Roadside Grave Of Corporal Paul Steinbach

Sometimes there isn’t much to look at when I’m out exploring and driving from place to place. But I’m always scanning the horizon for something interesting. That’s what happened on this day earlier this year. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw what looked like a military grave marker on the side of the road. I had a nagging suspicion that it might be something really interesting, so I found a place to turn around and went back. Sure enough, it was the grave of Civil War veteran Paul Steinbach. Honestly, I’m not used to seeing a grave so close to a moderately-busy county road. As soon as I got home, I dug into Find a Grave and Ancestry to see what I could share with you about Paul Steinbach. I didn’t find a lot, but here’s what I can share. 

Paul’s Life

Johann Paul Steinbach was a German immigrant who arrived in the United States with his wife, Elizabeth, and their 10 children. They settled on a farm near Williamstown, Wisconsin. On September 19, 1864, he enlisted and joined the Union Army. Paul was assigned to the 44th Regiment, Wisconsin Infantry, Company B, at the rank of Corporal — he was 36 years old at the time. After mustering out of the Army in June 1865, he returned to his farm. By 1870, the family moved to Brown County, Minnesota, and surrounded themselves with other German immigrants. It appears that Elizabeth was committed to St Peter State Hospital and that Peter divorced her. She died at the state hospital in 1902. 

Paul married his second wife, Wilhelmine (Minnie), in Wisconsin in 1875. The couple settled on a farm near Bertha, Minnesota, with three of Paul and Elizabeth’s children. They then had four children together. It looks like Minnie died in 1899 at the age of 55 (I couldn’t find records or a grave to support the death date.) Paul lived with his daughter Mary on the farm in Bertha after Minnie’s death. He then married his third wife, Amelia, in 1901. Sometime around 1905, the couple moved to Verndale, Minnesota.

His Final Resting Place

Paul Steinbach died in Hennepin County in 1907. Without pulling the death certificate, my guess is that he was at the Minnesota Soldiers’ Home at the time. So how did he end up in the roadside grave? Looking at a Todd County plat map from 1907, it appears that there was a small cemetery where I found his headstone. There is at least one other person buried there, although that grave is no longer marked. His grave would likely have been lost if it weren’t for Paul’s status as a veteran and government-issued marker. We would have driven by without knowing anyone was buried there. It makes me wonder how many small cemeteries or graves we pass by without knowing what lies beneath the surface. 

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