History buff teaches about the Civil War

This year marks the 150th anniversary of the beginning of the Civil War, a conflict that raged for four years. After the war, many veterans moved West to start a new life, and that movement will be highlighted May 21 at “From War to Reconciliation — Moving On and Moving West” at Crescenta Valley Park.

Organized by the Crescenta Valley and Little Landers historical societies, the living history presentation will introduce some of those Civil War veterans who came West. One of them is Henry Mingay, who settled in Glendale.

Jeff Lawson, of Glendale, plans to participate in the living history event.

Although he will be dressed as a soldier in a Vermont regiment, he’ll also be paying tribute to Mingay of Glendale.

Organizers asked Lawson to provide information on Glendale’s link to the war.

“It is often surprising for us Westerners that there is any connection at all, but many veterans came West after the war,” Lawson said.

Through his preliminary digging to find a Glendale link, Lawson discovered Mingay, a young man from Saratoga Springs, N.Y., who joined the Union forces and served with the “Fighting Sixtyninth.” After the war, Mingay came to Glendale, living at 804 E. Elk Ave. He died in 1947 and was buried at Grand View Memorial Park, according to his obituary, on file in Special Collections.

In his quest to find out more about Mingay, Lawson contacted me and in subsequent emails explained how his interest in the Civil War began.

“Ken Burns is mostly to blame,” he said.

Burns’ PBS documentary on the Civil War inspired Lawson to travel to Gettysburg, Pa., in 1993 for a reenactment of Pickett’s Charge.

“After that trip, I was hooked,” he said. “All I ever read to this day is historical literature about the war, or soldiers who fought in the war.”

In 2002, when his daughter was in second grade at Balboa Elementary, her teacher, Shirley Manning, asked Lawson to make a presentation.

“Of course, I didn’t need any prompting. As a graphic designer, I made up sets of postcards with historical figures, maps, cotton, etc., and bought enough hardtack (biscuits, from the last original bakery that actually made the stuff during the war) to give out samples to the class.”

After that, Lawson did a presentation every year. Then, he began visiting local reenactments and encountered members of the Vermont Volunteers Historical Assn. (a living history and reenactment group portraying the soldiers of Company E, 2nd Regiment, Vermont Volunteer Infantry). When he discovered that they did educational presentations as part of their Charter, he joined them. Now, he portrays a Union soldier from Tunbridge, Vt., at local schools each spring.

Through the Vermont group, he participated in Gettysburg’s 145th anniversary reenactment and this July will participate in a reenactment of the Battle of Bull Run at Manassas, Va.

“Why do I do this? Kids (and even adults) know so very little about this period in our nation’s history, but when you start learning about those four very intense years, you realize it is in many ways the foundation of understanding our country’s history since then,” Lawson said.

So, although Lawson will be at the living history presentation in Crescenta Valley Park dressed as a private from Tunbridge, Vt., he’ll also be paying tribute to another Civil War veteran, Henry Mingay, who is buried right here in Glendale. (More about Henry Mingay at a later date.) For more about the living history presentation at Crescenta Valley Park, visit CVHistory.org or LittleLandersHistoricalSociety.org.


Readers Write:

Don Galleher remembers the Tower Market at the corner of Central Avenue and Vine Street and recalls it as one of the first mini malls in the West.

“Back in those days of the 1940s and ’50s we lived on Hawthorne Street and during the day we kids lived on our bicycles. In the summer I would pack a little lunch, leave the house by 9 a.m. with my buddies and tell my mother I would be home by dinner time. You could do that in those days.

When World War II broke out, we would ride our bikes over to Grand Central Airport by Sonora Street and watch the P-38’s take off and land. San Fernando Road was under a camouflage netting in those days to hide the factories there that were building military aircraft.

Sometimes, on the way home we would stop by Fremont Park and play on the World War I cannon parked there and try our luck fishing at the large pond in the middle of the park. I don’t think we ever caught a thing but we had fun anyhow. It was fun growing up in Glendale in those days.”


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