A restoration project honoring a former governor and Civil War veteran will receive the first grant from the Iowa History Fund, which was set up as part of Governor Branstad’s longest serving governor observance.
The $6500 grant will complete fundraising to restore the mausoleum at Woodland Cemetery of Samuel Merrill.
“Here is this Civil War hero who served as our governor, who gave so much,” said Governor Branstad. “What a great way to start is to support the restoration of his mausoleum here in Woodland Cemetery. “
Merrill was governor from 1868 to 1872 after serving and being wounded in the 21st Iowa Volunteer Infantry Regiment.
A pro-veteran organization led the fundraising.
"After a century of neglect and a falling oak tree, the mausoleum became home to possums and raccoons rather than the hallowed ground of an Iowa hero,” said Jonas Cutler with Patriot Outreach.
Merrill ran a dry goods store in McGregor and he personally paid for the uniforms Iowa soldiers in three regiments wore in the first battles of the Civil War.
"This project will serve as a visual reminder for future generations of Iowans to act when the need arises rather than wait for somebody else to do it," Cutler said.
Money in the fund comes from sales of the book, “Iowa’s Record Setting Governor: The Terry Branstad Story.”
“I've already heard from people across the state of Iowa that have worthy projects they'd like to see supported,” Branstad said. “So in the months ahead I'm hopeful I'll be able to announce many other projects that we're supporting.”
The fund now has about $194,000 and future awards will each be $10,000 or less.
Governor Merrill died in 1899 and his body was placed in the mausoleum. During the restoration project, it was discovered that the mausoleum also held the remains of Merrill’s wife Elisabeth.
The mausoleum should be completely renovated by June.