This environment made for a close-knit society as it did in all small towns. No one could imagine, though, that 1861 would bring the American Civil War where the young men would march off to perhaps never return and their parents and siblings would remain at home to wait and worry.
One of the well-known families in Norwalk before that war was that of Reuben T. Rust, who with his wife and family lived at 56 Milan Ave. The Rust sons were favorites with their friends and most everyone knew “Deacon” Rust due to his prominent presence in the First Baptist Church. Reuben had been partially disabled in working as a bridge builder, and in Norwalk he served nine years as a Justice of the Peace; three years as village clerk; and country infirmary director for three years.
Rust had become a Millerite follower in the 1840s and kept the Millerite beliefs although he joined Norwalk’s First Baptist Church in 1854 and acquired the title of “Deacon.” In June of 1870, he moved with his wife and son to Indiana and last lived in Waverly, Iowa, where he died in 1892.
One of the Rust sons, Elijah, enlisted with Norwalk’s Light Guards who became Co. D of the 8th Ohio Infantry in June of 1861 and had become a sergeant by the time of his death at Winchester, Va., on March 23, 1862. About this same time, another Norwalk boy, William Rogers, died in an army hospital at Mound City, Ill. A double funeral was planned for April 1, 1862, in Whittlesey Hall on the third floor (now gone) of the Whittlesey Block after services for each young man at their parents’ home.
A number of soldiers and old friends of Elijah and William happened to be home at the time and were able to provide a military funeral with reversed arms and a slow and solemn drumbeat. William Rogers was buried in the Episcopal Cemetery, while Elijah Rust was interred in the New Cemetery, now known as Woodlawn.
Elijah Rust’s brother, Henry, had enlisted in the 8th Ohio with Elijah, and he was furloughed to come home from Winchester for his brother’s funeral. This incident was one of the many such sad ones to touch Norwalk and every other community until the war ended in 1865. I should add that William Rogers was a son of Simeon Rogers, who lived in the house still standing at 238 E. Main St.
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REMEMBER: My “Just Like Old Times” books are on sale at Colonial Flower and Gift Shoppe at 7 W. Main St. in downtown Norwalk. These preserve my earlier columns in permanent book form.
Henry Timman, an authority on Firelands history, resides in rural Norwalk.