Editorial: A lasting tribute to service

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 5, 2021

Last weekend, several groups came together as two new headstones were unveiled at W.D. Kelley Cemetery in Ironton.

The markers were for the graves of Pvts. John Evans and Jefferson Finley, two soldiers from Lawrence County who fought in the U.S. Colored Infantry.

Hundreds from Lawrence County fought on the Union side in the war and about 50 of those soldiers were Black.

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It was illegal for Black men to enlist at the beginning of the war, but, by the conflict’s end, they accounted for about 10 percent of Union forces.

For more than a century after Evans and Finley, who survived the war, died and were buried here in Ironton, they did not have a proper tribute to their service and, thanks to the work of the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War, their place in history will not be forgotten.

The organization sent their state commander to last week’s unveiling, which drew a sizable crowd to the historic cemetery.

Two markers now stand in the Grand Army of the Republic section of the grounds, which was reserved for Union veterans.

Thanks to groups, from local historians to the state leadership of SUVCW, a part of the county’s past is now preserved and we thank them for their efforts.