By 1929 the ranks of Civil War veterans were thinning. Each year Nebraska cemeteries saw more old soldiers’ graves bedecked with flowers on Decoration Day, as Memorial Day was then known. Yet the last resting place of at least one such veteran was not so honored in May of 1929, according to William H. Smith, editor of the Seward Independent-Democrat.
An editorial by Smith, which appeared on May 30, 1929, noted: “Orlando Cassler [Casler], who was hanged in Seward fifty years ago on May 20 , after he had been tried and convicted of the crime of murder . . . , was a civil war veteran. He had served his country with honor in its time of trial. His body occupies a grave in a cemetery in Seward county, just where will not be said. [Casler is buried in the Beaver Crossing Cemetery.] Should the grave containing the body of this civil war veteran who, after the war, paid the penalty with his life for a crime committed, be recognized on Decoration day as are the graves of other civil war veterans?”
Casler, a Seward County farmer, was tried and convicted of the 1878 murder of George L. Monroe, a Kansan, and the theft of Monroe’s team. Sentenced to death on February 6, 1879, Casler (still proclaiming his innocence) was hanged at Seward on May 20.
Smith wrote in his 1929 editorial: “When [Civil War veteran] M. M. Campion made a check of the soldiers’ graves in the county a few years ago to ascertain those that lacked the marker provided by the government for the graves of veterans, he found none at the Cassler grave and was advised by persons in the community that it would be best not to procure one for it. Later he conferred with county authorities, who took the position that since the man had served his country with credit during the war, and had an honorable discharge his grave was entitled to a marker, in spite of the difficulties in which he became involved later.”
Smith noted in reminiscences published in the Nebraska State Historical Society quarterly Nebraska History in September 1951, that his 1929 editorial was widely reprinted and prompted mail from around the country. Casler’s grave now has a GAR marker, but Smith noted that “it was the grave of Orlando Cassler, the Civil War veteran, and not the grave of Orlando Cassler, the murderer, that was thus recognized.” – Patricia C. Gaster, Assistant Editor/Publications