Civil War soldier finally gets headstone in Brighton
Brighton — Brighton Area Historical Society’s headstone restoration team has honored the memory of Civil War soldier John Sylvan Prosser by installing a Veterans Affairs memorial headstone.
Prosser’s headstone now rests next to the graves of his parents, sister and aunt in the family plot in Old Village Cemetery in downtown Brighton.
Prosser was mortally wounded in the Battle of Spotsylvania in Virginia on May 12, 1864, and died the following day in a field hospital. He was buried on the battlefield. Although descendants went looking for Prosser’s burial place, park rangers had no record of its exact location.
The new Veterans Affairs headstone is a physical record of the man, who was born in 1843 and fought in Michigan’s 20th Infantry, Company K, during the Civil War. From what the historical society knows, members of the Prosser family owned a paint supply business after coming to Brighton from New York in the 1830s. Prosser was mustered into service out of Chelsea along with his cousin Oliver Allyn, who was wounded on the same day and survived.
Historical Society researcher Tammy Sexton discovered that Prosser did not have a headstone and reached out to his descendants. Prosser’s great-grand-nephew John Manutes of Colorado applied for the memorial stone through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
“Keeping the memory of Civil War soldiers alive and green is our mission here,” said volunteer Bill Dixon, a member of the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War.
More than 35 headstones for Civil War soldiers have been installed since 1999, by the Green Oak Historical Society and Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War before Brighton Area Historical Society took the lead on restoring the cemetery, which overlooks the Mill Pond next to St. Paul’s church.
Aside from installing the new headstone, volunteers are in the midst of a larger, ongoing headstone restoration project at Old Village Cemetery.
“The goal is ... to bring respect back to founding members of Brighton and their families,” said Jim Vichich, Brighton Area Historical Society president.
In two years, the Brighton Area Historical Society’s Headstone Restoration Team has rebuilt 62 headstones that were broken and righted another 60 that were leaning over.
The group has found some headstones completely buried in the ground. Some are still broken or lying on the ground.
The Historical Society started fixing up the cemetery in 2009 by clearing out vegetation and then donated the iron entry gate near the amphitheater seating at the Mill Pond. The Brighton Area Historical Society Headstone Restoration Team is beginning its third year of headstone repair in the City of Brighton-owned cemetery. Historical Society membership dues and donations pay for the work.