Hurd, Reuben S.
Age: 18, credited to Sandgate, VT
Unit(s): 10th VT INF
Service: enl 12/18/63, m/i 1/5/64, Pvt, Co. A, 10th VT INF, m/o 6/29/65
See Legend for expansion of abbreviationsVITALS
Birth: 04/19/1845, Sandgate, VT
Burial: Worthington Cemetery, Worthington, MN
Marker/Plot: Section C, Row 23
Findagrave Memorial #: 65143771
Alias?: None Noted
College?: Not Found
Veterans Home?: MN
(If there are state digraphs above, this soldier spent some time in a state or national soldiers' home in that state after the war)
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Worthington Cemetery, Worthington, MN
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"I am going cattle ranching in Dakota…" - Theodore Roosevelt June 6, 1884
By Raymond Crippen
REUBEN Hurd was laconic, as Vermonters are expected to be. His answers were, "Yea, yea," and, "Nay, nay." His stories had few embellishments.
R. S. Hurd was born at Sandgate, Vermont, on April 19, 1845.1. He was fifteen - one week from his sixteenth birthday - when South Carolinians bombarded Fort Sumter into submission and sparked the Civil War. Reuben waited until he was eighteen. He enlisted at Sandgate and was assigned to Company A of the Tenth Vermont Volunteer Infantry. (This was the same regiment in which H. E. Torrance, another Worthington pioneer and businessman, enlisted five months earlier.)
Nearly forty years later Hurd recalled for a newspaper interview that he and "five or six other farmer lads of the neighborhood" went into the service together.2.
From Sandgate the boys were sent to Brattleboro. "Our uniforms were issued to us at Brattleboro. Then we traveled by rail through New York to Washington. We joined up with the regiment in Virginia about seventy-five miles from Washington."3. The place was called Brandy Station.
Pvt. Hurd was destined to participate in the final, brutal test of wills between Gen. Grant's Army of the Potomac and Gen. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia, a test which included trench warfare of a kind the world had not before seen.
The Tenth Vermont broke winter camp on May 3, 1864, less than a month after the recruits from Sandgate arrived. The regiment was plunged into the battles of the Wilderness, Spotsylvania and Cold Harbor where, Hurd told an interviewer more than half-a-century later, they "got it pretty rough."4.
"We recruits partly had our initiation at the Wilderness. On the first day of the fight, our regiment was marching up to a position when a cannon shot smashed through the trees ahead of the column. A mounted staff officer shouted to our colonel to march the regiment to the right. The officer had no more than given this command when a second shot cut his horse in two, close behind the saddle. The rider leaped clear as the horse went down, then he drew his pistol and quickly ended the poor beast's sufferings. We Vermont farm boys were not used to seeing such things happen to horses and I never forgot the incident."5.
Cold Harbor brought another incident the old veteran never erased from memory.
"As a rule nobody who fought in the war could see any enemy individuals to shoot at in battle. With the clouds of smoke from the black powder … covering everything, such a thing was impossible.6.
"Often, in order to hold the enemy's attention while an advance was being directed at another point, troops were ordered to continue firing when they could see absolutely nothing to shoot at.
"However, Cold Harbor furnished a sort of an exception…
"My company was stationed in a hollow. We saw through the dusk several rebels on a hill above us, apparently not knowing that we were there within range. Without orders, I foolishly fired at the distant figures. The smoke from my gun prevented my seeing the result of my shot but one of my comrades exclaimed, 'You got him, Hurd!' I saw him fall!' I had to take his word for it. I didn't see anything."
At a place called Manoxy Junction near Frederick City, Maryland, the Vermonters engaged in a forgotten skirmish which sent the teenager from Sandgate to a hospital. Publicly he never told what or where his wound was. He recuperated and rejoined his regiment at City Point, Virginia, on the James River below Petersburg, where the opposing armies went into trenches for the winter. "I saw General Grant on two occasions in Virginia. I saw the General riding past our camp…"7.
When the Confederate defenses at Petersburg crumbled the next April and the Army of Northern Virginia began its last retreat, the Tenth Vermont was close on its foes' heels. The regiment was only a half-mile distant when General Lee surrendered at Appomattox Courthouse. "The rebels were camped over a hill from us. Our regiment's picket line was on ground where, but a few days previously, Lee's pickets had been stationed." When word came that the documents of surrender had been signed, "The air was full of hats."8.
The corps to which the Vermont soldiers were assigned was ordered south to attempt a pincer movement against Gen. Joseph Johnston's army, which Gen. Sherman was pushing north. Reuben Hurd and his fellow soldiers marched - walked - seventy-five miles, toward the North Carolina border, before the word came that Johnston, too, was quitting the war.9.
Pvt. Hurd was mustered out of the federal service at Washington, D.C., and he returned to his New England home in July, 1865. He remained there for two decades, engaged in manufacturing. In 1872 when he was twenty-seven, he was married to Cornelia Turner. Reuben and Cornelia had one son, Minor G., who was born seven years later.10.
It was 1885, when he was forty years old, that Reuben Hurd made his decision to move to Worthington, Minnesota. What influenced this move can only be guessed. It is thought there were two factors.
It was the time when a number of Easterners and others were considering what appeared to be the lucrative prospect of raising or buying livestock in the West and shipping the stock or dressed beef to eastern markets. Reuben Hurd may have seen the front-page story in the New York Times of February 25, 1884: "Dressed Beef in the West - The Business Enterprise of the Marquis de Mores." De Mores was at Medora, North Dakota, working to establesh a dressed beef enterprise beside the Northern Pacific Railroad track. He said he was prepared to invest one million dollars and he expected fabulous returns. On June 6, 1884, as the Republican National Convention adjourned at Chicago, Theodore Roosevelt told a reporter, "I am going cattle ranching in Dakota…" T. R. was going back to the Maltese Ranch, also near Medora, where he had first gone the year before.
The next day Roosevelt was on his way, telling the world of his plans to make his fortune by raising cattle in Dakota Territory. The attention of the nation was focused on the western livestock industry and the eastern meat markets.11. Philip Armour and the other emerging meat packers, refining their west-to-east conduits, were the corporate heroes of the time. Armour, S.D., was founded in 1886.
It is only conjecture that de Mores, Roosevelt, Armour and the emerging cattle industry influenced Reuben Hurd, who was well-settled and well-estableshed at Sandgate. But Hurd did conclude at that time to pull roots and undertake a new occupation concerned with livestock and livestock shipping from a frontier town which was not inside Dakota Territory but which was only thirty miles away from it.
It is also surmised that Reuben Hurd had been in contact with H.E. Torrance. On May 13, 1886, when the Worthington Advance reported that Mr. Torrance had purchased the Worthington Creamery, after having leased it the previous year, the newspaper story concluded, "Mr. Hurd will have charge again." The creamery was operated only during the summer season.
It was at this juncture that Hurd also became the senior member of the firm of Hurd and DeWolf, which became a livestock buying operation as well as a meat market.
R.S. Hurd was the first person to ship cattle and horses from Worthington in carload lots.12. He estableshed a successful variation on the failed effort which the Marquis de Mores undertook at Medora.
In due time Hurd bought a Nobles County farm - 200 acres in Section 29, Lorain Township. He concentrated on farm management after he retired from his shipping business.
In 1891, when he was forty-six, R.S. Hurd made a bid for the Worthington town council, standing with the municipal party which opposed the licensing of saloons and challenging, among others, the popular Frank Glasgow, a fellow Union Army veteran and a division superintendent with the Chicago, St. Paul, Minneapolis & Omaha Railroad. Hurd was defeated. He received the smallest vote total among six candidates, three victorious proponents of liquor licenses and three who were in opposition.13. It was Reuben Hurd's only venture into politics.
Hurd followed closely the activities of his son, Minor, who started in the livery business at Worthington in August, 1900, when he was twenty-one and who bought out the livery barn of Gray & Craig several months later.14.
By Memorial Day, 1929, R.S. Hurd was the only Civil War veteran still living in Nobles County. He then was eighty-four years old. He became a fixture in Worthington Memorial Day parades for nearly two more decades, riding in a car and accepting salutes from veterans of latter-day wars. The boy soldier of Vermont became a Worthington institution. In 1938, when he was ninety-two, Hurd went to Gettysburg, Pa., for the 75th anniversary of the 1863 battle.
Three years later, at age 95, he had a picture taken for the newspaper as he drove a corn planter through a field on his Lorain Township farm behind a team of horses, just long enough to get the feel of the experience another time.
Reuben Hurd was a longtime member of Worthington's Stoddard Post No. 34, GAR, but he let his membership lapse when the roll dwindled to half-a-dozen.
After the death of Cornelia in 1928, R.S. Hurd made his home with his son and daughter-in-law, Minor and Emmogene Stoutemyer Hurd. Later he took up residence at the home of his grandson, George Hurd, on Eleventh Street near Third Avenue. He became a familiar figure in downtown Worthington, among other things making daily walks to the Lake Street shore of Lake Okabena.
Reuben Hurd remained at Worthington until after his one hundredth birthday but he died at the Minnesota Soldiers Home at St. Paul on October 22, 1946, at the age of 101. He was among the final survivors of the boy/men who fought for the Union armies. (Minnesota's last Civil War veteran, Albert Wollson of Duluth, died a decade later, in 1956, at the age of 109.)15.
Endnotes:1. A. P. Rose, "An Illustrated History of Nobles County," Northern History Publishing Company, Worthington, Minnesota, 1908, p. 622
2. Worthington Daily Globe, September 17, 1940
4. Worthington Globe, May 30, 1929
5. Ibid., Worthington Daily Globe
9. Ibid., Worthington Globe
10. Ibid., Rose
11. Edmund Morris, "The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt," Coward, McCann & Geohegan, Inc., New York, 1979. p. 267, p. 207-211, p. 250
12. Ibid., Rose; Worthington Republican, Oct. 12, 1911
13. Ibid., Rose, 178
14. Ibid., Rose, 625
15. Stoddard Post records, Nobles County Historical Society museum.