Friday, 11 September 2009 00:00
On Aug. 21, 1862, Alfred and Cornelius Walters and 11 other young men from Farmingdale boarded a train at the Farmingdale Railroad Station and left Farmingdale to serve in the Union Army. They fought in many of the major battles of the American Civil War including Chancellorsville and Gettysburg as well as the battles during General Tecumseh Sherman’s March to the Sea. One hundred and forty seven years to the day, a program honoring the Walters brothers was the culminating event in the American Civil War Veterans Project.
The American Civil War Project was the Eagle Scout project of Patrick Looney of Boy Scout Troop 261. An Eagle Scout project is a community service project run by a Life Scout and carried out by members of the troop. The project’s stated goal was to ensure that Farmingdale’s Civil War veterans are not forgotten. The project’s goal was achieved as a result of a cooperative effort between Boy Scout Troop 261 and the Farmingdale-Bethpage Historical Society, as well as with community support. The total project included identification of local Civil War veterans and their gravesites, gravesite rehabilitation - which was extensive at two cemeteries, and a Civil War exhibit at the Farmingdale Public Library concerning the contribution of these veterans.
The Aug. 21 commemoration was held at the German Methodist Cemetery (a.k.a. Lyceum Cemetery) on Hempstead Turnpike in Bethpage, and included dedication of footstones honoring Albert and Cornelius Walters. Albert died in service in Tennessee in 1865; his brother Cornelius died in 1868 from a service-related illness after returning to Farmingdale. While their headstones had been repaired earlier in the project by Wellwood Memorials, the inscriptions were illegible.
At the commemoration, Patrick Looney thanked a lengthy list of individuals who helped him to meet his goals. These individuals included Scoutmaster Ed Schmidt and Troop 261, BSA, Mildred and William Johnston, the FBHS and FBHS Trustee Serena Brochu, who provided invaluable help with research. He also thanked Town of Oyster Bay officials including Supervisor John Venditto, Councilman Anthony Macagnone, Town Clerk Steve Labriola and Town Historian John Hammond and Farmingdale Village Mayor Butch Starkie, for their consistent support.
FBHS President Mildred Johnston presided at the cemetery event, at which Donald Wentler of the Bethpage United Methodist Church gave the invocation. Town historian John Hammond spoke on the Town of Oyster Bay and the American Civil War. Farmingdale Village Historian Bill Johnston acknowledged the posthumous relationship of the late Alonzo Gibbs to this project, reading Mr. Gibbs’ “Sermons in Stones” about the 13 Farmingdale young men who left for service on Aug. 21, 1862, from Harking Back, a collection of articles about Bethpage Purchase history. FBHS Trustee Harrison Hunt read the obituary of Alfred Walters from the Queens County Sentinel of Feb. 25, 1865 and Bill Brochu, substituting for his wife Serena, presented the story of Cornelius Walters.
Town of Oyster Bay Clerk Steven Labriola noted that the Town of Oyster Bay, founded in 1653, is rich with history and tradition.
“I‘ve always enjoyed exploring our history and preserving the town’s documents that chronicle our past,” he continued. “This ceremony reaffirmed our extensive history and served as a tangible link to our roots and heritage. I’m also proud to recognize the sacrifices of all veterans, including those dating back to the Civil War. I commend Patrick for his Eagle Project and I’m honored to have been able to participate in this unique and interesting historical event.”
Labriola then presented Looney with a Town of Oyster Bay citation in recognition of the work done on the project.
The program ended with the unveiling of the new footstones. FBHS President Mildred Johnston, escorted by Troop 261 Scouts Jason Benzaquen and Patrick Looney, unveiled the new footstone of Alfred Walters followed by the unveiling of the new footstone of Cornelius Walters. The new granite footstones, unlike the original marble tombstones, should be legible for hundreds of years. These new stones will ensure that the main goal of the American Civil War Veterans Project is met; namely that Farmingdale’s Civil War veterans will never fall victim to faded tombstones or faded memories.
Patrick, a 2009 graduate of St. Anthony’s High School, is now attending Oswego State University. He is majoring in finance and participating in the Air Force ROTC program at Syracuse University. The FBHS under the leadership of Mildred Johnston will now be working with the Village of Farmingdale to create a Civil War Memorial at the Village Green. The FBHS is planning to have the memorial completed by Memorial Day, 2011.