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Recognizing the soldier unknown

by Sharlene Irete
People Editor

His identity remains unknown, but a soldier was recognized for duty to his country with a new headstone in Garden Cemetery.

Gardnerville resident Jake Alyea discovered an undocumented grave site while doing volunteer maintenance work at the cemetery and commissioned a headstone be made for the unknown soldier.

“I’d been aware of a big stone as big as a person’s head with some little stones on either side,” said Alyea. “The way the little stones were lined up parallel, I knew somebody’s got to be there.”

The plot wasn’t identified, although it was located in one of the original lots containing gravesites of soldiers. Alyea checked the registry and with the Garden Cemetery Association but the soldier wasn’t documented.

“A stone was probably never put on that grave but he was put in the original area for soldiers in an older section of the cemetery,” said Linda Reid, secretary of the Garden Cemetery Association. “It was marked off so we knew it was there for several years.”

Alyea has a suggestion as to why the soldier’s identity was unknown.

“Some of the sites go back more than a hundred years. Records weren’t always kept or some might have been thrown out,” he said. “I cleaned up the plot and ordered a stone from a guy in Johnson Lane. It was going to be for a soldier unknown.”

Alyea ordered a stone from Mike Denson of Cornerstone Monuments in Minden, who made the 16-by-20 inch “Colonial Rose” granite headstone. The inscription says, “Soldier unknown, veneration to he in service to his nation.”

The Garden Cemetery Association and Alyea paid for the stone, which was delivered last week. Alyea added colored rocks to outline the plot and American flags to honor the soldier.

According to cemetery records, there are about 1,300 occupied gravesites with at least 100 still available. Reid keeps the original map of lots and the journal created at the first meeting of the Garden Cemetery Association in 1898.

She said they know there are veterans of the Civil War and the Spanish-American War buried in the Garden Cemetery. Many markers don’t include dates.

The Douglas County Historical Society has a lot of the same records that tell the history of Carson Valley.

“I live close by the cemetery and walk through there a lot,” she said. “If I see people I don’t know, I ask them if I can help them find someone. The names and dates of the stones in the cemetery contain the history of the town.”

For information about the Garden Cemetery, call Reid at 782-2555.

from the Douglas County Historical Society’s brochure on the Garden Cemetery:

On Nov. 15, 1898, a meeting was called for a committee to form a cemetery association. The name of Garden Cemetery was chosen at the first meeting.

Gardnerville residents secured land for the cemetery from Mathias Jepsen and the first payment was made May 1900. The 41 names on the original agreement included Jacobsen, Hussman, Nelson, Fricke, Lampe, Heitman, Henningsen, Dangberg, Anderson, Brown, Berning, Syll, Hellwinkel, Springmeyer and Elges.

Original lot prices were $15 for a family, $10 for half and $2.50 for a single lot. Lots were not to exceed 25-by-25 feet.

The first person buried in Garden Cemetery was Caroline Ezell in 1895 or 1896.

Assessments were made annually for upkeep and improvements in the cemetery. In June 1937, a notice in The Record-Courier informed plot owners they could have water systems installed in their plots at their own expense.

The cemetery association was inactive for a several years but was reorganized in 1937 and 1964. In 1973, Douglas County extended Douglas Avenue to connect with Spruce Street, resulting in today’s outlay of the Garden Cemetery.

There are seven members on the board of the cemetery association who are responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of the Garden Cemetery.