Lowell Cemetery Veterans Tour

On Saturday, May 20, 2023, Lowell Cemetery will host a Veterans Tour of the cemetery to recognize and remember those who served in the military forces of the United States. Rather than a standard tour led by a single guide, this tour will have volunteer guides positioned at each of 12 graves from 10am to noon. Tour-goers will receive an annotated map when they arrive and may then proceed at their own pace to the various graves. Tour-goers may enter the cemetery at either the Knapp Ave or Lawrence Street gates.

The graves of 13 veterans will be highlighted on the tour. Their names are listed at the end of this post, however, there are hundreds of other veterans in Lowell Cemetery. Here are a few who are not on next week’s tour:

Charles Cowley grave

COWLEY – Charles Cowley, died February 6, 1903. Charles Cowley (1835-1908) was many things: a newspaper editor, a Civil War Naval officer, a prominent lawyer, a member of the Lowell School Committee and a reformer. He was also a prolific writer best known today for his 1868 History of Lowell. Of the people who came to Lowell he wrote “They constituted from the outset an aristocracy of talent such as now would hardly be assembled in a single city.”

Solon Perkins flag at Lowell Memorial Auditorium

PERKINS – Solon Perkins was born in Lancaster, New Hampshire, in 1836. His family moved to Lowell where Solon graduated from Lowell High. (He was a classmate of Milton Bradley who gained fame as a game designer).  After graduation, Solon moved to Argentina and then Mexico where he served as the local business agent for several of the Lowell textile mills. In the process, he became fluent in French and Spanish. In December 1861, he joined a Cavalry Company that formed in Lowell and was assigned to New Orleans as part of the US Army force under the command of Ben Butler. Although New Orleans was firmly in northern hands, rebel guerrillas were prolific on the outskirts of the city and the US Army’s cavalry units were the main force that opposed them. Consequently, Perkins and the company he commanded were in action repeatedly. Finally, on June 3, 1863, Perkins was killed in action at Clinton, Louisiana. After the war, the surviving members of his company presented his mother with the American flag they carried throughout the war along with an ornate wooden frame inscribed with the names of all the battles in which they participated. At some point, the framed flag was placed in the basement storage area of the Lowell Memorial Auditorium and was forgotten about until Auditorium workers uncovered it in 2016. It was restored by the Greater Lowell Veterans Council and now hangs in the LMA’s Hall of Flags.

William Clark

CLARK – William Clark was born in Lowell in 1842. His father, Tilton Clark, worked for the Boston and Lowell Railroad and was killed in railroad accident when William was just a year old. At the outbreak of the Civil War, William enlisted in the army and served on active duty for four years. However, due to chronic illness contracted while in the service, he received a medical discharge. He was healthy enough to work and gained employment as a civilian employee of the War Department in Washington. He rented a room from William Petersen who ran a rooming house on Tenth Street. On the evening of Friday, April 14, 1865, William went out to celebrate the recent surrender of Robert Lee and his army outside of Fredericksburg which essentially ended the war. When William returned to the Petersen House, there was a crowd gathered at the door and he couldn’t get inside. The Petersen House was across the street from Ford’s Theatre. This was the night Abraham Lincoln was shot by John Wilkes Booth. After being shot, the President did not die immediately so bystanders carried him out of the theatre to the nearest available bed – which was the one usually occupied by Lowell’s William Clark. When Clark was finally allowed back in his room, his pillow was stained with the President’s blood and the President’s boots were at the foot of the bed. In a subsequent letter to his sister. Clark wrote that he had to permanently vacate the room since people were constantly breaking in and steeling things as souvenirs from the place where Lincoln died. After returning to Massachusetts, Clark moved to Boston where he worked in real estate. He died in 1888 at age 46 of heart failure.

Wilfred Taylor grave

TAYLOR – [The following is taken from The Seventh Regiment of RI Volunteers in the Civil War, 1862 – 1865, by William P. Hopkins. Published in 1903.] – Sergeant Wilfred Parkins Taylor, the youngest of the six children of Peter and Catherine Burbank Taylor, was born in Lowell, Mass., March 6, 1839. A little later his father removed the family to North Adams, where he subsequently died. Then the widow returned to Lowell with her young children. Wilfred attended the public schools of that city, and afterward prepared for Brown University at the Providence Conference Seminary, East Greenwich, R.I., from his own earnings. Instead of entering college, however, he responded to the call for troops, and enlisted in the Seventh, Aug. 15, 1862. At the battle of Fredericksburg he was seriously injured in the hip by a fragment of a shell. He was forwarded to the hospital at Fort Schuyler, N.Y., and from there to Fort Hamilton. Next he was sent to Alexandria, Va., and, lastly, to Columbus, O., where he was discharged on a surgeon’s certificate June 18, 1863. Once again in Lowell he studied law and entered upon its practice, which was continued until failing health compelled its abandonment. Then he established the business known as the Taylor Chemical Manufactory, and, in 1870, formed a partnership with one Thomas C. Barker, under the style of Taylor & Barker, with works in Tewksbury, but office in Lowell. He remained senior partner until his death, Sept. 4, 1887. His remains were interred in the family lot at the Lowell Cemetery, which also contains a Maltese cross fourteen feet in height and covered with Egyptian figures. It attracts attention the more readily in that it is beside the Grand Army lot. Sergeant Taylor married June 26, 1866, Adaline King, daughter of Col. Stephen and Elsie Maria Tillinghast Burlingame, who died June 8, 1897. Mr. Taylor’s mother, two sisters, Mrs. Ann Gage and Elizabeth O. Taylor, two brothers, Charles I., and Frederick Taylor, and wife, also survive him, all at the time residing in Lowell.”

SGT Joseph B Varnum grave

VARNUM – Sergeant Joseph B. Varnum was born in Dracut in 1821 and was killed in action during the Civil War on August 25, 1863 at Fairfax Courthouse while serving with 2nd Mass Cavalry when his detachment was ambushed by John Mosby (Mosby’s Raiders). SGT Varnum’s father was Benjamin F. Varnum (1795 to 1841) who represented Dracut in the Massachusetts House from 1824 to 1827 and in the state senate from 1827 to 1831 (North of river remained part of Dracut until 1851 annexation to Lowell).  In 1828 he was appointed a county commissioner and in 1831 he became the sheriff of Middlesex County, a position he held until his until his untimely death in 1841. Wife’s name was Caroline Bradley.  They lived in Centralville.  Benjamin was county sheriff during the burning of the Ursuline Convent (1834) and received praise from the Governor for his handling of the aftermath of that situation. His father was Joseph Bradley Varnum  (January 29, 1751 – September 21, 1821) who was a General in the American Revolution and was one of the first Speakers of the US House of Representatives.


Here are the names of the veterans whose graves ARE on next Saturday’s tour:

  • Henry and Edward Abbott – two brothers killed in action in the Civil War
  • Oliver Moulten Chadwick – a World War I pilot with the Lafeyette Escadrille
  • George Scott Finneral – A Navy helicopter crewmember who died during Desert Storm
  • Charles Jasper Glidden – served in Army in WWI; first person to drive a car around the world
  • Winfield Hird – A peacetime journalist killed in China with the US Army Air Force
  • Walker Lewis – A Black Civil War sailor whose family home was an Underground Railroad stop
  • George Marden – Civil War sharpshooter who founded the Lowell Courier
  • John McFarland – Civil War sailor awarded Medal of HonorEmma Miner – served in US Navy during World War II
  • Moses Greeley Parker – Civil War army surgeon at battle of Petersburg; leader in telephone business
  • John Jacob & Edith Nourse Rogers – Spouses; members of Congress; he served in Army in WWI; she helped found the VA and the GI Bill
  • Freeman Shedd – Civil War hospital attendant; wealthy business owner; philanthropist
  • Katherine Thyne – US Navy veteran; killed in line of duty with Newport News Police Dept

In addition, the Lowell Historical Society will have a display of Civil War artifacts and other items of interest in the cemetery’s Talbot Memorial Chapel which is part of this tour.

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