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Veteran headstone effort continues

Three more LaGrange County veterans were recently honored by the Veterans Headstone Project (VHP) with new or supplemental headstones. These three installations are the final ones for 2013.

The VHP, with the invaluable assistance of LaGrange Monument Works, has now completed 31 headstone projects since its inception in August 2011. There are 28 projects scheduled for 2014, dependent on funding.

William McConnell

Joseph Vance, Ohio's 13th governor, had an extensive military career prior to that role. Joseph Vance formed a rifle company to defend Urbana, Ohio in case of attack either from Indians or other foes. When the War of 1812 broke out, Vance’s rifle company was incorporated into the Ohio Militia.

William McConnell served as a Captain of Riflemen in Joe Vance's Militia. McConnell was born July 30, 1780 in Pennsylvania.

After his service in the War of 1812, William, his wife Agnes, and family continued their westward migration. William McConnell purchased the northeast quarter of Section 35 in Eden Township, LaGrange County, in the fall of 1832.

He served as the first postmaster of Hawpatch and is said to have been the first Justice of the Peace. He performed the first recorded marriage in Topeka on February 8, 1835, when Minerva Gaines married Norman Sessions. Their son (Norman Jr.) would later be mustered into the Indiana 44th Regiment during the Civil War.

William McConnell played a predominant role in the formation of the Presbyterian congregation. According to R.H. Rerick’s 1882 History of LaGrange and Noble Counties, the group organized and met in the McConnell home.

William McConnell died at his home south of Eden Chapel on April 13, 1848, at the age of 67 and was buried in the family cemetery. Prior to his death the farm had been sold to his son, William T. McConnell. The first recorded burial in the family cemetery was that of Thomas McConnell, age 26, on August 22, 1836. On April 17, 1852, William T. deeded the cemetery to LaGrange County. Today it is known as the Gerber Cemetery and is located directly across the road from the Eden Cemetery west of Topeka.

The Veterans Headstone Project, with the support of Harold Gingerich and the Topeka Indiana Historical Society, provided a new granite monument for McConnell, highlighting his amazing military and civil service. The remnants of his original headstone will be preserved by the Topeka Historical Society.

William A. McConnell

William A. McConnell, grandson of War of 1812 Veteran William McConnell, served in the 30th Regiment, Indiana Infantry, mustering in on January 25, 1862. He was born in Indiana in 1839 and died in 1870 in Eden Township, LaGrange County.

His headstone was illegible and badly worn, and was also buried in front of another McConnell family member’s headstone where it did not belong. 

The Veterans Headstone Project, with the support of Harold Gingerich and the Topeka Historical Society, provided a new headstone at his grave, close to his grandparents, William and Agnes.

Hezekiah J. Eash

Hezekiah J. Eash was born in Indiana in 1876 or 1877. According to the U.S. Army Register of Enlistments 1798-1914, Eash signed up to serve just a month shy of his 24th birthday in Pueblo, Colo.

His occupation was listed as barber. He died at age 24 from typhoid fever while on duty at Legaspi, Philippines. He is buried in Pashan Cemetery, LaGrange County.

In honor and gratitude to this young man, the Veterans Headstone Project provided a supplemental granite headstone which clearly reflects his service and sacrifice.

The VHP received generous donations in 2013 from LaGrange County Community Foundation Grant, William Funk Family, Jack Miller, Amber Taylor, George Bachman, Sons of the American Legion Post 215, members of the Shipshewana United Methodist Church, County of LaGrange, Sharla and Mark Thompson, Robert and Patricia Jarolim, Gary Litke, Martha Wilson, and John Hancock Financial Services.

Without the financial support of these donors, the project would not be possible.

The Veterans Headstone Project is funded by tax deductible donations from individuals, veterans’ organizations, civic groups, businesses, county government, and through grant opportunities. The Veterans Headstone Project fund is maintained with the LaGrange County Community Foundationas its fiscal sponsor.  One hundred percent of the donated monies are used to procure and install headstones.  

Fundraising for the 2014 projects is underway. Anyone who would like to make a tax deductible donation to the Veterans Headstone Project should contact Jean Fremion-McKibben at 463-6479 or the LaGrange County Community Foundation at 463-4363.