Traverse City Record-Eagle

February 15, 2012

Book sparks overdue honor for veteran

Civil War veteran's unmarked grave finally will get headstone

By LORAINE ANDERSON
landerson@record-eagle.com

OMENA — Local pioneer Aaron B. Page, a Civil War veteran buried in an unmarked Colorado grave 93 years ago, finally will get a headstone.

He will be honored in a full-fledged graveside military ceremony in April, thanks to Cedar author Julie Schopieray and a downstate descendant who read her first history book.

Page, born in Vermont and raised in Grand Rapids, came to Traverse City in his early 20s to work as a surveyor in 1853.

Schopieray's 2009 book "In So Distant a Place as Traverse City: The Northern Michigan Relatives of Elizabeth Bacon Custer" documents Page's Civil War service. The book included a chapter on Page and his wife, Almira H. Dame. Page was an uncle to "Libbie" Bacon, who married Civil War Gen. George A. Custer.

That chapter captured the attention of Page's descendant Michael J. Page, of Rockford, who purchased the book more than a year ago at the Omena History Museum.

Michael Page immediately started the process of acquiring a headstone from the U.S. Veterans Administration for the unmarked grave. He also arranged for the April 28 ceremony after officials at a Denver cemetery located the burial spot.

Both Page and Schopieray plan to attend the service, where they'll meet in person for the first time.

"This is the culmination of efforts from many individuals and organizations, and we hope to have several family members present at the ceremony," Michael Page said.

The Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War Centennial Camp 100 will conduct the service with assistance from the 1st Colorado Volunteer Infantry and other uniformed military units.

Schopieray, a genealogist and a writer, is not related to the family but wants to pay tribute.

"I think it's very important," she said. "These people became real to me as I did the research and described the details of their lives."

Page served as Northport's first postmaster from 1854 to 1858. He purchased 100 acres on a hilltop overlooking Omena Bay and also was Omena's postmaster for years.

He enlisted on Dec. 8, 1863, as a private in the 72nd Illinois Infantry, Co. E. He was 32 at the time and married to Dame, daughter of early Northport settler Joseph Dame. They had one young son, Charles.

Page joined the regiment in Vicksburg, Miss., in January 1864. Pension records indicate he was sent home on a 30-day furlough because of dysentery.

When he returned to Illinois, he moved to a Marine hospital where his health grew worse. He asked to be sent to his regiment or discharged. The doctor refused, and Page contacted Custer for help. He was discharged on May 3, 1865, with a disability and returned home, unable to do manual work because of war-time illnesses.

"This man suffered with illnesses for the rest of his life because of his service in the war," said Schopieray.

His health failing, Page and his wife moved to southern Michigan in 1880 and three years later to Colorado, where he worked as a mine overseer. The 1910 Census listed Page as a mining industry promoter. His wife died in 1899 and was buried in an unmarked grave.

Page died on Jan. 22, 1915, in Denver after an automobile struck him just days before his 84th birthday.