Grave finally marked for Civil War vet

Published 8:22 am Wednesday, November 11, 2009

FRANKLIN—The moment was a little bittersweet for Caryn Brooks.

After months of genealogy research into her great- great- great-grandfather Godwin Parker, the Texas woman located his remains at a cemetery directly behind Sycamore Baptist Church in Southampton County.

She called the church secretary, Betty Britt, who offered to take a picture of the grave and send it to her via e-mail.

“There was this bittersweet moment,” Brooks recalled of the time two years ago when she saw the picture. “I was excited that we found him, but there were chunks of concrete on top (of the grave) and it was unmarked.”

Brooks set out to remedy that. Parker was a Civil War veteran, so, with the help of Russell Darden, who at that time was the adjutant of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, Urquhart-Gillette Camp 1471, she ordered a headstone through a Veterans Administration program that provides them free of charge for qualified veterans.

The VA sent the headstone to the church within months of it being ordered, but it sat near the grave unset.

“They wasted no time making it and getting it sent here,” Britt recalled.

Tommy Simmons, commander of the Urquhart-Gillette SCV chapter, said Darden and Brooks lost touch for a time.

“Several months went by,” he said. “We didn’t talk about it much at the time. Adjutant Darden was always very active and busy in many SCV affairs. We just assumed sometime he’d come to us wanting us to get busy and get ourselves (the camp color guard)) organized for a grave marker ceremony, which is the custom with these kinds of things.”

Turns out, Darden had promised to wait until Brooks could afford to make the trip from Texas to see the stone being set and attend the subsequent ceremony.

Darden died suddenly in May, and his pet project might have been forgotten if not for the church’s pastor.

The Rev. Roger Crump had called the SCV to find out the next step to getting the marker in place.

“Last Monday I received a phone call from F. Lee Hart, past commander of the Tom Smith Camp in Suffolk, about the grave marker that had been shipped to the church,” Simmons said. Hart had been called by the SCV because he installs confederate markers for the organization.

“This is kind of like a hobby for him. It’s in his blood,” Simmons explained.

Last Wednesday morning, two members of the Urquhart-Gillette Camp #1471 — Wayne Cutchins and Lemuel Brown, who also are members of Sycamore Baptist Church — met with Hart and 1st Brigade Commander Tom Davis of Chesapeake to install the grave marker for Parker, who served in Company A of the 13th Virginia Cavalry and died March 8, 1894.

“We cleaned and put it in place,” Cutchins, a member of the SCV for seven years, said. “It was really interesting to make sure it was done, done right and done in a manner that is deserving to the person who is buried there. We are who we are because of Godwin Parker and soldiers like him.”

Brooks said she had worked on the project with her father, Robert Clifton Brooks. When he passed away months after the gravestone was ordered, the grief tore her away from the project for a time.

She learned of the grave setting on Monday.

“It’s extremely exciting,” she said. “I feel so validated for all the work that was done to seek Godwin out.”

I am so grateful for those lives that led to mine and so enthusiastic about finding out all about them. It made me so very, very happy to discover him and do the right thing and get that marker there and get him the recognition he deserves. Especially on Veterans Day, I just want him to be so revered.

It’s the right thing to have that marker there.”