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Civil War veteran receives headstone over 130 years after his death

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO - Civil War veteran William C. Schermerhorn has received a headstone over 130 years after his death. The public is welcome to attend the dedication ceremony at 10 a.m. May 25 at the Laurel Methodist Cemetery.

LAUREL — Donna Ingraham Wernberg has finally fulfilled a lifelong wish. The final resting place of her great-great-grandfather, a Civil War veteran, has received a headstone, over 130 years after his death.

The public is invited to attend the dedication ceremony at 10 a.m. May 25 at the Laurel Methodist Cemetery.

William C. Schermerhorn was born in 1815 in New York and died in 1883 in Laurel of tuberculosis. Her served in the Civil War in Company G, 27th Illinois Infantry, in the muster roll of Cap. H. B. Southward in Aledo, Ill. He was mustered in on Aug. 24, 1861 and mustered out Sept. 20, 1864. He served as an ambulance driver. By that point in his life, he had been widowed.

“He was a tall Dutchman with a big, long beard,” said Wernberg, of Rockford, Ill. and a former Marshalltown and Laurel resident. “They say he was strong enough that he could hold an anvil straight out in front of him.”

After the Civil War, Schermerhorn relocated to Iowa to be near his daughter Ida in Laurel.

“This area was known as the Kentucky Settlement,” Wernberg said. “It’s actually land right behind the graveyard he’s buried in. He worked as a blacksmith.”

Although he had four children with his wife Charity: Ida, Gertrude, James and Oakley, he left all his possessions to Ida in his will, who is also buried in the Laurel Methodist Cemetery.

There was always a GAR (Grand Army of the Republic) sign where he is buried and a flag, but not a headstone. Through a mutual friend, Wernberg reached out to Tom Gaard, a resident of Clive, who is a member of the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War, a fraternal organization. He worked to obtain a Veterans Affairs-issued headstone for her ancestor. The headstone was placed in September 2018, but due to weather, a dedication ceremony was postponed until recently.

“I didn’t know how to go about it so I asked for Tom’s help,” Wernberg said.

Gaard said the organization helps people conduct research and its members can be made available to speak at these types of ceremonies.

“We will have members doing the dedication service, some wearing Civil War uniforms,” he said. “We welcome everyone to attend this event.”

The Laurel Methodist Cemetery is located at the intersection of 315th St. and Parker Ave, one mile west and one mile north of Laurel. It is a pioneer cemetery.