Grand Army of the Republic

Grand Army of the Republic (i.e., The Civil War Plot)─ A Final Resting Place for Veterans of the Grand Army of the Republic

Near the center of the cemetery, a 25-foot tall statue of a Union Soldier with his rifle at rest stands guard over 51 burials in the Grand Army of the Republic (G.A.R) Civil War Plot. This statue was bequeathed in 1903 by John S. Covell who, upon his death, was thought to be a penniless Union veteran.

John Covell (1827 –1903) came to Eugene after the Civil War ended. He seemed to have no family. When he needed it, a few good friends from Spencer Butte Lodge No. 9 of the I.O.O.F. looked after him. After his passing, a handwritten will and some $2,500 in gold were found in his effects. The will read: “Please use these monies to erect a suitable memorial for my comrades who fought on the Union side in the Civil War.” $2,500 was a large sum of money back in the year 1903!

When this became known, relatives popped up out of the woodwork demanding that Covell’s will be overturned because, “Mr. Covell clearly was of unsound mind.”  The case continued in court for several years. Finally, the presiding Circuit Court Judge ruled that the relative’s case was “without merit” and work on the Memorial Statue began.

The blue marble statue was hand-carved by an Italian sculpture who was visiting a quarry in Barre, Vermont that summer. The Memorial Statue came to Eugene on a freight train boxcar riding atop a bed of straw. From the train depot it was hauled two miles over muddy roads to the cemetery by an 8-horse team. An item appearing in the Register Guard newspaper stated that the statue’s 8-ton weight was installed by sheer manpower using block and tackle without a single scratch.

In the 1860s, Union General J.W. Geary designated the G.A.R lot in Eugene as a burial space for Union veterans of the Civil War who couldn’t buy plots. In 2003 artist David Miller was commissioned to carve a replacement head that had been knocked loose and stolen by local vandals. Today, the 16-foot Union infantryman stands at “parade rest” marking where the annual Memorial Day ceremony is held. The inscription on its base reads:

“I bequeath this monument in memory of my comrades of the Civil War from 1861 –1865.” The verse on the other side says, “Soldier rest, Thy war is over, Sleep the sleep that knows no waking, Dream of battlefields no more.”