By Bob and Candy Heath and Betty Correll
While attending the Memorial Day Services at Citizen's Cemetery a year ago, Bob and Candy Heath along with Candy's mother, Betty Correll, were asked to adopt a gravesite. They willingly agreed, but asked if it could be a grave of a California veteran, as all their relatives were in California.
They were given the grave of a California soldier, Private Joseph Hemphill. From the obituary that was supplied, they learned that he was born in Ohio. He came to Arizona in the early 1860s while serving in Company K, 6th California Volunteer Infantry. He served as a private in the Civil War. He was a member of the Barrett Post of The Grand Army of the Republic. He died in Prescott on November 7, 1898 at the age of 72. He left no relatives in Arizona at the time of his death.
Being anxious to find out more about him, they went to the Sharlot Hall Museum Archives, looking for any person's named Hemphill living in Prescott from 1860 to 1900, and found the above obituary in the Prescott newspaper.
They were encouraged by Richard Gorby at the Archives to research other sources, such as the voter rolls or the Great Register of Yavapai County. They found that Joseph had registered in 1880, listing his age as 50, then in 1896 as age 70 and 1898 as 72. They also researched references to the California Volunteer Infantry in the 1860s in the Prescott area, but so far have not found references to Company K, 6th Regiment. They think there may be more information at the Archives to dig into.
Meanwhile, Pat Atchison suggested that they write to the National Archives in Washington for Joseph's military records. First they acquired his pension records, which contained a wealth of information including affidavits written and signed by Joseph attesting to the fact that he had been a teamster for the government in California and Arizona after his discharge from the Army. He apparently lived for a time during his last years at the National Military Home in Los Angeles and received a military pension of $12 per month for disabilities of rheumatism and cataracts.
They also learned that he had enlisted in the Army in April 1863 at the age of 36. They wondered why he left Ohio and what might have caused him to join the army.
Next they sent for his military service record from Washington. From that they learned that he listed his occupation at enlistment as a miner. Maybe he went to California in the 1850s, like so many other men, to search for gold and not having found his fortune decided to enlist. Maybe during the height of the Civil War his patriotism required him to join for his country.
They learned that he mustered into Company I at Benicia Barracks, Forest Hill, San Francisco, California for a three year service and they now had his description! Joseph at the age of 38 was 5 feet 8 inches tall, had a dark complexion, blue eyes and black hair and weighed 150 pounds. They wondered if there might be a picture somewhere of him in his military uniform.
During 1864, he served on detached service as a steamer guard, but no reference to duty in Prescott or Arizona. He was discharged when his company was mustered out in San Francisco in 1865.
They had never done any genealogy research before, so they were not sure where to turn next for more information. Again, Pat Atchison came to the rescue and uncovered two references for them to check out. One was a book from the Prescott Library titled, "Record of California Men in the War of Rebellion 1861-1867". It confirmed Joseph's dates of enlistment, muster-in, and discharge. The other source uncovered by Pat was a reference in the news publication, "Yellow Jacket, The Great River Genealogical Society," listing a Hemphill Historical Society in Woodstock, Georgia.
They excitedly wrote to the president of this Historical Society to see if he had any additional information on Joseph or his family from Ohio. He wrote back to them that he had no information, but that he was currently writing a book that would list and record all Hemphills who had served their country in the military. He was very grateful for the information they supplied to him and appreciated that they were caring for the grave of one of his relatives. In addition, he requested to notify the annual Hemphill reunion of their caring for this unknown Hemphill soldier.
They still are looking for new references that might uncover more about Joseph. They feel compassion for this soldier, who served his country during time of war and later with no one to morn his passing, laying alone on a hill in Prescott. Bob, Candy and Betty hope that their small effort to decorate and maintain Joseph's grave will assure that he is not forgotten.
Bob and Candy Heath and Betty Correll are Citizens' Cemetery Adopt-A-Grave project members.
Sharlot Hall Museum Photograph Call Number: (c101pe)
Reuse only by permission.
Since 'adopting' the grave of Private Joseph Hemphill more than a year ago, Bob and Candy Heath and Betty Correll have found a wealth of information about the 'Arizonan' who came to the state in the 1860's while serving in the California Volunteer Infantry. Hemphill's grave is located in the Citizens' Cemetery in Row C, Block 3, Plot 3.