Lake County History Chapter 80: A Sad Ending

The roster of men, who fought and died in the Civil War from Lake County, goes on for fifteen pages in the loose-leaf binder listing Lake County’s Civil War veterans in the Lakeport Library. There was no way to include all of the obituaries and their stories here, but the reader should have some idea of who they were and what they did. Not only were Lake County’s Civil War veterans a cut above the average, but their backgrounds and histories also reflect how unusual and famous many of them were; in life and in death.

John Holms (Known locally as Cherokee John)

Patricia Dodge and Letty Ussery, far-seeing residents of Lake County, who wished to preserve the best examples of Lake County Life in the past, recorded these stories in the Pomo Bulletin. They were told, originally, by Miss Lucy Riggs, aged seventy-nine, and Gene Burger, aged seventy-eight. Lucy Riggs told this story.

“Cherokee John’s name was in Lake County’s obituary list of the Civil War veterans. John lived out next to our home place in Scotts Valley. He was a Cherokee Indian and a Civil War veteran. John was also a respected member of the G.A.R (Grand Old Army of the Republic; a Republican Civil War organization).”

“John had a wife. She was an Indian, but I don’t know where he found her. She was a large, heavy woman, and Polly was her name. When she died, they built an extra-sized coffin for her, but when they tried it on her for size, it was still too small. She must have weighed three hundred pounds, so they made the coffin larger.”

“Harry Holmes was Cherokee John’s son. Harry was a preacher. Well, after his wife was buried, his son moved out, and Cherokee John lived there all alone and raised hogs. They found Cherokee John dead in the hog pen. I don’t know if he died of a heart attack or what. While he was feeding the hogs, he died…. anyway, the hogs ate him.”

Miss Riggs’ story left the Author with questions. What made Cherokee John so attractive a dinner? Were the hogs starving? I wish Miss Riggs had told me more of her intriguing tale. Most of all, I admire her grit for dispensing such a horror story with such grace and aplomb.

The news article reporting with John’s obituary wrote, ‘The bones were gathered and placed in a coffin and brought to town.  The inquest determined John had been killed by parties’ unknown, who envied John’s twenty-five dollars a month Civil War pension.’

      W.W. Page

Ward Page ran away from home at seventeen and enlisted in the Union Army. Ex-Mayor Page served in the Eighth New York Cavalry with General Sherman, and directly under the command of George Armstrong Custer of Indian War fame.  Ward was an eye-witness to General Robert E. Lee’s surrender at the Appomattox Courthouse; he was on outpost guard duty that memorable morning. He lived in the home he built on the corner of Main and Ninth Streets in Lakeport until his death in 1932.

      T.M. Pemberton

Tom Pemberton was one of the last surviving Confederate soldiers in America. Tom was also among the last Confederates to surrender. Only sixteen when he joined the gray shirts, Tom Pemberton’s unit did not surrender until after Lee had surrendered at Appomattox.

       J.M. Reid

Young Reid joined the Texas Rangers… until the War between the States broke out.  Then he went to New Orleans and organized the First Texas Cavalry for the Union Army and was soon promoted to Captain for his bravery. When offered a Colonel’s rank, he declined that high honor because, as he said, “It will take me away from my Company.”

Next Episode: Here’s a story about my neighbor.

For more on Civil War History, read Paleno’s ‘The Porter Conspiracy’

$40. (Hardcover edition, includes Tax & Shipping)

Pal Publishing, PO Box 6, Upper Lake, Ca 95485

Gene Paleno

Gene runs his life at a full sprint. In his ninety-three years he's dug ditches, painted signs, played semi-pro football, worked as a taxicab driver, an insurance agent, and a school teacher. He's been a technical artist, a marketing director, and a business owner. He served in World War II, raised four children, and was married to the love of his life for fifty years. He's an accomplished oil painter and skilled in ceramics. He's written fifteen books, including the definitive Lake County History, and doesn't show any signs of slowing down.

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