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Why these Civil War veterans were buried together in a line at the Rock Point Cemetery is still a mystery.

Soldiers in a line

Whenever he visited Rock Point Cemetery near Gold Hill, Medford resident Bill Hermann wondered about a line of stone markers he found near the road.

"There must be at least 10 or 12 of them," he said, "and they all appear to be veterans from the Indian wars or maybe the Civil War."

Hermann wanted to know who these men were and why they were all together.

Perhaps because most of the early information on the cemetery was lost, nobody seems to know the "why."

John White, founder of the small village of Rock Point, deeded part of his land for the cemetery in 1874 and turned its operation over to a board of trustees. When these trustees failed to appoint someone to replace them before they died, the result was lost records, unsupervised burials and a generally unsightly appearance of the area.

Even the portion of the cemetery that had been carefully maintained for years by the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, a fraternal organization, gradually fell into disarray.

In 1955, Mrs. Alva Walker broached the idea of a cemetery cleanup to the Gold Hill Grange, which adopted her idea as a community project.

The cleanup went well, but appointing new trustees to maintain the cemetery required locating a copy of John White's original deed, and no one knew where it was in county records. While looking through some old papers, a copy was finally found by a descendant of one of the original trustees.

But why these soldiers were all buried together is a question that may never be answered. They are Union veterans, but nothing else seems to tie them together.

They aren't the only Civil War veterans — Union and Confederate — buried in the cemetery, and they did not all die at the same time.

There are 10 stones in this row of veterans, each chiseled with the soldier's name and his military unit. Also in the line are what appear to be one unmarked grave and at least three graves marked with unreadable metal tags, the kind placed by funeral homes.

The headstones are those that the federal government began providing to Union veterans at no charge in 1879. Under the legislation approved by Congress, the gravestones display a sunken shield carrying the name of the soldier and the name of his unit. Rank was included if the man was not a private, but birth and death dates were excluded.

Only a few of the men's death dates can be confirmed, the earliest in the row being William S. Coverdale, who died in January 1906. The latest is Ezra Webber, who appears to have died in December 1928.

Only J.J. McCord served in an Oregon regiment during the war: Company B of the 1st Oregon Cavalry.

These forgotten men marched in nearly every major campaign of the Civil War, including the Western fight with General Grant, with Sherman in Georgia, and at least one was near the surrender at Appomattox.

From as far away as New York, the Midwest and California, they came to their last days in Southern Oregon. Bound together in an unknowable mystery, they are brothers in arms, brothers in death and soldiers in a line.

Writer Bill Miller lives in Shady Cove. Reach him at newsmiller@yahoo.com.

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