Local volunteers work to remember Civil War vet
By Christin Nance Lazerus email@example.com June 8, 2014 3:38PM
at Oak Hill | Joe Puchek~Sun-Times Media
Updated: July 10, 2014 6:16AM
HAMMOND — A Civil War veteran may finally receive recognition for his service more than 100 years after he died due to the efforts from local volunteers.
Adolph Hufenhauser was a German immigrant who served in the Union Army from 1861 to 1865. But he lived the life of a recluse after the war, clinging to memories of the German girl who had promised to marry him. He earned the moniker “The Hermit of Ridge Road” after police had to break down his door in 1912 and found him starving despite ample amounts of money in jars and drawers around his house.
Until late May, Hufenhauser’s grave was unmarked. Highland Historical Society member Sue Douthett profiled Hufenhauser, who lived on a 40-acre farm just east of Highland, and two other Civil War veterans in her May newsletter.
“After I got into studying the files to put together the stories, I discovered that we had no idea where Adolph was buried,” Douthett wrote in an email.
Douthett had an inkling that he may be buried at Oak Hill Cemetery, which is near the hospital where he died in 1912 — St. Margaret’s in Hammond.
Kara Graper, an organizer with the Oak Hill Cemetery Restoration Project, checked the burial records and, sure enough, he was listed along with the row and section where he was buried.
Graper said many gravestones were buried or sank due to mismanagement by a previous owner of the cemetery, but she believes Hufenhauser never had a gravestone.
“We’ve installed 11 new Civil War headstones since 2012, with plans for about four more, including Hufenhauser’s,” Graper said. Ken Ziese of Ziese’s Excavating in Crown Point has helped install the gravestones.
Currently, a simple wooden stake marks the site of Hufenhauser’s grave at Oak Hill Cemetery in Hammond, but the South Shore Civil War Memorial Trail is applying for a gravestone for Hufenhauser through the Veterans Administration.
Four years ago, Graper said, Oak Hill Cemetery had deteriorated to an appalling state, with little to no maintenance, more than 600 headstones thrown away, trash littering the grounds, and prostitutes frequently sighted.
Under a little used state law, Graper, who has family buried at Oak Hill, and a few dozen volunteers encouraged North Township to take over the property.
“It’s experienced a renaissance,” Graper said. “There’s a new bike trail, the flag pole has been replaced, and there are flower beds. It still has long way to go, but it’s undergone an amazing transformation. We’re starting to see the history come back.”