Civil War Veteran’s Headstone Sat Unclaimed at Historic Railroad for 118 Years – Finally Delivered
A headstone, which has sat unclaimed at a historic railroad has finally been delivered to the grave of a Civil War Veteran over 118 years later! This weekend, a small ceremony and honor guard was held to complete the delivery, dedicate the stone and honor Pvt. Gamble’s legacy.
In 2018, Friends of the East Broad Top volunteers began stabilization work on the railroad’s historic Freight Office and inside they discovered two carved headstones in their original crates undisturbed. The headstones continued to be safely stored inside the Freight Office, but their story remained a mystery. When the EBT Foundation acquired the railroad in 2020 and began using the restored Freight Office as a starting point for guided tours, curiosity over the stones from visitors and staff grew. Last year, the railroad enlisted the help of local historical society volunteers to begin researching the names carved on the stones to discover who they were, where they were buried, and if they ever received a headstone. One headstone, that of Simon Locke, appeared to be a duplicate as his grave does have a monument. They turned their attention to the second stone and uncovered the remarkable story of Andrew Gamble.
Andrew Gamble is believed to have been born in 1836 and died in 1905. He was a resident of Burnt Cabins, a small village near the end of the EBT’s Shade Gap Branch at Neelyton. He served in the Union Army during the Civil War as a member of Company E of the 21st Pennsylvania Cavalry. At that time, many County Commissioners paid for tombstones for Civil War veterans. As a result, Huntingdon County paid $38 for his funeral and $15 for the headstone which was carved in Huntingdon and shipped to Mt. Union on the Pennsylvania Railroad. It was then sent to Orbisonia on the East Broad Top. The packing crate with the stone was simply never claimed and has been sitting in the EBT’s Freight Office for over 118 years. In time, research revealed his burial site, a photograph, and that he has living descendants. Armed with this knowledge, railroad staff visited the Burnt Cabins Cemetery and found the Gamble Family plot. While his wife and children had monuments… there was simply a large rock on what is believed to be Pvt. Gamble’s grave.
On November 10th 2023 the East Broad Top held a dedication ceremony placing Pvt. Gamble’s headstone at its rightful place. Once permanently installed, the EBT will have finally completed this unique freight delivery over 118 years late! In addition to the dedication, an Honor Guard provided by the Pennsylvania Army National Guard Military Funeral Honors Team presented a flag to the family of Andrew Gamble including his great, great, great, great-grandson.
“In the world of preservation, it is not cliche to say that you never really know what amazing stories are waiting to be discovered hiding in every corner,” remarked East Broad Top Railroad General Manager Brad Esposito. “The EBT Foundation is proud to honor Pvt. Gamble’s life and service to our nation, and proud stewards of the East Broad Top Railroad’s legacy.”
The East Broad Top Railroad, a National Historic Landmark, is the only original narrow-gauge railroad to survive east of the Rocky Mountains. It was completed in 1874 to service the iron furnaces and coal mines along a 33-mile corridor. The railroad closed in 1956 and was sold to the Kovalchick family, which reopened the line as a steam-powered tourist railroad. The EBT Foundation acquired the railroad in February of 2020 and undertook an unprecedented restoration effort to bring the Landmark, which the Smithsonian has described as an “incomparable national treasure”, back to life.