Friday, December 8, 2017

Using Headstone Applications to Research 
Your Cabarrus Military Ancestors

(Part of the following is excerpted from the article "Military Headstone Application," by George G. Morgan, Family Tree Magazine, December 2017, p. 64.)

Since March 3, 1873, the US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has furnished government headstones or markers for unmarked graves of deceased eligible veterans. At first, this applied only to burials of honorably discharged Union Civil War veterans in national military cemeteries. But on February 3, 1879, Congress extended the benefit to veterans interred in private cemeteries. In 1906, Congress authorized the furnishing of headstones for unmarked graves of Confederate soldiers. Veterans of all subsequent conflicts are eligible for the headstone benefit. Where a headstone already exists, applicants can request a medallion to attach.

Dinson A. Caldwell, c. 1865.
Photo courtesy of George Seitz.
Applications for VA headstones are on microfilm at the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). Digitized applications are available in two databases on Headstones Provided for Deceased Union Civil War Veterans, 1861-1904, and Headstone Applications for Military Veterans, 1925-1963. Library Edition is available free to library card holders at any Cabarrus County Library branch.

While headstone and medallion application forms, filled out by next-of-kin, can provide excellent information for your family research, they can also bring to light questions for further study. Information provided by an applicant was meticulously checked by the VA for accuracy and to ensure the veteran had honorably served or received an honorable discharge.

The above 1932 headstone application, made for Confederate veteran Dinson Alexander Caldwell, using information provided by his daughter, Mary Catherine "Kate" Caldwell Propst (wife of William F. Propst) reveals discrepancies with information found in other records. The notes in red were made by the VA.

  1. "Dinson" is the name confirmed by the VA. His name is often spelled "Denson" in other records. The middle initial "A," for Alexander, was added.
  2. Dinson Caldwell was often referred to as "Major" subsequent to his service, however, this was not his Confederate military rank. According to his obituary (Concord Daily Tribune, December 19, 1914, p.1), he was a major on the staff of the organization North Carolina Confederate Veterans. The VA officially recognized him as Second Lieutenant, Company H, 35th Regiment of the North Carolina Infantry.
  3. Caldwell's date of death is shown as December 18, 1914. According to the obituary and his death certificate, the date was actually December 19, 1914.
The administrative box in the lower left of the application provides the processing information for the headstone. The order was received by the Adjutant General Office in Tate, Ga., on November 25, 1932 and followed up on December 12, 1932. The VA shipped the headstone to Mrs. Propst on January 13, 1933, with a bill of lading number 511167. The headstone, which now resides in Oakwood Cemetery, Concord, is inscribed:

Headstone for Dinson A. Caldwell,
Oakwood Cemetery, Concord.
Photo by Terry McManaway. 
2 LT.
35 NC INF.

Dinson Alexander Caldwell was born in Cabarrus County on July 27, 1831, the son of John Caldwell and Mary Allen Caldwell. He grew up in Mecklenburg County and learned the construction trade in Florida. He then returned to North Carolina and married Harriet Miller. With the outbreak of the Civil War, Caldwell enlisted in 1861 with Company F, 5th Calvary, in Mecklenburg County, and later served in Company H. At the time of his death in 1914, Caldwell resided at 68 North Spring Street, Concord. He was survived by seven children: Mary Catherine Propst, Janie Denison Glass, Dr. Paul Caldwell, Young C. Caldwell, Garah Bruton Caldwell, Ruth Eumenas Hastings, and Wilna Gray Caldwell. 

For more information about ordering a military headstone, marker or medallion, see the VA website: .

"Military Headstone Application," by George G. Morgan, Family Tree Magazine, December 2017, p. 64.
2. "Denson Alexander Caldwell",, Memorial ID: 44700674.
3. "Maj. Denson A. Caldwell Answers Last Roll Call," Concord Daily Tribune, December 19, 1914, p.1
4. "Dinson A. Caldwell," U. S., Headstone Applications for Military Veterans, 1925-1963,
5. "Denson A. Caldwell," North Carolina, Death Certificates, 1909-1976,
6. Concord, North Carolina City Directory, 1913-1914.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Cabarrus Man is Told by Legless Apparition 
to Dig for Treasure

Today we celebrate Halloween with a 130-year-old Cabarrus ghost story.

On a dark evening in early April of 1887, Columbus Misenheimer, a well-known carpenter of township No. 7 (Gold Hill), was walking home rather late from work. With still some distance to go, he stopped to borrow a lantern at the home of his parents, Mann Reid Misenheimer and Jane Susannah Rufty Misenheimer, then continued on his way.

He had only gone a short distance when he saw another light approaching from the other direction. As the light grew close, to his sudden and infinite horror, the figure holding the light was a man...or at least the upper half of a man. According to an article that appeared in The Concord Times, Misenheimer avowed that the man's head, arms and body were clearly defined, but he was without legs and feet.

As Misenheimer was about to take off in a fright, the apparition spoke to him kindly, assuring him he would not be harmed. The spirit said he actually had good news to share and that if Misenheimer followed, he would lead him to hidden treasures of gold.

Misenheimer's fear was quickly overcome with curiosity and the prospect of fortune. He followed the apparition to the garden of Mr. George Lentz and was told that this is where he should dig, however, he should only keep half of the treasure and use the other half for some public good. The apparition then gathered several handfuls of $20 gold pieces from some invisible source and tossed them about on the ground. He told Misenheimer not to tell this story until 12 o'clock the following Monday, and then disappeared.

Misenheimer went home and the next morning, too anxious to wait for Monday, gathered a pick, spade and some other tools. He went to George Lentz and told him the story of the night before. Lentz agreed to help him dig for the treasure. Invigorated by thoughts of fortune, they dug numerous trenches throughout the garden, to no avail. 

When the newspaper account was published a week after the incident, they were still digging, having "full faith in the word of the gentleman who had no legs."

This was not the only time Columbus Misenheimer would experience an unusual encounter with the dead. Ten years later, in April of 1897, he turned up human bones while plowing where he lived on the Bill Barringer farm on the Yadkin River in Montgomery County. The person was thought to be either a murder or drowning victim.

In case you question the word of Columbus Misenheimer, The Concord Times assures us that "Mr. Misenheimer is a sober man, and has never been afflicted with the jim-jams. He is generally regarded as a truthful man by his neighbors and those who know him."

Misenheimer in no way recanted the treasure story, but feared the fortune would not be found because he told the news before the Monday time set by the legless apparition.

1. "Still A-Digging!: A Legless Apparition Tells Where to Dig for Long-Hidden Treasure," The Concord Times, 14 Apr 1887, p. 3.
2. "Mr. Columbus Misenheimer," The Concord Times, 15 Apr 1897, p. 2
3., # 35097112.