Boy Scout Chris Williams created a memorial for the Sumner Cemetery for his Eagle Scout project that shows visitors how they can find the gravesites of Civil War veterans. Joshua Bessex joshua.bessex@gateline.com
Boy Scout Chris Williams created a memorial for the Sumner Cemetery for his Eagle Scout project that shows visitors how they can find the gravesites of Civil War veterans. Joshua Bessex joshua.bessex@gateline.com

Puyallup: Sumner

New Sumner Cemetery memorial maps gravesites of Civil War vets

By Allison Needles

aneedles@puyallupherald.com

November 15, 2017 11:58 AM

UPDATED November 20, 2017 01:42 PM

A new memorial recognizing veterans of the Civil War stands tall at the Sumner Cemetery.

It’s the work of Sumner High School sophomore and Boy Scout Chris Williams, who wanted to build the memorial as part of his Eagle Scout project.

“I thought it’d be really cool for me to do it,” Williams said, adding, “I like the history about it.”

Williams heard that the memorial was a possible project through his friend and fellow Boy Scout Elliot Crouch-Goodhue, who constructed a community flag collection box for the cemetery in September.

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“As society keeps going along we tend to forget things,” Williams said. “When we put in memorials, it reminds people.”

As society keeps going along we tend to forget things. When we put in memorials, it reminds people.

Chris Williams, Sumner Boy Scout

Located on the Pioneer side of the Sumner Cemetery, the memorial has roof built out of cedar and includes a 4-by-6-foot piece of aluminum listing the names of Civil War veterans and what regiment they served in. The names correlate with a number on a map so visitors can find them in the cemetery. On the back of the memorial, the Gettysburg Address is printed, along with facts that contextualize the war that occurred more than 150 years ago.

Aside from a roster and map inside the cemetery office, there was no official memorial located out on cemetery grounds for visitors.

“In my office when (people) see that map they’re surprised because in our heads we think that’s so long ago,” Sumner Cemetery manager Scott DeCarteret said. “(The memorial) is actually cool because it’s bigger.”

In my office when (people) see that map they’re surprised because in our heads we think that’s so long ago. (The memorial) is actually cool because it’s bigger.

Scott DeCarteret, Sumner Cemetery manager

Creating the memorial was a long process. Williams started with a list of names of Civil War veterans DeCarteret knew were buried in the cemetery. With the help of Nick Adams, a local historian, a few more names were added to the list, bringing the total to about 60 veterans — a number that surprised Williams.

“I didn’t know there were that many Civil War veterans in the Sumner Cemetery,” he said.

Over time, the gravestones have crumbled away or are growing moss. They can be difficult to read — even more difficult to identify whether the person was a Civil War soldier.

Boy Scout Chris Williams shows the markings on a gravestone that indicate whether a person might have fought in the Civil War. Over time, the gravestones have crumbled away or are growing moss. They can be difficult to read — even more difficult to identify whether the person was a Civil War soldier.
Joshua Bessex joshua.bessex@gateline.com

“The Indian and Civil wars used the same headstones,” Williams said, adding that it made the search challenging. “Mostly we look for the name.”

Williams’ scoutmaster, Loran Bures, is a member of the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War, a fraternal organization that’s dedicated to preserving the history and stories of Civil War veterans. With his knowledge, he helped Williams vet and research each name.

Williams found what he could about the veterans on the National Parks Service website. Roughly 620,000 people died in the Civil War.

60 veterans buried in the Sumner Cemtery, roughly

620,000 people died in the Civil War

Then, as DeCarteret helped with design, Williams got to work with constructing the frame for the memorial with his father, Mark.

“I didn’t know much about woodworking,” Williams said. “I’m blessed to have a dad who does.”

With donations from Sierra Construction and Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War, materials were purchased. It took two different days of construction to get the frame standing in the cemetery.

But it wasn’t just the memorial that Williams wanted to do. He also organized a dedication ceremony for the memorial, with presentations by the Boy Scout Troop 172 Color Guard and a three volley salute by the 4th U.S. Infantry.

“I was really proud of the fact that he learned something out of this,” Mark said.

Williams hopes that people will use the memorial far into the future.

“I hope it’s kept in good condition,” he said. “I would like for people to enjoy it.”

So many of those Eagle Scout projects will last forever. This project will be maintained forever.

Scott DeCarteret

DeCarteret said that’s exactly what happens with projects like this.

“So many of those Eagle Scout projects will last forever,” he said. “This project will be maintained forever.”

Allison Needles: 253-597-8507, @herald_allison