Today is Veteran’s Day, 2021. It’s the first Veteran’s Day that William Boyd of the town of Jim Thorpe, PA finally has a military marker.
William Boyd was a Private in the 4th Pennsylvania Cavalry in the Union Army during the Civil War, and for a time he was a prisoner of war in Richmond. He survived the war and died in 1905, but when we went looking for his headstone in 2019 we were unable to find one, military or otherwise. With the efforts of a few kind people we were able to get a military marker for him just in time for Memorial Day earlier this year—click on this link to read a newspaper article about it. My husband and I traveled to Pennsylvania over Memorial Day weekend to see the marker and place a flag on his grave. It was incredibly moving to see that William finally had a military marker honoring his service.
I was doing some online research a couple of days ago when I came across another article mentioning William Boyd in the same Pennsylvania newspaper. But when I opened the link and started reading, I was stunned to realize that the article was actually about my research about the Civil War, the anthracite coal region of northeastern Pennsylvania, and the book I wrote about it all.
I’d met reporter Chris Reber at Mauch Chunk Cemetery when my husband and I were in Jim Thorpe for Memorial Day. I told Chris all about William Boyd, the military marker, and the research for my book that led me to find William. Although the first article had already been published, Chris said that he wanted to write one as well. I’m incredibly honored–thank you Chris.
Chris’s article is about my book “This, Their Friendship’s Monument” and how it’s about more than my own family’s genealogy. That’s true—it’s based the lives of the nearly 80 people (friends, neighbors, and family) who signed my great-times-three Aunt Mary’s friendship/autograph album. Mary Boyd lived in the small town of Buck Mountain (about 12 miles east of Hazleton PA) in the late 1800s. Many of the people who signed her album were directly impacted by the Civil War.
Private William Boyd was Mary Boyd’s cousin. He was one of the lucky ones who made it out alive and came home at the end of the war. James McKinley, one of the signers of Mary’s album also came home from the war.
For other signers of the album, the Civil War soldier in their family wasn’t so lucky. Like John Williamson, who was 22 years old when he was killed at the Battle of Charles City Crossroads. The core of my second book (a work in progress) is dozens of letters written by John to his pregnant wife Hester.
John was described as “not accounted for”. His remains are either still on the battlefield or re-interred at nearby Glendale National Cemetery as one of the unknown soldiers.
Rest in peace John. And all of those who died in battle.
And finally, thank you to the men and women in my own family who have served in the military—my father Henrik Akren, my uncle Robert Shaffer Sr., my father’s cousin Robert Mattson, and my children’s other grandfather Fred Murray Sr. And thank you to all of those in previous generations of my family and others who fought in wars all the way back to the Civil War and beyond.
Happy Veteran’s Day.