|Raphael G. Rombauer (photo left, courtesy of Carthage Press)|
Raphael Guido Rombauer, whose family fled Hungary during a mid-19th century revolution, truly lived the American Dream.
Rombauer came to the aid of his adopted country at the outset of the Civil War by joining the Union army. The immigrant translated confidential military communications written in Hungarian so that they could be securely transmitted, and eventually commanded artillery batteries around Memphis, Tenn. He later became a business executive; a road in Carthage, Mo., bears his name.
While his life was noteworthy, it was in death that Rombauer’s story has become remarkable.
That’s because the veteran never received a burial after he died at age 74 in 1912. His cremated remains were not claimed for 102 years – until a descendant last year took possession of the box.
Rombauer will be laid to rest next to his first wife and two of his children at a special April 11 funeral service at Park Cemetery in Carthage. The event includes music, gun salutes and an honor guard of Civil War re-enactors who will carry Rombauer’s remains to the family plot.
Why did no one in the family travel to the St. Louis crematory to take custody of his ashes after he died?
“My only thought is that perhaps someone didn’t want to pay the money to claim him or the new wife wanted him cremated in order to be buried next to her,” Elizabeth L. Young, Rombauer’s second great-granddaughter, told the Picket.
The story of how Young learned about the remains has its own twists and turns -- she was aided by research and assistance from a genealogist, a profile of her ancestor on Find a Grave and the Missing in America Project, which arranges for proper burials for veterans.
While some Civil War veterans have been reinterred, it’s very unusual to be buried for the first time this many years later. It did happen with the crews of the USS Monitor and the Confederacy’s H.L. Hunley submarine, but that was after they were recovered from the ocean.
Organizers note the funeral may be an appropriate local bookend for the 150th anniversary of the Civil War.
The Battle of Carthage in southwest Missouri on July 5, 1861, came early in the war. Now the community is burying a soldier two days after the anniversary of Gen. Robert E. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox Court House in Virginia.
“This whole process is making (Rombauer) alive here again locally,” said Steve Weldon, a re-enactor and government employee who maintains historical and genealogical records.
Was a Union 'code talker' early in the war
|Family plot (Courtesy of Carthage Press)|
Rombauer’s story begins in Hungary and the tumultuous times of the 1848-1849 revolution, when he was about 10. The family later escaped, made their way to Iowa and then to St. Louis, according to his Find a Grave biography.
Central European immigrants flocked to join the Union army after the Civil War began. Raphael and his three brothers – who also had successful postwar careers – joined up. Raphael, about 23, became a sergeant in Company A of the 1st Missouri Volunteer Infantry Regiment.
It's unlikely he saw action at Wilson’s Creek, a bloody Southern victory in Missouri on Aug. 10, 1861.
The obituary for Rombauer, who ended the war with the rank of major, said he served as an aide to Maj. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant in Cairo, Ill., but it’s likely he worked in a group that supported headquarters.
According to family, communiques between John Fremont and Grant were written in Hungarian, and Rombauer helped translate them, making him in effect a “code talker.”
Eventually, the Hungarian joined the 1st Illinois Light Artillery, where he commanded seven batteries, including two made of U.S. Colored Troops. He is listed as providing support to a Federal attack on Memphis on Aug. 21, 1864. Much of the time, his unit saw garrison duty.
“He did not see a lot of combat but he was there when (Nathan Bedford) Forrest attacked several forces, likely in Tennessee,” said Weldon, director of the Jasper County Records Research Center.
Rombauer married Emma Thomas of Kentucky in 1866. They lived in St. Louis and Carthage, where he was a prominent businessman from 1874 to about 1897.
According to the Carthage Press newspaper, Rombauer became superintendent of a railroad line purchased by Fremont. He later got into the coal mining business in Pittsburg, Kan., and in Novinger, Missouri. He founded the Rombauer Coal Company.
Two of their five children, Raphael Guido and Ida May, died while the couple was in Carthage and they were buried at Park Cemetery. The Rombauers moved to Kirksville, in northwest Missouri, and Emma died in 1899 at age 55. She was buried alongside her children in Carthage.
Rombauer’s Sept. 17, 1912, obituary listed “paralysis” as the cause of death. He was survived by his widow, Jennie, and children from his first marriage.
His body would be incinerated at the St. Louis crematory the next day. (Cremations were fairly uncommon at the time, and it may be that this crematory was the only one in the state). Elizabeth Young said she has no information on Jennie Rombauer.
Getting some help from genealogist, burials group
|Rombauer will lie below this marker (Carthage Press)|
Young, who lives in Kirkwood, a suburb of St. Louis, said the discussion of where Raphael G. Rombauer was buried never came up while she was growing up.
Her mother and grandmother grew up in Kirksville.
“I remember (my grandmother) saying that she always thought as long as Raphael Guido Rombauer was alive they would be OK,” Young said.
An interest in genealogy led Young to find the detailed file on her ancestor at Find a Grave.
“I noticed the ashes had been unclaimed. I called up Bill (Boggess) and talked to him about it.”
According to the Carthage Press, Boggess -- a Carthage genealogist who moved to Florida -- learned that Rombauer’s body had been taken to Valhalla Funeral Chapel, Crematory and Cemetery in St. Louis, where the cremains apparently sat on the shelf until autumn 2014. A note on the Find a Grave page indicated Valhalla was trying to reunite the unclaimed remains with the family.
(The crematory did not respond to messages left by the Picket. Boggess died in early March).
About this time, the Missing in America Project was preparing to inter 20 unclaimed remains, including those of Rombauer, at an outdoor columbarium Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery in St. Louis.
The group works with the U.S. government to prove the deceased are veterans. It publishes legal notices in order to find families, member Susan Ing told the Picket.
The aim is find a proper resting place for veterans who were never buried. “We never know why in most cases, especially with Civil War veterans,” Ing said. “We are dealing with, on average, two generations back.”
Ing said she added a note to Rombauer’s Find a Grave file, indicating he was unclaimed and in storage. That’s about the time Young and Boggess were communicating. The family decided to have the soldier buried with family in Carthage. Rombauer’s remains would have been interred last fall at Jefferson Barracks if Young had not stepped forward.
|Missing in America Project provides burials for veterans|
Missing in America, which often uses Find a Grave in its search for descendants of the dead, has been unable to find the family of a Civil War veteran from Illinois – Richard Huskey -- who will be interred June 3 at Jefferson Barracks. “We are going to have a real horse-drawn funeral hearse at the cemetery,” said Ing.
Finally, the family will be reunited
Raphael Guido Rombauer will be interred with loved ones in Carthage, a town that was ravaged by the Civil War. The state’s loyalties were divided at the outset of the war.
The Battle of Carthage came 11 days before Bull Run, and it ended in a small Confederate victory when Col. Franz Sigel withdrew his Federal troops.
Rombauer took advantage of the opportunity to help the community rebound after the war.
“He was one of the founding industrialists in the area,” said Weldon, one of the organizers for the funeral service.
Park Cemetery, local historians, genealogists and re-enactors have been drawing up plans for the 1:30 p.m. burial April 11.
Cemetery manager Frank Stine told the Picket that the U.S. Army will provide military honors. The Heartland Concert Band will perform hymns and period music.
The Holmes Brigade, which regularly volunteers at area historic sites, and Phelps Camp 66, Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War, of which Weldon is a member, are taking part and will be wearing Federal uniforms.
A mourning party will follow the honor guard to the gravesite. Staff from Wilson’s Creek will fire a piece of artillery at the beginning and end of the service, and the honor guard will fire a musket salute.
Remains of soldiers are occasionally found at historic sites, said John Sutton, chief park ranger at Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield. With Rombauer, “it is interesting to me you have a name and a photo.”
Young is grateful for Boggess’ work and said she has found it touching that the Missing in America Project wants to ensure veterans are properly buried.
Stine said he’s never seen anything like this in his 12 years working at Park Cemetery.