Union Cemetery Clean-Up Day

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Lion Joe Palermo placing the American Flag on a veterans tombstone at the Union Cemetery.
Lion Joe Palermo placing the American Flag on a veterans tombstone at the Union Cemetery.

By Terry Rogers

On Saturday, November 1, volunteers from the Milford Lions Club spent the day clearing brush and removing debris from the Union Cemetery which is located behind Jor-Lin Tour and Charters on South Rehoboth Boulevard. A fence surrounding the property was placed by the General Alfred T.A. Torbert Camp No. 1862.

According to Milford Historian, David Kenton, the Union Cemetery was formed in 1873 by Thomas Humphreys, owner of the 100-acre Fork Farm on both sides of Cedar Beach Road. Mr. Humphreys was an active member of the Grand Army of the Republic, the primary Union veterans association organized after the end of the Civil War. There are at least 13 Union soldiers buried in the cemetery, most of whom are from Milford.

“It was a privately owned cemetery,” explained Marvin Schelhouse, a member of the Civil War group and an expert on the Civil War. “We took on this project along with the boy scouts a few years ago because the cemetery had become overgrown and neglected.

Mr. Schelhouse explained that the Civil War tombstones have the same shield as the Spanish-American War, and to differentiate between the two, the government added the words “Span. Am. War” to the bottom of the stone. Mr. Schelhouse pointed out the difference using the tombstone of George L. Hobbs, a Spanish American War veteran buried there, next to Nehemiah Hobbs, who served in the Company 1 during the Civil War. Mr. Schelhouse provided many interesting historical facts about some of those buried in the cemetery.

Nehemiah Hobbs whose grave is in the cemetery was the great-grandfather of Mr. Schelhouse and was part of a unit called up when General Early attempted to invade Washington. Another tombstone in the cemetery was that of Henry Paisley who was stationed at For Delaware and Joseph Richter, who fought in the bloodiest battle of the Civil War, the Battle of Antietam. W.H. Voss was at Appomattox just before General Robert E. Lee surrendered and was wounded in that battle. Captain William H. Harris was born in New York in 1842 and served with the 193rd New York Infantry. He and his wife are both buried in the cemetery indicating that he must have moved to Milford after the war.

“There is really no way to tell if these men died during the war or were simply buried here after their deaths, as the government places veteran stones for any veteran who dies, whether it is in the line of duty or other causes,” Mr. Schelhouse explained.

“The Milford Lions Club wanted to honor the Milford veterans who served our country, and thought cleaning up a Civil War cemetery was a good way to do that,” said Joe Palermo, a volunteer placing flags and helping remove brush, branches and leaves from the graves.

A Board of Directors operated the cemetery when it was first donated by Mr. Humphreys, but after all the members died after 1900, the cemetery fell became overgrown and around 1940, World War II veterans were buried in Odd Fellows Cemetery, rather than Union Cemetery. Some families who had loved ones buried in the Union Cemetery exhumed their bodies and buried them in other Milford cemeteries.

A memorial at the entrance to the cemetery shows that Boy Scout Troop 102, along with the Civil War group dedicated the cemetery in honor of the veterans of the Civil War who were buried there. The dedication occurred on June 16, 2001. Milford Parks and Recreation handles mowing and maintenance on the cemetery, although Boy Scouts and other organizations perform clean up projects there on occasion. Mr. Schelhouse explained that four young men became Eagle Scouts due to their work on the cemetery project.