Social media helps solve Civil War mystery

By Brenda Erdahl

At their July 20 meeting, Wright County Commissioners applauded the efforts of the Veteran Services Office that, with help of social media, tracked down the descendants of a Civil War veteran whose gravestone was found in the trunk of a car at a St. Cloud salvage yard earlier this month.

Veteran Services was contacted about two weeks ago by an employee at Midway Iron in St. Cloud who stated he had found a grave marker for Lorenzo D Johnson in the back of a car that was recycled. The gravestone itself was a 4-foot-tall granite marker weighing about 350 pounds.

Greg Pickard, Director of Veteran Services described to the board how an initial search through the National Memorial Service generated no positive results, then Communications Specialist John Holler thought to entreat the public’s help by posting the finding on Facebook. It was through social media that Veteran Services was made aware of the website www.findagrave.come and which turned out to be very helpful. They were able to track down family members from great grandchildren, to great, great grandchildren and so on which led them to a living relative in Pillager. It turns out, Lorenzo Johnson was from Wadena County and is buried in Marshal Cemetery. It is assumed the stone is a replacement or private monument.

Commissioner Christine Husom wondered if the mystery of how the marker came to be in someone’s truck would ever be discovered. Pickard reported he had some leads on that very question and hoped to come back to the board with more of the story in the future.

Commissioner Mark Daleiden thanked the Veteran Services Office for going above and beyond their normal scope of work to help find the family members of this deceased Civil War veteran.

The grave marker, which indicates Johnson was born in May 1846 and died in May 1909 at the age of 63, will be returned to living family members.

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