Seattle woman to attend ceremony to honor former slave

HUTCHINSON, Kan. — A Seattle woman plans to attend a ceremony in Hutchinson at the newly marked gravesite of her great-grandfather, who escaped slavery and fought in the Civil War.

Janice Lovelace discovered that her Great-grandfather John Crooms is buried at Eastside Cemetery, but that his gravesite didn’t have a headstone, The Hutchinson News reported.

Eastside Cemetery manager Zach Phillips said about half of the people buried there have no headstones, and many did not have a family that could afford one.

Lovelace has a photo of Crooms wearing his Grand Army of the Republic gear, so she contacted the organization, which is now the Sons of the Union Veterans of the Civil War. By Memorial Day, the organization had a headstone in place for Crooms’ grave.

On Saturday, Lovelace will be in Hutchinson as the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War pay homage to Crooms, who died in Hutchinson on July 3, 1922.

“We are trying to preserve the memories of the sacrifice these men went through,” said Doug McGovern, Kansas Civil War Memorials Officer of the Sons of the Union Veterans of the Civil War.

Lovelace said she admires Crooms’ courage to escape slavery and join the 5th U.S. Colored Cavalry.

“To have enough courage to leave the plantation and sign up for the army — a lot of people didn’t have that,” Lovelace said.

Crooms and his wife, Mary, moved from Kentucky to Kansas in the early 1880s and originally settled in Grant County before moving to Reno County, Lovelace said. Mary Crooms died in 1907. John Crooms died on July 3, 1922, and was buried without a marker.

“It fell through the cracks,” Lovelace said. “There’s no story about why he didn’t have a marker. … It was a pleasant surprise to find out the veterans group helped.”

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