Remembering Henry Clay Mack
Civil War veteran gets grave marker 86 years after his death
Around 2.75 million soldiers served in the Civil War — 2 million for the Union cause, and 750,000 for the Confederacy. Sadly, the final resting place of many of these veterans are unmarked graves. Local historian Dan Brandt, who serves as president of the board of the Historical Society of Marshall County, worked to obtain a government-issued headstone for one such person — Henry Clay Mack (1844-1931).
In 2010, Brandt was contacted by a man named Don Andrew, who was doing research about the Fifteenth Illinois Infantry, the regiment in which Mack had served.
“Don was in the Chicago area, doing research on these soldiers, and found out that Mack was buried in Marshalltown, and wanted to see if I could find his grave in the ‘Dunkard Cemetery’ which ended up being the cemetery behind the Iowa River Church of the Brethren on Wallace Ave.,” Brandt said.
Mack was born in Ithaca, New York on Aug. 24, 1844, the son of John Milton and Susan M. Mack. He enlisted in Company H, Fifteenth Illinois Infantry in the spring of 1861 at Mount Morris, Illinois. He re-enlisted, and ended up serving the duration of the war, being discharged on Sept. 16, 1865 in Leavenworth, Kansas.
“He fought in the Battle of Shiloh,” Brandt said. “It was listed that he lost part of his middle finger on his right hand.”
Mack made his way to Marshalltown, residing in the city for the remainder of his life. He labored in a variety of professions.
“In 1882, he worked in the canning factory. In 1891 as a gardener, in 1895 as a laborer, in 1896 as a teamster, in 1915 as a cement contractor, and retired in 1922,” Brandt said.
Mack wed Cynthia Ann Wheelock on Sept. 22, 1868 in State Center. Cynthia, a native of Haven, Wis., had lived in Marshall County since childhood. The couple adopted one child, a son named Russell M. Mack. Cynthia passed away on May 24, 1923, at their residence at 412 N. Fourth Ave, of paralysis caused by a stroke. Her obituary indicated she was buried in Riverside Cemetery.
“However, we searched records and found none to support her being buried there,” Brandt said. “We haven’t found her yet, which is a mystery.”
At the time of Mack’s death, he had been residing at the Iowa Soldiers’ Home (today called the Iowa Veterans Home). He passed away on Jan. 5, 1931, from apoplexy (stroke). The firing squad from the Iowa Soldiers’ Home gave the last salute at the grave, and pallbearers were members of the Sons of Union Veterans: C.R. and L.G. Gaunt, H.C. Lounsberry, I.E. Hubler, R. Burnham and W.H. Ford. He was survived by their adopted son, whose whereabouts were unknown at the time of Mack’s death.
Conducting further research, with the help of the Brethren Church’s then-pastor Dave Lewis, Brandt discovered Mack’s grave was unmarked.
“In the summer of 2015, Don got back in touch about getting a headstone,” Brandt said. “For me, it kind of became a mission.”
Brandt reached out to local Civil War historian Jerry McCann, who helped him collect the needed paperwork to go about applying for a government-issued headstone from the Department of Veterans Affairs. On Oct. 4, 2017, Brandt sent in rosters showing when Mack served, pension records, the T-R obituary, and photos. The headstone arrived about a month later to Riverside Cemetery. He and friend Larry Wilkening installed the marker at the Brethren cemetery.
“It was sent to Riverside because the Brethren cemetery is small and rural and doesn’t have an office,” Brandt noted. “I met with Iowa River Brethren Cemetery caretaker Dave Drury several times to get the exact location for the placement of the tombstone.”
While he was unable to locate any of Mack’s ancestors at the time of the VA paperwork filing, Brandt is now in touch with two relatives — Olive Hoffman and Gordon Bowen, both of California.
“Mack was just an average guy who lived a normal life,” Brandt said.
Contact Sara Jordan-Heintz at 641-753-6611 or firstname.lastname@example.org