A Long-Overdue Tribute: Civil War Veteran Receives New Grave Marker

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Nearly 150 years after his passing, a Leetonia-area Civil War veteran, John M. James, is finally receiving the recognition he deserves. A new grave marker now stands proudly at his resting place in Franklin Square Cemetery, a silent testament to his service and sacrifice.

The story behind the marker is one of dedication and perseverance. Salem Township Trustee Bill Heston, a veteran himself, noticed the unmarked grave and felt a pang of sadness. “He was kind of forgotten,” Heston remarked, referring to James. This simple observation sparked a two-year journey to uncover James’ story and secure a proper marker.

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The path wasn’t easy. With many John James’ serving from Ohio and Pennsylvania, pinpointing the right soldier proved a challenge. But Heston wouldn’t be deterred. Piece by piece, the puzzle came together. James, born in 1834, enlisted in the Union Army in 1863, serving as a private in the infantry. His unit, Company E5, was stationed in the New Mexico Territory during the war.

After the war, James returned to Leetonia, building a life with his wife Kate and son Robert. He worked as a coal digger, a physically demanding profession likely linked to the lung ailment that tragically claimed his life at the young age of 41.

Restoring Honor

Heston’s meticulous research, aided by the Columbiana County Archives and Veterans Service Officer Lance Ritchie, finally bore fruit. With James’ military record confirmed, the marker could be ordered. Now, the once-forgotten grave stands dignified, etched with details of James’ service.

Photo by Mary Ann Greier

This new marker isn’t just a piece of granite; it’s a symbol of respect. It speaks to the unwavering commitment of those who ensure our veterans are never truly forgotten. It’s a reminder of the countless stories that lie beneath the weathered headstones, stories of courage, loss, and the resilience of the human spirit.

The Franklin Square Cemetery isn’t the only one holding such stories. Heston shared that the McCracken Road cemetery houses a Revolutionary War veteran and another from the War of 1812. These silent sentinels stand guard, reminding us of the rich tapestry of American history woven across generations.

The next time you find yourself at a cemetery, take a moment to pause. Look beyond the dates and consider the lives lived, the battles fought, and the sacrifices made. We owe a debt of gratitude to those who came before us, and a simple act of remembrance, like this new marker for John M. James, is a powerful way to honor that debt.

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