Posted: Sun 4:03 PM, Apr 21, 2013 Reporter: Sarah Plake Updated: Sun 8:06 PM, Apr
21, 2013 TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) — One local boy came across a very unexpected find in the woods in his backyard, that ended up giving him an important history lesson. The tombstones nestled into the unkempt ground at Ritchie Cemetery lay crooked, cracked and toppled over. This plot of land, in a residential neighborhood at Southwest 27th and Boswell, is the final resting place for freed slaves, Native Americans and black soldiers from Topeka, many of whom were born in the early 1800s. One tombstone, however, is missing.
Private George Jordan’s tombstone ended up in the Lloyd’s backyard, twenty minutes away, northeast of Rochester and Menninger roads. “I was just roaming around and I saw a gravestone and I was like ‘That’s weird, is there a guy buried in our woods?'” Klayton and his dad quickly went to work to find out what the markings on the tomb meant. “That’s an ‘O,’ that’s supposed to be an ‘A,'” Klayton showed off his find. Klayton doesn’t know who exactly George Jordan is, but once he found George’s tombstone, he knows he has to get it to its rightful spot. 13 News called the Kansas Historical Society to help. “George Jordan, who was with the 23rd Kansas Infantry, one of four regiments from the Spanish American War from Kansas. It’s the only one that was a black regiment, which is rather significant, and unlike two of the other regiments, they actually did get out of the country, although after the fighting was over,” Blair Tarr said. He’s a curator at the Historical Society. George Jordan was in one of the last companies sent to Cuba to perform Garrison duty in 1898. Back then, Tarr said, the government thought African-Americans were better suited for tropical climates, so they sent black soldiers, who had clamored to serve their country. Tarr said they had interesting duties while in Cuba. Private Jordan returned home from the war and lived as a laborer in east Topeka, according to records from 1910. Klayton was ecstatic to find the history behind his discovery. “I just though it was cool because it was really old,” he said. Someone likely stole the tombstone and dumped it in the woods. While Private Jordan, along with three other black soldiers from the Spanish American War, have new, updated grave markers at Ritchie now, Tarr says Klayton’s find completes part of the cemetery’s puzzle-piece history. “I’m glad they got the word out that it was there because this gives us a chance to see that George Jordan is properly recognized,” Tarr said. Klayton said he just wanted to do the right thing with it. “He’s a veteran, so he should get it marked.”