This next article focuses on a couple of the veterans buried in Sugar Grove Cemetery. Sugar Grove has over 14,800 internments including pets, children, famous generals, and unknown soldiers (“History of Sugar Grove”). The tallest monument in the cemetery belongs to General James W. Denver (pictured below), and it is supposedly modeled after the Washington Monument. He served in the army in both the Civil War and Mexican War. Denver has many great accomplishments including being elected to the California State Senate and U.S. Congress, being named Governor of the Kansas territory, and being commissioned by President Lincoln as a brigadier general of the volunteer army. Additionally, the city of Denver, Colorado, is named after him(“History of Sugar Grove”). In the years following the war, Denver practiced law in Washington D.C. and Wilmington. Denver married Louise Rombach, daughter of prominent Wilmington banker Matthew Rombach, in 1856. The newlyweds set up housekeeping in the Rombach mansion, which is the current location of the Clinton County History Center (“History of Sugar Grove”).
In contrast is the story of the unknown soldier who passed through Wilmington on a train in 1867, apparently making his way home after the Civil War. He became sick and died before he could give anyone his name and address, and was buried in Sugar Grove Cemetery (pictured below). His grave remained unmarked until 1890, when the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) started to provide headstones for Civil War veterans’ graves. The headstone simply reads, “Unknown Soldier” (“History of Sugar Grove”). Florence T. Hague wrote that the plot, “lies lonely and practically forgotten most of the time, but each year, when the living war veterans are remembering their dead on Memorial Day, his grave is decorated along with those of all their other buddies” (Hague n.d.).
I have been studying and researching Sugar Grove cemetery for a couple months, and what has struck me from the beginning is the serene beauty that was designed by its creator and is still experienced many years later. I chose to highlight these two very different soldiers because I believe they represent the significance of Sugar Grove Cemetery. General Denver had many great accomplishments that earned him a grand monument – one similar to the great general and president George Washington. We do not know the accomplishments of the Unknown Soldier because we do not even know his name. However, we do know that he served our country during one of its worst conflicts, and his fellow veterans made sure that he at least got a headstone. Like Ms. Hague said, veterans visit the Unknown Soldier alongside all other veterans buried in Sugar Grove Cemetery, not just those as decorated as General Denver. I am a huge fan of the musical Hamilton, and think the following lyric really represents the legacies of both General Denver and the Unknown Soldier: “Death doesn’t discriminate between the sinners and the saints. It takes and it takes and it takes”. What these two men did in their lives is irrelevant now because they are both deceased and now buried peacefully in Sugar Grove Cemetery.
“History of Sugar Grove.” Wilmington, Ohio. Accessed November 13, 2020. https://wilmingtonoh.org/municipal-services/sugar-grove-cemetery/history-of-sugar-grove/.
Hague, Florence T. “Unknown Soldier.” n.d..
This article was published by Clinton Co. History Center intern, Jenna Fawcett. Jenna Fawcett is a senior at Wilmington College double majoring in History and Political Science with a minor in Race, Gender, and Ethnicity Studies. Her hometown is Tiffin, Ohio. Jenna is a student worker at the Peace Resource Center and enjoys going to Spring Lobby Weekend with the Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL).