Eugene Pioneer Cemetery

Eugene Pioneer Cemetery

John G. Montgomery (1832-1931) ─ One of 5 known Confederate Veterans buried in Eugene Pioneer Cemetery

At rest far from the Deep South, there are an estimated 200 known Confederate veterans buried in Oregon.

Following the Civil War in 1860s and 1870s, many soldiers –both Union and Confederate–traveled west for job opportunities and to acquire land. Private John Gibson Montgomery, Company 5 of the 5thTennessee Calvary, was one of those men.

In the northwest quadrant of the cemetery (3rdrow in from the central path that leads to Gerlinger Hall) lays Montgomery. His is one of five known Confederate graves in Eugene Pioneer Cemetery.

Like a lot of Confederate veterans, Montgomery was originally buried without a head stone. When he passed in 1931 at the age of 98 Montgomery was buried next to his wife Sallie who had died in 1923 at the age of 77.

Born in West Virginia, Montgomery served as a Rebel soldier from 1861-1865. Then from Arkansas, he crossed the Plains in 1875 and settled near La Grande, Oregon. A 28 year resident of the McKenzie Valley, John ran Montgomery Brothers Logging Company in Walterville. He and Sallie raised their five sons and two daughters in Leaburg. Little else is known about Montgomery.

Today Confederate graves in the Eugene Pioneer Cemetery are a reminder of the impact the Civil War had in the Northwest. Allegiances Union and Confederate ran strong. For it was silver and gold mined in the west that went into the Union Treasury back East. Prospectors and those with kinfolk living in the Confederate States of America had mixed feelings about our commodities financing a war against their kinfolk in the south. It was a dispute that swept up the entire nation.

In fact, local allegiances were strong enough in 1860 to disband Columbia College, the institution after which the College Hill area south of Downtown Eugene (on Olive and 19th) is named.

Founded in 1856 Columbia College was the first co-educational college in the U.S. But a mere four years later, the Board of Directors was heavily divided on the issue of slavery in Oregon. So much so that on June 22, 1860 one board member attacked another with a revolver and was arrested for attempted murder.

As for Montgomery, records show that he considered himself an American, not just a Southerner. The Veteran’s Administration honors military service regardless of side so in 2000 the Daughters of the Confederacy helped John Montgomery’s great, great granddaughter, LeAnne Boynton, order a pointed Confederate military marker for him from the Veterans Administration.

The May 7, 2000 edition of the Register-Guard newspaper covered the dedication ceremony. Civil War re-enactors in hoop skirts and Calvary soldiers in grey uniform gathered graveside. There was a 21 gun salute. Children placed lilies on Montgomery’s grave as the small crowd sang “Amazing Grace”, “Dixie” and a bugler played “Taps.”