Civil War & Stephens Co., OK (2)

Loren Walton Lewis (1845-1914)

On Friday, July 25, 1862, dark-haired, seventeen year-old Loren Walton Lewis of Burton Township in Adams County, Illinois looked the Union Army enlistment officer in the eye and, like many a young man who served in that war, lied, stating that he was eighteen years of age. He wouldn’t turn eighteen until February of the following year, but by that time, his blue eyes had seen, and his five foot, nine inch frame experienced, more than enough to age a youth well beyond his years.

Also like many who served, Loren did not enter the service alone, but joined with a close friend, or as in Loren’s case, an older brother, Henry. Big brother would go on to become a first lieutenant, but though eventually mustered out as a Corporal, Loren would spend most of his time in the regiment at the rank in which he enlisted, a Private. The transformation of these two farm hands into Union soldiers took less than six weeks from time of enlistment to muster into Co. E of the 84th Illinois Infantry Regiment on Sept. 1.

Of the 939 enlisted men and officers of the 84th Illinois, 558 of them (59%) were eventually either wounded or killed in battle (228 of them in one battle alone, Stones River, aka: Murfreesboro). An additional 131 men (14%) either died of disease or were killed in some sort of accident. Loren’s regiment was no stranger to combat, and had inscribed on its battle flag the designations of a number of significant battles in which it had participated: Perryville, Stones River, Woodbury, Chickamauga, Lookout Mountain, Missionary Ridge, Ringgold, Dalton, Buzzard’s Roost Gap (aka: Mill Creek Gap), Resaca, Burnt Hickory, Kennesaw Mountain, Smyrna, Jonesborough, Lovejoy Station, Franklin and Nashville.

Loren’s company, Co. E, was the exact size of a typical Union infantry company: one hundred men. Of the one hundred men of Co.E, 44% of them were either killed in combat, died for whatever reason, were wounded, or were discharged with some disability. Of the one hundred men of Co.E, thirty-three of them (33%), like Loren, came from the little township of Burton, located in extreme west central Illinois. Of those thirty-three men, seventeen of them (50%) were casualties. Loren was one of the fortunate 50% of his hometown, surviving the war and having never been wounded. His brother, Henry, though surviving the war, suffered a leg wound and was partially crippled for life.

Following the war, Loren would eventually work for a time as an interior decorator. Ultimately making his way to the city of Duncan in Stephens County, OK, Fred Lewis, one of Loren’s grandsons, relates how his “grandfather, an accomplished musician, had been church organist there [First Baptist Church in Duncan, OK] before his death.”

The years were apparently not particularly kind to Loren. In June 1892, at the age of 47, Loren first made application for, and received, a Union pension. Loren made the application as an “invalid” and his pension was so certified.

Though incorrect regarding the township of Loren’s birth and early residence, the following obituary which appeared in the January 1, 1915 issue of the Duncan Banner, sums up in a few words some of Loren’s life. I am indebted to Betty Eby for finding and providing this obituary. Comments in brackets [] are my own editing.

“Loren Walton Lewis was born near Payson, Adams Co., Illinois in 1845. Was one of a family of twelve children, nine of whom lived to be grown and seven are still living, he being one of the younger children. He served during the Civil War while still a boy under the flag which he always revered and which was draped over his body as it was borne to his last resting place. He was married at Deerfield, Kansas, in 1891 [on Mar. 31] to Mary A. Keep [b. 6/25/1864; d. 2/15/1935]. To them were born seven children, six of whom are still living: Mrs. J. J. Coone of Chickasha, Elma, Robert Loren, Mercer, Chester and Forrest, all of whom were with him at the last. He was a life-long member of the Baptist church, always retaining his membership in the church at Payson. He was a member of the W.O.W. [Woodmen of the World] and K. of P. [Knights of Pythias] lodges for over twenty years. A kind husband, father and fellow citizen, always seeing the good in all, his death came as a severe blow to family and friends.”

Loren Walton Lewis (b. 2/5/1845; d.12/23/1914) is buried in block 7, lot 117 of the Duncan Municipal Cemetery in Stephens County, OK. A distinctive Woodmen of the World headstone marks his grave, making it easily recognizable from a distance. The headstone is topped with the careful carving of an open book containing his “family record.”

the sound of silence

Those who arrested Jesus led him to Caiaphas the high priest. The legal experts and the elders had gathered there. Peter followed him from a distance until he came to the high priest’s courtyard. He entered that area and sat outside with the officers to see how it would turn out.

The chief priests and the whole council were looking for false testimony against Jesus so that they could put him to death. They didn’t find anything they could use from the many false witnesses who were willing to come forward. But finally they found two who said, “This man said, ‘I can destroy God’s temple and rebuild it in three days.’”

Then the high priest stood and said to Jesus, “Aren’t you going to respond to the testimony these people have brought against you?”

But Jesus was silent.

The high priest said, “By the living God, I demand that you tell us whether you are the Christ, God’s Son.”

“You said it,” Jesus replied. “But I say to you that from now on you’ll see the Human One sitting on the right side of the Almighty and coming on the heavenly clouds.”

Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, “He’s insulting God! Why do we need any more witnesses? Look, you’ve heard his insult against God. What do you think?”

And they answered, “He deserves to die!” Then they spit in his face and beat him. They hit him and said, “Prophesy for us, Christ! Who hit you?” (Matthew 26:57-68 CEB)

They surrounded him with themselves. Legal experts and elders. Chief priests, council members, and officers of the court.

“But Jesus was silent.”

They brought in liars aplenty. Likely everything and anything imaginable was said about his character and life. Every eye was scrutinizing his person and every ear was straining to hear something that could be used against him.

“But Jesus was silent.”

They insulted him and mocked him. They spit in his face. They hit him and beat him.

“But Jesus was silent.”

He didn’t fight. He didn’t flee. Instead, he practiced what he preached. He stood there and faced it. The Christ, God’s Son, stood there and took it.

In silence.

For many, the sound of God’s silence is deafening. How many times each day do the heavens hear the words “Why is this happening to me?” How frequently do men and women cry out, “Do you not care?” How often do the oppressed and suffering look up and say, “What have I done to deserve this?”

And the heavens are silent.

This is just as perplexing and frustrating to us today as it was to those who grilled Jesus that day. And we, like they are, are faced with a question.

How should we interpret his silence?

God’s silence is not malignant, but benevolent. His silence speaks of his power which he does not use whimsically, but only with perfect control. His silence speaks of his patience with us, in spite of our many failings. His silence speaks of his long suffering with us, affording us time and opportunity to come to our senses and change our ways. His silence tells us of his unfailing love for us, even though we often speak lightly or falsely of him, treating him with indifference or aggression.

No, his silence does not disturb me. His silence embraces me and encourages me. His silence woos me to ever consider who he is and to remember what I am. His silence seeks my salvation.

For I believe someday the one who is not only human, but who now sits at the right hand of the Almighty, will come for me and take me to be at home with him.

The Lord is in his holy temple.
Let all the earth keep silence before him.
Keep silence. Keep silence.
Keep silence before him.

Lord Jesus, by your Spirit, hear what comes from me that is beyond words. Take these things to our Father. May they only bring true praise. But when my often thoughtless, clueless spirit dares to speak otherwise, when I offer up insult and shame instead of trust and wonder, have mercy on me, I pray. Amen.