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Indian Fighter’s Grave Waits 159 Years for Headstone

Nineteen-year-old John Lucian Gardner of Eugene joined the Oregon Mounted Volunteers in 1855 to fight against the Indians of Southern Oregon.  He died in an ambush a few months later, his body buried in an unmarked grave in the Riddle family cemetery in Riddle, Ore.

The family of great-grandnephew Steven Gardner of Jacksonville, Ore., identified the grave through historical documents, among them a commanding officer’s letter to the volunteer’s family, old newspapers and a military roster.  Most definitive was pioneer George Riddle’s 1920 autobiography titled History of Early Days in Oregon.  Riddle wrote, "I well remember the return of the expedition … Gardner was interred in our cemetery.  His was the third grave made there and is now unmarked."

Last spring, 159 years after the burial, his great-grandnephew replaced a bronze “unknown soldier” plaque with a Veterans of Foreign Wars headstone. The inscription reads, “John Lucian Gardner Company A 1st Battalion 2nd Regiment Oregon Mounted Volunteers (born) May 1st 1836 (died)  January 23rd 1856.”

The great-grandnephew said, “I wanted to give John Lucian the recognition he deserved and I know that he, as a family member, would have done the same for me.”

Sources:  Cegavske, Carisa. “Unknown Soldier Finally Named.” The News-Review 10 June 2015. [Roseburg, Ore.]: A1+. Print;  Riddle, George W., History of Early Days in Oregon. Riddle, Ore.: 1920. 70-71. Web 15 June 2015. (a collection of a series of articles first appearing in the Riddle Enterprise). https://books.google.com/books?id=y2ho8cNOtDcC&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false; Gardner, Steven. Personal e-mail interview. 17 Feb. 2015.

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Dr. James S. Long was an As It Was contributor until his passing in January of 2016. He met editor Kernan Turner when Kernan spoke to the Roseburg writers’ club about contributing to JPR's As Is Was series. His contributions to As It Was ranged from a story about the recovery of whitetail deer at the old Dunning Ranch to the story of Nick Botner’s private orchard near Yoncalla created to preserve over 3,000 heritage apple varieties.