Hello Friends, Dale Leach, Great-Great Grandson of Sylvester Leach, and Leach Family historian has shared the following story. It was written by Dale in 2007 “based upon gathered information about Sylvester Leach’s (1842-1928) life from the eye-wiwtness recollections of family members: Lloyd A. Carr, Esther M. (Starr) Allen,, and Naomi (Lurvey) Blaine.” Many thanks to Dale for allowing me to post this story to “The Family File: Leach Family” …….you’re in for a treat when you read it.
The Beloved Old Flag
The well-worn flag had always been neatly folded with great pride and reverently kept by the old man in the top drawer of his white-oak, chest o’drawers. Over the years, time had taken its toll as the flag had become somewhat faded and tattered from frequent use. You see: this old gentleman had been the flag bearer for the James Bradley G.A.R. Post no. 194, a Civil War Veteran’s organization in Clio, Michigan. Sylvester Leach had always carried this revered national banner, with great dignity, in G.A.R. parades on Decoration Day (now Memorial Day), the Fourth of July, and Veteran’s Day. However, sadly, this flag also witnessed the burial ceremonies of camp members who finally expired leaving a dwindling troop of old veterans who had once marched to local cemeteries such as Pine Grove, Forest Lawn, or Gunnell. It was around 1912 that old James Bradley G.A.R. Post, located at 222 E. Vienna Rd. just west of downtown, was closed and disbanded for lack of membership because most of the old veterans were either too age advanced or had passed on. It was also at this time that this flag, that had witnessed so many local parades, ceremonies and burials over the years, was permanently presented to its long-time bearer as a token appreciation. This tattered piece of cloth was later to become Mr. Leach’s proudest possession.
This spring day of May in 1928, however, the old flag was being used for a different purpose: it being wrapped about the coffin of the seasoned veteran as if in reluctance to part with the one who had held it so high and proudly for so many years. Many mourners gathered at the gravesite burial ceremony there in Pinegrove Cemetery located in the southern portion of Tuscola County, Michigan, and each possessed vivid memories of this man and hiss well-lived age of 87. Among those present was a small girl of 9 years old whose favorite great grandfather was being laid to rest that day. This child’s name was Esther Starr and she had always had a special connection with this old veteran because her parents, Arthur and Lena Starr, had purchased his home, located at the NE corner of Barkley & Birch Run Roads, and cared for him in his old age. Esther remembered him fondly as fun-loving and amiable and well known throughout the local area as “the best clogger around” This little girl of 11 remembered her “Grandpa Leach” as a good natured, man yet one who on occasion could also be stubbornly independent and one that could be downright cantankerous at times when crossed. For example: there was the time when the very amiable old gentleman had taken the family’s horse & buggy to one of the local dances held at nearby Buell Lake. It was later, after being gone all night and returning, that Arthur and Lena foolishly attempted to scold the old man for his tardiness when he emphatically responded with ruffed feathers: “Well I’m free, white n’ twenty-one and I’ll do what I damn well please!” She had witnessed ol’ Doc Bishop, who had cared for old man in his last hours, and heard doctors seemingly callous statement after giving her great grandfather a shot to ease the pain: “Well I just gave the ol’ cuss a shot so he can slip out easier”. How nonchalant and cynical this comment must have seemed to such a young girl. Or another great grandchild of similar age, Elmer Leach, who unexpectedly discovered the lifeless body shortly after death, came running home the short distance up the hill on Barkley Road exclaiming in great horrified amazement to his older brother, Carl, “why is grandpas’s face covered up and his feet sticking out from under the sheet?!!”. This was also a far cry other times when “Great Grandpa Leach” had played similar tricks on the boys only playing dead under those same sheets, but this time was for real.
Or, among those a bit older in attendance at this burial ceremony, were Lloyd A. Carr, a nephew and local farmer by trade. As a young man Lloyd remembered how his Uncle was well liked locally and also Sylvester’s stately team of giant Belgian workhorses were the envy of all around in the local township of Arbela. To Lloyd: this expired man represented countless fond memories of his dear Uncle “Vet” such as the time when this old gentleman, who walked a great deal and often traveled about, came to his farm complaining excitedly that he had misplaced the cloth satchel he always carried: “I lost muh’ grip” and can’t remember where I left the darn thing!” Or another time: upon seeing his uncle after a long absence, asked him where he had been to which the old man exclaimed: “Oh – I been layin’ low lately ’cause I got all loused up!”
As Rev. Stubbs, the officiating minister of local M.E. Church, spoke to the small group standing there at the gravesite and offered a humble prayer to the All-Mighty, the casket was slowly lowered into the soil from whence it came. No one seemed to take notice at first that this beloved and tattered, old flag was not removed and about to be buried with its long time bearer. None the less: there were those that sad day that did agree with what they considered the flag’s being “disgraced” and chief among them was certain a grand niece on this brother, Enard Leach’s side. As a result of this supposed affront: argument that ensued but it was Lloyd Carr, much loved great grandson, who calmly stepped forward and took control of the ugly situation saying: ” leave that flag be and let go to rest with this old soldier that loved it so dearly”
Posted with the permission of Dale H. Leach sole owner of the text and pictures contained in this document.
Copyright Dale H. Leach, All Rights Reserved.