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Feature Article on Byron Joslin. Topic: CIVIL WAR & PEOPLE
Written by Rich Wallace in November, 1998


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Above at left is Byron Joslin in his younger right, Byron is decorated with Civil War medals years later. 

A great trivia question for true students of history would be to name when the last person to draw a Civil War pension died. It would have been a trick question, as I learned when I picked up a copy of the Atlanta Journal Constitution for October 18, 1998.

That great war, which ended 133 years ago, helped to define our collective national character like no other event. The recent decision of City Council to remodel the second and third floors of the Monumental Building, the county's tribute to its Civil War dead, has awakened interest in the sacrifices of the 3,000 or so county men who served in the war.

Southerners are revisiting their Civil War heritage as well with the revelation that Alberta Jasper Martin lives. Author Rheta Grimsley Johnson tracked down the story for the Atlanta paper of the 91 year old Elba, Alabama widow. She became the December bride of Civil War veteran William Jasper. The year was 1927. Jasper was 81 and Alberta was 21. She cared for him until his death in 1932.

Local historians cannot think of the marble tablets containing the names of the 320 men who died, which mark the centerpiece of the Monumental building, without remembering our last human connection with the Civil War. Byron Joslin died at the age of 98. December 26, 1998, will mark the 55th anniversary of his death, but many area residents still recall 'Comrade Joslin,' as he was affectionately known.

The passion which Byron Joslin possessed for military service was part of his family's legacy. His great-grandfather, Benjamin Joslin, was a corporal in the Revolutionary War. He grew up with his parents, Robinson and Susan, at the family's colonial home on North Miami Avenue. As a young man, Byron Joslin joined a juvenile military company, and later became a member of the national guard. He was a member of the first public school class assembled in Sidney. In his later years, Joslin remembered that first class, saying the teacher "whipped as well as taught."

The call for volunteers in 1861 swept most young from their hometowns or farms many hundreds of miles away. William Jasper joined company K of the famed 4th Alabama Volunteer Infantry. The 4th Alabama secured its place in history when its men met Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain's 20th Maine on the slopes of Little Roundtop on the second day of the battle of Gettysburg. Under the command of Col. L. H. Scruggs, the 4th Alabama, along with several Confederate regiments, was ordered to take Little Roundtop. Private Franks of the 4th yelled "Come on, boys, come on! The 5th Texas will get there before the 4th!" The boys of the 4th Alabama never made it. In one of the most important moments in Civil War history, the 20th Maine held, and the Rebels retreated. Private Franks was killed in the battle.

William told Alberta about his service, especially his exploits with the Rebels at the battle of Petersburg. For his service there he earned two medals. Jasper also told her of the tough times, sleeping in the mud, and foraging for potatoes to stay alive.

From his own small town, Byron Joslin joined company K of the 134th Ohio directly from the national guard, where he was serving. His regiment formed on May 6, 1864, for a 100 day enlistment. The men participated in the skirmish of Port Walthall, and then reported for picket duty outside Richmond, Virginia. He served until discharged on August 31, 1864.

Byron Joslin participated in the prosperous times that followed the end of the war. With brother Clay and his father, Robinson, Byron opened a sash and door factory on North Main Avenue. The Joslins later entered the construction business, and subsequent to that operated a grocery for 7 years. He married Elizabeth Deering on June 6, 1871. They had two children, William and Ada. William Jasper received a pension after the war due to a disability. He married twice before he met Alberta in 1927. Their friendship began when they talked across the fence in his front yard. As author Rhetta Grimsley Johnson concluded, "Her alliance with the Rebel veteran was honorable, if unromantic. That union, which amazingly produced a son,...was one of mutual need and respect." She cared lovingly for William until his death in 1932.

As the years passed on, and his Shelby County Civil War comrades passed away, Comrade Joslin became increasingly active in veterans' affairs. At various times until his death, Joslin was a state and national representative to the Grand Army of the Republic encampments. He served as the aide-de-camp, assistant adjutant, and quartermaster general, and then commander of the Ohio G.A.R. He was one of the few remaining veterans to attend the 75th anniversary of the battle of Gettysburg in 1938.

Granddaughter Vera Killian of Sidney, one of Byron's two grandchildren who survive, has fond memories of him. He would travel into Sidney on the streetcar from where he lived with his son on Millcreek Road to visit with family and friends. On Christmas Day, Grandfather Joslin appeared with a silver dollar for each grandchild.

His interests included making wooden puzzles, collecting old books, and keeping scrapbooks of news on Civil War reunions and local events. The scrapbooks, comprised of hundreds of pages, offer a fascinating insight into early Sidney through the eyes of one of its most loyal and patriotic citizens. It was as the unquestioned symbol of patriotism in Shelby County, however, that Byron Joslin was best known. For over seven decades he participated in Memorial Day parades, always in his full dress uniform. Vera Killian recalls that he required family members to attend such important civic events. In his Sidney Daily News obituary, the author noted:  "Few men have walked more steadfastly under the waving flag of his country that Comrade Joslin, and none here more endeared himself to the adult or youth than this aged man who took part in every patriotic undertaking possible."

Some around town still remember him polishing the marble tablets in the Monumental Building weekly during his visits to town. In Elba, Alabama, Alberta Jasper Martin lives alone. Above her couch hangs a picture of her husband, Jasper. Next to it is a portrait of Robert E. Lee. She still collects her pension, and has her memories. In Sidney, the legacy of Byron Joslin lives on through his descendants such as granddaughter Vera Killian and great grandchildren Woody Joslin, Rob Joslin and Mary Jane Drees. Pictures hang on their walls, and they have their memories.


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