Indian Fighter’s Grave Waits 159 Years for Headstone

Mar 10, 2016

Nineteen-year-old John Lucian Gardner of Eugene joined the Oregon Mounted Volunteers in 1855 to fight against the Indians of Southern Oregon.  He died in an ambush a few months later, his body buried in an unmarked grave in the Riddle family cemetery in Riddle, Ore.

The family of great-grandnephew Steven Gardner of Jacksonville, Ore., identified the grave through historical documents, among them a commanding officer’s letter to the volunteer’s family, old newspapers and a military roster.  Most definitive was pioneer George Riddle’s 1920 autobiography titled History of Early Days in Oregon.  Riddle wrote, "I well remember the return of the expedition … Gardner was interred in our cemetery.  His was the third grave made there and is now unmarked."

Last spring, 159 years after the burial, his great-grandnephew replaced a bronze “unknown soldier” plaque with a Veterans of Foreign Wars headstone. The inscription reads, “John Lucian Gardner Company A 1st Battalion 2nd Regiment Oregon Mounted Volunteers (born) May 1st 1836 (died)  January 23rd 1856.”

The great-grandnephew said, “I wanted to give John Lucian the recognition he deserved and I know that he, as a family member, would have done the same for me.”

Sources:  Cegavske, Carisa. “Unknown Soldier Finally Named.” The News-Review 10 June 2015. [Roseburg, Ore.]: A1+. Print;  Riddle, George W., History of Early Days in Oregon. Riddle, Ore.: 1920. 70-71. Web 15 June 2015. (a collection of a series of articles first appearing in the Riddle Enterprise).; Gardner, Steven. Personal e-mail interview. 17 Feb. 2015.