The stained glass windows in Indianola
Community Church always have been an enigma to the
Featuring eagles clutching crossed cannons and sabres, the
four windows -- or, when combined, two 8-by-2-foot panels --
have a militaristic theme that pairs God and country in an
unusual way to modern eyes.
Church member Deirdre Prince puzzled over their
significance at the same time she admired their beauty.
When the church board decided to replace the fragile glass,
Prince was stirred into action. She needed to find them a home
or they'd be destroyed.
Prince decided to do some digging, solve the mystery and
save the windows.
Painted on the glass were the initials "G.A.R.," "Navy Post
110, Bremerton" and "presented by the Department of Washington
Ladies of the Grand Army of the Republic." She discovered the
GAR -- Grand Army of the Republic -- was formed in 1866 for
Union veterans of the Civil War. An Internet search revealed
what a treasure she had on her hands.
"I quickly discovered (the windows) were unique," Prince
said. "I could find only one instance on the Web of a GAR
window. Neither the American Legion nor the VFW knew anything
about a Navy Yard Post 110. Who would be left who cared about
(the windows)? It was a bit sad."
More electronic sleuthing revealed the GAR had died out in
1952 and been replaced by the Sons of the Union Veterans of
the Civil War (SUVCW).
In April 2002, Prince found a local chapter of the SUVCW
and sent an e-mail asking the group if they'd like the
It turned out the group, headed by Cmdr. Ken Richmond of
Sequim, had been searching for the windows for several years.
They were spurred on by a 1958 article in "The Banner," the
SUVCW's magazine, which described how Bremerton resident Hiram
Gale commissioned a pair of windows for the old wooden
Bremerton Methodist Church a century ago.
SUVCW records show Hiram Gale, born in Vermont in 1846,
served in the 46th Wisconsin Infantry during the Civil War.
Gale migrated west to Bremerton, where he served as commander
of Navy Yard Post 110, as commander in chief of the GAR in
1945-46 and as the GAR's last commander until his death in
1951 at age 104.
"When Gale passed away, he was the last living Civil War
veteran and the highest ranking one to come from Washington,"
said Rod Fleck of Forks, a member of SUVCW's Governor Isaac
Stevens Camp No. 1. "We're acutely aware of Hiram because
we're starting to find pictures and documents for him."
Now that the link was made between Gale and the First
United Methodist Church in Bremerton, Prince quickly fit
together the last pieces of the window puzzle.
"The involvement of the church as a military hospital and
in service to the servicemen ... created a real intimate
connection to the military," Prince said.
Hiram Gale commissioned the windows in gratitude for what
they did and for how the church building was used.
The windows were moved to Indianola Community Church in
1962, the year the Methodists moved from Fifth and Pacific to
their current location on Marine Drive.
And until Saturday, there they've stayed.
SUVCW members Fleck, Hal Bellerud of Olympia and Lee Morgan
of Kent carefully maneuvered the GAR windows Saturday out of
their home for the past 40 years, and onto the church floor.
On hand was also Roberta Yeats, president of the Department of
Washington Ladies of the GAR.
A close look at one window reveals brittle glass, held
together by a curving web of lead. Central medallions were
pushed out by vandals. The colorful tapestry is riddled with
cracks and holes.
It is the opinion of Suquamish stained-glass artist Larry
Hove that the windows' condition is impossible to restore.
It would cost less, he told Prince in a consultation, to
commission new windows. Although too fragile to be used as
windows again, Fleck hopes a display can be created for them.
"Our groups are working together on (the windows),Ñ Yeats
said. "We have so much stuff that should go somewhere. Being
from Bremerton myself, I can't see ignoring placing a
veteran's museum there."
The windows will be stored at Richmond's home in Sequim.
Encased in wood and plastic foam, they await a permanent home.