Oskaloosa Danny Snellgroves always wondered what had happened to his great-great-grandfather Samuel, a veteran of both the Mexican War and the Civil War.
When he started helping his oldest daughter, Shasten, 13, with a genealogy report for school about three years ago, he didn't imagine he would trace his family roots to Oskaloosa.
Snellgroves, who lives in Tulsa, Okla., said the family history disappeared when his great-grandfather Norman died in 1907.
"We thought Samuel had died here in Ardmore (Okla.) at the Confederate home," Danny Snellgroves said. "That was the last we knew of him."
But after connecting with distant relatives through the Internet and a historical book, he learned his great-great-grandfather had moved to Oskaloosa to live with a son. He learned his ancestor was buried in 1914 in an unmarked grave at the Pleasant View Cemetery in Oskaloosa.
"It's mind-boggling because we had searched all over the Ardmore area and southern Oklahoma," he said. "Sometimes we'd just take the kids and go look at graves on the weekends, and we couldn't ever find anything. We never thought we'd find him here."
Danny Snellgroves, a Marine Corps veteran who served in Desert Storm, knew his great-great-grandfather needed a proper tombstone. Samuel Snellgroves served with the First Regiment of Missouri Mounted Volunteers under the leadership of Col. Alexander Doniphan that went from Fort Leavenworth down the Santa Fe Trail to invade Mexico in the Mexican War battles of Brazito and Sacramento. Samuel Snellgroves later joined the Confederate Army in Arkansas.
After receiving a granite tombstone from the federal Veterans Affairs department, about 12 family members met earlier this month in Oskaloosa to place the tombstone on the grave.
"Some of our cousins (from Arizona) who we never met before in our lives came up to meet us to place the tombstone," Danny Snellgroves said.
He said he had wanted to visit the cemetery this weekend, but was going to be busy with Veterans Day activities in Tulsa.
But Snellgroves' father, Buddy, who lives in Waldron, Ark., said the timing doesn't really matter. He said finding out about his family history and meeting his long-lost relatives made the trip worthwhile.
"I never thought we would find out about our history, but if you start digging hard enough I think just about anyone can," he said.
Staff writer Joy Ludwig can be reached at 832-7144.