By Polly Keary, Editor
In the sun-dappled grass under tall old firs at Monroe’s I.O.O.F. Cemetery on Old Owen Road, the headstones of veterans are usually easy to find, clearly marked as most are with the war in which the person served, as well as his or her rank.
Among those graves are headstones are 19 that belong to veterans of the Civil War.
While some of the headstones are worn and hard to identify, some of the soldiers’ headstones are actually well-preserved, and thanks to the work of local historians; so are the stories of the veterans beneath them.
Here are the stories of two such veterans, whose stones lie in the oldest part of the graveyard, near the home of longtime caretaker Aloha “Sis” Zurfluh.
Under a massive, old, spreading fern and a brilliant azalea bush, the concrete markers of John McFadgen and his wife are mottled with a stubborn green moss that resists efforts to scrub it away with a twig from a nearby tree.
But when the moss finally yields, the name of one of the area’s earliest military veteran residents, along with his rank, emerges.
JOHN MCFADGEN, FEB 10, 1844, JUNE 6, 1927 CO H 8TH ILL CAVALRY, reads the stone.
The date of his birth is actually not certain; records give both January and February as his birth month, but records agree that whichever the month, the date was the 10th. McFadgen was born near Toronto in Ontario, Canada, to parents apparently from Scotland. His mother seems to have died when he was 8, and his father may have been killed by a falling tree when he was 16.
At any rate, records show that he moved to the United States in 1863.
The next year, he enlisted in the U.S. Cavalry for a year, for which he was paid $100, called a “bounty” at the time.
He was described as 22 years old, with blue eyes and light skin and hair, standing just five feet and one-and-a-half inches tall. His trade was listed as carpenter. After induction in Springfield, Ill., he was shipped off to Virginia to join the 8th Illinois Cavalry.
He served a little less than two years which seem to have been relatively uneventful; a medical record shows he was treated for fever but nothing worse.
The 8th Cavalry did see action, though. Before McFadgen joined the company, the 8th had been involved in the legendary and grisly battle at Antietam. In 1863, the cavalry was nearly constantly engaged at at least 23 locations.
By the time McFadgen joined in 1864, the 8th’s duties were more calm, mostly scouting in Virginia and providing provost, or military police, duty. In the short history of the 8th Cavalry, 244 soldiers lost their lives to injury or illness.
McFadgen left the military in the summer of 1865, and when he left, the government owed him $16 in pay, as well as $33.33 of his original bounty.
He was charged for some lost items including a Remington revolver, a saber, a Spencer carbine rifle and a pair of spurs and stirrups, which came to $21.52, nearly canceling the government’s debt to him.
A later census found him working on a farm in Illinois, and in 1870 he married Amanda Lenhart, with whom he had at least four children, three of whom were living in 1910. In 1887, he moved to Washington with his family, settling somewhere around Kent where he worked in a shingle mill.
Ailments lingering from the war resulted in an invalid pension that McFadgen began collecting in 1904, in the sum of $6 a month, which grew to $90 per month in later years, an unusually large sum in those days.
By 1920, the family was living in Monroe, where McFadgen ran a creamery for some years and worked in the shingle mill of August Holmquist. During their years in Monroe, the family was also active in the M.E. church. All his life, he enjoyed talking about his memories of the war.
McFadgen’s failing health finally led to his residence in the Washington Soldiers’ Home in Kitsap County. McFadgen died at his daughter’s home in Seattle on June 6, 1927. He was 85.
When he died, he had five grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. His daughter Lulu died before him, and her stone lies next to that of her mother and father in the plot, nestled into the spreading fern.
William K. Dennison
A small-but-sturdy concrete stone with simple raised lettering marks the grave of William K. Dennison and notes that he served in Company K of the 1st Nebraska Cavalry.
There are no dates of birth or death, but historical documents show that he was born in 1846 in New York to an Irish immigrant family who seem to have arrived about five or six years earlier.
His father was listed in an 1850 census as a “factory man” and 10 years later, in Iowa, as a farmer.
Dennison was a teenager when he enlisted in the U.S. Army Cavalry in 1864. His address then was in Omaha, in what was Nebraska Territory.
He came through the war relatively unscathed, hospitalized once at Ft. Kearney, Kansas, for a contusion, and once again for an injury sustained on guard duty. Later in his life people claimed that he lost the tip of his right index finger in the war, but military records don’t confirm it.
The 1st Nebraska Cavalry was busy during Dennison’s tour in 1864, engaging in skirmishes with Confederates in Arkansas. In the autumn, however, they were pulled back to Kansas, where they engaged in fighting tribes, once marching 800 miles along the Kansas River in 23 days in pursuit of Native Americans.
After the war, Dennison disappeared from history for more than 20 years, until records show he married Ida Belle Furman in Iowa in 1888. The couple had eight children, one of whom died at the age of 5.
Enticed by the prospect of homesteading, the Dennisons headed for Woodinville, then a small community, in 1889. Although they bought a house and 170 acres of land, the family ended up moving around a bit. Two years after arriving in Woodinville, they turned up in the Marysville area, and five years after that they were found in the Kirkland area.
In 1897, Dennison, then 51, started asking for disability pension, tracing heart problems and other ailments back to his time of service. His disabilities were serious enough to prevent him from working, he said. After an initial rejection, he won $6 a month, which never grew past $6.50.
After one more move to Tulalip, the family settled permanently in Monroe in 1906 or so.
Ten years later, on Sept. 15, 1916, at the age of 60, Dennison died of what a Monroe Monitor obituary called an illness extending beyond a year. Five of his eight children were then surviving, as well as a sister who had joined him in Monroe.
His wife lived another 27 years before dying and being laid to rest beside him in 1943.
For much more information and detailed histories of Monroe’s Civil War veterans, as well as the locations of their graves, visit http://civilwarvetswastate.com.