‘Obsession’ turns up 15th Civil War veteran
May 21, 2013
By Peter Clark
Another man buried in Issaquah’s Hillside Cemetery has been proven to be an American Civil War veteran, bringing the total number of known local soldiers to serve in that great conflict up to 15.
James Foresman, born in 1846 in Illinois, would have been only 15 years old when the war began. Still, cooperation between local historians have found that he fought with the volunteer cavalry in the 9th Regiment beginning in 1863.
Local commander of the Issaquah Veterans of Foreign Wars and history buff Dave Waggoner has worked with the Issaquah History Museums to uncover activities and facts of those in the cemetery who he suspected took part in the monumental war. After validating 14 of the headstones distinguishable from markers given by the old U.S. War Department, he knew that more could be in the cemetery.
“The reason why he took so long to spot is because he doesn’t have a Civil War headstone. He has a family headstone,” Waggoner said of Foresman.
What Waggoner did recognize was an inscription on the bottom of the stone that read “GAR.” He suspected it stood for Grand Army of the Republic, a fraternal order of soldiers who fought in the Civil War.
His suspicions turned out to be correct, and looking into the specifics of Foresman’s background, it was found that he married Laurilla Darst after the war and relocated to Renton. There, he lived until his death in 1931. The Darst family still lives in the surrounding area, according to Waggoner.
He has been on the search through the cemetery for vets of the bloodiest conflict in American history for a few years, going from row to row and finding those graves that could mark a soldier. He has not only sought possible veterans, but investigated their backgrounds to ensure their history.
“For years, I’d heard we had a couple of Civil War vets,” he said. “We really dig to make sure these guys were in the Civil War.”
Erica Maniez, director of the Issaquah History Museums has been working alongside Waggoner to prove they served. Linda Hjelm and Barbara Wood have been helping with the project as well. Through the many records available in the museums, they have been able to make the appropriate connections with the military.
“The Grand Army of the Republic was a very active chapter of those folks here,” Maniez said. “We don’t have a lot of information, but we do have where he and his wife were born.”
She said that the Issaquah History Museums has not been actively investigating the search for Civil War veterans in the cemetery. Waggoner came to them for assistance and she said that they have been all too happy to give it. She was very enthused about a member of the community taking a proactive role in unraveling hidden aspects of the city’s history.
“It’s been really fun to swap notes with him,” she said of Waggoner. “It’s great to be working with him on his effort. It’s also nice to have someone want to know the answers to some of these questions that are floating around.”
This might not be the final tally for the cemetery.
“We think there might be two more,” Waggoner said. “We’re checking it out, but we can’t confirm that.”
Waggoner called it more than simply wanting to know; with a smile, he called it an obsession.
“It’s because of curiosity,” he said of the many old tombstones in the graveyard. “There’s a mystery and it becomes an obsession. And, if we keep poking, someday we’re going to get a story. It’s important to us and it is an obsession.”