The Lost Grave of Civil War Veteran Thomas Kennedy

During the Summer of 2015 I continued my headstone reading and recovery in the Valley City Cemetery Permit Grounds.  On the stone pictured below there was no visible inscription and the top of the stone had encountered some minor surface damage probably due to the elements and overzealous lawn care equipment.

​Digging down around the face of the stone I removed about a foot of soil until the inscription became visible.

Private Thomas Kennedy of the 9th Pennsylvania Cavalry, Company L.

Why was there no Veteran's marker or flag to commemorate the grave of this brave soldier?  And why was he buried in the Permit Grounds rather than alongside comrade in arms?  It was apparent that time had forgotten Private Kennedy and due to the present condition of his headstone, no-one had paid a visit to his grave for over a century.

The Permit Grounds were a step above Potter's Field burials.  Anyone could be buried in this section for the low affordable cost of a single dollar.  Headstones were allowed.

Who was Private Thomas Kennedy?​

A search through the Grand Rapids Cemetery index came up blank. Neither did I find Thomas Kennedy's death certificate in the Michigan Archive's Seeking Michigan death index containing State-wide certificates from 1897-1920. However, I did find that Private Kennedy's headstone had been visible for the 1930 DAR reading.

Further investigation lead to the discovery of the following document from the Headstones of Deceased Union Veterans database that reveals Private Kennedy died on 21 June 1895. His stone was commissioned early 1896.

A search through the 1890 Special Veteran's Census of Surviving Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, and Widows, finds Private Kennedy living in Norwich, Newaygo County, Michigan as of June, 1890.

Bottom of the same page states that Thomas resides in a place called Woodville.

No other notes or disabilities incurred from war are stated.

There were three Thomas Kennedy's living in Grand Rapids between 1890, the date Thomas was known to be in Norwich, Michigan, and 1895, the alleged date of Thomas' death. These include:

  1. Thomas Kennedy, mason, home 568 N Front.
  2. Thomas E. Kennedy, mach hd, boards 41 Carrier.
  3. Thomas W. Kennedy, inmate Michigan Soldier's Home.

Of these three the third looks most promising: Thomas W. Kennedy an inmate of the Michigan Soldiers' Home.

The Michigan Soldier's Home was created via Act No. 152, on 5 June 1885, by the Michigan legislature to serve as a home for disabled soldiers, sailors, and marines, within the State of Michigan. Inmates had to prove Michigan residency as of the 1st day of June, 1884, in case they did not serve a Michigan regiment.

The Home was completed on 30 December 1886 and there were many applications. A look at (no. 3) Thomas W. Kennedy's application for residency rules him out as the Thomas buried at Valley City.

Thomas W. Kennedy was not a Private in the Pennsylvania 9th; rather, Thomas was a Private in the 1st Michigan Infantry. has the 1907 death certificate of Thomas W. Kennedy. It states that Thomas was from Detroit, died in Detroit from stomach cancer, and is buried in Detroit at Mt. Elliott Cemetery.

How about (no. 1) Thomas Kennedy, the mason who lived at 568 N. Front in Grand Rapids?

He still appears in the 1902 Grand Rapids City Directory which means he lived past 1895. The 1900 Census for the James & Elizabeth Kennedy family living at 312 Sweet Street wherein Thomas was a young 28 year old man working as a mason shows us that this Thomas was born in Canada in March 1872. Not the correct Thomas Kennedy.

How about (no. 2) Thomas E. Kennedy who boards 41 Carrier in Grand Rapids?

In 1902 Thomas' family moved from 41 Carrier to 59 Carrier. This Thomas died 19 March 1903 ( has death certificate). He was only 24: born 3 February 1879. Not the correct Thomas.

So what does that mean?

None of the three Thomas Kennedy's that appear in the Grand Rapids City Directories are the correct Thomas Kennedy who is buried in the Valley City Cemetery Permit Grounds.

Neither did I find any further evidence of another Thomas Kennedy having been at the Michigan Soldier's Home. Could this be because he did not qualify? Residency stipulations stated that the applicant had to have been a Michigan resident as of June 1884 to qualify. Thomas Kennedy may not have qualified based on that stipulation alone. We do find Thomas in Norwich in 1890 but how long was he in Michigan? And did he find his way to Grand Rapids and why was he here?

Because Thomas Kennedy did not live in Grand Rapids or did not live here long enough to appear in a City Directory, perhaps he lived in a surrounding area?

The service record for Thomas Kennedy sheds a bit more light on Thomas' origins though the first enlistment papers are allegedly missing.

According to the Volunteer Re-enlistment papers of Thomas Kennedy we glean the following information:

  1. Thomas Kennedy was 21 on 1 January 1864 at the time of his re-enlistment.
  2. Thomas Kennedy had grey eyes, either light or dark hair (both were entered on separate documents), had light complexion, and stood 5' 5" tall.
  3. Thomas Kennedy was born in Juanita County, Pennsylvania.

If the date given by Thomas Kennedy during the time of re-enlistment is correct he was born around 1843. We can assume that he would be about 7 at the time of the 1850 Federal Census.

Juniata County includes only 392 square miles of land and 2 square miles water. Today it consists of 13 townships given with the year of incorporation: Beale (1843); Delaware (1836); Fayette (1834); Fermanagh (1755); Greenwood (1767); Lack (1754); Milford (1768); Monroe (1858); Spruce (1858); Susquehanna (1858); Turbot (1815); Tuscarora (1825); and Walker (1822).

An search through the 1850 Federal Census for the surname Kennedy with an exact location of Juanita County results in 50 matches.

One of these is a T. Kenedy living in the household of F. Linthurst (age 65), a saddler, and M. Linthurst (58) within the borough of Perrysville, Milford Township. T. Kenedy is 7. Also living in the household are S. & H. Linthurst (both 21) and C. Linthurst, 19. Perrysville is now named Port Royal, Pennsylvania.

Going forward to the 1860 Federal Census we find a Frederick Linthurst, age 72, a saddler, living with Charles Linthurst (30) and Catherine (23) in the same borough. There is no mention of T. Kenedy or what we might assume to be his mother, M. Linthurst. T. Kenedy would now be 17. (memorial no. 26173891) has the headstone of Margaret Sarah Linthurst, wife of Frederick Linthurst.  She was born 1 March 1792 (calculated from date of death), died 22 August 1856, and is buried at Old Church Hill Cemetery, row 2, no. 17, in Port Royal, Juanita, Pennsylvania.

Incidentally Frederick Linthurst died on 30 November 1862. He is buried adjacent Margaret, row 2, no. 16. The FindaGrave (memorial no. 26173611) has Margaret's maiden name listed as "Margaret 'Sarah' Albright".

Margaret Linthurst died in 1856 when T. Kenedy was about 13 years old. So where would a 13 year old child go sans mother and father? No probate for a Margaret Linthurst or a Kennedy male who died from 1840 to 1850 has been located.  This probate might hold the answers to where T. Kenedy might have gone.

Thomas Kennedy's Civil War Muster-in Roll tell us that he enrolled in Perrysville, Pennsylvania.

There is another Thomas Kennedy, age 25 (born around 1835), married with a son living in Perrysville for the 1860 Census. This Thomas Kennedy lives adjacent a John and Jane Kennedy (59 and 45), who may be his father and mother. This Thomas Kennedy has taken the bricklayer trade of his alleged father.

This does not appear to be the correct Thomas Kennedy as: 1) he is too old - it was not unheard of for younger men to fake their age to appear older but not vice versa; and 2) he is of the wrong trade.

There are no other Kennedy's on the 1860 Census for Perrysville.

I did find a Thomas Kennedy, age 15, living on the John Harrington farm in Murderkill Hundred, Kent County, Delaware. There are many young children of various surnames living on the farm to include 4 colored boys. Thomas is the only one indicated to have been born in Pennsylvania.

Murderkill is 183 miles southeast of Port Royal.

Could Thomas Kennedy have gone to Delaware after the death of his biological father and mother?  Why wouldn't he have lived with his stepfather in 1860?  ​Is there any connection between the Kennedy, Linthurst and John Harrington families?

Further information is pending.​

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