Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Meet Pvt. Cornelius Quinn – Part 3

June 19, 1911 Lorain Times-Herald
In 1936, it had been exactly 25 years since Lorain had hosted the Ohio Grand Army of the Republic Encampment. (See front page of the June 19, 1911 Lorain Times-Herald at right.)

The Lorain Journal made this observation in a front page article that ran a few days before Memorial Day on May 28, 1936.

The article noted, “When Memorial Day, 1936 rolls around Saturday there will be two G. A. R. veterans in Lorain to take part in the services. In 1911, altho no exact figures could be obtained today, it is estimated there were upwards of a hundred.

“The war at that time was 50 years old, with the majority of the survivors being in the neighborhood of 70 years of age.”

Fortunately, in 1936 the Lorain Journal decided that it was time for a reporter to visit with Lorain’s two veterans and the fascinating article below appeared on the front page of the May 29, 1936 edition.


Last Two in Lorain’s ‘Fading Line 
of Blue’ Recall Days With Grant

Lorain’s two remaining Civil War veterans, last of the city’s “thinning line of blue,” today peered back three-quarters of a century to the time when they were battling the union cause up and down the western seaboard.

By a coincidence, both Cornelius Quinn, 92, 114 W. 20th-st, and Steven Harris, 96, 1762 Elyria-av, fought in the army of Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, tho in different state regiments.

Quinn and Harris are two of five veterans surviving in the county. Available records reveal only three besides those in Lorain, two in Elyria and one in Amherst.

Elyria’s contingent includes Charles D. Webster, 90, 1397 East-av, and Rev. J. A. Kaley, 91, 301 Park-av. Surviving in Amherst is Capt. Lafayette Stough, 87, who has caused quite a bit of comment in the past several years by viewing the Amherst Memorial day parade from an airplane.

Quinn and Harris, both still hale and hearty for their years, have considerable difficulty recalling the days of ’61. “Why go back that many years?” they agree. “We are more interested in the future.”

Quinn was a member of the 48th Ohio Regiment from Cincinnati, while Harris, who is colored, fought in the 68th Regiment, Company E, from Alabama.

Quinn was a trifle over 16 years when he enlisted, while Harris was a few years older. Both men saw action for a period of over three years without serious injury.

“Those were the days,” Quinn says, “but I’m getting old and my memory isn’t what it used to be. The battle I enjoyed most was the Battle of Vicksburg.”

Harris’ story is a pathetic one. He was never “given a chance” when he was young, he says, and at the age of 15 was sold into slavery with his mother and aunt. Separated, they never again saw one another.

The war was Harris’ chance to break for freedom. He did so and joined the Union soldiers.

“I enjoyed being free but it separated me from my family and relatives,” Harris said, “because I never saw or heard of them after the war. Even to this day I don’t know where my brothers and sisters are, or whether they are living or not,” he said.

Harris also says the Battle of Vicksburg was his favorite. He is said to be 96 years old, but that isn’t definite. He was a slave and no records were kept to show when he was born.

Harris is finding it difficult to walk alone and his eyes are weakening. “Otherwise, I’m feeling fine,” Harris said. “I expect to live to be a hundred and then maybe I’ll start all over again,” he smiled.

Quinn was born in Cincinnati and Harris in St. Louis.

The last G. A. R. veterans in Wellington, Oberlin and LaGrange died during the past two years.


By the way, the surviving G. A. R. veteran from Elyria, 90-year old Charles D. Webster had a special role in his city’s annual Memorial Day parade in 1936. According to a story in the May 28, 1936 Lorain Journal, “Charles D. Webster, 90-year-old Elyria Civil war veteran, will serve as grand marshal, leading the parade mounted on a white horse to be presented for the day by William Sudro. His companion Elyria survivor of the Civil war, Rev. J. A. Kaley, 91, will go afoot with other marchers.

“Both men have refused motor transportation, Webster preferring a mount which he has used in Decoration day parades here for the past several years and Rev. Kaley preferring the line of march."


Rick Kurish said...

Good job Dan! The articles you posted on the two old veterans put some "flesh" and personality on what would have otherwise been just names and numbers. Anyone who could teach his dogs to "sing" Yankee Doodle would probably be a bit of a character, and someone interesting to know. By the way, if I remember right, Steven Harris is buried only a plot or two from Cornelius Quinn in the veterans section of Elmwood Cemetery.

Dan Brady said...

Hi Rick,
I'm really glad you suggested spotlighting Cornelius and consequently Mr. Harris too--they both sound like such nice guys. I am going to go pull Harris' obituary soon to see if there is anything there I missed.

Here's something funny: I found the singing dog article purely by accident, a bit of serendipity; a microfilm roll was mislabeled as May when it was actually March, so when I went to the end of the month to check out the Memorial Day ceremony, instead I found the article about the dogs!