MIRAMAR — Nearly 90 years after his death, Civil War-era veteran Edwin Ware will be interred Monday morning at Miramar National Cemetery, ending a years-long effort by his descendants to see him resting in a place of honor.
For decades Ware’s remains had been lost to history, buried in a pauper’s grave in a cemetery in Petaluma, his whereabouts unknown until a decade ago when a great-granddaughter’s Internet search led her to him.
It’s a story of prejudice and hardship, of a wife barred from visiting her dying husband in 1924 or even being told where he had been laid to rest because she was Native American and his wealthy white family disapproved.
Also there will be many of Ware’s descendants, including two granddaughters now in their 90s, and Sandra Ellis, one of his great-granddaughters and the driving force to righting her family’s history.
“It really is closure,” Ellis said Friday. “Edwin is finally being recognized for his service ... To me, he fought on the side of the Union for the end of oppression and he lived his life that way too.”
Ware was the oldest of six children, born in 1845 to parents who settled 160 acres of farmland in what became the Northern California town of Paradise.
In 1864, Ware, then 19, enlisted in the Union Army and was placed in Company I, 2nd Cavalry Regiment of California. The 2nd Calvary Regiment saw service almost exclusively fighting Indians who were making trouble along the immigrant trails in Nevada, New Mexico and Utah. He was mustered out June 1866, about a year after the Civil War came to an end.
Later, Ware began farming land owned by his family — which by then had prospered — and also spent time mining for gold along the Feather River in Plumas County.
It was there in 1888 he met and married a much younger woman, Mariah Williams, a full-blooded Maidu — a Native American tribe indigenous to Northern California.
Ware’s family in Paradise was appalled at the union and disowned him, Ellis said.
He and Mariah moved away and raised one girl, Elsie, who would go on to raise four daughters, one of them Sandra Ellis’ mother.
In 1924, at the age of 79, Ware became ill with Parkinson’s disease. His siblings — wealthy and influential — relented to help place him in a veteran’s hospital in Petaluma, but convinced the hospital to bar his wife and daughter from visiting.
He was there for four months before he died.
“It’s always been a very sad situation for the family because in those days, the 1920s, there wasn’t much they could do when the hospital barred her (Mariah) from seeing her husband,” Ellis said. “She traveled from Old Caribou in the Sierras to the hospital but they wouldn’t let her see him.”
Ware was buried late at night without a funeral in a poorly maintained, inexpensive part of a local cemetery. His wife was never told where he lay; Ellis would eventually unravel the mystery in 2003,
Over the years, generations of Ware’s offspring tried to right the wrong but it wasn’t until the Internet age that things finally came together.
“It felt like something that needed to be done to set things right,” Ellis said. “We would talk at family dinners and it was always with sad eyes and a shake of the head because we didn’t know where Edwin was. We didn’t know what had happened to him.”
Ellis said she is “probably the perfect poster child for ancestry.com. It was through those searches that I was finally able to pick up those threads to start calling around to cemeteries and trying to find where his remains were. I finally did at Cypress Hills Cemetery in Petaluma.”
It took signatures from every living descendant of Ware’s to convince a judge in 2005 to issue a court order allowing the family to remove the remains, which have been stored at a mortuary until now.
The family initially wanted to bury Ware next to Mariah, who died in 1930, and Elsie, who passed in 1988 at age 97, but both are buried in a private Indian cemetery on federal land and Ware’s descendants were told he couldn’t be placed there.
Ellis said the family thought a military cemetery would be appropriate, given his he service during the Civil War.
“After much discussion and looking around for suitable places — many military cemeteries are closed — we selected Miramar,” she said. “It’s a beautiful site and we thought it was a very fitting location.
“To us this represents a closure because Edwin is finally going to be receiving the service that he should have received almost 90 years ago,” Ellis added. “And he’s finally being returned to a family that loves him.”
From UT Sandiago.Com