Did you know that there was a veterans cemetery planned for the site of the 1862 battle of Birch Coulee near Morton, Minnesota? In 1929, the state acquired the land where the battle took place and created the Birch Cooley Battle Field State Memorial Park. The plan was to commemorate the site with a granite marker, walking trails, a picnic area, and a veterans cemetery.
A few years later, as the plan for the site was still being developed, World War I veteran Christian Marguth died in 1934. Christian was a blacksmith by trade and served as a horseshoer with Troop K, 15th U.S. Calvalry during the war. Since a veterans cemetery was planned for the memorial park site, Christian was buried there even though the state-level approvals hadn’t quite been finalized yet.
The veterans’ cemetery at Birch Cooley (now Coulee) never came to be. For decades, Christian remained alone in the cemetery that might have been. The state transferred the management of the site to the Minnesota Historical Society in 1976 and the name was changed to the Birch Coulee Battlefield. That same year, Christian’s wife Elsie died. She received special permission to be buried with her husband at the site.
Christian and Elsie’s graves are located off the main trail and marked with grave markers and a small sign that briefly mentions the cemetery that might have been. Today, the entire Battle of Birch Coulee site (more on this in a later post) is managed by the Renville County Historical Society.