POCATELLO — Most local residents know of Caldwell Park, located at 700 E. Lewis St., though few know anything about the Union soldier for which it’s named.
Some local volunteers, however, have shone a new spotlight on the forgotten deeds of Civil War veteran Andrew Caldwell, as well as 29 other soldiers buried in the oldest sections of Mountain View Cemetery.
On Saturday, a group of local donors, historians and youth with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints placed markers beside the graves of veterans of the Civil War and the Spanish American War, noting their military service.
The volunteers also manicured the soldiers’ neglected burial plots, some of which were covered by grass.
“Here we have all these people who came to participate in helping to build the city, county and state,” said Jacquee Alvord, a member of the city’s Historic Preservation Commission. “Most of them have been forgotten and nobody else would have cared.”
While researching the cemetery’s records of veterans of the two wars about three years ago, Alvord, a retired major with the U.S. Marine Corps., realized there were several headstones that bore no mention of important military service in the two wars. She even found some that had no headstones whatsoever. Two summers ago, she ordered headstones from the U.S. government for six soldiers with unmarked graves, asking local residents to help cover the cost of having the headstones professionally placed.
On Saturday, the LDS youth helped install the new set of military markers — bearing the official government insignia of the Civil War or Spanish American War affixed to an aluminum rod. The group marked the graves of two Confederate soldiers, seven Union soldiers and 21 soldiers who served in the Spanish American War of 1898.
Fellow historian Latecia Herzog helped Alvord verify grave locations. Alvord also pored through old records to compile the histories of many of the most prominent soldiers.
Caldwell, for example, was the Indian agent for the Fort Hall Indian Reservation from 1900 to 1910. Alvord said Caldwell oversaw the land rush that extended the limits of Pocatello onto more reservation land, as well as the improvement of schools and medical facilities within Fort Hall. Impressively, Caldwell cosigned on loans for Tribal members who were heads of their households seeking to buy cattle, Alvord said.
“He is credited as being the best Indian agent and the most helpful to the Tribes,” Alvord said.
Another marker of note recognized Dr. Charles Rooker’s service in the Spanish American War. Rooker was an Indiana coroner who moved to Pocatello to become coroner. He was among the first to enlist as a private in Company K, a volunteer unit based in Pocatello established by Idaho’s governor to aid in the Spanish American War effort.
Rooker was in charge of the fever ward in the Philippines during the war. Alvord said he had a reputation as a prankster and often dressed a medical skeleton in an outfit and brought him to a local bar, where he’d pose it with a cigarette, or to great people arriving by train.
Local architect Jerry Myers, who fittingly serves as bishop of the LDS Church’s Caldwell Ward, recruited the more than 20 local youth, as well as some of their parents, who assisted in the project. Myers said the project taught the youth about local history and the importance recognizing the contributions of our military veterans.
The Brady Chapel at Mountain View Cemetery is scheduled to be open on Nov. 11 in observance of Veterans Day and to thank the volunteers and donors who helped get markers in place on the veterans’ gravesides.