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Luther Walling’s gravestone

Luther Walling’s gravestone in Liberty Pole Cemetery. He died during World War I on active duty in France, and his body was returned home in 1921.

Liberty Pole Cemetery in the town of Franklin will be the site of this year’s annual Cemetery Walk. The walk will be held on Sunday, June 3, beginning at 4 p.m. sharp.

Liberty Pole is one of the oldest communities in Vernon County. The cemetery is located at S6502 Black River Road, a road that was once part of an old stagecoach route that ran from Prairie du Chien to Black River Falls. The first burial in the cemetery dates to 1853, and the most recent was this year. The Liberty Pole Cemetery Association, which cares for the burying grounds, began in 1899.

Costumed actors will portray several people who lived in the Liberty Pole area 100 years ago and who now lie buried in the Liberty Pole Cemetery. The theme of this year’s walk is World War I – those who served overseas, those who served stateside, and those who kept the home fires burning. This is the final year of the World War I centennial.

One of the soldiers who went overseas and gave his life for his country was Luther Walling. Luther entered military service in May of 1918, and in September he went to France with his company. September was when the “Spanish flu” epidemic of 1918-1919 began to hit the U.S. military hard. Luther died of the flu in October. His story will be told from the perspective of his daughter, Mildred, who will be played by Britany Deaver.

One of the women who kept the home fires burning was Rachel Fish. Judy Bessinger will portray Rachel on the Cemetery Walk. Rachel and her husband Warren had nine sons: Perle, Clifford, Harvey, Perry, Archie, Keith, Troy, Dyson and Con. The oldest, Perle, was born in 1882, and the youngest, Con, was born in 1898. By the autumn of 1918, all of Rachel’s sons had had to register for the draft, and two had been called up.

Learn more about the effects of World War I on rural Wisconsin families by coming to this year’s Cemetery Walk. The walk is a fundraiser for the Vernon County Historical Society, and we ask for a donation of $5 per person.

The Vernon County Museum, 410 S. Center Ave., Viroqua, can be reached at 608-637-7396 or museum@vernoncountyhistory.org.

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