Friday, November 19, 2010
Dowling's Veteran Sons
[Draft of artcle appearing in Bend of the River, November 2010]
Dowling’s Veteran Sons by Alan Borer
There isn’t much left of Dowling, Ohio. Its post office is long gone, lasting from 1885 to 1934. In 1897, it boasted three churches (Methodist, Lutheran, United Brethren). The Lutheran congregation still exists, although it is now called Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church of Dowling and its mailing address is now Bowling Green. Dowling is also remembered today by Dowling Road, which runs east-west a mile north of the intersection of SR 582 and SR 199 in Wood County. Another reminder of Dowling is the Dowling-New Belleville Ridge Cemetery. The cemetery is well-tended, but no longer open to new interments.
For such an off-the-beaten-path place, Dowling has a name with a remarkable story in its disused cemetery. Wilson W. Brown (1839-1916) served in the Civil War in the 21st Ohio Infantry. Thousands of Ohio boys served in the war, but Brown stood out. He was a member of the famous Andrews Raiders, a group of soldiers who captured a Confederate railroad train. Very briefly, this was his story:
Brown [pictured above] was born in Indiana. He “acquired a thorough knowledge of machinery” in the prewar years. Joining the 21st Ohio in 1861, Brown saw action in Kentucky before being recruited as a locomotive engineer on the ‘raid’ led by James J. Andrews. At a hamlet in north Georgia called Big Shanty, Andrews, Brown, and others hijacked the train during a breakfast stop. They frantically raced toward Chattanooga, trying to burn bridges and cut telegraph lines, with mixed results. Hotly pursued by Confederate soldiers on another train, the Andrews group ran out of fuel just short of Chattanooga. Andrews and seven others were hanged,; others, including Wilson Brown, escaped capture for three months while winding their way north on foot.
Wilson Brown saw more service with the 21st after the raid, including the battles of Stones River and Chickamauga. The Andrews Raid made him relatively famous. In Washington, he was interviewed by President Lincoln and met Secretary of War Edwin Stanton. Injured at Chickamauga, where he lost two fingers, he was given a pension and mustered out of the service. Wilson married a girl from Fostoria, had ten children, and farmed the rest of his life in Perrysburg Township.
It seems to be a fact of life that for every distinguished hero there are several semi-anonymous line soldiers. I only found out about George A. Grames when I saw an envelope from him to the Pension Office in Washington, D.C. Here was another Civil War soldier who wound up in Dowling. We can find snatches of Mr. Grames’s career, but the story is incomplete.
George A. Grames was born about 1847. In the 1860 census, he was 13 and living in Bloomville in Seneca County. He enlisted in Company G of the Sixth Ohio Volunteer Cavalry in February of 1864, and spent the war in Virginia, including the battles of Cold Harbor and Appomattox. He was mustered out August 7, 1865. In the 1880s, Grames was a “dealer in general merchandise, which included groceries, provisions, and dry goods.” His store was one of three in Dowling. He applied for a pension in 1888. The census of 1920 lists a 62 year old George A. Grames living in Toledo State Hospital, but I cannot be certain this was the same man.
Wilson Brown and George Grames had very different experiences of the Civil War. One was in the infantry, one in the cavalry. One was wounded, one was not. One became a farmer, the other a storekeeper. One is well-remembered, one relatively obscure. But for a part of their postwar lives, they had in common the faded village of Dowling, Ohio. We can never know, but perhaps they saw each other occasionally and nodded, as men do who have both seen the horrors of war.
[Aside from the Federal Census material already quoted, the author used the following sources: Commemorative Historical and Biographical Record of Wood County, Ohio (1897), pp. 722-23; William G. Burnett, Better a Patriot Soldier’s Grave: The History of the Sixth Ohio Volunteer Cavalry (1982), pp. 3, 173, 181; clipping file, Dowling, Ohio, Wood County District Public Library.]