Brynn Grimley (253) 983-7761 • Fax (253) 589-3774 • bgrimley@cityoflakewood.us
Communications Manager

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Two Union Civil War Soldiers who were buried at the Western State Hospital Historic Patient Cemetery at Fort Steilacoom Park will receive a proper headstone dedication Saturday.

Sergeant Oliver W. Bean, Company D, 5th Wisconsin Infantry and Private Thomas Blanchard, Company I, 4th New York Heavy Artillery will be honored during the ceremony. 

Both graves were previously unmarked. 

The headstone of Sergeant Charles Wesley Cooley, Company G, 49th Ohio Infantry will also be rededicated.

The ceremony is part of a larger effort of the small non-profit Grave Concerns Association, which has worked for nearly two decades to identify and properly mark the grave sites of thousands of former Western State Hospital patients buried between 1876 and 1953 in the nearby cemetery.

Saturday’s ceremony is the result of work by the Gov. Isaac Stevens Camp No. 1, Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War (SUVCW), supported by Co. B, 71st Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, Sons of Veterans Reserve and the Grave Concerns Association.

Research done by SUVCW member James Dimond led to the identification of the unmarked graves of Bean and Blanchard. 

Members of the Grave Concerns Association say there are three additional unmarked graves of Civil War veterans in the cemetery. They plan to dedicate those headstones at a future date when family members are present.

Military funeral honors will be rendered during Saturday’s ceremony. That includes a three-volley rifle salute.

Residents in and around the park between 2 and 3 p.m. Saturday could hear gunfire and should not be alarmed.

The dedication is will follow a 1917 ritual of the Grand Army of the Republic, which is modeled after a ceremony performed in 1868 for headstone dedications of Civil War veterans.

A black powder rifle will be used to fire the blanks to commemorate the end of the ceremony. The salute will be followed by the playing of taps.  

In addition to the three Civil War gravestones, Grave Concerns Association volunteers will install a total of 30 headstones to replace the markers that currently only show a number marking the grave location.The group goes out roughly twice a year to replace the markers with headstones that honor those who have died, listing their names and then birth and death dates.They are able to do the work through community donations, grants and this year received money from the city's Lodging Tax Advisory Committee.

Saturday's ceremony begins at 2 p.m. at the Western State Hospital Historic Patient Cemetery at 9601 Steilacoom Boulevard.

Click here to read more about the Grave Concerns Association and to see a map of the cemetery.