OMAK Okanogan County has contributed dozens of men and women to the nation’s military ranks over the years, and still more have chosen to move to Okanogan County and make it their final resting place.
The county’s pioneer cemeteries contain the remains of several Civil War and Spanish-American War veterans.
As the area developed and more people moved in, the area gained more cemeteries and more veterans who served both in wars and peacetime.
Because the county wasn’t settled by non-Indians until the late 1800s, there aren’t many veterans from wars prior to the Civil War.
The Loomis Mountain View Cemetery lists Joseph Bertraum, who died April 27, 1898, as a French Army veteran from the 1800s. It also contains the graves of two Indian scouts, Rufus H. Beeman and James A. “Jim” Black. Both died in the 1920s.
A check of a few online sources revealed the Loomis cemetery alone has nine Civil War veterans buried there: Lloyd Beall, Robert Henry Blevin, Thomas Jefferson “Tom” Darnell, Oberlin Archibald Loudon, John F. Meader, John Rehm, J.H. Wild, plus two with only their last names listed, Brown and Noggles.
Rehm lived the longest; he died in 1940 at age 95.
Spring Coulee (Clover) Cemetery, near Okanogan, contains the grave of Tilman H. Foster, a Confederate veteran who died in 1923.
One of the best-known local Civil War veterans was James Aliason Stoddard, who served in Company B of the 8th Wisconsin Infantry. Known as “Grandpa” Stoddard, he is buried in the Riverview (Sand Flat) Cemetery east of Omak.
Stoddard was born in Parmelia, N.Y., on July 6, 1840. When he was 10, his family moved to Greenbush, Wis. He married Annie June Chamberlin.
He was a corporal during the Civil War and was wounded during the Red River Expedition at Calhoun Plantation.
He is listed in online sources as having distinguished war service. He mustered out in September 1865, and later collected a Civil War pension.
After the war, he moved to Hamilton County, Iowa, but later returned to Wisconsin about 1873.
In 1902, he and his son, Theron S. Stoddard, and their families moved to a homestead on Pogue Flat, just west of Omak. He was among those who started Omak, and his son was a member of the first town council.
His grave is among those decorated with American flags for patriotic holidays.
Among those who served in the Spanish-American War was Joseph Lewis Masters, who was born Dec. 9, 1867, and died Feb. 15, 1931. He is buried in the Loomis cemetery.
He served with the 27th Light Artillery Battalion of Indiana. He lived in Irvington, Ind., and joined the service April 26, 1898, according to the “Record of Indian Volunteers in the Spanish-American War, 1898,” published in 1898.
The battalion mustered in May 10, 1898, and mustered out Nov. 27, 1898. During the intervening months, the soldiers were sent to Arroyo and Ponce, Puerto Rico.
According to an online record of Indiana volunteers in the Spanish-American War at www.memoriallibrary.com, the 27th was the only battalion from that state sent “to the enemy’s country during the war.”
The trip from the U.S. to Puerto Rico, which then belonged to Spain, took a week, according to www.history.
The 27th was about to engage the Spaniards in Puerto Rico, and were on the firing line ready for action, “when a messenger arrived announcing that Spain had sued for peace and that hostilities must cease,” the site said.
There were no casualties among the group.
Also buried in Loomis from that war are MacMorrison, who died in 1967 and was a corporal in the 2nd Regiment of the Nebraska Infantry, and William F. “Bill” Peterson, who was born June 1, 1873. There’s no record of when he died.
World War I
The Chronicle carried extensive coverage of World War I, including the names of “boys lost overseas” as news of their deaths reached Omak.
“Two Omakers give lives for their country,” read a story in the Dec. 6, 1918 edition about the first local men killed in battle. “After peace declared, bad news comes to family, more losses expected to be announced.”
Side-by-side stories told of Henry C. Rehbein and Percy Reed, whose deaths were Omak’s first in that war.
Rehbein “was the first Omak young man to give his life in the great cause of world redemption and his Omak friends sorrow with the parents and relatives at the passing of this bright young man who had elected to cast his lot in this community,” the story said.
Rehbein had attempted to volunteer several times, but was turned down because of “slight physical deficiencies.” He eventually was drafted and sent to France.
He received very little training, the paper reported.
He died in action Sept. 29, 1918, “and this community will always honor his gold star on our large service flag.”
Reed, though enlisted in the service, died of another scourge of that year – influenza. He’d been training in the radio service and was at a military camp in Austin, Texas, when he contracted the flu.
“Friends in this community will always remember Percy as the clean, jolly young man who was always the picture of health and happiness,” the paper said.
A memorial to those who died in the war stands in front of the Okanogan County Courthouse.
World War II
A short 23 years later, Okanogan County again sent her residents into battle as World War II expanded to include the U.S.
Several local men – Perry Allard, Kenneth and Clayton Randall, Dean Sutton, Tom P. Johnson and George Haeberle Jr., all of Omak, and George James Lipincott of Okanogan – all were serving aboard ships stationed at Pearl Harbor when it was attacked Dec. 7, 1941, The Chronicle reported.
A former Okanogan man, Ernest Sturmer, was working for the government in Pearl Harbor.
The first Omak man killed in the war was Donald James, 20. At the time of his death in 1942, relatives believed the Marine was on the Bataan Peninsula.
The county’s most decorated serviceman of that war was Maj. Gregory “Pappy” Boyington of Okanogan.
Boyington received the Medal of Honor and Navy Cross for extraordinary heroism and valiant devotion to duty as commanding officer of Marine Fighting Squadron 214 in action against the Japanese in the Solomon Islands in 1943 and 1944.
“A superb airman and determined fighter against overwhelming odds, Maj. Boyington personally destroyed 26 of the many Japanese planes shot down by his squadron and, by his forceful leadership, developed the combat readiness in his command which was a distinctive factor in the Allied aerial achievements in this vitally strategic area,” according to Medal of Honor information from the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs.
Omak resident Sgt. 1st Class Clyde D. Townsend was among those who served in Korea.
He was wounded in December 1952 while organizing and directing the defense of an ambushed patrol in Korea.
He received a Silver Star for gallantry in action in leading a patrol that had been sent out in front of his unit to bring in a wounded enemy soldier.
The patrol was ambushed and attacked twice, and Townsend received serious leg wounds.
“His leadership and encouragement of his men in repelling the enemy and conducting an orderly withdrawal was credited with saving the unit,” The Chronicle reported in 1954, when the award was given.
Two of Okanogan County’s many Vietnam veterans still live in the county.
Nespelem resident Keith D. “Soy” Redthunder and Omak resident Richard Bradshaw both were decorated for their actions.
Redthunder was 22 when he received a Purple Heart in November 1967. He was wounded in action.
He is scheduled to deliver the opening prayer during the Colville Confederated Tribes’ Veterans Day memorial ceremony at 10 a.m. Nov. 11 at the tribal veterans memorial monument, 1 Colville St.
Bradshaw received the Army Commendation Medal for Heroism for responding with another soldier to an emergency call indicating an American civilian and a Vietnamese had entered a minefield and had been killed or wounded.
“Without the aid of mine detection equipment, they entered the area of the suspected minefield, exposing themselves to an extremely dangerous situation, knowing they could easily be killed or wounded,” the Army said.