Civil War vets worked together despite past

Friday, Nov. 4, 2011 10:29 PM
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Joshua Campbell was in the Union Army Second Nebraska Calvary. He died in the Mildred Community in 1901.
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Harvey Benson served in the 83rd Illinois Infantry.
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William Neeley served as a private in the U.S. Army during the Civil War.
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William French was a Major in the First Rhode Island Infantry in the Civil War.
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John McKinley served in the Illinois Calvary in the Civil War.
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Alfred Cushman was a Corporal in the Colorado Calvary.
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A bronze plaque denotes the Civil War service of Elbert Nunn in the Missouri Calvary.

Cortez had its beginning with that of the irrigation system platted in 1886. Mr. Mack, the engineer also laid out the plans for Cortez in 1886. Matt Hammond and Nick Krone hauled the first lumber here for the building of Cortez on Christmas Day, 1886. The roads were not laid out, and the town site was not very plain. The men who worked on the new ditch system were sitting outside their tents shooting prairie dogs but did not know where the lumber should go. The load of lumber was dropped on the site of the old cattle round up grounds (located in the area of Ertel Funeral Home).

On the corner of Main and Market, the first business opened on Jan. 1, 1887. A tent restaurant was erected by Mr. F.M. Goodykoontz, who was the chef. As high as 90 meals per day were served in this 12- by 14-foot tent restaurant. By this date, there were hundreds of teams and men at work on the new ditch system. This was hailed as a boon to the employees of the Montezuma Valley Water Supply Company, who patiently stood in line at mealtime and waited their turn for the limited table space of the tent restaurant. There was a lot of business for restaurants and livery barns — even if there was no water!

Major E.H. Cooper, a Union veteran, erected a house for his home and real estate office that opened for business on Jan. 15, 1887. This was the beginning of Cortez, and many men who had served in the Union forces were the first businessmen in the new town.

There are approximately 20 Union veterans buried in Cortez Cemetery. Many can be identified, as the markers furnished by the government have a large shield engraved in the marker with the name, grade, rank and unit. Four identified Confederate soldiers are in the Cortez Cemetery. These gentlemen have family stones, which do not signify their service in the Confederacy. If the necessary proof can be obtained — one veteran, Mr. Thomas Shultz, early blacksmith and wheelwright in Cortez, will have the only marker in the cemetery stating he was a Confederate soldier — 89 years from the year of his death! The Confederate stones have a “cross type of emblem within a circle” with the name, rank and grade followed by the letters C.S.A.


Veterans buried in other areas of the county may be found in previous articles published in the July, August, September and October issues of the Cortez Journal.

This is the 150th anniversary of the Civil War (1861-1865), and members of the Montezuma County Historical Society are pleased to offer information on the men who came to our area.

In the fall of 1874, men started coming into the Mancos Valley. In 1875 more settlers came, bringing their families, and began clearing land. Is this the reason the Cedar Grove Cemetery (Mancos) has 11 known men who served in the Confederacy? Perhaps they had lost everything and were willing to come to a new area to begin a new life. Fourteen Union veterans are interred in this cemetery, plus two unknown service veterans. In 1881, men came into the Dolores Valley and settled at Big Bend on the Dolores River. Of men buried in the two cemeteries at Dolores — seven were Union men and five were Confederates. The Disappointment Valley has two Confederate veterans buried there. This is strong evidence that former men who served in the Civil War came into this area to establish their homes, ranches, etc. The pioneers worked together to establish this new country with no thought of their past military history. Many Southwestern Colorado residents are descendants of this group of pioneers.

In the group of men interred at Cedar Grove, a descendant of Joseph Decatur Patterson said he did not serve in the Civil War. He was taken prisoner and placed in Fort Union while on his way to join the Army of the Confederacy in Georgia, with the other members of the Green Russell Party, who were captured. In order to secure release from prison, “Cate” had to sign a document (parole) stating if he were released, he would not volunteer for service in the Confederate Army; therefore, he honored his parole papers and was not a Civil War veteran.


Anthony Barrett (1838-1906). Union Army. Co. F — 1st Nevada Cavalry. Pension of $18 was granted. He was born in County Mayo, Ireland, and came to the United States at an early age. He lived in New York but took a voyage around Cape Horn and landed in California and then came to Colorado. Served as justice of peace and public official in Montezuma County. Service in 1st Nevada Cavalry 1864-1866 imprinted on his family type stone.

James William Barker (1831-1911). Union Army — Corporal. Co. E — 2nd East Tennessee Infantry. Enlisted in 1861 and discharged 1863. The 2nd East Tennessee was a Union infantry, and 50,000 men served in the Union Forces from Tennessee. Members of the Historical Society, together with the graves registration chairman, Jim Davenport, is attempting to secure a government marker for this man. Research has revealed he was living with his daughter, Mrs. A.W. Woods, in Cortez in 1911, but additional information on Mr. Barker is badly needed!

Peter Baxstrom (1841-1917). Union Army — 83rd Illinois Volunteers. He was born in Sweden and arrived in America in June 1863. When he came to Montezuma County, he was a stonemason and owner of the stone quarry west of Cortez. He left his mark in Cortez in several of the buildings. At age 77 years, Mr. Baxstrom was involved in a runaway accident and, due to his age plus the injuries, he was unable to recover from the accident. There is a possibility Mr. Baxstrom was granted his citizenship for serving in the Civil War. Mr. Baxstrom has a family stone.

Harvey Benson (1838-1905). Union Army. Served in 83rd Illinois Infantry. Received pension of $10 for his services, as he took part in many of the battles of the war. Due to the artillery fire, his hearing was injured and he suffered from his disability the remainder of his life. After the war was over, he made many excursions through the mountains as a miner and settled on a ranch five miles north of Cortez in the 1880s. His family type stone has Civil War service that he served in the 83rd Illinois Infantry 1863-1865.

Joshua Campbell (1835-1901). Union Army. Served in Co. L — 2nd Nebraska Cavalry. He received a pension of $12 for his services. He died in the Mildred Community of Montezuma County. Further information is unknown.

Alfred Cushman (1837-1927). Served in the 3rd Colorado Cavalry as a corporal in the Indian Wars. Enlisted in 1864 and discharged December 1864. He was born in Maine and died at the Tibbetts home in Dolores. Further information is unknown.

John Dunbar ( -1924). Unknown — listed as “old Civil War soldier” in Cortez Cemetery Records. Information is needed on this Civil War Veteran.

William Harrison French (1837-1906). Union Army. Co. A — 1st R.I. Detachment Militia. Served as Private Secretary to General Burnside and later made Captain and Aide de Camp. In 1864, due to sickness, the president accepted his resignation and he was brevetted a major. He lived in Chicago before coming to Cortez. Before the Chicago fire he had been one of the merchants of the town. Mr. French’s only evidence of military service was a gravesite G.A.R. marker from Chicago. Research found evidenced his service and a Civil War stone was placed at his gravesite.

Joseph Johnson (1837-1922). Union Army. Drummer boy. Co.G — 76th Illinois Infantry. He was born in Dublin, Ireland, and came to America as a young man. He crossed the plains in the early days as boss of a bridge gang on the Union Pacific and Denver & Rio Grand Railroad. He worked in the early days of Durango’s building and came to Cortez in 1886. Mr. Johnson may have been granted his citizenship for service in the Civil War.

George W. Kingery (1845-1922). Union Army. Co. E — 1st Missouri Home Guard. He enlisted at age 15 and fought for two years. He was in many skirmishes during the war. In 1912 he was granted a pension of $18 per month, and in 1920 his pension was increased to $21 per month. Prior to moving to Colorado about 1918, he was a river boat captain on the Mississippi while his wife ran a boarding house on the shores of the river. He made his home near Ute Mountain in the lower valley.

John B. Maness (1844-1900). Union Army. Co. K — 5th Kansas Cavalry. It was largely due to his efforts that the Congregational Church and a Sabbath school was organized in the Arriola Community, where he made his home.

John McKinley (1843-1931). Union Army. Co. H — 5th Illinois Cavalry, four years. When discharged, he held the rank of sergeant. Mr. McKinley came to the area with his family about 1886 and resided in or near Cortez. His daughter, Margaret, married Dr. Royal W. Calkins of Cortez.

William Garrett Neeley (1840-1924). Union Army. Co. I — 5th Regt. of U.S. Volunteers from Illinois. Re-enlisted and served as a corporal with Co. F — 2nd Colorado Cavalry. He served in the Indian Wars with the Colorado Cavalry at the close of the war. He came to Colorado in 1875 from Nashville, Tenn., his birthplace, and to the area in 1910. Family history indicated he also served as a soldier in the Army of the Confederacy from Tennessee; however, his military record only indicates service with the Union Army.

Elbert Nunn (1845-1940). Union Army. 16th Missouri Cavalry. Mr. Nunn was the last remaining Civil War soldier in the area at the time of his death. He joined the 16th Missouri Cavalry but was attached to the 10th Illinois “putting down guerilla warfare and in Indian engagements on the plains of Nebraska.” He received a pension for his service with the Union Army. He came to Colorado in 1875 and played a prominent part in the building of Southwestern Colorado.

“Great Sage Plain to Timberline — Our Pioneer Ancestors” (Volume 4) will contain stories about these early pioneers, with additional information that has become available. This volume is being finalized. Plans are to have it published before Christmas. Co-Editors are Virginia Graham (565-7767) and June Head (565-3880).

Membership in the Historical Society is open to any person interested in “Preserving Our History to Enhance the Future.” Please contact Louise Smith (membership at 564-1815) or Kelly Wilson (chairman at 565-9242). The membership year is Sept. 15, 2011, to Sept. 15, 2012. The cost is $25 for family or business, and $15 for a single person.

Mark Dec. 8 on your calendar — the date of our next symposium on history. Our guest speaker will be Fred Blackburn, speaking on the “Wetherills of Mesa Verde.” This will be held at 7 p.m. at the Hampton Hall of the United Methodist Church, 515 N. Park in Cortez. Refreshments will be served, and there is no charge for the program. For information on this program, please contact Vivienne Kenyon at 565-7714.

June Head is the historian for the Montezuma County Historical Society. She can be contacted for comments, corrections or questions at 565-3880.