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Camp Floyd cemetery big 'piece of confusion'

Of 84 markers, 40 are for people who aren't buried there.
Of 84 markers, 40 are for people who aren't buried there.
Deseret Morning News archives

Nobody is actually buried beneath headstones at Camp Floyd's cemetery. Also, about half the markers there are for soldiers who were buried far away, sometimes thousands of miles. And many soldiers who died with the Army of Utah lack headstones there now.

"It's the biggest piece of confusion I've ever seen," said Curtis Allen, whose research revealed those problems.

After the 1857-58 Utah War, Camp Floyd near Fairfield, Utah County, became the nation's largest military installation until it was closed at the outbreak of the Civil War. The cemetery at the state park there is one of the few remaining signs of that post.

Modern headstones were placed there about 1960 by the American Legion to replace old wooden markers destroyed by wildfire in the early 1900s.

Allen loves the cemetery as a monument to those who served at Camp Floyd and encourages people to visit, especially as the 150th anniversary of the fort approaches.

But he says things simply are not what they seem — and state park officials agree.

"When the cemetery was restored, many of the military records that are easily available today (in books and on the Internet) were not available then — except maybe in Washington, D.C.," Allen says.

So Allen suspects that researchers made some best guesses about who served at Floyd and assumed they were buried there if they served in units thought to be in Utah and their death dates matched camp dates. Allen said that was not a safe assumption. Take, for example, the headstone for Sgt. Samuel Irvin.

"He was killed in a steamboat explosion in Texas, and his body apparently was not recovered. But somehow he has a headstone thousands of miles away at Camp Floyd," Allen said.

Capt. Matthew S. Pitcher died even further away — in New York. Allen said Pitcher's regiment "was part of the Utah expedition. However, he was sick in New York and was not able to join in the march to Utah.

He died there, but he has a headstone here."

The Camp Floyd cemetery has 84 markers. Allen said his research shows that 40 of them are for people who clearly did not die in or near Camp Floyd. Eleven are for people who did not even serve with the "Utah expedition" of soldiers who came to the territory.

Allen's research has also identified 31 other enlisted men who died while serving with the Army of Utah but who do not have headstones in the cemetery.

Allen also found a letter from 1960 saying actual grave sites could not be located when current headstones were placed. So the stones were simply placed neatly in rows generally by order of death date. "So no one is buried under the headstones," he said.

Allen noted that an early map of Camp Floyd neatly marked where all its buildings stood but did not mark where the cemetery was. A partial cemetery wall also fell through the years.

But Mark Trotter, manager of the Camp Floyd/Stagecoach Inn State Park, said he is confident the cemetery is in the correct place because of the earlier cemetery wall — and that soldiers are buried there, if not precisely beneath the headstones.

Trotter said he has reviewed Allen's research, "and it looks correct to me."

So he added he might like to see some changes made — such as adding headstones for those who died with the Army of Utah at Camp Floyd but lack them. "But when that is going to happen, I don't know," he said. Trotter added he does not know when, or if, funds might become available for such work.