Should Casler’s Grave Be Decorated?

By 1929 the ranks of Civil War veterans were thinning. Each year Nebraska cemeteries saw more old soldiers’ graves bedecked with flowers on Decoration Day, as Memorial Day was then known. Yet the last resting place of at least one such veteran was not so honored in May of 1929 when William H. Smith, editor of the Seward Independent-Democrat, asked readers, “Should Cassler’s Grave Be Decorated?”

Smith’s editorial, which appeared on May 30, noted: “Orlando Cassler [Casler], who was hanged in Seward fifty years ago on May 20, after he had been tried and convicted of the crime of murder . . . , was a civil war veteran. He had served his country with honor in its time of trial. His body occupies a grave in a cemetery in Seward county, just where will not be said. [Casler is buried in the Beaver Crossing Cemetery.] Should the grave containing the body of this civil war veteran who, after the war, paid the penalty with his life for a crime committed, be recognized on Decoration day as are the graves of other civil war veterans?”

Casler, a Seward County farmer, was tried and convicted of the 1878 murder of George L. Monroe, a Kansan, and the theft of Monroe’s team. Sentenced to death on February 6, 1879, Casler (still proclaiming his innocence) was hanged at Seward on May 20. The Nebraska Advertiser noted on May 29: “The [state] statute provides that hangings shall not be public, but the vast crowd that assembled at Seward to see Cassler executed determined that they would not be disappointed, and tore down the enclosure which surrounded the scaffold, so that all could see.” W. W. Cox in his history of Seward County, published in 1888, just nine years after the affair, said, “[T]he demoralizing spectacle of a public execution produced a bad effect upon our people, and brought out a spirit of lawlessness that barely missed producing another murder before the day closed.” 

Smith wrote in his 1929 editorial: “It is said that in years past flowers would be placed on the grave, only to be removed later by someone opposed to their being left thereon. . . . When [Civil War veteran] M. M. Campion made a check of the soldiers’ graves in the county a few years ago to ascertain those that lacked the marker provided by the government for the graves of veterans, he found none at the Cassler grave and was advised by persons in the community that it would be best not to procure one for it. Later he conferred with county authorities, who took the position that since the man had served his country with credit during the war, and had an honorable discharge his grave was entitled to a marker, in spite of the difficulties in which he became involved later.”

Smith noted in reminiscences published in the Nebraska State Historical Society quarterly Nebraska History in September 1951, that his 1929 editorial was widely reprinted and prompted mail from around the country. A World War I veteran living in California “did not wait for the mails. He sent a telegram in favor of decorating. Another came from New Orleans. The same view, in fact, was expressed by nearly every writer.”

Casler’s grave now has a GAR marker, but Smith noted in 1951 that “it was the grave of Orlando Cassler, the Civil War veteran, and not the grave of Orlando Cassler, the murderer, that was thus recognized.”

Casler’s grave now has this GAR marker.

Become a Member!

Our members make history happen.

Join Now

Other Publications

The Bachelors’ Protective Union of Kearney

When the Bachelors' Protective Union gave a gala reception for two of its newly married, former members and their brides in March of 1890, the social club for young, ...

U.S. Weather Bureau in 1890s Nebraska

The U.S. Weather Bureau was established by an act of Congress on October 1, 1890. It took over the weather service that had been established in the office of the Chief ...

Canning the Way to Victory

During American participation in World War I the U.S. Food Administration, under the direction of Herbert Hoover, launched a massive campaign to persuade Americans to ...

The Shoemaker’s Ashes

"Edward Kuehl, one of the most peculiar characters that ever lived in Omaha, or anywhere else, was found dead in his bed last night in the back room of his place of ...

Crazy Horse Surrender Ledger Foreward

Red Dog, an Oglala Lakota who lived at the Red Cloud Agency, Nebraska, 1876-77 (Nebraska State Historical Society   In the summer of 1876, following the ...

Darryl F. Zanuck

Darryl F. Zanuck Darryl F. Zanuck (1902-1979), a native Nebraskan, produced some of Hollywood's most important and controversial films. He helped found 20th Century Fox ...

The Burlington’s Profitable Pork Special

Nebraska railroads were much concerned with developing an adequate economy in the areas they served. The Burlington, for example, had a long history of caring for the ...

Bungalow Filling Stations

After the giant Standard Oil Company was broken into thirty-four separate companies in 1911, the newly independent Standard Oil of Nebraska dominated the state's market ...

The Bull Fight

This is the perfect time of year for a visit to the old fishin' hole. But a group of fisherfolk from Plainview discovered that this bucolic pastime sometimes has ...

Buffalo Soldiers West

African-American soldiers on the western frontier are the focus of an exhibit at the Nebraska History Museum in Lincoln. Buffalo Soldiers West, on loan from the Colorado ...

Protection for Buffalo

The extermination of the buffalo on the Plains occurred largely between 1870 and 1885. The Nebraska State Journal of Lincoln on February 1, 1874, editorialized in vain ...

Buffalo Hunting

In late October 1877 young Rolf Johnson and three friends left their homes in Phelps County, Nebraska, for a buffalo hunt in northeastern Colorado. The hunt was not very ...
About History Nebraska
History Nebraska was founded in 1878 as the Nebraska State Historical Society by citizens who recognized Nebraska was going through great changes and they sought to record the stories of both indigenous and immigrant peoples. It was designated a state institution and began receiving funds from the legislature in 1883. Legislation in 1994 changed History Nebraska from a state institution to a state agency. The division is headed by Interim Director and CEO Jill Dolberg. They are assisted by an administrative staff responsible for financial and personnel functions, museum store services, security, and facilities maintenance for History Nebraska.
Explore Nebraska
Discover the real places and people of our past at these History Nebraska sites.

Upcoming Events

View our new and upcoming events to see how you can get involved.

Become a Member

The work we do to discover, preserve, and share Nebraska's history wouldn't be possible without the support of History Nebraska members.

History Nebraska Education

Learn more about the educational programs provided at our museums, sites, and online.

History Nebraska Programs

Learn more about the programs associated with History Nebraska.

Latest Hall of Fame Inductee

The Nebraska Hall of Fame was established in 1961 to officially recognize prominent Nebraskans.

Listen to our Podcast

Listen to the articles and authors published in the Nebraska History Magazine with our new Nebraska History Podcast!

Nebraska Collections

History Nebraska's mission is to collect, preserve, and open our shared history to all Nebraskans.

Our YouTube Video Collection

Get a closer look at Nebraska's history through your own eyes, with our extensive video collections.

Additional Research Resources

History Nebraska Research and Reference Services help connect you to the material we collect and preserve.

Support History Nebraska
Make a cash donation to help us acquire, preserve, and interpret Nebraska’s history. Gifts to History Nebraska help leave a legacy and may help your taxes, too! Support the work of History Nebraska by donating to the History Nebraska Foundation today.

Volunteers are the heroes of History Nebraska. So much history, so little time! Your work helps us share access to Nebraska’s stories at our museums and sites, the reference room, and online.