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Headstone honours American Civil War veteran

Headstone honours American Civil War veteran

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Media release

December 17, 2008

Headstone honours American Civil War veteran

The final resting place of American Civil War veteran Andrews Andrew St John has been marked with the unveiling of a memorial headstone at Waikumete Cemetery.

News of the unveiling and dedication ceremony is bittersweet for his descendants, who had thought had died in Fiji in 1902, only to be told he had lain in an unmarked grave at the Waitakere City Council-run cemetery for the past 106 years.

That was until historical researcher Audrey Lange came across it and started investigating and managed to track down his last surviving grandchild, Winifred Chappell, now 97 years old and living in California.

The United States Department of Veteran Affairs in Washington then offered a tombstone to mark the grave and arranged for it to be transported to Auckland.

On hearing of the discovery and later the news that a headstone was to be installed on her great grandfather’s grave, the daughter of Winifred Chappell told Mrs Lange the family was thrilled and honoured by the gesture and quickly gave permission for the ceremony to occur.

“Mom is thrilled,” wrote Lorry Wagner.

“I have tears in my eyes and goose bumps all over. Mom is speechless and crying too. We cannot express out thanks and appreciation enough.”

Until this week the site was simply listed as “Non Conformist Div C Row 8 plot 42”.

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Waikumete Cemetery manager Daniel Sales says when it heard that there was an American Civil War veteran buried at the site it wanted to acknowledge for his contribution to the civil ware and the diplomatic corp.

“This has been a united effort from both New Zealand and America and we are very grateful to the United States Department of Veteran Affairs, which supplied the stone and arranged its transportation to Waikumete.”

Andrews Andrew St John is the only American civil war vet buried at Waikumete.

The ceremony was attended by representatives of the American Counsel General John Desrocher, representatives of New Zealand Returned Services Association, American Veterans Association, the Military Association, Federation of New Zealand Historical Societies and the New Zealand Society of Genealogists. Audrey Lange read a message from the soldier’s granddaughter.

Photo caption: The unveiling of a memorial for American Civil War veteran Andrews Andrew St John at Waikumete Cemetery on Tuesday was a poignant moment for, from left, US Veterans’ Association’s New Zealand president Mike Riley and Titirangi RSA members Frank Wider and John Dallow.

Who was Andrews Andrew St John?

Born in Fairfield County, Connecticut on August 19. 1935, Andrews Andrew St John was a dentist by profession but at age 27, enlisted as a Private in Company B of the 141st Pennsylvania Infantry. On August 22, 1862 he was mustered in as a Corporal.

Arriving in Washington DC on August 29 for the second Battle of Bull Run, the raw, inexperienced regiment found the first few weeks extremely harsh and it took a heavy toll on the health of the men. Some 300 men were hospitalised at one time and another 500 were reported unfit for duty.

The regiment was assigned to General Robinson’s 1st Brigade in Birney's Division, 3rd corps and remained in Washington to defend the city.

It went into winter quarters at Falmouth on November 25th and was in reserve during most of the battle of Fredericksburg. It likely St. John was no longer with the company by that time, having received a Disability Certificate on December 5, 1862 at Roland Chapel Hospital in Washington, D.C.

According to the 1870 US Census, he was the County Clerk for Midland Co, Michigan and in 1879 was practicing as a dentist in New York.

He was married to Clara Dewer of Pennsylvania and the couple had two children. Their daughter Geraldine died at age 13 in New York in 1879. Their son Burr was born in Michigan in 1872.

Andrews St. John was appointed Commercial Agent in Levuka (later Suva), Fiji Islands on 5 May, 1886, a position he held until 1893. It is here where his family thought he had died as his widow and son had spent nine years the after his death before coming to New Zealand.

Burr Gould St John married Clara Amelia Clark in New Zealand before returning to America.


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