Less than a year after the first patient arrived at Togus in 1866, Maj. Nathan Cutler officially opened a cemetery on the grounds to honor all veterans of every rank, religion and color.

Walking around the grounds of the Togus National Cemetery, which has an east and a west section, provides a glimpse into the past at the nation’s first and oldest veterans’ health care facility. Several prominent historical figures are among the nearly 5,400 people buried in the cemetery, which has been closed for burials since 1961.

An Irish Massachusetts infantryman named James West was the first veteran to die at Togus and the second to be buried, according to historical records and James Doherty, staff assistant at Togus. West was discharged from his service April 14, 1865, the day President Abraham Lincoln was shot by John Wilkes Booth at Ford’s Theater. Records show the 30-year-old West arrived at Togus less than two years later with scurvy and chronic valvular heart disease because of his imprisonment at the Andersonville prison camp in Georgia during the Civil War.

About a month after his arrival at Togus, West “was struck by a man named Anderson in a drinking shop and fell dead” about 3 a.m. He was buried a few weeks later.

Among the many thousands of others buried at Togus were veterans of the War of 1812, the Mexican-American War, the Civil War, World War I, World War II and other conflicts:

• Leonard Messer was a veteran of the War of 1812, in which he was a drum major. He died in January 1885 at the age of 92, one of the oldest to be buried at the Togus National Cemetery.

Berthold W. Thieme, who is buried in the Togus National Cemetery, is a veteran of the Franco-Prussian War of 1870 who came to the U.S. in 1872 and arrived at Togus in 1888. He served as the leader of the National Home Band for nearly 40 years.

Berthold W. Thieme, who is buried in the Togus National Cemetery, is a veteran of the Franco-Prussian War of 1870 who came to the U.S. in 1872 and arrived at Togus in 1888. He served as the leader of the National Home Band for nearly 40 years. Staff photo by Joe Phelan

• Peter H. Hershey was a chaplain for the Red Cross and at Togus and served for more than 10 years. The Army veteran was buried with his wife, Esther, one of the few civilians buried at Togus. The National Home’s Board of Managers sometimes approved the burials of employees and their spouses in the cemetery.

• One of the other civilians buried at Togus was German-born musician Bertholde W. Thieme. Thieme, a veteran of the Franco-Prussian War of 1870, came to the U.S. in 1872 and arrived at Togus in 1888.

He served as the leader of the National Home Band for nearly 40 years, and when he wasn’t rehearsing or performing, Thieme often was seen on the campus providing instruction to veterans and employees. Thieme was a friend of John Philip Sousa, whose concerts for big events were popular among veterans and their families.

• One veteran, buried in one of the farthest reaches of the West Cemetery, is connected to Togus in ways more than just having been served by the facility.

This Aug. 17 photo shows the grave marker for Joseph Zisgen at the Togus National Cemetery. He was part of the Army unit that caught John Wilkes Booth after he assassinated President Abraham Lincoln and is one of the notable people buried at Togus.

This Aug. 17 photo shows the grave marker for Joseph Zisgen at the Togus National Cemetery. He was part of the Army unit that caught John Wilkes Booth after he assassinated President Abraham Lincoln and is one of the notable people buried at Togus. Staff photo by Joe Phelan

Joseph Zisgen served with various military units, including the 16th New York Cavalry, and was a part of the group that tracked down and killed Lincoln’s assassin, Booth, in a barn in Virginia.

Several historical documents show that Zisgen was paid a portion of the reward offered for Booth’s capture or death, between $1,000 and $1,653. He came to Togus in 1871 with an injury to his right hand, and he received a pension of $14 per month. Zisgen left the home and was readmitted several times before returning for good around 1899. He died in 1914 of kidney failure.

•Kennebec County Sheriff’s Deputy Thomas Malloy, a Civil War veteran, was appointed by Sheriff George Stevens to crack down on the rampant illegal liquor business in the area, which is what he was doing on the night of Oct. 9, 1884.

Malloy and his partner, Steven Cobb, had a warrant to search the home of Joshua Downs, who lived off Hallowell Road, a street known for its brothels, liquor and gambling dens and other houses of ill repute.

Charles Morgan Wallace had just returned from a shopping trip and was in Downs’ house, reportedly to deliver liquor, was alerted of the police’s presence and sped off on his horse in an attempt to escape.

Malloy and his partner were able to stop the horse, and Malloy climbed inside the carriage and found several suspicious packages. Wallace reached around to his pocket, and Malloy said three times, “Charles, don’t draw that revolver.” But Wallace didn’t listen as he pointed the weapon at Cobb.

This Aug. 17 photo shows grave marker for Kennebec County Sheriff's Deputy Thomas F. Malloy in the Togus National Cemetery. Malloy, a Civil War veteran, was killed in the line of duty in 1884 during a crackdown on rampant illegal liquor business in the area.

This Aug. 17 photo shows grave marker for Kennebec County Sheriff’s Deputy Thomas F. Malloy in the Togus National Cemetery. Malloy, a Civil War veteran, was killed in the line of duty in 1884 during a crackdown on rampant illegal liquor business in the area. Staff photo by Joe Phelan

At the urging of his partner, Malloy grabbed Wallace’s arm in an attempt to place him under arrest, but Wallace turned and fired a shot point-blank into Malloy’s chest. The story in the Oct. 10, 1884, edition of the Kennebec Journal said Malloy gasped, “Oh, God, my wife and children,” as he lay on the ground. An autopsy showed the bullet passed through Malloy’s lungs, allowing them to fill with blood.

Malloy, who lived at Togus for 12 years, was honored in 2012 when sheriff’s deputies from Kennebec County named their local group of the Fraternal Order of Police the Thomas F. Malloy Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 7.

His gravestone notes he was killed in the line of duty, the only such death in the history of the Togus facility.

Jason Pafundi — 621-5663

[email protected]

Twitter: @JasonPafundiKJ

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