"The Gravesite of Henry C. Allen"
16th Wisconsin Infantry
By Deputy Dan Hudson
Pierce County Sheriff's Department, WA
Where I work I get to see the other end of Memorial weekend - the crash of people coming out to the mountains to celebrate the start of the summer recreation season. On good weather years - my forest area population swells from the 500 full timers to over 6000-8000, and that is not counting the 20,000 cars that transit the highway over the mountains to other side of the state or to tour around Mt. Rainier National Park.
However I have a special self-imposed duty every memorial weekend up here in Greenwater below the flanks of Mt. Rainier that always makes me remember to give thanks, and makes me remember standing in silence and disbelief at the graveyard in Gettysburg, or when I visited the National Cemetery at Arlington.
A few years ago my daughter Cassidy was out running forest trails to get ready for her soccer season. She came back and told me that she found a grave site out along the upper reaches of the White River just outside Mt. Rainier National Parks Boundary. Being the local law enforcement officer I immediately got fairly excited - until she told me that there was a headstone there and everything - besides she said it looked like it had been there an awfully long time as the head stone was all over grown with moss and algae. She said the forest service had a small plaque there too. Cassidy took me there later that day - and I was astonished - to say the least.
Out here in the forest - miles from any town - along the banks of the White River near the confluence of Silver Creek is this grave site. What initially amazed me - which I knew from being at Arlington National Cemetery and having the tour where they describe the headstone designs and their significance - as I walked down to the gravesite I recognized the distinctively designed headstone as belonging to a civil war era veteran. The grave was actually outlined with rounded river rocks all buried in the forest floor dander, with baby-sized Douglas Fir pine cones, twigs, and pine needle litter providing a blanket over the grave. In the middle of the rock-outlined grave were smaller round river rocks placed lovingly in the shape of a cross. The face of the headstone had some large chips in the engraving - obviously from someone taking pot-shots at some of the engraved numerals. Shame on them.
Nearby was a small USFS plaque on a 5' stand declaring this to be the gravesite of a Henry C. Allen, a Civil War Veteran and Purple Heart recipient - who served with Company A of the 16th Wisconsin Infantry. He was born in 1848 and died at the age of 48 in 1896. The headstone was so covered with moss and algae you could not read the engraving. On the opposite side of the grave from the USFS plaque was a laminated news paper article written about Allen and the grave site - obviously written at least a couple decades earlier. The information source of the article was the old time District Forest Ranger who had researched Allen's history. The article detailed Allen's life as a 17-year-old-run-away joiner of Wisconsin's Infantry for the Civil War, of his migration to the Buckley area of Washington following the war, and of his work in the area. Allen was a land surveyor, a timber cruiser, and trapper who had a trap line in the Silver Creek region. He was a widower and father to three daughters, all who resided in Buckley.
The newspaper article detailed his death. In the winter months of 1898 Allen had gone to tend to his trap line and did not return. A search party was sent out to find him when he did not return from his trip. They located him deceased sitting up against a tree there along the confluence of Silver Creek and the White River. The search party surmised that Allen had probably succumbed to his death from a heart attack. The search party members built a fire and thawed out his body - frozen in a sitting-up position from the winter snows - (they could not bury him until they could straighten his body out). They buried him at that site with the intent of returning after the spring melt and recovering him back to his family in Buckley.
Allen's daughters met and decided their father was happiest in the mountains and near his trap line. They made a wonderful decision and did not have him returned down below to the flatlands. They ordered up a US Veterans head stone from back east and had it shipped out. They had the gravesite prepared and the headstone placed a couple years later.
The article stated that there was still family living in the area - noticeable by the plastic blue flowers that were on the grave when the article was written. I could not find the flowers, but after moving the forest floor dander about I was able to find a couple plastic pieces that resembled rose peddle leaves. Obviously from the condition of the gravesite nobody had been there in years, maybe even since the article had been written.
I went home and got a bucket of bleach water and scrubbed clean Allen's gravestone of it's accumulated moss and algae. On Memorial Day that spring (1998) I gathered several other local law enforcement personnel from the agencies represented in this region (Mt. Rainier National Park Ranger, Washington State Patrol Troopers, US Forest Service Law Enforcement Officers) and posted flags on the site while presenting white mums. Every year since we have repeated this presentation with those of us duty in the area on Memorial Day.
I visit Allen's gravesite about a dozen times a year and take anyone there who asks about the grave's location. It is on an unmarked trail - except for the simple USFS plaque posted at the grave there is nothing to direct folks to the site. There are no historical marker signs posted nearby on the highway. Very few people who live in the community even know it's location - though it is common knowledge that it exists out here in the forest.
I often find simple wooden crosses constructed of deadwood branches from the forest floor draped on the ground, or crosses with the cross piece tied in place with stringy cedar bark shreds stuck in the ground of the grave - obviously from people who happen across the grave while hiking along the river. There is a USFS campground less than a 1/2 mile upstream from the site. With the moss and algae removed from the headstone - the white marble shines brightly in the darkness of the old growth forest that contains the site and beckons people to come behold. I am awestruck that Allen has such a beautiful final resting place -and wish someday for one such as this for myself.
Tomorrow I will post flags and white mums at Allen's gravesite with my law enforcement fellow officers. I will send a silent thankful prayer for his service to our country. I hope everyone has the opportunity to find a small way such as this to pay tribute to the people who have fought for our country.
Visit the gravesite of Civil War Veteran Henry C. Allen.