Stryker Civil War veteran’s life relived at SAHC annual meeting
By Don Allison
Bryan Times (used by permission)
Ongoing efforts to preserve Stryker’s history were recapped Thursday during the Stryker Area Heritage Council’s annual membership meeting.
Kent Juillard, a founding member of the Heritage Council, contributed to those efforts by sharing the story of his great-great-grandfather Mathias Thurston, a local Civil War veteran.
Stryker Mayor Dan Hughes opened the meeting, noting that importance to the community of an organization like the Heritage Council, “that documents its history and its heritage. Organizations like this are crucial.”
Heritage Council President Terry Wieland noted that, in cooperation with the village, efforts are continuing to improve the Stryker Area Heritage Center, a museum housed in the former Stryker railroad depot. He noted storage areas are being organized, and bricks to recreate the original passenger walkway behind the depot have been moved to the site.
In addition, the railroad baggage cart from the depot is being displayed outside the building during warm weather months.
Acquisitions to the museum collection in the past year have included a Civil War sword used by Medal of Honor recipient William J. Knight of Stryker and a custom-made replica of The General, the railroad engine that was stolen from behind Confederate lines in 1862 by Knight and other members of the famous Andrew’s Raiders.
Other recent acquisitions have included Lowell Boynton’s World War II uniform, and drawings of Stryker created early in the 20th century by the late Ralph Dilts.
The Heritage Council also is continuing its efforts to collect, preserve, scan and catalogue historic Stryker area photographs, as well as some films.
Wieland encouraged members to be involved with Heritage Council projects and activities.
A diary, letters and photographs of Mathias Thurston, who served in Company D of the 38th Ohio Volunteer Infantry regiment during the Civil War, were shared by Thurston’s great-great grandson, Kent Juillard.
Juillard noted that Mathias was descended from John Thurston, who came to Massachusetts from England in 1837, and that Mathias’ great-grandfather Israel Thurston served in the Revolutionary War.
Mathias enlisted in the 38th Ohio in August 1861, and served until the war’s end.
“He did a pretty good job keeping track of things,” Juillard said, explaining that Thurston kept a diary during part of the war, and wrote letters home throughout the conflict.
The diary and letters make it clear that the soldiers and their leaders were pretty green early on when it came to warfare and logistics, Juillard said. But, he said, “By the end of the war they got pretty good at it.”
Thurston’s letters home were to his sweetheart, Sarah Boyers, who became his wife when he was home on veteran furlough in 1864.
Juillard shared a number of excepts from Thurston’s record, including this account of the Shiloh battlefield in 1862: “I went over the battlefield and saw graves, dead horses, disabled guns and clothing scattered in every direction. Some places I saw where there were 30 or 40 men buried in a place.”
Battles in which Thurston was involved include Mill Springs, Perryville and Stones River. He was wounded in the neck in the charge up Mission Ridge, but recovered and returned to duty.
The 38th Ohio took part in the famous March to the Sea, and Thurston recorded his observations of Atlanta as the army stepped off for this invasion, noting that the city was in ruins and the flames still burning.
Thurston served out the rest of the war, and returned to his wife in Stryker. “The gist of it is,” Juillard said, he survived, came home and they lived a good life.
Juillard said his great-great-grandfather became an inventor, and held patents on hay equipment that he marketed and sold.
The presentation by Mr. Juillard was recorded and a DVD will be made of the program for anyone who would like to see it.
Results of an election for three positions on the board of trustees were announced after the presentation. Don Allison, Sue Buehrer and Fred Grisier were all re-elected as trustees for the council.
Trustees shown in the photo above are (on the bottom row from left to right) Helen Bell, Rose Burkholder, Anna Sprow and Sue Buehrer. Trustees in the back row are Don Allison, Fred Grisier, Terry Wieland, and Bill Priest. Missing from the photo is Judy Keller.