Civil War touched Grant County

This Civil War shell jacket would have been worn by a Cavalry soldier. The accessories in front include a 44-caliber revolver, a 58-caliber pistol, a Burnside carbine, Burnside-carbine ammo box, 35-caliber ammo box, cap box and a Civil War horse bit. The Eagle/File Photo

We have several Civil War veterans buried in cemeteries throughout the county.

Gold was discovered in Canyon City at the start of the Civil War and even though the miners here at that time did not take part in the actual war, they had strong feelings for either "the blue or the gray."

Many battles were fought in the taverns in Canyon City and Dixie City, though there are no records of anyone being seriously hurt.

In an article in the Blue Mountain Eagle in 1922, R.E. Bledsoe wrote, "In June of 1862 a party of seventy-five men from Napa Valley, Calif., came to Canyon City. Jeff Whitton was the captain. They were all southern men and carried with them a Confederate flag which was kept flying over Whitton's tent until after the 4th of July. There was a turbulent 4th of July celebration that year and it was the expressed intention of the Whitton party to raise the flag at the celebration, but wiser heads prevailed and a tragedy thereby averted, for at that time many gold hunters had come into Canyon City and the war feeling was violent and dangerous,-the opposing factions being about evenly divided."

After the war was over, a lot of the veterans from both sides packed up what was left of their lives and moved West.

Several came to Grant County to get a new start. One of these was Pvt. Thomas Carter Steel, Co. "D" 1st Arkansas Mounted Rifles, born in 1836, at Spring Hill, Johnson County, Ark.

He met and married Mary Jane Blaylock, who was only 14 years old, in 1857.

In 1861, Thomas left for Ft. Smith 300 miles away to become a private in the 1st Arkansas Mounted Rifles, which saw a lot of action in the war.

It would be in June of 1865 before the young couple would again be together.

After a hard time in war-torn Arkansas making ends meet, Steel moved his wife and six children in 1877 to Prairie City in the John Day Valley.

Through the hardships of the war and trying to provide for his family, Steel's health was gone. He died April 3, 1878, and is buried in the Prairie City Cemetery.

In 1879, his wife married E. C. Officer and in 1880 after giving birth to twins, she died and is buried beside Steel. The war was very hard on the women at that time, too.

-- On June 23, 2001, a Civil War Confederate memorial ceremony was held at the Prairie City Cemetery to honor Steel with a gravestone.

The enactment of the memorial service gave insight as to some of the hardships endured by our Civil War soldiers.

Shirley Combs, The Varina Howell Davis Chapter 2369 and Capt. F.M. Jackson Camp #1778 of The Dalles, Ore., helped research this information.

• Anyone having more information about their Civil War ancestors, may call Linda Cook 575-2757 or Jeannette Harrison 932-4718.

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