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Dept Michigan
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Past Department Commander's Badge

Department of Michigan

Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War

 

Don E. Hoch

Department Commander 1949-1950

 

When Don Hoch signed his membership application on January 13, 1937 few of the members of Austin Blair Camp No. 7, in Jackson, Michigan could foresee what an important part he would have in coming years in sustaining both Camp No. 7 and the Department of Michigan.

In 1937 most of the Camps of the SUVCW still had what we called “True Sons” and in many parts of our state there were still actives GAR Posts and many surviving members of the GAR. He had known his Grandfather, Samuel E. Bailey, who enlisted in company H, 15th Michigan Infantry on Christmas Eve, 1863, when he was 17 years old. He served through the end of the war and was mustered out with his regiment on Aug 13, 1865. Don joined the SUVCW as the grandson of Samuel Bailey. Soon after Don joined the SUVCW he became active in many of the activities and held numerous offices within the Camp.

In 1949 the Michigan Department bestowed the highest honor it could on Brother Hoch by electing him Department Commander. At the time of his death Don was the Senior Past Department Commander in Michigan. Sixty nine years a faithful member of the SUVCW, more than sixty years of leadership after having served as Department Commander.

World War II took its toll on members of the Michigan Camps of the SUVCW almost as much as the passing of more and more members of the GAR. It was during the next few years that Don’s dedication, resourcefulness and leadership abilities began to be more evident.

Not only was the GAR beginning to rapidly decrease in numbers but so were the “True Sons”! Just maintaining the membership was a constant battle as more and more of our members donned a uniform to answer our Country’s call. Don had been too young for WW I and on the upper edge of those that Uncle Sam needed most during WW II. However our leaders wanted Don to stay at home and keep the railroads running, which he contributed to doing for more than 40 years.

But Don didn’t just do his job at the rail yard! No doubt in his youth he had heard that as the Civil War soldiers were traveling to and from their homes the people along the way provided food and other necessities for them . Trains had no “Dining Cars” at that time and at many stops the town’s people were on hand with food.

By WW II supplying troop trains with food had advanced considerably. However, Don and others of the Allied Orders of Jackson staffed and supplied coffee, cookies & etc., in our local station as the men and women were traveling via railroad.

After WW II membership in many fraternal and social organizations faltered. However Don had a number of family members in the local Allied Orders and was able to rally them together and keep focused on our real purpose…”keeping green the memory of the Boys who wore the Blue.”

In 1947 the GAR disappeared from Michigan, now only a memory. And various local entities of the Allied Orders were disappearing also. In the early 1960’s there were less than a dozen Camps of the SUVCW in Michigan.

From its beginning in 1882 our local Post No. 48, GAR, had been given free use to facilities in the County Court House. Never did they have to worry where they would meet or what the costs might be. However, the day after our last member of the GAR died the Allied Orders were ordered to vacate the room in just a few days.

For Don and his long time friend and co-member of Camp No. 7, Thayne La Banta, fell the responsibility to remove all the furniture, records and miscellaneous property from the facility. The GAR left the SUVCW a great heritage… and a great challenge… “to keep green their memory”.

Two men of our local Post left us some things to help fulfill those responsibilities. One left us a complete set of the Records of the Michigan Regiments in the Civil War, a.k.a., “The Brown Books”.

Don and Thayne saw to it that they were preserved and today we enjoy the luxury of having one of the few complete sets in private hands. These help us “keep green” their memory. Another Comrade left each of the local Allied Orders shares of Consumer’s Energy stock. Not much, but enough to help maintain the work to be done!

Upon loosing their meeting place, under Don’s leadership they formed a society and named it after the man whose action sustained the Camp in the unforeseen future. The Schofield Society, was formed by members of the SUVCW, DUVCW and the ASUVCW. They pooled the dividend proceeds of their combined stock, obtained a mortgage and brought an old church and it became their home. Used by all of the Allied Orders, they continued on.

Locally membership grew for a few years but by the mid to late 1950’s it again began to dwindle. The ASUVCW, DUVCW and WRC all closed their local groups. Don and Thayne, combining their dedication and ingenuity again prevailed. They were able to keep Austin Blair Camp No. 7, as an active Camp, thanks in a large part to the proceeds of their two remaining shares of stock. It wasn’t until approximately twenty years later that with the support of the Curtenius Guard Camp No. 17, in Sunfield, that new members were encouraged to join with Brothers LaBanta and Hoch and reactivate Camp No. 7.

Both Thayne and Don lived to see Camp No. 7 take on new life and they saw the Auxiliary to Camp No. 7 once again become active. Until the limitations of age overtook them they were again active in the Camp. Quite possibly Don was the last member in Michigan’s Department to have Comrades of the GAR attend their meetings. He was Department Commander when the last Annual Encampment of the Grand Army of the Republic was held. He was held in great esteem by all who knew him, he will be missed.

(Taken from the Summer 2006 edition of Michigan's Messenger)

 

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  Last updated on July 20, 2006 8:10 PM - webmaster