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Hewitt civil war vet honored 93 years later

Photo by Rachelle Klemme Third Minnesota Light Brigade re-enactors fire a cannon at the Hewitt cemetery May 12, in commemoration of Civil War veteran Edgar Lewis. From left, Kevin Tollagson, Jerry Greenwood and Bill Erickson.1 / 3
Third Minnesota Light Brigade re-enactors fire a gun salute at the Hewitt cemetery May 12, in commemoration of Civil War veteran Edgar Lewis. From left, Jody Marquardt, Darrell Kersting and Jason Moe.2 / 3
Photos by Rachelle Klemme The gravestone for Edgar Lewis, who was previously buried in an unmarked spot next to his wife, was erected May 11, the day before the commemoration ceremony.3 / 3

A Hewitt civil war soldier's previously unmarked grave finally received a government issue Civil War memorial, more than 90 years after his death.

Civil war re-enactors and veterans held a commemoration service May 12 for Edgar Lewis, a Union soldier who served with the 5th Regiment - 20th Wisconsin Infantry.

Dozens of area residents and history buffs flocked to the Hewitt cemetery as the Motley-based Tri-County American Legion Post 124 performed military rites, and the 3rd Minnesota Light Artillery re-enactors paid homage to the 19th century veteran.

Lewis passed away in Minneapolis in 1919, and was buried by his wife and daughter at the Hewitt cemetery.

The unmarked grave remained in obscurity until Lewis's 93-year-old great-granddaughter, Marian Shelby of Salt Lake City, learned about him while researching her ancestral roots.

Lewis was born in New York City on Feb. 4, 1840, enlisted in the Union Army in 1862 and was wounded in battle at Prairie Grove, Ark.

Following the war, in 1868, Lewis married Caroline Niles, who preceded him in death. After Lewis passed away at the Old Soldiers Home in Minneapolis, he was buried by his wife and daughter, Jessie Lowthian, but his grave went unrecognized.

Jerry Mortenson, working for Fergus Falls Monument, said Shelby contacted him with the idea of giving Lewis a proper veteran marker. She completed the appropriate paperwork, and the monument came through the Veterans Administration.

Mortenson and Shelby decided to make it an event. The monument was then shipped to Fergus Falls monument to be placed in Hewitt.

"I did what I thought had to be done," Mortenson said.

Veterans in the Tri-County American Legion carried out the rites for their Civil War predecessor.

Mortenson also had connections to the members of the 3rd Minnesota Light Artillery members, who arrived in accurate period dress with cannon in tow.

Sherry Marquardt of Vergas, one of the re-enactment organizers, sang "Battle Hymn of the Republic". She said six men, three women and two boys - or "powder monkeys" - were able to make it among the re-enactment group.

She also said the uniforms, antique guns and cannons were accurate to the time period.

Jeske, who is pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church in Bartlett Township, also gave the opening and closing prayers.

Prior to the event, Jeske had no knowledge of Edgar Lewis.

"I had no idea, and I'm not sure if anybody else around here was aware of this," he said, adding that a Hewitt resident told him he was upset that city officials did not show up.

Jeske served from 1948 to 1952 with the Navy in the submarine service, operating out of Pearl Harbor, and joined the American Legion while still in the military.

Jeske said he has conducted funeral ceremonies throughout his many years in the Legion, but nothing like the May 12 event.