Tuesday, June 18, 2024
Submitted Photo Charles Mason, was one of the many Wasioja Seminary students who answered President Lincoln’s call for troops. He enlisted in the First Minnesota Light Infantry, serving three years. He was wounded at Bull Run and again at Gettysburg. One of the last survivors of the First Minnesota, he died in 1932.Submitted Photo Dr. James Garver served as a regimental surgeon with Indiana regiments for four years. His wife Eliza served alongside as a nurse. Garver had major hearing loss due to working near cannon fire. After the war, the Garvers lived in Wasioja, then moved the practice to Dodge Center, where in 1901 he died in a house fire.Submitted Photo Morgan Abel and his wife, Mary Ann, moved from Ohio to Fairpoint near the Dodge/Goodhue County line. He served in the Tenth Minnesota Company D. His regiment was involved in the Dakota war of 1862 before going south to join Civil War action. Morgan and Mary Ann had ten children, and their descendants started Abel Signs in Kasson.Submitted Photo In 1864, John Patterson was asked by another person to enlist in his place, so he volunteered to serve in Minnesota Infantry E Company. He was 16 years old, but said he was 18. Patterson served seven months, and remembers being sick most of the time. Following the war, he and his wife ran a dairy farm a mile west of Wasioja.Submitted Photo Anson Sperry was a school teacher from New Hampshire who served in the U.S. Sanitary Commission Army of the Potomac, a forerunner of the Red Cross, from 1861 to 1865. He met his wife, Thirza Garrison in Texas after the war, where she was a teacher for the Freedmen’s Bureau. Thirza was a Wasioja native whose parents had donated the land for the Wasioja Seminary. They are buried in Wasioja along with their youngest child, who was one of ten children.

Wasioja cemetery walk brings history to life

It appeared that the dead were walking at Wildwood Cemetery in Wasioja earlier this month — Civil War soldiers and others dressed in the clothing of the 1860’s could be seen on the grounds.

On closer inspection these were living and healthy human beings. Reenactors from the Third Minnesota Company C played the parts of Civil War veterans and their families that are buried at Wildwood Cemetery. A reenactor portraying a veteran, sometimes with the veteran’s family members, was stationed by their own tombstone, prepared to tell their life story to anyone interested in hearing it.

Organizers of the Cemetery Walk were Melissa DeVetter and Jackson Miller, Dodge County employees who are tasked with promoting our local history. The Dodge County website as well as the Dodge County Historical Society have links to cemetery walks and other historic information at https://storymaps.arcgis.com/stories/6f2b055e1d8545bcbb2ac83fc9fb1803 and https://storymaps.arcgis.com/collections/2edb6eecab5f41228f8fcc116f960d65.

Jackson asked Dori Greene and Mary Ann Bucher to assist in planning the cemetery walk, since both have previous experience in organizing similar events. Dori had contacts in the Third Minnesota dating back to the Civil War battle reenactments that took place in Wasioja in 2011 and 2013. Don Smith and Jim Checkel added their expertise, and Dori’s daughter, Stacy Reiser recruited her family to serve food to hungry visitors. Tour guides for the cemetery walk were Mike Giesler, Marlene Ray, Karen Schultz, Doug Gillard, and Don Smith. Kim Boyum assisted with parking.

Featured Civil War veterans were:

Dr. James Garver and his wife, Eliza, portrayed by Terry Norton and Marie McNamara;

Morgan Abel and his wife, Mary Ann, portrayed by Randy Kuznickl and Cheryl Pavocovich;

Anson Sperry and his wife, Thirza, portrayed by Gene Lau and Heather Loeschke;

Charles Mason, portrayed by John Phillops; and

John D. Patterson, portrayed by Aaron Saaterdalen.

The reenactors use authentic clothing and equipment as props in their portrayals. They do extensive research on the lives of the people they enact. Their reasons for getting involved with the Minnesota Third include interest in history, camaraderie, and the desire to get people interested in history. Aaron Saaterdalen, who portrayed John Patterson, said it started when he discovered tabletop miniature war characters you could paint. He was inspired by Tom Gall, a Mantorville reenactor, to become involved with living history.

Event organizers and other local history enthusiasts hope to provide more opportunities for people to experience the history that happened right here in Dodge County. For that reason, donations to the Wildwood Cemetery are welcomed, and will be used for maintenance as well as further historic events.




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