Modern Mormon Battalion identifies forgotten gravesites

SAN DIEGO, Calif. — Some 152 years after their deaths in Old Town San Diego, Calif., Lydia Hunter and Albert Dunham, who came here with the Mormon Battalion in 1847, finally have gravesites that are marked.

Records confirm that the two were buried at Point Loma, a peninsula that partly surrounds the San Diego Bay, but research shows their remains were moved in 1887 to the Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery in the La Playa area.

At the entrance of this cemetery on July 24, some 300 gathered for a memorial program, sponsored by Company B of the modern-day Mormon Battalion Inc., after which they walked to the gravesites where an Italian marble monument was unveiled. Elder Craig Bullock, an Area Authority Seventy, dedicated the monument.

Speaking at the event was Elder Hartman Rector Jr., an emeritus General Authority, who said: "Monuments are important because they help us remember."

Noting that the monuments in Washington, D.C., helps one remember the history of the United States, he added, "It is altogether fitting that we have a shaft here to honor those who gave their lives in the service of their God and country."

He also spoke of the flag and its symbolism — the red for courage, the white for purity and virtue, and the blue for perseverance. "I love this flag," he said.

Continuing, Elder Rector quoted several verses from Section 98 of the Doctrine and Covenants, relating them to the battalion and to those who died while serving therein. He emphasized verse 13, which states, "For whoso layeth down his life in my cause, for my name's sake, shall find it again, even eternal life."

He said that a senator from Missouri at the time thought the results of enlisting 500 men to leave the main body of the Church to serve with the Mormon Battalion would "wipe out the Saints." Instead, the U.S. government, by paying ahead for uniforms while allowing battalion members to wear their own clothing, essentially paid for the pioneer movement to the Rocky Mountains.

Because of the Constitution, he continued, the restoration of the Church was possible. "If there weren't any U.S. history, there would be no Church history," Elder Rector declared.

He urged those gathered to keep the commandments of God and walk uprightly in order to remain free. This is a "Land of Promise," but there is a requirement that God's laws be kept, he said. "We have to be concerned about this," he added. "We have to have God in our government or it will fail."

After Elder Bullock dedicated the monument, the local Marine Corps Recruit Depot Rifle Detail and a Mormon Battalion color guard offered a military gun salute. The battalion fired replica muskets, while the Marines fired modern rifles.

The inscriptions on the monument give a brief account of the battalion, as well as personal information about Lydia and Albert. (Lydia died after childbirth; Albert died from a brain tumor.) The artwork for the monument was by Sharon Salmond, who did a drawing of Lydia, and by Thora Salmond, who rendered a figure of Albert. The marble design was originated by William S. Lewis, a local architect.