Dissipating the cloud of sorrow

A Spanish-American War veteran's grave is marked after 113 years
In April 1898, Pvt. Hayes B. Taylor enlisted in Co. L, Second Oregon Volunteer Infantry, to fight in the Philippine Islands.

Agroup of about 30 people gathered Wednesday morning as the Friends of Jacksonville's Historic Cemetery dedicated a white marble, military marker to Pfc. Hayes C. Taylor, a Jacksonville veteran of the Philippine-American War.

Taylor's grave had been unmarked for the 112 years since his burial in the cemetery, which was nearly a year after he had died.

The death of Pvt. Hayes B. Taylor

In April 1898, a few months after the battleship Maine had been sunk in Havana harbor, leading to the Spanish-American War, President McKinley asked for volunteers to fight against Spain. Hayes Taylor joined Oregon's Second Volunteer Infantry, the first Oregon volunteer infantry created since the Civil War and the first to send Oregon troops outside the United States.

They arrived in Manila, Philippines, at the end of June 1898 and with little trouble, took part in the Spanish surrender that September. Spain agreed to sell its longstanding colony of the Philippines to the United States during the Treaty of Paris.

For the next five months, Taylor's unit was on guard duty, acting as Manila's police force.

In early February 1899, Philippine revolutionaries, seeking independence from foreign rule, attacked U.S. forces. Hayes fell on the first day of the three-day Battle of Malabon. The ensuing Philippine-American War, which lasted three years, claimed the lives of more than 4,200 Americans and more than 20,000 Filipino combatants.

The military was not prepared to return fallen soldiers to the United States.

"The process of embalming immediately after death has been unsuccessful," said U.S. Army Quartermaster-General Marshall Ludington. "It is impracticable to ship bodies now, on account of danger to health of inhabitants and uncertainty of preservation of remains during the voyage."

Taylor's body arrived by train on Feb. 18, 1900, accompanied by the body of Ashland resident Jay Taylor, a soldier who had died of disease in a Manila hospital. They were not related.

Pvt. Hayes Taylor's body was escorted to Jacksonville from Medford by Civil War veterans and local soldiers of the Oregon National Guard. All flags in Jacksonville flew at half staff and all businesses closed for the day.

After a funeral service, held at the Methodist Episcopal Church three days later, a procession of citizens, including schoolchildren and their teachers, walked up cemetery hill. They followed Mr. and Mrs. Taylor and their children, city officials, the town band, the military units and the wagon carrying Pvt. Taylor's coffin.

With the firing of a 24-gun salute and the playing of taps, Pvt. Hayes B. Taylor was left on the hill in an unmarked grave.

Taylor was killed in action March 25, 1899, while fighting the Battle of Malabon in the Philippine Islands, an extension of the Spanish-American War.

The 22-year-old soldier was the first Jackson County volunteer to fall during what also has been called the Philippine Insurrection.

His body wasn't returned to his parents for burial until February 1900.

Friends president Dirk Siedlecki said his group discovered that Taylor's grave was unmarked while preparing for last year's "Meet the Pioneers," an annual cemetery tour in which actors portray early Jacksonville residents.

"We featured Samuel and Melissa Taylor as part of the tour that year," Siedlecki said, "and we came across the family story that they had lost one of their sons in the Spanish-American War. That gave us the inspiration to go after a veteran's marker for his gravesite."

Siedlecki contacted the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and requested a marker for Taylor. The department furnishes headstones, at no charge, for unmarked graves of veterans.

When the headstone arrived, Siedlecki was excited, but quickly felt something wasn't quite right.

"Sure enough, the dates were wrong," he said. "So, I went back to Veterans Affairs and explained. They were very, very generous and replaced the marker."

But Siedlecki said the error on that first stone turned out to be a blessing and added even more to the story.

Born Dec. 13, 1876, in Jacksonville, Hayes Taylor was the third son of Samuel Taylor and Melissa Charity Rogers. He was also their second son to die. Two years before Hayes was born, the Taylors lost 1-year-old Eddy. Until Wednesday, Eddy was the only family member in the family plot with a headstone on his grave. Even Samuel and Melissa's graves were left unmarked.

"Why they were never marked, we have no idea," Siedlecki said.

Siedlecki said Veterans Affairs had no use for the first engraved stone.

"Those government markers are very heavy and expensive to ship," he said. "So, we came up with a good idea. We took the original stone to Oregon Granite. They cut it down to size, beveled the edges, and did the inscription, and now, Melissa and Samuel Taylor also have a marker. I'm proud to say that today we're actually dedicating two markers."

The dedication ceremony featured a retelling of the Taylor family story by Siedlecki and Shirley Blaul. Robert Hight read a selection written during the Spanish-American War, "Do Not Cheer, Men Are Dying," and Bob Budesa offered bagpipe renderings, including "Amazing Grace."

The closing prayer was offered by Pastor Richard Evans of the First Presbyterian Church of Jacksonville.

"With the placement of this marker for Pvt. Hayes Taylor," Evans said, "we have a name and we have a place to remember this man who gave his life in service. His face was known to his loved ones, and yet, now his name lives on for generations to come."

Wednesday's dedication service may remind some of what Taylor's parents said to the community after their son's 1900 funeral service.

"We feel that our friends and the public could have done no more," they said, "to dissipate the cloud of sorrow, which enshrouds our family."

Writer Bill Miller lives in Shady Cove. Reach him at newsmiller@live.com.

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