Ole Larson's Folks

Here is the obituary of my great-grandfather, as printed in the Onawa Sentinel, Aug. 16, 1917, and brought to light last month by Jody Boyd. Note the more usual, but unlikely, spelling of the first name; it is “Stephen” in every other source we know of.

Steven Bennett Myers was born at Sunbury, OH, July 22, 1848 and died Aug 10 1917 aged 69 years and 18 days.

He came to Iowa with his parents in 1854.

He was permitted when a boy of fifteen to accompany his father, who was a quartermaster in the federal army during the civil war and because the father was an officer, the son was allowed to wear a soldier’s uniform. He was wounded at the battle of Helena, Ark. and was left on the field for dead for a period of twenty-four hours. He belonged to Co. C 33d infantry.

He came to Onawa in August 1874 and was married Sept 15, 1875 to Miss Helen Colby, daughter of Mr. & Mrs. Harry E. Colby, Sr. Her father being a member of the firm of F. E. Colby & Co., Leading lumber and coal dealers and a prominent pioneer citizen.

Mr. Myers held the position of assistant county auditor. The office at that time being filled by what was termed an assistant instead of a deputy as at present. Mr. Myers was an expert accountant and was often called upon to audit books both public and private.

Seven children were born to Mr & Mrs. Myers of whom four sons and one daughter are living.

The third paragraph is the stunner. Wounded and left for dead on a Civil War battlefield at the age of fifteen! As far as we know (“we” being cousin Gail, sister Bonnie, and myself), no one in the family ever heard that story. Further investigation strongly suggests that it may be “apocryphal” (false or spurious).

Cousin Gail points out that Stephen was even less than fifteen, by about two weeks, at the time of the Battle of Helena. Although Gail and Paula’s research do not place him at the battle, there were hints that he did accompany his father at some time during the War. Also, they found that Stephen enrolled in the Naval Academy on August 1, 1864, at the age of “16 years and 0 Months.” He flunked out after one year, fifth from last in his class, with a note in his record specifying “bad conduct, idle habits, and little aptitude for study.”

There is a poignant scenario suggested by this experience. Consider the present generations of combat veterans, from WWII through the Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan conflicts. For every individual who may be eager to tell of his experiences, there are others who are haunted by the traumas, and struggle hard to forget them, in any way they can. “Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder” may be a recent term, even a new concept, but surely the condition itself is as old as the horrors of war. In Stephen’s case, post-traumatic stress, and the accompanying flashbacks, nightmares, anxiety, and alienation may have been a factor in his poor performance.

There are also hints in family lore, and a statement in the 1996 MeMe tapes, that Stephen had a drinking problem, another common result of post-traumatic stress. I am studying the Battle of Helena more closely. Stay tuned.


Helen Colby Myers Obituary
Lawrence Myers, 1920-2010