I spent thirteen years living in State College, Pennsylvania, right next door to Boalsburg. In addition to housing possessions from Christopher Columbus, Boalsburg makes another claim to fame. The tiny little town of Boalsburg is one of several that claim to be the site of the first Memorial Day commemorations. The graves of fallen Union soldiers were decorated starting in October 1864. Of course, there are lots of places that claim this honor. But Boalsburg is the one I am familiar with. Every year, there is a large Memorial Day commemoration there.
There are many veterans in every generation in my family tree, some in my direct line, some among the uncles, aunts, and cousins. John Oliver Brewer is one who is almost in my line. John Oliver Brewer was the first husband of my great-great-grandmother, Sarah Louise Council.
John and Sarah married in 1858 in Sebastian County, Arkansas and started a family there. Their first child, a daughter, Mary Angeline Brewer, was born in February 1860 and lived just a few months. Their second child, a son, Philip Dodridge Brewer, was born in June of 1861.
Northwest Arkansas was a hotbed of border tensions during the Civil War. Even though it was a part of the Confederacy, there apparently was a large degree of support for the Union in the area. According to Grandmother Dickson, this led to things being pretty ugly from time to time and to people being pressed into service on one side or the other at the point of a rifle.
In the spring of 1863, on March 10, John Oliver Brewer enlisted in the 1st Arkansas Infantry of the Union Army. His brother had joined the Union Cavalry already. John never say service. After being mustered in at Fort Smith, he went with his unit north to Fayetteville. Were he caught the measles. John Oliver Brewer died in hospital in Faytetteville on the 18th of May, 1863, barely two months into his service. He left his young widow, Sarah, behind with a young son to care for.
In 1867, Sarah remarried to Hume Field Bailey and had a substantial family, including my great-grandfather, Charles Council Bailey. in 1891, Hume died. In her old age, Sarah again fell back on her status as the widow of a Union veteran who died in service. She applied again for a pension, after proving that her second husband (Hume) had never served in the Union Army and had certainly never served the Confederacy. Again she was awarded a small pension to assist in her old age that she continued to receive until her death.
Phil was adopted by Hume and grew up to have a successful career as an attorney. He was the first commissioner of the Oklahoma State Supreme Court as Oklahoma transitioned from a territory into statehood.
In the end, had it not been for John Oliver Brewer’s service with the Union Army, I wouldn’t be here today, I suppose. I don’t know how he felt about enlisting and serving. But it seems sort of anticlimactic to be struck down by what we consider now to be a childhood disease while in camp.