John Grate





was living link to Civil War

By Roger J. Di Paolo
Record-Courier Editor
As a young man, John Henry Grate was an eyewitness to history.
A lifetime later, as a very old man, he was himself a part of history, a living link to a distant past.
John Henry Grate spent virtually all of his 104 years in Portage County, where he was born on Aug. 1, 1845, in Edinburg.
For roughly two years, however, he was stationed with the Union Army during the Civil War, serving with the Sixth Ohio Cavalry Regiment and later with the Army of the Potomac.
He was 19 years old when he witnessed Robert E. Lee’s surrender of the Confederacy at Appomattox Court House, Va., on April 9, 1865. Eighty years later, as the nation fought its second world war, he was able to share tales of his experiences in the Civil War as one of the last surviving veterans of that terrible ordeal.
Grate was among 1,800 Portage County men who marched off to defend the Union, enlisting in October 1863 from Newton Falls. Modest about his experiences in the war, according to one account, he experienced his only “close call” when a bullet came uncomfortably close to his cap.
Returning from the war, he became a buggy maker, pursuing a trade he had learned during his youth. A skilled woodworker, he was employed for many years by the Heiser buggy works in Yale, the community located at the crossroads of Atwater, Edinburg, Deerfield and Palmyra. He worked there until it closed because of the advent of the automobile.
He later farmed on his property in Atwater’s northeastern corner, marketing dried corn through an evaporator works on his property. After the evaporator works burned, he retired and moved to Atwater Center in 1918, spending the rest of his long life there.
He was proud of his Civil War service and was active in the Ohio Department of the Grand Army of the Republic, a veterans’ organization that, with the passing of time, inevitably dwindled in size. He attended national encampments of the G.A.R. and faithfully turned out for Memorial Day observances in Atwater.
When he was nearly 100 years old, he was elected commander of the Ohio G.A.R. unit and, in 1946, was named national commander of the G.A.R. By that time, however, only a dozen veterans were able to travel to the annual encampment.
Hundreds of Commander Grate’s neighbors, however, turned out to salute their community’s celebrated resident when Atwater observed “John Grate Day” on Jan. 31, 1947.
“The gentlemanly commander took the celebration in stride, wisecracking his pleasure upon being the central figure in “all the fuss,”’ Evening Record reporter Loris Troyer wrote in an article headlined, “It Was a “Grate’ Day for Atwater.”
Representatives of the Spanish-American War and both world wars paid tribute to the Civil War veteran, who related some of his wartime experiences from eight decades earlier.
Later, seated in a rocking chair, he greeted scores of well-wishers. Among them was 88-year-old Homer Hillyard of Atwater, who told Commander Grate, “I saw you march off to war,” recalling a vivid memory he had experienced as a 3-year-old.
Grate, who drove his car well into his 90s, was reported to be in excellent health except for failing hearing. When he was 100 years old, he was summoned for jury duty in Ravenna but excused because of his age.
Portage County’s last surviving Civil War veteran was two months short of his 104th birthday when he died on June 7, 1949, a week after missing Memorial Day rites in Atwater for the first time in decades. He had made plans to dissolve the Ohio G.A.R. unit later that month.
“Taps sounded today throughout Heaven’s camps as John Henry Grate of Atwater, one of three remaining Ohioans who fought for the Union Army in the Civil War, reported for final orders to the first-ranking Commanding General,” Evening Record reporter Kaye Birkner wrote in Grate’s obituary.
He was buried in Atwater Cemetery, with military rites conducted by Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War.
A year after his death, Atwater dedicated a marble monument honoring the 49,000 Ohioans who fought for the Union ” including John Grate and 71 other men from Atwater ” on a site on S.R. 183 near the cemetery.
The monument stood proudly for nearly 60 years until it was toppled last week after being struck by an errant driver. It is hoped that this reminder of the service of Commander Grate and his comrades in the nation’s bloodiest conflict will be rebuilt.

John Henry Grate

Portage Counties Last Civil War Veteran

Born:  August 1, 1845, Edinburg Twp.

Died: June 7, 1949 at 2:10 PM in his Atwater home- 104 years old

During 1946-1947, Mr. Grate was National Commander of the Ohio department of GAR (Grand Army of Republic).  Ceremonies were set when he felt that he could not longer carry on in the tradition of an active soldier for Jun 18, 1949 to close the books on the GAR unit.  When it became apparent that Mr. Grate would not be able to attend, the ceremonies were canceled.

Full military rites were held by the sons of the Union Veterans Organization of Alliance at the Cassaday and Turke Funeral Home of the same city.  His burial was in Atwater Cemetary.

Mr. Grate lived in Portage County all of his life with the exception of the two years he spent fighting the “War Between the States”.  John enlisted as a Private in Newton Falls in 1863.  When the South surrendered at the Appomattax Courthouse on April 9, 1865 Mr. Grate was onlooking for this historical event.  John Henry Grate was Portage Counties  last surviving civil war veteran. Mr. Grate participated in every Memorial Day Parade possible until May 1949.

Grate married his wife, Laura, in 1873.   John was a buggy maker by trade, learning the skill as a youth in Palmyria.  His specialty was in the woodwork on some of the finest buggies of the era, manufactured by the Heiser Buggy Company of Yale.  With the Automobile’s era approaching quickly, the firm went out of business.  After leaving the buggy business, Mr. Grate farmed near Atwater and operated an evaporating plant whose dried corn was in high demand throughout the northern Ohio area.  The couple moved into Atwater west of the railroad tracks on Main Street (now currently Waterloo Road) after his retirement in 1918.

Mrs. Grate passed in 1944 at the age of 90- shortly before they shared their 71st Wedding anniversary.

Information obtained from:
 "Atwater Historical Society, Preserving the Heritage of Our Founders, Atwater, Ohio
Town 1, Range 1
In the Western Reserve
Est. 1799
And Vicinity
Old Records And History
Atwater Twp.
Portage Co., Ohio

Please use our contact page to obtain a copy of this
 book for further exciting information regarding John Grate
and the History of Atwater


  1. What about his Brother Albert Grate who was at Gettysburg

  2. Myrle,

    If you know of anyone from this family if you could give us more details so they can be reached we would appreciate it!

  3. What about his first cousin Albert grate? John” father Was Benjamin Grate brother of George Grate the father of Albert Grate also born in Portage County.

  4. Sorry didn’t see your response and I was mistaken. Until I looked it up on the family tree. they were 1st cousins not bro. In any event Albert used to go to the Gettysburg reunions as my Grandmother recalled. He was a resident of Deerfield in Portage county. George was born 5 Dec 1814 in Columbiana County & died in Deerfield, Portage Cty. His bro. Jeremiah was born in 1817 Columbiana Cty married Mary Dawson in 1841 Portage County and died in 1894 in Portage County.

  5. George, Jeremiah and Benjamin were brothers. I’m flipping back and forth from the family tree and crossed up the two names. Benjamin was married to Mary Dawson the father and mother respectively of John Henry Grate. I have a note that Laura Gilbert and John Henry Grate had a son Charles born in 1874 Portage County two yrs after their marriage but I have no further information on him.

  6. John Grate was my Great Great Uncle. His Brother’s name was William Grate.

  7. Wonderful news!!! We are happy to finally find someone related. Have you read about what we are doing? Also, if you live close enough to attend we would love to have you. If you would like to contact me at 330-947-6058 we can further discuss the event. Also there are others on the website trying to make a connection, would you be able to help them also? Do you have any recollections of stories or anything of that sort?

  8. I am close by, Alliance to be exact, and am sending out Emails to my other Grate Relitives, for whatever they know/have. I plan on attending! I will call you soon!

  9. My mothers maiden name is Dorothy Grate, granddaughter of Eli Grate, who was John Grate’s brother. So J.G. was my mother’s great uncle.
    Since he was my great-great uncle, mom got a kick out of saying “great great Uncle John Grate”.

  10. John Henry Grate was my Great Great Uncle. My grandmother was Ella Marie Grate Schreckengost. Her father was William Grate. William Grate is John Henry Grate’s brother.

  11. I need to correct my last comment John Henry was my Great great great uncle. Oops!

  12. leanne, Do you remember me? Your Grandma Ella Marie is my Great Aunt! I am so happy this info got to California, or in your case Utah? I sent the info to Carol!

  13. I am not sure I remember you, but I believe I remember Dorothy my grandmother’s sister. I would have been 10 years old the last time I was in Ohio. I have all the genealogy that my grandfather, Charles Schreckengost collected throughout his life. So I have Grate information.

  14. Uncle Chuck was my FAVORITE UNCLE!

  15. OK my last names are too long. Anyway Leanne you were in Ohio when your middle child was an infant. I have pictures of me holding her in our living room and pictures of you, Dan, Jessica and your Mom also. Anything you can email me or Theresa would be of “Grate” help. We are trying to work with the historical society to add to their amazing collection of Johns life. Aunt Carol had a really good picture we sent along the way.

  16. Crystal, You do realize that we are cousins? Right? I am not sure what you are looking for. Everything I have I have received from my father or yours. You can email me at I will help you with whatever I can. I have all of our family’s genealogy. Please contact me.

  17. Hi.This is judy,my grandfather was david grate sr..My dad was david lee roy grate jr.My brother is dwight david grate.This is really exciting .We do have paper picturs of him.My brother is going to this eventbut sadly i cannot make it because i work.

  18. My mother is the great niece of John Grate. I am a great, great niece. John’s brother, Eli Hampton Grate, was my mother’s grandfather. Her mother was Mary Adele Grate who married John R. Gue. My mother, Myrtle V. Gue Leak, has something in common with her Uncle John. Longevity! She celebrated her 100th birthday w/ five parties during this past August. She is amazing and my brother Bill and I are so proud of her and the graceful way she has handled aging. She exercises before getting up each day and uses Ponds Cold Cream twice daily to keep her skin fresh and soft. MaryAnn

  19. Theresa Livelsberger Fording here, I just wanted to update everyone on my address. I am Dorothy Livelsbergers GrandDaughter/Daughter (She adopted me)
    I am at 700 W. Main St. Alliance, Ohio Any distant relitives feel free to contact me.

  20. I’m not sure of the line. However my g-g grandfather was William H. Grate. He was born in Ohio and died in Arizona. I would love to hear that there is a connection. Dinah S. Grate Deck

  21. Anyone out there know of Otho Clyde Grate. Son of William H. Grate. Otho went by the name of Thomas. They both died in Arizona. Otho in 1918 .

  22. Where was John Grate’s home in Atwater on Waterloo Road? I was thinking it was 6282 Waterloo Road – and that my aunt and uncle (jean Waltenberger Whyte and Dick Dudley Whyte) purchased the house in 1949 shortly after John’s death. It was a great house – and currently in great disrepair at the moment.

  23. I simply could not leave your web site prior to suggesting
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  24. Does any one know the names of all his children. I understand there were 13 in total

  25. I was named after John Grate. My mothers maiden name is Grate and she read about John Grate as a child an later named me after him.

  26. I’m still looking for information about William Grate. married Elizabeth Grimes her father was Alvin O. Grimes and her mother Elizabeth Ensign. William was b. June 26, 1850 in Ohio and died, Sept. 8 1929 His mother was Margaret Shack. I need documentation of his birth and his fathers name and birth record.

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