In April, a staff member at the Mount Hope Cemetery in Topeka, Kansas contacted the Indiana State Library with a special request: In 1916, a Union Civil War veteran from Indiana had been laid to rest without a headstone and they were seeking out information in order to provide one for him.
It became my task to compile as much information as I could on the deceased, Thomas J. Raybell, in order to ensure a proper and accurate headstone.
I set to work on researching Raybell, first verifying his full name: Thomas Jefferson Raybell. I also researched his vital statistics. He was born in 1846, most likely in Miami County, Indiana and died June 22, 1916 in Topeka, Kansas. Ancestry.com is a great resource for finding this kind of information. Although, you do need to know the person’s name and have an idea of where they were born, lived, or died and/or a ballpark of those dates; especially if the name is common.
Discerning his regiment and company was more difficult. In order to determine and verify his regiment, I cross-checked a combination of the muster rolls, the military records at the Indiana Archives and Records Administration and the Civil War Index website. Eventually, I was able to confirm that Raybell enlisted in Peru, Indiana, serving in Company F of the 109th. This was more difficult in part because the 109th was only in service for seven days in July of 1863! The 109th was organized to combat Morgan’s Raid, an incursion by the Confederate cavalry into Northern states by Captain John Hunt Morgan. They used two captured steamboats in order to cross the Ohio River and there was a battle in Corydon before the raiders moved toward the Ohio border. In the end, federal troops captured Morgan’s raiders in southeastern Ohio.
I’m proud to say that thanks to Fred Holroyd at the Mount Hope Cemetery, the Sons of Union Veterans Topeka and in a small part, the Indiana State Library—Thomas J. Raybell’s headstone has been created and will be installed after 102 years. I hope this gives a small snapshot into what archivists can do!
This blog post was written by Lauren Patton, Rare Books and Manuscripts librarian, Indiana State Library. For more information, contact the Indiana State Library at (317) 232-3678 or “Ask-A-Librarian.”