- Associated Press - Sunday, May 29, 2016

ST. CHARLES, Mich. (AP) - It has been almost 102 years since Alvah N. Nichols, a local Civil War veteran, was laid to rest in St. Charles’ Riverside Cemetery.

A brand new tombstone marks the grave site, decorated with wreaths, flowers and an American flag.

But not too long ago, there were no such decorations. In fact, there was not even a tombstone to mark the soldier’s grave, The Saginaw News (https://bit.ly/1TqsLVd ) reported.

Nichols has his great-great-grandson, Bob Boquette, to thank.

The Birch Run man’s interest in Civil War history and his own genealogy led him to the village of St. Charles, where he learned of his ancestor’s final resting place.

During his visit, Boquette stopped to grab a bite to eat at the Bad River Bar & Grill and asked if anyone knew anything about the Nichols family, said Phyllis Hofeit, whose son worked at the bar.

“He went in the back and got the cook, who is my son, and says, ‘I hear you’re looking for a Nichols,’” Hofeit said. “And he said, ‘My mother is a Nichols.’”

Hofeit said her son, Thomas Hofeit, sent Boquette to talk to his aunt Shirley Louchart.

Louchart, who is Nichols’ great-granddaughter, said when she met Boquette, they learned they were second cousins. Boquette met up with her and her daughter and daughter-in-law, who had done their own research into the family’s genealogy.

“They just exchanged stuff,” Louchart said. “He’s a Civil War buff and he just loves anything about it.”

The family has collected several specific details about their ancestor’s life and his military service.

Alvah N. Nichols was born in New York’s Cayuga County on March 13, 1832, according to their research.

At the age of 31, Nichols in December 1863 enlisted in the 9th New York Heavy Artillery. The regiment was involved in numerous battles and difficult campaigns in the last two years of the war.

Battles the regiment fought in during Nichols’ service included the Battle of Totopotomoy Creek, the Battle of Cold Harbor, the Battle (Siege) of Petersburg and the Battle of Fisher’s Hill. Col. William H. Seward Jr., the son of then-Secretary of State William H. Seward, commanded the regiment for four months in 1964.

Nichols was honorably discharged on Jan. 30, 1865, due to a knee injury and other health issues.

“I think it’s quite an accomplishment that he lived through that many battles,” Louchart said. “For him to be in there two years and to have survived all those battles. He’s lucky to have made it out alive.”

After Nichols’ discharge, the regiment went on to fight in the Appomattox Campaign, including the Battle of Appomattox Court House on April 9, 1865.

The battle preceded the surrender of Confederate Army General Robert E. Lee to the Union Army under Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, triggering a series of surrenders across the South and signaling the end of the war.

Five years after he was discharged, Nichols migrated to Michigan and settled in the Brant/St. Charles area. He died on Sept. 4, 1914, and was buried in the east section of St. Charles’ Riverside Cemetery.

When he located his ancestor’s grave site, Boquette discovered no marker stood there in Nichols’ memory.

“Alvah had no stone,” Louchart said. “(Boquette) didn’t like that.”

Boquette purchased a tombstone, and on Saturday, May 14, family and friends gathered at the cemetery to honor the memory of Alvah Nichols.

Members of the Sons of Union Veterans and Sons of Veteran Reserve groups attended the ceremony, which included a prayer and a rifle volley.

The group that gathered for the service Saturday afternoon also included Shirley Louchart and Phyllis Hofeit. Both are daughters of Claude Nichols and granddaughters of William Nichols, who was Alvah’s son.

Hofeit said her and her sister go to the cemetery every year to place flowers on the graves.

“We knew he was here,” she said. “We just didn’t know which grave it was.”

Hofeit said she is grateful for the work done by Boquette and others because it enables them to do the same for Alvah’s.

“To have him honored like this,” she said. “It’s great.”

___

Information from: The Saginaw News, https://www.mlive.com/saginaw


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