He lived only four years longer than his father. I suppose he may have inherited the farm, but even if he did, the plat maps suggest that the place quickly passed into another family’s hands.
There is nothing remarkable about any of this, but I like to wonder about these things.
The slow progress I make on my bike rides is often accounted for by cemetery visits like this.