KENTON, Mich. (WJMN) – Sgt. Hiram White was laid to rest in an unmarked grave in Kenton Cemetery in 1917.
The oral history of Mr. White has been passed down through the generations that he was a Black soldier in the Civil War, and that he moved to Kenton in Houghton County around the turn of the last century, where he was employed as a barber. Hiram later died in Kenton at the age of 61. His grave existed without a headstone until Friday, thanks to the curiosity of one man.
“I did a little research on it,” said Phil Kolehmainen. “Read about it came down here found his grave and unmarked which no soldier should have an unmarked grave. So, I made some contacts with representatives and got the ball rolling and everybody else took it from there.”
This day would not have come were it not for the discovery of a photograph of Sgt. White in an album owned by the commanding officer of Company G of the 25th United States Colored Infantry.
“What is very interesting is he’s one of 17 African American Civil War soldiers whose portraits were recently rediscovered from that 25th Regiment,” said Joseph Battisfore, Veterans Service Officer, Houghton County. “Actually finding those photographs was in part, the reason we were able to document his location and service here.”
Based on oral history alone. The citizens of Kenton and the local American Legion Post have planted American flags every year for the past 105 years on White’s grave. Further investigation would finally turn up definitive proof that this grave did indeed contain the remains of Sgt. Hiram White who on Friday received full military honors.