MERLIN — Ezekiel Colby fought in dozens of bloody battles during the Civil War, including Gettysburg, for the Union Army before returning to Indiana with the 20th Volunteer Infantry.
He came to Astoria around 1890, spent a few years along Coyote Creek near Wolf Creek, then lived in the vicinity of Hugo and Merlin until his death in 1907.
For more than a century his military service had gone unrecognized at his grave in Pleasant Valley Cemetery, along Monument Drive a few miles north of Grants Pass.
But on Saturday, as a handful of his descendants huddled in the rain, Colby earned his headstone at a memorial service, punctuated by three volleys of gunfire from the Cascade Civil War Society.
“Ezekiel’s stone is now a fulfillment of the commitment to mark every veteran’s grave," said David Hopkins, funeral director for Taylor’s Family Chapter in Winston, who helped arrange the event.
“I think it’s a great deal. I think all veterans should be recognized," said David Colby, of Medford, Ezekiel’s great-grandson. “So many were killed and wounded and had amputations. It’s hard to find anybody who came through unscathed."
Colby and his wife, Renee, found out about Ezekiel nearly 20 years ago as Renee researched family history. They knew he was buried at Pleasant Valley Cemetery. But it wasn’t until they were visiting with Hopkins a few years ago about another relative in Douglas County that they learned about the effort to mark all veterans’ graves.
Hopkins went through the Department of Veterans Affairs and the result is a marble headstone from Vermont, weighing close to 200 pounds and gleaming white. On Saturday, it was marked with flags.
Hopkins said only 10 or 12 Civil War headstones are added every year around the country as unregistered veterans are found.
“This is unique, especially on the West Coast," he said. “This is the first time our firm has handled one of these."
He added that about 140 Civil War veterans are buried in Josephine County. A Civil War grave registry online shows six Civil War veterans buried at Pleasant Valley.
Ezekiel Colby’s grave for many years had no marker — in fact, the precise location of his grave is unknown. There are about 20 unmarked graves at the cemetery, and the stone was placed in a location away from those so it wouldn’t land on an incorrect grave, Hopkins said.
The original marker was likely wooden — or, if stone, could have been stolen. Hopkins and the Colbys found documentation of Ezekiel’s burial through a local mortuary.
Larry McLane, north Josephine County historian, was in attendance on Saturday. His book “First There was Twogood" has no mention of Colby because Colby was in Wolf Creek for only three years around 1900, his family said. There is a Colby Gulch named for him.
But McLane found reference to Raymond Colby, Ezekiel’s son, who was once constable in Hugo, in a newspaper from more than a century ago. Raymond died in 1923 in Douglas County, according to genealogy records.
Renee Colby compiled a scrapbook, and ticked off the names of battles that Ezekiel fought in 150 years ago:
“Fraser’s Farm, Yorktown, Rappahannock, Manassas, Alexandria, Arlington Heights," she said. “He helped in the fall of Richmond and all the battles leading up to the surrender of General Lee. He went through all of that and came out with rheumatism, chronic diarrhea and no wounds. Over 620,000 men were killed, North and South, in that war."
Colby was one of about 250 of the original 1,100 20th Indiana Volunteers to survive.
“Their regiment managed to miss Antietam, but they were in every other major battle for four years," said Ken Quattlander of the Cascade Civil War Society.