The Patagonia Mountains can boast of at least one Civil War veteran. Corporal William Moran, of the NY 134th Infantry, worked as a miner and prospector in and around Harshaw for at least 20 years. His government-issued gravestone can be found in the Harshaw South Cemetery on a hill overlooking what was once the bustling town of Harshaw. A decaying metal fence surrounds what looks to be his burial site, but it is not certain that he is buried there. His gravestone bears no birth or death dates. and efforts to find who requested the marker have been unsuccessful.
We do know that William Moran was born around 1840 in Ireland. NY Census records from 1850 list a 10-year-old William Moran living in Canandaigua, NY with his parents, Thomas and Ann Moran, and his five older siblings. The family emigrated to the United States around 1847, probably fleeing the potato famine in Ireland, which killed one million people in Ireland between 1845 and 1849. The 1855 NY census shows 14-year-old William working as a waiter in a hotel in Canandaigua. He is described in his muster records in 1862 as being 5’4”, with blue eyes and brown hair. He was illiterate.
At some point between 1850 and 1862, he moved to Duanesburgh, NY, where he was working as a laborer at the time of his enlistment into the NY 134th Infantry in 1862. He mustered in as a private in the Union Army, receiving a $100 bounty from the town for his enlistment. Over the next three years, the 134th regiment was extremely active, participating in 36 battles, including some of the most famous battles of the war, the siege of Atlanta, the siege of Savannah, Gettysburg, Missionary Ridge, Lost Mountain Chancellorsville, and Kenesaw Mountain.
Moran, with the rest of the 134th regiment, was mustered out on June 10, 1865, in Maryland, having been promoted to Corporal. He is listed as in good health at the end of the war, but there is a record of him applying to the government for invalid benefits later on.
He returned to New York, where he became a naturalized citizen in 1866, according to Montgomery County NY District Court records. Sometime between 1866 and 1880, Moran headed west, settling in Harshaw, where he shows up on the 1880 census. He also appears on voting lists for Pima County from 1882 – 1898. He is listed as single, and his occupation is listed as ‘miner.’ There is no record of him after 1898 in the census records.
Moran made at least one very bad business decision. In 1884, he sold the World’s Fair Mine to Frank Powers, a local blacksmith, for $100, “A mine that ended up yielding hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of minerals,” according to the Arizona Daily Star. “The primary minerals extracted from the area were silver, gold, lead and copper from a contact of diorite and intrusive rhyolite…Between 1915 and 1930, the World’s Fair Mine yielded $1 million in production,” the Daily Star reported. The World’s Fair mine, located in Alum gulch, remained active until 1957.
Moran’s death remains a mystery. William Moran was a common name and it difficult to say with any certainty if the William Moran reported to have died suspiciously in Vail in Feb. 1908 is our Civil War veteran or not.
This William Moran was found by the train tracks near the Vail Depot near death after either having been hit by a train or bludgeoned. It was later ruled an accident by the coroner’s inquest. He died in Tucson.
It was reported that this Moran, a well-known miner and prospector, was seen drunk shortly before his death.
Did Moran die in 1908, or did he move away? Another William Moran shows up in the San Diego area in the 1900 census, who lists his occupation as a gold miner. Maybe that was him.
Who requested the gravestone from the Veterans Office, and why are there no dates on it? William Moran’s story remains an intriguing mystery, but his life serves as just one example of all the veterans who have fought for our country. Facing starvation, he and his family left their homeland to come to America. He served his new country, even before becoming a citizen here, in so many of the most bloody and consequential battles of the Civil War. He never failed to register to vote after becoming naturalized. He didn’t know how to read and write, he didn’t marry and start a family, by all accounts he did not become prosperous or successful, but he deserves to be remembered and saluted this Veterans Day.