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Cemetery Foundation in search of Civil War vets' descendants

Published: Friday, Jan. 17, 2014 12:30 p.m. CDT • Updated: Tuesday, July 29, 2014 9:49 p.m. CDT

DOWNERS GROVE – The Oak Hill and Oak Crest Cemetery Foundation is getting a boost this winter in its restoration efforts from the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War.

In addition to other work, the organizations are looking for descendants of certain Civil War veterans buried in the cemeteries to sign applications for new grave markers that would be paid for by the federal government.

Of the 44 Civil War veterans in the cemeteries, two graves are unmarked, and two more need completely new markers to replace old damaged ones.

The federal government will pay for veterans’ grave markers if there is a descendant to sign the application.

“I can’t sign for it,” said David Bailey Sr., a member of the Sons of the Union Veterans of the Civil War. “We do all the paper work, we just need somebody to sign it.”

There is more research to be done, but the organizations believe Frank C. Moberg, who lived from 1839 to 1917, is buried in Oak Hill cemetery, though there is no marker.

Same with Herman Piltz (1830-1898), whose last name was also spelled Peltz, Pils, Pels and Pilz. He fought in the 52nd Ohio Infantry.

There is anecdotal evidence that Moberg fought in the war but the organizations have not found concrete proof, yet.

The two markers that need to be replaced belong to Judson Farrar (1836-1863), who fought in the 8th Illinois Cavalry, and Matthias Keuchel (1829-1874) who fought in the 13th Illinois Infantry.

Farrar’s marker is of specific interest, said Oak Hill/Oak Crest Foundation Board Member Lois Sterba, because he is the grandson of the man who founded the cemetery, Dexter Stanley.

“The people who are buried there deserve at least to have the graves marked so that in future years people will be able to recognize them,” she said.

In addition to the new markers, the Sons of Union Veterans also plans to help the foundation remove brush and otherwise tidy the area around the graves in the old cemeteries, as well as clean the markers.

Both graveyards have fallen into disrepair from vandalism and lack of maintenance, and the foundation formed last year to organize volunteer efforts to restore the cemeteries.

The older of the two, Oak Hill, is the oldest cemetery in Downers Grove and houses the graves of some of Downers Grove’s prominent early families and pioneers, along with the graves of Civil War veterans. It was founded by the Stanley family when Dexter Stanley buried his son-in-law, Luther Farrar, in 1836, Sterba said.

The two cemeteries sit side-by-side in unincorporated DuPage County near Downers Grove and Lisle at the corner of Howard and Glenview avenues.

The organizations plan to have a dedication ceremony this spring after the work is completed.

Bailey also helped to spearhead two similar efforts in Plainfield and the Mount Greenwood neighborhood of Chicago.

“These guys often made the ultimate sacrifice, and most of them offered to make it, and they had short lives after the war,” he said. “It’s something that we should do.”

Descendants of the Civil War veterans can contact Bailey at foxvalleycivwar@live.com or Sterba at loissterba@gmail.com.

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