Eagle ScoutBy Lisa Rodgers


CALEDONIA – Fate happened February 2012 when a tall white headstone peered through winter’s grip. “My mom and I were leaving our subdivision when I saw it on the top of a bank, behind a fence. I asked my mom what was in there. She replied, “An old cemetery.” Stopping on our return trip home we discovered it was in terrible condition.

“Fences were cut, 4-Wheelers cutting through; alcohol bottles everywhere, headstones knocked over, broken and displayed graffiti. People were buried there and no respect. I told my mom ‘This cemetery is what I want to do for my Eagle Badge Project.” As warmer weather arrived “There was a heavy, depressing feeling when in the cemetery at that time,” said Eagle Scout Andrew Geyer.

The Belvidere Daily Republican first reported on Drake Cemetery in June of 2014. Eagle Scout Andrew Geyer had already completed his project in September 2012.

However, Geyer has continued with his commitment to three Civil War veterans with having the last of the three headstones installed. A requirement for financial assistance from the Veterans Administration is that a decedent is located and approves the replacement headstone.

A decedent of the Knox brothers was located in California and approved the first two headstones with the Veterans Administration paying for them.

“I’ve been searching since 2011 for relatives of Pvt. Nelson Rice and had not been able to locate any. I kept applying to the Veterans Administration and even Caledonia Township had written a letter stating they were acting on the deceased soldier’s behalf, but was still denied. I had even asked for assistance from U.S. Congressman Adam Kinzinger and State Rep. Joe Sosnowski, but unfortunately, they couldn’t help my applications get approved either,” explained Geyer.

“Last year I was getting disheartened, but I’m also stubborn when trying to do the right thing.I really wanted to do something special for the Civil War Veterans that are buried there. I decided to raise the money myself to purchase the remaining headstone. His headstone was purchased this past summer from Gamlin Memorials and is now at Drake Cemetery. Now, all the Civil War soldiers have their own headstone. The headstones are in a line on the north side of the information kiosk.”

“Sadly, I don’t know where their graves actually are, since all the headstones have been removed, fallen into disrepair, or moved to sides of the cemetery. There are a few that have bases of headstones, but the identity of who the graves belong to are unknown as there are no definite graves marked.

After all three new headstones were installed, I let the Sons of the Union Veterans of the Civil War know and we started talking about doing a ceremony honoring our local Civil War Soldiers,” continued Geyer.

On Saturday, Oct.17 at 10 a.m. The Sons of the Union Veterans of the Civil War John Logan Camp #26, Rockford, Ill. along with Eagle Scout Andrew Geyer and his Boy Scout Troop 141(St. James, Belvidere, Ill.) invite you to attend a ceremony honoring the lives of:

Private Alanson T. Knox: 95th Ill. US INF GAR Co K; mustered in 4 Sept. 1862, killed in action at Siege of Vicksburg, MS on 24 June 1863.

Private Oscar O. Knox: 153rd IL US INF Co A; mustered in 7 Feb. 1865, mustered out 21 Sept. 1865.

Private Nelson P. Rice: 18th Cavalry 163rd Reg Co B Pennsylvania; mustered in 19 Sept. 1862, mustered out 11 July 1865.

“Boy Scout Troop 141(St. James, Belvidere, Ill.) will have a Color Guard and a bugler, who will play “Taps” and be present for the ceremony. The Sons of the Union Veterans of the Civil War, John Logan Camp #26, will be conducting the ceremony in Civil War era costume and in the same way ceremonies were conducted back then.

While myself and my Troop will be at the ceremony on Oct. 17, this ceremony is really about the Civil War Soldiers buried there and the Sons of the Union Veterans of the Civil War, John Logan Camp #26, who are keeping that time in our history alive and honoring those who served in the Civil War and especially those that died fighting during the Civil War. We are also hoping a descendant of the Knox family will be able to attend,” concludedGeyer.

Drake Cemetery is located on Dawson Lake Road, between Hwy Rt. 76 and Caledonia Road.

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