ELKO – Elko cemetery has a number of graves that are unmarked for one reason or another. Twenty-two veterans who served in various wars were, until recently, among them.
“The Daughters of the American Revolution is an organization dedicated to furthering education of the military of our history and particularly trying to promote the military back to the Revolution,” member and past registrar Juanita Karr explained.
Last year the members of the Ruby Mountain Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution were looking for a new project to tackle when historian and City of Elko sexton Jan Petersen gave them a tip.
“We at the cemetery find it regretful when people don’t have headstones,” Petersen said. “In the old and new veterans sections there are an uncomfortable amount of veterans that do not have headstones. Most of these are people who had no families in Elko. I knew the DAR ladies wanted a local project.”
Karr and Petersen took a tour of the veteran graves and, in the first row alone, found 13 that were not marked.
The city has the records so it is known who actually lies in the graves.
The DAR ladies went to work trying to locate paperwork for the veterans who all died in Elko of various maladies or old age, and sent the information to the Department of Veterans Affairs to apply for free headstones.
A number of records were discovered with enough information to apply for markers. However, Karr said a number of the men were living in Elko at the time of death but had no family here and little connection to the community.
“Some were sheepherders or bartenders,” Karr said. “Two of them lived in the old folks home or in the Telescope upstairs.”
Further complications came up when Karr and others learned that many military records had burned in a fire in St. Louis some years ago.
Some of the men that the members of the DAR have been researching served in the early wars, so many years ago that paperwork may have been lost or misplaced.
“There are some murky records on some of them,” Petersen said. “The V.A. gets very particular on wanting proof on records that were not as pristinely kept. It was a more casual method of record keeping.”
The DAR has been able to place headstones on 12 of the formerly unmarked graves. The city has donated staff time to set the headstones.
Meanwhile, Karr said they are desperately looking for any details for the remaining 10 men buried in unmarked graves. If readers have any information or paperwork on the soldiers listed with this article, they are asked to call Juanita Karr at 934-9660.
The committee involved in the research includes Laura Cline-Weber, Sharon Hastings, Hazel White Jacque Orr, Cathy Hamre and Juanita Karr. The group has spent at least 100 hours researching the details needed to apply for all 22 headstones.
At this point they are trying to find the needle in the haystack that will qualify the dead veterans for a free memorial.