A large brass plaque bearing the names of Civil War veterans from Summit Hill, Lansford and Coaldale, as well as the names of the original members of the E.T. Conner Post No. 177 rests behind a piano and a desk in the Lansford community center.
The plaque, estimated to be about four feet high and six feet long, with an American eagle perched at the top center, was mounted on the wall of the then brand new Lansford High School.
When the Panther Valley School District sold the building, which it had used as a middle school, three years ago, the plaque was moved to the community center.
Now, plans are in place to move the plaque to the Grand Army of the Republic Cemetery on E. White Street in Summit Hill.
Lansford Borough Council on Wednesday voted to allow the board of directors of the Grand Army of the Republic Cemetery Association to take the plaque and install it at the flagpole at the cemetery. The flagpole is at Soldiers' Square, where original members of the Conners Post No. 177 are buried.
"We felt that since the GAR is a community cemetery that includes Lansford, Coaldale, a few Nesquehoning and Tamaqua residents as well as Summit Hill, we wanted to respectfully display the plaque so its history could be shared with the whole area since the school where it originally hung was closed down and in storage," said David Wargo, president of the board of directors of the Grand Army of the Republic Cemetery Association of Summit Hill.
"We are honored to become trustees of this plaque and we would like to work with interested members of Lansford Borough Council to assure them that we give this memorial plaque a respectful, safe setting that is mutually satisfactory for both groups. We deeply appreciate their agreement that this plaque belongs on display so that its rich history can be shared and are grateful to all the members of Lansford Borough Council as well as the residents for allowing us to display it in an appropriate manner for all to see and remember those important veterans," he said.
Lansford council president Adam Webber, who brought the plaque to the community center after buying the former school, is enthusiastic about the memorial project.
"The Grand Army of the Republic Cemetery in Summit Hill is an area where the Panther Valley can showcase its heritage and willingness to dedicate lives for a just cause," he said. "The plaque in Lansford is one of the only full list of names with those individuals that served in the Civil War from the area in existence. I believe all on the Lansford borough council are proud to be able to present the Summit Hill Grand Army of the Republic Cemetery with such a plaque. This plaque represents the history and by donating it, I hope it will represent the future of our commitment to forge good relationships with our neighboring communities. I personally can not wait to see the memorial."
Carol Miller is the cemetery association's first secretary and now one of its two archivists and genealogists.
"We will use this as a point of interest," she said.
Of the veterans buried there, she said, "They lived as comrades, they died as comrades, and they took care of each other. Some of the veterans didn't have anyone to bury them, so their fellows pitched in to buy them plots."
Miller has conducted walking tours of the cemetery for two years.
"The cemetery is not just a final resting place, it's a point in the historical face of Carbon County that most people don't know or recognize," Miller said. "Our organization is trying to rebuild that face."
The GAR cemetery, on E. White Street, is adjacent to the St. Joseph's Cemetery. Its 12 acres are the final resting place of some 7,000 people, Miller said.
Continuing research, largely done by member and retired school teacher Joe Nihen of Lansford, is revealing more history.
"We know that Summit Hill was formed around 1820, and burials began around that time, too," Miller said, adding that those early burials were not officially recorded, but information about them was passed down through families.
The Civil War raged between 1861 and 1865, and took some 620,000 lives. The Eli T. Conner Post No. 177 was formed for Civil War veterans in the Panther Valley.
The Conner Post members "didn't have a place to bury their dead," Miller said. "In 1872, the lads starting clearing a place" for the cemetery."
Conner founded the cemetery after the Civil War.
The official cemetery association formed in 1898 and reorganized in 2009, according to the association's website.
Miller and Nihen have "collaborated in replacing the government-issued veterans' stones which have been deteriorating. Twenty have been replaced so far," she said.
The markers are issued by the federal government upon verification of the veteran's military record.
"If there is no recorded history, then we cannot replace the stone," Miller said. "Toward the end of the war, cards were not filled out, so those records are lost, which is a horrible shame. But that's the way it happened."
Craig Walters of Walters Monument, Summit Hill, has been installing the markers, she said.