After 101 years, Civil War veteran's grave gets a headstone

The grave of Charles W. Baker, a Civil War veteran who died in 1910, now has a headstone, thanks to research by the First Lutheran Church’s cemetery and 125th anniversary committees.    - Stephanie Fyfe
The grave of Charles W. Baker, a Civil War veteran who died in 1910, now has a headstone, thanks to research by the First Lutheran Church’s cemetery and 125th anniversary committees.
— image credit: Stephanie Fyfe

A new headstone stands in First Lutheran Church’s cemetery, one that has waited for 101 years.

We have known there was a Civil War veteran buried here but we didn’t know for certain who he was. Old maps of the cemetery showed only "Civil War vet" on the map, and even at that, the exact spot was questionable since the grave was unmarked except for a cement curbing. Two spots answered that description. It took the work of several people on First Lutheran’s Cemetery and 125th Anniversary committees to order the stone and figure out the final placement for it.

Through searching a combination of cemetery maps, Kitsap County Herald death records, Fordefjord Lutheran burial records, Internet census records, Washington state death records and Civil War soldier records, the questions were answered. It was like putting together a jigsaw puzzle, with each record source contributing a small piece.

Charles W. Baker served with the Grand Army of the Republic (Union) in Company E of Maine’s 17th Infantry Regiment, entering service as a private and mustering out as a corporal during America’s great Civil War.

Through Census records, it was found that Baker was born in Charleston, Middlesex County, Mass., about 1841, the son of Adam and Jane Baker.  His father Adam was a painter, and Charles soon followed in his father’s footsteps. By 1860, 18-year-old Charles W. Baker was painting with his father in Yarmouth, Cumberland County, Maine. When the Civil War started, young Charles was the prime age for service. He volunteered for the 17th Maine Infantry when it was formed on Aug. 18, 1862.

The men in this regiment served valiantly in an impressive number of major battles until June 10, 1865 — 1,371 men were enrolled, never suspecting that their Maine regiment would suffer the highest number of battle casualties of any Maine regiment. During its three year tour of duty, the regiment suffered 207 deaths in battle, 552 wounded men, 163 who died of war-related disease and 31 who died in Confederate prisons.

The regiment was actively involved in all of the major battles and campaigns of the war, including:

— Fredericksburg, Va., Dec. 13, 1862.

— Chancellorsville, Va., May 1-4, 1863.

— Gettysburg, Pa., July 1-3, 1863 (Gettysburg Campaign).

— Wapping Heights, Va., July 21-23, 1863.

— Catlett's Station, Va., Oct. 14, 1863 (Bristoe Campaign).

— Kelly's Ford, Va., Nov. 7, 1863 (Bristoe Campaign).

— Mine Run, Va., Nov. 26 - Dec. 1, 1863.

— Wilderness, Va., May 5-7, 1864.

— Po River, Va., May 9-11, 1864 (Spotsylvania Campaign).

— Spotsylvania, Va., May 7-20, 1864.

— North Anna, Va., May 23-27, 1864.

— Totopotomy, Va., May 26-30, 1864.

— Cold Harbor, Va., May 31 - June 12, 1864.

— Petersburg, Va. siege, June 1864.

— Jerusalem Plank Road, Va., June 22-23, 1864 (Petersburg Campaign).

— Deep Bottom, Va.,  Aug. 14, 1864 (Petersburg Campaign).

— Poplar Spring Church, Va., Sept. 30 - Oct. 2, 1864 (Petersburg Campaign).

— Fort Hell, Va. (Petersburg Campaign).

— Boydton Road, Va., Oct. 23, 1864 (Petersburg Campaign).

— Hatchers Run, Va., Dec. 8-9, 1864 (Petersburg Campaign).

— Deatonsville, Va., April 6, 1865 (Appomattox Campaign).

— Saylors Creek, Va., April 6, 1865 (Appomattox Campaign).

— Farmville, Va., April 7, 1865 (Appomattox Campaign).

— Appomattox, Va., April 9, 1865.

It is any wonder, living through those tumultuous years, that Charles Baker was not quite able to keep his life together after the war.  By 1880, he was married and living with his wife and two sons, ages 12 and 10, in Oakland, Calif., again painting for a living. But by 1900, Charles’ family is alone in California; his wife listed "widowed" on her census record, a common designation for women who did not care to be known as divorced or deserted in those days. There is no sign of Charles in 1900, but by 1905 he is in Poulsbo, again painting and wallpapering for local residents and businessmen. We find a few mentions of him in the Herald.

2/16/1906:  Mr. C. W. Baker who has been in Seattle for a while came to Poulsbo again a few days ago. He makes his home with the Myreboe family.

5/18/1906:  The restaurant building which Mr. Young put up is now ready for use. Mr. Baker and Mr. Johnson did the paper hanging. The restaurant will be run by Tom Twedt and Arthur Larson.

6/8/1906: The Messrs. Baker and Johnson are doing the painting on the Monticello.

2/1/1907: C.W. Baker came back to Poulsbo again Monday. He has been doing painting in Seattle for a few weeks past.

6/14/1907: Mr. Arneson has fitted up a nice office for a real estate business. Mr. Baker painted him a fine looking sign.

9/18/1908: Johnson and Baker did the painting on Mr. Boyd’s building. They always do nice work and the job was nicely done. It looks good.

9/17/1909: The Olympic Grocery Company is having a nice large sign painted on the front part of the store. It is a good job. Mr. Baker did the work.

9/24/1909: Paul Paulson has an attractive sign on his new furniture store. It was painted by Mr. Baker.

12/3/1909: C.W. Baker, our genial painter, is making his home with Mr. and Mrs. Young. He went all through the civil war. He is a fine painter and has a host of friends.

12/10/1909: E.J. Eliason is fixing up rooms on the second floor of his building that will be fine for offices, single persons and small families. The rooms are simply elegant, with both hot and cold water. Andrew Larsen is doing the carpenter work and Mr. Baker the painting.

3/4/1910: Mrs. Young has been having the rooms in the Olympic Hotel re-papered and fixed up in nice shape. C.W. Baker did the work.

Burial records at Fordefjord [now First Lutheran] Lutheran Church note that C. W. Baker died July 29, 1910 and was buried at Fordefjord on July 31, 1910. He was born in Maine and died of alcoholism … not too surprising considering the trauma he had witnessed during the war.

The final piece of the puzzle to be determined was exactly which of the two spots in the cemetery Baker actually occupied. A map drawn up in the 1950s when some unmarked graves were being investigated showed him as buried next to a grave that was placed in 1907. However, cemetery sleuth Thore Fossum averred that burials of single graves in that time period were being made consecutively by date of burial, which meant that a burial taking place in 1910 would have been lower in the cemetery. The final clue rested in the burial records of the church ministerial books which showed him as burial No. 7 in 1910. By counting the number of burials taking place at the church from 1907 to 1910, and noting in the Herald records the number of deaths taking place in Poulsbo with burial in Poulsbo, it was determined that Fossum’s figures were correct, and the burial was in a lower row in a curbed but otherwise unmarked grave similar to the one found in the 1907 row. Finally, all involved were satisfied that they had the right spot.

After compiling all the information found on Baker, the Anniversary Committee at the church asked Chuck Weaver, chairman of the cemetery committee and a funeral director by occupation, to apply to the government for the free headstone that every veteran can receive. Weaver sent in the necessary documents and papers in April. The white marble headstone, typical for Civil War vets, arrived the beginning of July and was set this week, finally marking the burial site of this long-forgotten veteran.

For those who enjoy researching puzzles in history of this nature, seeing the headstone in place is pure joy. In addition to Fossum and Weaver of the Cemetery Committee, those involved with the project were Hildur Gleason and Bob Nichols of the Anniversary Committee, and this writer.


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