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Family research leads to new tradition at New Haven Cemetery

Five years ago Jayme Beyrer was contacted by a woman from New York state asking for information about her great grandfather John Hay, who is buried in the New Haven Cemetery, and his service in the American Civil War.

Beyrer, who serves as the sexton and secretary for the cemetery, had no information that Hay had ever served in the Civil War. She received the same results from the Dunn County Veterans Office – no proof of military service.

This sparked Beyrer’s interest as a bit of a local historian. She eventually wrote to the federal government for Hay’s military record and was astonished to receive a volume of information.

Hay had indeed served during the Civil War. Despite being well into his 60’s, Hay had enlisted  in the Union’s 133rd Infantry unit of Indiana and served as a blacksmith. He was honorably discharged in October of 1865.

For 120 years, Hay’s grave went unmarked with the American Flag, a symbol of his service to this country. Beyrer was determined to change that and thus created a new tradition for the cemetery as it has been honoring one of its 14 Civil War veterans each Memorial Day with a reading of their biographies.

Beginning in May of 2009 with John Hay, six veterans have been so remembered including the 2014 honoree Homer French. Biographies of other Civil War veterans have included David West (2010), John Sly (2011), Aaron Gray (2012) and James Glenny (2013).

What follows are the story and biographies of John Hay as well as the biography of Homer French. Each were written by Jayme Beyrer.

The John Hay story

A woman from Sparks, NY contacted me in 2009 asking for information about her great grandfather John Hay (I am the sexton for the cemetery). She told me that John Hay served in the Civil War. But there was no flag on his grave.

So, I contacted the Dunn County Veterans’ office, and found that the records held there stated that there was no proof of service. So I wrote to the Federal Government, and requested veteran records for John Hay. I received a boat load of information. I got ahold of Ginger (Hoff) at the Dunn County Veterans’ office and gave her the written proof of John Hay serving in the Civil War, and within a couple of days, there was a Flag on his grave!

I contacted the great granddaughter and sent her pictures of the flag flying on John’s grave. She was so happy!

John was in his 60’s when he served. He was a blacksmith. When the government realized his age, he was honorably discharged. His wife did receive veterans pension after his passing.

John Hay Biography (read on Memorial Day of 2009)

Up to now, May 2009, John Hay has never had an American Flag flying on his grave in recognition of his services in the Civil War. After more than 120 years, we now publicly give thanks to John Hay for his service and dedication to our country.  

John Hay served in the Union Infantry 133rd, Indiana. He enlisted as a blacksmith.  John was honorably discharged in October 1865. 

His military records were misplaced and due to that misplacement, his final resting spot never received a Civil War marker and American flag. An oversight which has now been corrected. 

Family history tells me that after serving 100 days, the government realized that John Hay was over 60 years old, and he was honorably discharged. 

John was married to Esther (Wissinger), and to this union 8 children were born.  

John’s son, Abner Hay also served in the civil war.  

Thank you John Hay for your service to our great country.

Homer Lafayette French Biography (read on Memorial Day 2014)

Homer L. French was born on July 8, 1829 in Ohio. He was the son of John Milton and Theresa Day French. 

Homer was married first to Elisabeth Smith.  She died in 1850 and he then married  Rebecca Carmen. They married on Feb. 28, 1853 at Lowville.

Homer is the only veteran in the New Haven Cemetery to serve in the Mexican War.  Also serving in the Civil War. 

At the age of 18, Homer enlisted in the Mexican War on April 19, 1847.  

Serving as Private in Company F, 15th US Infantry. 

Homer was honorably discharged from the Mexican War on March 15, 1848.  

He enlisted in the Civil War on August 21, 1862 serving in Company G, 32nd Wisconsin Infantry from Buffalo, Wisconsin.  He was mustered out on June 12, 1865.  

Homer died on July 3, 1911 from old age at Connorsville, Wisconsin.